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.

 

 

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Eating Rodents Like Farley Mowat and Making Pastry Drug Lord Style

Just before she left, Sula sent all her nearest and dearest a message containing the number of the satellite phone (a fifteen digit number if you can believe it) along with the dates of her departure and return. Included in this message was the surprising piece of information that in the case of emergencies, the satellite phone could receive texts.

This is Sula’s fourth year in the bush. It is also the first year that she has given any indication that her only means of communication could receive texts. It was my understanding that the satellite phone was for emergencies only. Events along the lines of “The narcoleptic field hand ate all the food in the night; please send help as we are dining Farley Mowat style- eating roasted mice with tails, fur and all.” were what I thought the phone was reserved for.

The texting tidbit was news to me, whether we, her family and friends, had shown the proper respect for the phone in not contacting Sula ever during her field season (no emergencies came up) or whether this was a new function on a delicate and temperamental piece of technology, I’m not sure. Whatever the case, while Sula was away, when I was having trouble with baking or was just thinking of her, I would write imaginary texts to Sula. I never sent them because doing so would have landed the both of us in hot water, as Sula works with top government agencies that don’t care about superfluous items like false eyelash glue.

 

Is now too late to text your mother?

Message sent at 12:49 AM

 

My mother and I are wearing false eyelashes.

Message sent at 12:52 AM

 

We have no idea how to remove them and are afraid of waking up with our eyelids glued together.

Message sent at 12:54 AM

 

Is this a thing? Please advise.

Message sent at 12:55 AM

 

Wait, sorry, just realized that it’s five am in the Arctic.

Message sent at 1:04 AM

 

Or maybe it’s 10 AM. I have no clue. Time zones are hard. Are you even in the continent?

Message sent at 1:05 AM

 

On the continent? Prepositions are hard too. Especially whilst drunk.

Message sent at 1:06 AM

 

You may have figured that last bit out.

Message sent at 1:07 AM

 

I probably should have paid more attention in high school geography. In my defense, I didn’t know my best friend would be an Arctic researcher.

Message sent at 1:11 AM

 

Along with possessing more experience with finicky makeup tools than me, Sula is also a better baker. When she’s at home, I sometimes go to her for advice when working in the kitchen.

 

I’m making a pie crust. It isn’t going well.

Message sent 3:24 PM

 

What does it mean when it says to cut the butter in?

Message sent at 3:26 PM

 

That sounds like something a drug lord would do.

Message sent at 3:27 PM

 

Regardless, this process is wildly unsuccessful.

Message sent at 3:27 PM

 

You’re not answering. Despite the fact that you’re an expert on pie crusts.

Message sent at 3:44 PM

 

It’s kind of like you’re too busy befriending polar bears and furthering science to care about dessert.

Message sent at 3:46 PM

 

When Sula is away, or off the grid, I try to contact her mother more often, presumably so that Mrs. Jackson will appreciate her talented, couth daughter more when Sula returns from the North.

 

I just sent your mom a postcard about penises. I’m sorry.

Message sent at 11:23 AM

 

It was an accident. Again, I’m sorry. For whatever reason, these types of writing accidents always seem to happen to me. Like the time I sent my aunt a postcard about why she should make out with Colin Firth.

Message sent at 11:26 AM

 

Someone ought to take away my stamps. Or at least proof my correspondence before I send it out. My son is phenomenally poor at editing. Something about him only knowing eight letters of the alphabet.

Message sent at 11:31 AM

 

I of course never sent any of these text messages. For whatever reason I’m already on the Canadian government’s radar based on the number of times they audit my taxes. Texts like these on a government phone might get me added to the “No Fly” list.

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.

Battling Mixed Martial Arts Prized Fighters and Other Items On My “How To Be An Adult” List

I failed spectacularly, which if you think about it, is the only way a person should fail. Because if you fail only slightly, how much can you take from the experience? But if you fail in a grandiose manner, the kind that has you running for the fire extinguisher, that you never thought you’d need, well, there’s a lot to be learned from that.

I lost my credit card. A month and a half ago. I’d be embarrassed by this but I think we’ve already established that I’m about as responsible as a toddler living in a house of built with jellybeans. Really, it’s a miracle that the roof doesn’t come crashing in on my head on a daily basis as I eat away at the walls of my home.

Today, I decided that enough was enough and called the credit card company for help.

They were not helpful.

Or rather the automated machine which greeted me was not at all helpful because it kept demanding my credit card number which was difficult to provide what with the fact that I couldn’t find mine. Eventually I got transferred to an actual person.

Cheery and nice lady on the phone – “Hi, could I please have your credit card number?”

Unwashed – “About that . . .”

Nice lady on the phone – “Well could you give me the password to the account then?”

Here’s the thing. I used to know the password for my account. It was the same password that I’d used for ten years, but then the credit card company changed servers and declared that the word “password” was not at all a secure password for a person’s credit card. So I changed it, to something that suited their rules but that I couldn’t remember at all. Normally this isn’t a problem because I sit at my computer and try different variations until the system locks me out for an hour. Then I pass the time eating the load bearing sections of my jellybean walls before attempting different password combinations again.

Unwashed – “Uhhhhhh. Is it this?” Says a string of words and numbers. “What about this?” Another string of letters and numbers. “You know what it might be this.” Recites a final combination of numbers and letters.

Nice lady who is sounding less cheery – “Ma’am, none of those match.”

I reach up and nibble on a jellybean support beam from the ceiling.

Unwashed – “I’m sorry. Does it count that I’m trying? Or is that only recognized at three legged races at church picnics? Although I’m kind of good at that. If we were in a field, I’d offer to tie our legs together so you could see what a rock star I am in those races.”

Nice lady who doesn’t sound cheerful at all anymore – “Hold on one moment, I’m transferring you to security.”

The woman who came on the line had a voice that said if you arrived at her office, she’d grab you by the ankles and shake you upside down until the truth fell out.

Slightly intimidating lady who may or may not own a mace and not as in pepper spray – “Hello Mrs. Unwashed, it’s my understanding that you’ve lost your card, have no record of it and do not remember your password. Is this correct?”

I may have gulped audibly and placed both my feet flat on the floor in preparation for being tossed upside down over the phone.

Unwashed – “Yes, that’s correct.”

There was a pause as the woman read what was on her screen.

Increasingly intimidating lady who bench-presses tour bus vans after work and has laughed only once in her life, after that time that she beat up Chuck Norris – “It appears that there have been a number of changes to the account.”

On my end of the phone, I grimaced.

A meek Unwashed – “I’m assuming you mean all the address changes?”

Woman, who moonlights as a prison guard and who has a MMA trophy that she may or may not use as a beating stick for bad clients who lose their cards and don’t remember their information, flatly – “Yes”.

Another audible gulp on my end before I launched into my explanation.

Unwashed in a squeaky panicked voice of a person who will never possess another credit card in her life based on how poorly this conversation is going – “It’s not what you think, I mean I know it looks like I’m some sort of transient white collar criminal who bounces from town to town but really I’m a stand up lady. I mean there was that one time when I was mistaken for a homeless person. But that only happened once. It’s just my husband’s job takes us a lot of places.”

There was another long pause, during which I’m fairly certain the security credit card lady polished her MMA trophy and reflected sadly on the fact that I was too far away to bludgeon – “Mrs. Unwashed, could you tell me the last transaction on your card?”

Unwashed – “Uhhhhhh, was it Amazon?”

Annoyed credit card lady now eyeing the mace hanging from her office wall – “No.”

Unwashed somewhat panicked – “Ummmmm, was it a random French media company?”

Credit card lady swinging the mace around her head with one hand while bicep curling her MMA trophy with the other arm – “No.”

Unwashed in a last ditch attempt to prove that she isn’t a thief – “My World Vision kids? I’m a donor. I feel like white collar criminals don’t care about the well-being of children in third world countries. I swear I’m a good person who doesn’t steal identities. Not a responsible one obviously, but a good one.”

The MMA prized fighter, mirthlessly – “Please hold the line.”

Undoubtedly she was contacting one of her fighting buddies who lives in the middle of nowhere, arranging for them to show up on my doorstep and teach me a lesson about proper care of credit cards.

When she came back on the line, I had to recite every address that I’d lived at the previous five years. Which was no small feat because we move a lot. But I managed to pass the test so now Canada Post strike pending, I should have a new card in one to two weeks.

My In-Laws Aren’t Actually As Awful As My Husband Would Have You Believe: This Is Me, Throwing My Husband Under The Bus

Unwashed- I just wanted you to know my feelings on it. It’s a bad idea.

Tex- I understand your feelings, but isn’t this the stuff that your best stories are made of? Something awful happens to you and then you write about it. Like your shingles post, that was amazing. It’s exactly like that.

Unwashed – I’m sorry, did you just compare attending your family’s Christmas with a form of herpes?

World, I needed you to know that this happened. It was actually better than during our last date night when I was complaining that I was fatter than my last pregnancy and Tex quipped “But yet the baby is only measuring in the 33rd percentile”.

As a rule, with the exception of observations about the size of our fetus, my husband is nice. Like really nice. The kind of nice that when people see us together, they’re like, “Ohhhh, she must be keeping him captive.” What this means, is that no matter how kind I am, I am always the mean one in the relationship, who says terrible things. But this once, I wasn’t.

I was however the one arguing that driving eight hours round trip in one day to attend a Christmas lunch at his uncle’s house, with a three year old perpetual motion machine and a pregnant lady who does vomit fountain impressions in moving vehicles, was not the best idea. I will totally cop to that one. But I was not the person who compared the experience of visiting his family to excruciating nerve pain and a rash so unsightly and bumpy that it would make a person contemplate living in a darkened cave until the spots resolve.

Those tire tracks on my husband’s back? They’re my handiwork. If this doesn’t channel the spirit of the holidays, I don’t know what does.  Merry Christmas everyone, I hope your families are also like a debilitating flare up of Herpes zoster.

 

Also for all of you worrying about the well-being of my smaller than average baby; first off, thank you, but secondly, keep in mind that I’m approximately the size of a twelve year old. And not even a tall sixth grader. Tex and I would have been far more concerned if the baby was measuring in the 90th percentile. Then we would have been questioning whether it was actually our baby.

This post is proof that I am actually the mean one. Tex would never rat me out for comparing my family to an outbreak of blistering sores.

Also, in the end, Tex went to the Christmas get together with our son alone because a day before the shindig, I managed to badly strain a muscle which made sitting, standing or doing anything for long periods of time super painful.