Autism

1 in 68 children is diagnosed with Autism. Chances are, you know a family that lives with this unwieldy thing, and you know that comes in so many different shapes and sizes.

Our family knows Autism intimately. Eight years ago my cousin gave birth to her second boy; a curly headed chub with big blue eyes. He was so unlike his brother; his brother entered the world loud and gregarious. T was quieter. We would laugh about how he would put himself to bed at 8 p.m. no matter where he was, without fuss. His ways were ordered. His younger sister came quickly after him, and in the midst of all the chaos of 3 kids, all under 5, my cousin and her husband noticed that T wasn’t hitting his milestones. That his ordered ways gave way to meltdowns when they weren’t observed. That he couldn’t be coaxed out of his moods. That he liked certain textures. Once you saw a list of symptoms, there was no denying that he was on the spectrum.

My cousin and her husband wasted no time. T was diagnosed as soon after his second birthday as they could get him to the doctor. T was born in a town and a time where resources were scarce, and the only certainty they had was that the sooner therapy starts, the better. There was a flurry of finding aides, setting aside rooms for therapy space, educating family, joining advocacy groups, googling, reading books. We developed a new lexicon for behaviours. There was worry about what the future would bring. Some people criticized them; some people were afraid. I hope most people were supportive and kind, but I would venture that most didn’t understand all the challenges. And on top of managing everyone else’s emotions, there was the rest of their life; two other small kids who had birthday parties and skating lessons and play dates and all the rest. There was a business to run and a house to keep and an extended family to tend to and vacations to be had.  Life only accelerated for them in the wake of diagnosis.

And yet, it all worked. They made it work. T worked hard, his aides pushed him, we all adjusted. His parents doggedly maintained a life for themselves and their other kids. And somewhere along the way, things started to click with T; his speech came along, he started to hit milestones. There was lots of hard days in between, but he made progress in leaps and bounds. I still remember the pride when T gave me a high five for the first time, when he was 5. I felt like I had been invited into his club. Now, I can hug him and joke with him. He goes to school, he’s got friends. Life is not without it’s challenges, but so much has happened already that we were never certain would. And yet, the goal is not to “fix” him and make him neurotypical; it’s to help him live the best life he can. It is the same goal we have for all of our kids.

This is what we have learned of Autism; it brings out the very, very best in families. It is so hard, but the successes are so much more. When our kids are all together it is mad chaos, but autism centers us; we temper our schedules because T needs us to. It gives me perspective raising my own children, reminding me that life is uncertain but you can deal with anything that gets thrown in your path. Mostly, I see T and am reminded that he is a person; he was the same baby we giggled about going to bed at 8 p.m., the same kid who loves to play Lego and Super Mario. He is a kid; he is not Autism. His needs are a little different from the rest of ours, but that doesn’t exempt him from all the love and respect in the world.

Autism is not a terrible affliction; it is a different way of seeing the world and we are invited to try and understand it. To choose not to is to miss out on all the gifts that individuals with Autism have to offer. For me, that is watching T light up talking about something he loves, or giggling with him over silly jokes. These are relatively normal things with most kids, but from him they feel like a really big present with a bow on top. My cousin’s family lives three hours away, so this isn’t my daily reality, but I am glad to be a part of T and his family’s life. I am grateful for the resources he has and the support they get from their community. I am so grateful that T has a brother and sister who love and support him. I am grateful for our extended family who have rallied around him. And mostly, I am so grateful and filled with admiration for his parents; who are T’s greatest champions.

So today, on World Autism Day, let’s celebrate families who share their kids’ struggles and get them through. And let’s celebrate everyone on the spectrum, because they aren’t problems to be solved, they are people to be loved.

To learn more about Austim, and how to support individuals with Autism, please visit Autism Speaks.

Hungry, Hungry, Hippo Marbles and Unraveling

I found a Hungry, Hungry Hippos marble in my garbeurator recently.* It’s been months since we had a marble sighting, but I know that there is at least 17 more to be found around our house. It is a true statement that 74%** of North American households with children has a Hungry, Hungry, Hippos set, and every single one of them promptly loses 18 out of the 20 marbles. If you can still place more than two Hungry, Hungry, Hippo marbles, you are supervising your kids too much. Let them go: it is the beginning of an unraveling that you can’t fight any more than time itself, or the magical allure of an Oreo cookie.

There were days, early on,  when I put all the puzzle pieces back together at the end of the evening and kept floor mats down, and gates secured. Those were the days where the boys just loved the feel of objects, and were constantly trying to understand the physical laws of the world they were born into. What tastes good, how things stack, that things exist even when you can’t see them. But the scale is small; it exactly fits the capacity of their imagination. It is easily tidied in a few minutes, life can be ordered.

Somewhere along the way they have learned to navigate the world around them enough that the mundane turns fantastical. Your children’s play takes on a life of its own as imagination makes every surface is a cliff, every object something completely other than it appears to be, and every game rule is just a starting point for another thousand completely contradictory and complicated ones.

They pick up skills. Their little fingers and brains learn to navigate finer and finer things and before you know it, it’s no longer building the Duplo wall; you are being told how many legs are on the Lego Hobbit Spider they got for their fourth birthday. Moments later they smash that spider into smithereens and start building it anew into something completely different. They are fitting themselves in and out of costumes, shedding their identities every few minutes. They try to understand the mystery of families and how they come together and what they want for themselves, while loving their own so fiercely the mere mention we’re not all together makes them cry. Except one day you will look outside and you will find your son, fully dressed in winter gear that you didn’t wrestle him into, gleefully flinging himself into a snowbank completely of his own accord.  He’s never been outside alone before, but there he is, with you watching through the glass.

But it’s not just them that change. Who was that woman who kept all the puzzles ordered in Ziplocs and religiously swapped out age appropriate toys? I barely recognize her anymore. Now I’ve lost count at 14 stuffed angry birds and I am mildly concerned they’re breeding in the walls at the alarming rate they appear all over the house. I no longer look below adult eye level in order to ignore the stickers all over the closet door, and I am only asked to arbitrate in serious matters such as a brother suggesting that he would like to change his middle name to Corndog. I have someone peeking over my shoulder when I cook or work, and I gladly invite them in to my world too; this duller one they will inherit. There is crayon on my walls, and unadulterated joy in my heart that we have arrived at this place. Because while it is hard to rein Luke Skywalker’s and puppy dogs’ attentions back to practical matters, it is witness to them come into being.

It is apart from you. Without noticing, at some point you feel yourself relaxed in a room alone while they are happily brandishing swords in another. This is life, as it is. Their worlds will grow ever bigger and expand outwards from yours, with secrets and jokes and opinions that represent them, entirely. And that is the point of all of this; not to make them in any image, but to provide a world sufficiently large to find their way in it.

Notes:

*I wanted to take a picture of the marble, but I promptly lost it again. It will turn up.

**74% is a completely made up statistic, but I bet it’s not far off. Any takers? Actually, you know what, I don’t need a gambling problem.

The dandelion

A dandelion, on the occasion of having it’s bright yellow head whacked off, will learn to grow closer to the ground.

And that, dear child, is what happens with words sometimes. They whack your head off. I don’t want you to grow close to the ground. I want your big, beautiful, yellow head to extend as far up towards the sun as gravity will allow. I only want you to be bound by the physical laws of this universe, and not by the apprehension that if you grow tall and spread the fruit of your existence that you will be scorned and brought back down to earth. I want your leaves to be sturdy and nourished by the best sunlight, your roots firmly in the soil. I want you to be as opportunistic and tenacious as the dandelion is known to be and flourish in unexpected places; turning the most marginal conditions into life. I want you to be the first thing to thrive after a dearth, the last thing to live into the harshest season. I want you to be in a field of yellow flowers that are all reaching toward the sun, trusting the earth will support your collective weight, nourishing the world around you, and becoming a menace to all of our traditional notions of your value.

Don’t grow close to the ground, dear one. Nowhere near it.

Dear The Huffington Post

I recently perused your article Christmas Gifts for Mom: 15 Items that Won’t Break the Bank. It featured an adorable photo of a young child holding her forehead to her mother, along with not 15, but 116 inexpensive items that mom would enjoy! I would like to thank you for including #84 in your  list, along with the disclaimer to “open in private”. The PleasurePillar Wonderland would be welcome in any mom’s stocking this holiday season. I am glad to see you have a progressive and enlightened attitude toward women’s sexual health, but I agree it’s a bit delicate to open in front of family on Christmas morning. I also appreciate the economy and singular focus on finding something uniquely for mom in place of the typical vacuum cleaner or “fitness aids” I have been gifted over recent years. I am sure you’ll receive many thank you letters on Boxing Day from happy moms everywhere.

This is not one of those letters.

Perhaps, HuffPo (I hope I can call you that) I can provide a gentle critique and suggest that your list was egregiously mistitled and should not be listed as a gift for moms of any sort. You see, this led to an uncomfortable situation where I was perusing this list with my two four year olds and now they want to buy a PleasurePillar by Wonderland for Grandma. They have no clue as to it’s purpose, but they liked the bright colour and amusing shape, and despite my desperate attempt at clicking away from the image faster than the speed of light, they feel that it would be the thing that Grandma would enjoy most this holiday season. Even more than the dinosaur planter (#49) that I tried to direct them towards, or virtually any other fucking thing in the universe.

Not the PleasurePillar, but a future resident of my desk if everything goes my way at Christmas (thehappyplanter on Etsy)

I tried to rely on the Memento like memory of four year olds to erase the idea from their minds to no avail. This morning, my son asked what store we were going to go to in order to purchase “THE BLUE THING FOR GRANDMA.” I am not sure, HuffPo, if it is appropriate for my son to give an item that will not be legal for him to purchase for another 14 years. After all, you don’t see many delightful hand printed and glittered bottles of bourbon at Christmas, do you? Hopefully he’ll be progressed enough in his sexual education by then to be deeply uncomfortable about buying such a thing for Grandma. I hope he wants to poke out his own ear drums and bleach his eyeballs at the mere suggestion. If he does, I know I will have done my job at instilling appropriate boundaries. I think boundaries are important, don’t you, HuffPo?

With warmest regards for a pleasure filled holiday season,

Hopeful Receiver of a Dinosaur Planter and in Desperate Need of a Lobotomy

Making Halloween Happen

Kind of.

My four-year olds are totally enthralled with costumes, and I have had occasion to dine with a unicorn, giraffe, lion, or Captain America. Batman helps me pick out tampons at the drug store (complete with drawn out and loud discussions about female anatomy), and a jellyfish has had a fit about buying pancake mix for some indeterminate point in the future instead of setting up shop in the homewares section like some insane Top Chef challenge and making them RIGHT NOW. This is just our every day life. When it comes to Halloween, I feel like we have to up the ante a little.

It turns out that one aspect of parenting I am not terrible at is costumes. I discovered this when the boys had a recital at daycare. The kids had to dress up as various animals, making costumes out of “inexpensive household items”. I made this instead:

They were supposed to sing a song about animals, but they mostly just stood staring out at the sea of iPhones recording them. The Unicorn yawned throughout.

They were supposed to sing a song but they mostly just stood staring out at the sea of iPhones recording them. The Unicorn yawned throughout.

To be fair, a lot of other parents went kind of over the top too, but I can safely say that I went the most over the top by a wide margin. A lot of glue was involved while I cracked the whip over Mr. Giraffe to custom paint the costume while I fiddled around getting the eyes right. I am still not satisfied with them. I am still finding bits of foam everywhere in our house.

Halloween prep started shortly after this. Angry Birds are the order of the day here, so Angry Birds it would be. The Engineer wanted to be Chewbacca Bird and the Unicorn wanted to be a Slingshot.

*scratches head*

Uhhh… ok, let’s roll with that.

Plans changed when we found amazing Yellow Angry Bird and King Pig masks at good ol’ Wallyworld. Mr. Giraffe was tired and I think vaguely optimistic that we’d just achieved a somewhat easy holiday.

It should come as no surprise at all to you that a month later I found myself finding Angry Birds templates for pumpkins, buying eavestrough joints, and hoarding boxes and cardboard to “just add a little something” to Halloween festivities.

I am a busy woman, so I left the eavestrough at my dad’s house with instructions to turn it into a slingshot for Yellow Bird. I think he thought I was insane, but he totally made that shit happen, and made me completely envious of the fact that he 1) owns tools, 2) knows how to use the tools, and 3) is retired. The final product was better than I would have ever been able to achieve and happened with very little input from me. It worked out so well I am going to see if I can outsource a lot of things now (See: aforementioned tampon and pancake mix purchasing).

In retrospect, I wish we’d stuck with his original vision and just gone with the slingshot. That thing is a work of art.

Two days before Halloween, Mr. Giraffe excitedly messaged me to ask: “Are we making Halloween costumes tonight?” I was confused by his enthusiasm and participation until I realized the subtext was “Are you going to be knee-deep in cardboard shavings, hot gluing your fingers together for the next two days?”

Indeed, I was.

King Pig needed a TNT box.  Parents out there can attest to the fact that diaper boxes are the most useful byproduct of child-rearing, and they proved their worth again here. As my dear friend Sara noted later, I was going balls out. I couldn’t half-ass this with markers. No, I was going to make a 3D textured TNT box that looks just like real life. Except, you know, the 2D cartoon version of real life. Or something. I think I have my dimensions confused. Anyway, it was going to be epic.

The first night I thought really hard about how I wanted to achieve the box. I even cut 3 strips of cardboard and a head hole. Feeling really good about my progress, I rewarded myself with as many rounds of Candy Crush as I could manage (5. DAMN YOU CANDY CRUSH, I WILL NOT SPEND MONEY ON YOU) and went to bed, confident that I would be able to complete my project before bedtime on the 30th.

I did, in fact, complete the costume before going to bed on the 30th. Or rather, four hours past my bedtime at 3 am on the 31st. At 6 pm on the 30th, my parents came to deliver the slingshot. At 7:30 pm, the groupthink and yelling about how to attach the slingshot to the Unicorn’s body was accomplished, as was the total and complete defraying of all of my nerves. At 7:35, Mr. Giraffe had delivered the kids to bed, and wisely disappeared, not to be seen by the rest of the night. At 9 pm, I had a bloodied hand and 3 Angry Bird themed pumpkins that had to have various parts of them hot glued back together.

It occurs to me that Halloween pumpkins are sort of like those Buddhist sand drawings, except that I don't achieve any sort of spiritual ascension and no one dresses up as a sexy hot dog to celebrate sand drawings.

It occurs to me that Halloween pumpkins are sort of like those Buddhist sand drawings, except that I don’t achieve any sort of spiritual ascension and no one dresses up as a sexy hot dog to celebrate sand drawings.

Pumpkins achieved, I turned my attention to the TNT box. At 11 pm, I ran out of hot glue, and narrowly avoided impaling myself with a box cutter, then remembered there was a bottle of wine in the freezer. At 11:01 the top of that bottle shattered while I was trying to reef the cork out with all my might. At 11:03, I strained the glass shards out of that wine and drank the hell out of it.

True story

True story

Without the benefit of hot glue, I had to hold the pieces together while watching nine episodes of Duck Dynasty. Those dudes are really wholesome. I think I would get along with Uncle Si. I had a long time to think about this. Finally, I had the genius idea to hold the glued pieces together with my hair band, and called it a night. It was 3 am.

At 3:04, I discovered that the Unicorn had an ear infection. At 7:30 am, I had a complete mental break where I believed that “just ten minutes” of sleep would carry me through the day, and I was at risk of murdering anyone who told me otherwise. At 7:42 am, the Engineer declared that he wasn’t going to wear the TNT box because it hurt, and I had an aneurism, while I simultaneously wondered if I could somehow squeeze my middle-aged carcass into it instead.

YES. YES. YES! My vision come to life! Brought down to earth moments later by kiddo shenanigans. I am not enough of a narcissist to force him to wear a costume just because I made it. Just to be clear.

YES. YES. YES! My vision come to life! Brought down to earth moments later by kiddo shenanigans. I am not enough of a narcissist to force him to wear a costume just because I made it. Just to be clear. He wore it later entirely of his own volition, and promises that his candy haul would be improved if he had a really good costume.

At 9 am, I was at the walk-in clinic with the Unicorn where he was crying so loud and so hard that they let him in ahead of a lady with a spurting head wound.

The Unicorn would have gotten into the doctor faster than this guy. (image from delvedigger.com)

At .. oh fuck, I don’t even know. Later in the day, we found ourselves wandering around the drug store. The Unicorn laid down in the aisle. He was curled around a discounted stuffed Angry Bird, and it appeared to be the only thing keeping him alive. We purchased that bird: who was I to say no? I lamented that Angry Birds came into our lives only during moments of weakness; like when we hand over the iPad because we’re tired. This had delivered me directly to this moment, scarred up by Angry Bird costumes, undone by my own weakness There were a lot of surprisingly complicated thoughts going through my head given the fact that I could not form complete sentences and had to have a nap in the van before I trusted myself to drive home.

At 6:30 pm, everyone was properly propped up on ibuprofen, and we were out trick or treating with the neighbors. I made hot chocolate and Baileys for the adults. When Mr. Giraffe inadvertently spilled my drink all over me, I made lemonade out of lemons.. or rather, skipped the hot chocolate, poured whisky out of the bottle, and drank an entire mug, and made excuses twice to run back to our house to refill it. The boys had a grand time, and I am pretty sure I was unfit to parent by that point, so thank the Great Pumpkin Mr. Giraffe was out too. Maeby dressed up as a bee.

This was not at Halloween; this was at a Meadery.

This was not at Halloween; this was at a Meadery.

The End.

Lesson Learned: STOP DOING ALL THE THINGS, STUPID.

The Rollergiraffe on Mommy Shaming

rollergiraffe:

It’s been a rough week, folks. This parenting gig is hard shit sometimes, and we have had some doozies this week. Just this morning my dog ran away while the children were having a meltdown and then daycare continued its Fatwa on my parenting style (read: continual experiment in trying to get some sleep). I need a reminder that I am ok at this junk, and I suspect some of you do too.

Originally posted on the rollergiraffe:

View original

A Review of the Coleman Family Tent

Canadian Tire has this commercial.

I did not know about this commercial thanks to the magic of PVR, but when I purchased this behemoth of a ten-person tent for a 5 day family camping trip, Coleman was unwittingly fulfilling all of my unexpressed desires. I wanted to be the envy of all the tenters out there, all one amongst the army of 30 foot trailers. I wanted a tent that would house me, my camping-averse husband, my four-year olds, and my wayward dog for 5 days in a temperate climate during a family trip without causing a domestic dispute.

Is that too much to fucking ask? Yes. Yes, it is.

Set Up

Pros: YES. FUCK YES. BUY THIS TENT RIGHT NOW.

Setting this tent up set me up for a level of optimism I can only describe as “overly confident” at best, but “delusional” is a more realistic term.

Cons: The worst part about setting up this tent was that I had to set down my beer to do it because the poles have clicky things that require two hands. I really tried not to set down my beer, friends, but things just couldn’t be helped. My husband fiddled with this random piece of material that we think is some sort of fly or perhaps, OH MY GOD I JUST FIGURED OUT IT’S PROBABLY A WALL FOR INSIDE THE TENT THAT IS SO SMART BUT HAS VIRTUALLY NO USE TO US NOW BECAUSE I AM HOME WITH ACTUAL WALLS MADE OF DRYWALL AND I AM GOING TO KISS THEM.

THERE ARE TWO QUEEN SIZED AIR MATRESSES IN THERE THIS IS PRACTICALLY THE HILTON

There are two queen sized matresses in there and room to spare. Camping is going to be goddamn aces, you guys. Optimism level: OFF THE CHARTS.

But really, this delivers on the promise of the instant easy set up, if you subtract the hours worth of fiddling with mystery material.

Staying In the Tent

Pros: This tent is large. There is lots of room. It seems durable. There are lots of windows. It is a rectangle. I am a tallish woman and can stand up straight in it, if you don’t count me nailing myself in the head with a lantern at least six times during this trip because I evidently don’t have a short-term memory anymore.

Cons: You guys, being dry is all well and fine when you’re in a car wash for a few minutes, but what do you get when you’re in a downpour with two small people with only passing knowledge of potty training, a camping-averse husband who said (for real, I am not shitting you) “I didn’t change my clothes for three days because I kept thinking we were going to shower” and a dog who prefers feces and rain-soaked kibble to anything else?

The answer is condensation. You get condensation.

I can see the water is beading on the outside, so why is it dripping on my head. This is my thought process for two hours.

I can see the water is beading on the outside, so why is it dripping on my head? This is my thought process for two hours.

This is what I figured out as I clung desperately to the side of the brand new air mattress that required complicated re-pumping every day after having seven children (five not my own) abuse it to the point of disrepair. I had four-year old feet in my face, I was half out of my sleeping bag, and I was getting dripped on. So I had some time to think. And I thought “FUCK YOU, Coleman. Fuck you for making a completely sealed off “family” tent.” No one wants to be sealed off with their family. That is why suite hotels and boarding schools were invented. It’s all well and fine that you can make a neato commercial, but the practicality of having a completely sealed off tent is nil. So basically, I was having angry thoughts.

P1020320

All that air took hours to escape because I did not have the cognitive ability at the end of the trip to open a door or window to let it out.

And then, just as I was getting some sleep, the voice of my dad appeared from the heavens. He’s not dead, so it was especially weird that he was offering us respite in form of a the hotel room key that he and my mom were checking out of, so we could take a hot shower. So weird that I grumbled “but there’s pay showers here”, and he retreated as quickly as he came, but left wine. I thought it was a dream until my husband lost his shit over the fact that there was no hot showers to be had and I tripped over the wine bottle on my way out of the tent. I am drinking that wine right now you guys, and nothing ever tasted so good.

Take home message: Coleman denied me a hot shower by making me think too hard. It does not matter how big the goddamn tent is, friends, if there is no ventilation and five mammalian bodies, you have a problem.

Take Down

Pros: Take down of the Coleman Family Tent is relatively easy because of the magic of presto buttons and neat shit like that. I completely fooled our spectators (my cousin and the assorted kids) that everything was fine because we got it all sort of down minus all the massive air/ventilation problem seen above. And they left for the beach, with us promising to follow shortly as soon as we got our tent in the bag.

Cons: And that is when the proverbial wheels came off the proverbial fucking piece of shit tent.

Friends, I said and did things this morning that I don’t care to repeat. A lovely, lovely couple staying in the campsite next to us who were quietly having breakfast, and who live-in-the-same-city-as-us-so-I-will-probably-run-into-them-at-the-Farmer’s-Market-tomorrow-because-they-seem-like-the-type and their two-year old daughter, did not need to hear the things that they heard this morning. There was a domestic scene of epic proportions, rivaled only by our camping neighbors trying to park a 35 foot trailer in pitch black the night before. I feel ashamed, dear readers. Ashamed at what that tent made me do.

All of this shit had to go back into our van. I would have just set it back up and lived there on a permanent basis if they let you stay more than 16 days. I could have been a charming campground resident who helped you back your trailer in. I had plans. A lot of plans.

All of this shit had to go back into our van. I would have just set it back up and lived there on a permanent basis if they let you stay more than 16 days. I could have been a charming campground resident who helped you back your trailer in and made hilariously burned pancakes every morning. I had plans. A lot of plans. I had a lot of time to make those plans.

I have many reasons for yelling, but that tent became the lightning rod for all of my frustrations this morning. I was furious at Coleman for disabusing me of the notion that a family camping trip could be the joyous family fun times that I was envisioning. Mostly though, I was furious at them for saving the shitstorm right for the end of the trip, when we had lost all organizational capacity. All I wanted was a hot breakfast, Coleman. What I got was a maelstrom of throwing shit around, patronizing, and accusations. Where is that in your goddamn commercial, Coleman?

But on the bright side, at least we didn’t leave the camping tradition of having a major domestic incident aside. It’s right up there with roasting marshmallows and beer fueled hikes.

Rating
Let’s review:
Pros: I was lulled into a false sense of security that everything was going to be ok.

Cons: I do not enjoy 1) being disabused of notions and 2) having all the shit saved for the end of things. I like the shit up front so I can deal with it.

This tent is recommended for the camping-averse and those with short attention spans. This tent is highly recommended if you have lost your sense of smell, prefer moist environments, and you can afford to just abandon it at the end of your trip.

This tent is not recommended for actual families, those in shaky marriages, or people with dogs of any kind, especially ones who have earned the moniker “Smelly” by a horde of children becoming collectively more odorous by the moment.

Question for the Universe

Hi Universe! I have been avoiding you for a while, well, because I don’t want your special brand of attention to be honest. Good or bad, I think we can agree that you’re very dramatic at times, I mean your origin story is a little over the top, don’t you think?

Anyway, I am not criticizing. Please don’t smite me. I have a question for you.

How is this mathematically possible?

Spring 2013 052

Seriously. Every goddamn morning.

I have spent approximately 11% of my day for the last four years trying to find matching socks for children. Is the problem with children’s sock manufacturers that they can’t produce a package of socks that are all the same colour? Are we overburdening ourselves with consumer choice? Should I reevaluate our sock matching priorities? Am I just terrible at organizing? Is this an example of entropy?

I feel that the answer to all these questions is yes, Universe, but I’d like you to provide me with a sign. Maybe in the form of an organized sock drawer. Or, you know, just keep ignoring me as usual if you can’t think of anything nice to say.

Little girl

Tonight you were playing with my boys in the playhouse at the store. I noticed you were watching me more than playing. You kept asking me questions, pretending you didn’t understand what my boys were saying to you, why they weren’t speaking English. I laughed, and feeling conspiratorial, commiserated about how crazy they were being. But I secretly wanted to get on with my shopping and end this long day. Then you popped your head out the window of the playhouse and shattered me.

“You remind me of my mom”

I smiled, and was about to turn away.

“You remind me of my mom. She died.” Then you popped back in the house.

I was at first convinced you were just being morbid, as kids sometimes are, and I looked around for your mom. Then your head popped out the window again, after gaining a bit more courage. “You have hair like hers. They had to cut it off when she got sick and then she died.”

It popped out of your mouth with the blunt matter-of-factness only a 5 year old can have. There was nothing delicate about it, no adult’s finesse to soften it. You were telling me something important and sacred. I don’t know what I said in return. Something wholly inadequate. Something like, “you must miss her a lot, I am so sorry.

You turned away and carried on playing, your moment of remembering over. I saw you later with your dad, I saw you watching me again. I wanted to be your mom. I wanted so badly to just be your mom for a minute, and I wanted to scoop you up like your mom would have. To bury my face in your neck like I do to my boys and swing you around until we were all giggling. I wanted to be a shape shifter, a mind reader, a mystic, whatever it took, so I could be your mom for a minute and do that.

I wanted to do that for you. Obviously, your world is upside down and it is on your mind enough that you want to talk to strangers about it, enough that you are seeing your mom in places she’s not. That’s as normal as it gets in this mess. You are coping. Children are resilient, and not afraid to feel out loud, no matter how loud it is. But I wanted to give you a moment of relief, and that cocooned, snug, safe feeling from Before It Happened.

But more, I wanted to do that for your mom. I know she didn’t want last time to be the last time she did that. I know she wanted to be the one you peppered with questions as she shopped. I know she wanted so much more. I know she’s glad to be remembered by you, and to see you out in the world. Little girl, your mom is everywhere in all the good things in this life.

Happy Father’s Day, RollerDad

I have certain traits that I don’t have to think very hard to figure out where they came from. In many ways, I am my dad in female form.This is not surprising; until my tumultuous teenage years I was my dad’s shadow. I would watch him carving ducks in his wood shop, happy to go retrieve the dead mallard from the freezer when asked. I was reasonably competent with power tools for all of my overachieving art projects. He would let me sit on his lap and drive the big blue GMC around the prairies when I was merely 8 years old (or maybe it was the red Dodge by then?). We went for family bike rides in the prairies and hikes into the coulees and we would stop along the way to check everything out.  Our annual family vacations were just roaming with only a final destination in mind; stopping along the way to see anything that interested us. Saturdays were for mowing my grandma’s lawn, and Sundays were for going; anywhere and everywhere. Even in our small prairie town, I grew up as cultured as we could manage because my dad challenged me to try new foods and see new things wherever we went. And oh my god, we had to watch so much PBS.

Because of him I had a free childhood, and I learned to explore. This is probably the best gift that I have from my dad, although my power washer was a close second.

About a year ago my dad sent me copies of slides from the 70′s that he had scanned and I laughed and laughed when I realized how much of my dad I have become.

Image

My Dad, sometime in the late 70′s

Me in 2011

Me in 2011

That fierce, get’er done, explore everything, be afraid of nothing, kind of guy that he is. And I love that he now passes this on to my kids, and reminds me to do the same even when I want to wrap them up in bubble wrap. I think he would have been a natural raising boys, but I think I did my best despite being a girl.

A family that drinks together has a very expensive wedding. Paid for by my dad.

A family that drinks together has a very expensive wedding. Paid for by my dad.

Now, life is not without it’s challenges being raised by your exact personality match, but I am very glad now to have a dad that will bravely go approach a beehive with a screwdriver at midnight after I have wussed out and gotten stung three times already. In his shirtsleeves. Thanks for taking one for the team, Dad.

Happy Father’s Day.