Thursday, May 29, 2008

Socks and Underwear

It’s an enduring problem. The orphaning of socks.

My mismatched sock problems go back to my single days. I used to enjoy (well, especially in the ‘80s) having socks in every colour of the rainbow to match my outfits. This was a charming and fashionable (at the time) idea. However, the wheels fell off the wagon when I hadn’t done laundry in a while and couldn’t find the matching purple socks to go with the purple turtleneck. And it really was the tail wagging the dog when I allowed my sock inventory to dictate my outfit.

It used to drive me to distraction to find 12 single socks in my drawer but not one pair. I hypothesized that the problem lay in my less-than-organized evening routine (rip off clothes, throw on floor, fall into bed). Some weren’t making their way into the laundry so it wasn’t that socks were actually missing, just separated from their mate. So after doing laundry, I would marry up all the socks couples and any solos that didn’t match would go back into the laundry basket, like a single’s bar for socks. At least I wouldn’t be confronted with the constant aggravation and somehow, maybe they would find each other. I don’t think many marriages resulted but I certainly went through even more socks as when they are washed hundreds of time (and I don’t spend that much on my socks) the elastic just doesn’t hold up.

I thought this was a condition common to the human race. Then I met Husband. When we were first dating, I would bring my laundry to his condo and throw in a load while we would go on a hike, eat brunch or play golf, things I can now only dream of having time and energy for. We’d come home and after rebooting laundry to the dryer, I would sort. I would grunt my displeasure (well as displeased as person fresh in love can be) at the orphans and say “don’t you hate that?” to Boyfriend.

“Hate what?”

I hold up three athletic socks with 3 different coloured stripes, plus 3 dress socks, one navy, one black and one brown. I think it’s self-explanatory.

“What about them? Aren’t they clean?”

“No, they’re missing their mates. Where do all the socks go?” I shake my head and smile knowing my beloved knows my mind.

“What do you mean?”“Don’t you have sock orphans?”


“No.”

And he didn’t. When I did my laundry I would sometimes throw in whatever dirty he had. Invariably he would end up with 2 clean pairs of socks and I would have 4 singles. This continued after we married. I would do our communal laundry and at the end of the night, the sock numbers always added up for him and never for me.

When J was born, he obviously inherited my bad sock genes as his too went missing. Ditto his sister.

The problem is actually worse now because for some reason my feet get cold at night and I wear socks to bed but pull them off during the night. I have whole colonies of socks hibernating in the sheets, falling down onto the floor and then getting kicked under the bed by dust bunnies.

And by now, Husband’s sock gene has mutated and his socks are also missing. It’s not unusual to have two dozen solo socks after a decent day of laundry. The fact that I often don’t have time to do multiple loads in one day means more chance of separation.

My solution is always to buy more and more socks. In my advanced age, I have tried to buy THE SAME kind of socks increasing the odds of making matches. One day in Costco I spent 15 minutes examining socks. I found 6 packs and searched to find 2 packages that were the same so I would have 24 identical socks so I could finally live in a world free of sock-stress. Imagine my chagrin when I got home and discovered the packages had two kinds of socks so I have two sets of 12 socks.

I also buy many socks for my kids. Even Santa and the Easter Bunny have taken pity on my plight and are adding to the inventory. S got 6 pairs of socks in her Easter basket this year: 3 with kitties and 3 with puppies. I do not exaggerate when I say right now, I don’t think I could find more than one single kitty and one solo puppy even if a cash reward were on the line.

Compound this with the fact that my boy J will not wear socks that are too big, or that he thinks are too big. He has been wearing the same socks for 3 years and I thought I should buy him a bigger size. So he would put on new socks. Take them off in disgust, leaving one in his bathroom and one on the stairs. Husband or I would on our daily sock-hunt would declare, “found one … never mind”, as we discovered it was one of the rejects. (After only two months of this I finally scavenged for most of them and tucked them away in his ‘too big’ drawer.)

I will say that we do have a charming collection of sock puppets. But my thrifty-crafty solution of course only adds to the problem as I will think I have found a close-to-matching sock, only to have a pink button-nosed-googly-eyed creature staring up at me.

I have learned to let go a little on the matching thing as we're often lucky to find any two socks for a particular family member. I insist that most of us wear sandals all summer just so we don't have sock angst.

And we have the opposite problem with the kids’ underwear. They litter the house like dandelions. No sooner do I pick up 3 and they are replaced with 4 more. (I do point out that all adult underwear is put in baskets appropriately). This defied explanation, until in a rare moment of clarity unaccompanied by a glass of red wine, I realized the socks must be converting to underwear. Or maybe that was a moment of clarity with a glass (or two) of red wine.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Day in the Life.

It had been a busy, but tolerable day in suburbia. We almost made it out the door on time in the morning. We gathered up the usual suspects with the minimum search requirements. As we got into the van I saw an old bottle of water that had caused issues for J the previous evening. I figured that I’d ward off future disasters “I’ll just dump that yucky water out for you” I say to J as he buckles Quack, Quackie and Bear into the back bench of the van.

We get to school and J asks for his bottle of yucky water. I give him the bottle in his backpack for school. He wants the yucky water. He lies down on floor of van and says he can’t go to school. With model restraint, I help him out of the van and remain calm. He is now lying down in parking lot. He squiggles a few inches and complains about knees hurting. He apparently realizes he is inflicting more pain on himself than me and reluctantly goes to class.

He requests that I go home and get his bug holder so that he could collect more caterpillars at lunch. In a remarkable display of backbone, I said no.

He had been missing his precious agenda and pencil case for almost a week. He left it outside at lunch time in the bleachers and multiple search efforts had come up fruitless. I have memorized the contents of the school lost and found making two trips daily in the hopes that the precious items would turn up. I had even gone to dollar store to buy identical items, but the replacements were poor and unacceptable substitutes.

In class, we asked Ms. B if J could ask the class if they had seen his missing gems. He received much sympathy from his classmates but no confirmed sightings. Ms. B asked if we had checked the office lost and found, apparently a lesser know secret drawer. In answer to my prayers (quite literally), the lost lambs lay there waiting to be reclaimed. J was pleased to be reunited.

As S and I left school, I said solemnly to J “you won’t take them out at lunch anymore, right?”

“I won’t today Mommy, but tonight you can put my name on it and then tomorrow I can, right?”

I ignore his "tomorrow" suggestion as I would like to nail them to the wall at home rather than give up 10 hours every week looking for these things. “Great, don’t take it out TODAY!”

Pickup goes something like this:

2:45: J asks me to help him pack up his things.
2:46: I zip up backpack after cramming in planner, library books, lunch bag and uneaten recess snack.
2:47: J asks “what do we have to eat?”
2:48: Give J his uneaten recess snack. Re-zip backpack.
2:49: Notice J’s jacket on someone else’s desk. Pick it up. “Let’s go kids”.
2:50: Notice J’s rubber boots at his cubby, left the day before. Pick them up.
2:51: J hands me an empty water bottle with caterpillar habitat which houses his latest caterpillar friend. He will reunite with the others at home. He needs his hands free to eat his snack and play with the new wristband he and all the other kids got to celebrate British Columbia’s 150th birthday – it shoots like a rubber band.
2:52: We say good bye to teacher (as usual we are the last to leave) and head for playground, which is near where I parked the van.
2:53: We make it about 30 feet when J says he is still hungry. Knowing to keep feeding the monster, I give him bun from his lunch.
2:54: Make it to playground and put down backpack, boots, jacket, caterpillar habitat and take deep breath and look forward to company of other Moms who will sympathize with my role as Sherpa for my kids.
2:55: J asks if he can buy TWO bags of popcorn at school fundraiser tomorrow. I say “we’ll talk about that later”.
2:56: S asks for underducks on swings.
2:57: Thank God for compliant second child who agrees 3 underducks is enough and that she should go to the forest. I can talk to and elicit sympathy from other Moms in playground.
2:58: Repeat question/response regarding 2 bags of popcorn.
2:59: Repeat question/response regarding 2 bags of popcorn.
3:00: “J let’s go home if you don’t want to play. Go get your sister.”
3:01: J and S and I trudge uphill to van. J shoots wristband into long grass and had to retrieve.

3:02: S, also knee deep in long grass, “Mommy, I lost my rock!!”
3:03: J says van is too hot. I say leave the door open while S and I hunt for missing pet rock.
3:04: J says he has to go to the bathroom. Abandon rock search.
3:05: Other Moms agreed to guard my armfuls of stuff while we head into school.
3:06: Realize van door open so I run uphill to close.
3:07: J shoots new wristband through chain link fence. J has to walk all the way to the end and back to retrieve.
3:08: S fascinated by pile of rocks.
3:09: S asks “Mommy, will you hold my new rock family for me?”
3:10: S wanders ahead to gym entrance.

3:11: J reaches wristband and begins the walk back.
3:12: J wants to use gym bathrooms. I insist he go inside the main door so that we do not disturb practicing high jumpers in gym.
3:13: Get inside and see about 300 bags of popcorn ready for fundraiser. J asks about double popcorn and sniffs longingly at popcorn bags. I realize gym/high jump interruption scenario would have been preferred.
3:14: J says he does not have to go to the bathroom.
3:15: S says she does have to go.
3:16: Get S situated in bathroom after assuring her this is not just a “big girls” bathroom or alternatively that she IS a big girl.
3:17: Pry J away from popcorn.
3:18: Help S wash hands.
3:19: Make our way back to playground where compassionate Moms are still guarding our stuff.
3:20: J says, “Mommy, can we go for a walk?”. I say we can after we go home to get S a snack. “But I thought we could walk around the field to the bleachers”. It can’t be.
3:21: “Mommy, I see something down on the bleachers, can I go see if it is my book and pencil case?”
3:22: “You took it out???? I thought you weren’t going to”. Send J down to field to get items.
3:23: Unbelieving, I check backpack where I had put items earlier. They are not there.
3:24: Other Moms suggest I get gin and tonic and commend me on calm demeanor. I readily admit I wouldn’t be as calm if they weren’t watching.
3:25: See J in distance retrieving items.
3:26: S wants to go on walk like J. Send her to meet him.
3:27: J returns with items. S is distracted by new pile of rocks.
3:28: “Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom ”.
3:29: Rejoice that I won’t have to do school pickups for the next 3 days.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Strap on the Food-bag

It’s a common problem: getting your kid to eat lunch at school. This is J’s first year (grade 1) with lunch at school. He is generally a pretty good eater when he is hungry. He likes some of the healthy stuff: fruit and yogurt. He likes sandwiches, mini bagels and of course a wide variety of dessert items. How hard could it be?

Well start by eliminating peanuts. This is the norm in our school. Our challenge is what to send in lieu of peanut butter sandwiches. He used to have that a lot. With a little creativity we came up with a few 'main course" options to go in his lunch that could fill him up. Add some yogurt, a piece of fruit and a modest dessert item and we thought we had a rotation that we could live with.

J did well the first few weeks of school and then his lunch bags started coming home heavier and heavier. Most days he’d drink his juice box (which supposedly contains one daily portion of fruit and one vegetable) and his yogurt tube. He’d often nibble at an apple or eat a few grapes.

We’d ask why he didn’t eat more “I don’t have time” he said. Can this be true?

I was at school one lunch dropping something off and I realized the problem. At about 11:45 the bell went. The teacher instructed the kids to wash their hands for lunch. Some kids rushed to one of the two sinks to wash up. J noticed that one of the magnets on the front board was crooked and fixed it. More kids make their way to sinks. J looks at book rack and sees Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson mystery book he hasn’t seen before. Finally sink is free and J washes his hands.

Teacher is now gone and grade 5 lunch monitors have weighty issues to discuss (coolest Hillary Duff song, or what they think of the Spears sisters now). They are not providing much guidance to grade 1 kids to get their lunches. J checks in on science experiments. Eventually, J retrieves his lunch. On the way back to his desk he notices that O has a new kind of yogurt tube! And H has a vanilla-flavoured wagon wheel! He stops to admire both. Once at his own spot he carefully lays all of his lunch items in front of him. He makes sure to show his squishy ice pack to N who is fascinated by it every day.

After sharing a few more laughs with his classmates, he cuts open his yogurt tube, and spends several minutes getting scissors back to where they belong. He sips his juice box. At noon (15 minutes after this ritual began), the buzzer sounds. Like Pavlov’s dogs, the whole class scurries to cram their uneaten lunch components into their bags and change into their outside shoes and head for adventures on the schoolyard.

And then this:

The scene: between classroom and minivan
The time: 2:45
The place: elementary school
The date: September to June on school days

J: MOMMY, I’M STARVING!!


Clever Mommy: I bet you are, let’s get you to the van and get you a snack.

(Clever Mommies know a) to acknowledge feeling and b) to bring snacks along and/or retrieve uneaten food from packed lunch.)

J: But I can’t walk. (J sits down on sidewalk).

Cleverness evaporating from Mommy: J, we have snack in car, it’s just a few more steps. Or I can get you something from your lunch bag.

J: I’m too weak to walk. (Though J is too weak to walk, he is evidently not too weak to roll around on the sidewalk kicking and complaining, which I would have thought would expend more energy).

Tense Mommy (nodding to other Mommies walking by with perfectly behaved yet equally hungry children): I’ll help you walk. Come on we have a great snack in the car.

J: BUT IT’S RAINING. I DON’T WANT TO GET WET!!

Exasperated Mommy: It is sprinkling a bit. But you play in the rain all the time. Let’s go to the car. I have food for you there. Or here is an apple from your lunch.

J: Let’s wait till it stops raining.

Beleaguered yet inexplicably calm Mommy: Well I think it’s supposed to rain for four days. I don’t think we can wait here that long. We might get cold and tired. And even more hungry. How about your bun?

(We are all perched on window sill outside school office.)

J: Well you have to come up with a solution.

Scrambling Mommy (hopefully): Well, I can’t make it stop raining, I can’t drive the car on the sidewalk. You do have a long raincoat with a hood. If we run to the car only 4 inches of your jeans might get wet. And you can take off your pants in the car if that happens? (Does it violate any laws to allow children to ride in booster seats in underwear?)

J: I hate wet jeans. That won’t work. ANOTHER SOLUTION!?

Waving-the-white-flag Mommy (sighing): I don’t think I have any other solutions.

J: Well then, we’ll have to stay here.

Silence. As I watch another Mom of one of J’s classmate walk by with 3 well-behaved children with their own umbrellas. Light bulb moment.

Giddy Mommy: J, maybe we could ask R if he could share his umbrella with you?

J: OK.

Situation diffused. Everybody stand down.

I have relived this scenario a fair bit this school year. I have taken to fishing food out of his lunch bag before we even leave his class. I’ve had mixed results.

I’ve decided the only real solution is to have surgically implanted feeding tubes so the children can receive 24 hour nourishment. Think of the advantages:


1. Avoid the after school sugar lows where parenting fortitude is tested (see above).
2. Avoid sugar highs where kids have more energy than Richard Simmons and Robin Williams combined (and parents are exhausted from dealing with children in # 1.).
3. You could feed kids broccoli and acorn squash without negotiation, pleading and subterfuge (yes, I have the Jessica Seinfeld cookbook).

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Sound of Silence

Some would say I couldn’t survive, but I spent the last 4 days pretty much without a voice. I can whisper some but that’s about it. It started with a sore throat last Saturday night. By Monday I could feel my voice weaken and by Tuesday, a work-for-money day, it had entirely given up.

I felt otherwise fine so I decided that I would go to work. I reasoned that I didn’t need to talk much. My job is pretty much writing legal opinions. I could sequester myself in my office to research and write. Why use up a perfectly good sick day? So off I went. The first thing I was required to do was tell 35 of my colleagues (the ones that said good morning to me) that I had no voice and answer the same questions:


a) Was I at a Madonna concert on the weekend? (no, who has that kind of money??)
b) When did it start? (Monday), and
c) Do I feel as bad as I sound? (no).

Then I needed to make a phone call. Long distance. Somehow we muddled through the call with my speaking in telegraph sentences “need corporate info” and "talk next week" and I got the information that I needed. As the day progressed I needed to discuss some vagaries of the Income Tax Act (which frankly is hard on a full voice and mind), discuss some upcoming cases and was asked to attend a client lunch (I declined).

Around mid afternoon I started to realize how exhausting whisper-croaking is and ultimately left early. I planned to take the next day off until my voice reappeared. Though my colleagues were solicitous of my health, I’m sure I was pretty annoying to listen to.

For the next 2 days I had no voice and I felt rather poorly. In a fortunate twist of Mommy-luck, we had Nanny plus Husband to take care of the kids and I pretty much stayed in bed and watched movies based on Jane Austen novels.

Thursday evening, after 2 evenings plus dealing with J and S, Husband had to make a trip to the home improvement store. I reasoned that if I felt well enough to drag myself into my class that evening, I could manage my own kids for an hour. In the space of about 4 minutes I realized how much I depend on my voice to deal with the kids.

S was moaning that she wanted her Daddy and whimpered “IwantDaddyIwantDaddy”. I don’t think she stopped to take a breath so my whispers that Daddy would be right back went unnoticed. She finally stopped when a TV show came on that she deemed more worthy of watching than expressing her discontent.

Even with my full voice (which my children will tell you can be considerable) J will sometimes not hear me. I can be inches away speaking in a raised voice (because J did not hear the first 4 times) “J YOUR SNACK IN ON THE TABLE!!!”. He’ll reply with “Mommy, what did you say? I’M HUNGRY WHEN WILL MY SNACK BE READY?!.

So in my voice-impaired state, I asked him to wash the pizza off his hands and face. “What, I can’t hear you?” he said vaguely distracted. When I spoke right into his ear, he said he wasn’t done eating and could he have something more to eat. As I tried to work out the details of this (he had pretty much eaten 2 dinners already and I wasn’t sure if he wanted a third dinner, or say 3 grapes), he wandered into the family room and became engrossed in the same TV show that had his whimpering sister finally off the ledge. I repeated myself “if you’re done eating, please wash your hands and face”.

“I TOLD YOU I’M STILL HUNGRY, GIVE ME FOOD NOW!!”

So what do I use my meager whispers for? Sorting out the food issue? Preventing tomato sauce from getting on the family room furniture? Deal with the dictatorial tone that I try not to tolerate?

I opted for the one that would cause stains. I forcibly wiped his face and hands. Twice to be safe. He did not approve. He walked to the pizza remnants on his plate and smeared them on his face. I had no words. Literally and figuratively.

I carried him kicking and screaming up to his room and squeaked at him that his half birthday for the following day was cancelled until he could behave in a civil manner. (full disclosure: my remarks to him were significantly less eloquent than I have quoted)

J eventually earned his release (and earned back his ½ birthday) by acting in a sufficiently civil manner. S forgot that she wanted her Daddy so much that she barely acknowledged him when he got home. J was so excited by the stuff Husband had bought at home improvement store (he's such a boy) that he forgot he was still hungry.

Now I’m just waiting for my kids to simultaneously lose their voices, now that will be the sound of silence worth experiencing.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For


Husband and I often remark on how we wish for just one day without kids to live our old life.

The life where you can sleep in till 8:00 without the early morning pitter patter of little feet followed by the door bursting open to the announcement “I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!!!!”.

The life where you can finish a thought without being asked for crackers or the location of pink puppy or quackie.

The life where meals are eaten in peace and without getting up 97 times for more juice, milk, bread. And for that matter only one meal is prepared and everyone eats it.

The life where you can clean the house in one go and almost enjoy it.

Well this weekend that last one happened. A family gathering at our house was planned and suffice it to say the house needed a lot of TLC. J has music on Saturday mornings and Husband has taken the chauffeuring of J as his responsibility (it only took me about 6 months to realize that the Home Depot a block away from the music place might make this job a little easier).

I asked if he could take S along so I could get a start on the house. I also suggested that they pick up buns and beer on the way home (we only have one vehicle). So they would be gone for 2.5 hours. S had an afternoon birthday party in a distant petting farm so Husband planned to take J along too. That meant except for an hour at lunch I had from 9:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. to clean the house. My mother was doing most of the food so I just had to get the house ready.

I was so happy I thought I’d pee myself (which as anyone who has birthed babies knows, is a little easier after kids).

So first order of business was to get some music into the CD player. This is a tough decision. Normally we listen to Sharon Lois and Bram in the car and Alvin and the Chipmonks Christmas CD at home. S requires Neil Young Harvest Moon to go to sleep but she only wants the “dog song” on repeat (“Old King”).

The other 100 or so CDs that Husband and I accumulated during our many single years (we both married in our mid to late 30s) sit collecting dust (in alphabetical order, I add as it’s one of the few things that’s organized in our house). So for my cleaning and tidying tunes I started with Art Garfunkel Up Till Now which brought me back to our early married (no-kids-yet) days as we used to listen to a lot of music. Then Next up was Marc Cohn self-titled CD because Husband proposed to me while he played “True Companions”. Finally I chose Josh Groban’s Closer because Husband bought that CD for me about 2 years ago and I still hadn’t listened to the whole thing.

I tidied, sorted, cleaned, scrubbed, vacuumed and dusted to music I had cranked so loud I half expected complaints from the neighbours. I actually freakin’ enjoyed it. The music transported me back to earlier times. I realized that part of why I have come to dislike the whole housecleaning thing is it is done:

a) in the presence of children, which means multiple interruptions to be told “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!!!! This is my favourite Franklin show", or

b) after a frustrating day of not making any real progress because of a), after the kids are in bed and Husband and I are exhausted and would much rather be watching recorded episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.

If you can believe it, I made it through almost all of the three CDs. I didn’t encounter the usual opposition/negotiation whenever I try to clean. Until lunch.

As my family returned from music and errands, I planned to feed them lunch and give Husband a few minutes to reclaim his mind before the afternoon’s events. I looked forward to a few minutes chatting with my kids. As S comes up the stairs she says with her ears covered “Why is the music so loud?” J immediately eyed that his 2 buckets of rocks have been moved. I detect a nervous twitch as he says “where is my rock collection?”.

I thought I might have more than one nanosecond before I had to deal with this, but I was prepared. “Oh I found a great new place for your rock collection! On the front deck”.

“But I want it here?”

“The problem is with 2 gigantic buckets of rocks I’m worried our guests will trip over them.”.
“But this is where my rocks go.”

I found that because I just had almost three hours to recharge my patience tank, I had the energy to deal with this. We finally settled on his displaying some of his favourite rocks (and I convinced him the painted ones would be prettier). We also settled on which science projects would go on which window sill (just so you see what I am up against):

__________________________Rocks________________________

_________________________Potions____________________
____________Live Experiments ________________________

_______________S's Experiments_______________________

After quite a bit of squawking on my part (refilled patience tank only goes so far) about not putting hands on clean windows and the like, I sent them off on their birthday expedition. Husband calls 30 seconds after they left saying Blue Puppy had been left behind and could I bring it to the curb as he drove-by. Some things never change.

My afternoon music selections were James Keelaghan, James Taylor and Blue Rodeo. I cleaned bathrooms, got the table ready, made salad.

At about 4:00, something rather shocking happened: I got lonely. I missed my family and the constant chatter that has become my life. I realized that as much as I enjoyed being single for one day, there is no going back.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cute Clothes

One of my chief hobbies is buying clothes for my children. Husband would call it more of an obsession. I think I have elevated this to an art form. It’s not a matter the volume of clothes or the amount spent (although my overly developed thrifty gene means I’m always looking for bargains). It’s a matter of coordination and cuteness.

I try to maximize cuteness by having coordinated outfits. Cross coordination - 2 outfits that can be interchanged and maintain high cuteness quotient - can bring me to tears. I don’t necessarily go for super matchy-matchy outfits. I try to pull things together that go but without looking like it was meant to be that way. I favour modern cuts and colours, especially with S so she can look like a mini, cuter, more coordinated version of me.

I admit that I have always been drawn to cute kid clothes. Although this started as a sleeper fixation. Even before I had kids and before I was pregnant I bought a few adorable sleepers with the excuse that I could give them as baby gifts, but they stayed tucked away in a drawer. When I was pregnant with J (or Cletus the Fetus as we called him) I would take out the inventory and make Husband admire them and pick the one he thought was the cutest (and then argue with him pointing out the high cuteness values of the ones he hadn’t picked).

With J as a baby he fed my addiction and spat up. A lot. He could go through 4 sleepers in an average day. While I did do a lot of laundry in those early days, I also maintained a large inventory of sleepers. J had only one or two articles of clothing not in the sleeper category (see photo for one example).

J was 4 months old and I started taking him to a “Mother Goose” class. It’s parents and babies and we all recite rhymes and sing songs. After about a month of attending this class, I made a shocking discovery: J was the only baby in a sleeper. The other kids had ‘outfits’. Pants, rugby shirts, overalls, skirts, dresses, leggings. A whole new world opened up.

From then on, on ‘away days’ (when we left the condo) J was in an outfit. In addition to putting him in adorable denim overalls or corduroy cargo pants, I had to make sure I had a minimum of 3 coordinating shirts due to high spit-up probabilities. (though the backup to the backup shirt could be lower cuteness quotient as long as some redeeming cute feature).

And then I had a girl.
This was a whole different ballgame that I sorta knew existed, but had to experience to appreciate. We received as gifts numerous unbelieveably cute outfits. Since most were in pink and I have pink issues, I had to counter balance with other colours or outfits. This is a delicate balance as I still wanted S to look like a girl. Just not always a pink one. I am partial to navy, black and dark brown. (Every now and again, I embrace pink)

Once J started preschool I turned my mind to ‘back-to-school clothes’. I spent the summer before he entered preschool searching for the best outfits to bring out the red highlights in his hair, and to show off his gigantic grin to maximum effect. Then at the first parents’ meeting my bubble was burst: “send your kids in playclothes, not good clothes. Their clothes could get stained”. WHAT??? Why had no one warned me about this? J didn’t have play clothes. He just had the clothes I bought them. I didn’t really consider them ‘good’ as there were no ties, Oxford shoes, or creases in his pants. But I didn’t want them ruined. I raised a hesitant question with one of the teachers and was told “this isn’t a fashion show”. (I did forgive said teacher later as J fell in love with her during his first year of preschool so much so that he wanted her over for a sleepover. She was so very good to our shy boy).

I did send J in not-the-newest clothes for a few weeks when I discovered they rarely came home with anything but “washable” paint on them and if I washed them right away I could often get the paint out.

Clothing S just gets better and better. The choices are broader. The colour palettes are amazing. Each season (well I have 2 clothing seasons: back-to-school and summer) I choose a theme colour and build a wardrobe around that. And they make the cutest shoes in so many colours now and that really complete the outfits. If she ever lets me do anything to her hair except comb it every 3 days I may actually be able to add hair accessories to the list.

I try to get a cute outfit for Easter and Christmas each year (see photo for S's most recent Easter outfit). And so it goes.

The problem I now have is I start the process earlier and earlier for each season. In January while adding a few additions to the fall school wardrobe (due to kids growing out of pants), I got sidetracked by adorable kids cruise wear. So I’d pick up a few items for summer. In February I started making my kids try on last year’s summer clothes to see what still fit (and darn it, my kids has small frames and can wear shorts for THREE summers without outgrowing!). Now it’s May and the summer wardrobe is done … only I saw the cutest summer dress in black with bright flowers. I bought it for next summer (but S can wear it this summer, just a little long). I already bought the kids their shoes for September. I will soon lap myself and at some point will have to stop buying for a year just to let the kids catch up to the clothes. (and I have discovered the problem of buying too early and finding some corduroy pants only fit in the summer or that the pants never fit because they are too big in the waist and hips, where my kids happen to be very small).

I want to write more but I heard about an amazing sale on fancy dresses and I want to go look for S’s high school graduation dress. And maybe a wedding gown if I’m lucky.

What I Need Is More Ribbons


J’s school has a fitness programme where all the kids walk or run laps around the playground and the kilometers are recorded. Every 5 kilometers they earn a ribbon. In the 6 week programme J racked up 40 kilometers and a fistful of colourful ribbons. That’s practically a marathon. (He did want me to tell you that though he’d earned it, he hasn’t received his 40 km ribbon because they ran out. That’s why it’s missing from the picture).

I wished that I had walked 40 kilometers in the past 6 weeks. I could surely use the exercise. And so was born the idea of our family kilometer club. I measured the distance around our block at .6 kilometer. J and I settled on giving our ribbons every 3 kilometer or 5 times around the block.

J took the club seriously. He walked around the house making announcements like Mr. H, his principal. He said in his best approachable yet principal-like voice “As you know we have kilometer club this will. It will begin in a few minutes”. He had a clipboard to keep track of our laps, just like Mrs. C., his teacher. He even told us he “ordered the ribbons from the office” as Mrs. C. does.

Have I mentioned we live on a hill? A steep one? The first day, J and I walk 3 km and earn our first ribbons. Husband and S did slightly fewer laps.

The next day J tells me he wants to get one ribbon with me after school and another with his Daddy after dinner. And the kid did it too. S walked every second lap and rode the stroller in between (she only did as much walking as she did as I told her we're not going to Disneyland to see the princesses until she can walk more and ride her Daddy's shoulders less). I believe I should get extra credit for pushing almost-in-kindergarten child up that hill. In a mark of brotherly deference which should not surprise me, J suggested that S should get credit for the stroller laps since she is smaller. I wanted her to get the exercise too so settled that for every lap she walks she can get credit for a stroller lap.

The following day was the last day of the school kilometer club and he walked 5 km to earn his 40 km ribbon. He walked another 3 km with me after supper, though he was understandably not as fast as the previous days. So I have walked 9 km, second only to J who has walked 12 km (at home).

Each night we’ve had a celebration to hand out ribbons. True to Mrs. S’s spirit of celebrating all students (and not just those getting ribbons on any given day) we clapped because “Daddy has two more laps to get his 6 km ribbon!!”.

This got me to thinking about the power of ribbons. Imagine my house if I could earn housekeeping ribbons:

- One red ribbon for every 5 home-cooked meals that include at least 2 vegetables and one fruit (pizza with raisins thrown on top does NOT count).
- One green ribbon for every 5 rooms vacuumed, including baseboards, if at least one chair is moved to harvest dust-bunnies (to be fair, floors are Husband’s portfolio so he’d be earning the green ribbons).
- One yellow ribbon the dishwasher being emptied every morning for a week, including putting the Tupperware lids in their appropriate places (mini, square and round).
- One purple ribbon for all laundry done AND put away and that includes the sheets, the towels and the dish towels/clothes. This must be completed BEFORE anyone has gone hunting for clean underwear and socks from the baskets.

Problem is ribbons are not my poison. They are J’s. I think I’d need glasses of red wine. Or gift certificates at spas. Or great DVDs to watch while drinking the wine. And if I’m going to do spend that kind of money just to keep the house kept up, I may as well just hire a housecleaner. Although my first choice of candidate is no longer available.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Frozen Pies

Life with kids can be crazy. Husband and I try hard to keep to craziness at bay. Our kids are not in a lot of activities. I work halftime to keep the insanity to a minimum. But even the average week can be a bit nutty. And then there was last week.

I don’t work Mondays so Husband scheduled a guy to come look at our gas oven which had not been working for almost 4 months. (We survived using our toaster oven, stove and microwave.) He had given a 9 to 11 a.m. window that he was to arrive. That meant getting J to school promptly and getting home for the waiting game. S had to be a preschool at 12:30 so this should be doable.

I decided that I did not want anonymous repair guy to know the slob that I am so I cleaned up the kitchen. Even though I was pretty sure he wouldn’t be peaking inside my microwave I cleaned it anyway. I had done a decent job by 10:45 and no one had arrived. I called Husband to get number of repair place. He had to walk me through his search through the yellow pages “It was a big ad and had an A in it. And I think it said ‘18 years of experience’”.

I called the number and I think talked to a guy with his head inside of a dryer. “What is your address?” “When did you call?” “What is wrong with your oven?” “Has a technician been out to look at it?”. This wasn’t the “I’m one block from your house” answer I was hoping for. He did say he’d come in 30 minutes. He arrived in about 30 seconds (he must really have been a block away, or has mastered time travel). And after depriving our bank account of $200 and getting full-on lecture on how an igniter works (with visual aids), our oven is operational.

S is off to preschool. I have precisely 1.75 hours of precious no-child time to do the weekly grocery shopping. Husband or I mostly do it on the weekend, but that weekend had been particularly busy and it just didn’t happen. So off to Superstore with my pre-printed list where I again admired the ‘cracker’ sign. I raced home to put away the perishables (I pack the bags strategically so that I can leave boxed, jarred and bottled goods for Husband to put away). Mad tear around the house to get gymnastics clothes for both kids and major snacks so I don’t have to listen to “but Mommy I’m dying of hunger” for any longer than the time it takes to get J to the car after school.

Pick up kids from their respective schools and get snacks distributed. Gymnastics gives me about 60 minutes to visit with Moms with whom all I have in common is kids who have gymnastics at the same time. Drive home to J alternating between 2 dictatorial statements: “I’m dying of hunger” and “Are you taking the fastest way home?”. I decide to pick Husband up from train station since it’s on our way and well, misery loves company. I catch Husband on cell phone as we drive into train station lot to find out train is late due to signal problems. In moment of inspirational brilliance I suggest to starving child that we look for a new bike for him at used sporting place right by train. Text Husband new plans on his cell phone (I know, I’m so hip, I can text).


In a stroke of good luck, store is open. Find an appropriate bike but seat needs adjustment. About 45 minutes later when J and S have tested every soccer ball in the store (and Husband has arrived to intervene and prevent me from tying them up with skipping ropes) they (the 4 twenty-something skateboarding dudes) decide that the seat cannot be adjusted. We convince J there is cooler bike in the store (skateboarding dudes help sell coolness of the bike). We buy it and leave.

Wednesday is an early-to-work day for me and early home. S has field trip at play playce (tunnels, slides et. al.). Nanny calls me at work from field trip. I suspect broken arm or worse: vomit in the ball bit, an embarrassment I likely would not recover from. But the news is that our garage door will not open. Fortunately, Nanny has car with kid seats so can ferry the kids around. I suspect the electronic eye has been dislodged by garden tools (again).

That evening Husband and I spend trying to understand the door opener manual with a view to getting the door open so that we can release it’s hostage: our only vehicle. Give up at 11:00 p.m. and hope that Nanny will be able to use her car the next day for school dropoffs and another field trip for S.

Thursday, Husband calls to say garage door reapair guy is there. I don’t entirely understand what he says but it’s something like “blah-de-blah-blah-de-blah new coil will be $159.” Doesn’t sound too bad. “Plus the service call. And the labour”.

Second call, “Blah-de-blah. Blah-de-blah and so we need a second coil. Another $159.”

Call number three goes something like “he’s never seen a door assembled like this that works. We need two blah-de-blahs for $75”. I suggested Husband just call with the final bill total and stop killing me with the progress reports. I believe we could have built an entirely new garage for the amount of the final bill.

Husband has to give a lecture that night. He almost never had evening stuff. No problem. I’ll be home by 5:30. Husband has to leave at 5:45. I arrange sitter for 6:30 as I have a class that night. It was a perfect plan.

Perhaps we should have shared with the people who work the train signals, the surgical precision with which we plan our days. You see the signals delayed my train home. By about 20 minutes. Luckily one of the two buses I could take home was still at the station. I sprinted to be one of the lucky 23 people allowed on board.

At my bus stop I jump off and phone Husband. He is already in the van waiting to back out of the driveway. I’m running down the street as he drives off giving me a tense wave. Or maybe that is a nervous tic he is developing.

Immense sigh of relief. As long as babysitter shows up, my ride to my class comes, Husband gets home in time to get sitter home before kids go to bed, all should be well. Remarkably all these chips do fall into place.

And then I look at the calendar. There in capital blue letters (the designated school colour) it says "PICK UP PIES". Those frozen pies I had ordered for a school fundraisier, not only for myself, but for my parents were not picked up between 2:30 and 3:30. I had completely forgotten. The garage door had completely distracted me. And neither of us had looked in J’s planner the night before where we would have found the reminder notice. Our $60 worth of pies are no longer frozen, but melting and rotting in the school music room.

In a fortunate twist of fate, I arrived to school the next morning, ready to face the music with my soggy pies only to read a notice: “FROZEN PIES AND COOKIE DOUGH DELIVERY DELAYED ONE WEEK. SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIANCE”.

Sometimes, you need a little good luck to get through the week.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Mommy Milestone

WARNING: DON’T READ THIS IF YOU’RE EATING!

Something happened this week that I have been wishing and waiting for. It’s huge in the Mommy world. I never thought it would happen. And suddenly it did.

My daughter was sick this week. As is “frow up” sick. Eight times in two days. And I was not home for any of the eight expulsions and did not have to clean any of it up.

For my first 3 ½ Mommy years I was at home (as in not leaving the house in adult-clothes to grown-up job where bosses do not include people who eat crackers for a living). With Husband working fulltime, odds were I would be the one making usually fruitless efforts to make sure some projectiles landed in the bowl. (Or, second best option that it landed at least in one place. Like on the carpet, or couch, or couch cushions, but not 2 different carpets and every corner of couch and every cushion.) . And then cleaning up child and whatever mess was left behind. It could be an all day marathon event.

During these years, it seems my kids were rarely expelled while Husband was around. I've always suspected some kind of bribery was involved. Occasionally, I guess they forgot what day it was and they’d get sick on a Saturday and Husband and I would tag team giving child bath and getting laundry started and the emission environment cleaned up.

Since going back to work halftime in 2005, my kids have the uncanny knack of expelling mostly when I’m around. Several times, S has frowed up when I’m dressed up in grown-up clothes and on my way out the door to work. Or worse yet, during my good-bye hug, which adds my clothes and hair to the cleanup list. Both kids tend to pick up these bugs when Husband is away on work trips which means days of laundry, spot cleaning and airing out the house.

By the way just the right combination of very hot water, dish detergent, lemon juice, vinegar and baking power (you do get fizzy chemical reaction to his) and applied in the proper volumes the appropriate number of times will clean stains and smells. Now this by sheer coincidence is actually environmentally friendly. Though I admit when it comes to these types of jobs, I would embrace any chemical that would get the job done. However, nothing has worked for me in my 6.5 year ongoing real life lab, except the above-mentioned recipe. But I digress.

So this week S had an evacuation in her bed. S told our nanny “I rolled over and saw that I was sick”. Husband was still at home and got the laundry started. Nanny gave S a bath. On the way home from dropping J off at school S gave her second discharge. In the car seat. Nanny, not yet a mother, discovered one of the great mysteries in the parent world: why isn’t the carseat cover removable so it can’t be put in the washer? She made a good effort to clean it up. Our backup car seat was pressed into service. S got another bath. Nanny created towel and blanket zone to catch any further emancipations.

Stomach ejections 3 through 8 over the next 36 hours were all into a bowl, which has been her constant companion. She is a good sport that way. But she has the good judgment to do it when I’m not home. Some I’ve been at work, once at my class, several times when I was out walking with J boy.

I’m sure I’ll pay in the future and I’ll be there for many more stomach liberations. I’m just reveling in my good fortune this time, since we all know it doesn’t get any easier (and S seems to be over her virus, and honestly was never much bothered by it).


UPDATE: S did need her bowl once today when I was with her. Let's hope that's the last time.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Kids, Stay in School!

To all those kids out there that are wondering what use studying World War II or Chemistry will be, all this knowledge will not only come in handy, you’ll wish you did all those extra credit projects. That is, if you’re ever to become a parent (and most of us do).

Here is how the programme and curriculum could be recast for more appeal to the current generation.

Bachelor of Helpful, Enlightened and Lucid Parenting.

or B. HELP for short.

THE SCIENCES

Basic Science 100
New Name: How to Deal with Curious Preschoolers 100


Description:
You will understand and be able to answer the following questions:
- why some balloons will float to the sky when released and some won’t?
- why you can’t put a balloon together after it bursts?
- why the bike or ball will roll down the driveway and into the street and why it won’t roll back up?
- why it’s bedtime but the sun it still up; why it’s not bedtime but the sun has set?
- why you cannot conjure up snack foods while in the car stuck in traffic?

Advance Sciences 400
New Name: Science Projects 400


This senior level class will teach students how to do the following with materials found at home. All can be accomplished the night before science project is due:
- build 5 different kinds of volcanoes that spew.
- grow beans simulating 5 different climactic regions
- build a semi-conducter.
- recreate a galaxy with at least one black hole and two super novas.

Chemistry 400
New Name: Stains and Smells 400


Part I: Weekly labs you will explore the chemical properties of chocolate ice cream, ball point pen and “washable” paints and why they stain and what you can do to prevent this. ($500 lab fee for this portion of class to cover cleaning supplies).

Part II: Weekly labs will look at chemical interactions that will mask odor of vomit and urine. Special attention will be paid to car interiors and car seats. (Not for the faint of stomach).

Mathematics 100
New Name: Surviving Car-rides 100


This course will teach you to:
- calculate distances without measuring (how far is it to Grandma’s house exactly?)
- calculate time in seconds (how many seconds since I was born?)
- advanced estimation (how many cars do you think are on this highway right now?)

Health Sciences 100
New Name: Childhood Diseases, Aches and Pains 100


After this introductory class you will be able to:
- determine child’s temparutre to the 100th of a degree using you’re the back of your hand.
- accurately predict when a fever means an ear ache or when you have to distribute bowls and towels throughout the house.
- check for lice while child eats snack and she thinks you’re just being affectionate.
- tell the difference between real and fake tummy aches in school-aged children.

LANGUAGE AND SOCIALS

English 100
New Name: Talking to Toddlers 100


After this class you will:
- be able to tell a toddler they cannot have a 7th cookie without using the word “no”.
- have at least ten polite synonyms for poo, fart and penis.
- be able to explain the difference between child calling brother “stupid” and parent calling SOB who cut you off in traffic “stupid”.

History 100: Dictators of the Twentieth Century
New Name: Temper Tantrums 100


You will understand the mindset of a child who:
- will hold breath and turn blue rather than clean up toys
- will pass on trip to Dairy Queen rather than eat 3 peas.
- would rather spend sunny afternoon is his room that say “I’m sorry” to his sister

History 400: Diplomacy and the Cold War
New Name: Bedtime 400


This senior level course will teach students to deal with all of the following nighttime excuses:
- need to find bear
- need to find the brown bear
- glass of water.
- another glass of water
- have to pee
- forgot to brush teeth
- need snack
- need to brush teeth again after snack
- need to ask a question
- have a follow up question to the last question
- too quiet
- music too scary
- scared of the dark
- light in hall too bright
- you forgot to kiss me goodnight
- you forgot to hug me goodnight
- can’t sleep

Psychology 100
New Name: Staying One Step Ahead of Your Kids 100


After this class you will:
- understand power struggles and why you want to win as much as child does.
- know when to start using reverse psychology
- know when to stop using reverse psychology and start using reverse reverse psychology.
- recognize when the child is using reverse psychology on you.

Psychology 400: Understanding Brain Biology
New Name: Increasing Your Memory and Speed Reading 400


After this senior level class you will:
- remember field trips whether the notice comes home 1 day before or 3 months before event and that special shoes, jacket, headwear is required.
- remember where all stuffies are for all children are at all times, including ones they dug out of ‘giveaway’ piles earlier in the day while you were at work.
- be able to speed-read through 40 pages of material that come home daily the first week of school and remember to send back permission slips, cheques for activities and personal contact information for you and 100 backup family members.
- be able to read every road or store sign while driving so you are prepared for “what did that sign mean?” question while driving.

OPTIONS

Physical Education 100
New Name: Keeping Track of Stuff 100

This course focuses on stamina and strength so you can:
- 5 sprints back to car from shopping mall/school/church for purse (because you were carrying child, diaper bag, blanket and stuffed bear and pushing stroller with other hand), then wallet (because you forgot that you hid it under kleenex box at school drop-off), special art project, special green pencil crayon and stuffies.
- run up and down the stairs 27 times every morning finding library books, stuffies, lunch bags and clean socks.
- run up and down the stairs 27 times every night getting snacks, drinks, stuffies, blankies and the right CD to play for bedtime (“that one that has the nice music in the middle of it”)

Physcial Education 200
New Name: Pain and Endurance 200


This senior level course is geared at increasing pain threshold and endurance so that you can:
- step on small piece of Lego and not break the skin, any bones in your foot or wince.
- carry 30 lb. child on your hip with six bags of groceries in other arm while maintaining calm conversation with second child running behind.
- endure any injury or illness and still be able to drive the carpool, attend Mommy and Me classes and still use the ‘nice Mommy’ voice. (or Daddy).

Spanish 100
New Name: Dora the Explorer 100


Object: to know as much Spanish as average 3 year old princess

Clothing and Textiles 100
New Name: How to Avoid Calling Your Mother at Midnight 100


After this class you will be able to:
- thread the smallest size needle with a 3 year old pulling on your leg screaming “MR. BEAR’S TAIL CAME OFF!!!!!”
- fix the patch in jeans at midnight when you’re tired and just remembered it’s “jean’s day” tomorrow and all the jeans have holes in the knee.

Clothing and Textiles 400
New Name: You Don’t have to Fear Halloween or School Pageants 400


This senior level class will teach you to make costumes such as donkey, Winston Churchill or Spongebob, using only rags plus straws, popsicle sticks and styrofoam cups. (Lab fee of $500 for supplies).

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Doesn't Anyone Travel Light Anymore?

Every parent is good at a few things. I mean really good. Everyone has those few things which they’ve mastered and maintained with ease. Everyone’s list is a little different.

My list of parenting triumphs from a very early time included packing the diaper backpack. (I refused to get traditional diaper bag – born out of cheapness of paying extra $$$ for something just because it was meant to carry diapers, and the fact that a backpack could more easily be flung on back while carrying child in carseat. But I digress.)

Within weeks of J being born I was a master. The backpack always had the right provisions: diapers, wipes, cream, changepad. Now since our son was the spitty-uppiest baby I have known (then or since), the backpack had to include not only several bibs, cloth diapers to catch spit up, receiving blankets, two changes of clothes for the child (more if it was a longer excursion) but also a clean shirt for Husband and I. (And often we need them both.)

Upon returning home from excursion I would fill the washer with dirty things and reload the backpack. We were always ready to go. No rushing around the house grabbing clean sleepers and looking for bum cream as we headed out the door.

As J got older, I had to add a toy or book to keep him occupied. Cheerios for a snack. In summer a sunhat, sunglasses, sunscreen. Of course when S came along we need a larger backpack because J was sill in diapers (22 months old) and needed more toys and I still needed all the baby things for S (not that we actually went out that much the first year).

In past years, the need for large backpack has waned. We need a few things on longer trips, snack and spill-proof cups. PJ’s if it’s an evening event and we’re getting home late. Often these things fit into my purse (which has grown larger over the years). I keep a few basics that we rarely need in the van. Life is getting simpler in this respect.

Recently, J started asking if he could bring Quack (large stuffed duck) and Quackie (small stuffed duck) along in the van. I said he could once if they stayed in the car because I don’t want to be doing “away” Search and Rescues at school, church, shopping mall. So Q and Q became frequent passengers in the van. S, not to be outdone, started to bring her favourite passengers along. Often Pink Puppy, and Blue Baby. Sometimes Rainbow Bear or Carebear. She is a little flexible (second children are a little easier) in whom she brings as her sidekicks.

So before leaving the house, we need to locate the critters. The kids try to look for them but even when I say “J, Quack in on the floor in the family room right beside the fish tank and beside the basket of games and on top of old bowl of fishy crackers”. J will not find it. So if we want to get where we’re going on time (or close to it), we either have to give lots of warning (doesn’t usually happen) or conduct an all-out family scavenger hunt.

Then J started bringing his Sweet, a bear about the size of an egg that blends into its surroundings and is harder to find than Waldo. And then his purse, my old purse/briefcase, became part of his entourage. Sometimes it houses Quackie and Sweet but also a zippered container that includes a light, an orange pencil crayon and a toy. Add to his container to collect rocks, some paper and a book or two. His most recent additions to his ‘must have’ list are his pencil case and agenda.

S not only has to bring her babies/bears. She has to bring bears for her babies/bears. And a blanket. And a plastic bracelet that she calls her watch. And a plastic cell phone. And the right jacket. And not to be outdone by J and his man-purse, carries a purple fuzzy bag, a Dora the Explorer bag and a doctor bag.

Now if I could, I would assemble the creatures and accessories by the door, or better yet keep them in the van. But these things are constant companions and are brought in the house and are incorporated into some imaginary game. They take some (but not all) to bed with them. Which means on any given morning, they could be anywhere.

Now, I’m living that bad nightmare where you need to run away from the bad guy but you can’t run because your legs weigh 500 lb. each: I know how to be organized and get out the door, I am just being prevented from doing so.