Browsing Posts published in August, 2011

Yesterday was a very big day for our five year old. It was the day we picked up her very first (rented) violin.

She has been asking for several months to be enrolled in violin lessons and we finally agreed this would be her year.

Without getting crazy, we knew renting for a few sessions/months was likely the best way to get a feel for the instrument and to determine if it was going to have any staying power beyond the first lesson when she quickly learns, hmmm, this thing sounds really terrible when played by an amateur.

Over the past month, Ellie has watched a video of an “eleven” year old girl who, among other instruments, plays the violin to the song “Dynomite” by Taio Cruz which sealed the deal. She too is going to rock the violin to pop culture songs and dazzle us all. Okay, but first we need to pick up the violin.

She was fitted by the violin fitter specialist who determined the very smallest violin a 1/8th (1/8th of what will remain unknown but I nodded in agreement with the size selection. Think if the Tinkle-Me-Elmo doll were to play the violin) would still be big for Ellie but if she really stretched and channelled Taio Cruz’s Dynomite, she might have a fighting chance at reaching some screechy chords.

After a series of do’s and don’ts (heavy on the don’ts) from our fitter/rental agreement/bow officer we headed to the mini-van for our journey home but not before Ellie sniffed the rosin one last time.

Ellie had paid particular attention to the perfect temperature and humidity for storage and was quick to push me out of the way to turn every dial on the dashboard back and forth several times. Unable to read what any of the dials represented, she knew she had to bring the temperature up, or down and somehow figure in the proper amount of humidity to help this baby purr. Clearly, the fifteen minute car ride home was going to make or break her violin’s Dynomite destiny.

She asked if she could set the violin on the front seat next to me and further, “Would it be okay to eat crackers in the van while the violin is in here?”

“Yes, I think that’s a reasonable request.” The truth is, there was a lengthy list of things to fear but Wheat Thins weren’t one of them.

When we arrived home she was torn. She complained of having to pee the entire drive home but knew carrying the violin into the house for the first time was going to take patience and strategic thinking to keep it from rocking against the case or heaven forbid hitting a door frame or family member.

She dashed towards the house leaving her special friend behind while screaming, “NOBODY TOUCH MY VIOLIN! I’M PEEING AND I’LL BE RIGHT BACK! DON’T TOUCH IT!!!! H-A-N-N-A!”  Slam.

So far she’s performed three times for us. The act of playing doesn’t take quite as long as the careful removal to and from the case but with time, she’ll master that too.

She claims to know how to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (self taught) in just a couple of hours of rental agreement possession but she’s confused. If you listen very closely, beyond the sounds of old chairs being dragged across a torn up hardwood floor, kittens screaming for milk, someone with a keen ear can hear what I’m hearing.


I went to the mall last night for the first time in ages. I typically shop at one store where I can drive up as close to the entrance as possible and gather as many items from as many departments necessary to keep me from visiting another store for as long as humanly possible.

Last night, I knew I needed to visit a number of stores for a number of items; gifts, back-to-school supplies, food etc. So I started at one end and snuck my way around to the other.

The first store was Zellers where I quickly grabbed what I needed and was second in line behind a woman in a rather saggy, perhaps even soggy track suit, with two young daughters, none of whom had seen a bath in several days.

The woman was quietly discussing the price of her daughter’s running shoes with the girl behind the counter and touching the computer screen with a fake nail wondering why the price didn’t appear reasonable in her mind. She questioned, “I thought these were buy one get one?” A mistake we’ve all made and I wasn’t there to judge. When she was told, “they’re buy one get one 50% off” she stared again at the screen, touching it, scratching it with her nail, slowly grazing each line item, confused, quietly non-confrontational but requiring explanation.

She was so confused in fact she had confused the young girl behind the counter who called for help at least three times but all staff members were on their Zellers company-mandated- all-at-once-break and no one was available to rescue either of the two stumped women each with a pair of shoes in hand staring blankly at the laces.

At this point the line-up behind me had grown unacceptable and in my softest most helpful mall shopper voice, I tried to explain to the woman and the clerk that the shoes with the highest price tag were being charged in full, the other two lower priced pairs were charged at 50% off.

Everyone agreed this was reasonable and the woman touched my arm and thanked me quietly.

It was a long wait but I was relieved to continue motoring around the mall like the surprisingly helpful person I was.

I made it as far as the Bay at the far end of the mall when I heard words I’ve never heard and likely never will again, “Hey! It’s the math tutor!”

I turned to see the woman in her sweat suit and two daughters still pushing the now stolen cart from Zellers toward me. I wasn’t sure if she was going to knock me over with the cart or try to strike up a conversation. Looking back, I think I would have preferred violence.

Sweats: Could I hire you to be my math tutor?


Me: Me?

Sweats: Yeah. I’m finishing my high school diploma. I left my husband five years ago and I’m depressed eh?

All of my former math teachers rolled over onto their cardigans at that exact moment.

Me: Well, I wish you well, it’s not easy going back to school but I’m the wrong person to help you with math. (My brother who was forced to tutor me and would say things like, “She can’t be helped, she’s retarded!” Can insert snicker here)

I tried to walk into the Bay. I could see the perfume counters and had tuned out sad lady while mapping my route through the make-up counter maze so as to avoid any conversation or unwanted spritzing. It wasn’t an easy course to manoeuvre but with a couple of “oh look at that!” while dodging and high jumping at least two counters there was a way to get around all twelve lab coat wearing women loaded with advice on how I could look a hell of a lot better than I do.

 Sweats: Long story short, could I hire you to be my…(oh my God, she’s going to say it. Please don’t say lover. Do NOT say lover. I have a hard time saying no) tutor?

Why had this become so uncomfortable? It started as a friendly shoe shine at Zellers but had become totally creepy in front of The Bay and I couldn’t just walk away because there were children involved. Clearly her husband had already done that. I couldn’t be the second one to abandon poor Sweats.

Sweats: You don’t know what it’s like. I have two kids and no help.

Me: I actually have three kids but I’m very lucky to have lots of support.

Why the f%$# am I sharing any personal details with this stranger? Fingers crossed I don’t blurt out my address and an invite for a bbq this weekend. Sometimes I can’t be helped.

I wished her well, careful not to turn my back on her lest I get a shoe to the back of the head, but while wandering toward my make-up counter hidden tunnel picked up the pace.

I visited the house wares and children’s sections and made my way back down the escalators towards the exit but there she was. Sweats was still lingering outside the door, her daughters playing hopscotch on the tile floor waiting for Auntie Liz and her calculator to reappear and make everything better.

Here I was, alone for the first time in months, shopping without the kids, walking freely, able to browse without interruption and I had found myself a good old fashioned stalker with a hankering for algebra.

Essentially, I hid in The Bay for what felt like forever. I thought about that book turned movie about the girl who lived in Wal-Mart and wondered if it was possible but quickly realized there would be a royal rumble between me and the lab coats if we had to live together for any length of time.

When Sweats became distracted with the engraving guy polishing his display I did a kick-turn into Stitch-It and bemused myself with a pair of pants tacked to the wall until I could safely slink through a series of stores until finally sprinting to my car.

If there’s one thing that scares me more than mall friends, it’s math.

With just a week before school, we’re still trying to fit in some fun activities the kids will remember for a lifetime, for example, taking them on a tour of their Aunt and Uncle’s new house.

We went to visit my brother’s new house today and I lectured the girls en route about being on their best behaviour.

I explained they were to try their best not to spill, break or destroy any furniture, tile, rugs, faucets or countertops and if they did, I would have to take something away that was really important, like their mattresses. Obviously an idle threat but I needed it to seem legitimate.

Walking through a home where the owners have no kids is quite different than walking through a home where kids are present. The absence of toys, general mess and untidiness sends us immediately into a state of unrest.

Ellie (5): Can we ask questions?

Me: Sure.

Hanna (7): Can we tell them where to move things if we don’t like where they put them?

Me: Ok.

Ellie: Can we ask them if the house is attached to another house?

Me: Yes, but it isn’t.

Hanna: Why is there a funny lock on the door?

Me: That’s a realtor lock and I’m not exactly sure why it’s still on there.

Ellie: Can we ask them about it and if we can take it off?

Me: That would be fine.

Hanna: Can we take it home?

Me: No.

Hanna: Can we have a drink?
Me: No, you just had a drink so please don’t ask for food or drinks. Remember your Aunt and Uncle don’t have kids so they won’t be prepared with all of the things you’re used to having right at your fingertips at home.

About thirty seconds into the tour the three of them were sitting on high, leather stools with gigantic, crystal glasses drinking cranberry juice and pretending it was wine. The split-screen at our house would have the kids on low-to-the-floor plastic, IKEA chairs with plastic (BPA free of course) thimble size cups with an ounce of water, milk or apple juice.

They were taken by the minimalist approach. There were no baskets overflowing with broken toys. The decorating was tasteful, breakable and to scale for the space, whereas our pieces tend to be covered with someone’s pipe cleaner collection, in some respects offensive, malleable and mostly miniature regardless of wall availability.

They seemed impressed with this foreign lifestyle.

There were no piles of laundry; waiting to be washed, waiting for the dryer, waiting to be folded, waiting to be put away. The fridge wasn’t jammed with juice boxes because they were on sale last week, apple sauce or homogenized milk. The foods seemed to be grown-up foods that were likely eaten any hour of the day they felt like it.

The furniture had defined edges and corners rather than smooth, sometimes man-made, rounded corners with a hint of chalk smear.

There was no diaper genie and no strange diaper odour.

The kids were impressed and asked to stay a little longer.

Absolutely, in fact, I think I might drop them off more often. It’ll give me a chance to clean up.

Also, cranberry juice does taste better in a real glass. I miss it.

In a moment of boredom the other day, I handed each of the three girls a cardboard butterfly and asked them to decorate them with one of their favourite summer memories.

The five year old quickly collected supplies; glitter glue, crayons, markers, pencil crayons and paced the deck, planning her design before getting started.

The baby slopped some markers on the Sunbrella fabric on the couch before being gently guided towards her butterfly where she pounded her fists and eventually created a Rorschach smear resembling her bike seat and the two of us riding down the street as far away from this lame craft project as possible.

The seven year old after a few minutes with one red marker handed me this.

Sorry I made you decreate this butterfly Hanna. My ideas can’t all be gems.

Today was just one of those days.

I pulled out the bread maker from the shelf above the fridge. It’s a balancing act I have to brace myself for. If I don’t have every muscle in my body and face flexed while on high toe-points, there could be one less mother of three and one less loaf of delicious bread today.

I managed to remove the beast from the dangerously high shelf without incident but lost credibility when I decided it would be a good idea to tip the machine over allowing the crumbs that had settled in the bottom to fall into the sink.

Somehow between the lid opening and breaking off, I also managed to lose my grip on the small appliance but caught it by the swinging cord before it crashed to the ground. Unfortunately, it took a hostage along the way in the form of one of my four burner knobs off of my stove now bent and broken but re-ordered for $5 plus $18 shipping to arrive, well, whenever they feel like shipping it.

I then decided to make a sixteen second phone call and as expected was interrupted by blood curdling chokes at second fifteen causing me to slam the phone down and run toward the sound of imminent injury.

Oh good. No one is choking or bleeding. The seven and five year old girls have decided to potty train the baby and have removed her soiled diaper where much of the soiling is being worn as socks by all three and smeared into the grout between the bathroom tiles. The girls are gagging not choking. This is a good day Mom.

A number of people that I talked to told me how upset they would be at the older girls for stripping the baby and putting her on the potty but the truth is, as a parent, aren’t we guilty of leaving them alone for sixteen seconds? Deep breath, we’ll just have to bleach the area. Okay, maybe deep breath was the wrong choice.

Some fresh air might do us some good so off we went on our bike ride where both my chain and Hanna’s fell off completely. It’s tough to re-attach two chains when I have a baby still strapped into her tandem seat and my bicycle repair certificate expired right after my banana seat retired. Covered in bike chain grease, Ellie screamed for help after yet another speed wobble fall. I think I heard, “OH DAMAGE!” which I’m going to pretend just means, I did some damage to my knee and not a child’s version of “OH DAMMIT!” which she may or may not have misinterpreted during phase one of operation diaper-smear-staining-my-grout minutes earlier.

We played with the neighbours in the backyard and their daughter left her sparkly, pink, Mickey Mouse ear headband behind. It seemed a simple enough exercise to simply place the headband on the counter until we could return it later in the day.

Another fifteen second distraction before I heard some commotion in the hallway and a snap. It was actually several snaps and two kids fighting over the now totally unfixable Mickey Mouse ears that didn’t stand a chance in our house today.

Both girls began to sob worrying about losing a friend and if there was enough scotch tape to wrap around all of the pieces (which they tried and failed miserably) to seamlessly put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Thankfully, our neighbour is Catholic which I think means technically, she has to forgive us and luckily she did but not before I considered handing her the taped together headband and fumbling it during the hand-off pretending she might have been the reason for the breakage (Protestant).

They say bad things come in threes so maybe having three kids was just me asking for it?

The girls and I were playing charades yesterday afternoon, waiting out the tornado watch which then became a warning which then became a light show prompting questions about how we would pay for a new roof if ours blew away and would that have any impact on our decision to get a pool.

It was Ellie’s turn to come up with a t.v. show, movie, song, book, clothing item or bird species to act out and have us guess.

She turned her back to us facing the corner as she counted on her fingers the number of words in her title and flashed us the peace sign before churning the old video camera in a circular motion around her ear suggesting she was preparing herself to act out a movie circa the 1940’s.

The first tip for playing charades with Ellie is to totally ignore the number of words she tells you are in her category. The two could represent anywhere from one to ten words or she’s basing the number on syllables or number of letter “E’s” so scratch the two, we’re trying to guess a movie with no numerical significance.

My second tip for playing charades with Ellie is she will never act out words found in the title of the t.v. show, movie, song or book but rather a particular scene in one of the above so you must pay particular attention when watching a movie with her because a simple action like brushing ones teeth might one day be re-enacted to represent Furry Vengeance. “You know, the time they brushed their teeth?”

At least once per game, she stands leaning toward her audience with one hand on her hip, the other shaking a pointed finger angrily in our direction.

“Mr. Moseby getting mad at Zack & Cody from Suite Life On Deck?”


“Suite Life On Deck?”


Yesterday she had a brand new act and I was happy she was building on her already solid charade base.

She began giggling before she could bring herself to act out her movie. Her face was red, she dove head first into the couch screaming, “I can’t! I can’t!” while laughing hysterically.

We were now all laughing, encouraging her to stand up and act out her potentially two word movie.

Still laughing, she began to pull imaginary strings from her bum until she would splat her hand flat on the floor and giggle some more.

This was her one and only action and she looked at us confused. Why aren’t they guessing? Why haven’t they guessed, this is so obvious?

At this point I was shouting any movie title I could think of, some with two words, some with as many as seven assuming everyone poops at some point in a kid’s movie and if they don’t, writers should take note, there are some good laughs to be had for those five and under.

She finally screamed it while she choked back a laugh that nearly crippled her.

“Diarrhea of a Wimpy Kid!”

Five words.

I had my second visit to the Dentist in as many weeks confirming that things really do just start to fall apart, bones become brittle and strange things happen to your body within days of celebrating your thirty-sixth birthday

This time, it was a vanity visit.

Last week during my scheduled cleaning, I mentioned I had a tiny chip, ever so small on my top, middle, front tooth and I wondered what I should do about it.

My Dentist looked at the wee chip that we couldn’t really call a chip, more of a paper cut in the Dental-bus. He suggested most people (including himself) wouldn’t do anything but if I did want to smooth it out, he would be happy to put a small filling on it. I agreed to the small filling because quite frankly, the small indentation was so miniscule, he told me it wouldn’t take more than ten minutes, would not require any freezing, needles and I could start cracking beer bottles with my teeth again by late afternoon.

When he asked how I chipped (again, chipped makes it sound massive, it really was more of a hairline fracture) the tooth, I told him my standard, “I think it was from over-flossing.” Long pause. What really happened? The truth is, I’m not exactly sure but if I had to guess, it might have come off the day after I turned thirty-six when I was biting off one of those plastic clothing tags from one of the girl’s new back-to-school tops, an exercise I’m not proud of and now that I’m older than thirty-five, I realize I have officially bitten off more than I can chew.

I sat in the chair relaxed. The kids were being looked after and while some find a visit to the Dentist an abysmal outing they dread, this was an hour to myself in a somewhat comfortable chair with a mildly distasteful scent lingering in the air but certainly not offensive. As far as outings go, this ranks up there as a good one.

I noticed my chart held by a magnet on a shelf next to the chair. In bold print, my name and the word “Bitewings” next to some x-rays of my teeth. Bitewings. Is that what they’re calling the unruly thirty-six year olds these days? Obviously the dental community knows what a bitewing is but the average person may not. Why not just code them BW’s and spare my feelings?

“Do you want to watch a show?” My entertainment selection was a video of a concert for a band I don’t know and season two of All In The Family. Pass. I was actually enjoying just staring at the wall a la David Puddy from Seinfeld.

The Dentist asked the hygienist what colour to use for the filling and they both agreed on A-1. This can mean a couple of things. 1) I have the best shade of teeth ever—A-1!  2) it’s the worst and they knew Z-26 would seem far too obvious so they’ve reversed the order and made A-1 the most horrific shade of brown which gibes with my other theory; they’re the colour of A-1 sauce.

The Dentist pushed my upper lip out of the way, held in place by a cotton swab while his apprentice did her best to soak my shirt and back of my shoulders with an out of control sprinkler head.

He quickly dabbed on some liquid paper or perhaps the aforementioned sauce and as promised within ten minutes I was drying off and heading to the counter to pay.

When I was told my tiny striation, ten minutes of a soaker hose and less than a white-out brush stroke’s worth of filler was $193 I looked around to see if I was in fact paying the bill for the family of five waiting to check out behind me.

I realized the Dental industry is a lucrative one especially when catering to those thirty-six and over.

I just hope I don’t need anything done to my Bitewings anytime soon.

Or am I Bitewing?

Please advise.

We’ve had a terrible week and it’s only Wednesday.

We lost a great leader.

Tornadoes and earthquakes have knocked us down.

Here’s a little something to make you smile.

A twenty-one month old and her clear favourite between Cookie Monster and Elmo.

Enjoy–this will take but a second.


I braced myself for our annual visit to Wal-Mart having been disappointed by the lack of back-to-school shoe options in my daughter’s obviously ridiculously common sizes. We’ll have to get cracking on that “affix sixth toe” assignment asap.

I knew Wal-Mart would have what we needed to survive at least the first week of school, I just wasn’t sure if I had it in me to work my way through the crowds, children throwing tantrums, people still wearing their water park bathing suits from the weekend. As it turns out, I was the only one drawing any negative energy.

It started innocently. In fact, upon entering the building, I noticed something I hadn’t experienced before. Wal-Mart wasn’t busy and I seemed to be the only one carting three, young children around. It was so quiet, I even allowed the baby to walk rather than have her belted into a five point harness to keep her as far from the nearly toppling door crasher displays as possible.

We stopped at the front entrance to pet the ceramic seeing eye-dog that doubled as a donation bank and I handed the girls two quarters each while explaining the importance of giving and while this particular dog couldn’t bark, he sure appreciated their small contribution to service. I was feeling great about the lesson the girls had learned. The greeters were approachable, handing out smiley face stickers, nobody threatened to search my purse or put me through a metal detector or spray me with mist to prove the presence of gun-shot residue. Wal-Mart was not how I remembered it. We were going to be just fine.

I figured I would tempt fate and even visit the grocery section to pick up some apple sauce as the girls had reminded me we were out.

Then it happened. We hit the shoe aisle and the baby recognized where she was. She was in Wal-Mart, the place where babies throw tantrums for no particular reason and parents yell at their kids. I think someone said “Rollback” and she had some sort of seizure and went into a trance.

The first and only fit which lasted the duration of our stay focused solely around a pair of what I can only assume were Helen Roper’s slippers circa 1982 Three’s Company. Chloe began to scream when I would not allow her to try on Mrs. Roper’s feathery flops in women’s size eleven. Eventually I caved. What harm could allowing a 21 month old try on a pair of throwback slippers really do? Apparently loads. This one was going to require a full keg from the Regal Beagle to help regain my sanity. I wonder if Larry is still a decent drinking buddy.

The fit started first with tears followed by a tossing of the slippers, the shoes she came in with, stuff out of the cart. There was snot, there was no tissue, there were seal barks, there was no water.

Her demands became preposterous. First the slippers, then, “Sauce! Sauce! Sauce!”

So now I’m supposed to crack open an apple sauce and feed it to you in the shoe aisle? Shall I use one of Janet or Chrissy’s stilettos to puncture the hole in the foil lid? This was getting out of control and I was considering a visit to the hammock aisle.

Then it happened. This woman carting by made eye contact with me and rolled her eyes in disgust at the crying baby, my lack of compassion, my t-shirt that had been pulled by the baby down over one side of my bra, the apple sauce tease, my choice in footwear, Mrs. Roper’s slippers tossed into of all places, a passing aisle, the other two kids who were trying on tap shoes and NOT running shoes as had been discussed.

I wanted to chase the woman with a shoe and hit her over the head with it. That’s exactly why Wal-Mart installed security cameras in the first place, for crazy back-to-school shoppers like me. I was where I belonged, where I deserved to be.

Until next year.

We enjoyed the last of the summer air conditioning yesterday before switching the mechanism over to heat, closing the windows, rooting through closets for those favourite woolly fleeces and shimmying the heated mattress pad back onto the bed. Just like that, summer is almost over.

We went for our family bike ride tonight after dinner but it wasn’t the same.

There was no warm breeze guiding us to the end of the street where we would visit with neighbours, drive our bikes in circles enjoying the last of the day’s warm sun. There were no neighbours, they were busy adding their storm windows, putting winter tires on their vehicles and bringing indoors those potted plants that likely won’t make it through another cool evening. I think I even saw a company specializing in Christmas lights but I’m going to pretend it was underwater lighting for a pool.

Gone are the sunburn-through-the-window bedtimes. I don’t know when it started to get dark earlier, I just know at some point we were eating lunch with the lights on.

Chloe knew something was wrong the minute we opened the garage to leave for our ride. She started saying, “Shwetter. Shwetter. Shwetter.” At first I started to sing any song I could think of that had a word resembling “shwetter” as repeating a word three times is typically her request to be serenaded, until I realized she wanted a sweater.

Off we went, bike seat straps a little tighter over layers of clothing. She asked for “Twinkle” and I began, “Twinkle, twinkle, little…” but was interrupted with a boisterous “NO!” She had clearly changed her mind, weather patterns can do that to babies and instead ordered, “Happy,” which means “Sing Happy Birthday to me” even though it’s not her birthday and when it comes time to dedicate the song she chimes in, “Happy Birthday dear…” “TOYEEE” and we both giggle although tonight, we could see our breath.

I’ll be buried in boxes of winter scarves, hats and boots that I whimsically tossed due to the promise of warmer weather last May and will now have to force myself to pair mittens and coordinate snow pants with a suitable coat in order to fashion something acceptable for the coming months.

Goodbye fresh berries, corn, Riesling and peaches—wince.

Hello squash soup, bread, Amarone and 20 lbs.

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