Browsing Posts published in January, 2012

Our school read-a-thon got underway yesterday and as expected, Ellie is determined to win gold or pizza or money or the prized pig or whatever it is she’s in competition to win.

As a participant, she’s encouraged to write down the amount of time spent reading each day and solicit sponsors to pay her for those minutes.

Ellie quickly got on the phone the second she removed her snow pants, flinging them into the laundry room and kicking her boots in opposite directions.

She called both Grandparents and lined up donations for both she and her sister who was pleading about being forced to do her piano homework and how life was unfair because Chloe watched a t.v. show while she was working hard at school.

Ellie did everything in her power to get those books read which will likely fizzle by day three but for day one, she did not disappoint.

She kept hydrated and asked (twice) “Does this orange juice have phlegm in it?” Um, I hope not.

First, she collected all of the books in the house from every shelf, basket and underwear drawer she could find that she thought she could tackle.

She read, re-read and listed each title on a piece of paper should the contest judges decide to change the rules to number of books read or neatest penmanship of book titles, she was leaving no stone unturned.

I explained she could wear her miner’s flashlight and read from bed but under no circumstances could she use a pen in her bed, I will now direct the court to Exhibit A—Hanna’s bed from when she fell asleep with a ball point pen on her pillow. I told her to place the books she had completed in a neat pile on the floor next to her and in the morning I would help her work on her list.

Minutes later, she had appeared in the dining room where I was rolling tomorrow’s cigars, with a stack of books on her head, several hugged tightly next to her body under her armpits and three between her knees while she waddled toward me.

She fumbled all of the books and asked, “Can you write my list now?”

“I can’t do it this minute honey but I will get to it.”

“Like in a few minutes?”

“Perhaps yes, goodnight honey.”

“When I’m asleep?”

I think my favourite moment of the read-a-thon so far was Ellie’s overzealous attempt at impressing her teacher in the early phase of the competition.

She made a giant poster to be hung in her classroom for all visitors, students and staff to enjoy.

In huge, colourful letters she wrote, “I LOVE TO REED!

Chloe’s Kindergym coach appears to be very knowledgeable about the sport. I’m sure all of the coaches at the gym we attend are former gymnasts, perhaps some even still competing, some sadly still playing tapes of their “Eye Of The Tiger” floor routine hoping for better than fourth place out of five competitors overall just once, but I digress. They are all bursting with energy and understand the basics with an emphasis on having fun and tiring our wee ones out while learning.

I sometimes wonder how a person decides to coach children and almost always I categorize their motivation into one of three options.

1)      They have a child involved in the sport

2)       They are putting in volunteer hours towards something involving children and/or sports hoping it will lead to other opportunities

3)      They are no longer able to compete at a level they once did but by coaching, they can still have a hand in a sport they love.

I wondered which of the above was true in the case of Chloe’s coach and thought perhaps she had  a child on the team and wanted to get involved in a bigger way.

Then last week while explaining what to do on the four beams at varying heights and widths she announced, “Okay guys, I want you to pretend the blue floor mats (covering the entire floor of the beam room) are water and in the water live tons of scary (emphasis on SCARY) sharks so you DO NOT want to fall off the beam into the water. Okay?” (How does that sound two year olds? Still looking forward to our next trip to Florida?)

 Conclusion: She is not a mother.

We spent the afternoon playing outside with the kids on what felt like the perfect winter day.

The sun was shining, it was snowing, the light fluffy kind, not the sleet that slices your retina while you stare at the ground and run for the first cup of hot chocolate kind. Or the kind that takes perfectly smooth, dry hair and clumps it into several scouring pad-like sponges capable of scrubbing the toughest, baked on stains.

We made a super slick toboggan run, pulled the baby on a sleigh while she filled her mittens with snow and laughed when snowflakes landed on her cheeks.

We were having so much fun in fact, we wanted to world to know it. We started wandering down our street with no destination in mind. We were loving life, loving snow, loving winter, loving this day.

We found an amazing trail with a hill for sledding that continued across a frozen lake. We took turns climbing the hill with our sleds, holding a rope to get us up the rather steep slope.

The first run was fantastic, full of gleeful squeals and a few “My turn next?” from the baby.

Second run—injury (Ellie), third run—injury and lost glove (Hanna), fourth run—big injury, knees, finger (Greg).

Greg somehow managed to fall, knees first off the sled half way down the hill. I knew from the scream and the log roll the rest of the way down, we were in trouble.  The log roll of course gave the baby hope that Greg was paying attention when she demonstrated what she had learned her first week at gymnastics.

Our perfect day was sidelined.

We decided to split up. Hanna, Chloe and I would head home to pick up a vehicle to come back and drive Greg home as he didn’t think he could walk. Ellie stayed with Greg to keep him company and hold his undivided attention to describe her narrowed down, seven birthday party options for her sixth birthday celebration.

I pulled Chloe in her sleigh through the thickest, heaviest pile of snow I’ve ever had to hike through. What happened to our perfect path?

Hanna was complaining she was getting cold. I thought it was assumed there would be no complaining on our perfect day?

I stopped to take a break from pulling, cognisant I had left an injured husband and a hopeful five year old making every second count towards convincing her Dad that buying the claw arcade game for her birthday was not in the “want” category but the “must.”

Pausing to catch my breath seemed to make Hanna panic. She thought I was going to pass out, perhaps because I said, “I think I’m going to pass out” and she feared she was going to have to make some big decisions and fast. Should she run for help? Should she knock on someone’s door? Should she return to Daddy and Ellie? How was she going to do all of this with her Mom slung over her shoulder in a fireman’s carry?

When did it start getting so dark? When did my boots start leaking? Where did Hanna dump her sled? Was Greg joking when he said, “This is totally coyote season.”

We were hating winter, hating snow, hating this day.

We made it home, grabbed the keys for the van and after a quick hot chocolate, picked up Greg and Ellie. I used my hair to scrub the dinner dishes and the kids complained the scalding bath water was too hot while they shivered on the bath mat that they were too cold.

Dear Winter, a nearly perfect day—we’re done now.

I figured since we were nearing the end of the season and I’ve been the only one still wearing shoe-booties under my Dad’s old “rubbers,” I thought I would take a giant leap into this millennium and purchase a pair of tall boots to make myself look even more hip and cool than I did before I wrote the words “hip” and “cool.”

The boots are surprisingly comfortable provided I don’t wear anything on my legs but warmed butter.

The only question I have is how is everyone else folding their calves in half so you can zip them up? I must have left the store before the sales girl had a chance to show me the three simple steps.

Is there an app for that?

For a friend.

Kids ask questions as a learning tool to help them better understand the world around them.

Sometimes they ask practical things like, “What are batteries?” “Why do the leaves change colour?” or “Why am I the only five year old on the planet wearing a t-shirt and shorts to gymnastics?”

Ellie asked, “Mom, can you start paying me an allowance? Since I did so well on my violin this week, you should hand over two smackeroonies.”

Me: What is a smackaroonie?

Ellie: I don’t know but I do know that two is better than one.

With age and experience, their questions are becoming more complex and sometimes difficult to answer.

Last night, Hanna asked something that caught me completely off guard. A question I never thought I would be tasked with answering in my lifetime.

Hanna: Mom, who is this Oprah I keep hearing about?

Some nights, after the bath, snack, bedtime, panic room sweep for bugs routine, I am too tired to think about even attempting to accomplish the smallest task.

During the day, I tell myself, while my lips are moving so I look insane, “When the kids fall asleep, I’ll work-out on the treadmill, I’ll do a week’s worth of menu planning, I’ll write, revise and write some more.”

When the kids actually do fall asleep, not only can I not bring myself to run on the treadmill, I can’t even fold my gym clothes and lift my arms high enough to put them back in the closet. The word “Menu” is written on a piece of paper and starts and ends with “crock-pot.”

Last night was one of those nights.

Ellie was clutching a small, cloth bag she was calling her purse and pulled out a loonie.

Any time one of our kids shows me money I don’t recall gifting to them, I like to get the details on how it came into their possession but I was just too tired to pry.

Ellie was clearly excited to tell me so after trying to listen with one eye open, hindered by the constant humming of the zzzzzzzzzzzzz sound from within my own head I began to walk towards the door.

Ellie: Mommy, do you want to know how I got this money?

Me (yawning): Yes honey, how?

Ellie: Daddy paid me $1 for beating him at Snakes ‘N Ladders five games in a row. He said by accepting money, I’ve given up my amateur status and now I’m playing as a professional. He said something about a tour?

Nighty-night.

After a busy night of swimming lessons, piano lessons, late dinner, even later bath, we agreed to have some quiet family time before bed, rather than watching a repeat episode of Shake It Up. This suited me fine as I was too tired to adequately dance alongside the cast of Shake It Up Chicago and certainly didn’t want to be the one to botch a well rehearsed routine.

The girls shuffled from one activity to the next. They started with Barbie and would hand her to me whenever they couldn’t squeeze her into another doll’s outfit which for some reason, gave me great satisfaction when dear, old Barbie simply couldn’t suck in her almost non-existent waist enough to roll on Hannah Montana’s pants. It’s a scary world when manufacturers start pumping out dolls with smaller measurements and lower self esteem than Barbie.

We moved onto some homework activities I had disguised as fun, family word searches but when I started asking them to circle adjectives and underline verbs, my cover was blown and they stormed away from the table, furious our family fun night had such a sinister undertone and they were being used as pawns.

As is often the case when the girls find themselves with our undivided attention, at least one of our conversations ends with a series of questions surrounding Greg’s former life as a pirate and at what age will we allow them to open the old treasure chest to scope out the treasures. If by treasures, they mean my old crafts from elementary school and if by treasure chest, they mean the old trunk our neighbours growing up were throwing away and we snagged it to be used as a funky coffee table in our first apartment then yes, I guess you could say “Ahoy Matey!”

We rounded out the evening with a couple of stories on Chloe’s rocking chair and the last one ended with a sweet conversation between a mouse and a mole telling each other, “I love you just the way you are.”

With that sweet sentiment, not unlike a made-for-t.v. movie, one in which we would not have been able to watch on t.v. free night—ironic? I whispered to Chloe as I placed her in her crib, “I love you just the way you are.”

She whispered back, “I love Justin Bieber.”

Long pause.

Me: Anything else?

Chloe still whispering: Forever.

Ellie came home from school the other day a little down.

She suggested by missing a day of kindergarten last week due to having a fever, her friends at school had created new, secret handshakes, new games had been invented on the playground and a new vocabulary of words was swirling around her as though it was her first day at a brand new bilingual school with an emphasis on the new, mutant language.

In a way, it made her re-think the idea of ever faking illness so she could miss school. Clearly, she wasn’t concerned about the school curriculum, but the prospect of missing any social opportunities was enough to get her thinking about changing her exercise routine and tweaking her broccoli consumption so she could avoid ever missing another day.

Ellie: They talked about BFF’s and said they were all BFF’s and they had a BFF handshake. It went like this (holds her right hand to shake mine while saying the letters B F F).

What did I expect, they’re five?

Me: That sounds like you missed being at school but I’m sure you caught on to the handshake and letter chanting quickly.

Ellie: The worst part was I didn’t have anyone to play with at recess. Do you know what that means?

Me: No, what?

Ellie: It means I have to build an imaginary snowman husband.

I had no idea the alternative was so bleak.

I’m assuming because I’m a parent, I can’t be the only one this has happened to, but twice in one day?

Yesterday, I happened to be engaged (not fully) in two separate conversations with Ellie and I completely tuned out. So much so, I had no idea when it was my turn to respond what the hell we were even talking about.

This has actually happened before and I’ve questioned how much noise must be going on in my brain if I can’t keep a simple exchange with a five year old on the level but it’s been happening more and more. Between Chloe asking for Pet Shops, peanut butter, an airplane ride and a bathing cap in one sentence, Hanna pausing and sometimes rewinding live t.v. so she can watch a show frame by frame looking for errors, sometimes Ellie’s lovingly incessant line of questioning is sadly set on the back burner.

When it happens in the car I can often talk my way out of an awkward moment.

When she asks, “Which one Mommy?” and I have no idea if she’s asked me “Do you prefer bananas or oranges?” or, “When you grow hair on your body is there more on your bum or under your arms?” I can sometimes get away with saying, “Well, I’m not sure I can answer that” or, “I’m sorry sweetie, the radio is pretty loud up here, can you repeat that last part?” Hoping she doesn’t just repeat the “Which one Mommy?” but actually includes the fruit or body categories.

The worst episode was yesterday when we were sitting together at the kitchen table working on a Paperoni craft, looking at each other in the eyes and Ellie asked, “Isn’t that funny?” and I thought, “What’s funny? Oh my God I have no idea what she’s been talking about?”

It turns out she thought it was funny that some t.v. show had vegetables the size of elephants that had to be moved by cranes. Why that didn’t hold my interest is anyone’s guess.

What got me was the crummy way I tried to weasel my way out of the conversation. My face turned red when I said, “that sure is funny” hoping she wouldn’t say, “Oh yeah? What? What’s so funny you lying bitch? You weren’t listening to a thing I’ve been saying about vegetables, body hair, songs for beginner violinists or how interesting (subjective) it is that ‘the’ and ‘the’ are spelled the same but can be pronounced differently.”

Twice this week we had a third party visitor in our bed.

When we had our first child, Hanna, we opted to never have the baby sleep in our bed. The idea of the “family bed” brought nothing but fear and stress-filled dreams that we would either a) crush the baby in her sleep or b) lose her in the sheets. It only took one episode of me nodding off while nursing which resulted in frantically tearing the sheets, duvet, pillows, bed skirt, curtains, artwork and Greg from the bed in search of our newborn baby who was of course, nestled quietly in the pack ‘n play right beside us before setting our strict “no baby in the bed” policy in motion.

Skip ahead six years and like most of our earlier rules, we were too tired to enforce them. Earlier this week, Chloe was running a low grade fever and woke up around midnight. I was happy to bring her into the bed to keep an eye on her. Had I known, it would be her eyes on us the entire night I may have revoked the invite. She would poke at Greg’s neck and say, “Daddy, what u doing?” and ask “Mommy, can I have Kleenex for my boogers?” for hours on end. She would then hand me the tissue while wiping random, sticky findings from her finger onto my arm before pretending to sleep. At one point, Greg’s arm had fallen asleep under his head and he felt a little hand playing with his dead fingers like they were a set of wind chimes.

Then last night, Hanna had a sleepover so we gave Ellie a few options to choose from for her own camp-out, a) basement on a blow-up mattress with Mom or Dad, b) guest room, c) Mom and Dad’s bed. She chose “c” which is ironic given an aerial view of our formation appeared more like an upper case letter H from 2am thru 6:15am. She would kick me in the hip and something we’ll have to look into when we’ve had more sleep, occasionally punch at the air and shout, “Stop it Hanna! Stop it right now!”

The punches she landed were unnecessary and sometimes painful given the time of night and the shock value associated with being hit, in the dark while sound asleep.

I used to look forward to a restful night of sleep. Now, I will settle for waking up without any noticeable bruising or booger-filled arm hair.

Parenting can be glamorous.

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