The Death of Dirt Squirrellery and Our New Collection of Men

People have been asking “How is Janie?” in that probing- it’s kinda weird, you have a teenager living in your house who doesn’t speak English, kind of way. To answer your question, it’s going splendidly. However my husband and I have developed a list of what we jokingly call “Au pair problems”, they’re like first world problems but worse because no one in their right mind would ever complain about them.

  1. My house is consistently cleaner than it’s ever been my entire life

I’m not a dirty person. Actually that’s a bald faced lie; Janie asked on her third day here (after having her third Canadian shower) “You shower now?” To which I replied “No, it’s only been four days” and then walked away with flies buzzing after me.

 

My house is a different story. I’m responsible for tidying, our house is generally tidy and well organized and before we got an au pair, I even thought it was clean. Occasionally Tex would have some time off work and scrub the hell out of random corners of the house that it never occurs to me to clean, you know like the microwave and then our house would be really clean. But then Janie arrived. And now our house is spotless, always. And I feel super lazy because  not only did the house never look like this when I was home full time, but I don’t even contribute to maintaining its pristine state now- I just come home and I’m smack dab in the middle of a Town and Country magazine shoot. Janie even organizes all of Mini-Tex’s toys into funny tableaus.

 

  1. Sometimes I can’t cook fast enough

Along the lines of our super clean house, Janie cleans as I cook. Before the food even hits the table, the counters are wiped, all dirtied items are in the dishwasher and the kitchen looks awesome. One night, I was about to plate some asparagus. I pulled out a bowl, rested it on the counter, turned to stir something else, and by the time I looked back, the bowl was gone. Realizing, that Janie had already whisked the bowl into the dishwasher assuming that it was sitting on the counter because it was dirty, I extracted another bowl to plate the asparagus. Then I made the mistake of checking the pork in the oven. Again, the bowl was gone when I reached for it. Not wanting to say anything, and embarrass our hard working au pair, I reached into the cupboard and saw there was one bowl left. This was it- unless I was going to shake down the shelves for another serving dish, I was going to have to keep my hands on the flatware or risk eating asparagus out of the pan. I plated the food, and within seconds Janie had transferred the plate to the table.

 

  1. Our linen closet is too small

We have a lot of towels and a smallish closet. This is normally not an issue because most of the time, a third of our towels are waiting to be washed. The first couple of weeks Janie spent with us, the primary job we gave her was bonding with Mini-Tex. We figured out an average weekly wage to pay her so she started receiving money immediately despite not actually working. Janie possesses the kind of work ethic that makes an ant look lazy, which meant that whenever we explained a part of her job- laundering the towels for example, she did it with gusto. Every other day, the towels were washed, dried, folded and shoved into a seriously packed linen closet. If a towel had so much been in the near vicinity to something dirty, it got washed.

 

Thankfully, as we’ve given Janie more hours, she has eased off on the daily washing of towels which is good because that combined with the immaculate surroundings, I might mistake my house for a hotel. This would make things awkward when the neighbours found me wandering around trying to find my home after leaving the super nice hotel where my house once stood.

 

  1. My house has become like one of those bug zapper lights but for men

On top of being hard working, lovely and amazing with children, Janie is gorgeous. Initially I had hoped to hire a chunky uggo to nip the whole “Ben Affleck taking off with the nanny” thing in the bud as much as possible but Janie was the most qualified candidate by far, hence how we ended up with a petite German supermodel.

 

Not surprisingly, the men in the area have taken note of our au pair’s arrival. At least one man has already asked her out. Luckily he did it in a teenage boy fashion meaning he was both shy, off putting and she had no idea what he was saying because of the combination of the language barrier and the mumbling tone. Unfortunately the drunk that followed her home wasn’t as easily shaken off. After talking her up at the park, this inebriated fellow decided that accompanying Janie as she walked Mini-Tex home in the stroller was the key to winning her heart.

 

A notice to all potential suitors of Janie– the bug zapper isn’t her refusal, it’s my Taser that I keep in the front hall closet.

So in response to all the interested inquiries- that is how things are going- they’re exceptionally clean, organized with a faint of aroma of one hundred disappointed men. And of course Mini-Tex adores her and thinks that Janie hung the moon. Thanks so much for asking.

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You always wanted to read my diary right?

There are a couple of people whose blogs I follow who just post about their life. I don’t know these people, yet I find myself reading about their Thanksgiving holiday (thank goodness Grammy recovered from that hip replacement.), their new kitchens (Victoria, I love that counter top) and looking at pictures of their sheep (Wooly Wednesdays- so cute!).

In lieu of an actual post, dear readers, you may peruse my diary. Only not actually, because I don’t keep a diary.

Dear Judith,

(Judith is my imaginary friend. I tried writing to myself but I was like “I know all this stuff! Why am I telling myself this?” Whereas Judith is a shut-in; she lives with her mother who is 108 years old. Judith, by contrast, is mysteriously only 42 years old. I haven’t asked her about that whole situation. Anyways, she doesn’t get out much. Judith really likes Fig Newtons, sometimes I’ll tell her about when I see a new flavour of that cookie- she gets super pumped about that. Well as “pumped” as Judith can get- it mostly looks like her neck breaking out in hives, but as her understanding and only friend, I totally get it.)

We visited Regina last weekend. When my cousins were little, they were wrestling with their Mom, everyone was having fun until someone kneed my aunt in the groin. She shut down the wrestling match immediately saying “It’s all fun and games until someone gets kneed in the vagina.” The little girls latched onto this saying immediately and would repeat it in public “It’s all fun and games” and they’d shout the last part “until someone gets kneed IN THE VAGINA!” My uncle was properly mortified by this and tried to cover it up by saying loudly “It’s all fun and games until someone GOES TO REGINA!”

Judith, I don’t think truer words have ever been spoken. My life was all fun and games, and then we went to Regina; now I feel like I’ve been squished flat by a Mack truck. Good gravy I am tired. Not as tired as your mother of course, and I’m sorry for complaining what with her flambormalistosyalgia, but man that trip was tiring.

Worth it though, when I lived in the most beautiful city in the world, it’s ugly step sister Regina, seemed quite homely. But it’s been over a year since we’ve lived in sunny Saskatoon, with the gorgeous river running through it and the bridges arching so neatly over the treed river valleys. Regina doesn’t have a river, but it’s glorified little paddling pool, Wascana lake, isn’t half bad and a lot of the neighbourhoods are quite charming. I enjoyed wandering around the city much more than I have in the past.

The marathon was also fun, don’t worry Judith, I didn’t run it. I was just there to cheer my Mom on. I met her twice; once at the six km mark and again at the 38 km mark. Mini-Tex and I ran with her for four kilometers. Ok, well obviously Mini-Tex didn’t run what with the fact that he’s a toddler and was asleep the majority of that time, but he was there gosh darn it. And I’m sure he was cheering his Gran on in his little baby dreams.

I forgot how entertaining being a spectator is. I liked cheering the people on “Go dancing pecs guy! You work that topless look!” and “Yeah beard dude- way to run with all that extra hairy weight. Keep it up!” At the very least, I made myself laugh.

Then came the 38 km mark. No one runs 38 km and feels good. Thirty-eight kilometers is an exercise in various states of pain. Some people were just getting through it. Then there was the one guy who had a funny gait, started limping and finally stopped to dry heave at the side of the road. The next stage is crying. I know because I’ve been there so I was determined to distract the man.

As he passed Tex, Janie, Mini-Tex and me, I cheered his name. I shouted “Looking strong Daniel” and he looked at me and said “No” pause “I’m not at all” then went on his painful way.

Well I wasn’t about to let that go, so I chased him down and started speed walking beside him.

“Is this your first marathon?” I asked.

“No” he wheezed “My tenth”.

“Ahh” I replied “Well I’ve run twelve or so of these and I can tell you they are EXACTLY like labour.”

I let the fact that a random stranger was discussing her labour sink in with him for a moment before moving on. “See, 38 kilometers is like the point in the labour where the nurses are all “We can see the head- you’re almost there!” and you’re thinking to yourself “Screw you jerks- I KNOW how far I have to go. That is exactly what 38 kilometers is like. So I won’t say you’re almost there but I will say you’re going to finish because in the same way that I had my son, and he’s all big now, this race will end. And even better, if you walk faster, you’ll get away from the weirdo who’s talking about child birth with strangers.”

I am nothing if not helpful. For those two minutes and likely the couple minutes after, I am certain that man was not thinking about his aching muscles or the blisters on his feet, instead he was trying to think of how to get rid of me and who in the hell gives a pep talk about babies’ heads crowning?

Judith, as always, I am inappropriately yours, give my best to your mother.

Unwashed

Illegal Felines and Crimes Against Friendship

Barbara Kingsolver, whose lifestyle incidentally I aspire to, changed her writing following living off the land for a year. According to my mother, she became sanctimonious and dull. So in the interest of avoiding said pitfall, here is an engaging story, which has nothing to do with the environment. Mom I dedicate this post to you.

I have only a sister. But growing up in a church, my family spent every Sunday morning, the occasional Sunday afternoon and every New Year’s Eve with another family, who had two boys the same age as myself and Diana. This was in addition to seeing these boys at every single church event that happened during the week. Effectively rendering Jamie and Jackie the boys in the family, the closest thing I have to brothers.

My mother and the boys’ mother Janie, often talked about how wonderful it would be if either Diana or I married one of Janie’s boys so we’d all be related. This gives you an idea of the closeness of our two families.

Janie and Lane, her husband decided to go away one weekend. My mother quickly offered to care for the boys. At home, Lane was a formidable figure. A cheapskate to the core, he preferred to risk death by pruning the fifty foot tall trees on his property himself rather than paying someone. A strict disciplinarian, things like rabble rousing, takeout pizza and pets were not permitted in his home. Jamie and Jackie knew this and followed the rules to a T.

In comes my mother, who believes that the real world can discipline children with consequences better than any parent and that every child has a right to a pet. This was the woman charged with caring for Lane and Janie’s sons for a weekend.

Friday night went off without a hitch. For the first time in their lives, Jamie and Jackie ate pizza that was delivered to the door. They covered their amazement and awe by devouring every last piece of the cheesy pie. At a reasonable hour, my mother tucked them both into the guest room bed and hugged them good night. So far so good.

It was the Saturday morning when the wheels began to fall off the cart. After a filling breakfast of pancakes topped with anything us children could think of in the kitchen including caramel sauce and maraschino cherries, my mother turned to the group of us and asked what we wanted to do that day. In a sugar induced fog, we all shrugged assuming that the weekend would consist or some combination of tag and playing at the park. “We’re going to buy Jamie and Jackie a cat!” exclaimed my mother.

The boys were dumbfounded. They knew this was not allowed. Scholarly pets like ant farms were forbidden so a cat was definitely against the rules. However the laws of their house dictated that they respect the adult in charge and for that weekend the adult was my mother so away we all went to the pet store.

An hour later Harley the cat rode home on Jamie and Jackie’s laps. The rest of the day was spent playing with the kitten, dressing him up in dolls clothes, cuddling the fur ball and in general enjoying all the perks of pet ownership. At an appropriate time, my mother tucked the boys and Harley into the guest room bed and hugged them goodnight.

The next afternoon, my mother dropped the boys off, Lane met them at the door. Clapping his eyes on the cat he demanded that we “Take it back”. “It’s an animal, not a sweater Lane” my mother replied “and besides it’s your cat.” Lane was unmoved “Take it back” he repeated as my mother brought Harley and all his accoutrements that we had purchased the day before into the house. “He’s so cute!” Janie exclaimed. “Don’t get attached, he’s going back” Lane deadpanned.

And that was how one of my mother’s closest friends got a cat. Appropriately, out of defiance for Lane, Harley is still alive. At 25, he skulks around their house, essentially just a bit of fur stuck on a pile of bones but living nonetheless.

At the age of ten, I knew that my mother hadn’t asked permission from Lane. Or even bothered to question the boys on what type of pet they’d like. But it was only at 32 that I thought to ask the most important question, after reliving the story over the phone one night. “Mom, did Janie even know?”  Still laughing from the memory of her ballsy acquisition she somewhat sheepishly confessed “Nope”.

Readers, I invite you all to suggest ways my mother can atone for her sins. Keeping in mind that she once tried to make my childhood home into a zoo, so taking in animals is NOT a punishment.

And Mom, you know that we will always love you Mrs. Flax.

Remembering Who You Are While Going Pee

It’s a thing. And not just for Moms who finally get a moment of privacy to think. In rural places, while there is some reflection involved, that statement is a reminder of the lack of anonymity in a small town.

In my marriage, I’m known for my willingness to drop trou anywhere to relieve myself. A habit that previously, was more likely to bother a black bear ambling by than a neighbor. While Smokey’s cousin might have taken umbrage with my lack of decorum in his living room, peeing in the bush had few if any consequences. The obvious ones being awkwardly located mosquito bites.

By contrast, on the prairie, where plants are plentiful but by and large short, peeing anywhere particularly by the side of the road is problematic. Tex and myself both work for the government, rendering our mugs somewhat higher profile within the community. Add in our unique cargo trike and you’ve got yourself an embarrassing story should anyone pass by whilst I crouch in the weeds.

So there we were, pedaling along the road to the national park when nature started calling. This urge coincided with Mini-Tex’s need to get out and stretch his legs. So we pulled the bikes over to an entrance to a farmer’s field and commenced exploring the roadside. The pickings were slim; a bare field, knee high weeds next to the field or a ditch. Crossing my legs and hopping from one foot to the other, I squeaked “It can’t wait”.

“Just remember who you are” Tex cautioned as he stood watching for a break in traffic. Having only just lived down my performance in the high school the day after we moved to town, when I showed up looking like a homeless person and yelling about childcare, I wasn’t keen on becoming the resident exhibitionist. After two pickup trucks and a hatchback passed, Tex gave the go ahead “there’s a break”. Already poised in the ditch I quickly dropped my pants. “Hurry that semi’s gaining speed” my husband called from the other side of the bikes. As the tractor neared, I hurriedly pulled up my capris, chuffed that in my haste, I didn’t even pee on my shoes.

After that we continued on our forty kilometer bike ride and hike. Though pleased with my ability to excrete with speed, I rationed my liquid intake so I wouldn’t have another similar pit stop on the ride home.