Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's Like Riding a Bike


Ever since the grand accomplishment of bike camp, the kids have been keen to go biking at the high school track. Almost every night it isn't raining we've made the trek. We live on a steep hill which makes riding there dangerous. We don't object as a little exercise after dinner and before bedtime can only be a good thing for parents trying desperately to get the school night bedtime in the cross hairs.

The first few times Husband and I were on hand to lend assistance to S, who was still struggling a little with balance and to any innocent bystander who might come within 20 feet of J as he is more keen on watching whether we're watching him, than watching for whom he might be about to run over.

As they improved we started to get a little bored. Sure we could have a conversation punctuated with "J WATCH OUT FOR THAT LITTLE BOY!!!" Husband seized on the opportunity of being on a track to get some exercise by running (I generally used the excuse of poor footwear to beg off).

Then Husband decided at 41 it was time to learn to ride a bike. Not re-learn. He did not learn growing up and never had owned a bike until about 5 years ago when a fairy godmother left one on our front lawn. Well, actually it was more of a teenage thief who realized the bike he'd stolen from an unknown neighbour hadn't been ridden (rode??) in years and he (or she) left it on our front lawn to make his (or her) get-away on foot.

We dutifully reported the presence of stolen property in our yard. They asked us to bring it to the RCMP detachment. Only problem was that it didn't move very well and we only owned a Ford Escort at the time. They said they would pick it up. Obviously picking up a garage-sale bike did not rank high on the crime-fighting priority list. There was a bit of a problem of meth labs and marijuana grow ops at the time.

After a couple reminder calls and several months the beleaguered RCMP representative asked "why don't' you just keep it?".

And so we did. It sat in our garden shed. The we moved it the the garden shed of our new house 2 years later. When we bought J a new (well, previously owned) bike last year, we got the ill-gotten bike and my heavily cob-webbed mountain bike tuned up.

So Husband gamely began to bring his bike to the high school track and made his way around the track alongside the kids. He initially made the mistake of starting in first gear on an 18 speed bike. Once he found a good medium gear, he was off to the races. Well, I don't think he'll be taking the yellow shirt at the Tour de France, but he's riding a bike. And I'm easily as proud of him as I am the kids. Even just for trying -- he had lots of spectators.

So the kids have been asking when I am going to ride. So tonight was my turn. Husband stayed home to work in the yard. As we drove to the school I said to the kids "it's been a long time since I rode my bike."

"How long?? Five years?? Ten years??" J asked.

"At least 15 years" I said

S whispered to J "I think we may have to teach Mommy how to ride".

"No" J scoffed "She's a professional".

The cliche is true. At least for me. It felt like I was just riding yesterday. Until tomorrow and I have to, say, sit down on a toilet seat.

J thought he'd ride a lot faster than me. I told him that the bigger the wheels, the faster you go. He said "well your wheels are bigger but my legs are stronger". It was a dead heat once around the track.

Final Report


Although I previously blogged about the summer activities, I feel the need to give a final report on the summer. I don't have a lot more to say, but I have a pathological need to NOT things left unfinished unless it's something like putting away laundry or cleaning the bathroom.

The mid term report was a C+. I think that was probably generous.

August has been much better. We have all hit our stride, J in particular. I had more activities planned for August anyway, which also helped. Knowing that the end was in sight helped me relax a bit. Except maybe on the rainy days.

I'll give the summer a B-. Which is probably still a little generous. But hey, 24 hours left to go, I can be generous.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bowled Over

We were so close to the end of the summer I could small it. Once Husband arrived home from work at 5:30, we'd have a long weekend to endure, I mean enjoy. I called Husband middle of the day and offered him $1000 and cabfare to come home right now. He declined. I should have offered more.

We had no activities scheduled this week. But we had eye doctor and haircut appointments and a long playdate. Nanny managed to negotiate two rainy days with no problem. But today, end of summer + rainy week = recipe for disaster.

The morning started off alright. J got up at 6:30 to put up the Christmas lights.

The kids decided, starting yesterday, that we would have a theme party every day. Yesterday was Halloween. I came home from work and was instructed to get into a costume. We have a brief tense period when Husband and I couldn't think of a single CD we had with "spooky music" on it. Husband told J every Halloween party he'd been to had good dancing music so we settled for the Beach Boys or something. So we danced with Cat in the Hat and Dora the Explorer. J actually put all the Halloween stuff away asked Husband to get out the Christmas stuff.

I cringed and twitched as I have many precious and irreplaceable Christmas things and I imagine the boy rooting through the gigantor Rubbermaid containers looking for some suitable decorations. Husband carted out the box of lights. Since the lights are Husband's department, I agreed. So I woke up (late, thankfully) to a boy with lights strung around himself wondering how to decorate the playroom. A little creativity and we have three strings of lights encircling the room. I managed to find some non-breakable Christmas items (stockings etc) and J seemed satisfied, but then came upstairs with a box of precious decorations. We had a mini-showdown before J realized he may have met his match on this one.

We had our pre-party, the real one has to include Daddy. I fed the kids lunch and off to S's last summer ballet class


It was then that things really started to unravel. The extent of J's boredness started to show. (you may recall just how bored the J boy can be).

"What are we doing? It's an empty day and you didn't plan anything."

"S has ballet and you both have swimming tonight, and Daddy and I will swim with you after. Remember, family swim night?"

"Yeah but except that. You never plan anything".

It's precisely because I plan so much that he says that. He's barely had a down day all summer.

"Can we go bowling?"

"We're doing family bowling on the weekend, remember?? With Daddy?"

"I want to go today. See, you never let us do anything fun. You always say 'we did that yesterday' or 'we did that last week?'"

The next 15 minutes were more of the same except J's tone became more and more uncivil. I refused to discuss any afternoon activities unless he spoke in a proper tone. He eventually came around and I agree the 3 of us could go bowling on certain conditions.

We got home and while I'm on the phone with the bowling alley and making a reservation, S runs screaming into the room and J comes and climbs on top of the desk. He is towering over all of us and S is moaning. It all has something to do with the skeleton J is holding, a leftover from the Halloween party yesterday. Give me a freakin' break.

My own tone of voice has deteriorated and I tell them to leave me alone for a few minutes before we have to leave. They do. For a few seconds and then the "I'm hungry" whine starts. I get J a sizeable snack so he won't be hungry during bowling and then I see his uneaten lunch. I don't think he ate a bite. This explains his incivility. He has a hard time being civil when he's hungry (who doesn't?).

I do manage a few seconds of peace when I realize it's time to leave NOW.

"Okay, let's go to the van to go bowling!!". I try to sound enthusiastic.

No response. Kim Possible is on the @#%^$ Family channel. Once I get J's attention he is keen to go but S would rather watch cartoons, despite her earlier pleading with me (at J's instigation, mind you).

The first half of the drive to bowling was S moaning, crying and whining that she wanted to watch Kim Possible. The second have was my moaning, crying and whining that I didn't know where we were. We were tight for time when we left so I took a 'short' cut. I couldn't quite remember the turnoff but I thought that I would recognize it. I didn't.

Every time I would say "CRAP!" J would started convulsing in the back seat.


"ARE WE TOO LATE FOR BOWLING??? I WANT TO BOWL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I finally told him if we couldn't bowl when we got there, I would buy them any treat that they wanted. That bought a few minutes of peace. I tried asking for directions a few times but every pedestrian we met was wearing an iPod and couldn't hear my plaintive requests. At long last we stumbled into the bowling alley when I had quite given up.

It didn't matter that we were late as there were about 8 lanes open. Bowling started off fun. We all score 11 on the opening frame. J took the lead in frame 2 and I was next with S close on our heals. Both kids were ahead of me for several frames until I finally pulled into the silver medal position. At least I could bowl better than my 4 year old.

Around the 5th frame, I started hearing the "I'm hungry" whine again. This was no doubt related to the fact that they sold junk food there. I told them we'd get a snack after the game, which did not dimish their whining.


Around the 8th frame I realized I might actually take the lead from J. And then I realized that would be a bad thing to do. With his fragile state, I couldn't predict what he would do. I wasn't actually wanting to beat him per se, I was just trying to get a strike or a spare which would probably mean beating him.
So then I tried to throw gutter balls. I had managed to throw a few in the first couple frames when I was attempting a strike. Which is hard to do with those darn gutter guards. I ended up beating him by a few points. He came close to combusting but I steered him near the popcorn and that seemed to bring him back from the brink. Plus he's a revisionist historian, so he just said "I told you I'd beat you Mommy. I'm a very good bowler".

S opted out of the 2nd game. J and I battled it out. I was actually bowling better by trying to bowl worse, if you can believe it. I was throwing the balls slowly and aiming for the side and they would bounce off the guard and take down 2 or 3 pins. But fortunately J's game also improved and he beat me.
The "I'm hungry" whine made another appearance, coinciding with the end of the popcorn. I told them we'd stop for fruit if they were still hungry. I thought that would quiet them down as I suspected they just wanted more junky food. But they really wanted fruit so I was forced to actually go buy some. We're pretty much out at home otherwise I would have just taken them home.

At the grocery store I was beyond frazzled. They were behaving better. They were doing annoying things. Like breathing. And of course I ran into 4 sets of people we knew. I wonder if they noticed the nervous tic.

And the worst part of it, I overshot and got home AFTER Husband. That 15 more minutes I could have had to myself.

Epilogue: I spent 30 minutes in the hot tub during the kids' swimming lessons and regained my equilibrium. J was doing sommersaults off the diving board (wearing a life jacket). Both kids passed to the next level when I thought neither would.

Summer Activities: A Post Mortem

I talked so much at Husband last spring about the kids' summer activities, I'm pretty sure he was just nodding and smiling and going to his happy place (which is no doubt on a golf course).

"But if we do swimming lessons every day for two weeks in July they won't be at the same time and that means we'll either have to switch the week they are in day camp or the week that we have planned our family holiday and I don't think we can change the day camp except for short week of bike camp and if we move the bike camp week it will have to be a week after a long weekend and then we won't get a tax deduction for it because it has to be 5 days and if we change our family holiday it will be to a week I'll have to take 3 vacations days or a week that is not good for you because you have grant deadlines plus I don't think I'll be able to fit in S's ballet and I really want to get her into ballet, because you know how she loves it and I really screwed up and missed the deadline for the last session in spring. So what do you think?"

Even my ears were starting to bleed.

But we made our decisions and came up with a plan that would keep the kids busy, engaged and having fun with enough free time to plan day trips. So here is the post mortem:

Tae Kwan Do (for J): A+

A big hit. We signed him up for the summer special but now he's going year round despite my distaste for year-long activities which create an annuity for the organiziation and take up a precious spot in the calender. He loves it, it's activity, it stresses self-discipline. Plus the constant earning of stripes and belts appeals to him.

Half Day Camp: A

Popular with both kids. Both were advertised as a variety of activities (cooking, science, art, sports) which I thought would suit them both. J's camp was really only sports, but he didn't seem to mind. S did cooking, though she told me on the first day the teacher dropped the jello they made all over the floor so they couldn't eat it.

Vacation Bible School A+

We spent a week at my parents to do this. The change in scenery suited us all. The kids loved their VBS experience and were singing the songs they'd learned for weeks.

Clay and Science Classes: C+

Because I didn't want to have the kids in activities every week in the summer, I signed them up for some one-off classes during the quieter weeks. They were pretty lame but also cheap.

Swimming Lessons: A

We opted for lessons on Wednesdays and Friday nights when the kids could have lessons at the same time and Husband and I could enjoy the manic humid atmosphere of the pool. Kids have loved the pool and I have loved having Husband there to get J into his pyjamas while I do S. Mostly I have done swim lessons on my days at home.

Family Clay Camp: A-

This camp was 4 sessions. I went to 2 with the kids and our Nanny did the other two. All of us got to be creative. The only downside is I have approximately 92 clay projects littering the house. They are not nearly as easy to throw out as art projects that come home from school. The kids, however, have already earmarked many of them as Christmas presents.

Bike Camp: A+++

The day I nervously dropped off the kids at bike camp, J had not been able to ride his new bike. He got his training wheels off his bike last year at bike camp, but after we got him his new bike, he didn't did't master it and was refusing to even try. We had to bribe him to even sit on his bike while we held it upright. I smelled a meltdown in the air as we unloaded the bikes. I could feel his stress level rising. I had palpitations. S was accomplished on training wheels but she is cautious like her brother and we doubted that she would be willing to try. Well, imagine our surprise:


Scheduling of Activities: D

Even though individually the activities chosen were mostly good, I think the kids (well, J and by extension S because she won't be left out) needed more. J needed busyness in July rather than August. I think he, and moreso I, are ready for full day activities. And probably something that engages his brain more. So next year we'll skip the shorter ones, keep the kids busier in July, plan a different family vacation and hope that we won't go too far and 'overschedule'.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Whispered Secrets

My absolute favourite thing about S these days are her whispered secrets.

"Mommy, can I tell you a secret?"

She climbs up on me to get close to my ear. Then she lifts the hair away from my ears and puts her mouth right up to my ear. Her hot breath gushes something into my ear which is often unrecognizable either because my ear drum is vibrating, or I am giggling too hard. It is so freakin' adorable.

Sometimes her message is silly: "Have you ever seen an elephant in our backyard?"

Or sweet: "I love cuddling with you".

Or spontaneous to the moment: "I love watching Hannah 'Ontana!"

We were getting back-to-school haircuts at the "haircut store", where by the way, she sits like a statue. She said to me "Mommy, can I tell you a secret?"

"Sure". I lean down so she can find my ear.

"I"m ready for this haircut to be done."

Husband and S were watching J at tae kwan do last week. She had a secret for him.

"That lady looks strange" she said referring to someone thankfully sitting out of earshot.

"That's not nice to say." Daddy replied.

In a shout-whisper, hands on hips she says "DADDY, THAT'S WHY I'M WHISPERING!"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The 5 Stages of Grief

On July 2nd I received a letter in the mail that brought news that has had me cycling the 5 stages of grief. On July 2nd, we found out S would be in afternoon kindergarten. I now can (almost) appreciate how trivial this is in the scheme of life.

But you see, I make plans. In my head. I envision how the year ahead will be. I pictured myself dropping the kids off together in the morning to have a few hours to pick up hobbies I have long forgotten about (laundry, cleaning). I saw myself picking up S at 11:15 and hearing about her day at school in that excited tone of a child experiencing school for the first time. And I wanted to do this in the absence of the hungry brother.

S is fresher and more excited in the morning. Last year, we had to endure afternoon preschool four days a week. She was bored and at loose ends in the morning. We signed her up for some activities but we didn't want her to be 'over-scheduled' by filling every morning. And the busier she is in the morning, the less she has energy for school.

And then there are the dominoes that must fall. We had to re-jig our childcare with our part-time Nanny and my parents. Activities have to be re-considered and the entire calender had to be re-mapped out.

S has a cousin and a best friend in morning kindergarten in different schools. This is the perfect year for playdates while J is still in school. Speaking of playdates, the after-kindergarten playdates won't be the same. With morning kindergarten, the kids can go home with another family and be returned to school when the older siblings are picked up.

And so the stages went something like this:

DENIAL: I wondered if they mistakenly sent out letter to the parents of all the children's parents telling them they were in afternoon kindergarten. Then I thought they simply mixed up the classes with the morning kids being put in the afternoon and vice versa. Surely, we would get the sheepish apology letters any day.

ANGER: I don't know precisely who configured the classes but I had thoughts. I even had dreams.

BARGAINING: I thought of putting my lawyering skills to work and make a compelling case for a swap to the a.m. class. But I knew it was futile. The morning class is full and the school was closed down, so no court to which I could make my appeal.

DEPRESSON: I think I spent the majority of the summer in a down phase. I won't say depression, but I had a hard time looking forward to the coming school year. This is evidenced by the fact that school starts in 7 days and I have not filled in the calender. My usual fervor in assembling the fall wardrobe has even been tempered (though I still managed to get some smokin' deals).

ACCEPTANCE: I think I'm finally in the acceptance phase as I am able to blog about it. I realized that gymnastics actually works better in the morning. I know 3 kids in the afternoon class from families that are our kind of people: that's worth a lot. It's actually probably more convenient for our nanny on her half-day with us to work the morning, rather than cutting her day in half by working the afternoon. And with only J to drop off in the morning, I can use the drop-off lane and stay in my pyjamas those extra few minutes.

I also realized that S's academic future and overall happiness will not be affected. When have I heard anyone lament "it all started when I was assigned to the afternoon kindergarten class". I don't even know if S will remember her year but she does have an excellent memory. I still fondly remember a lovely kindergarten teacher, Madame Baron in Morrison Elementary School in Montreal who fabulously launched me into life. I just this second remembered: it was in the afternoon.

Yin and Yang

I know I am not supposed to compare my kids. But when you live with them 24/7 how can you resist the temptation to note the glaring differences and uncanny similarities?

My kids both have a serious stubborn streak. They both play with a lot of imagination and energy and love to pile on Daddy when he enters the room. They share a love of chips and gummy worms and cupcakes smothered in sprinkles.

I think they both are fairly emotional and sensitive, J moreso. However, getting J to discuss his feelings or even acknowledge them is as common as a 35 year old Chinese Olympic gymnast.

J could be alone in a dark forest being chased by unknown creatures making scary sounds. If I could freeze frame and ask him what he's feeling I would likely hear "I don't know" "Nothing" "What?" or "Can you get me a snack?"

Last night, as I was tucking S into bed, on a whim I asked her if she was a tiny bit worried about anything about starting kindergarten. She appears to be excited about it but we are often surprised by what goes on in her adorable little head.

"I'm this worried about it" she says arms stretched apart as wide as they can go.

"What are you worried about?"

"The talent show."

This year J had a talent show in his music class at the end of grade 1. The kids could do anything - didn't have to be musical. We had quite a time helping J find his talent. The perfectionist in him combined with the fact that it was a busy week and we left it to the last minute meant a lot of stomping off in frustration. J also had a hard time. We went through quite a few circus acts before he settled on doing a magic trick.

S was worried she wouldn't have a talent. So I reassured her that she had lots of talent, if she didn't want to do anything she didn't have to, maybe they wouldn't have a talent show this year and June is a long way off.

She perked up: "I could sing a song!"

"Yes, or do some ballet moves."

"Could I put on my ballet clothes?"

"Of course".
Problem solved.

"Are you worried about anything else?" (referring to kindergarten)

"Swimming lessons."

"What are you worried about swimming lessons?"

"Doing my floats" Darn Cookie Monster donut.

"Well your teacher said your floats were coming along".

"But I had that girl teacher that one day and she thought I could do a float on my back."

More discussion about the one night her teacher was away. I told her she could tell her teacher if she couldn't do anything. She seemed satisfied.

"Are you worried about anything else?"

"Gymnastics."

This really surprised me. "What is up about gymnastics?"

"Well, even though I know I'm big on the outside, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep inside I'm only four and the teachers don't know that because they can't see inside and they put me on the high bar, which is over even the teacher's head, and what if I fall?"

"The teachers will spot you and catch you if you fall."

"But I don't always catch Sandy (her stuffed dog) when she falls so what if they don't catch me?"

"The teacher's won't put you on a really high bar where you could fall".

"But they don't know that deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep inside I'm only four. They think I'm big".

"No matter your size, if you're uncomfortable doing something at gymnastics or anywhere else, just tell them."

"Anything else you're worried about?"

"Pinching my finger in the closet door."

She had a sizeable blood blister on her pinky for weeks from a closet game.

"Yes, we always need to be careful around doors."

"Is that it?"

"I'm worried about getting a papercut"

So there you have the ranking of S's worries last night:

1. talent show
2. back floats
3. falling off high bar
4. pinches in closet door
5. paper cuts.

I felt I had pretty much addressed all those concerns though I will ask her again to see if she is still concerned. I may need to start bringing a notebook to bedtime tuck-ins. Still, in 5 minutes we covered a lot of ground.
Another difference between my kids. A few reassuring words and her concerns were addressed. If we ever stumbled onto a worry of J's we would be having conversations for days giving reassurance, brainstorming for solutions and providing factual data to back it up.
Recently we had a discussion over what would happen if a robber broke into our house. So we discussed our security measures, the unliklihood of this happening, the facts that we have insurance and that we don't keep money in the house.

"Where do you keep your money?"

"At the bank".

"What if the bank gets robbed? Then our money would be gone"

This lead to discussion of currency and banking. Oh and he keeps asking how much we have in our bank account and thinks any money there is his own personal slush fund. Who does he think he is? A politician?

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Confession


I must openly confess and purge my guilt. For anyone flying on flight 8287 from Edmonton to Vancouver yesteday, I put your safety at risk. I don't know how I could have been so cavalier about the lives of my fellow 88 passengers plus air crew, never mind further thousands of souls on the ground. I carried onto the aircraft in my luggage 120 ml of Healing Foot Balm. This exceeds the allowable limit by 20 ml! And this was not inadvertant. It was deliberate and premeditated.

You see I was packing to go home from my weekend away. I planned to carry my bags on to the flight so I could have a few more moments with my girlfriends that did not involve questions like:

"Is that your bag, it's blue?"

"No, it's blue, red and green"

"Is it tartan?"

"No, more like big squares".

We could get to the real serious questions like what colour to have our toes coloured at the spa. On my trip home, I figured any fewer moments with kids running loose at airport can only be a good thing.

So I carefully chose my liquids and gels in bottles 100 ml or less. I left at home quite a few steps of my morning face maintenance (or reclamation) routine to accomodate the 100 ml rule. So imagine my perterbment when I noticed that the Healing Foot Balm I got suckered into buying was 120 ml.

"I'll have to check my bag" I lamented.

This is where one of the Bad Cops stepped in.

There are four of us in our four-pack of "sisters". We do spa trips in the winter and sometimes a summer get together. Two of us have been come to be known at Bad Cops, and two Good Cops. I am one of the latter, mostly because I am mindless rule-follower. I declare every penny of goods I purchase outside the country, converting to Canadian currency to 4 decimal points. I try to keep my kids quiet in libraries, though I may be the only one.

So Bad Cop 1 was dumbfounded that I would consider checking my bag for one tube of Healing Foot Balm, "just hide it. It's not like they're going to check".


I acceded to her suggestion. I wrapped the tube in several bags and stuffed it to the bottom of my bag. I took all the liquids and gels out of my toiletry bag and put them in my over-sized purse.

As I headed towards security, I was a bit nervous. I was sure that they might notice my nervousness and my subterfuge would be rewarded not only by the loss of my Healing Foot Balm, but also a body cavity search and a night in a holding cell.

But I sailed through the security. In some paranoid moments, I wondered if they might do random security sweeps at the gates and I could see myself being led off to a hidden search facility intended for heinous security risks such as myself.

In the end, I made it home with no confrontations with person in authority and in one piece. I wish I could say the same for my Healing Foot Balm. I got home and notice the lid is broken. Just deserts. I'm not sure about my Good Cop status with the Sisters.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympic Reflections

At the end of week one of the summer Olympics in Beijing and I've logged more than a little couch time toggling between CBC and NBC. I'd love to say that I've been moved to tears hearing the Canadian national anthem played but as of now Canada has not only not won a gold medal, they haven't won any. Tajikistan has one. Even Togo has one (and I didn't know there was such a country before this week.) Georgia is on the brink is a war with Russia and it has THREE.

J for his part is enjoying the Olympics as he trots through whatever room Husband and I are gazing at the TV. He's rooting for his favourite country. His country is doing much better than ours. You see, he is rooting for Korea (which has 18 medals). His best friend Js moved back there a few months back and the boy mourns his losses his own way. Rooting for Korea at the Olympics is his therapy.

S for her part wants to be an Olympic swimmer. She has been practicing in the bath tub whenever she can. She is quite good at the turns, which is good because her actual swimming needs work. Her swimming instructor told me on Wednesday that she has forgotten how to float. I think she may need that skill.

S was also quite taken with the diving. "Can you do that Mommy?" she asked one day.

"I can dive, but just a simple dive, not like their doing". (which is a stretch because I don't think I've done an actual dive in a couple decades but I thoerize, it's like riding a bike).

S told me reassuringly "Maybe when you're a bigger Mommy". (I resisted the urge to tell her Mommy was big enough)

S watched in fascination then asked "Is that water deep?"

"Yes, it has to be so they don't get hurt."

"Where are their donuts?"

On our recent stay at a motel she ventured into the deep end with a Cookie Monster inflated ring that she had around her belly. It was a liberating experience for her to be in the deep end (Daddy never far away). It's inconceivable that these divers could make do without.

It just dawned on my that the Cookie Monster ring may be the culprit in why she has forgotten how to float. It figures. I have steadfastly maintained that floating devices work against learning to swim so we've never used water wings or donuts. Until this trip, I was losening my rules in effort to be more laid back since everyone uses those things. Husband wasn't really pressuring, I was just letting go. Sigh.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

If You Happen to See Me This Week ...

... could you do me a favour. I'm just coming off 11 days at home with my kids. Even though I say I'm desperate to go back to work, I know I'll miss them. What would really help me miss them less is if you would do something that would remind me of our sweet days at home together.

So let's say I ask you for a pen.

Ignore me until I've asked at least five times.

Then after the sixth time, say something like "Did you ask me something?"

Then perhaps "What was that about wanting something?"

The next couple times you might repeat my question to me "You want a pen?"

When I press for the pen (you may see steam coming from my nostrils), ask me why I need the pen. I will say something like "I need to write something".

Then I'll ask for the 10th time. And you can yell that you already answered the question. You might want to throw in an endearment, like fart-face, or poopoo-head.

If I ask again, you might draw a line in the sand and say that if I don't tell you exactly why I want the pen, you won't give me one. I might finally tell you "I need to write a cheque" and you should not give me the pen but suggest that I pay cash.

Then you might storm off in a huff and slam a few doors.

Then when I raise my voice and charge after you, tell me you don't have a pen, have never had a pen and don't know where one could possibly be. Fart face.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dash and Spike

J had some accumulated allowance burning a hole in his man-purse. So on a recent trip to Superstore he bough Dash, an electronic dog. One of those little handheld thingys where you have to feed and play with the pet. I figured it wouldn't be the worst thing he could buy and it might keep him busy for an hour or two.

What I didn't count on was how busy it would keep me!

Double that when I broke down and bought S one too. She doesn't get allowance but she was so pathetic and wanted one. I had her convinced that she could wait until September for her birthday but she gave me a back massage and I told her I usually have to pay for one and then she asked me to pay her so I told her I'd buy her a pet, which I did. Her kitty's name is Spike.

In order to feed and play with the pet you must buy food and toys and clothes. That's how you keep them happy. And they have a happy meter that stays full about as long as a keg at a frat party.

In order to buy things you must have credits. Food costs 10 to 50 credits. Toys and clothes are 200 - 5000. My kids are kind of soft on the value of real money. Fake money means nothing. So they buy toys and clothes without a care for their bank balance. I think at one point J must have had a quiver in his thumb because Dash has 5 flying disks to play with. And he learned the hard way about how expensive beauty can be. 600 credits for a bottle of something at the dog groomer!

To earn credits you must play games. The bottom line is only 3 games will earn you points.
Rock paper scissors, which has Vegas odds, and only earns 10 credits if you do manage to beat the house. Tic tac toe is easier to win but only earns 10 credits per game.

The bonanza is the maze game which has 9 levels and if you complete all 9 you earn 180 points. I can sometimes get through all the levels but usually not but can usually get around 100 points a go. I really should have memorized all the mazes by now but they don't repeat in the same order.

So my thumbs are callused and sore from playing maze games to earn them enough points to buy their dogs gems and pretty smelling oils and fish shakes for breakfast.

I guess it is better than a real dog.

Best $40 I Ever Spent

At the end of 11 days of vacation with the kids, I admit I was not hating the idea of going back to work. Okay, I admit it, I was giddy. My final task was to get myself and my kids to my parents' house. My kids were being taken on a special day trip the next day that would involve 2 ferryboat rides, a pirate show, lots of treats and spoiling that can only be done by adoring grandparents.

In addition to clothes, I had extra things to sort out. I needed extra entertainment items to keep the kids busy in ferry lineups etc. So notebooks and puzzle and pencils and markers all had to be coralled into 2 separate entertainment bags. And those bloody electronic pets [see next blog] and 6 AAA batteries and a miniscrewdriver to take off the back panel. And cameras.

Last week we bought a new camera and J expropriated the old one. It doesn't focus very well but he is thrilled, so I had to bring camera for him and camera case and 2 sets of batteries. S for her part wanted her own camera so she got the last camera we had before we went digital. Unbelievingly, the battery still worked after 4 years in a box. She has been a real shutterbug right alongside her brother. Mind you she couldn't see the pictures. And there was no film. But her camera came along and I even loaded our last roll of film which has been happily ensconced with brown bananas in our freezer for 4 years (I believe the bananas are that old as well).

Anyway it seemed a small miracle that we made it to the van. J decided to play with the garage door opener. I started the car and was about to back out when he started closing the door. Quite apart from the very real danger of carbon monoxide poisoning, I was not at all keen at replacing the garage door (which we just spent $500 fixing) and repairing the back end of the van. He wanted to be the one to OPEN it, so he first had to close it to open it again. Now he DID open it but had forgotten. Crisis was averted with no major damage and we were on the road.

So I drove the 45 mintues to my parents in relative peace which probably should have been the sign that the evening would not end smoothly. I not only had the kids in their pyjamas but I was in mine. I figured, we'd watch The Suite Life and then head to our respective beds. Them to sleep and me to earn credits for their electronic pets so that they could feed them on their trip.

We arrived and I told the kids to put their shoes on (any drive over 40 seconds, they are compelled by a dark force to remove their shoes).

J asks "Where are my shoes?"

"Check in the back, you took them off"

"I never had them on".

Um, so you remembered to almost asphyxiate the family and not to put your shoes on!!! I was too busy tracking down batteries and markers that still had ink in them to be worrying about shoes. Until now.

So out of my pyjamas and off to Superstore, which thank goodness is open on the Monday of holiday weekends. I found shoes on sale and bought 3 pair hoping one of the size 13's will fit him. No this is not the $40 I spent.

On the drive home I hear a funny noise. We were going over a bridge on the freeway so I assumed it was that. I turned off the radio and the sound went away. I tried this a few more times but heardnothing. Then I realized that I was taking my foot off the gas when I turned off the radio and accelerating, likely the transmission, was making the ugly coffee grinder noise that was getting louder by the minute. Having learned my lesson in 1991 NOT to keep driving if you hear a funny sound in your car, I took the next exit and tried not to accelerate.

I called my Dad who said he'd come right over. I knew we'd need to get it towed and I only hoped that we could get it fixed the next day. The perils of the one-car family is to have the one car out of commssion is paralysis.

At least it was a nice night and I didn't have the kids with me. As I waited for my Dad to arrive, I recalled a story I had heard about someone being killed because a drunk drove into their car while they waited for a tow. Even though my flashers were on and I was on the shoulder I figured drunks weren't known for observing rules about NOT driving on the shoulders so I got out of the van to wait for my Dad. I was about 10 feet in front of the van.

I looked back and the front driver's side seemed a little low. I checked and I have never been so happy to see a flat tire in my life. Flat tires are easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy (as my kids say) compared to transmission damage. Tow truck guy charged $40 to change it. Even with the fuel surcharge and taxes it was under $50. If I had elected to do it myself (which was never really on the table) I would still be trying to figure out how to liberate the spare tire which is under the belly of the vehicle and needs not only a special wrench but the knowledge of the secret button on which to use the wrench.

Ah, the joys of having $40 to spend on luxuries like having a guy change your tire.