Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eggstravagnza!

We are at the midpoint of our 10 day spring break.  Yesterday, I got to escape the insanity of home for the insanity of the office.  Today, I needed a plan.  Some structure. Some activities.

Enter, start with $2.97 of Easter colouring supplies and some eggs:
Add two enthusiastic egg-colourers in paint shirts:
And VOILA, coloured eggs.
And some less than happy egg colourers. 
One of us (Mr. Head-in-the-clouds) spilled a bowl of water. Another of us (Ms. Rule-follower), suggested that standing on top of the chair was the way the spill happened. The first of us ran upstairs in a huff.  The last of us (Ms. Obsessed-with-photographing-everything) tried to instill peace and calm so she get get a picture of the eggs and their makers:
Well, at least we're ready for Easter!

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Letter to My MUCH OLDER Brother

Dear Much Older Brother,

I know that it is a week past your birthday and I no longer feel a phone call to express wishes is sufficient. While you might be glad to hear that I have thought of you often this past week (and of my not calling), I offer you the following excuses for my sisterly neglect and you are free to select any that might offer any comfort:

  1. I wanted to extend the birthday season: Too many congratulations on one day can be overwhelming. By withholding mine, I’m extending this joyful time for you. Only 51 weeks until your next birthday!
  2. I thought you wanted to stop counting: Fifty is kind of a cool age to be. I thought that 51 is not a nice round number and by withholding my congratulations, I thought I was allowing you to remain 50 those few extra days.
  3. I had my own selfish reasons for keeping you at 50: If you stay at 50, then as your younger sister I will never get there. Because we can’t be the same age. I think we can perhaps have a conspiracy that will suit us both.
  4. I  had amnesia: I met some men dressed in black and they flashed something in my face and I cannot remember anything that happened in the last week.
  5. Our phone was out of order: And my cell phone. And Husband’s cell phone. Of course you can’t find a pay phone to save your life these days. And I couldn’t send an email because our computer, Husband's laptop and my iPod had simultaneous glitches. My network computer at work suffered the same fate. And I couldn’t find an internet cafĂ© anywhere. Hmmm. Technology is making these excuses harder and harder to believe. Plus you may have noticed I was on Facebook last week.
  6. I was trying to think of something that rhymed with fifty one: I was trying to write you a birthday limerick and couldn’t find anything that rhymed with fifty-one. So it was not any kind of emotional neglect. Really more of a creative block. You’ll be happy to hear that I have spend the week in seclusion and have this to offer (must be read with Jamaican accent):
There once was a man of fifty one;
He was a handsome nifty son;
Husband and Dad;
Not really half bad;
He was also very thrifty, man!

(I know you will agree it was worth the extra week for this kind of poetic magic.)

I hope your celebrations were happy, and to make up for my neglect on your 51st birthday, let me be the first to wish you a very, very happy 52nd birthday!

Your neglectful sister.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Breaking Spring


Well, it's spring break around here. Not exactly my most favourite time of the year.

I would love it if spring break would be a special bonding time with my children. When we could have madcap adventures, heart-to-heart chats and relaxing days spent in our pyjamas.

Spring break is all about emotion management (Jackson's) and sanity management (mine).

Spring is the time the J Boy's ennui tends to increase. He is less enchanted with school, the extra sunshine makes him a little crazy, he stays up late and we all anxiously await the onset of his seasonal allergies in May which is often the beginning of a downward spiral. Allergy season is really special as he is congested, not sleeping well and cranky and to add to the fun on the worst days we have to try to get him to take three medicines daily. When he's not feeling well, Jackson will refuse to do things just on general principle. Especially take medicine. (Though I must admit last year's allergy season was mild and he was generally a good sport about taking the medicine).

So spring break, without the ability to drop Jackson off at school for six hours, is the starting pistol of my least favourite time of the year. This year our school district decided it would be a lovely idea to combine the one week spring break week with Easter so we have an extra two days to navigate.

Most years we plan a short get away to break things up. A few nights in a hotel. Last year we went to Great Wolf Resort. This year, we aren't going away. Our Disneyland trip last September was notionally (i.e. financially) our spring break trip.

Jackson started off March pretty poorly. He rallied last week, and has been improved since then, but we're still struggling at times. We thought with enough distractions, we might just make it to April 6th, the back-to-school day without any visible scars.

So we have the kids going to day camps on 2 of the days. We'll hopefully see the Wimpy Kid Diary movie and make a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium to make use of our yearly pass. We have tickets to a musical put on by Sydney's dance company (she's not in it) and my father-in-law's 80th birthday party. Add to that Easter events with family, church and the bunny, we were hoping that with a little luck on the weather we could navigate the emotional minefield of our 8 year old.

To leave nothing to chance, we decided to buy each of the kids a new DS game. To fill the hours and give them an unexpected treat. Both kids are spending a lot of time on Club Penguin, so we thought we'd buy them each one of the two Club Penguin games. Then we realized that one of the games is only sole on pre-sale and is not available until June. So we thought we would buy Jackson one of the brand new Pokemon games. I conferred with a couple of Jackson's friends and got an excellent recommendation on Pokemon Silver.

Now I would love to surprise them with this gift and have them jump up and down with excitement telling us how much they loved us and how we are the BEST PARENTS EVER. But Jackson has only recently begun to forgive Santa for bringing Sydney the Lego Batman DS game at Christmas and not him. I did not want to start spring break in angry, jealous or ungrateful mode.

So on Thursday morning, the last sweet, sweet day I could drop them off at school, I ran the scenario by the game-obsessed boy. I told him we were going to get Sydney the Penguin game and thought he might like something different (since they share their games anyway). I told him I had asked A and N (his friends) about what games to buy and had a recommendation of Pokemon Silver. I asked if A and N knew anything about games and were they any kind of good authority on the subject. Jackson assured me they were an excellent source of information.

Jackson did advise me that his first choice in games would probably be the new Super Mario Brothers game, but it is so popular it would be sold out everywhere, so the Pokemon would be his second choice. And, because he wants to leave nothing to chance, he chose Mario Kart for his third choice. He bought in completely to this scheme. And I pointedly asked him:

"So you're not going to freak out when Sydney gets the Penguin game?"

He assured me that he wouldn't.

On my lunch hour I had a cadre of Future Shop employees searching the warehouse, backrooms and new shipments for one of the newly-arrived six copies of Super Mario Brothers that were somewhere in the store. They left no stone unturned before telling me that they could not locate the coveted game. They had only a few Pokemon Silvers left, so I headed to the cash to pay for one of those.

Then, I saw a excited gamer-employee running toward me waving a game in his hand: someone had known the location of the secret stash. I was so going to be a hero when I arrived home with this treasure!!

To their credit, the kids were very happy with their DS games. They happily played and shared games and I thought PHEW. I patted myself on the back excessively for managing what had the potential to be a volatile situation. Yes, I believed I have finally earned my novice parenting badge!

I'm sure you could guess by now that this is not the end of the story.

We had a great start to spring break. The kids spent the day at circus camp and loved it. Husband took the day off work and we had 6.5 hours of NOT hearing the Club Penguin igloo music in the background and doing what we pleased. It was a most excellent start to the breaking of spring.

On Friday, about 45 minutes before we had to leave the house to go to the Alice in Wonderland musical, Jackson notices a Club Penguin code on Sydney's Club Penguin game. For those of you that don't know about the evil devices marketing genius of Club Penguin, every time you buy Club Penguin merchandise, you get a code and you unlock things for the on line community. The Puffles the kids received earlier in the week entitled them to choose two items from a book of treasures.

Jackson somehow divined that this was no ordinary code; it is one which allows you to become a member of the EPF online (the Elite Penguin Force). Some evil Penguin took over the J Boy's brain and he said to his sister, in outright untruthfulness (though I have no doubt he convinced himself was true):

"Can I use the code? You can use it after me."

The way Club Penguin works, he and I both knew, is that the code only works once. If he uses it first, Sydney won't be able to. Of all our issues with Jackson, my biggest red button issue, is when his shenanigans affect his sister. Here he was willfully about to deprive his sister of her EPF status.

Fortunately, I was on the computer at the time and was actually half paying attention to what what they were saying to each other (I generally try to tune them out). So when Jackson charmingly requested a turn on the computer "just for a few minutes" my suspiscion was raised and I replayed the conversation I had just heard.

Jackson's attempt to hide the object of his computer use and the resulting convulsion, alerted me that he was trying to pull something.

I won't bore you with the details, but the J Boy's brain shorted out and he lost all rational connection to the world. He could not be convinced that Sydney should be able to use her own code first and if it could be used a second time, he could use it. He saw no reason why he should not be able to use the code first because he was "99.9% sure" that it could be used twice. However, he was not willing to take the 0.1% chance risk that he was wrong. To buttress his argument that he should use the code first he said "but you don't understand, I would get to be an EPF!! Do you even know what that means??"

I eventually got him to relinquish the code from his sweaty hands promising for right then, that no one would use the code. Somehow, with the threats of cessation of his Club Penguin privileges for life (or as I put it "if Club Penguin makes you crazy, you won't be able to play on it"), he pulled himself together to go see and enjoy the Alice in Wonderland production.

Remember those delightful 6.5 hours during circus camp? You know, hours spent doing things other than dispensing snacks, listening to squabbles, enduring whining and pretending to be a calm, patient and rational parent with complete control of the situation and my senses? All that good is evaporated in 30 minutes of turf war over a Penguin code.

Day 1 of spring break is over and I am almost broken mysel

Monday, March 22, 2010

Six Point Five

It's that time of year when I expose the greatest of all my neuroses: my celebrating of half birthdays for my kids. Sydney, as of 8:37 this morning was 6.5 years away from her entrance to the world in the confines of a cozy OR suite. She is also 6.5 years in the other direction from being a teenager {GULP}. 

She began her day discovery the bounty of the tooth fairy, who was completely taken in my my dental subtrefuge.

We started the celebrations after school with the opening of a gift.
Both kids have been DYING for a Puffle (a la Club Penguin), so Sydney received one and we gave Jackson an advance on his half birthday present (his .5 day is May 23) otherwise we would have had no peace:
We had our usual familial celebratroy Pillsbury Cinamon buns for dessert after dinner:
And one more present for the birthday girl (the Girlie Goo likes her presents):
This is Sydney seeing she got a Zhu Zhu pet:
For the unenlightened, a Zhu Zhu pet is a fake pet hamster which scurries around in a most convincing hamster way.
Very cute actually. 
And it doesn't smell.
Or poo.
Or need to be fed.
All excellent qualities in a  pet.
 They are all the rage for six to eight year olds.  I did not, I will add, get sucked into buy a whole hamster habitat.
I did go for one fetching poolside outfit:
Happy Half Birthday Girlie Goo!

Some People's Parents

Last year in a piece called Some People's Kids I bragged about being not judgmental about other parents, and then went ahead and judged a few parents whose kids were running amuck. I fault not parents for being unable to control their kids, I fault them for not even trying.

On a completely different vein, I was waiting for the Skytrain (subway) last week, and the line I was catching also went to the airport. I saw a family with three years, aged about 6, 4 and 3. The parents each had multiple suitcases and bags over their shoulders. They waited about 6 feet back from the platform edge. The kids were in front of them. Nothing was stopping the kids from stepping forward into danger. The parents' arms were engaged with excessive luggage. The four year old girl actually kept talking about the yellow line and why she couldn't stand on it. The three year old (or younger) boy wandered to within 3 feet of the edge of the platform. The parents said nothing. Did nothing.

I was almost having an anxiety attack. My heart was racing and I could not believe these parents were taking ZERO precautions to keep their kids safe from the high voltage rails. I was ready to go stand between the kids and the edge of the platform when the train arrived.

I thought to myself, that these must be Stepford children. Trained to obey and comply with parental directives 100% of the time. I wondered to myself whether I could do this? Really trust that a 3 and 4 year old could comply with rules for their safety 100% of the time.

No I could not.

I would be very unlikely to take the train with three young kids. I would consider the cabfare a worthwhile investment in their safety and my sanity. If I did take the train, I would have the kids stand BEHIND THE PARENTS, with a Berlin wall of suitcases so if they did get the idea of wandering, they'd have to get around a lot of luggage.

When we got on the train, I was surprised that the younger two kids defied their parents and insisted on being able to stand holding onto a bar like many commuters. The parent insisted on their sitting down. The two defiants had their fingers pried loose from the bars and were taken to seats screaming.

Are you freakin' kidding me? This is the hill you want to die on? (if you'll pardon the extremely graphic and unintended pun.) If they fall down in a moving train, I'm thinking no injury, perhaps a bump or bruise, maybe a broken wrist if you're extremely unlucky. Falling into a high voltage pit with an oncoming train? I can't even think it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Toothy Milestone (The Sequel) and Parental Dereliction of Duty

Sydney has had a seriously loose tooth for months. Lately, it’s resting state is a 45 degree angle from where it should be. I’ve tried to talk her into letting me pull it. (She has the same squeamish aversion to tooth pulling as the boys in this family have.) She’s let me give it a quick try a few times without must success (because she gives me a nanosecond before she yelps in pain).

Today, when she opened her mouth I saw that the new tooth did not take kindly to the old tooth not obeying its eviction notice and the new tooth is squatting in behind where it should be. So I told Sydney the tooth had to come out. I gave her a choice of the dentist pulling it or me and she opted for familial infliction of pain.  I pulled it. She cried for ages. After an hour of cuddling and her clamping down on a soggy tissue, she rallied enough to allow it MAY have been worth it because she can FINALLY put a tooth under her pillow.

We had a whole discussion and she thought that the Tooth Fairy could keep her tooth (her brother insisted on being able to keep them and wrote a note to that effect to the T. Fairy.)

So I put the tooth on a large clear patch of counter thinking [scary foreshadowing music] it would be safe, since between Sydney, Jackson and I we had dropped it in the couch cushions about six times while we admired it. Then we all watched a movie, ate dinner, did some of the usual Sunday afternoon stuff (looking for excuses to avoid exercise, in my case).

Then, Sydney was in a completely impossible state of mind over dinner choices (she was asked "Kraft Dinner or chicken nuggets" and her reply was "whichever is faster", which Husband interpreted liberally as being the nuggets and then she claimed that we had not pre-cleared the menu with her). And while trying to get Sydney off the emotional ledge, I started to wonder whether that tooth was still in the "safe" place.

It wasn't.

I asked Sydney in as matter-of-fact a tone as I could muster, being in an hysterical state of panic, where she might have put the tooth (earlier, she wanted to look at it), and she said she left it on the counter. Husband and I conducted a quadrant search of the kitchen and for once I was happy about the wood floors as it was easier to see the contrasting bits of food to divine if they might actually be baby teeth or just petrified bread. (Usually I curse the wood floors for the same reason.)

It was all to no avail and the tooth is still MIA. I have looked everywhere, including the kitchen garbage, inside the garborator and check every bit of white fluff in the the house to see if it might be a tooth.

Seriously, what kind of mother allows a child's FIRST lost tooth go missing?? That is first degree dereliction of parental duty. What is worse that that??

A mother who spirits a tooth out of a sibling's tooth jar so she'll have an impostor tooth to hide for the Tooth Fairy.

Rebellion, Part Deux

Jackson wanted in on the camera modelling, here are his emotions:
Serious:
Silly:
Cute:
Happy:
Angry:
(if he says so)
Sad:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Little Rebellion

I got a new camera today. A Cannon Rebel.  And so I'm posting a few pics of my most willing model.  These are the Girlie Goo's emotions:
Serious:
Silly:
Cute:
Happy:
Angry:
Sad:
I actually didn't know she was quite that good at turning on and off the emotions. Heaven help any future partner of hers!

Friday, March 19, 2010

More Tales from the Twilight Zone

At the beginning of February, I blogged about the Twilight Zone. Jackson went, in the space of a week, from being the most impossible creature to live with on the planet, to a regular fun-to-be-with kid.

After that, Jackson had  a pretty good Olympic break, the break where Husband and I abdicated all parenting to Club Penguin.

Since that time, perhaps not uncoincidentally, we slipped into a wormhole and found ourselves back in the parental abyss. We've had a lot of trying times. Every freakin' night, the spelling homework is an issue. There is moaning, groaning and outright refusal. We negotiate, give him choices, lay down the law, nag, plead, beg and lecture, all without success.

He has become very proprietary about the computer, thinking that he owns the thing and talks of granting me short visitations to do things like email teachers, sign up for swimming lessons and print out the grocery list. Don't even get me started with the convulsions that begin when I try to make Scrabble moves on Facebook!

At night, our little night owl goes to bed not long before us and sometimes after us. That is not new. But he generally amuses himself, after a long Harry Potter reading session with Daddy. Earlier this week, he was coming into our room, initially to tell us about something he was reading, but ended up refusing to leave. There is nothing that crankifies Husband and I more than having our only precious minutes without kids (9:45 pm onward) eroded by a kid who won't leave us alone. Many cross words have been exchanged after the hour of 10 this week and last.

And so the despair sets in. We feel like we will never have any progress or maturity. The likelihood of Jackson being able to grow up to form healthy relationships and be part of a civil society, seems remote.

Then on Wednesday, Jackson was pretty happy. He did kvetch at me over homework, but that was 15 minutes of storm in an otherwise calm day. Dare we think the tide was turning? Did we find ourselves back through the wormhole?

Thursday, he was dropped at home at 5. He immediately, headed upstairs to his "Club". He's created a club and thinks it's going to make him rich. He made an announcement board taped to the banister upstairs that details exciting offers, asks for volunteers and tells of exciting upcoming events. He can get kind of obsessed over things like that where doing anything like eating or doing homework take a back seat.

But after 15 minutes of dealing with his club administration he said, in the pleasantest of voices "Mommy, could we do my spelling now?".

I simultaneously grabbed his spelling list and a paper bag so I wouldn't hyperventilate. He went through his spelling words and got one letter wrong on one word and we sorted that out (after all BOUQUET is hardly easy to remember). I TOLD him he could have a turn at the computer (instead of him muscling his way in). And instead of taking the throne in his fiefdom, said "Mommy do you want to play a game on multi player with me?"

So I played a game with him that I played very badly and then left him to play on his own.

The entire evening passed without a cross word from him. He easily turned off the computer at 8:30 and headed upstairs. After Harry Potter with Daddy, we heard him rummaging around but he bothered us not.

The last thing I said to Husband before I fell asleep was "Jackson had a perfect day."

When I went to get him up this morning, I suffered a great shock when I went into his room. Guess what he was doing in his pre-sleeping hours??
Yes, he cleaned his room. His clothes were laid out for school today, and his room looked divinely tidy, with only the Harry Potter book out waiting for tonight's reading session. And yes, the dirty laundry is in the dirty laundry basket. Very TZ.

Of course you have to be careful not to venture too far out of the easily visible areas.
(closet)
(under bed)

What brought about this incredible turn of events where we have a kid volunteering for homework and room cleaning?

Well, I did make some very loud threats about not letting him see a movie that opens this weekend that he would be crushed not to be able to see (Wimpy Kid Diary). But that was threat #23,486 in the past few weeks, so I don't really understand why this last one was the one to precipitate such good behaviour.

But I am not complaining. Spring officially starts tomorrow. We have a gorgeous sunny weekend forecasted and I plan to soak up both the sun and the sunny disposition. In the Twilight Zone.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Fair

How cam something as fun and seemingly innocuous as a school book fair cause so much stress??

Why is it that I never remember the stress of the annual book fair even one day before so that I can manage it better??

That first year, kindergarten, Jackson was in quite a state about buying something at the book fair. He thought it very cool to go and spend our money. I relented and gave him a few dollars and he came how with some books and some little toy that I did not think was worth half of what we spent.

In grade one, when I had blocked out the prior year's fair from my consciousness, Jackson became obsessed with a radio one of his classmates had purchased. I sent some money and he came home with a calculator hockey puck. So much for BOOK fair.

Last year I had two kids obsessed with it so we spent an afterschool wandering the bins in the library before they both purchased a new journal (book full of empty pages). Apparently they both forgot that they each have about 10 such books at home. But of course I did not understand that these journals had LOCKS ON THEM, which to them meant intrigue and privacy. To me it meant future headaches when the microscopic keys go missing.

This year I actually volunteered to do a shift at the book fair. I'm in the after-recess-to-after-lunch shift. So, last week I reasoned, I am totally on top of this. The kids can come while I'm there at lunch, pick their books. Bingo bango bongo, book fair is sorted for another year.

On Friday they apparently set up the book fair and the classes did a tour so that they could pick out their books. Jackson said firmly that he wanted a book called The Time Traveler's Journal. Sydney said that she wanted a Club Penguin Comic, which Jackson already has. She said she also wanted this really cool book with a compass in it.

"THAT'S THE TIME TRAVELER'S JOURNAL YOU CAN'T WANT IT I WANT IT!!!!"

Somehow we resolved this issue (by distracting Sydney). Jackson told me there were 2 copies of this book and I had a nagging feeling that two copies would not be enough for a whole school. All weekend I meant to check online inventories of the book to see if it was otherwise available.

This morning while I was heading to the computer to check on the availability of the coveted book (one thing the J Boy has taught me is to look for plan B's) when Jackson informed me his WHOLE CLASS WANTS THIS BOOK. If there is one thing I know about Jackson it is that he won't fight for a book, he'll come home from school with the stress bottled up and take it out on me. Anyway, I found the book available online but not in stores. It was $8 more than at the book fair but really at this point, money is no object. I told Jackson, worse case scenario, we'll order it online.

And then it dawned on me that if Jackson's class got to go to the book fair this morning before I got there, he would need money. As in actual cash. Of which I have none. I had been thinking, that they could buy the book at lunch when I was there and I could write a cheque. Jackson queries how we could be out of money. He reminds me he gave ME $10 to put in his allowance ledger (we run our own family bank). I declined to go into long discussion over the nature of the banking system and how because he has that money or that we have a few dollars in the bank, it is not actual bills.

I could not allow a lack of liquidity to be the upset in this scenario. So I threw on jeans and we ran out the door to the bank. But I got absolutely no credit for being willing to run to the teller machine with my jeans and pyjama top, no makeup and not even a comb through my hair. Instead I was treated to this barrage:

Q: If we order the book online, how do we get it. A: in the mail.
Q: But it won't fit in our mailbox A: they have bigger mail boxes for bigger packages.
Q: But Mommy you don't understand how big the book actually is? A: Yes I do.
Q: No you don't Mommy! A: If it is too big they will send us a note and we'll pick it up at the post office.
Q: Are we going to be late for school? A: I don't think so.
Q: We only have 12 minutes? A: I think we'll make it. We're just going to the bottom of the hill.
Q: What if we're late? A: It is only a minute and don't you dare quote me on that tomorrow. You know how I feel about being late.
Q: If you give me $20 and the book is only $10, do I just rip it in two? A: No they'll give you change -- a $10 back.
Q: Who will? A: The parents that are working there. Like me.

I gave Jackson a little pep talk that he should assume he won't get the book and if he gets it, it's a bonus. So he won't be disappointed. He kind of does this self preservation thing anyway.

I arrived at the book fair and looked around for the book. I was going to abuse my privilege as book fair worker and hide the book for the J Boy. I could not find it and my heart sank. Then I saw that Jackson's class had already been in (THANK GOODNESS FOR TRIP TO BANK MACHINE!!). I dared to let myself hope he had got his coveted book.

Jackson's teacher popped in and said to the book fair organizer "This is Jackson's Mom." Apparently his pride of getting this book was evident to all. Not only that, he spent the entire $20 and got a free stuffed monkey. I sighed an enormous sigh of relief.

Sydney was due in at lunch time with her $20. I knew that she too would want the free stuffed monkey. I grabbed one of the few left and a Dumb Diary actual diary I knew she would love. I felt only slightly guilty for abusing my office. She found herself two other books when she came in and left with as much pride as her brother.

And with all the time they've been on the computer lately, I'm pleased that BOOKS were the object of their desire.

And not Puffles.

If you are completely unfamiliar to Club Penguin, Puffles are the fuzzy pets of the penguins (think Tribbles from the original Star Trek). I know that my kids are spending too much time on line on Club Penguin because I asked Sydney this morning what she dreamed about last night and she said "That there was a Star Wars battle that involved Puffles."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Never Prouder

I was a proud supporter of the Olympics in Vancouver.  I was proud of the great spirit with which Vancouverites welcomed the world. Road closures, long lineups for morning coffee at Starbucks and giving out directions to visitors were par for the course for many in or around downtown.  We were excellent hosts (I think).

Beyond that, the Canadian patriotism surged in ways I haven't seen since the cold war era Canada-Russia hockey in 1972 when Canada won with seconds to go.  Nearly everyone was wearing team Canada colours, red and white hair and I think the flag industry alone will be solvent for a couple decades  based on the Vancouver sales.

I didn't think I could be prouder.  But I am now.

I am even prouder with the way Vancouverites was welcoming the Paralympic games.  Some 60,000 people went to the opening ceremonies.  The masses complained loudly that the ceremonies were not to be televised live and the network changed its mind and broadcast it live in B.C.

People are flocking downtown again to soak up the action. Families and the twenty somethings and seniors are coming to check out the action. At least half of these people are NOT coming down in search of the beer tends.   People are generally interested in the events, the athletes and their courageous stories.

We went to a sledge hockey game today. This is hockey for folks without use of their legs.  They are strapped onto a tiny sled with one blade.   The upper body strength needed is massive, a truly incredible athletic display:
I knew the game had been sold our for weeks. However, I was dumbfounded by the energy and excitement in the arena.  Flags and Canada wear and face paint and much Canadian pride again oozed. 
 GO CANADA GO!

Hair Care

One of the areas my maternal inadequacies are exposed is the area of haircare for my children.  Somehow, it's one of the balls that is constantly dropped in our day-to-day life.

I learned a few years ago if we keep Jackson's hair very short, then it not only need not be combed, but the nasty cowlic near his crown is easier to maintain.  If the hair is short enough, who cares if it is standing up?  Getting his hair to lie down could otherwise a daily battle between us.  And if you're new around here, we have more than enough to do battle over.  You add to that his aversion (inherited from Daddy) to ALL haircare products, you can see the situation unfolding.  Water can only do some much.  I have thought of gluesticks.

So my only real challenge with the J Boy is to make sure I get his haircut every 2 or so months.  We are rarely there before 3 months and more often 4. Usually some event, like class photos or Christmas will precipiate our trip to the "hair cut store".

Last December, we tried a person qualified to cut hair who does it in her basement, as opposed to the hair cut store where the kids sit in cool chairs that are Thomas the Tank, Batmobile or Barbie car.  This skilled stylist suggested that letting Jackson's hair go LONGER would mean the weight of his hair would drag down the cowlic.  So, we gave that plan a shot.

What we had was hair standing up all over.  Unmanageable.  I was not willing to spend my precious parental leverage on hair care.  So the lad has pretty much gone to school with hair that was a cross between Albert Einstein and an unloved orphan from an Oliver Twist.

On occasion, this would bother Jackson and he would struggle mightily with it in the bathroom. He would emerge, proud of the result. His front bangs, which are pretty much the only hair that will reliably lie flat, dripping wet. The rest of the hair is still standing askew, bad as when he began.

Sydney has her own challenges. She is blessed with lovely shiny hair that actually curls under on its own, owing to a slight natural curl. As a wee toddler she used to sport adorable curly locks but as the years go on the curl has diminished.  But she has an aversion to combing or brushing her hair. It is most often done after a bath and then she sleeps on her wet hair and we have quite the unmanageable situation in the morning.

I see other little girls with parts in their hair so straight I think someone in the family must have surveying tools as no one could eyeball a line that straight.  Their hair looks freshly brushed, with matching hair accessories.

Girlie Goo hates when I brush her hair. But when I eventually do it, it's a project.  If I am gentle it takes too long and if I'm fast it hurts too much.  I have mastered the art of combing only the top layer so it looks tolerably neat, but then this leaves the underparts of her hair to be a mass of tangles left for another day.  You add to this her knack of getting anything sticky matted into it (toothpaste, sirop, jam) and you have a head of hair that is as unmanageable as her brother's.

So this week we have one kid (J Boy) with hair sticking up in every direction and another (Girlie Goo) with bangs so long, we were risking retinal damage.  Both kids were actively complaining about their hair, I resolved to get a haircut for each of them.  Friday after school was the appointed day. 

I picked them up from school and Jackson advised we had to go STRAIGHT HOME so he could meet one of his classmates online in Club Penguin.  So we deferred the trip to the evening. I promised Sydney, who had her heart set on an after school haircut, that I would take her even if Jackson did not consent.

In the end, we made it a family trip.  Husband usually escapes the horrors of the hair cut store where Jackson, not known for his patience, does everything but earn himself a lifetime ban from the store. Husband was on diversion detail.  Which in this case mostly involved taking the kid not in the chair to the "novelty" store across the hall. I used to think "novelty" was code for dribbly glasses, fake eyeballs, lava lamps and "over the hill" party ware. It turns out now it really means sex toys.

Husband said to me as Sydney climbed into the chair "Sydney's hair looks a bit scruffy and dirty". 

The haircutter agreed. She said about 10 times "it's very tangly. Do you comb her hair every day?"

She told Sydney pointedly that she should brush her hair every day.  She was kind enough to point out the food that was stuck in her hair. I didn't correct her to tell her it was probably toothpaste.  I felt the full measure of my inadequacy in the area of haircare.

When Jackson got his hair cut (and we're going short again), she told me "God must love your children very much". 

While I whole heartedly agree with that statement,  I had to wonder whether subtext was "because S/He gave them such great hair" or "which is good because they have such a follically neglectful mother".

In the end we left impoverished by $48, which is outrageous unless I think of the 15 minutes it took Madame Haircutter to comb Sydney's hair and de-toothpaste-ify it.

And I realized that despite my worry, I don't think we'll be banned from the haircut store anytime soon. Who else would pay that price?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Marker Mania

I think my obsession with calendars has been very well documented. The necessity of Sharpies is the lynch pin for the whole plan. For the past 5 years since I have been back at work and since the kids have their own events, I have had as solid colour coded system.

All birthdays are noted in yellow. All school/work/childcare issues are written in blue. All other activities are in green. I use red Sharpie to note the payment of a few important bills: MasterCard, property tax and insurance. Every few days I also use the red marker to either tick or cross out whether an event has ever happened. So in October, if I care to look back to the month of January, I would be able to know that Jackson did not go to swimming lessons on January 23rd. Do not ask me what I would do with this crucial information.

In the fall, I thought we had come to the end of my calendar system. Time to bump up the complexity a notch for 2010. Instead of writing the kids activities like J: Soccer, I thought it would be infinitely easier to have SOCCER written in a coloured marker dedicated to Jackson.

While I did a store to store search for a calendar that would fit into the magnetized frame that is on our freezer, I also took a gander at the new Sharpie colours. When I FINALLY found the calendar I needed (and my search was extensive), I also bought a shiny new pack of FINE POINT Sharpies. And there were lots of colours. Too many as it turned out.

I thought my enthusiasm for the whole calendar/Sharpie project would be infectious and I sought to involve the whole family.

"You guys can pick your own colour of Sharpie to go on my calendar." I said to my kids, riding the calendar high.

"I want blue" Sydney said.

"I want red" Jackson said.

"Except it can't be blue or red." I said.

"What???" Sydney asked

"WHY NOT???????????" Jackson wailed.

"Sydney you can have light blue or pink" I said.

"Pink" she readily agreed.

"WHY CAN'T I HAVE RED???????????" Jackson screeched.

"Because that is the marker I use to cross everything off and I can't change that colour after 5 years. How about orange??"

"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH"

I was not feeling the familial love for this project.

I assigned Jackson orange, which is his second favourite colour. He did not accept my choice and to this day is adamant that red is his colour. Sydney got her second desired pink. I chose purple and Husband chose light blue. We still maintained royal blue for school activities and green for some other activities.

The first problem I noted was that my purple was really a pinky-purple. And Sydney's pink was really a purply pink and they were hard to tell apart. So my plan of calendar differentiation was a little murky. But since I don't go to dance class and Sydney doesn't go for mammograms, I could still usually tell whose appointment was whose.

And then when the kids had activities at the same time and I didn't know what to do so I used brown when they were going to a joint activity, as opposed to my other alternative, alternating orange and pink on the letters for "swimming".

And then I thought I would use a unique colour for our church activities, so I chose a bluey green for that. And a greeny blue for family activities (that were not at church). And a limey green for Olympic activities.  And I don't know what the original green family activity colour is even for. To make matters worse, all of these colours pretty much look the same on my calendar.

Plus I keep forgetting what colour is assigned to what and I just noticed that I started using Husband's light blue colour for the family activities.

And I am on the horns of a dilemma when Sydney has a field trip at school. Do I use the royal blue SCHOOL colour because it's a school activity? Or the purply pink SYDNEY colour so I don't get confused that Jackson has that field trip? Or put FIELD TRIP on the calendar. 

So now I have a calendar where I can't tell whose activity is whose, where I am not faithful to my own colour-coded system and I generally don't know where I'm supposed to be on any given day.

I am resisting the strong urge to head out to Staples and buy a new calendar and a fresh batch of Sharpies.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hobos

Jackson has been slightly obsessed with hobos lately. Not in a mean way. In a weird way. He tries to work it into the conversation however he can.

He spent 20 minutes one day trying to convince Sydney that a pebble he was holding was a hobo. I just let them be, trying not to control freak my way into their conversation. But finally I said "Jackson, how can a pebble be a hobo? Do you even know what a hobo is?"

"Yeah. Someone without a house or food."

"Oh." I said. "Well a hobo is a person. A pebble can't be a hobo."

"Yes it can."

"You can't just say anything is a hobo. Like I can't say a frog is a hobo."

"Mommy, a frog can't be a hobo" he said with a slight disgust in his voice.

"But a rock can???" I queried.

[pause] "Yes."

I told you it was weird.

Fast forward to the drive home from Sydney's sleepover. I had a certain 8 year old boy, a captive audience, in the backseat to lecture give some parental wisdom to.  If only I could say the right thing to make his straighten up and fly right.  Speak his language.

I made the unforgivable mistake earlier in the day of trying to watch Private Practice on a Friday after school. Sydney was on a play date. Jackson was on the computer on Club Penguin. I had spent the whole morning on a field trip with Sydney's class and the whole afternoon getting groceries, so I felt I was due a little down time.

Jackson came into the room toward the end of the show. I should have turned it off and put on some inappropriate teenager cartoon for him, but I didn't. He started asking who the characters were. I realized the moral depravity of the show as I am trying to explain why Addison, a doctor, is with one boyfriend, also a doctor, but peaking through the windows spying on Sam, another doctor, who she is really in love with and who lives next door and is with another doctor that he doesn't love either because he really loves Addison.

I was on high alert for sex scenes and I couldn't believe we have gone 10 minutes without one.

But if there is one thing I know, it's predictable plot lines. When Charlotte invited Sheldon in for a martini and 10 minutes later Cooper showed up. I knew what was about to happen. Cooper is Charlotte's ex boyfriend, who we know is still love with Charlotte. Obviously we're going to see Cooper walk in on some Charlotte/Sheldon nakedity. So I turned off the TV.

Jackson was not in favour of this plan.

I could understand his unhappiness. I would have understood a little yelling. A few tears. And a "why did you let me watch it for that long if it's so inappropriate". All would have been well deserved.

But the 2.5 hours of hostility, furniture upsetting, name calling and general display of disrespect was entirely not understandable. When we briefly had him contained upstairs, he made a centre where his displayed his dislike of us. Like he would a science project. He had signs made, moved a table into the hall where he made his "I don't like Mommy" display. It morphed into an "I don't like Mommy OR Daddy" display. He had a whole presentation he was prepared to make outlining his reasons for his state of unhappiness. The word "turd" figured prominently. As in "Mommy is a pile of turd" or "Daddy is a big fat turd."

He had turned the corner by 7:30 when we headed out the door to take Sydney to her sleepover. Husband and I still had to sort out the consequences for numerous infractions including calling me the "F word". (not the actual F word. He told me I was "a stupid F word".) It's kind of like the referees in a hockey game trying to sort out the penalties after a big brawl. Husband and I need to digest, dissect and bemoan the situation before coming up with penalties. I've tried doing it mid-incident but I end up coming up with unworkable consequences like "you can't have any fun until you're in grade 5".

Anyway, Husband and I mostly remained calm throughout the 2.5 hours of hostility. We told Jackson we did not want to hear him talking or read his signs and we waited for sanity to prevail which it eventually did. The consequances were to be determined later.  So now, as I said, captive audience in the van, I have some things to say.

"You know Jackson, I'm sorry I had to turn off the TV but I thought it wasn't appropriate. I'm sorry you were mad. But you can't treat people the way you treated Daddy and I. We love you. We're just trying to teach you to be a respectful human being. But trust me, you get out in the real world and treat people that way, you won't have friends. And if you treat your coworkers like that, you'll lose your job."

"And" I added, searching for words with impact, "you could become a hobo."

"I won't be a hobo. Hobo's don't have houses. I would still have a house"

"If you lose your job, you won't have money you might become a hobo." (I'll leave Canada's social safety net discussion for another time.)

"I wouldn't be a hobo. Hobo's don't have food because they don't have houses, which means they don't have fridges."

"IF YOU DON'T HAVE A JOB, YOU MAY NOT HAVE A HOUSE WITH A FRIDGE, SO YOU COULD BECOME A HOBO."

Silence.

I'm not entirely sure that was the way to go with this one. First, because threatening your kid with homelessness is not necessarily advcated in any parenting manual. Second, because I just realized that maybe he thinks hobos are kind of cool.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Sleepy Milestone


Sydney had her first sleepover. Well, technically, she has slept at my parents and my brother's place. But I don't count those places as she is in places nearly as familiar there as her own home and she already knows where the good candy is stashed there.

Sydney had a SPARKS sleepover last night. This is the youngest group of the Girlguide movement. She just started about a month ago and I immediately received an email about the sleepover. At a gymnastics place that coincidentally she took gymnastics at for 2 years.

I was unsure of whether Sydney would want to go. Being new to the group, she hadn't quite solidified her place and hasn't really made too many friends. She knew a few kids from school, but none from her classes the past 2 years.

She was keen about the sleepover and has been asking me nightly for weeks, when it is. I thought I detected a little ambivalence in her this week, but when the night came, she was hyper. It was hard to get her to attend the the task of packing her 'kit'.

Deciding whether to take the Dora sleeping bag or the plain blue one (Dora); whether to take a stuffie along, her beloved blankie or no loveys (she opted for blankie after I insisted she take something familiar along). The most difficult part was getting her to sit still while I combed her hair, something we don't do enough and I thought if they asked her to comb her own hair in the morning, I should at least try to comb out the marshmallow or toothpaste that is making it scarecrow like.

Jackson came along for the dropoff (he was trying to curry favour for a string of unpleasantness that had been the evening). We entered a VERY busy place that was letting out teams of kids from gymnastic practice as a lot of excited 5 and 6 year olds assembled for the sleepover.

Sydney gave me not even a backward glance as she ran into the gymnastics hall, keen that she would not miss out on a moment of fun. No long meaningful hug, gentle squeeze or even blown kiss. Jackson and I left, and I was happy to have 20 minutes of his undivided attention so I could lecture him about his behaviour. Also I didn't have to think of the Girlie Goo going to sleep without us close as hand.

This morning, I arrived at 8 sharp to pick up her adorableness. She was quite put out that I came 'late'. No one told me Sparks parents are always early! She was the last one to be retrieved. I was assured by the Sparks leader that the girls were ALL asleep in good time. By the time the movie was over, everyone was asleep. That was 12:30. Even I had 2 hours of sleep by that time, my nightly wakefulness having taking a holiday for the night.

I asked her if she missed Mommy and Daddy "...a lot, a little or not at all".

I was hoping for the "a little" answer. I wanted her to have a good time, but not to forget about us.

"Not at all" she said without hesitation.

"Really? Not at all???" I know that sometimes she will just give me the answer I want, so as to not to hurt my feelings. I was leaving the door open and was hoping she would go through.

"Well, it very hard to think of your parents when you're having a really good time."

Hard to argue with that.

But by late afternoon a very tired Girlie required Mommy to get her through a rough patch during a scary cartoon episode involving elephants.

Aaaah. Nice to be needed.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Resume Life

We now resume our regularly scheduled program life.

Wow. Is this house ever quiet.

I can hear the hum of the refrigerator because I don't hear what I have heard on the TV in the background for the past 17 days.

One of three things
1) Olympic theme music
2) the sound of crowds cheering in whichever event is being (re)played
3) the same #$&*^& commercials.

Is has been a great ride and as you can tell by my posts, we have soaked it up. But I am not sad that it is over.

It's a lot of work you know, getting up every day and tracking which events are coming on which channel and when. CTV had three main channels with the coverage, never mind checking out what was going on with the NBC coverage.

And we can only tape 2 channels on our PVR on the HD TV so it required some careful calculations of what to watch, what to tape and when to fit in a bathroom break. I mean what do you do when you've got a curling semi-final, women's figure skating and freestyle aerials all happening AT THE SAME FREAKIN' TIME.

My blood pressure can take only so many photo finishes in skating, so many extra ends of curling and so many overtime periods of hockey.

I need to refocus my attention on household chores. Like laundry. I need to wash our matching Olympic uniforms which we have been wearing more than public health officials would recommend.

And the cleaning. The only things that have had any attention in this area are ones that are in view of the TV when we guiltily loading the dishwasher while watching the Nordic combined events. However, my nemesis, the kitchen table, which is in full view of the TV is piled high with papers and craft projects from the past 2 weeks.

And we have outsourced the parenting of our kids to the computers. While Husband and I juggled channels in the next room, the kids have squatters rights on the computers. Sydney perched herself permanently in front of Husband's laptop in the dining room and Jackson hung his shingle at the den (my!!) computer. They were actually playing Club Penguin, which is one of those online community places for kids, so they were actually playing together on line. They would discover some great new place and scream to each other in the next room. Really, they were pretty good sports about letting us watch the crucial Finland vs. Slovakia hockey games and the important ranking race between 7th and 8th in the 1000 metre race in long track speed skating.

And my biggest job, keeping this family organized, has gone off the rails. I used to think that I could do this in my sleep but last week I neglected to send in a permission slip for a field trip for Sydney and had to be asked for it! That never happens. And this morning I sent the kids to school without their lunches, so now I have to make a special trip to school to drop them off.

Tomorrow I'm up at 6 to catch the train downtown. I'd like to think it will be business as usual but my office is on the ground zero block of the Olympic celebrations. I heard on the news that the entire downtown core smells of beer.