About The Great Unwashed

I enjoy nonsense. I have a large family. I do bathe, just not often.

Our Family’s Paris Accord – Two Years Later

The odometer of our cargo trike clicked over to 2200 kilometers this week. As large and wonderful as that number is, the biggest achievement in our family’s journey to reduce our carbon footprint turns out to be what the bike represented. By investing in the bike and the goal of putting as many kilometers on our Nihola tires rather than our van, we made a visible commitment to ourselves and our community. That commitment has snowballed and honestly, despite doing my best to live in an environmental manner for the past ten years, this outcome was unexpected.

The thing about making large changes, for example choosing to bike over any other form of transportation, is they force you to reevaluate other aspects of your life. Since getting the bike, our family has increasingly said the words “That’s wasteful”. It makes me so proud, each time I hear my husband say that phrase or when he nods in response to me saying it. We haven’t heated or cooled our house in weeks, choosing instead to exist within the temperatures Mother Nature gives us which have been between 67 degrees Fahrenheit and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Compared to May and June last year when we lived in a tiny fourth floor walkup with no air conditioning or air circulation at all, where temperatures were over ninety degrees each night, this is easy.

The kilometers we’ve racked up on all of our bikes are peanuts in comparison to the kilometers that we have not put on our van. Previous to our family’s Paris accord, my husband was putting 25,000 kilometers on our van each year easily. Since then, we’ve done our utmost to avoid long trips to the nearest city which is four hours away. When a trip can’t be avoided, we schedule necessary city appointments and complete city errands while there. In spite of living more than double the distance from a major center than we were two years ago, we have succeeded in only putting 15,000 kilometers on our van this year. That’s 10,000 kilometer difference, never mind the mileage on our feet and bike odometers. In addition to this, my husband is changing jobs this year so we are hoping to cut our yearly mileage even further.

My husband, who loves convenience, has an ongoing list for the secondhand shop rather than ordering whatever he needs off of Amazon. Our three year old son talks about taking care of “living creatures”. It’s his new favorite term in reference to insects.

The most remarkable part is the way that change has spread. Tex’s family was always extremely environmentally conscious but mine has even jumped on board. After I told my Dad about the reason why we avoid palm oil and what products contain it, he stopped purchasing chocolates for us- win! My mother bought my son a second hand toy as a gift this year- I was proud of her. Ultimately, as a planet we need a lot of people making lots of little changes to their life to better the environment.

Think about yourself, is there something that you would like to try this week? Taking the bus to work perhaps? When we lived in a city with public transportation, I loved seeing the world awaken and ready itself as I sipped my coffee and watched from the bus window. Could you sleep with just a sheet or less and enjoy the feeling of the hot summer night?

Or could you go bigger – write to a governing office about your thoughts? Or maybe would you like to satisfy your curiosity about cargo trikes? Ours was purchased from the good people of Curbside Cycle in Toronto Ontario, however they ship across Canada. Before you balk at the price, consider for a moment how much your car costs. Cargo trikes are not merely a bicycle- they’re a vehicle. We use ours to transport children for playdates and groceries. My only regret with regards to our cargo trike is that we didn’t buy the larger version. By contrast I regret owning a car every time it goes in for yet another expensive oil change or repair. Especially that last action given that car payments are still being removed from my bank account monthly.

Small changes snowball, just imagine how different your life might look in two years if your family wrote their own Paris accord today. If you’d like a starting point, here is a link to our original accord.

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The Greatest Love Story of My Life : Casablanca, The Notebook, Beauty and the Beast all in one

My favourite love story doesn’t have a prince. It doesn’t feature Ryan Gosling. And shockingly, even though I love my husband to the moon and back, my favorite love story isn’t even my own- it’s my grandparents’.

What has always made my grandparents’ relationship remarkable to me was the fact that they liked each other. I grew up in a house that felt like the United States during the 1960’s Cold War, where at any moment one side might detonate the nuclear bomb of divorce and annihilate my world. Thus, the feeling of genuine friendship that my grandparents shared, formed the basis of what a loving marriage looked like for both me and my sister.

You couldn’t separate one person from another. Gran came with Granddad; their names were said together, always, because that was their life. My grandparents tackled the world head-on, side by side. They danced west coast style together, they sailed together, they biked together, they geocached together. It didn’t matter that every single one of those interests belonged almost exclusively to my Granddad, they did them together. My Gran spent her life sewing matching costumes for their nights out dancing, scrubbing the boat to ready it for a trip, preparing elaborate lunches to feed my particular Granddad during their outdoor adventures. Gran supported Granddad while he captained the ship of their life.

The way that my grandfather supported my Gran was more subtle. As a child, my sister and I would watch for his love- in the way that Granddad would come up behind Gran and hug her. Or the way that, despite living on modest means and carefully budgeting every month, Granddad insisted that they could afford a sewing machine the price of a used car so Gran could add detailed embroidery to her sewing projects. When I went to university, Granddad truly proved his love for Gran by buying her two dogs then walking the canines twice a day, every day, after that.

In the same way that my sister and I liked to bask in their love for us, we would delight in our grandparents’ love for each other. As teenagers, whenever our family traveled together, despite having our own space, somehow Diana and I would end up in Gran and Granddad’s room. They wouldn’t be paying any attention to us necessarily. My sister and I just enjoyed watching our grandparents be together.

Even the off moments of my grandparents’ marriage were endearing. The same night that Granddad unwittingly revealed Diana’s actual age (as opposed to the one on her fake ID that she carried in her pocket) to the nightclub bouncers, my sister and I sat in my grandparents’ room beforehand. Both Diana and I were ready for a night of dancing, but Gran and Granddad still had to put on their matching country Western outfits. Granddad carefully set a map on their bed of how to get to the club and said to Gran that the directions were there and could she please remember to bring them.

Fast forward to the four of us walking to the dance club, Granddad is about two minutes away from loudly declaring Diana’s underage status to the bouncers. Granddad turned to Gran and asked whether she had brought the map. “What map?” my Gran asked. “The one I said that I laid on the bed for you to bring in your purse, and you said ‘Mmmm hmmm’” replied Granddad.

“Dear, you talk an awful lot, sometimes I don’t always listen” my Gran confessed. All of us laughed and I marveled to myself how wonderful it must be to live with someone for so long that on occasion you just allow the cadence of their voice to fall around you without listening, not in an inconsiderate way but more in the manner of letting your chatty spouse talk. Then my Granddad shouted Diana’s age to the bouncers, setting off a course of events that would end with my other, paternal grandmother being dropped off by the police at midnight and the spell of goodwill was broken. Evidently we hadn’t needed the map, only a set of Ontario legislation for Granddad.

It wasn’t just my grandparents’ friendship that makes their love special to me- it was the endurance of that love. My grandparents met, married and had children in their teens. They traveled across the globe as a family when my grandfather was in the military. They lived in more places than I have, which is astounding because I’ve moved a lot in the past couple of years. And through all of that, they were together, creating stories, supporting one another.

My whole life, I’ve been fortunate to watch my grandparents live their marriage vows; for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Often I’ve marveled at the achievement of loving the same person for your whole life, choosing to endure every peak, plateau and decline together and the determination it must have taken for both of them to achieve this.

The last time I visited my grandparents, my grandfather turned to me and said “Gran and I are friends.” I smiled at him and replied “I know” because I do, their love for one another has been a fact of my life, every day since I was born. My only hope is that I can create the same caliber of love story for my own family.

Love and Thunderclouds

“Are Grandma and Grandpa at my house?” my three year old asked me as I walked him home from daycare. His grandparents had appeared the day before and stayed over to help us with our upcoming move. Tex’s parents had dropped my son off at daycare but I had neglected to inform my little boy that Grandma and Grandpa wouldn’t be there when he returned.

“No buddy, sorry” I replied.

A grey cloud appeared over my three year old’s head and I heard a clap of thunder as his face darkened. “I want to go see them!” Mini-Tex all but stamped his little foot.

I felt badly, because I understood my son’s sentiments exactly. I was raised partly by my grandparents. Every other weekend when we were small, my mom would drive my sister and me to their house. What followed were the best two days of my week, filled with love, extra attention and fun.

As we got older and started school, my favourite moment was the school secretary announcing over my classroom’s intercom “Please remind Sarah not to take the bus home today”. That announcement signaled only one thing- that Granddad was picking up Diana and me from school, then he was going to drive us to his and Gran’s house.

My grandparents were present for every important event in my life, every performance, every achievement. My grandfather left school at grade ten and only later completed his GED, so education was paramount to him. My sister and I would proudly display every one of our report cards and he would fawn over our academic triumphs.

Christmas didn’t begin until we stepped foot in their house. It didn’t matter if it was the 27th or the 29th, to heck with Santa, as far I was concerned, Christmas at Gran and Granddad’s was the “true” Christmas. To me, if my grandparents weren’t there, it was as though I couldn’t totally celebrate.

The worst part of the year came after Christmas. Each January, Gran and Granddad drove down south for twenty nine months. Or at least that’s how their winter sojourn felt to my childhood self. Like my birthday wasn’t actually my birthday until they returned. Sure I enjoyed partying with my friends, but I never truly turned a year older until I received a hug from my grandparents and the completely unnecessary congratulations of living another year.

From the outside, my son’s scowl looked like frustration and anger but I knew better. It was an expression that said “I love my grandparents and they love me and we are accustomed to being together”.

As I apologized to my surly looking three year old, I did my best not to smile and in my head, I made a mental note to talk to my husband about when we could visit his parents next because even though I’m grown up, a part of me desperately wants to see my grandparents too.

A Day In The Life of a Professional Writer

8:00 AM Drop offspring off at daycare. Feel excessively guilty when offspring cries because your job isn’t paid well, doesn’t have normal hours, or contribute anything concrete to humanity aside from the occasional laugh.

8:20 AM Eat breakfast while your computer glares at you menacingly from the corner.

8:30 AM Continue eating breakfast so that you can justify not writing for a little while longer.

8:40 AM Still eating breakfast to avoid writing. Reflect on whether writing is making you fat. Reminisce briefly about the days when you were single, not pregnant and used to have Baileys and milk in lieu of food to fuel your writing.

8:45 AM Still musing about booze. Conclude that it is a good thing that you are pregnant otherwise you might be an alcoholic.

9:00 AM Begin to write. Or rather do the pre writing step which is thinking of words to write.

9:07 AM If you were drunk all of your ideas wouldn’t seem so awful.

9:08 AM Shake off notions of being an alcoholic and begin to type words.

9:50 AM Review the work you’ve created so far.

9:51 AM Realize you are nowhere near your word count for the day and collapse into a puddle of remorse on the floor. Briefly contemplate becoming rodeo clown. Seems like a less painful profession.

10:00 AM Give up staring at your computer screen in favor of changing your sheets for the third time this week. You finished up all the other housework when you were avoiding writing yesterday.

10:25 AM Return briefly to computer, type a couple hundred more words.

11:17 AM Stew in a cloud of crippling self-doubt. Compare yourself, your work and your career to every other famous and well respected writer you can think of. Debate becoming an accountant. They always own such nice pants.

11:20 AM Call whatever family member is home and available. Keep them on the phone for as long as possible by asking increasingly personal and inappropriate questions.

12:20 PM When family member hangs up phone abruptly, attempt to decide whether there are any more words to be written. Conclude there are none. Eat again to mask your complete lack of productivity.

12:40 PM Prepare and drink a cup of coffee to kick start your creative juices.

1:00 PM The coffee has merely kick started your bladder. Make second trip to the washroom in half an hour.

1:05 PM While in the bathroom, taking the full minute and a half to wash your hands as recommended by health agencies everywhere, you recall that Ernest Hemingway used to drink seventeen cups of coffee in a day.

1:07 PM Stand in kitchen and debate whether you have enough grounds to brew the staggering amount of coffee required to fuel true literary genius.

1:10 PM Choose to settle for literary mediocrity and only make one additional cup of coffee because seventeen cups would have you flying around the room like a rapidly deflating balloon.

2:20 PM How did it get so late?! There is only an hour and a half until the daycare pick up time and you have accomplished nothing. NOTHING!

2:30 PM Type furiously to make up for the fact that you spent a day being a lay about rather than caring for your adoring, sweet offspring who want nothing more than to spend every second whether awake or asleep in your presence.

3:30 PM Success! You have more than met your word count for the day. Celebrate by calling mother to whinge about your life choices. And her life choices. Because if she had chosen a literary agent to be your godmother and been a celebrated author herself, then your life today would be simpler.

3:45 PM Reread all of your work from the past week and a half and decide that it’s rubbish.

4:00 PM Pick up lovable offspring from daycare. Wish fervently that you had put on socks before leaving the house as you watch the other parents remove their shoes at the entrance. Frantically and surreptitiously brush crumbs from breakfast from your shirt. Silently make a pact with yourself to do better and wear something aside from pyjamas in public tomorrow.

Flying Electronics and Other Talents of My Mother’s

Does anyone remember Flava-flav?

Flava Flav

This man? Who has ingeniously sidestepped the issue of strangers asking for the time by wearing it around his neck? (Photo Credit : heidibenj.blogspot.com)

He’s a national treasure. Along the same lines as Trump, or that guy who tries to bankrupt rich people by selling them tickets to a nonexistent festival.

Once upon a time, Flava-flav had a reality show. My sister and I loved it. And by loved it, I mean we were university students home for the summer in a place whose night life consisted of going out to the Dairy Queen and searching nearby bushes for our indoor cat when it got out of the house. Brampton is dead sexy, what can I say?

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The place I grew up is this man in city form. Every young person’s idea of a good time. (Photo Credit Twitter)

There wasn’t a whole lot of choice when it came to entertainment.

So there we were crashed out on the couch, and we stumbled upon a Flava-flav’s “Flava Of Love” marathon. I don’t need to tell you just how awesome twenty women competing for this wizened, Viking hat and clock wearing man’s affections are. It was akin to discovering a buffet of deep fried Mars bars. A terrible idea but to a young person, 25 seems ancient so who cares if your bad choices lead to a heart attack in four years? You should dig in. Flava-flav = great. Endless Flava-flav= the best day ever.

My mother did not agree. However my entire life, she abided by Barbara Coloroso’s advice, the former nun’s mantra is “If it’s not morally threating or life threatening: leave it be.”

During the first episode, my mother huffed at the television. In the same manner of an alligator, subtly warning its prey that they’re about to become lunch. The second episode she roared, with such primeval anger that I’m going to continue with the alligator theme – “There must be something better to watch- you change that channel now!”

It may have been the episode where one of the girls takes a laxative and poops on the floor during the Flav-a-flav equivalent of the Bachelor rose ceremony.

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Every facet of the show renders it a timeless classic. (Photo Credit Wikipedia.com)

With the same stupidity and naiveté as tourists, my sister and I ignored the danger signs and continued enjoying the low brow delights that only reality TV can provide.

The third episode is when my mother lost it, and ate the television whole like she was some sort of character out of a children’s story.

Not actually.

But my mom did step in front of the TV and bellow “If you don’t turn this garbage off now, I’m going to chuck the TV.”

Now she had our attention.

  1. Because in addition to being extremely fit, my mom was and still is freakishly strong. I joke about her bench pressing the neighbour’s sedan, but until she proves she can’t, the Grumans park carefully. It was unclear where she was going to chuck the TV; out the window or in the garbage but the fact of the matter is, in the sport of large electronics shotput, my mother is capable.
  2. My mother is a passionate person. And passionate people are unpredictable at times. Where other people jump in feet first, my mother has been known to hurtle herself backwards into life butt first. It makes for better, more interesting entrances. And good photos- as evidenced by all the pictures of my Mom throwing her backside into the ocean while surfing. In addition to being physically capable of throwing the TV out the window, my sister and I feared for the squawk box’s life and could picture our forty inch TV sailing over the deck in homage to my mother’s frustration with reality show culture. Other people might have merely unplugged the television, but my mother, who once bought her friend a live animal rather than a standard gift of perhaps socks, could be relied upon to be erratic at the best of times.
  3. My Dad would have quietly tolerated and accepted the smithereens of electronics laying on our lawn when he returned home. This was the same man who contentedly assumed his fate when in a span of less than a week, my mother, sister and I brought home a skink and two cats in succession. My Dad rocked at rolling with the punches of living with three weirdos.

Consequently, off went the TV. My mother stopped snapping her jaws and ceased bicep curling our couch in preparation for setting the Guinness Record for World’s Longest Television Throw. My sister and I still watched Flava-flav that summer but never when my mom was home.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I love you. And all of your quirks. Especially the ones that make for good blog posts. I’m allowed to watch Flav-a-flav type television now, but you’ll be happy to note that my husband sends me to a far corner of the house and forces me to wear head phones.

Also, if you curse me with your standard dastardly spell of “I hope you have a child just like you” please note that you will be called upon to hurl our television out the window and onto the patio when my children watch bad television. My pipe cleaner arms are not designed for shot put of any type.

Cowboy Holidays

I received the following text message from my hottie cowboy husband three years ago;

“My brother changed the branding/castration event so it’s now on May long weekend. I told him we’d be there. He’d love to have you ring/herding/babysitting and wants me to be the surgeon- lol. My homework is to watch calf castration videos.”

Cowboys celebrate holidays by eating lots of food and doing farm work. Sometimes this means branding and castrating, other times it’s just simple herding. Regardless, there are horses involved.

When I first met Tex my only experiences with horses had been at resort vacations with my family. Where it was like; “Here is a horse. Sit on the horse. Stay in this small pen. Now the horse ride is finished.” Even as a dyed in the wool city slicker, I didn’t classify that as horseback riding. Which was why when Tex excitedly told me that we’d be going horseback riding as one of our first dates, I was terrified.

Happily, when I arrived at the ranch I was placed on Sunny, Tex’s brother’s most experienced horse. And for an afternoon Sunny did everything he could to keep me on his back.

Climbing atop the largest mammal I’d ever ridden next to an elephant, I was nervous.

Although I don’t think my brief elephant ride as a three year old counted. Firstly it lasted less than a minute. Secondly I was with my cousin, who was my friend, but I had no qualms about throwing him off and using his tiny body as a sort of human landing pad.

On my first date with Tex, I held to the saddle, fully expecting to be thrown from Sunny’s back at any moment. By contrast Sunny stood very still, knowing that he had a newbie on his back and was expected to keep me there.

We were in a small paddock and I was expected to move Sunny around and around. What actually happened was Sunny slowly led me in increasingly small circles then decided he had had enough and stood stock still. Chip, Tex’s brother urged me to lightly push my heels into Sunny’s sides but that seemed like an ungrateful thing to do to animal that was kind enough to not throw me.

Tex and his brother mused over Sunny’s behavior “Why the hell is he acting lame?”

“Because Sunny knows who is on his back” I thought, my white knuckles clutching the loose reins and saddle.

Then we started the actual ride to check on the cattle in the far pasture. Just before setting off, Sunny shivered, causing my whole being to shake, looking back from his horse Tex said “Oh good, you stayed on” while I gripped the saddle with both hands, my eyes wide with shock.

Seeing as for the branding and castration event, I would not only be expected to stay on the horses back but also round up the calves and heifers at the same time, my and Tex’s participation in this event seemed not only unhelpful but unlikely.

“Uhhhhh” I texted back.

In the end, we didn’t go because I got pregnant with Mini-Tex and was therefore asleep. At Thanksgiving, a couple of months later, when Tex’s brother asked for volunteers to herd the cattle from their summer to winter pastures, I got out of that too. Because pregnancy. It’s one of those rare times where pregnancy is awesome.

The next year I got out of riding a horse because I had a newborn. This may have been why I chose to breastfeed my son until two and half- to get out of riding a horse. “I’m sorry, Mini-Tex may need to nurse, I can’t herd cattle for three hours.”

This story is about three and a bit years old, but once again, I’m getting out of herding and rustling because I have a newborn. Cheers to breastfeeding until age seven this time. I’m not sure what excuse I’ll have after that but you can be sure it’ll be a rock solid one.

 

Please Inscribe “She Did Actually Sleep With Tom Hanks” On My Headstone

I’m going to die. This house will kill me. Or rather my own decisions will finally catch up to me and I will perish.

There are no less than forty stairs from the entrance to our fourth floor walkup. I know because for the first two weeks that we lived here, I counted every time, wheezing “thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three…” because I was certain there were actually 400 stairs. I’ve stopped counting, which means that the house is secretly expanding and I’m actually climbing 372 steps each time to reach our apartment. I swear to you this house is like something out of Coraline.

Beldam

Did I fail to mention this demon lives in our closet? (Photo Credit : coraline.wikia.com)

It may actually only be forty stairs still. Only it’s actually double that number of steps because two year olds turn into a puddle of skin and fish crackers when told they have to exercise. Not unlike myself. So I have to first transport the groceries, or the laundry up the stairs then go back to retrieve Mini-Tex.

 

Halfway through this eighty step process, I start a running commentary: “The Great Unwashed now takes on the biggest challenge of her life- scaling Everest without oxygen. Will she collapse? Will her nose freeze from frostbite and fall off? Will she give up and demand that her two year old return the favor and carry her? The tension is incredible.”

 

For serious, this rental unit should come with a Sherpa. Because did I mention that the laundry is in the basement? Down an additional fifteen stairs? It’s like the universe is taunting me, trying to lure me over to the completely unwashed side, where laundry is cleaned but once a month, if that. Were it not for Tex’s insistence that clothing should not smell like a wild bear that’s rolled in a dead skunk, the diapers wouldn’t have even been washed- I would have just set them by the window to dry.

Please keep in mind that I climb those eighty stairs EVERY TIME I WANT TO LEAVE THE HOUSE. Ok, not every time, when Tex is home, I may collapse on the floor and insist he carry me. Once he finishes Sherpa-ing Mini-Tex back up the stairs. Regardless, on any given day, that is an absurd number of stairs.

Because let’s say for example that I want to do the laundry, go get groceries, return for Mini-Tex’s nap and then take him somewhere fun when he wakes up. That is over five hundred stairs. Unless of course I want to hang out in the basement and murdered by the dungeon goblins that live there.

Death by goblins becomes an appealing concept somewhere after the four hundredth step. Because, if I was dead, I wouldn’t have to climb anymore stairs.

Climbing five hundred stairs in a day does crazy things to a person’s brain. For example: “If I eat my child, I won’t have to carry him up anymore stairs.” Or “I wonder what would happen if I treated this jug of milk like a shotput and threw it up that flight of stairs so I didn’t have to carry it?”

For the record, Mini-Tex doesn’t have so much as a bite taken out of him and I have yet to create a UDFO (Unidentified Dairy Flying Object- because once you start hurling the milk, the yogurt and cheese quickly follows). But still, these thoughts happen.

Now if I’m discovered dead of a heart attack, you’ll know why. And you’ll also know what to write on my tombstone. Underneath in brackets please put “He was better than George.” It won’t matter that it’s not true-I’ll be dead. What will I care? But just think of all the shocked whispers from mourners passing my grave.

Addendum – We have since moved out of the sixth floor walkup celebrity closet however that doesn’t mean I have to stop writing about it. That place was a gold mine for stories and ridiculousness.

In Ten Years

My sister and I didn’t like the shots. Either the colour was off, one child wasn’t looking, or the framing was wrong.

But you know what?

None of it matters.

Because in ten years, we won’t remember any of that.

Instead we’ll look at that slightly imperfect image and think “our babies were so little”.

Or we’ll remember the moment when we first met up, stripped off the boys’ matching jackets and realized that we had almost dressed them in identical outfits.

Or the surprise I felt when I saw my brother-in-law walking in with my sister – he booked the day off work.

Or my gratitude when I watched my brother-in-law interact with all the babies and said a silent “thank you” to the universe that my sister ended up with someone so kind.

A gratitude that was almost matched by everyone’s delight when my husband showed up with a box of Krispy Kreme donuts.

I’ll remember my shock when my sister told me that she took my son down the 720 degree corkscrew slide. And that my son was the one to suggest such a thing. My little boy’s bravery was nearly outshone by his 6’6 uncle going down the same slide. I picture that giant man bursting out of the bottom like toothpaste exploding out of a tube after an elephant sits on it.

I’ll smile, when I think of the relief I felt when either Diana or I, caught one of our children wandering away out of the corner of our eye, only to see our Dad swoop in to herd the wayward child back.

And when we realized that both the toddler and the preschooler were completely toast and decided to take this imperfect picture, how both boys refused to remove their jackets afterwards until they were roasting.

All of this will be conjured up because of this imperfect photo and another set of photos which so perfectly captures the day. Right as we were leaving, Diana hopped into a photo booth with her son. Partway through, my little boy decided to crash the party. All the fun, surprise, joy, excitement and love of that day is held in that series of images. I’ll remember all of that.

The Unwashed Dating Game- Where We Pair Lecherous Old Men, Unemployed Scoundrels and Ne’er-do-wells With The Girlfriend Of Their Dreams!

Last August our au pair Janey arrived from Germany. She was gorgeous, positively stunning. To quote my mother-in-law “Janey looks like a movie star!”
As evidenced by the #MeToo movement, men always act respectfully and appropriately in the presence of beautiful young women. The gents in our town were no different. Regardless of where our family went, what we were doing or what Janey was wearing, for instance a full length parka and balaclava, men would hit on her. I’ve decided to rank their efforts, seeing as I had the privilege of witnessing all their amorous attempts to woo our au pair.

Suitor #1
The saying goes that “In spring a woman’s thoughts turn to fancy” this man clearly completed his required reading, because he knew the saying finished with “and they become randy when covered in baby puke”. I mean there’s nothing like the scent of someone else’s bodily fluids to get young people’s hearts a racing. Not only do I admire this man’s timing, I also applaud his respect for the women’s movement. Janey met suitor #1 in the hall of a hotel as she was unloading the car while I was stuck in the hotel washroom with a projectile vomiting toddler. Although she wasn’t covered head to toe in barf, most of the items she was ferrying to the hotel room were. This gentlemen looked right past all that, stuck to his feminism respecting guns and refrained from offering help, instead he asked her out.

Verdict? For his timing and gallant behavior, I award Suitor #1 three overstuffed, yogurt-puke soaked suitcases out of five.

Suitor #2
Everyone knows that weddings are a great place to pick up women, but oft overlooked meat markets are emergency rooms. There’s nothing like the shared experience of crippling abdominal pain to light the spark of romance. Holding his head in pain and smelling vaguely of feces, Suitor #2 spent a solid fifteen minutes looking at our son’s caregiver like she was a steak. Not even the presence of both her host mom and host dad or the two year old on Janey’s hip could deter this wannabe lover’s smoldering gaze.

Verdict? Suitor #2 ultimately didn’t act on his passion so I give him only one ruptured appendix out of five.

Suitor #3
Ah the May-December romance. There’s nothing sexier than a wrinkled man older than your Dad with a saggy flat butt. What young woman doesn’t want to supper at four o’clock then watch “The Antiques Roadshow” while falling asleep at seven pm? Suitor #3 recognized this and upped the ante; he showed his youthful street cred by offering to take her and another German fellow from the community for an afternoon of bird watching. This paramour also recognized that, too frequently, parents represent obstacles to young love and separated Janey from me while we were out together. His arguments were so persistent that he managed to score her phone number, ostensibly to pass along to the other young German fellow.

Verdict? I give Suitor #3 four creepy Playboy smoking jackets out of five. His persistence almost paid off had it not been for both Janey’s host mom and her mother swooping in to shout “Absolutely not!” when Suitor #3 tried to arrange a date.
Suitor #4
Now here was a man who understood what women want. Right off the bat he told Janey that he was unemployed- meaning that he had all the time in the world to devote to her. This Suitor then brought out the big guns; he complimented Janey’s caregiving abilities and intimated that she’d make an excellent stepmom to his child. As if all that wasn’t enough, he had bathed in the cologne of adulthood- alcohol. Never in her life had Janey encountered such an attractive potential mate. Suitor #4 recognized that our au pair might be overwhelmed by all his remarkable qualities so he continued to woo Janey, following her around the park. Where the previous suitor had been persistent, Suitor #4 was relentless, going so far as to follow her home when she refused his first twenty offers of a date.

Verdict? I give Suitor #4 five restraining orders out of five. He was irresistible in every way.
Although many attempted to win our au pair’s heart, Janey still managed to return to Germany single. Tragic, especially given the plethora of appropriate mates that our town was brimming with, perhaps her standards were just too high.

Failing At Being French

Some people aim for an authoritative parenting style, others a permissive, personally, I go for a Darwinian vibe in my daily life with my son. As in, if he manages not to be eaten by mountain lions, or freeze to death before age five, then he’ll probably develop the skills to survive most events in life unscathed.

Not really, but based on what happened last Easter, a person might assume that was my parenting strategy.

After finding all the eggs hidden in the house, my mother and I took Mini-Tex to the park on his brand spanking new push new tricycle. Sounds fabulous right? It wasn’t. It was Ontario, during spring, sort of, which is to say, it was windy, a little snowy without having the decency to be sunny or have any snow on the ground to reflect the meager amount of light coming from the sky.

Ontario can be a jerk like that.

As it was, my mother and I were trying to make the best of it. Enjoying one another’s company, talking while watching my son wander farther and father away from us into an open field.

I had just read a French parenting book which was all about how you should feed your children to wolves and allow them to fight for lives alone so they can develop independence. What can I say? The French are crazy, and clearly don’t love their kids. However the book claimed that if a parent did this, they could talk on the phone and drink their coffee in peace, so I was on board.

This was why when Mini-Tex wandered so far from me, inspecting all the grass in the field, I stayed put. That was when it happened- a rogue bobcat tried to eat my toddler.

Not actually. It was a suburb in Ontario. I’m not even sure they have rabbits let alone any predators. But Mini-Tex abruptly broke through a thin layer of ice covering a giant divot. It looked alarmingly like this.

The hole looked deeper than it was because when my two year old plunged through the ice, he fell on his knees, effectively soaking himself up to the armpits in freezing puddle water.

My mother and I screamed like frantic teenagers and sprinted towards him. I reached my child first and hauled his shocked little self out of the hole. “I’m chilly” Mini-Tex whimpered as I tucked him under my arm and ran with him like he was a football and I was about to score the final touchdown for the Superbowl.

My mother followed behind me. “Take the baby” she cried “I’ll get the toys”, gathering up the sand buckets and shovels we had brought to hack away at the permafrost. Without stopping to put on his helmet, or do up the safety straps, I deposited my toddler into the tricycle. Between his now soaked jacket, and his chubby toddler pudge, Mini-Tex was firmly wedged into the seat. The helmet and straps were merely a formality, a nod to our family’s respect for safety. But in the grand scheme of dangers, at that moment, my two year old was at greater risk of losing a foot to hypothermia than falling out of his new ride.

The three of us dashed towards my grandparents’ home, the only indicator of my speed was the sound of my mother’s wheezing behind me. A four time Boston Marathon alum, my mother is fast, so clearly the adrenaline coursing through my blood was having an effect on my stride.

Once inside the door, we set about stripping my frozen child. I pulled off his sodden jacket while my mother popped off my son’s boots, emptying a significant amount of frigid water onto the carpet in the process. Pants and socks were the next articles to go.

“Blankets!” my mom and I shouted as we propelled my pants-less toddler upstairs. My Gran met us on the landing with the requested item. “What happened?” she asked her voice the picture of concern. Once under the comfort of a warm quilt, Mini-Tex answered. “I fell in a muddy puddle.” He continued to tell the story all day, much to the delight of my family.

As much as I would love to drink my morning beverage in peace, I decided then that I wasn’t cut out for the French parenting style of allowing your preschooler to pilot hot air balloons alone or feed starving great white sharks hunks of steak. Quel dommage.