Monthly Archives: December 2013

Making Children Cry Since 2006

There isn’t much more frustrating than trying to help someone who’s too far gone to be helped.

“Stop chewing at your neck bandage,” one says to a cat. “Then the bleeding will heal and you will no longer need a neck bandage.” Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw, says the cat. It’s itchy, says the cat.

“Eat this sandwich,” one says to a child. “You will be less likely to kick me in the shins like a wildebeest* if you have food in your stomach.”
“I’m NOT HUNGRY AND I RESENT THE IMPLICATION!” replies the child as he winds up to kick you in the shins.

*I don’t think wildebeest actually kick.

This evening, after a full week of school that included:

– a playdate on Monday (Arlo and Eli)
– a dress rehearsal for the Christmas concert on Tuesday afternoon (Arlo)
– me working on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (though only half a day friday because SNOW MY GOD [SNOMG])
– an afternoon and evening Christmas concert on Thursday (Arlo)
– staying up until nine o’ clock and getting up at 6:50 every morning (Arlo)
– waking up three to five times a night coughing for a week (Eli) (and me) (and SA)
– ice skating this morning (Arlo) including walking to the rink in the SNOMG
– Christmas party for Eli
– including cookies and singing and hot chocolate and finally a movie
– more playing in the snow
– a lot of candy canes
– and finally the last minutes of the last day of school…
– more playing in the snow
– being surprised by me coming home early from work and meeting them after school
– walking home, all cold and soggy

…the children were tired. So tired. Their eyes were melting and their brains smoking. WOULD THEY ADMIT IT? BOLLOCKS.

The first hint of trouble came at about 4 pm. They had been lying on the living room floor, staring at the Christmas tree with their melting eyes, and I took a moment to look at my computer which at 4 pm usually means twitter.

An open laptop is an invitation. (hey Dell, you can use that if you pay me for it, yeah?) The kids came running over. I let Eli tweet a tweet, then I let Arlo tweet a tweet and it was funny and good. And perfectly spelled. And then Arlo wanted to tweet a second tweet and it was rude so I said no and he insisted so I shut the laptop.


Eli also did weep because he had been anticipating a second turn at the tweeting. I apologized and shut down the tweeting machine.

Next up: Arlo crammed a peanut butter cup in his mouth and sprayed chocolate all over me while he asked if he could go play at the neighbour’s house. “Did you eat all your lunch?” I asked. He shook his head. I asked him to please eat some real food, having already heard about the cupcakes, hot chocolate, cookies and candy they had both feasted on all day.


Turned out his lunch had been finished. “Huh,” he said, blinking, “I don’t remember doing that.”

I decided to let it, and him, go. Sadly he was back in five minutes, tears streaming down his face anew because neighbour friend was eating dinner. I could not take any more weeping. No more weeping. I needed to make pizza so I could eat it. This was the plan. Time for big guns.

“Would you like to sit on the couch and watch a movie,” I asked.

Oh yes. Yes. He sat, remote controls in hand, shivering, eyes swollen.

“But it’s my turn to pick,” Eli pointed out. More tears. Another round of tears for all my children! Cheers to the tears!

“I will pick,” I said. I picked the Drake and Josh Christmas Special. They were both happy about this.

I made pizza and fed it to them on the couch. After the pizza and movie they had dessert, because you need dessert right? Wouldn’t want your sugar levels to dip.

“Now,” I said, “it is bedtime.” I began to move things around in preparation for bedtime.
“I am going to make a movie,” Arlo announced. He took the tripod from the stairs and started to pull the legs out.
“How can you make a movie when it’s bedtime?” I said with a very false joviality.
“I’m not going to bed right now,” he said. “I’m making my movie first.”

I won’t transcribe the rest. There was more crying, me sending them upstairs, them making horrible shrieking noises, me yelling from downstairs that they should stop, and then more crying because I yelled.

I mean. You guys.

If you’re crying this much, you’re exhausted. If you’re exhausted you should sleep. If I’m telling you this, it’s not to assert some kind of puppet asshole control over you, it’s just because if you sleep you’ll feel better.*

They sleep now, tears dry on their cheeks. Soon, I will too.

*If I added up all the hours I’ve spent thinking about sleep in the past seven years I could buy a hotel. If the hours were worth money, which they are not.

Nine Secrets

1. Sometimes, at work, when I’m befuddled and feel quite moronic, I think about the nice things people said to me — not just nice, but totally over-the-top supportive and kind — when I despair-posted the other week and then I smile to myself and soldier on. I never said thank you to those people, so thank you. Your sweetness lives on in my brain heart place.

2. I channelled the real Santa and bought Arlo a ridiculous Nerf gun for Christmas. Because nothing says Christmas like a gun made to kill zombies. If foam darts could kill zombies we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, would we.

3. I was having a direct message conversation with my fabulous father-in-law the other day. We were talking about squirrels and their natural predators and he wrote, “It’s a tough world when you taste good & aren’t too bright” and I just keep seeing it at the top of my DMs in twitter and every time I see it I laugh and wonder if I could tattoo that somewhere on my person or if I should just put it on the blog and have it live forever here instead of on my skin, where it would take up rather a lot of space.

Well, now that’s done.

4. I walked into a pointy part of our banister last week and I have had a black eye for a whole week and I am really tired of people making domestic abuse jokes. I’m still participating in the conversations with people, because I know what kind of conversation they’re expecting to have and I’m too tired to crusade but I’m thinking percentage-wise at least one person who has been present for one of the many “oh did you REALLY walk into a banister?” conversations I’ve had this past week has actually been abused by a partner and that just makes me sad.

5. The other day I cried walking home from taking the kids to school because this woman was taking her grade-one-aged daughter to school and they were very late and the girl didn’t want to go and the mom was dragging her up the hill and there was crying and yelling and the daughter dropped to the snow and wouldn’t get up and I just couldn’t take it. Sometimes I just can’t take it.

6. All the clear, cold, snowy weather we were having made me a bit panicky. As Eli put it two days ago, “I wish all this snowing would just stop.” (he was cold)(I’m just a creature of habit who needs rain to survive, apparently.)(Don’t get me wrong, if I could pick what kind of weather I’d prefer to have for thirty days straight I would pick sunshine and cold over dark and rainy, but I’m USED to dark and rainy and we fears change we does.)

7. If I had to work more than two or three days a week I would be typing this from the psychiatric ward. Picking a part time job was the smartest thing I ever did.

8. It’s exactly two months until my fortieth birthday!

9. I don’t have a ninth thing but I can’t leave it at eight because I detest the number eight and the number nine is automatically more powerful.

Here is a photo to compensate.(?)

Eli, practising for his first Facebook profile picture, which will be taken at his first Kings of Leon show.

Eli, practising for his first Facebook profile picture, which will be taken at his first Kings of Leon show.

Santa, etc.

Last year our neighbour, who was then 7, received an iPad from Santa, which totally fucking wrecks it for the rest of us. This year, Arlo has decided he wants an iPhone for Christmas, a black one, and I have, of course, decided to be logical at him, repeatedly. Thus, we have had the following conversation several times in the past weeks:

Arlo: I wonder if I really WILL get an iPhone 5 for Christmas. [smiles to himself]
Me: Hmmmm, do you think so?
Arlo: Well, it is pretty much the ONLY thing I want.
Me: Yeah..
Arlo: And Santa can do anything. And
Me: But expensive electronics are really not for kids.
Arlo: But NEIGHBOUR KID got an iPad last year from Santa
Me: I think his whole family got the iPad, actually..
Arlo: But mostly HE plays with it *
Me: Anyway, there are so many toys that are appropriate for children. There’s a whole Toys R Us store full of toys. I think those are the kinds of gifts Santa likes to give.
Arlo: I guess. But I really want an iPhone 5. A black one. [smiles dreamily]

*if most of your sentences start with “but” it’s probably not a productive conversation.

We have talked about what in god’s name he would do with a smart phone, how he’d have to pay for a data plan, which he could never afford on the one dollar per week he gets in allowance, especially since he always ends up spending his spending money on candy or to pay for things like the half a tube of toothpaste he squeezed out of the tube just to see what would happen, this last just the other day. (seriously dude wtf.) We have discussed how much they cost and how fragile they are (this child drops at least four things a day). We have even discussed the angle of proprietary software, thanks to Saint Aardvark’s personal bug up the ass, er, interests.

It isn’t the point. He doesn’t care about, or even hear, arguments against. Arlo thinks Santa is real. Arlo thinks Santa is magic. Arlo thinks Santa is going to give him what he most desires, because Santa wants Arlo to be happy and the iPhone 5 (in black) will make him happy.

Or possibly, Arlo knows Santa isn’t real and this is just a massive test.

Either way, this issue has been pushing my buttons, which of course makes it super fun for the kids. Push the buttons again! Again! iPhones for children are NOT part of our family value package. $500 gifts of any kind are not how we roll. You’ve been around enough Christmases and watched me shop, you should KNOW this. Want some damn Lego. You’re SEVEN. Ask for a pogo stick.

But you want what you want, because you want it. I’ve been so sensible for so long (about material things) I forgot what it is to just want something because you want it. Yes, because other people want it, because it’s a status symbol, because of what it represents. Still. Because you want it.

These examples of how my child is different from me sneak up on me. We all joke about stuff like “oh my kid is going to be an accountant because I’m a poet..but I’ll love him anyway,” but it’s sneakier than that. It’s a kid’s job to test his parent’s values, to assert his individuality. As soon as he can figure out a way to do it. So here I am, trucking along smug as a bug about my book-reading, music-loving kind-hearted child and then he says something that makes him sound like he’s a greedy, materialistic, value-less, status-seeking brat. Is he getting it, all the stuff I’m showing and telling? Is he going to join a frat someday? How will I handle it?

Except he’s a kid, just yacking on about stuff he doesn’t understand.

(For an entertaining/infuriating time, try talking to kids under 8 about gigabytes. Hilarious. Or precious metals. Everything that sparkles is a precious metal.)

It’s all part of separation. Letting go. I can’t make him value the things I value, and I don’t value the things he values, and all of this is as it should be. He can want an iPhone and he won’t get one, and the disappointment will be hard to watch, but he’ll take it and deal with it and it will help form him. He’s himself, not a clone of me. I spend so much time looking for the similarities between us I sometimes forget to appreciate and marvel at the differences.

Postscript, several days later.

Today the kids wanted to go shopping for Christmas presents. Arlo asked me for a list of things I wanted for Christmas yesterday and then he took it upstairs. I’m going to look at it and decide what to get you, he said.

This morning he wrote a list of stocking presents he would like, for Eli to peruse, and Eli wrote a list for him. Then Arlo came over and whispered in my ear:

Today can we go to a toy store, so I can look for something for Eli’s stocking?


He went upstairs and gathered his money. He had five dollars.

More whispering:

I want to get him a stuffed dog. Or maybe a Lego minifigure.

OK, I said. We can find those.

After much negotiation — you really don’t want to know how much or the nature of, just be aware that in real life there were more than two line breaks between the previous paragraph and this one — Arlo and I ended up at Toys R Us while Eli and SA went to Value Village because Eli of course also wanted to get a present for Arlo for HIS stocking but only had one dollar to his name, plus of course we couldn’t be at the same store at the same time because SECRETS.

Arlo went right over to the stuffed animal department and picked up a stuffed golden retriever puppy.

This one, he said.
How much is it? I said.
Uh, I don’t know, he said.

It was eight dollars. I fronted him the extra three.

In case you haven’t seen it, this account of a 7 year old’s Christmas list is dead on and the annotations are everything I have been thinking for the past two months.

My Homemade Macaroni and Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Caramelized Onions

First the children’s servings of macaroni and cheese were left on their plates until they became cold. I told the children they should try the food hot, that even I prefer my food hot, but they weren’t going for it. When food is cold, you can really taste the flavours I guess. Or it tastes worse so you don’t have to lie about hating it.


Eli: Takes a small bite; gags; turns bright red; doesn’t vomit but sounds like he might. Is excused.


Arlo takes a small bite. Ponders.
SA: What do you think?
Arlo: Well. I don’t really like it.
SA: Try a second bite. See if you can taste the flavours.
Arlo takes a second bite. Ponders.
Arlo: Well. It’s creamy. And plain. And a bit chewy.
SA: Yes..
Arlo: And a bit bitter. And a tiny bit spicy.
SA: Hmmm
Arlo: Yeah.
SA: So what part don’t you like.
Arlo: I don’t like the creamy part and the chewy part together. And I don’t like the bitter part. And the spicy part, it’s not really that spicy, just a tiny bit spicy, but when you first taste it you think “Oh, here comes the spicy part. My mouth is going to set on fire!” But then it’s not that spicy after all.
SA: I see.


The macaroni and cheese contained no spices other than salt and garlic powder.


I had two servings. It was delicious.

One Hundred – Ways to Be Better

The past several days have been challenging. Eli was sick so he stayed home from school on Friday, which meant I stayed home from work with him. He rested and played video games and watched TV and I read the Internet, which made me angry and grumpy.

It’s actually good for me to work because at work there is no internet, only live people and live people as represented by their files, so I am not tempted to judge (mostly). It is so much easier to judge on the Internet. Sometimes it feels like that’s what it’s for. Pictures! LIKE OR NOT LIKE. Music! LIKE OR NOT LIKE. Blog posts, articles, opinions, dinosaur dioramas set up after dark while children are sleeping to make the children think the dinosaurs have come to life in the night. LIKE? NOT LIKE? Santa. Thanksgiving. American politics. Canadian politics. Feminism. Assholes. People being mean to assholes, making them also assholes. LIKE. NOT LIKE.

Picture the beginning of time. (Note: this is not the Genesis version of the beginning of time. This is the Time Before Assholes.) There is only one asshole in this world. People just move around him/her. One day another person treats the original asshole (OA) how he thinks OA should be treated, making him also an asshole (AAA). Now there are two assholes, which is not triple A at ALL. If you scale this and everyone tells two friends like the shampoo commercial, we are in a world overrun with assholes who just wanted to tell THAT asshole what an asshole he was being.

But if that guys had just walked around that first, original asshole, we’d all be fine right now. As it is, we’re all in danger of becoming the asshole. Not to say you can’t go back. We all do assholish things, but wouldn’t it be better just to avoid the whole thing.

Anyway, that was my plan by the end of the day Friday.

Yesterday was a comedy of errors sort of day, the summary of which is: I spent almost all day inside with two children who were bored of me, each other, and the inside of the house. It culminated in me sending them to separate rooms at 5 pm and instructing them not to come out until they heard their father come home from his many comedy-of-error-like errands.

This morning I woke up with the best of intentions but something about the way Arlo accompanied me at the grocery store talking incessantly about iPhones and caramel popcorn and can we get Frutopia WHY NOT WHY DON”T YOU EVER BUY ME ANYTHING I WANT while I was trying to find vanilla yogurt that was in between 0-10% fat and didn’t have 30g of sugar per half cup and I don’t even LIKE yogurt but it’s the only thing Eli eats some days, something about that just made me get crankier and be the asshole in the room again. Yes, I was the jerk in the yogurt aisle tearing a strip off her kid because this basket is full of things you like and I don’t so don’t say I never buy you anything and also when’s the last time you ate a vegetable, that’s right, never, so just shut up about caramel popcorn. Eat a head of broccoli and I will buy caramel popcorn. I’M WAITING RIGHT HERE FOR YOU TO EAT BROCCOLI.


However, there was a truck parking over two spaces in the parking lot of the grocery store and I did not slash his tires or leave a passive-aggressive note on the windshield. I made attempts to give him/her the benefit of the doubt, plus there are lots of parking spots at Superstore, and walked away.

Sunday count:
Asshole brain: 4. Non-asshole brain: 1.

It’s hard not being an asshole. I am going to keep trying. Also I will never type the word asshole on this blog again, I promise.