kids

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.

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.

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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.

Back from the time warp

HERE I AM! Rocking you like a hurricane. Or maybe more caressing your face like a gentle breeze. I don’t even know anymore. I have a lot happening right now all the time. It’s all good stuff, but it’s so much stuff that I don’t have time for other stuff. Like blogging stuff. I have missed you all though, I swear.

When I started work two months ago I was all manicured, pedicured, spa’ed out, well rested and excited.

The only record I have of myself where I don't look tired.

Proof! I felt awake once!

Now I have been through training and trial by fire. Adding to that is field season, in that being a biology type person who works on industrial type things, spring and summer are the time when all the critters have to stand up and be counted. I am terrible at that sort of thing, so my job is to do paper work while the more talented among us are out enjoying the sunshine. That suits me just fine; I get to go pick up my kids at 5:15 every day and they’re happy to see me. It makes my life.

May is also stupid with birthdays in my family, along with Mother’s Day, inlaws visiting for two weeks. And me insanely deciding that we have to put our house on the market RIGHT NOW the day our inlaws arrived, and despite no evidence that we are going to be able to get our house in show condition without an intervention from that hoarders show.

Did I mention I am in a beekeeping workshop? Yeah. So there’s that too. Although I hate the snow, I am glad at least that our late spring delayed the bees for a couple of weeks this year so I could catch my breath a bit. My hive from last year gave me a lot of grief and I am just going to do a separate post on that for the bee lovers among us.

I have a beekeeping helper this year

I have a beekeeping helper this year

Did I also mention that I am taking a running workshop? I AM GOING TO LOVE RUNNING, GODDAMMIT. Or I am at least going to do it. Because since kids, I can endure basically anything for any amount of time.

This may have been more than I was up for, but in typical rollergiraffe fashion, I careened right into it. As a result, all of that pampering and pedicuring wore off quickly. This is a recent photo:

Smoking relaxes me

Smoking relaxes me

My kids are totally validating my daycare provider’s assumption that I was really shitty at parenting. When they started daycare they were hot messes and we were limping in every day barely alive. In the last two months they have learned to dress themselves, mastered potty training, learned all the continents and many countries, learned to write their names, done art projects that I can’t even do, grown grass, and learned a whole second language. I worked for TWO YEARS on that potty training thing. So, basically feeling pretty amazing about my daycare picking skills, you guys.

But they’re FOUR! My babies are four, and of all the things I have been through this month, that is the most exciting and fun. They’re so cool right now. I love every day that they come home with something new.

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Fourth birthday at the amusement park

One of these kids is a bit dramatic. I'll let you figure out which.

One of these kids is a bit dramatic. I’ll let you figure out which.

Anyway, I make no promises about blogging right now, but do know that I do my best to keep up with y’all’s prodigious blogging pace. So tell me, how are YOU?

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.