Kids

Firsts

Remember this, your little boy. Riding down your block, bright red shirt, 23 in big white letters against the green grass and apple blossoms. Training wheels still banging against the sidewalk. The moment you got to spend with him, before he zoomed off ahead of you to get to his brother and the house he will remember growing up in.

Press it into your brain, like a flower in a heavy book, set to fall out at some moment. Reminding you of the sweetness of the bloom so long after it would have been otherwise forgotten. Remember that all the things he did had firsts, and this was one of them.

Five

This boy is going to wake up 5 today.

May 2014 078

And so will this one.

May 2014 039

Technically, they were born mid-morning, but only for a minute will I have a 4 year old and a 5 year old and then 4 will be a memory. A fellow twin mom lamented how there is no time to think about it when it’s over; no going back when your second child reaches that age. No reflection. I never felt that more than this year, where I was just trying to keep pace with the relentless nature of four. Until this year, their needs were always fairly easily met; exhausting, but simple. An endless run of snacks, meals, drinks, diapers, and desperately seeking any form of socialization.

Then four comes and all that goes out the flipping window. Suddenly I am knee deep in shark puppets.

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Hiding treasure boxes.

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Conceptualizing dreams.

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Having birthday parties for angry birds

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And in between swimming, soccer, preschool, piano, snowboarding, dance parties, camping, and the library, there is the more mundane aspects of life. As we make beds, we are answering how babies are made, what happens when we die, and every question that can be made out of all permutations of words in the English language.

Doesn't this look like it ended calmly? It didn't. SOMEONE'S BUTT GOT BITTEN AND IT WASN'T SOMEONE I KNOW.

Doesn’t this look like it ended calmly? It didn’t. SOMEONE’S BUTT GOT BITTEN AND IT WASN’T SOMEONE I KNOW.

Suddenly, this year, I had to think about what would happen if a shark ate a turtle, or ate a people, or ate another shark, or ate a dead sperm whale, or if the shark died, or if people ate a shark, or what things eat in the abyssal zone. If I stopped to think too hard, if I had the time, it would seem to me that life is SO unfair, that things get eaten and die. But my four year olds, now five year olds, take this all in stride. Life is what it is, and it is their job to figure out what that it is.

We help them navigate daycare politics, but more often than not, I find myself just listening in on their conversations; clues to the things that are important to them. What I hear is secrets and jokes that they have with their friends; the first things that I won’t understand. I see a decade into the future; a world entirely their own. I know we’re on our way to that.

Life is big and complicated, and it’s impossible to keep up with little brains that never stop. Looking back at how much they’ve grown this year, it makes me also realize how much I haven’t; I am constantly trying to apply the same expectations and methods to boys who have clearly outpaced us. I’ve had a lot of failures this year, tripping over myself and my words, and letting my own feelings get in the way of being a good parent. Hopefully, all they see is that I tried really hard, tried to be present with them. But now, more than ever, I feel behind them. Constantly trying to catch up to something I’ll never grasp again.

Every year, on their birthday, our mayday tree blooms. For a few days before and after, our front yard has erupted in white. I like to imagine it is just for them, even though the tree long preceded their birth and mayday trees have been blooming for time immemorial. I tell them that it’s their birthday present, and we  stop to look at the flowers and the little ecosystem of bugs they host. This year, the mayday is a little late. Like everything this year. I hope it’s enough for you, sweet boys. I hope you don’t notice how far behind you the world is; just keep powering ahead and we’ll all catch up. Or maybe I’ll just stop for a bit to watch you blaze ahead; I don’t want to miss the streak you leave trying in vain to keep up.

What this photo mostly told me is that I need a new macro lens for my camera. My birthday is also happening, family.

Maydays just about to go. What this photo mostly told me is that I need a new macro lens for my camera. My birthday is also happening, family.

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday. Your old mom loves you more than you know.

May 2014 084

The unicorn and his many “smile!” faces this year.. things that are important to remember.

Also, thank you to Brother Jon for the shout out. If you don’t read his blog, you really should. The internet needs more gentle, kind people like him. On the plus side, he’s also funny and goodlooking. And SMART. He even understands what engineers want sometimes.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Things I found in my printer

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

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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?