Monthly Archives: September 2013

Eighty-Three — The Clean Trampoline

This morning I woke up to the sound of Eli talking in his very excited voice. His very excited voice is loud enough to penetrate floors. It was only 6:30 so I was unsure what he was excited about. I put a pillow over my head and tried to enter more gently into the day.

Later, after Arlo and I had dropped Eli at school (Arlo took a sick day for his stuffed up nose), I mentioned that after school today, Eli was having his first ever playdate with a friend from his kindergarten class.

“Oh I know,” Arlo said. “He was cleaning the playroom this morning before you got up. He was WIPING the trampoline. He wants everything to look nice for Kindergarten Friend.”

Being a younger brother surrounded by kids your older brother’s age means you don’t get your own playdates much. Eli had a few friends at preschool but when they came over, their mothers came too, or we met them at the playground or park.

The after-school play is a different animal and a wonderful thing. It’s an extension of school and the independence that school fosters. It also feels spontaneous and exciting, like an unexpected treat. Even if the two parents are busy planning via email or text or phone calls, to the kid it feels like “I had this great idea! Can I come over?” and “OMG Totally! Yes!” It’s one of the things I am so grateful for in our neighbourhood — that we live walking distance from the school and from so many of the other kids at school. It feels very comfortable, very like my own childhood, very *not* like media tells us Kids Are Today. Almost all the kids I know are just like the ones I grew up with BUT I DIGRESS.

For Arlo in kindergarten, the concept of an after school playdate without me or Eli being there was totally foreign. I had to stay with him for the first few, making sometimes awkward small-talk with the other parent, and then he was good — going with whoever was inviting him, scarcely waving goodbye. There were many days when Eli and I would trudge up the hill to meet Arlo after school, only to see him invited to someone’s house. Then we would trudge back down the hill, Arlo-less, lonely, saddened. “You’ll get to have playdates too,” I would say. “You’ll go to school and have friends of your own.”

And of course, when we had Arlo’s friends to our house, Eli was often shut out or had to play The Bad Guy in the endless games of Good vs. Evil. “But I’m NOT BAD!” he would holler, “I wanna be GOOD TOO!” Oh, three and four year old Eli, I don’t so much miss you.

Today’s playdate with Kindergarten Friend was a big deal, I’m saying. He wanted that trampoline SPOTLESS.

He and Kindergarten Friend ran down the hill home and stopped at all the corners very safely. At our house, Eli stopped at the door.

“Kindergarten Friend, you can put your shoes here.”

KF nodded. “Can I take off my socks?” he asked me. “Sure if you want,” I said. He wanted.

“This is the kitchen. And that’s the bathroom,” Eli went on, “We have another one upstairs. And one in my mom and dad’s room but we can’t go up there. Come on!”

They went all over the house, Eli with his hand outstretched like a real estate agent.

As you can see, it’s open plan…nine foot ceilings…

And then the usual: crackers and peanut butter, grapes and juice. A bit of video games, a bit of sword play, a discussion about whose toys were whose. A very civilized discussion, for five year olds.

Overall and so far, Eli’s transition to kindergarten has been much smoother than Arlo’s. In retrospect this makes sense, though I always expect the worst, that I may be pleasantly surprised. It’s heartening to see Eli make his own friends and find his own way.

(Even if the path was cleared of brambles by his older brother. I’m sure he’ll say thank you to Arlo for that someday.)

Eighty-Two — The Weather

Mornings are dark lately. I have to turn on a light before I get out of bed. My morning routine is getting harder and harder, even as I go to bed earlier and don’t drink before bedtime and don’t snack, etc. It’s just Autumn.

I know a woman whose name is the same as a season. Let’s say Spring, though it is not Spring. And in the few years I’ve known her, I’ve heard no fewer than four different people — also adults — make her name into a comment on the weather. I think that might be the worst. Weather small talk is bad enough, name small talk is bad enough, mix the two and how is this woman smiling at all, ever? I guess she’s aptly named. Like if I was named Storm Cloud.

This morning it rained and rained and rained but by noon it was sunny. My kids came out of school each wearing one of the other’s rain boots. Neither noticed until I pointed it out. One size 1 and one size 12. This morning they were mad and grumpy — maybe because their boots didn’t fit? — but by three o’clock they were happy.

There was soccer practice for Eli in the park at 5:30. Arlo ran around the outer perimeter of the park, lapping all the other soccer practices, his red hoody bobbing in and out of view. At one point, a rainbow appeared in the sky. All the five year old boys stopped playing soccer to stare at it. Arlo stopped next to me, panting. “I’m going to see if I can find the end,” he said, and took off running again.

“Imagine thousands of years ago,” said the soccer dad next to me on the bench. “What must people have thought when they saw rainbows appear in the sky.”

What would you think if you had nothing to explain a bright band of colours lighting up the sky. I would make up a story about seven gods who tired of the sky being only blue or only black and starry, who were bored bouncing on trampoline clouds all day, so they went to the other side of the earth and fetched giant buckets of paint and giant paintbrushes and they each made a beautiful streak of colour across the sky.

Art is important.

Eli has brought home reams of paper from school; almost all are drawings of square-bodied Minecraft characters holding sticks and saws and pickaxes. (One was a sheet of paper with only the word C A N D E printed neatly on it.) Dark crayon swirls over the heads of these poor people as they try to make their worlds out of nothing at all. I am hopeful his kindergarten teacher has heard of Minecraft (and understands that he does not play it, merely watches other people play it)(usually on youtube)(this counts as entertainment) otherwise I am afraid I will get a call to meet with the guidance counsellor about my son’s Violent Art.

How do I end this post? I have to cover the barbecue because it will probably rain again tonight and a wet barbecue invites mildew and terrible flavours.

The end.

Eighty-One — One Week

This week was only four days long because Monday was a professional day. At first I was upset about this because MY TIME MY TIME but by last night I realized that if this week had had five school days in it, we would all be biting each other right now. Yes. You and me and the kids and that guy over there. Everyone. Biting. Because we are all so tired.

This post was going to have pictures, but then when I looked at the pictures from the week there weren’t any, so you’ll just have to imagine all the pictures in your head. Web 1.0.

Last night we went to the elementary school to meet Arlo’s teacher and see his classroom. There was a welcome back barbecue before meet the teacher but we declined because the barbecue is disgusting and now that we’re at grade two, I refuse to eat more gross burgers. NEVER AGAIN. I made the mistake of being honest with Arlo when he asked why we weren’t going to the barbecue and then I heard him telling someone else that, “[my] mom doesn’t like the food very much” so I should probably watch my mouth? Although I have asked several people in the past week if they planned to go to the barbecue and they all made the ick face and said no, so I think the gross burger is a widely acknowledged thing, which makes me wonder why they don’t switch to a better burger? And before you can say it, no I will not be sitting on the PAC and suggesting the better burger. Thanks.

Anyway, after meeting the teacher there was playground playing and then we the Adults were tired and wanted to come home and the children wept bitterly because they NEVER GET TO PLAY THERE and I pointed out that they do, actually, every day, sometimes more than once, and Eli said BUT NOT IN THE EVENING and he had a point but still, we dragged them home, tired and tireder, from all the playing and learning of three days of school.

This morning, Eli was sad before 8:30 am because his lip was chapped. And then he said his feet hurt. And then Arlo said his ankle hurt. And then they just stood in the kitchen staring at me, yawning.

“Put your shoes on, please,” I said.

“How a PSP [Playstation Portable game playing thingee, which he is determined to buy himself]?” asked Arlo, not putting his shoes on.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Put your shoes on, please.”

“Can you look it up on the Internet?”

“Sure, while you’re at school I’ll do that. But before you go to school you have to put your shoes on.”

Arlo took a deep breath and sighed the kind of sigh people sigh when they are hoping you will notice they are sighing.

I ignored him.

He sighed again.

I became amused and laughed a little, the kind of laugh where you just exhale really hard and then it’s a laugh and it surprises you so you keep laughing.

“Why are you laughing?”

(And you can’t stop. Because you’re tired.)


“I..because…I’m imagining you guys…as kittens,” I said. This is not as random as it seems; we had been talking about cats a few minutes earlier.

Eli laughed too. Because: kittens! Haaa ha ha.

Arlo kept sighing.

“Put your shoes on, please,” I said.

So he did.

The walk to school was slow and complainish, but when I met them after, they were roaringly happy. One more successful week, filed away. OK, there was one good picture.

Friday the 13th walk to school.

Friday the 13th walk to school.

Eighty — Show Your Work

With all this free time staring me in the face, I have to be ever diligent and defend against Time Waste. I could drop the kids at school, come home and just sit clicking links on the ol’ Internet for six hours. But I must instead seize every moment of each day, because who knows when another illness will befall us and I’ll lose my time again.

See, I am already calling it MY TIME. With all MY TIME I came up with a great (horrible) statement this morning: It’s easy to be happy as a stay-at-home parent. Just keep the kids out of the house. I get so much done. I am so relaxed. I am happy to see them at the end of the day. And at the beginning of the day.

Why did I have children if I didn’t want to, you know, HAVE children? Well, I did spend five solid years with them. You’d need a break too, imaginary childless critic who is wondering about my motives.

I am also facing a possible return to work in the next *handwave* months, so in theory this lovely time off is but a vacation from my old life, not a real new life and as such I intend to enjoy it, not settle into it and have it become more drudgery and routine. Excitement! Verve! That is what I am talking about.

This morning I was running along a trail at Burnaby Lake Regional Park. My feet fell on the cushioned dirt path, sometimes on slugs, sometimes not on slugs. I had been listening to music but then I listened to the park instead; it’s full of birds and frogs and apparently bears though I did not see any, and that was more pleasant.

As I put one foot in front of the other over and over again for half an hour, I thought about how with kids we don’t really see the work that goes into their growth and development. It starts when they begin to exist without our knowledge and carries on pretty much forever? Babies go crazy and make no sense and then figure out how to talk and in retrospect we get it — baby goes crazy? Baby is making a developmental leap — but it’s still hard to see ahead of time.

It still surprises me when my kids make a leap or suddenly start doing something they haven’t done before. When I see them over here and they used to be over there it feels like they sprouted wings and flew to this new place. But really, the steps were all there. They built the steps and put them in place and followed them. Who knows how long ago that was, how long they’ve been working toward this goal in their own, precious, weird way. It only looks like magic.

From inside me, someone who is trying to figure out what to do with her life and accomplish much with what she’s been given, it feels more like I built the steps and put them in place and am slowly trudging along and holy cow it totally did NOT look this far when I started. How am I not there* yet? And yet, when I do arrive, perhaps to someone else it will look like I just sprouted wings and flew.

* the meditation book would say there is no there and you are here and I acknowledge this but I mean more in a goal-achieving sort of sense, not a self-achieving sense. I have achieved self.**

** or have I? ***

*** yes. For the most part.

Seventy-Nine — Sweet Relief

Today was a gift.

We all woke up happy and mostly healthy. It was sunny, but not blisteringly hot, and there was a bit of that edgy September morning chill. I made Arlo oatmeal and Eli drank a glass of milk and I had coffee and wrote in my journal out on the porch. I had remembered to move the chair cushion last night so it wouldn’t get wet from the sprinkler that goes off every morning at four o’clock. It’s taken me all summer to remember to do that.

“Can you play Monopoly?” Eli asked me while I was packing lunches.
“I’m packing your lunch,” I replied.
“Am I going to SCHOOL TODAY?” he asked.
“ALL DAY! FINALLY!” he said.


Also that’s as many words as he’s uttered at one time since last Sunday.

At 8:45 we got backpacks on and walked to school. My tank top was a bit optimistic, a bit more yesterday’s weather but it was a refreshing walk. We were caught up to by the neighbour kid and his mom and we walked companionably to school, the mom and I talking about resort vacations and the kids talking about whatever they talk about. Minecraft, poop, Lego.

The bell rang and Arlo went off to his classroom. I walked Eli to the kindergarten door and gave him a hug. “Bye,” he said. Parents were hanging around the door, peeking in the window, but I resisted the urge and walked away. Back down the hill, alone, carrying nothing but my keys.

It was 9:05 and I had five blessed solitary hours stretched ahead of me like an empty road. This was it, the moment I’d been waiting for for five years. Five years of spending all day every day with two small children and here we are, down to none. Not even a cat to bug me. (sniff)

I went for a run. I came home. I showered and stretched and folded some clothes and put them away. I made myself a smoothie out of a banana, some blueberries, some pineapple coconut water and the remains of my morning coffee. It tasted vaguely like a fruit mocha and was not as horrible as it might sound. I read things on the Internet. I tweeted. I went to Safeway and the liquor store and the vegetable market. I had lunch and read some more things on the Internet. I washed dishes and free-wrote for ten minutes and ate black licorice and did a load of laundry.

I walked in a most leisurely fashion back to the school and at 2:00 the door opened and Eli came out. He pulled his spare underwear out of his backpack, put it on his head and ran around the kindergarten playground with a few other kids. Then we hung out in the big playground for a while, because the big kids didn’t get out of school until 3:00. He found a cool caterpillar and played with two boys from his class.

After the bell, and Arlo joined us, we stayed at the school and played until nearly five o’clock. The weather returned from warm to September chill and I had trouble finding sunny spots to stand in. Two parent friends and I stood around and chatted while the kids played the kind of game you store in your head as a rebuttal for when people say kids don’t know how to play any more. Something about leaves as money and other leaves as taxes. There was robbery and tax evasion and restitution paid.

Reluctantly, we came home, had ice cream, then dinner, then more ice cream and now I’m having beer, and I want to say Thank You Friday, for being the day I spent this whole week wishing I could have.

Seventy-Eight — Analysis

This morning, Harriet wrote a poem about her desire to be an old man on the beach. I can’t express how lovely an idea this is, how appealing it is to me. Is it because I am a woman, so I don’t want to become an old *woman*, but becoming an old man would somehow legitimize my ageing process? OR! Is it because I want to sit on the beach and drink coffee. Yes, probably.

I haven’t been to the beach in over a month. It’s been incredibly steamy hot for three days and I’ve been inside with Eli while he battles the nastiest mouth blisters ever. Ohhhhh he is sad. So so so sad. I wish I could be sad for him.

The thing about kids is there’s always something about them that just bugs you. And at first you think: well, that’s natural, it would bug anybody. And then several third parties say, wow, really? That bugs you? So you analyze. And then you realize that it’s JUST YOU. Why is it just you? Because it’s YOUR KID. You have a similar-personality conflict.

Eli is a pessimist. I am a pessimist. If we spend all day together and he can’t talk or eat because of the mouth blisters so he is hungry and in pain and I am just bored and restless and wondering when/if/maybe? he will ever go to school this week/month?/year, we realize how pessimistic the other is. And there is not room for two giant pessimists in the house.

SA and I have worked this out. He is ONLY allowed to be pessimistic if I am SURE AND CERTAIN that I am feeling positive. He is pessimistic maybe 20% of the time and I am 70% of the time (there is 10% floating pessimistic time that anyone can use) so he defers to me, as it should be in a quality partnership. Eli has no such understanding. As my tiny clone, he wants the 70%. It is hilarious when he’s out in the world and talks to people but it is not hilarious when he is on the couch and whimpering for three hours.

Wait! I am not horrible. I do feel bad for him. I have given him four hundred drinkable yogurts, a food I don’t actually believe in, in the past three days. All he has eaten is drinkable yogurt, regular yogurt, and ice cream. His tongue is the colour of clouds. I have hugged and kissed and patted and sympathized. Seriously.

But he believes he will always feel like this. He doesn’t believe he will feel better. Even this morning, when he smiled at me (I hadn’t seen a smile since Sunday) and I said, “oh you must be feeling better” he said, “no.”

What do you need, I ask.
Murfle murfle, he says.
Fine, here you go.

Arlo gets on with it. He is in pain, he takes medicine, he moves on. He might complain a little bit, and you are happy to hear his complaints because JAYSUS that’s a big blister on your tongue. Eli, he’s an old man, bitter about that cheque that he was supposed to get that never arrived and dammit they owe him. Yes, we’re back to the old man. Eli complains and complains and complains some more. He refuses to open his mouth for three days because it *might* hurt. Sure, it might. Or it might not. And if you open your mouth and it doesn’t hurt, you will get to EAT something.

Complain complain complain.

Wait. What am I doing?


Well. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Seventy-Seven — A Short List

In an attempt to kick-start some positive thinking, I challenged myself to come up with Ten Great Things about Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Hope to see my list on Buzzfeed soon!

1. It’s not really a disease. It’s a non-life-threatening illness.
2. There’s no bodily fluid to clean up.
3. It takes a few days to resolve, but when it’s gone it’s gone; no lingering cough, asthma, or sinusitis.
4. Kids really appreciate their food after not being able to eat for five days.
5. Adults don’t usually get it, or not nearly as bad as the kids do.
6. If your kid gets it during a week when he was supposed to go to two birthday parties, you save money because he can’t go to the birthday parties.
7. You also save money on groceries.
8. You feel absolutely no guilt about letting your child sit and watch tv or play video games because a) he hasn’t eaten anything but pain medicine in five days and is weak b) he had to miss school and two birthday parties and c) tongue blisters trump everything.
9. If your child misses school in the first two weeks of September, he might avoid any number of other illnesses making their way around the school, like the kind with the bodily fluid clean-up.

**The time between thinking up numbers 9 and 10 was spent doing yoga, showering, having a snack and cleaning the kitchen. Approximately one hour.**

10. In our particular case, the sublime ridiculousness of calling your child in sick for his first two hours of formal schooling, ever, and thinking about what a great story it will be, The Boy Who Started Kindergarten in October Because His Big Brother Kept Bringing Home Gross Viruses. (working title)

11. Bonus: Lots of sympathy from other parents, especially the one whose child infected yours. But you can’t feel too smug since her child is one of FOUR in the family and all four had it at the same time and wouldn’t that be like all the circles of hell swirled up into one giant, horrible Hell Smoothie?

12. Bonus two: At least I only have two children.

Three cheers for immunity! Hip hip (hooray!) Hip hip (hooray!) Hip hip (hooray!)


Today we put our cat to sleep. “Do you know what that means?” I asked Arlo. He was lying in his bed, reading a book. I hadn’t realized Eli had already told his brother that while he was at school, we put the cat to sleep. I have no idea how that conversation went down.

“No,” Arlo said.
“It means you give the animal an injection of medicine and then the animal dies.”
“So we don’t have Seamus anymore.”
“Is that a bit sad?”

His eyes were red. He hugged me hard.

When I was seven, my beloved and much cherished puppy went to the vet and never came back. So I kind of know how he feels, except he and Seamus were never really that close. Or maybe they were. Or maybe seven year olds just care more about things that die than five year olds do.

We adopted Seamus in 2003, when he was a few years old, so his age has always been an estimate. Recently when people asked me how old he was I shrugged and said fifteen? He had deteriorated in the past year; not doing well in the heat, not eating for days at a time, and recently being unable to pee. When I picked him up to put him in the carrier to take him to the vet, he didn’t run, or flinch, or meow.

Partly I’m justifying what I did. Partly it’s just the story.

While Eli and I sat in the vet’s office today, skinny, sick Seamus on my lap, I looked around at the posters on the wall. One was about canine tooth disease. One was about sick cats and how to tell if they’re sick. The one behind my head explained that cats and dogs need wellness check ups, just like humans. It listed animal ages in years with the human equivalent beside them.

Fifteen cat years is seventy-six human years, I thought. Seventy-six is pretty good.

It doesn’t make it easy to say yes, give this cat eternal sleep. But it helps.

(I wrote this for Seamus once, a few years ago. It still stands.)

Seventy-Five — Summer Runnin’

When I go out for runs, I take a music player but I have not, traditionally, been able to listen to music while I run. For one, I speed up when the music is fast and I am just not a good enough runner to have that happen. My pacing goes all wonky and I collapse by the side of the road, waving my arms weakly and moaning. How embarrassing.

For two, with music on I can’t hear what’s coming up behind me and I’m self-conscious about saying ‘hi’ to people and dogs if I can’t hear my own voice. HI! HI! HELLO! I AM RUNNING AND LISTENING TO THE BEASTIE BOYS! NO I AM NOT DYING, I JUST GET REALLY RED FACED WHEN I EXERCISE!

Usually I listen to music to warm up while I walk and then just listen to the sound of my own breathing while I actually run. Or I listen to podcasts or the CBC because those don’t make me speed up or slow down.

Yesterday I made up this awesome little song and sang it to myself for some of my thirty minute workout in the very hot afternoon sun, was that wise, no it was not, however I felt better after.

(Tune of: Summer Lovin’ from Grease)

Summer running / saw me some dogs
summer running / stepped on some wasps
summer running / makes me perspire
summer running / I might expire!
summer runs / are better than none
bu-ut oh how I prefer the rain
(wella wella wella huh!)

That’s it, because the “tell me more” part doesn’t work and I can’t sing a duet with myself. While running. In the heat.

Today’s much cooler temperatures and pissing rain signal not only the beginning of the school year but the beginning of the best time to run (until the colds and flu set in): FALL. Oh Fall, or Autumn if you prefer. Misty and moisty, dark and gloomy, the best time for those running endorphins to kick in because then? You really need them. In August, who needs them? In July, who needs them? Not me. In November? * I need them.

* not that I am eager for November. I am not.