Author archive for Lauren Anderson

Mants

Mants!

Mants!

Zach is obsessed with plants in a way that makes Mike and I hope he will eventually become a famous botanist capable of supporting his parents in their dotage, in order to make all of this feel worthwhile (his plant obsession, not parenting in general). He is relentless in a truly hilarious way. He doesn’t just insist on identifying every plant he sees (either by shrieking, “mant!”, “tree”, or “gass!” depending on what it is), he insists that you acknowledge it as well, and if you don’t, he will continue to shriek excitedly until you say, “Yes, Zach, that IS a mant! And what a beautiful mant it is! Why, I think there might even be one HUNDRED mants here! Can you even believe it? I, myself, cannot believe it.” He used to point at specific plants while in the car, but now he just waves his arm around indiscriminately while yelling “MANT!” as though to say, “Behold the splendour of nature! Mants, mants as far as the eye can see!” We live across the street from the park but it takes us 15 minutes to get to the playground equipment, because he insists on pointing out every tree we pass and going over to pet it and admire it.

We took him to Colour Paradise a few weeks ago, a giant greenhouse that is so filled with beautiful plants that it will even impress the non-plant-obsessed among you. I have never seen Zach’s eyes get so big. Every fifteen seconds for an hour, a gleeful shout of “MANT!” rang out throughout the greenhouse, followed by one of us responding, “Yes! I see that. What a beautiful mant it is.” It was like Disneyworld, combined with the zoo, combined with a birthday party — but much, much cheaper than any of those things.

I will admit I also found myself getting a little over-excited. I am really the only member of the family that really LOVES tomatoes, and I somehow purchased NINE tomato seedlings for our little veggie garden on the deck. I also bought two different kinds of mint, although I avoided the variety with the sign that said “AGGRESSIVE PLANT! Use caution!” which made me laugh and laugh, because even though I assume they were referring to mint’s tendency to spread and take over entire gardens, it made me picture an 80-foot tall mint shrubbery looming terrifyingly over the city, the foolish scientists who created it fleeing for their lives, deeply regretting the lack of caution employed in the creation of such a monster.

Speaking of monsters, I just noticed that Luna chewed through my computer cord (which I had tossed, unplugged, down at the end of the couch) while I thought she was chewing on a bone. My charge is at 39%, so I guess it’s a good thing I already got a bunch of work done today. I suppose I will have to go read a book out on the deck. The struggle is real, my friends.

Cats and dogs (and, to a lesser extent, butts)

Reunited and it feels so good!

Reunited and it feels so good!

The cat came back! Well, not so much “came back” as “lured into the basement by our neighbour and locked in their bathroom” but the results are the same! No more missing kitty. Ellie was, of course, completely thrilled by his return, although she seemed convinced that he spent his few days on the lam hanging out at the park (why wouldn’t he? it’s the funnest place on earth) rather than hiding under our neighbour’s shed. We had a talk about making sure the door is closed so he doesn’t get the chance to run away again, but I am pretty sure he has spent the last week packing up his belongings into a bindle on a stick and will be heading out to ride the rails at the first available opportunity, because we got a puppy.

Introducing Luna

Introducing Luna

Possibly (probably) (definitely) I am crazy, but you know the old story. You’re out walking in your neighbourhood, you run into a neighbour and her puppy, you admire the puppy, your kids pet the puppy, you ask the neighbour where she got the puppy (planning to file that information away for future reference), the neighbour says the family she got the puppy from happens to still have a few left, you make arrangements to go see the puppies, and BAM PUPPY IN YOUR HOUSE. It simply couldn’t be avoided. She is very sweet and cuddly and very soft and is pretty good with the housebreaking and the only real issue we have with her right now is that she got used to sleeping in a bed at her previous home and we’re trying to break her of that habit, which is going … not that well. (We’ll get there eventually. She’s getting used to her crate bit by bit.) In some ways it feels like adding to the chaos in our house might have been completely insane (two cats! a toddler! a 4-year-old!) but it mostly feels like a manageable increase in the amount of chaos, because our house is always a mess already and it’s summer so we can spend a lot of time outside and most of the time Luna isn’t even the most destructive member of our household (she chews on the corners of books but she doesn’t, for example, unplug her nightlight and throw it against the wall, where it shatters into a zillion pieces) (Zach no longer has nightlight access, in case you were wondering).

***********

Butts, a one-act play starring Ellie, age 4

“Ellie, you need to keep eating your supper.”
“But …”
“No buts!”
“Why did you say BUTTS?”
“I was just saying I want you to eat and not give me excuses.”
“But why did you say BUTTS?”
“Because when I told you to eat, you said but.”
“I wasn’t talking about BUTTS, though.”
“Just eat your supper.”

Mickey lock

Missing: one striped kitty. Possibly thinks he is a vulture.

Missing: one striped kitty. Possibly thinks he is a vulture.

My cat growing up was a black cat named Mickey (it’s not the most creative name, but I got him when I was 12, right after a trip to DisneyWorld, and my other idea for a name was Jonathan Brandis, so I suppose Mickey did okay in the name department, all things considered, in spite of the obvious irony of naming a cat after a famous mouse) and he was a very bad cat. Well, perhaps more accurately, he was a lovely cat who did a lot of bad things. He was insanely mischevious and also seemed to be quite a bit smarter than the rest of us combined, as evidenced by the complicated hook and latch system we had to install on the patio door, lest he open it himself and escape to the back yard, where he always went immediately to the exact same patch of grass for a snack while he waited for me to catch him and toss him back in the house. (His commitment to getting outside was truly extraordinary, as was his ingenuity. If only he had used his powers for good and not evil.) I think the final version was the third or fourth iteration, after he managed to break the lock that came with the door, and then also figured out how to open the door while it was attached to the frame with a rather strong elastic.

We called this security system a Mickey Lock, and I commented to my mom yesterday afternoon that I thought we should probably install a Mickey Lock on our patio doors, because Oliver is also a cat who does bad things, not to mention a bit of a daredevil, so I assumed he would at some point escape and would likely base-jump off the deck like Norton did last summer and into the backyard below, from where he might be inclined to relive his glory days of life on the streets. Last night before bed, Mike came to tell me he couldn’t find Oliver anywhere. We assume he must have gotten out during the day when the kids were playing outside. He’s still not home, and I am trying desperately not to fret about it. Mike searched for him for hours last night, occasionally hearing the jingle of his collar in the yards and on the street behind us, but never quite managed to catch him. He eventually came home around 12:30 because there was a police car on that street and he figured pacing around in front of homes in the dark might not seem very neighbourly.

I have put a big dish of tuna in the back yard, but it is going to storm soon and I am worried and sad. I really hope he comes home soon.

Carol & U

Zach has taken on a part-time job as custodian at Ellie's gymnastics club.

Zach has taken on a part-time job as custodian at Ellie’s gymnastics club.

There is a bunny that lives beside our house. Well, I don’t actually know where she lives, but she spends parts of the winter crouched up against our neighbour’s house in an area that we think must vent warm air from inside, based on how the snow is always meltier in that area than elsewhere. I can’t tell if she is tame or wild, but she looks to me like she might have been somebody’s pet, which is a moot point because she won’t let me get anywhere near her so it’s not like I could rescue her if she did indeed require rescuing. Anyway, she disappears for quite a while every winter, and every spring when she reappears I am quite relieved she survived the winter. I named her Carol. I am sure she is even more relieved than I am that she made it to spring again this year.

I was reading a book last weekend called “The Husband’s Secret” (great book, highly recommended — I’ve been binge reading this author’s books all week and they are so entertaining and clever I just can’t stop) and after the wife discovered the husband’s secret, which was a truly terrible, horrifying, SHOCKING secret, they stayed up all night talking about it, working through why he did what he did and why he was so desperate to keep it a secret and what they were going to do next. The whole time I was reading this section, I keept thinking to myself, “Wow, they are going to be SO tired in the morning.” The other night I had a dream that I met Ruth Bader Ginsberg and then she texted me a book recommendation and everyone I knew was so jealous I was BFFs with such an awesome, powerful woman. The next night I dreamed I was lost in the woods — I had a map, but the area I was in was mysteriously not even ON the map. The following night there were guns. Long story short, if Mike wants to tell me a horrifying secret, now would probably be a good time, because I don’t think I would be interested in staying up all night to hash things out.

You may remember I was fretting the other week about how to divide my attention between the kids, when it feels like I spend so much time taking care of basic crowd control with Zach and Ellie is so content to entertain herself that I feel like she gets the short end of the stick. (For example: Tuesday morning, I had to change his clothes right before we left the house because he had soaked his sleeves playing in the toilet. When we went to leave our Tuesday morning activity, it took me at least five minutes just to get his coat on, because he kept running away from me. After his nap, he disappeared for a minute and I found him playing in the cat litter. While I was on the phone with my mom complaining about how frustrating the day had been, he dumped a basket full of vitamins on the floor. I’m sure there was more, because that sounds like a very incomplete list, but you get the idea. He is so cheerful! So happy! So cute! So stinkery.) Gymnastics on Wednesday mornings is a perfect example of when I wish there were two of me — I spend the whole hour chasing him around, usually out in the lobby area, and never get to see Ellie actually do any of her gymnastics. Yesterday she told me proudly on the way there that she was going to be brave and go upside down on the bars, and I tried to keep an eye out for when they were going to do that so I could watch, but Zach was emptying out the lost and found baskets and I missed that whole rotation. (Thankfully I have another chance because this week they didn’t do the upside-down part that Ellie is normally afraid of.)

I decided today that I am going to send Zach to the sitter’s on every other Wednesday until Ellie is done the spring session of gymnastics. I can watch her, and then we can spend a few hours in the afternoon working on stuff like her letters and numbers. I keep reminding myself that fair doesn’t necessarily mean equal, and the way the spacing worked out, they each get two years with just me, and two years where they have to share me, so I guess it is mostly equal even if it doesn’t feel that way.

This song (One Direction singing a song about the letter U on Sesame Street) is the current hotness in our house. Zach is obsessed, which means I spend a lot of time wandering around the house singing, “U for utensils in Grover’s hands / U is for uncles but not for aunts / U there are U’s on these underpants / letter U-U-U, that’s what makes you so useful!” I think I am developing a slight crush on One Direction. It is embarrassing. Also, Ellie has said to me several times, “I like the boy with the floppy hair, Mommy. The one with the red and grey shirt. He’s my favourite.” So I guess the boy band thing starts early.

Not the peel, then

Zach is so over winter

Zach is so over winter

We have reached the point of winter where I have started browsing real estate listings in Maui and openly weeping, while also eating miniature Cadbury eggs. The kids are sick again! Desperate, angsty exclamation point! I took Zach to the doctor for the forty-thousandth time yesterday, and when I asked the doctor, “I know little kids are adorable petri dishes, but I feel like Zach has been sick ALL WINTER? Is this NORMAL?” he chuckled and said yes, especially since he goes to daycare, but he will have a robust immune system later. I strongly believe that since they only go to daycare two days a week, they should only come down with 20% of the potential bugs that are going around, but apparently that is not how the immune system works. I suppose this is just another one of those phases I should be cherishing, because in 20 years, when the kids are grown and never call or visit anymore, I will wish I had a toddler around who could sneeze directly into my open mouth.

**********

Ellie, while singing along to Taylor Swift: Mommy, what does “I can make a bad boy good for the weekend” mean?

Me: It means she has plans to spend the weekend engaged in wholesome activities with a good friend. It also means I need to be more careful when selecting music for the car.

**********

Ellie: Mommy, what’s your favourite part of the banana?

Me: The … inside part?

Ellie: WHAT part?

Me: The … part you eat?

Ellie: You mean the soft part?

Me: Yes! The soft part.

Ellie: So not the peel, then?

Me: No. Not the peel.

Ellie: Hmm. Okay.

Divided attention

It's good to have a hobby.

It’s good to have a hobby.

Zach is currently obsessed with taking things out of things. (He has not yet developed a corresponding obsession with putting things back INTO things, so our house is always in a state that was once described by my friend Heather as, “If we suddenly disappeared, the police report would definitely say there were signs of a struggle.”) We have spent a lot of time this week in the bathroom, with me sitting on the floor, drinking tea and supervising the removal of all of the items from one of the cupboards, and him gleefully bringing me each item, one at a time, so I can identify them for him. “That’s lotion. That’s lotion. That’s … also lotion.” It appears as though I might have a lotion hoarding problem? If the end of the world comes in fire instead of ice, and everyone’s skin is a little dry, feel free to stop by our house. Zach will have all of the lotion lined up on the edge of the tub for you.

While we are in the bathroom, Ellie is often colouring, or watching unboxing videos on the iPad (do you know about those? they are … very weird, and very popular with kids Ellie’s age), or playing with her legos, or any number of things she is content to do alone. I feel like I was poorly prepared for this stage of parenthood, where one kid ends up getting the shaft, quality-time-wise, because the other kid is in a stage where he or she (he) needs more attention. If I don’t watch Zach every single second, he will destroy something or climb up and then fall off something or pour something out on the floor and then splash around in it. Often he manages to do those things even WHILE I am supervising him. (He is VERY FAST.) It’s hard to find the time to do the things with Ellie that I want to do, and I feel like my time is running out, because she starts school in September. I often feel guilty or sad about not being able to divide my attention more evenly. Possibly I will have to send him for a few bonus days at the sitter’s, so I can spend some quality time with her.

In spite of the insanely cold temperatures, it has been so sunny lately that I can almost believe that spring will come eventually. We are already two-thirds of the way through February, which is empirically just the WORST month there is, so there’s only, what, another six weeks or so before things start to melt? I am feeling very enthusiastic about that. It is only a matter of time before the tulips start to poke their way up around the tree in our front lawn, which is one of my very favourite things in the whole world. It makes me want to plant tulips everywhere.

Arachnaphobia-phobia

Just a gratuitous baby photo to counteract the gross subject matter of the second paragraph

Just a gratuitous baby photo to counteract the gross subject matter of the second paragraph

Like much of this part of the world, we had a snow storm last night. My conservative estimate would be that about fifty million feet of snow fell overnight and into this morning, but it is currently sunny and the kids are at daycare and I have already accomplished most of my to-do list with an hour and twenty minutes left of childcare, so I am feeling the temporary satisfaction of actually being on top of things for once. I am also feeling cozy because I haven’t yet left the house today (Mike dropped off the kids this morning) but that feeling will also be temporary. Perhaps I should use the next hour and eighteen minutes to figure out the final details (okay, ALL of the details) of my get-rich-quick scheme, which will allow us to move to Hawaii, where I can post casually smug Facebook statuses like “Just got back from a 5K run along the ocean! Smoothie for breakfast, made with mangoes from our own tree. So blessed!” while the rest of the world shovels and grumbles and shivers.

Do you ever have a memory of something that wasn’t particularly traumatic at the time, but scares the stuffing out of you in hindsight? As I was trying to fall asleep a few weeks ago, my semi-conscious mind reminded me of the movie Arachnaphobia (thanks, brain! very conducive to sleep) which I have a vague memory of watching with my cousins many years ago. The IMDB tells me that movie was released in 1990, and assuming we watched it right away when it came out on video the following year, we watched it when we were 10 years old. I don’t remember being overly frightened by it at the time, but as I was lying in bed on the night I was thinking of it, I recalled a scene where a man was watching TV in the dark, eating popcorn out of a big bucket. The scene ended with one of the giant horrifying spiders crawling into the bucket, and when the scene returned to this man’s living room, he was dead and the giant horrifying spider CRAWLED OUT OF HIS NOSE. Incidentally, the trivia section on the movie’s IMDB page introduced me to the term “bird-eating tarantula” which might just be the most terrible combination of three words I can think of. I am not sure I am going to recover from this trauma.

Maudlin

"What does a guy have to do to get some chicken around here? The service in this place is terrible."

“What does a guy have to do to get some chicken around here? The service in this place is terrible.”

I commented to Mike a few minutes ago that I wanted to post on my blog because otherwise there wouldn’t be ANY posts at all for the month of January, but I couldn’t think of a single thing to talk about. He helpfully suggested that I could write about my new year’s resolutions. The only one I made this year was to post on the blog every week. So. That’s going well.

Possibly I am not in the mood to write much today because I am feeling a bit maudlin. We’re in the process of cleaning out all of the clutter in our basement so we can get started on finishing it (by “we” I mean Mike and my dad and a plumber and possibly some other professionals I am unaware of at this point) so I spent a lot of time today sorting through the boxes of clothing Ellie has outgrown that were stashed under the stairs. If you’re ever looking to weep over the ceaseless passage of time, I suggest sorting through baby clothes. Small children are so rude, growing so big in such a short period of time! This week we also received our package to register her for junior kindergarten, so if anyone needs me I’ll be curled up in the corner, dabbing my tears with a tiny purple sleeper.

How the Brunch Stole Christmas

mug

Beautiful mug, 1 of 6

Years ago, my friend Anna posted a photo on her blog that featured a mug that was so beautiful I instantly emailed her to say “!!!!” She told me where I could find them, but they were really expensive and only available in a 4-pack, which was sadly incompatible with my desire to not spend a fortune on mugs, plus the general structure of my mug collection, which could be described as “way too many mugs, but only one of each”. A couple of weeks ago, I saw those same mugs on Zulily, and they had one colour (brown) available as a single mug! It was not as beautiful as the pink ones that Anna has, but even so, I think the amount of time that elapsed between seeing the mug and clicking the Submit button on my purchase was maybe about 30 seconds. I picked my mug up at the post office this morning, and they sent me … more than one. SIX! I don’t need six mugs (Mike, who regularly laments the crowded state of our mug cupboard when he unloads the dishwasher, would say I don’t even need ONE mug, but he could not be more wrong) so I am trying to figure out what to do with them. I have had incorrect shipments from Zulily before, and their response is always just to keep the wrong item, so I doubt they would want them back even if I offered. Luckily it is the Christmas season. I kind of feel like Oprah. You get a mug! And you get a mug! And you get a mug!

I saw the most epic pile-on on our little town’s Facebook group the other day, all in the name of Christmas spirit, and I still feel a bit bewildered and sad about it. Someone who lives on our block has a rather festive display of flashing Christmas lights accompanied by music, and the owners of that house apparently got a complaint via the township’s bylaw enforcement office, at which point they posted on the Facebook group to … I’m not really sure. Complain? Try to find out who made the complaint? Garner support for their light display? At any rate, it really quickly devolved (as things on the internet tend to do) into some sort of holiday-themed madness. Over the course of just a few hours, there were 50+ comments, half of which expressed their delight/enjoyment of the lights, and half of which called the anonymous complainant nasty names and even said things like whoever it was clearly wasn’t born here (there is a long history of animosity here between people who grew up in our town and people who didn’t, so I hope that was what was intended, because that is just xenophobic rather than actually racist) and doesn’t DESERVE to LIVE in our tiny town (a town which, it should be noted, claims on the sign on the main street to be “The Friendly Town!”). The nastiest comments all seemed to mention the anonymous person’s evident lack of Christmas spirit, the irony of which seemed to escape everyone. I can’t stop thinking about it. I stepped in at one point because I felt like I needed to stick up for the little guy (even though I don’t know who the little guy is – for all I know, he or she really IS a jerk) but that mostly fell on deaf ears.

We had Zach at the ER last weekend for what turned out to be a really nasty case of croup. That is an experience I would rather not repeat. I had always heard croup was a bad barky cough, but what we experienced sounded very much like a baby who really couldn’t breathe, so I am grateful for a relatively close hospital and oral steroids and for the ability to just swipe his health card and receive whatever treatment we need and never ever receive a bill afterward. This baby, though. NICU stay! Pneumonia! Croup! It is not good for the nerves.

We bought a copy of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the animated version narrated by Boris Karloff, not the decidedly inferior live-action version starring Jim Carrey) and Ellie has been quite taken with it, although she refers to him as the “brunch” rather than the “Grinch” which certainly makes the story seem a lot less menacing, doesn’t it? Scary green guy with heart two sizes too small breaks into homes in Whoville to replace Christmas trees and stockings with mimosas and French toast and hashbrown casserole!

Thunk

WebMD said that hot drinks are good for a sinus infection, so this is a MEDICINAL peppermint mocha

WebMD said that hot drinks are good for a sinus infection, so this is a MEDICINAL peppermint mocha

First of all, thanks for the paint suggestions. It is nice to have more choices to dither over. I like the idea of plum, and toasted marshmallow sounds both delicious and visually pleasing. Hopefully the paint consultant will help us narrow it down, because both Mike and I aren’t very good at picturing how things are going to look. Wow, that was a boring paragraph. Perhaps I can liven things up with some exclamation points. Further paint updates as they become available! Stay tuned!

The other morning while I was helping Ellie put on her coat, Zach figured out how to unroll the toilet paper. (Apparently you have to watch babies all the time?) He continues to be a cheerful, adorable menace to society. He has figured out how to climb up on the couch, but in spite of repeated lessons from both Mike and I, he has yet to figure out that the best and least injurious way to get off the couch is to slide off on his belly. (He much prefers to sit on the edge and accidentally tip off, or else dive head first from the front of the couch or the arm, in all cases to be caught midair by his mother, whose life is shortened by a few minutes every time this happens.) It seems to me that baby milestones should come in pairs, such that when a baby learns a skill he or she also learns how to perform that skill safely, but nobody consulted me when the plans were being drawn up. He also continues to bonk his head on the ground with somewhat alarming frequency. Earlier this evening we heard the usual *THUNK* sound coming from a few feet away, and Mike asked, as he scooped up a crying Zach and inspected his face, “Oh no, where did you bonk?” Ellie responded in an exasperated tone, “He bonked over THERE, on the floor, beside the table.”

We are only one month into winter, and so far we have had some sort of mutant virus that caused pneumonia (Zach), a double ear infection (Ellie), lingering cold symptoms (Mike), and a sinus infection (me). I am trying to distract myself from the despair I feel over winter in general with pleasant thoughts of Christmas, so I’ve been shopping and Mike has been decorating (we bought new Christmas lights, which Mike put up this morning on what ended up being a very unseasonally warm day). We took the kids to Mike’s company Christmas party, which was a fun time, although the man who played Santa (an employee who grows out his beard each year in order to fill this role) was greeted with a great deal of skepticism from Ellie, on account of he had a short beard, and not a “big huge beard” as per all of the photos and illustrations she’s seen of the big guy in red. She wasn’t upset, but remained HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS of the fraudulent Santa throughout the party and refused to take a photo with him. The other day she asked “What is God?” and “Where did my flu shot GO? I can’t see it anymore!” and “Do you think we should probably build a snowman?” so perhaps all of the thunking and couch-diving is a bit easier in some respects.