I’ve been working at a coffee shop most mornings this week, as Ellie has a half-day dance camp going on and Zach has been visiting my parents. This particular coffee shop has free wifi and is usually half-full of bland-looking businessmen carrying on conversations at a volume that would make one think that they think their conversations are far more interesting than they actually are. Yesterday, however, the place was jam-packed with a whole bunch of folks celebrating Eid. They were dressed in fancy clothes and there were waffles everywhere. The atmosphere was very festive. It was nice to be party-adjacent while I typed away in WordPress.
For an hour or so there was a table of women next to me, about 5 or 6 of them, all of them wearing beautiful headscarves and accompanied by little kids. I know this is hardly an original sentiment, but it reminded me that all of us are really more alike than we are different. No matter where you go, you’ll find a group of moms, drinking coffee and trying to carry on a conversation while simultaneously trying to keep their kids from destroying the place.
Ellie and I have been having a lot of fun this week. It’s been great having some one-on-one time with her, although the constant interrogation occasionally proves to be a bit challenging, and also damaging to my idea of myself as someone who knows a lot of stuff. She asked me in the car yesterday, “What happens when the TOOTH FAIRY loses a tooth?” Well. Hmmm. I have no idea how to answer that.
Choose wisely, grasshopper
I keep seeing ads all over my various social media feeds for a new product from Jamieson vitamins: the one-second vitamin. It appears to be a vitamin spray, which … well, it raises a lot of questions. Are the folks in product development at Jamieson punking us? Or is this actually a problem that needed to be solved? How long does it take everyone else to take a vitamin? (Scene: Frazzled mom with seventeen small children, trying to find the Vandelay account file under a pile of puppies. Voiceover: Who has TWO seconds in this workaday world to chew and swallow a gummy vitamin? Or THREE seconds to toss back a regular one with an orange juice chaser? Introducing SPRAY VITAMINS, especially designed for executives! Because you are very busy and important!) I just did a few quick calculations (took me seven seconds!) and it appears that cutting my vitamin time in half will get me back a little over six whole minutes each year. Assuming I live another 40 or so years, that’s about 4 extra hours, 5% of which I just spent typing this paragraph.
For some reason, every time I have walked down the street to our mailbox in the past few weeks, I have been struck with an urge to do a cartwheel. There are two issues with this plan: firstly, I have NO IDEA if I am still capable of doing a cartwheel, and secondly, there is no way of testing that theory without risking Humiliating Public Injury. If I were to attempt it while alone, there is a very good chance I would spend the rest of the day lying pathetically in the back yard, begging the dog to call 9-11 instead of lick my face. Perhaps it is better to leave my illustrious gymnastics career* in the past where it belongs.
*fairly non-illustrious, and cut short because I fell on my head
Portrait of the artist as an almost five-year-old
We did it, people! We survived winter. Our long national nightmare is over. Give yourselves a round of applause, my friends. You hung in there and did the work and it shows! (It shows in sunburns from being too long at the park and too careless about sunscreen, but still. IT SHOWS.) Now it’s time for iced coffee and burning the children’s snow pants in a celebratory bonfire and pretending there aren’t horrifyingly large spiders suddenly appearing in your basement, the kind where if you throw a heavy file folder on top of it because it’s moving pretty quickly and the file folder is the item closest at hand, you half expect the file folder to start crawling across the floor, powered by a spider who once was only huge but is now both huge AND pretty angry.
Since we last chatted, the kids finished barfing and then a week later I had food poisoning, and then a week after that Zach had what was I worried might be pneumonia (again) but turned out to only be a terrible ear infection (related: the world’s saddest yet most hilarious sight is a toddler full-on sobbing during a chest x-ray but pausing briefly to say “cheeeeeese!”) and all of this makes me wonder for the thousandth time why the anti-vaccination people are anti-vaccination. Obviously there are a number of complex reasons (based on faulty science) (I’m not prepared to discuss this, so please feel free to chat with someone else about this issue because I can’t be rational about it) and obviously the things children get vaccinated against are far more serious than an ear infection, but I so very much hate seeing my kids sick and miserable that I am pretty sure I would vaccinate them against just about anything. I would vaccinate against the common cold. I would vaccinate against car-sickness. I would even vaccinate against that thing where a kid says they can’t find their stuffie so you help them look for it, only they don’t look for the stuffie, they just follow you around and provide colour commentary while you look. Big Pharmaceutical, how can we get moving on this? Call me.
Carol and I are not currently on speaking terms. She (or one of her hooligan bunny friends) has eaten every single one of the crocuses we planted last fall and I was so excited to see come up this spring. It is an outrage.
Late Breaking Carol News: Carol has been spotted! And I think she has been eating our crocus bulbs. So really it is a good news / bad news sort of situation. I am going to try to focus on the good news (Carol is alive; the crocuses were starting to bloom, which MUST mean that spring is going to arrive eventually) and less on the bad news (I was so excited about the crocuses) because this week has already been the sort of week where you find yourself saying, “UGH, THIS WEEK” when it is only Tuesday. It is rainy and cold, the world seems like a truly terrible place (bombs and explosions and bigotry and cancer and misogyny and the fact that a sequel to Frozen has been announced but there’s very little chance it is going to be called “Frozen 2: Big Trouble in Little Weaseltown”) and the kids have been extra difficult, and our household is suffering from varying degrees of some sort of stomach bug, which meant that today I was unable to attend a funeral in support of one of my oldest friends who had a significant loss, and while it’s not like my presence would have actually made any sort of noticeable difference, I still felt a wave of, “UGH, THIS WEEK” when Zach started barfing last night. Things feel kind of grey today, in spite of the good news re: Carol.
“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh.
“There there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”
I don’t feel very much like Lauren today, and I think the kids don’t feel much like themselves either. Ellie said to me yesterday, “You know, Mommy, I really, really like Christmas, but I am ready for it to not be winter anymore.” We are on the same page there, kiddo. I think she feels a little bit betrayed, because we had a lovely, wonderful vacation in Florida, and then we returned home and we don’t have a pool and there are no princesses to sign autograph books and she has to wear snow pants, which will certainly go down in history as the most uncomfortable piece of clothing ever to exist. I think the whole purpose of snow pants is to exacerbate cases of Post-Vacation Letdown amongst the kindergarten set.
But we’re managing, right? It’s not so bad, and it won’t last forever. The last few weeks of winter always feel this way. So we’ll survive on homemade chicken noodle soup (which I made while listening to the “Mom Jeans Jams” playlist on Google Play; there are very few things I love as much as making soup while listening to music that is objectively terrible) and we all have clean pajamas to wear and Friday is a holiday and maybe there won’t be any barf laundry tomorrow.
The bed we got for Luna is positively INFESTED with children.
We had our very first report card in our house last week. Kindergarten report cards are kind of weird, in that they say things like “Ellie can recognize this range of numbers” or “Ellie shows an interest in story-telling” but those comments are essentially meaningless in terms of actually evaluating your own kid’s performance unless you know what the learning outcomes are supposed to be for this age, which I don’t. I know she’s a smart, capable kid who is doing well in kindergarten with the exception of a few small things, so there wasn’t anything I didn’t expect, and it was really fun to read the report card — but the whole report card thing in general caught me a little by surprise, emotionally, because I swelled a little bit with pride at her accomplishments and her demonstrated enthusiasm for school, and then I got a little teary-eyed when I read the comment at the end that said she is very kind to her classmates and is very helpful to them. It makes me (almost) not care about the other parts. My kid is a nice kid. How wonderful!
Later that day she showed me her new bookmark, which she had earned by writing a book and going down to read it to the ladies in the school office, and I was so proud. I think she has a bit of a creative temperament, though, which I recognize in myself. We’re getting ready to head off on vacation soon, and the other day she looked around the playroom and said wistfully, “Mommy, I’m really going to miss this place.”
And! Speaking of melodrama! I have some sad news about Carol, guys. Well, I suppose it’s technically only sad if you’ve become at all invested in the survival of the bunny that occasionally hangs out next to our neighbour’s house, so this is an update for a niche market, but I am going to post it anyway in case you fit into that very specific demographic. I haven’t seen Carol since I posted about her triumphant reappearance in December. Possibly she has met another bunny and fallen in love and they’ve had a bunch of baby bunnies and are occupied with caring for them and are too tired from getting up in the night to hang out next to my neighbour’s dryer vent (#cherisheverymoment). But … possibly not. And we may never know. This sounds like a good story idea for season 3 of Serial.
My winter look: suffused with ennui
Have you ever noticed how winter is terrible? It’s just the worst. We got a bit of a reprieve this year, since winter didn’t really even start until January, but I have already had enough. I have had it up to HERE, where “here” is my windburned face, arranged in an unattractive grimace. At first I thought I might finally learn to love (or at least tolerate) winter, because Zach’s level of enthusiasm for winter was the same as his level of enthusiasm for just about everything else (i.e. high) and really, CAN one continue to hate winter when accompanied by a two-year-old who exclaims things like, “A ball! Of snow! It’s so WONDERFUL!” The answer is yes, yes one can, and as of yesterday Zach is now on Team Winter Haters. The wind was so cold when we walked over to get Ellie after school yesterday that he sobbed himself into an asthma attack and then coughed so much he barfed. (“Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption.” <=== Plot summary of The Revenant, or a description of our daily 5-minute walk to and from school?)
I bought a hair straightener online and the product is wonderful (you just run it through your hair like a brush! it is super convenient because that’s pretty much the limit of the amount of time/effort I’m willing to commit to having nice hair) but even more wonderful is the set of poorly-translated instructions it came with:
- Please don’t put too much hair, if put more, in the control process it will slow down the speed, the effect is obvious.
- Fast Hair Straightener use a different direction, for personal use, with the personal habits.
- Do not self-transformation, demolition, repair the product.
- This product cannot be put into the fire or external heating.
- Do not wet or in the bathroom, wet water area places.
On the way to school this morning, Ellie asked me why boys don’t wear dresses. I told her they certainly could, if they wanted to, and that some do. She asked why most don’t (this was very confusing for her, because in her mind, dresses = awesome, so who would choose NOT to wear a dress if it really was a valid choice) so I told her, “Well, it’s a whole thing called ‘toxic masculinity’ and it’s because of something called ‘the patriarchy’ …” and she said that Zach looks really pretty when they play dress-up in her princess clothes, and I agreed, and once again I was reminded that when you’re four, complicated topics really aren’t that complicated. You smash that patriarchy, kiddo.
Stupid ugly winter
Sometimes when it’s -20C with the windchill and you pretty much have to coat your face in a liberal layer of vaseline before walking your daughter to school because otherwise you’ll end up with an unattractive case of windburn that will startle you every time you walk by a mirror (“why do I have a hideous rash? what am I allergic to now? oh right, winter!”), there’s nothing for it but to follow several of Maui’s fancypants resorts on Instagram. Last week one of them posted a photo of a beach wedding, with the caption, “Marriage is the sunset of love.” Er … I’m not sure if their social media person really understands what the word “sunset” means. Marriage Is the Sunset of Love is going to be the title of my self-help book for unhappy couples. Sample chapters:
- I Think I’ve Made a Terrible Mistake
- Why Do You Never Listen to Me When I Talk to You
- Mark Is Just a Friend, I Swear
- At Least Mark Listens When I Talk
- Kids, This Is Mommy’s ‘Special Friend’ Mark
I think I promised to tell you about how Zach broke my nose. Have I mentioned before that he has a giant head? It’s literally off the charts in size. A few weeks ago, he was sitting in my lap and threw himself back, at which point the crown of his head connected with the bridge of my nose. It was remarkably painful and I had some bruising around my eyes for a few days, but I never went to the doctor, because … sometimes I am not a smart individual. I finally went last week, mostly to get some antibiotics for yet another sinus and inner ear infection, but the one benefit of my possibly broken nose (it was too inflamed and swollen for my doctor to determine if it actually was broken or not) is that it earned me a referral to a specialist (which I have been requesting since last winter, most of which I spent on one kind of antibiotics or another) who will hopefully be able to solve my chronic sinus issues. When it really hurts, I tell Zach, “You broke my nose!” and he usually ambles over and, after announcing “I kiss it!” plants a moist one between my eyebrows. I think at this point I can safely say that toddler saliva is not the cure for a broken nose.
I picked Ellie up from a playdate last week and the poor girl was tired and brokenhearted from leaving her friend, as she almost always is after a playdate (that girl loves HARD) so it was understandable that when she said she would like a treat when she got home and Zach told her the chocolate was all gone, she burst into tears and said, “Don’t ever say that! It is NOT NICE to say the chocolate is gone!” and proceeded to sob for the rest of the drive home. I think that was Zach’s first introduction to one of the most important and immutable laws of the universe: don’t ever tell a sad girl there is no chocolate.
To Mike, (allegedly) from Ellie
Hello! Merry Christmas Eve-Eve to you. You all look quite festive this evening. Have you already been a-wassailing? Mike is out at the late show of the new Star Wars movie and I figured this was the perfect time to catch up on the various important intellectual documentaries* cluttering up our DVR. I should probably be finishing up the remaining wrapping I am responsible for, but I outsourced some of it to Ellie last week (they had a wrapping centre in their classroom, where the kids were enthusiastically wrapping up all of the toys and activities in the room; I am fairly certain by the time Christmas break arrived there was nothing left in the classroom to actually DO as it was all covered in metres and metres of tape and lumpy paper and placed lovingly under the tree) and as you can see from the photo above, she did a lovely job, and by “lovely job” I mean “well, it’s not THAT much worse than I would do, and besides I hate wrapping gifts anyway, because nine times out of ten I cut a piece of paper that is about an inch too short to actually go all the way around the present, and it’s impossible to get the edges right, and I would much rather spend this time eating Christmas cookies!” However, she put a label on them saying they were FROM her, so any credit I would have received for the gifts will now go to her. It is a small price to pay to not have to wrap the gifts myself.
Ellie is so excited about Christmas that she is practically vibrating. She asks me about once an hour to go over the agenda for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day — this is the first year she really understands about Santa and she is VERY INTERESTED in discussing that topic. She doesn’t seem at all concerned about the logistics of Santa’s visit, however, which sort of surprised me, because she is in a Tough Questions stage (she asked me a couple of weeks ago, “Mommy, before I was in your tummy, before you were my mom, where WAS I?” Well, I … uh. That’s a … hmmm. “I’m not sure, honey, but we are very glad you’re here now!”) and also a Not Accepting Your Answer the First Time stage. Zach, of course, is thrilled by the whole thing, but he is always thrilled by everything, because he is the toddler version of Alec Baldwin’s character from Friends.
Merry Christmas to you if you are celebrating, and happy Friday if not. Let’s meet back here in January, shall we? I have to tell you about the time Zach almost broke my nose with his giant head.
*episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians
I had what I thought was some very sad news to share with you about Carol, the bunny that lives beside our house in the winter. I had already been preparing myself for this bad news, because when Ellie and I were at an exotic animal show at the library this summer, one of the presenters mentioned offhandedly that wild bunnies usually only live for a couple of years, so I reminded myself of this fact a few times in the fall, taking comfort in the fact that we got to see her for three winters and that was probably more than I could have reasonably expected anyway. One day last week as Luna and I came home from our walk, she was sniffing and pulling rather insistently in the direction of a snowdrift at the end of our neighbour’s driveway, and I discovered there was a pair of bunny hind legs sticking out from the snow. Without going into too much graphic detail, foul play was definitely suspected. By me. Although I didn’t get too close, for obvious reasons.
After I dropped Ellie off the next morning and had to flap my arms and shriek “LEAVE CAROL ALONE!” to some menacing crows perched hungrily on top of the snowbank, Mike called animal control and they removed the body. I was really sad about the whole situation. Out of habit, every time I was at the sink in the kitchen, I glanced out the window to look for Carol, and then yesterday, she was there! I gasped so loudly I scared Mike. I was very relieved and continue to think about it with joy. So instead of a sad story about Carol, I have a sad story about another dead bunny. Merry Christmas!
One day last week, Mike came home from work and I managed to go in and out of the kitchen a few times without noticing the beautiful flowers he had brought home for me (he had to actually point them out to me, and commented that I wasn’t very observant). The next day I dyed my hair purple (technically it is “black plum” and it’s not PURPLE-purple, although it was definitely different than the light brown it has been for many months) and he didn’t notice for almost 24 hours, until we were standing under the very bright lights of a church gymnasium at his company’s kids’ Christmas party. Possibly we are both a little distracted lately.
I posted about this a bit on Facebook, but I feel like discussing it further here, because it is troubling me a little bit. Ellie is doing so great with school, enjoying it and really flourishing, but she’s also figured out how to lie (thankfully she is only 4 so she is really not very good at it yet) and how to talk back to her parents in a way I naively didn’t expect for a few more years. It’s a very strange feeling to go from having her at home with me, to sending her out into the world where she will be influenced by a whole host of people, most of whom I don’t know. She’s changing! And I would say “right before my very eyes” but I don’t even get to see it happen. Which is fine! It’s normal! It’s expected! But it’s hard.
I understand this is just her growing and learning and asserting her independence, but sometimes I wonder what happened to my polite, respectful little girl. I’m so bewildered by this that it’s almost as if I thought you could do a whole bunch of excellent parenting and then rest on your laurels for a while, enjoying the fruit of your labours. Only no, parenting requires CONSTANT VIGILANCE. But then, there are little flashes that we are doing something right, even if we’re not doing everything right — yesterday after school she gave her friend a hug and said, “I love you, Emma!” — and I wonder if the growing pains are mostly mine, not hers.
This morning while we were walking to school, Ellie said rather enthusiastically, “The snow is all melting! I think it’s SPRING!” And if you ask Zach what is all over his face, he will cheerfully respond every single time, “Chocolate cake!” even though I can’t remember the last time we had chocolate cake in the house. The children, they are optimists.