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I took the girls to visit my Grandma at her new Retirement Residence yesterday.

I worried about the questions they might have although Chloe explained to everyone on the car ride over, “Great Grandma gets to live in a house with a lot of her friends now.” That sounded pretty perfect to me.

I remember visiting similar housing complexes as a kid and being scared out of my mind and I worried my kids might have a similar experience.

The first thing they noticed was the automatic door.

So there’s a door you don’t even have to pull to open, you just press a button and the work is done for you? Score 1 retirement home.

Next, they noticed a plate of beautifully decorated cookies, rice krispy treats and shortbread and assumed they were for a party they weren’t invited to. Nope—all you can eat, all the time. Score 2.

We walked down the hall towards my Grandma’s unit and I pointed out there was a name plate with ‘Schlotzhauer’ on it.

Our kind host who was leading us down the hall covered half of her mouth and whispered, “I dare you to try to spell that one.” Score 3. My kids have been spelling Schlotzhauer since they were in diapers. It’s their name.

After a lovely tour of the facility and visit with my Grandma, a tour of her Bingo prizes, we pressed the automatic button to head home.

Back in the car my kids explained they weren’t frightened of Grandma’s new housing arrangement, quite the opposite.

Hanna said she could move in tomorrow. She said, “I would wake up and have breakfast which is already made for me, then chair yoga, then I’d get my hair done, hit the library for an hour before lunch, do a puzzle, watch an afternoon movie in the theatre, take a nap before dinner and then chill in my room with some free cookies for the rest of the night.”

I guess when you put it that way.

Usually on a night where the kids have an activity, I feed them dinner before we leave the house.

When the activity falls at 4pm, we have a light snack before leaving the house and then I load a giant, ridiculously awkward cooler bag to drag along with us and I fill it with two thermoses containing a hot dish (despite having three children), fruit, vegetables (these go virtually untouched but it makes me look like a good mother), crackers (these go first and the container is licked free of salt) and something resembling a treat (a cookie or two jelly beans each which are always the impetus for this conversation at 3:30pm en route to the activity, “Can we have the cookie now?” “Can we have the jelly bean now?” “One jelly bean?” “Half?” “If you don’t let me eat this cookie right now, I will never talk to you again and I won’t love you ever again!” (Ahh Chloe)

Last night, I had a different idea. Why don’t we have a fruit smoothie at home before leaving for our activity and then we’ll hit the new all-you-can-eat sushi place on the way home? Everyone was on board.

When we arrived at the restaurant, the kids were famished.

I started ordering; California rolls, crab tempura rolls, shrimp tempura, salmon teriyaki, rice etc. The kids’ eyes lit up with excitement when some of their favourites started to arrive at the table.

Then our server said quietly, “If you don’t eat everything, we’ll have to charge you for it.”

It was an understandable request. It prevents people from over-indulging (more so than you’re already planning to at a place boasting “All You Can Eat!”)

Understandable to adults but my kids became immediately frightened at the prospect of this meal costing their parents any more than whatever we had clearly, silently agreed to when perusing the menu.

If Chloe didn’t finish something, Ellie would say, “Chloe, pass me your plate and I’ll eat that pea.”

Hanna said, “Mommy, are you going to eat all of the chicken?” (I wasn’t). She jammed one chopstick into a small piece of teriyaki chicken and force-fed herself while massaging her neck so it would go down her gullet like a dog taking a vitamin.

Chloe didn’t care at all. She pushed food aside and focused on a bowl of steamed rice.

Ellie whispered, “Stop eating rice. It’s cheap. It doesn’t matter if we have to pay more for that. Start eating the crab rolls Chloe. Start eating them NOW!”

This lovely idea of eating out and treating ourselves to some favourite foods suddenly became hostile and there were many trips to the bathroom by our three kids.

I have no idea if they were sneaking food away from the table and disposing of it in another room.

I know Chloe was just following along to be part of the gang.

Pockets full of white rice and a big smile on her face.

Our small but mighty four year old has been on a mission since the bell rang on the last day of school—the first moment of summer holidays.

She wanted a new backpack for the next school year.

Chloe became consumed with the idea that her freebie backpack with Greg’s company logo on it wouldn’t fly two years in a row.

The backpack she was using didn’t have all of the flashy cartoon character bells and whistles. It did have space for her ipad, USB keys and was rigged with free WiFi. Kids in JK love that stuff right?

Her request was simple: “I want a backpack covered with princesses.”

Greg was able to convince her around Christmas last year that if she just used this backpack until the end of the school year, he promised to take her shopping and fulfill the princess-backpack dream.

The problem was, she never forgot.

She asked daily, sometimes hourly, “Is today the day we’re getting my princess backpack for next year?”

Sometimes she would be dozing on the couch and I would whisper, “Can I carry you to bed my angel?” and she would mumble, eyes half-closed, “Is today the day I get my new backpack?”

Sometimes we would be walking hand-in-hand to the mailbox and she would look up at me with those brown, puppy-dog eyes and say, “Mommy, is today the day I get my new school backpack?”

As we drove home that day in late June, Ellie shedding a tear of closure, bidding her teachers a fond farewell and waving goodbye to another solid year, Hanna furiously shredding pages and snapping her pencils in two, Chloe had one thing on her mind. I know I’m ridiculously close to getting that princess backpack.

This summer we have been to the cottage, we’ve spent hours in the pool, we’ve walked, gone for bike rides, visited with friends and family.

Chloe woke us up at 4:30am tapping Greg first gently on the shoulder and then using the sharpest point of her elbow, she pressed the tip of his nose until he was startled awake with a subtle bruise.

Greg: Chloe, are you okay? What do you need buddy?

Chloe: Is today the day we get to pick out my new princess backpack?

It was.

We have a fridge, like most families.

It sits in our kitchen and is overdue for a thorough scrubbing.

There are twelve jars of olives at various stages of fullness.

There is apple juice, orange juice, milk and a jug of water.

There’s cheese, cold meat, vegetables, fruit, butter, eggs and condiments that require refrigeration. There may be some curry pastes that expired several years ago. I’m not proud of that.

To my knowledge, there are no secret compartments of any kind.

At least seventeen times a day, I get the following question with a hint of frustration, “Mom, where is the insert any item here?”

Last night, Hanna stood with the fridge door wide open and asked, “Mom, where’s the yogurt?”

I have no idea why I’ve committed the location of just about every item to memory but I quickly said, “Middle shelf behind the jam.”

A few minutes later Ellie asked, “Mom, where’s the jam?”

“Middle shelf in front of the yogurt.”

I think the kids (and Greg) now ask before they even open the fridge, “Mom, where are the nectarines?” “Mom, where is the cheese?” “Liz, where’s that barbecue sauce I like?”

I fear my family is losing the ability to find things for themselves because I’m doing it for them before they even try.

Chloe, our four year old stood with the fridge door open last night.

It was killing me not to help her because I wanted her to close the door before everything warmed up and spoiled.

I calmly asked her, “Chloe, what are you looking for?”

She replied, “My purple marker.”

Top shelf, beside the t.v. remote.

I never wanted the idea of going to camp to be a negative for my kids.

We have tried a few different day camps with the older two with some success over the years but we’ve never sent the girls to any overnight camps.

I guess because I am home with them, it didn’t seem necessary and camp was never a place I got excited about when I was a kid.

Yesterday, I was tired of watching the girls moaning about not having anything to do.

I was sick of hearing, “I can’t eat another sandwich for lunch. Can you not think of anything else we can have for lunch?” “Sandwiches again?”

In that moment, as much as I hated packing school lunches, I remembered the peace and tranquility of shoving a sandwich day after day after day into those lunch sacks and never having to be the one on the receiving end of, “Seriously? My Mom packed me another sandwich?”

And then I specifically called “No spillsies!” during lunch and there were two pretty impressive spills, dare I say, spillsies.

So I threw it out there.

“Would you guys be happier if I registered you for camp starting next week?”

The older two sensed this was a trap as it wasn’t coming at a fun, family moment over their favourite movie and a shared bowl of buttered popcorn. This was coming on the heels of several complaints and even more spillsies.

Chloe said, “Yes! That would be great Mommy. Can I go to rock ‘n roll or ballet camp?”

Me: Sure.

Chloe: Awesome! Daddy! I’m going to rock ‘n roll camp! When am I going, now?

While Chloe packed for imaginary rock ‘n roll camp, Hanna and Ellie put on their shoes and went outside.

And then something magical happened.

Ellie was wearing some sort of choking device around her neck and Hanna was barking orders at her.

Ellie was the family dog and Hanna was the impossible-to-please owner.

Finally, they’re playing and being creative.

Last night I commented to Greg on how much our ten (almost eleven) year old daughter has grown.

I had Hanna stand shoulder to shoulder with me as she is closing the gap—and quickly.

Ellie piped up, “Oh, do you know who has really grown?”

Hanna?

“Leo.”

Ellie: Leo has grown so much in the past few months. It’s unbelievable.

She went on, “Leo used to be this tall (randomly slicing the air with a sideways hand with a six to eight inch variance between chops) but now he’s like this tall.” (hand slices moving up as she climbs onto the ottoman for affect)

Before I could ask, “He used to be shorter than Adam, Bree and Chase but now he’s like way taller. It happened so fast.”

Ellie, who the hell are you talking about?

“Leo. Leo, you know, from the show Lab Rats?”

I had no idea my kids would learn all they needed (and then some) about labour and delivery from watching Animal Planet.

Hanna and Chloe spent the better part of a ten minute car ride relaying the following scene they had just witnessed on Animal Planet while I was obliviously showering.

“So there’s this Mother cat named Pitchopara” (it turns out, the cat’s name was actually Cleopatra).

“Piopartra (Cleopatra) goes into labour and is expecting a litter.”

At this point, we have never discussed birthing litters or human multiples, or the labour experience as a whole.

“Polopatra is in labour for so many hours, she’s in stress and the Doctors are worried.”

Huh. That does sound stressful.

“The Doctors realize she has just one cat in her tummy instead of 4 which is normal for a first litter.”

It is?

“Then she tries to deliver the cat the natural way. You know, natural?”

Gulp. I sure do.

“But she can’t because the one baby cat is way too big.”

Been there.
“So they have to do surgery on Pleapatra to get the giant cat out.”

Did they show you (the unsupervised television audience?) the surgery?

“No, that would be gross but we know what happens anyway.”

Um, err, you do?

“Then the baby’s born and the experts have to come in and feed it because the Mom is too weak.”

Enter the wet nurse.

“Preolatra and the big baby get together but the baby cat (can we start calling it a kitten so late in the story?) doesn’t know how to latch, you know, latch Mom?”

Yes, of course. Now I’m starting to feel insulted.

“It’s a happy ending. The big cat latches onto the Mom’s nipples or whatever (nipples or whatever is said with great speed and is slurred to emphasize the awkwardness) and they bond and recognize each other.”

Thank you Animal Planet.

My work here is done.

My daughter attended a slumber party a couple of nights ago.

It was your typical 5 or 6 girls telling their parents they had plans to sleep if not for that one girl who just kept the conversation alive until 3 or 4am and it would be rude not to listen and engage.

When my daughter arrived home the next morning, things appeared alien to her.

I know she didn’t know what time of day it was but I’m not sure she was aware of the month or the year either.

She was too weak to eat or speak but not too weak to moan out a few “Can we please close the blinds?” and tormenting her sisters while not as quick was still very much on the table.

Her hair had not been combed in what appeared to be several days. This is strange given I had watched her comb it before leaving the house to attend the party.

Her tongue was blue and not from brushing too much with blue toothpaste.

Her eyes darted around the room like a cat after a pen-light. I think the piñata filled with pixie stix powder managed to find a home inside her pillow case.

Her speech was slurred.

Her joints stiff.

She walked with some assistance and could eat only teaspoons of yogurt.

Slumber party success.

I never buy anything that requires alterations.

I know people think when you buys jeans, they’re not meant to fit at all, like not even close, so they spend twice as much as they spent on the pants having tiny elves (and a handful of mice) craft them to their exact body shape and size.

I think of clothes more as a basic, human necessity to avoid shameful, public humiliation and fall squarely into the category, “Does the zipper work? Good enough.”

I did however buy a dress that was a smidge on the big side a couple of months ago.

A smidge is usually something I can live with but for some reason, this smidge is gaping right around my armpit and what if I forget to shave just that side for a month? The smidge must be fixed to save us all from a lot of unwanted/expensive therapy.

So, I packed our three girls into the mini-van, gaping, arm-pit dress in tow and I drove to the one and only tailor within a thirty km radius.

This same tailor was recommended to me by the sales girl who sold me the dress (who clearly got a kick-back from all of the jeans she had sent to him and his mice).

That’s two nods to the same tailor, one from a local retailer and one from the internet.

Off we went.

By the time I found a parking spot (that I had to pay for), loaded one kid on my back whose feet were too sminky to walk on, rolled the dress under the arm for which it was meant to stop gaping, lead the other two mother-goose and duckling style a block away, I noticed a sign on the front window of the shop:

We are closed for holidays from July 1st until August 25th, 2014.

So the entire summer?

Do people not alter things in the summer? I guess there are no big events like oh right, weddings or gaping arm-pits in the summer.

I turned, careful not to slam my four year olds back up against the glass and deflated, started marching the littles back to the mini-van.

Hanna said, “Mommy, are you upset? Can I carry your purse? Oh, can I carry your purse is your phone in there? Are there any games on it?”

Chloe said, “Mommy, sorry your dress will be big still. Can you carry me in the front now, your neck is sweaty.”

Ellie had the best line of all. “Mommy, you can squeeze into one of my dresses. Any one you want.”

This made me smile. A lot.

Then I heard her whisper to the others, “Poor, old Mom.”

We noticed some droppings outside our back door about a week ago.

Not the nice kind of droppings like sprinkles or Easter eggs.

Animal droppings. An animal has been defecating outside our back door.

It wouldn’t have been that bad if the tiny creature had opted to dump its load in a corner or even a couple of feet from the door but this is right on the four inch trim around the door.

It’s actually quite gross and so very insulting.

I think there’s a country and western song (or there should be) “Don’t Defecate On My Stoop!”

We are pretty sure it’s a mouse but we are not so narrow minded to think it couldn’t be the mouse’s Transylvanian country cousin, the rabid, vampire bat, as there is a small overhang above the door, ripe for the hanging and plush for the dropping.

Greg set up a trap to catch the mouse which bothers me for a few reasons.

  1. The mouse lives outside. How can we try to catch and hurt something in its natural environment? I am totally on board if the mouse was in my pantry cupboard or bra insert but it seems unreasonable and unfair to attack it in its own habitat.
  2. What if the bat sees the small metal contraption smeared with peanut butter and thinks it’s a house warming gift?

I didn’t like it when neighbourhood cats would leave dead mice on our door step because I never understood it. While I appreciated the sincerity of gift giving, it made me feel as though I had to buy it something so I left small bags of catnip and scratching posts and we started this whole thing.

It also made me question why stray cats felt obligated to leave us gifts when to my knowledge, we hadn’t done anything to make them feel welcome or done them any favours.

It felt like a trick. Maybe they were leaving preemptive gifts to get the ball rolling. Maybe it was a gang thing and the cats were marking their territory by leaving mice at random doors, sending home owners a message; you stay away from our mice and we’ll watch your back when the birds start to fly towards your newly cleaned windows.

What to do?

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