Family

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.

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.

On being at home with the kids

My time at home with my babies is over. Four years ago, almost to the day, I was heavily pregnant with twins and left my job with only a vague idea of what was to come. I had notions of heading back to work as soon as my maternity leave was over. I was all “I am woman, hear me roar” about it and there was no way I was going to give up a career I had worked so hard for.

That didn’t happen. A different kind of feminine notion took hold in the minute between the first and second of my sons was born. In an instant, holding them both in my arms for the first time, I grew up, got wise, and became the fierce mama I am.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This. This is when it happened.

Being a stay at home mom has been an experiment in extremes, punctuated by life events that were completely out of control and all the expected things that kids bring, but double the intensity. The highs are higher and the lows are lower with two, and we have ridden that rollercoaster 1398 days now.

My boys are wild, loud, beasts who will take over the world some day with sheer force of abandon. My Unicorn has imagination beyond compare and an incredible depth of kindness. My Engineer has an aptitude and precociousness for figuring out how the world works and he does it with wit. These are things I already know about them, and I know in my heart who they will be long before they get there. And so I don’t worry for that; I know that they will be themselves, and if they’re lucky, be happy at that.

Fall 2012 090

The Engineer and The Unicorn

And tonight, tonight it hit me with the force of a speeding railway, after they were snuggled into bed, after all the dishes were done, and the wine drunk, the relaxing over. Tonight, as I went to check on them before I turned to bed myself, I realized that tomorrow we will wake up and be a different kind of family. I will be a different kind of mom.

I know that the fact that I had a choice to stay home and now go back to work was a great luxury, so I won’t dwell on it. But I will grieve a little for this shift in my universe; this separation that I never wanted. I will still do all the mom things that moms do everywhere every day. I will still be there in the morning and at night and every minute that I am able. They will still need so much from me.

And oh my god, I am grateful, so profoundly grateful that I had nearly four years to spend with my little folk and grateful that I found it in me to do it, because I was so afraid that I didn’t. I am grateful for the things that they have given me; the patience, the knowledge that time passes whether it’s good or bad, and how to find joy in those small moments even when the day has been hard.

Summer 2012 645

Like this. This was hard. OMG I HAVE CLEANED UP SO MUCH SHIT IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS.

So tomorrow I send them off into this world a little bit in a way I am not prepared for yet. I will have to approach it the same way I approached becoming a mom; vague notions and blind faith that it will all work out alright. And it will, because I am armed now with the knowledge that as long as those two little goofballs are in this world with me, everything is ok.

Back to Work

Alternately titled: Extended leave from the hardest job ever of being at home with the kids

It’s been almost exactly four years since I waddled off the job seven months pregnant with twins. A year later, I would be fired by voice mail when returning from mat leave, all of my stuff would get lost, and I would vow to never go back to consulting again. After a stunning existential crisis I have reversed this decision and decided this is the best possible move. I have a life path! Probably full of landmines! So freaking freaked out about it, you guys. Here’s why I am doing it:

1. I am only reasonably sure I brushed my teeth today.

I had a sock on inside out today. Sometime in the intervening hour the sock was turned right side out. I can only reasonably conclude that I did that myself, but I have absolutely no memory of said event. Therefore, I think it’s safe to infer that the habit I have every morning of my life happened, but I have also forgotten to use deodorant on multiple occasions in the last year, so who can be sure? Anyway, what I am saying is, I think that going back to work will provide a little structure and force me to pay attention to myself a little more.

2. Cash money

I thought being a kept woman would be delightful. Turns out I am not very delighted. Despite the fact that Mr. Giraffe has learned does not seem to mind when I spend his money, it doesn’t feel good to not earn a salary. I know that stay at home parents provide a gazillion dollars worth of service every year and all that shit, but guess what? No one shows up with a goddamn cheque. Not even a funny novelty one as a thank you. I think that would have been nice. So now I can earn my own money. And use that money to buy more bees, thus ensuring an exit strategy from the workforce when I one day quit to address a looming honey over-supply problem.

3. I have a theory that time outs are going to be effective in the workplace

If there’s one thing motherhood has afforded me, it’s a firm hand for discipline and zealous need for control. This will either make me the best worker ever or completely unbearable. Or maybe I will relish the fact that my coworkers can do up their own pants and just kick back. My emotions are a totally unknown quantity here. Adventure awaits at every turn.

4. No one will yell at me in the toilet

I hope. I had a job once where the boss got very mad when I used the washroom, but she also had a piece of popcorn stuck in her hair for 3 days once so I don’t think that was a typical experience.

5. A job will probably solve my ongoing cell phone crisis

I have been trying to pick out a smart phone for about 4 years. I am guessing that my new company will make my decision for me and I will be grateful. That is one aspect of communism I think I would really enjoy.

6. If I have to make one more meal in my life I am going to lose my shit

I recognize I still have to cook food for my family to reject and ferry everyone about, but it’s not all I have to do forever.

7. This year is ALL ABOUT ME

There, I said it. Say what you will, but I feel like I am going to be healthier, happier, and a better parent by going out into the world and bringing new stuff back to my family. And I will delight in each uninterrupted lunch hour like Nichola Tesla gazing upon his pigeon. If you’re not familiar with Tesla, trust me when I sat that is quite a lot of delight.

(Probably) Next up: The Rollergiraffe has a crisis over abandoning her kids at a daycare while she goes to a fulfilling job every day. I CAN’T WIN AGAINST MYSELF.

Snowy Sunday Misadventures

It looks like this outside this morning.

Image

Stop focusing on the fact that my Christmas lights are still up and look at all that stupid snow.

That is some major bullshit. To some of you southerners this might appear like the end of times, but up here in Canadaland we just call this “March”. It’s Sunday so people will still go to church if they’re really dedicated, but less people will go shopping and we shall collectively roll our eyes and generally endure.

So anyway, that’s happening today. I may have over-imbibed a bit with the neighbors last night and my kids have the sniffles so I was really looking forward to a movie day. Maybe some baking. If things got wild, I’d make popcorn. You know, really earth shattering type stuff. But nothing that would require me to put my winter jacket on because I am totally done with that fucking thing. I am really serious about that.

You can imagine how delighted I was to wake up to the following conversation:

Engineer: Mommy, get the gray thing out of my mouth.

Mommy: (launching self out of bed) WHAT? What grey thing? What did you eat?

Engineer: The grey thing. From playgroup.

Mommy: (stabbing at eyes to make eyes work before remembering to put on my glasses) WHERE DID YOU GET IT?

Engineer: (Points at desk)

I surveyed my desk. Grey things include: paperclips, staples, tacks, money, BATTERIES. No grey things that seemed like a good idea to eat. Maybe I am not being imaginative enough, but I can’t think of any grey things that seem like a good idea to eat. (Google says buckwheat noodles. I’ll give them that.)

Mommy: (In shrill, shrieking voice) Where is the grey thing?

Engineer: In my tummy.

And so in a flurry of coats and hats and boots and car seats, we found ourselves at the Children’s Hospital before breakfast. Not to cast aspersions on our local Children’s Hospital, because they are wonderful people who have given us excellent care over the years, but they were NOT AS PANICKED AS I WANTED THEM TO BE. In fact, they barely registered any alarm at all. They directed us to the waiting room where we sat next to the poster full of “Actual Items Swallowed by Children”. The actual items were glued to the poster and included things like buttons, pennies, small toys, a safety pin, magnets a KNITTING NEEDLE. Not one of those little crochet hooks, either; this needle could have been a bonafide weapon.  I am not shitting you. This informative poster did nothing to make me feel better.

There was virtually no waiting time because not many children were committed to self harm on a Sunday morning, so it was us and a few pukers. The Engineer informed the doctor that a grey thing was in his tummy and he wanted a picture of it, so off we went to x-ray. By the time we got to the x-ray, I was kind of didn’t know what to wish for. I kind of suspected that this could all be a lie, and here I was calling his bluff by shooting him with radiation. I had only a couple of seconds to ponder the risks of either proposition though, and decided on the balance it was better to find out what he ate.

The Engineer was a superstar about it and laid as still as he has ever laid for five seconds at a time. And we learned just a few minutes later that the kid was completely full of crap. Literally and figuratively. But no dangerously sharp, life threatening metal objects that were going to poison him and shred his insides, as I had naturally assumed.

Then we braved the blowing snow and crappy roads home. I am sure that the worst part for the Engineer was the twenty minute lecture, borne out of complete gratitude that he was totally fine and this was just a misadventure. Now we can get started on doing absolutely nothing today.

Winter 2013 063

Resume regular programming. MORE OF THIS TODAY, CHILDREN.

 

Weekly photo challenge: Illumination

I confess, I am not a very diligent WordPresser when it comes to things like the Daily Post. In fact, I think this is the first time I have actually read it, but right now it fits because the days are getting longer and I feel lighter.

I also confess that I just got back from a Disney Cruise and Disney World. I think you all know me well enough to know that I am a bit too jaded for these kinds of things, but I was drawn in by promises of legendary service and the prospect of sun in the middle of a bleak winter. And it paid off in that way; I had to do very little thinking. I got vitamin D from all the sun. I got to sit and watch the ocean go by and ponder the acidification from all the carbon dioxide we were emitting. Ok, so anxiety doesn’t make trips relaxing.

But my sons; to them this trip was all light. Disney did its magic and filled their heads with stories and characters and fantastical sights.

This is my little unicorn, rocking out in a family night club on the ship in his Buzz Lightyear pyjamas. The music was blaring and he had the dance floor mostly to himself. To him all the lights were light sabers and the pounding music a soundtrack to his own personal Star Wars movie.

Disney 2013 231

I don’t have a picture of my other son watching fireworks for the first time. We were finishing dinner when the fireworks started and the waiter let us sneak out the back door so we could watch the show. My little unicorn sat up on Daddy’s shoulders, while I held the engineer on my lap. His face filled with wonder watching the sky explode to music. That look, watching his face light up filled a need I didn’t even realize that I had. It undid a little bit of weariness in me. I don’t need a photo of that; I’ll carry that light around with me for some time to come.

Things I found in my printer

Today’s edition of “Things I found in my printer” include:

Image

The natural reaction to having these items jammed inside the paper tray of your printer might be upset. On the contrary; it makes me feel better that the cordless phone thing wasn’t all my fault; we were playing a really advanced game of hide and seek with it. I am also happy to report that I am not losing my marbles in thinking that I owned a stapler. The rock; I can’t explain its origins except that I think it’s some kind of sedimentary rock from the Badlands of Alberta.

Three year olds are delightful, aren’t they?

Red Letter Verses from the 3 Year Old Bible

And they* will get popcorn from the store for Mommy and Daddy and The Unicorn and The Engineer**. And grandma and grandpa and all our friends. And other grandma and grandpa. And crabs and lobsters. And Batman and Spiderman and the Increbabel Hulk and the Hulk and Capan Merica and Batman and Robin. And Miss Sharon and Capan Merica. And lobsters! And My Big Big Big Big Big Big Big Big Friend***, and (unintelligible string of names, presumably people the Unicorn and Engineer met or saw on TV). And grandma. And the Hulk. But mostly Spiderman.

*assuming this is some form of deity that goes grocery shopping. I pray to this god myself.

**not their real names. I am not that terribly cruel.

***pretty sure the original bible had links in it too. I don’t know, someone else did my catechism homework for me.

Maeby the Wayward Dog

Maeby is my 6-year-old boxer. She is much like the Simple Dog. In fact, when I read Allie Brosh’s account I had to go and make sure that Maeby had not run away and realized I was still going to have to teach her stairs mechanics. Lesson 1: if a ball falls off the balcony you can go down the stairs instead of whining for an hour. Course time: 3 weeks.

She was always going to be trouble

Everything about Maeby is hopelessly quirky. She doesn’t mean to be complicated. In fact she is a very gentle spirit, but her brain operates on a very short repetitive cycle. For example, she has to wear boots to protect our new hardwood floors, so her thought process seems to go something like this: “Hey! I am a dog! I am wearing boots! Step. Step. I am wearing boots! Step! Boots! Step! Boots!”

I am a dog!

Her bad habits include:

1) Barking at everything that scares her. What scares her? Everything. We think she has poor eyesight because she occasionally goes ballistic over plastic bags caught in trees. I could understand this except that she is often only three feet away and should be able to rely on her other senses at that point to tell her that it’s not alive.

2) High garbage and bread depredation rate. Maeby might solve the world’s garbage problem. She turns into a stealth ninja dog if there is the slightest chance that she will get bread.

You know, actually, not much is safe

3) Coprophagia. THIS IS ABOUT TO GET GROSS Y’ALL. Maeby eats her own poop. She was terribly difficult to potty train and would just stare at the door willing the magic door gods to open it for 3.9 seconds before she’d find some suitable floor. Then she would get nervous and eat it before we discovered it. Problem solved. Except that she would later vomit = nerves = eating = really big mess. The last time I remember her doing this my husband had to bathe her, she vomited in the shower, the word palpate was used and we threw away a lot of towels. I don’t want to think about it, and probably couldn’t live with the fact if the shower hadn’t been ripped out for renos the very next day. It is an issue.

Here is a picture of Don Draper to help you get over that (photo by Christina St Marche)

She used to have a partner in crime, Willis (aka. ComfortSeeker 3000) , who was ten times smarter than her and would have been a great companion animal for Curmudgeon at Large’s couch, disdaining everything and enjoying naps as he did. Willis liked tums and bourbon so much, you guys. Maeby would follow Willis blindly into trouble in whatever form he could find it. Willis died of a heart tumor at the end of February after being in the kennel nearly five months because of the house flood we had. He literally died of a broken heart. That is the last sad thing about this post unless you count Maeby’s astonishing lack of intellect.

Willis. Photo taken a long time ago by a dude whose name I can’t remember but he was a really good photographer. You should look him up.

Since then, Maeby has sort of been without a rudder. On most days Maeby’s source of affection is from toddlers who try to see if her ears will stretch to the floor (no), whether you can pick her up by her tiny little docked tail (also NO), or whether you can ride her (NO! DAMMIT. NO! STOP THAT! YOU’RE GOING TO BREAK THE DOG). Having a very busy household with poor communication occurring before magic delicious coffee time, Maeby sometimes gets overlooked.

So it is no surprise at all that we discovered Maeby was missing right in the middle of our fourth anniversary dinner. Moments after we had ordered our food I made the classic mistake of bringing up any notion of domestic life, and we both realized that neither of us had seen the dog all day. We called home but the dog was gone. So we speed-ate our meal, barely acknowledged each other’s thoughtful gifts (New York, yay!) and skipped dessert so we could go searching for her. No luck.

The next morning she still wasn’t home and I called everyone I could think of. Nothing. Without Willis to guide her home, I was reasonably sure that she would either be found by a human that would love her to death or she was trapped in a corner by scary plastic bags of death somewhere and would die of starvation if there was no accessible garbage.

Evil incarnate, according to Maeby (photo by zen)

Then I saw this on the pound website.

This is now fridge art as a reminder to KEEP THE DAMN GATE CLOSED.

There was Maeby. Still with three of her four boots on for maximum shame. Of course this was an hour before I had to go out, but I dropped everything and schlepped over to break her out of dog jail.

Bylaw enforcers do not just let you pay your fine and let you walk out of the building. No; you are in it for a lecture, a fine, a threat of more fines, a detailed description of all laws pertaining to dogs and houses, a long chat about your plan to ensure that such atrocities are not repeated, and then some down time to think about your actions. During this time you must be polite and try to conceal your rage at the fact that you are clearly a responsible owner, yet you are being treated like you are running a meth lab.

She was picked up not two blocks from our house in the wrong direction from the dog park by a family who wanted to adopt her. I admit, I contemplated their offer before realizing that I had already posted that I found the dog on Facebook and I didn’t want to look like an asshole.

Maeby was cowering from all the other unruly dogs who were losing their shit at the fresh meat (so much tastier if it’s still alive!) walking into the kennel. Good thing it wasn’t an open prison yard because she wouldn’t have lasted ten seconds. I got her out, got her boots, spilled my purse contents in the dog urine trough, declined getting my lip gloss back, thank you very much, and we busted out of there. She had completely forgotten about the whole scary dog jail thing by the time she hit the parking lot.

On the way home I tried out my future parenting lecture. “Maeby,” I said, “I work with endangered species all the time, and do you know what they’re begging for? Habitat. You have habitat that you totally take for granted! You have dog beds in every room, food at mostly regular intervals, all the free buns you can manage, and a very liberal pottying outside policy (author’s note: her policy, not mine, mine is VERY STRICT) yet you run away at the first opportunity? DO YOU KNOW WHAT A SWIFT FOX WOULD DO FOR THAT KIND OF SECURITY? DO YOU?”

She blinked like the slow three eyed fish on the Simpsons in full acknowledgement that my words sunk in and she will never do that again.

Yeah, it’s going to be Fort Knox up in here