You’ll Like It When You Get There

Today was Fresco’s day to be special helper at school. This involves: bringing something for show and tell, helping the teacher get everyone’s snack, ringing the ‘cleanup triangle’ and possibly other rituals I am not aware of. What Happens At Preschool, etc.

Last week we learned that today would be special helper day and Fresco was deeeelighted with this information. He has been bringing potential show and tell items in his backpack since the first day of school. Puppies, cats, candy, crayons, notebooks, you name it, he will drag it to school, convinced someone wants to see it.

So I was surprised when yesterday, on our way back from walking Trombone to school, Fresco said,

“I’m not going to school tomorrow. I don’t want to be special helper.”
“Whaaaaat?” I said.
“Yeah. I’m not gonna go. I’ll just stay home with you.”

I elected to change the subject because staying at home with me? NOT AN OPTION. I have just under two hours and I want those two hours and your capricious, wishy-washy, flip-flopping brain will not steal them. I had this idea that if I changed the subject he would forget he’d said it and we’d be back to normal.

I know. I continue to delude myself that he has the mind of a five month old cat. (Oh look! A tail to chase!)

Later, I mentioned something about ‘tomorrow’ and he stopped what he was doing and stared at me.

“Am I going to school tomorrow?”
“Yes. It’s Tuesday! Hooray for Tuesday!”

He shook his head.

“No. I’m not going, remember?”
“But you’re going to be special helper! It will be so much fun!”
“No. It will be too much work.”
“Too much…work?”
“Yes. All that *talking to people.* And telling them about *my stuff.*”

Aha. My little shrieking banshee is an INTROVERT. How did I not see that one coming. Oh yeah, because I was blinded by his deafening SHOUTING.

“You sound like you’re nervous about the show and tell,” I said, in my best counseling voice.
“Mmmm,” he said.
“All the kids looking at you. Asking you things. Yikes! Scary!” I said.
“Yeah!” he said.
“Yeah, I understand,” I said. I stopped there, hoping that some inspirational claptrap would occur to me in the intervening 16 hours.

Helpfully, by which I mean not helpfully, this morning Trombone remembered that it was Fresco’s turn for special helper and once he realized that Fresco was uncomfortable about it, proceeded to torture him until it was time to leave.

“So! Fresco! Got your SHOW AND TELL ready yet? Hmmm? Decided what you’re going to take?”
“I’m not going. I’m not going to school. I’m not GOOOOIIIIING.”

Oh god please don’t barf.

Finally, this morning, as he refused to put on socks or pants, I told him it was supposed to be fun, not work. That he could say a lot, or say nothing. He could say “This is my dog, Spot. The end.” Or he could tell a story about Spot and the other puppies running away to Mongolia together to fish for giant monster fish in the river. Or he could have Spot do a song and dance routine. It was totally up to him. (Fresco, not Spot. Spot isn’t real.)

He changed his mind. And when I say ‘changed his mind’ I mean went right back to the way it was last week. It was like a light switch. He was skipping, hopping, excited and happy, clutching Spot, as well as the skull of a Halloween decoration. (symbolic meaning: not sure?)

“Don’t forget my badge,” he said. “I’m the special helper today.”
“Yeah. OK. Got it,” I said.


It’s a helpful reminder, to know that as early as toddlerhood, we* can become paralyzed with anxiety about new situations. I know exactly how Fresco feels. I would *totally* sign up to do a show-and-tell and then, at the last minute, get nervous and try to weasel out of it. Trying new things is exciting/terrifying. And then, after you do the new thing, you feel like a superstar.

It isn’t rocket science. But we stay safe, in our houses, with our grumpy mothers, when we should be out telling people about our stuffed dogs.

So to speak.

I thought it was a lesson worth writing down. Maybe now it will stick.

* Royal “we,” of course. Your mileage may vary and probably is, in fact, way better than mine. Ours. You know.

Fresco, as Superdog

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Notes from Mother’s Journal: Thank Goodness for Television Edition

I have learned two important things in the past week, a week which has been spent alternating between reminiscing fondly about last Tuesday, the best day of my life*, and sinking knee-deep into despair because a day that good will never come again, surely, to someone as knee-deep in despair as me.

*no, not my whole life.

What? Melodramatic? Nonsense.

Last Tuesday was a wonderful day. It was sunny, and I went for a run while the kids were in school. It was even more run and less trudge. I paced myself and I felt strong and I thought about writing and pacing and made several satisfying connections in my head between knowing how to tell a story in an engaging way, and knowing how to run for distance without giving myself a heart attack.

Then on Wednesday, all hell broke loose. Trombone got sick, at first with what seemed like the beginning of a cold or flu — fever and sore throat — but then, no other symptoms forthcoming, and the sore throat continuing, I had to take him to a clinic where he was diagnosed with strep throat and given Penicillin, and then the next day woke up with spots on his hands, which were not, as it turned out, signs of Penicillin allergy, (whew!) or chicken pox,(double whew!) or bedbugs,(holy shit, whew!) but of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, which is a virus that is very common in children, lasts a week, and causes very painful blisters in the mouth and throat.

(Symptoms: fever and sore throat and spots on the hands and feet. Children can become dehydrated because they don’t drink enough because it hurts too much. Appetite is lessened. Very contagious. Adults can shed the virus without knowing they have it.* Fucking awesome! Best virus ever!)

* But, thankfully, without becoming symptomatic, because what I don’t need right now? Is any stinkin’ throat blisters.

On Sunday, Fresco got himself a fever too and then promptly fell ill.

“B-b-but can we g-g-g-go trick or t-t-t-treating?” he asked, clutching at his throat.
“Of COURSE we can,” we said brightly, intending to drug them and put them to sleep until next Halloween.

We did go trick or treating. The fevers were gone, they were costumed and masked and gloved. Fresco went as Superdog and Trombone was Spiderman, with a full face mask to protect the world from his many, many germs. We went around the block and came home, just like any other Halloween.

Except that Skittles hurt your throat. FYI. But chocolate is fine.

Where Trombone has taken his illness in stride, resting a lot, taking his medicine, doing lots of colouring, occasionally crying when it really hurts, Fresco has really taken to the whole idea of The Victim.

As our resident dramatist, he has been more than informative about what part of his throat hurts the most (I kid you not: the Throat Intestines); how long and dumb this dumb TV show is that he is being forced to watch; how he hates his cold HATES IT with the HEAT of A THOUSAND SUNS; and most galling of all, how he refuses to take any pain killers because he “wants his cold to go away on its own.”

He is three and a half. Too young, in my mind, to be as stoic as a certain grandfather, whom Fresco also resembles physically, I’m not naming names, who also refuses to take painkillers unless he has a broken arm. For example.

Just drink the goddamn ibuprofen, kid. JUST DRINK IT.

Besides the Woe Is Me, hand-to-forehead, bring-me-my-smelling-salts act, which is not an act, I know, it’s real, it’s just so over the top, Fresco has also picked up the habit of anxiety barfing. I haven’t had time to google it and see if it’s a thing and I kind of don’t want to know, but he gets himself so worked up about whatever — sore throat, lost sock, apple juice too cold — that he can’t calm down until he pukes. And sometimes not even then, because then he’s upset about puking.

Now that his sore throat has really kicked in, he has taken to clutching his throat at seemingly random intervals and shouting — SHOUTING — “MY THROAT. MY THROOOAAAAAAT.” All appeals to his logical side, I know, what logical side, but Trombone had one, have failed.

“The medicine will help,” I say.
“Stop shouting, that will help too,” I say.
“My THRO –”
“Dude. Don’t barf. Please don’t barf.”

Clutch. Scream. Repeat.

I know, people sneak medicine into their kids’ food all the time, but I never had to before. I have this crazy hope that he’ll come to his senses.

So, the two things I have learned, you are asking. Because I mentioned them and then went on to complain about things unrelated?

1. One good day can live in your heart and give you hope for a very long time, through a lot of bad days.
2. Fresco’s School of Drama is going to make a mint. A MINT. And then I will be greatly rewarded.

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Vlog. Vlog. Vlog.

Once upon a time I swore I would never have a blog. Because everyone had them, that’s why. Because I had a journal or a weblog but not a blog. What a dumb word. It sounds like a bodily function. Ugh I will never use it. Boy I can be a snot.

Aaand that was slightly more than 8 years ago (and now we now how long it takes me to become assimilated) because here we are; I can say blog without having to spit on the ground (so many more friends do I have now that I have stopped spitting on the ground) (no I never really spit on the ground, but I did roll my eyes and we all know what that means)(sometimes it just means that I’m looking for the word in my brain and the best way to see it is by rolling my eyeballs) and there is a new word that sticks in my craw: Vlog. Short for video blog, I guess. Vlog. V and L just don’t go together but whatever, it’s just a hybrid word, the point is, following is one video of me talking because these women on twitter were doing it so I did it too and yes, I might just follow them off a bridge if they tweeted a good reason first.

Cheryl did it. Marcy did it. Ginger did it. Mmeperpetua did it but her file wouldn’t load so she’ll just have to leave her link in the comments. Jen did it. A lot of other people I don’t know probably did it. (Let’s do it. Let’s fall in lovvvve.)

I missed the grandparent question because I was distracted by Fresco who had just come in from playing outside. Meddling kids!

Say these words:

Aunt, route, wash, oil, theatre, iron, salmon, caramel, fire, water, sure, data, ruin, crayon, toilet, New Orleans, pecan, both, again, probably, spitting image, Alabama, lawyer, coupon, mayonnaise, syrup, pajamas, caught

Answer these questions:

What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
What is the bug that curls into a ball when you touch it?
What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
What do you call gym shoes?
What do you say to address a group of people?
What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
What do you call your grandparents?
What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
What is the thing you use to change the TV channel?

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When Stuffed Animals Attack

I have a stuffed animal … problem. It wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t have kids; I would have lots of room for my stuffed animal friends if I didn’t have kids. Har!

But the problem is this:

I brought approximately 10 stuffed animals to this relationship. (SA brought, um, NONE, how is that possible?)
The first child brought 20 stuffed animals. I even dressed them in baby clothes and photographed some of them, because I had nothing better to do. Sigh. Those were the days.
The second child brought another 10.
And we also bought some along the way.

The other day, I was talking with some friends about this. One of the friends said that stuffed animals are a Low Play Value toy. They take up space, no one plays with them and woe betide you if you try to get rid of any. I understand this in principle. Other than using them for games of ‘toss the animal’ or as pretend audience members for impromptu stage shows, there is not a lot of play time for the animals. They get put in baskets, they get taken out and tossed around, they get put back in baskets. My kids play more with action figures and Lego and colouring books, at the moment.

But how can you throw away something with a face?

I find it very hard to cull my — and the childrens’ — important, sentimentally High Value stuffies. SA sometimes tries to sneak a few out in the donation bag and I’m all, HEY WHAT ARE YOU DOING PUT THAT BACK.

Trombone couldn’t care less about stuffed animals. I could probably give all his away and he wouldn’t notice for a few years. But Fresco, he takes after me in this respect. He is the kid with all the animals in his bed, the E.T in the closet, so to speak. He puts six animals in a backpack every morning, no matter where we’re going. He has appropriated my old duck puppets (yes, plural, what of it?), Trombone’s former ‘special’ kitty, and all six of the miniature dogs that came with the Melissa and Doug “Puppies Puppies Puppies” (or something) game that we got last Christmas. Every animal is special. Very special.* They have names and he knows their names and he knows which one is missing. I am pretty sure he knows their names better than I know HIS name some days.

* Except for the baby doll that I bought Trombone when he was a year old. Both children agreed we could give away the baby doll a few months ago, and though I sniffled a bit, I gave it away. It only cost $15; it wasn’t one of those Free Range Organic baby dolls or anything.

I remember the circumstances of how each stuffed animal came to live with us. Each has a story. How can you throw away something with a story? Especially if you are giving it to charity and then some other kid buys it and they don’t KNOW the story? (yes, then they get to have their own story, but I don’t care about that)(OK I do a little)(Actually it’s a fairly lovely sentiment.)

I still have my old stuffed bear, Gus, shoved in a plastic bin down in our storage room. The reason he isn’t upstairs with the rest of us is because he is 30 years old and I don’t think he would survive the current climate of War Soldiers VERSUS Iron Man VERSUS Wrestling Ninjas.

Gus was a Christmas gift the year I was seven. I asked for a big stuffed bear but I didn’t expect to get one. When I came downstairs at dark o-clock, there he was, under the Christmas tree, a red bow around his neck. He has always smelled like a motel. He has a tear under his arm that has been mended multiple times. He is the perfect size and shape for hugging and weeping into.

Where was I? Oh yes. So, eventually the stuffed animals will fall out of favour, I am assuming, and I will have to get rid of them. That day will suck.

The end. Except for this photo.

Left to right: Fresco holding Trombone’s special ‘first stuffie’ who is now known as Superdog; one of two identical duck puppets that I received as gifts from SA and my mom one Christmas; Trombone’s former ‘special’ kitty; Wally the wombat (puppet) my friend Phil brought me from Australia; Sheepie Sheep (a gift Fresco received at birth).
On the chair: Great Grandma’s special bear gifted to Trombone; Christmas sock monkey given to me the year before the kids were born. Back row: Magic the Moose (Trombone’s) and Bart the Beaver (Fresco’s) from Build a Bear — thank you Aunt Lillian.
Not pictured: Spot, Pepper, Bandit, Sandy, Cocoa (dogs) and Cowie Cow. And Chick. And Giant Duck. And 30 other friends.

Are you a stuffed animal person? If not, what is your sentimental toy thing. What? You don’t have a sentimental toy thing? Shut up, you do so.

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I took all the blog post drafts from the past month, pasted them into one file, and am taking out approximately every third paragraph for the sake of brevity. Enjoy!

1. Two Poems

About Under-6 Boy’s Soccer

The worst thing is not the rain
or the wind
or that it gets dark while we stand, hands jammed in pockets
and it is only just October,
or that we have peanut butter sandwiches for dinner
because the timing of practice is all wrong.

The worst thing is the grass clippings
tracked in on cleats and rubber boots,
left to dry
all over the floor.

(But how
my son scampers and bounds, a blue polyester-clad lamb,
dances across the field, leaving kicked-up clods of dirt behind him,
calls his coach ‘Coach’
and chases the ball with fury in his brow
makes me smile.)

About Fundraising

You will never hear the following from a parent:

Hip hip hooray!
hip hip hooray!
we get to sell chocolate almonds today!

2. On Writing, Some More, Like the Last Time

Does it count as ‘writer’s block’ if you just don’t give a damn? I always thought people who were blocked had the will to write but no ideas. In the past two months it is as if the will to write has been scissored from my body.

This creates in me the worst kind of self-doubt; the kind that doesn’t even present you the option of a work-around. How do you work around “I Don’t Want To”? I can work around “no time” and “no ideas” and “no paper” and “pink eye” and “carpal tunnel” but if I don’t want to? It is not going to happen. Nor should it. Why would you force yourself to do something that you can’t do if you don’t even want to?

Of course, I cared enough to be angry about it and write multiple blog posts of misery. Which, hi, counts as writing but whatever, you know best brain.

For a while I piled on some guilt to the anger and added a smear of bitterness to stick the whole sandwich together. Then, even if I had wanted to, I couldn’t write because all that would come out was I HATE EVERYTHING AND YOU AND ALSO JEGGINGS AND RAISINS.

One day I was walking to the store to get groceries and I realized something. I was focusing on church, at the expense of state. Two children started new schools, with the attendant bad attitudes, bad sleep, tears, and head colds. There has been more laundry than I’ve ever seen and a peanut free, healthy lunch to be un / packed every day. The people and things around me need a lot more care and maintenance than they usually do, than I am used to providing.

The church is thriving, like worms in a bin of compost, but the state is the scraps that are being eaten.

Despite this decomposatory (IS SO a word) imagery, I feel positively about this realization. If I look at my ‘block’ as merely a temporary shut-off of that particular valve, it helps. I’m not having the valve removed. It’s just shut off right now so that all my energy can go through the other valve.

3. On Running, Which Is Not The Right Word, Telling the Truth, And Getting There

What I do in my running shoes is emphatically, laughably, not really running. I think it might be more accurately described as a brisk trudge, what I do. And my goal today was to trudge briskly for 30 minutes without stopping.

A large part of the time I was putting one foot in front of the other, keeping my head up. Hoping to get to the top of the hill before my children graduate from high school. Looking at that stop sign a block away, aiming for it. Obviously doing something and yet, thinking, this isn’t how I’m meant to be doing it. This is not running. THAT GUY is running. Look how fast he’s going. I’m barely moving.

It’s not a race. I am slow and steady. I am aiming for the stop sign, not the Olympics. Getting to the stop sign is something, it’s enough. Making it to that light is enough. Then the next one. It’s how we — greeting card alert! — move through life; one challenge to the next. And whether the fast runner guy gets there first or I get there first, I’m still sweating. I’m still aching. I’m still going to get there.

Where? The place I am ending up, of course.

I’ve been consumed, lately, by my own general discontent. What am I doing with my life? Why don’t I want to write? Am I just done with that? So now what do I do? Is it possible there is a life’s purpose I have managed not to see for the past 30 years? Should I do career planning? I still have the binders and brainstorms and mind maps from the last time.

This morning, trudging briskly, I talked to myself. I asked what I wanted to do with my life. I replied, to my surprise, that I wanted to be trustworthy and knowledgeable. I pictured myself standing up straight, smiling, confident, and sharing some kind of information with people who needed and wanted it.

“How will you get there?” my brain persisted, “Are you going to go back to school? Is this a career change or just a shift in perception? If you’re planning to go back to school you’ll need money. How are you going to get the money? We are talking another ten years of switching to a new career. One you haven’t named yet.”

If I could force my brain to trudge briskly, I would. Is that meditation, I guess?

At the end of the 30 minutes, at the top of one of New Westminster’s many hills, I grinned and gasped and that was that. Goal: reached. So I guess I can do anything.

4. The Golden Retriever and the Shitzu

I have no idea how to position this information as useful. But when I am about ready to send both children to boot camp, it helps to think of them as a breed of my favourite animal, the dog. Perhaps, if you have children, it will help you as well.

The golden is Trombone: Blond, agreeable, long, loping strides, easily pleased and eager to please, great smile.
And the Shitzu is Fresco: Hairy, yappy, loveable, runs with great speed, seems to have a bouncy ball trapped in his belly, will attempt to distract you from disciplinary technique by licking your face.

(Really. He will lick your face. Because he thinks he really is a dog, you see.)

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