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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

The Amazing Race – The Family Edition

Remember that post where I confided that I would never do the Amazing Race because it would likely result in my or Tex’s death? Well I ate my words because shortly after that we embarked on the challenge WITH OUR SON. Only not exactly, because Phil Keoghan wasn’t there to stand at the finish saying “Man, you guys made it just under the wire and phwwwwooooar what is that smell? Unwashed, you know you can bathe at the rest stops, they allow time for that.”

The justification for this endless trip was that Tex had a conference in Newfoundland therefore we should explore the province. The wrench in the works was that a nonstop flight from here to Newfoundland was EIGHT HOURS. I’m going to retype that so you can picture the bloody carnage from stuffing me into a small space for that long. EIGHT HOURS.

Tex would have been able to poop from at least five new places on his body from being ripped so many new @#&holes had we chosen to fly for eight hours straight. My son would start talking like he worked on an oil rig after hearing me use so many curse words; “Mother of &!#$, grilled &%$#?% cheese again? Aw hell.” After three hours on a plane, I become a rabid caged animal with a filthy vocabulary. This necessitated a stopover in the throbbing metropolis where my family lives. Thus the Amazing Race the Family Edition began

The Race : To and from Canada’s Most Eastern Province In Search of Adventure and The Best Places To Pee In A Bush

The Team :

Unwashed, whose hygiene habits make her the ideal candidate for not showering for days while traveling from place to place.

Tex, whose patience and problem solving skills will be tested during this competition. Mostly by his wife.

Mini-Tex has the ability to sleep anywhere; this quality will be exploited by his adventuring parents.

The First Leg : Location – Toronto             Duration : 8 Days

Challenge – Ride a combination of six trains, a bus, a subway and two streetcars to have coffee, dinner and a chess game with twenty-seven separate people. Mini Challenge for Mini-Tex – Terrorize his grandmother’s cat.

Commentary : Unwashed bravely took on this leg by herself. It was a marvel the way she refrained from punching cars in anger when Torontites cut in front of her stroller in the rain. Likewise Mini-Tex handled his challenge with aplomb using a combination of yelling “Cat! CAT!!!” and playing a one sided game of catch with the feline using a dodge ball.

Second Leg : St. John’s                  Duration : 5 Days

Challenge – Keep ahold of the stroller on enormously steep hills and consume the contestants’ body weight in fish following hiking up three thousand stairs. Also look somewhat professional for Tex’s conference.

Commentary : There were a couple of anxiety filled moments with the stroller where it was a millisecond away from careening out of control but the couple showcased their fitness and speed through their reaction times. Mini-Tex once again proved that he is the world’s best sleeper by snoozing through the 684,000 steps down Signal Hill and the 1,239,000 steps back up Signal Hill. Supposedly there are an equal number of steps down as up, but contestants always report that going up is twice as hard particularly with an unconscious toddler on your back. Unwashed received a standing ovation when she made it through the entire conference without tucking her skirt into her tights.

 

Third Leg : Traytown- Grand Falls – Woody’s Point                        Duration : 8 Hours

Challenge – Keep all contestants happy and alive while driving across the second smallest province in Canada

Commentary – The contestants almost narrowly failed this challenge when they chose to stop at the gas station/restaurant/karaoke bar/convenience-store/church for supper. In general, the greater the number of slashes in a restaurant’s name, the greater the likelihood of walking away with food poisoning. Luckily what the contestants were served could not be categorized as food, so they were saved.

Fourth Leg : Woody’s Point                         Duration : 5 Days

Challenge – Hike until the contestants’ legs fall off or until one of them is discovered frozen in a snow bank.

Commentary – All three contestants made a valiant effort towards the goal. Most notably hiking along cliffs, up an 800ft waterfall and attempting to scale Gros Morne. They got points for skirting avalanche areas but alas no one was discovered in a snow bank.

Woody Point Sub Challenge – Locate, kill and eat a softshell crab

Commentary – Not surprisingly for those who have read Cowboy Cookin’, Unwashed was the weakest link during this challenge, refusing at first to touch the sea creatures and then showing hesitation about pulling their legs off. Mini-Tex stepped right up to the plate, removing legs with abandon and zooming the legless crab body around the dinner table like a NASCAR.

Fifth Leg : Cornerbrook                                 Duration : 2 Days

Challenge – Meet a childhood friend and terrorize yet another cat.

Commentary – Once again Mini-Tex readily met his challenge with gusto, chasing Unwashed’s friend’s cat around the house and then perching on the stairs yelling “CAT! CAT!” when the irritated feline retreated to the basement.

Sixth Leg : Cornerbrook – Grand Falls – Traytown                      Duration : 10 Hours

Challenge – Listen to the Frozen soundtrack on repeat until everyone begins making plans to assassinate Olaf.

Commentary – The crew achieved their goal and was rewarded with a hearty meal of stuffed squid when they arrived in Glovertown although none of them ever want to build a snowman again.

Seventh Leg : St. John’s – Take Two                                            Duration : 4 Days

Challenge – Eat each contestant’s weight in seal.

Commentary – This challenge demonstrated the extent of Tex’s selflessness; upon discovering that seal meat tastes like wet dog fur, both Mini-Tex and Unwashed refused more than one bite. Tex took it upon himself to consume seal flipper pie, seal flipper stew, seal flipper soup and seal flipper sausage. Mini-Tex and Unwashed took to the playground while this was occurring so Tex could eat the goods(?) and then air out the smelly apartment afterwards.

Eighth Leg : Toronto then London, Ont                                    Duration : 3 Days

Challenge – Visit with Grandpa, see real dinosaurs, jet off to London and baptize Mini-Tex in front of a confused congregation.

Commentary – Real dinosaurs were seen with ease, and Ferris wheels were ridden multiple times. Generally children are baptized in front of parishioners who know them. Given that Tex, Unwashed and Mini-Tex are nomads, this becomes challenging.

Ninth Leg : Toronto to Winnipeg                                               Duration : 3 hours

Challenge – Unwashed needs to survive the flight without a working television (Damnit West Jet) while flying alone with a toddler and refrain from sinking her teeth into the arm of a fellow passenger in frustration.

Commentary – There were a couple of close calls with the fellow passengers especially the woman who wore vanilla scented perfume but the contestants survived.

 

So there it is, four and a bit weeks away from home. I won’t be repeating that. Although that’s what I said last time.

Please Don’t Read This. Go Watch The Canadian Version of C-Span Which Is 50% More Boring Than The American One. That Sounds Like More Fun For A Good Time Than This Blog Post

I don’t know why people like reading these stories. They’re kind of akin to reading a boring person’s diary – “Ate a banana today. Was mushy. Should have made muffins instead.” But here it is, back by head-scratchingly popular demand, an account of our holidays.

Also, for all those who are like “Christmas? You’re writing about Christmas?” Please keep in mind, I have a newborn. All of you will be LUCKY to receive those cards I send out with the reindeer on the front wishing you a “Happy Holiday” in June.

One of the benefits of going to Winnipeg for two weeks last December was Santa. Our town has a Santa. Sort of. He meets once a week for two hours after dinner. And he’s…….. Well he’s….. Our Santa tries . . . .

I don’t know how to put this tactfully because invariably someone from town will read this and be all “Hey that’s my brother/cousin/son-in-law/Dad you’re talking about.” And that is not my intent. I know that the Santa is a volunteer, or more likely was voluntold, but at the same time. . .

Ok, something to remember is, I used to work for Disney. Meaning that I know all about the business we call show. I was not the greatest performer, but I stayed in character, I played the part and I took pride in my appearance and costume. There were countless other performers who were better than me; I watched them, I aspired to be like them and failed miserably. So really, I live in a glass house and am throwing stones. So I encourage you all to chuck boulders in my direction. Aim for the squishy bits- there are lots, did I mention I just had a baby?

Aside from the fact that our town’s Santa’s beard was fake, and that he didn’t have a moustache and didn’t bother to whiten his eyebrows. Aside from all of that, his hairy ankles stuck out of the costume. It wasn’t his fault, but I probably would have borrowed big boots to play the part. He also had trouble staying in character. That and last year, our town’s Santa was totally over eager about inviting our gorgeous au pair to sit on his lap. She declined in case you were wondering.

After that experience last year, I decided that Mini-Tex was going to have a proper meeting with Santa. In October before Christmas, I started Googling places in Winnipeg to meet Santa. Reading this, you’d think that I was one of those super organized mothers. I’m not. I routinely show up late and my son often wears his previous meal on his face in public. And then kisses people. Because he’s a toddler. For serious, someone give me a Parenting Razzie please.

Anyway, I discovered that you can prearrange a meeting with Santa in Winnipeg, meaning that you can skip the giant line. Amazing. Except I couldn’t make the site work. This meant that two days before we were supposed to leave for Winnipeg, when Tex asked me what time we were supposed to meet Santa, I said we didn’t have a time. Remember what I said about being disorganized? Cue my husband logging into the site, making the internet work and arranging a meeting. Only not a good time slot because there weren’t any left.  It was in the afternoon, thus Tex would be working.

Fast forward a week to when I am picking up our little boy from daycare. I explained in the car that he would walk up to meet Santa and the jolly old man would lift Mini-Tex onto his lap. Our almost three year old was good with this. Because you know he treats strangers like jungle gyms and climbs on them all the time. Not actually.

Then I told him that Santa would ask what he wanted for Christmas. Mini-Tex listened with all the focus and intent of someone trying to translate Sanskrit. I had to prompt my almost three year old again to get some semblance of answer about what he wanted for Christmas. Finally he said Mickey. Having been a performer doing meet and greets, I know that the key to a good interaction, is preparation and talking so that nuances of the character can come out.  I was hoping this discussion would lead to a memorable visit with St. Nick.

We get to the mall and Mini-Tex is still wearing yogurt and melted cheese from breakfast. I sent him to daycare like that because I enjoy sharing our son’s meals with the daycare’s dog. So I change him in the family washroom and then slooooooooooowly make our way towards Santa. We are desperately early for our appointment. Absurdly early. The kind of early that I know will result in a wait even though we have an appointment. So even with all of my dawdling, and demonstrating how twenty different snow globes work in the Carlton Cards, we still roll up to Santa’s workshop with twenty minutes to spare.

There isn’t a person in sight. I was shocked.

That’s a lie. There was a lone baby who was finishing up his visit with Santa. I couldn’t believe my luck- I didn’t even have time to take off my coat! So Mini-Tex bravely walks up to this giant bearded stranger and Santa hauls him onto his lap.

The interaction went better than last year. The only reason our son sat on Santa’s lap last year was because our au pair was perched on the chair next to him holding out her arms. So our toddler was all like “Ok, Janey, I guess. But only because I love you like crazy, normally I prefer not to sit next to strange men whose hairy ankles are erupting out of their pants.” And then for the picture Mini-Tex had this look of panic mixed with uncertainty. His face said “Janey, please remove me from this man’s lap. I am very uncomfortable and am 99% certain that this is unsafe. Like I’m not going to call Child and Family Services on you or anything but for Pete’s sake GET ME OUT OF HERE!” His eyes were actually screaming.

This year, Mini-Tex wanted to be on Santa’s lap. Ish. He liked the concept of Santa but was not loving the big man whose red velvet legs he was sitting on. Meeting Santa was important, he was sure about that, the smiling and enjoying the experience part? Well, that wasn’t going awesome. It took a lot of effort on both the photographer, Santa’s and my part to coax a smile out of my ambivalent boy.

In the end Santa gave him the largest candy cane that Mini-Tex had ever seen. (It was a normal sized candy cane but my toddler has only ever received the miniature ones, so this candy cane was extremely exciting.) So my three year old deemed Santa to be pretty neat. That said, unlike the PVC ig-aa-loooo across town, he has not asked to meet Santa again.

I Followed The Advice Of Dr. Instagram And Other Proof That I Am Bad At Life

My name is Unwashed, and I recently developed an unfortunate case of idiocy. I’ve always made poor choices, but this week I decided to ramp it up a notch or eight thousand. Case and point-

I Followed a Medical Recommendation on Instagram

When I die, and my life flashes before my eyes, I have no doubt that this decision will haunt me but the unfortunate part is; I’d probably do it again. There’s nothing quite like being 39 weeks pregnant and hearing your healthcare provider repeat the words “induction” over and over, to make a person listen to the snake oil salesman and say “Sorry? You want me to snort this? Of course! That sounds like a marvelous idea!”

This was how I found myself drinking a “Labor-Inducing Mixture” last Thursday afternoon. Ok not exactly a mixture because our town didn’t have two of the four ingredients required. It was basically just castor oil.

Supposedly castor oil is a laxative. This is not true. Prunes are a laxative. If Elon Musk figured out a way to power a spaceship using poop, people would be orbiting the planet formerly known as Pluto right now on the power of castor oil.

Castorx

Clearly I had a hand in designing the laxative rocket with Elon because Tex claims that the red cap is not aerodynamic.

For serious, dear readers, it was bad. Really bad, but on the plus side, I won’t need to go until May. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all of this newfound free time- take up an instrument perhaps? Or spend it with my new baby. One of the two. Tragically the idiocy didn’t stop there.

I Sent My Husband Away While In Labor

Funny enough, the snake oil worked. But I didn’t believe it because, if a pregnant woman becomes dehydrated, she will experience intense Braxton Hicks. So after trying to send myself to the moon on just biofuels and poor choices, I concluded that I wasn’t in labor and told my husband to go teach German to the kids down the street. Tex for his part knew I was in labor but figured he had five to eight hours and that there wasn’t much he could do aside from standing outside the bathroom door asking whether I wanted to take medical advice from Jenny McCarthy or Tom Cruise next.

I Feel Dead Baseball Player Drugs = Fabulous

After calling my husband back and getting our son to a friend’s, we rolled up to the hospital and I asked for pain meds. “We can give you Fentanyl” replied the nurse. To which I responded “Excellent, the drug that killed all the fat baseball players in the nineties.”

In case you’re wondering, that was ephedrine. Fentanyl is what’s killing the junkies of today. I’m sure that drug also would have been fabulous. Not that I would know, because my labor had progressed too far to take anything, which is unfortunate because this was my only opportunity to wobble around like a tripped out attendee of Burning Man.

I Equate Teenage Lead Quarterbacks with Doctors

The only time I swore during this entire process was when I was informed that a friend’s husband was the obstetrician on call, at which point I dropped a loud F-bomb. He’s a nice man and a good doctor, it’s just flashing your cootch at another girl’s guy is the kind of behavior that can lose you a peer group in high school. It would seem I have zero concept of professionalism.

In the end it didn’t matter, as someone else was on call, and also because

I DIDN’T LEAVE ENOUGH TIME

Like most people, I spend about five to seven percent of my day wondering about women who have toilet babies. Did they not know they were in labor? How did this happen? Well I have the answer- they’re the same women who follow the medical regimens posted by randoms on social media. And I’m now one of them.

Though I didn’t have a baby in the bathroom, there wasn’t enough time for the obstetrician to be called, which is how I found myself looking over my knees at a thoroughly unimpressed anesthetist. I looked at him and thought “Sir, this isn’t what I do for kicks and giggles either”. Only I didn’t say that aloud because he was helping me. Also it would have alarmed the thirteen year old resident huddled in the corner.

Luckily, the on-call obstetrician’s other car is the Millenium Falcon. Or some other such vehicle that moves at the speed of light, because minutes later, she walked in and took over, much to everyone’s relief.

star-wars-millennium-falcon-220300-1280x0

This is a picture of the obstetrician en route to deliver my baby. Only instead of a stoned Harrison Ford at the helm, insert an exceedingly warm, blonde lady. (Photo Credit : comicbook.com)

I Didn’t Pack Food

I woke up in the middle of the night and briefly considered gnawing on Tex’s arm like a rabid wolverine because I was starving. Fortunately my husband must have anticipated this and moved from the hospital bed to the chair, out of my reach. I’m a bit like an alligator that way- hungry, but terribly lazy too.

I Talked Up The Disposable Mesh Hospital Underpants WAAAAAAAAY Too Much

Tex was dispatched to procure feminine products. Being a thoughtful man, instead of purchasing what I requested, he decided to do one better- buy me my own disposable underpants. So if you’re wondering why my butt is making crinkling sounds when I move, it’s because I’m wearing enormous incontinence briefs meant for ninety year olds.

 

Addendum: Tex informs me the resident is NOT thirteen. He just celebrated a birthday- he’s fourteen. My apologies. As a person who once was asked by a gruff French hotel proprietor whether my parents knew what I was doing when I reserved a room for Tex and myself, I probably shouldn’t insult people who appear younger than they are.

I Want To Regret This. I Want To Feel Bad About This Story Because, You Know, I Caused It. But It Still Makes Me Giggle.

In case you missed it, it’s mind-numbingly dull content month here at The Great Unwashed. None of you should be reading this unless you share a minimum of 12% of my DNA. Even then, I’m sure my family has better things to do- don’t you people have children? Or pets?

Anyway, this is another anecdote that happened during our time in Winnipeg. In the St. Vital shopping center, there are these cars you can rent, if you didn’t bring a stroller. No biggie, most places have them. Not our town, but we just got a Dairy Queen, so I can’t complain too much. But St. Vital, they upped the ante- for seven dollars you can rent a double-decker fire engine, which is approximately the size of an actual fire engine, to pilot your kid around the commercial center.

Tex would NEVER spend that kind of money on something so frivolous, even I, who spent half a week’s grocery budget on Santa pictures last December, had a tough time stomaching that cost. This is where grandparents come in, with their spoiling and saying “yes” to every request. Upon hearing about these fire engines, my Dad insisted that we return to the shopping center and rent one- his treat. (Thanks Dad!)

However wide I thought the fire engine was going to be, it was wider. And the cart was so long that I had no concept of where it began so I kept ramming things. Tex kept asking if he could drive it but I wanted the joy of pushing what was in essence a moving playground. And then I’d smack into a display case directly after replying to my husband’s question. If our van is like driving a boat, this was like piloting the world’s largest yacht. We made a thirty second video of me attempting to carefully turn a corner then knocking over a display of items anyway.

It was seven dollars well spent. Mini-Tex was elated and wanted to sit in the high seat. We took it to the play area of the mall after I got a Cardamom French Toast tea latte from David’s Tea. It only occurred to me after the barista had made the beverage to ask whether it had caffeine. It did, hence why I’m typing this at ten o’clock at night instead of sleeping.

Anyway, so I walk out of the store with my tea, and I can see Mini-Tex and Tex playing on the big bridge. As I walk up to the play area, this little Chinese girl spots the abandoned fire engine. Did I mention how fun this thing looks? And so she climbs in. Mom flips and tries to drag her out but the girl is six years old, verging on too big for the seat and nearly impossible to remove. Especially because she wanted to continue sitting in the fire engine.

Mom finally succeeds in dragging the little girl out of the cart, and starts to pull her away from it. The little girl breaks loose of her mother’s grasp and climbs back in. At this point Mom loses it -starts yelling in Cantonese at the little girl. (I assume it was Cantonese because my friend Chastity speaks Mandarin and it didn’t sound like how Chastity talks but then again I’ve never heard my friend shouting hysterically in Mandarin either.) Then the Dad appears down the hall and the Mom starts shouting at him.

The following is what I think their conversation was. For the record Tex (and everybody else nearby) watched this all go down. Tex of course felt absolutely horrible and guilty. Whereas I was simultaneously thinking “It’s ok Mama, I’ve been there too” and “This is comedic GOLD!”

Angry mother to the girl – “You get out of that truck this instant- we raised you to pay for your vehicles not steal them!”

Angry mother bellowing down the hall at Dad – “Your daughter has become a lowly criminal; this is all your fault for needing to use the bathroom. You must come help me now.”

Baffled Dad who was happy a second ago having just emptied his overly full bladder – “Huh? I don’t understand?”

Angry Mother – “You never help me! Hurry! She’s going to drive away with the truck and be arrested and have a police record before she enters elementary school!”

Baffled Dad, who is now indignant and also angry, instructs the girl- “We do not steal vehicles.” Then Dad wrestles the kid out of the fire engine. The couple continues shouting at each other all the way down the mall accusing the other person of being the reason why their daughter is a petty car thief.

As soon as the first girl was forcefully vacated from the fire engine, a two year old girl climbed in. Her parents had two other children and recognized that the fire engine was THE BEST TOY IN THE WORLD so just let her sit there until we said that we were going to leave.

I swear, I can still hear the couple shouting in my head and it makes me smile. Best night ever.

Hypothermia and Pumping Small Children Full Of Sugar- All Of My Best Parenting Decisions

Why are you reading this? Haven’t you heard of the Huffington Post? I swear that is more interesting than my family stories. Even Gwenyth’s Paltrow’s site that suggests women shove jade eggs up their hoo-has is a better read than this. Oh well, your funeral. For the record the coroner will state “Cause of death- boredom”. Here are some stories of our Christmas adventures.

Also for all those who are appalled by me writing about Christmas, first off, I already instructed you to STOP READING. Secondly, replace the word “Christmas” with “Easter” and you’ll be fine. Well not fine, bored to the point that you’re comatose, but breathing.

For our family, Christmas started the weekend that we left for Winnipeg. It was a big town weekend- free movies, free skating, free cookie decorating and crafts, all of this occurred the day of our town’s Santa Claus parade and the tree lighting.

Tex was of course working. Because he always is. But thankfully he wasn’t bothered about missing all the fun whereas I would have been devastated. So Mini-Tex and I headed out to the free movie. The theatre was showing “Smallfoot”.

Mini-Tex LOVES television. He also never gets to watch television. Weekday mornings he gets half an episode of Paw Patrol while my husband showers. It’s to the point that if he hears the shower turn on, no matter what time of the day, he rushes the bathroom like it’s the stage of a One Direction concert and he’s a teenage girl. Then he bangs on the cupboards with his mighty toddler fists and shouts “Paw Patrol PLEASE!” at the top of his lungs. So for Mini-Tex, watching an entire movie was a big deal.

“Smallfoot” was super cute. As always when we go to the theatre, I got him a kid’s combo which includes popcorn, candy and pop. Because I take pride in providing experiences that lack both nutrition and educational content. My favourite part of the movie was glancing over and watching my almost three year old dancing in his seat. He spent the next couple of weeks acting out various parts of the movie. Super adorable.

The Santa Claus parade was very, very cold. But not as cold as last year when icebergs formed in the culverts around town and people transformed into ice sculptures. Like an idiot, I ignored my husband’s suggestion that we drive to the parade because who drives a kilometers and a half? Even when I was five and thought my feet would fall off from being forced marched such a distance; my mother would still insist that we walk.

Consequently Mini-Tex was crying about his feet being chilly by the time we got home from the Santa Claus parade. To make up for it, I let him eat all the candy he got from the parade as dinner because I’m a stellar parent like that. Once he was finished, I then packed him in the car to see the “ig-aa-loooo”. (The igloo house is four kilometers across town and my son’s feet were already chilly, hence the bike was out.)

There is a house with twenty inflatable decorations and an equal number of other lit up, non-inflatable decorations. It’s incredible. They also constructed an ig-aa-looooo out of PVC piping and a white tarp. Gorgeous. And so fun. It’s my and Mini-Tex’s favourite house. For serious, I may take him there every single night that we are in town before Christmas.

A week before the parade, at the end of November, Tex and I realized that we were in a bit of a pickle. When the Halloween decorations went up around town, all our little boy wanted to do was hug them. Every time that he’d ask to make friends with the blow up decorations, we’d say “Not today buddy, you can hug them on Halloween.” Then the Halloween decorations were taken down and the Christmas ones went up. So we’re in the car, and Mini-Tex asks if we can stop to hug the Christmas decorations. I say “No” of course. Then from the back I hear him reassure himself “Not today buddy, you can hug them on Christmas.”

Well fudge.

Barring us going around the city caroling, an activity which our almost three year old would not have the patience for, we would not have a reason to go house to house on Christmas. What was I going to do?

There was only one answer- the cookie lady. When you drive into town there’s a giant billboard with a picture her smiling face on it and three hundred individually decorated cookies form a border.

Not actually, but there should be a billboard with the cookie lady’s face on it. For serious, this woman is a national treasure. I’d write to the Prime Minister about her but based on how our leader’s tenure is going, he’d just ask the cookie lady to put the Mary-Jane in her baking.

For a paltry, tiny sum, Lorna* the cookie lady will make stunning, delicious works of art. People have repeatedly told me that they feel guilty eating something so beautiful when I give the cookie lady’s wares as gifts. Their guilt is of course nothing compared to what I feel when I pay her. And I always include a tip.

So I’ve decided I am going to order some cookies from our resident cookie lady and one night, Mini-Tex and I will head out in the bike and distribute baked goods as a way of thanking people for decorating their homes, then while their doors are open and they’re marveling over the beautiful cookies, we will ask whether our toddler can hug their lawn ornaments. Judge me. Tex and I frequently talk about how I’m the good cop and have a backbone made of fluffed wool. Goodness help me when our son is a teenager.

Wish me luck with our winter blow up decoration adventure. Also send warm socks. We will need them to tromp all over town in the snow and assault our neighbours’ lawn ornaments with hugs and love.

*Obviously I didn’t use the cookie lady’s real name. First off, I don’t want the leader of our country calling her up, and secondly, then I’d have to place my orders months in advance because her phone would be ringing off the hook.

The Last Good Day

In his novel “The Fault in our Stars” John Greene writes about the concept of the final day of your life that you enjoy before you start to die in earnest- the last good day. Or at least that’s what I think he was talking about. I read the book in French and even though I’m fluent, there’s always a part of me that questions whether I fully comprehend the meaning of a text in my second language. But for the purposes of this post we’ll pretend that what Mr. Greene was talking about.

Something my friend Sula said to me while my grandmother was dying, that brought me a lot of comfort was; “You knew your grandmother as a person, not just from social functions, a lot of people don’t get that.” And it’s true. My grandmother cared for me often when I was a child, and I visited her house on occasion as a young adult. In university, she would vacation with my family. While I could write exclusively about all of the lasts that came with dying, those wouldn’t express the depth of our relationship, or who my Grandma was as a person.

My Grandma was close friends with everyone, but especially her neighbor across the street, whose pool we used to swim in, any time we liked because Grandma was always welcome there. I remember shivering on the Antarctic iceberg that was my grandparents’ foyer while my grandfather was still alive because he insisted the house be kept at 12 degrees Celsius or some equally chilly temperature. Then I would burst out the door onto the sunlit porch with flipflops on my feet. Grandma always called them thongs which caused Diana and I to giggle silently because thongs were underwear not beach apparel. Then the dash across the street, only stopping to squish my toes into the tar that covered the cracks on the road, before pausing at the mulberry bush to grab a sweet snack.

My grandmother loved plants; she gardened right up until she moved out of her house. It used to alarm me the way she’d eat the fruits off of random trees; I was always worried she’s accidentally poison herself. There’s some poetic justice in the fact that I married a man who does the very same thing.

Then I would throw ourselves into the pool; splashing, swimming and jumping to our hearts’ content. Invariably the friendly neighbour would come out at some point to talk to Grandma. We did this from the time I was very small. All of my cousins did in fact. I still remember Grandma carefully catching my second youngest cousin Sophie as she leapt from the side of the pool. The last time was around when I was twelve, the friendly neighbour still welcomed our visits but was too ill to come out to say “hello”.

When I was nineteen, my grandmother paid for me to accompany her on a cruise with herself and three thousand other old people. It was every teenager’s dream; Metamucil with every meal and being in bed before eight pm. I kid. What I remember from that trip was how healthy my grandmother was. During the voyage, old people were falling everywhere, breaking hips and arms but my grandmother was as steady as a rock, scaling the endless staircases at castles and monuments. This is how I remember her- triumphant, standing at the top of three thousand steps while all the other old people were moaning and watching from the bottom.

That wasn’t the last time that I saw my Grandma accomplish a great physical feat. Three years later, my family visited Maui. One afternoon, my Dad dragged his eighty-three year old mother up Mount Haleakala. At the top, the air became thin and even my father had to sit down. I wish I could say that was the last instance of elder abuse in our family, but it continued. A couple years later, we took Grandma along with us to Disney World. She spent a lot of time sitting on benches but only because we insisted on charging at top speed from show to show.

My grandmother kept that can-do attitude into her late eighties. My Dad and I took her out to lunch one day. She had just begun reluctantly using her cane. However she still preferred to move unaided or take the arm of the nearest person instead. It was winter and the walkway of the restaurant was slick. I went to grab her arm but she jerked it away from me saying defiantly “Let me go when I can go!” My grandmother was always independent and her own person.

When she was ninety-two, my Grandma moved out of her house and into an assisted care facility. The woman who moved there was quieter than the Grandma I remembered from my childhood. But she still loved to rejoice in her family’s achievements. And she loved her great grandson so much. Mini-Tex would climb all over her. He was a chubby little baby and at that time, my grandmother was a frail nonagenarian. I winced and would grab for my son, terrified that he would break my Grandma’s arm by accident as he gave her sloppy kisses and hugs. But she loved it.

The summer before she died was the last time that I saw my Grandma being independently mobile. When she first arrived at the care home, she would store her walker outside of her room. The next time I visited, the walker had moved inside her room, but my grandmother would move independently without it.

The last summer, the walker remained at her side. Mini-Tex thought the mobility aid was a fabulous toy and would push it around. Then he’d tire of merely making off with his relative’s walker and go steal a stranger’s. As I was chasing my toddling son across the atrium of the care home, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my Grandma sitting on the couch, trying to use her foot to catch the edge of her walker that Mini-Tex had rolled away from her. Even at ninety-three, she still wouldn’t complain or ask for help. This was the visit when my grandmother took delight in pushing her great grandson around on the seat of her walker.

The last time I saw my grandmother, she was barely able to push her walker. My Grandma spent a large portion of my visit lying down on her bed. Workers came to move her from her chair in the dining room back to her walker. I had spent my whole life taking cues from a stern, opinionated woman. I thought the whole reason that we sat so long at the table after dinner was because Grandma wanted to enjoy the ambiance.

Once in her walker, it became obvious that my grandmother lacked the strength to push herself back to her room. So I enlisted the help of my two year old to push her. I took one handle and Mini-Tex took the other. It worked pretty well until Mini-Tex got over excited and ran too fast, tripping on his winter boots.

That was the last time. For everything. She was really quiet that visit. But she watched my two year old, and she listened to my stories, as she had my entire life. It’s been a year since she died. Even though it was heartbreaking to witness so many lasts, I’d still love one more day with her.