Sunday, September 25, 2011

Teething Tales

It started a few weeks ago when Erin remarked that one of her bottom front teeth was loose.  "Look!" she announced and she demonstrated her newly discovered ability to wiggle her tiny tooth with her tongue.  "I'm almost a growed up!"

I remember when that tooth made it's first appearance five years ago.  That one and it's neighbour poked through my daughter's gums and ended all future opportunities to capture those adorable toothless smiles.  Her twin brother, Ty, sported his first two teeth a mere two days later.  We seem to do a lot of stuff in groups of 'two' around here.

Two years later, after depleting the local supply of Infant Tylenol, both kids had finished growing all their teeth.  What happened in between is a blur of interrupted sleep and caffeine fueled automation.  For the life of me, I can't recall what happened between incisors and molars.  I do remember belting out a chorus of "Hallelujah!" when it was over.  

Erin, now 5, stands in front of the mirrored closet doors in the hallway, smiling and wiggling her loose tooth.  "When is it going to fall out, Mom?"

"When it's ready, sweetie."

"What's going to happen to my tooth when it falls out?"

"The tooth fairy will take it away and give you a twoonie for it."


Leave it to my daughter to question the order of things.  She wants to be a paleontologist when she grows up and has no trouble rattling off the names of a few dozen Mesozoic reptiles.  She is the intrinsic scientist, never failing to question any answer despite an abundance of prevailing facts.

"Well,"  I hesitate, hoping I can deliver a convincing helping of harmless chicanery.  Just like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus and the noisy giants that cause thunderstorms by bowling.  My response is intended to help her understand the natural changes of growing up.  "The tooth fairy will take your baby tooth and recycle it.  Then she'll have a tooth to give to a little baby."

Her expression tells me I need to sweeten the deal.  "And she'll even give you a coin to thank you for being so thoughtful."

My creative explanation is met with a strange, I'm-not-buying-that-load-of-baloney stare.  Thankfully, she is quickly distracted by the toy trains her brother is playing with.


A week goes by.  Two. Then three.  The loose tooth won't fall out.  Erin is intrigued.  Anxious.  Excited.  A 4' 2" bundle of anticipation.

Meanwhile, the date Nana offered to host the kids at her house for four days is rapidly approaching.  There is a little trepidation.  Will Nana be able to keep up with two rambunctious five year olds?  Will they behave for her?  Will we adjust to the deafening quiet that consumes this house when children are not present?  Erin and Ty depart for their Nana adventure, bouncing with excitement.  Hubby and I console ourselves in the backyard inflatable pool, chilled pina coladas in hand.

Nana calls that evening to reassure us that the kids are behaving well and we get to talk to each before they are tucked in for the night.  Erin has special news.

"My tooth fell out!"

We reassure Erin that the tooth fairy will come to collect her tooth.  Ty is thrilled for his sister, but clearly irritated that his teeth remain firmly placed in his gums.  In the morning, she finds a twoonie under her pillow, as promised.  When we meet a few days later for our reunion with the kids, Erin greets me with her usual smile, minus one lower incisor.  She proudly holds out a coin to show me. "Look what the tooth fairy gave me! Now a baby will get a new tooth!"

These are precious times, when the word of Mom and Dad is as indisputable as any truth.  As heartening as it is to bask in their innocent faith of unrealistic and impossible things, their future success depends on eventually learning to question the information presented and distinguish fact from fiction.   I don't know when that time will come, but I'm hoping it won't be for another thirty-nine teeth.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Mom Vent

I was chatting with a friend recently about the kids and how big they are getting.  She asked me when their birthday was.  When I told her, she replied excitedly, "My baby's birthday is on the same day!  I love being a mom to my fur babies!"

On another occasion, my brother spewed his narcissistic venom upon me, condemning me for my inability to take care of two ten month old infants while hosting a family gathering.  "We had to work around the kids schedule, when they eat and when they sleep and it was all about them."  It was Christmas.  How silly of me to think a day of gifts brought by Santa Claus wasn't all about my 47 year old sibling.  He justified his opinion with, "I have friends who have kids."  Good for you.  Here's your cookie. 

Now, I can be somewhat forgiving of ignorance, but there was something unsettling about their sincerity.  To assume you know best about a situation you know nothing about is absurd.  In my brother's case, perhaps owning a pet would be a real eye opener.  I wouldn't want to subject innocent children to an environment that, as he puts it, "Would interfere with my drinking."  Enough said.

But what really struck me as peculiar was the comparison between pet and child.  My friend often offers advice on how I should parent my children.  She truly believes her opinions are validated because she has two dogs. I used to have pets.  In fact pets were a part of my life up until "Riley, the Tiger", an orange tabby with extra toes that weighed in around 23lbs.  Both kids together didn't outweigh the cat until they were well over a year old.  Riley has since passed on and the kids mention him on occasion.  I was never so arrogant to assume that I knew anything about parenting children just because I owned a cat. 

I understand a pet soon turns into a loving companion that requires regular care and attention.  It is not the same as being a parent.  At.  All.  Sure, there are some similarities between kids and pets.  They both need attention, food, training.  There's that warm, fuzzy feeling that happens when they trust you enough to fall asleep on you. Fair enough, but this is where the parallels abruptly end.

See, children require constant supervision.  You cannot lay out a bowl of cereal for your infant and head out to a friend's for the evening.  You cannot put a coat and some cute matching booties on a toddler and let them out into the backyard to defecate at will.  Attempting to treat your child like a pet will likely warrant a well deserved visit from the local child protection authorities.  The discipline that you use on your beloved dogs will not work on precocious, attention seeking preschoolers.

Both friend and brother have suggested that I should take better care of myself.  Get my hair dyed, my feet pampered, sign up for a program at the gym.  All great ideas.  When I informed each that they needed to find me the time - which means someone has to mind the kids while I am following their advice.  They replied, "I'm busy".  Busy?  Really?  Your hair is dyed and your feet are pampered, friend.  Brother spends hours, every other day at a time at the gym.  I can live with my greying roots and my unpolished toes.  My arms are solid pipes and it's not from lifting weights at the gym.  It's from carrying children.  There's no day off to rest the muscles or a set number of reps.  There's no taking a break because I'm feeling under the weather. This workout happens everyday.  All the time.

Signing your pet up for obedience training is not the same as sending my child to school.  A few weeks of sit, come and stay does not entitle you to suggest how well or not my children are progressing at school.  Children will spend at least two years learning to socialize with other children before they invest the next twelve learning the basics to support yet another two or more years of post secondary studies.  You train a pet to be an obedient companion.  I am teaching my children how to survive in a world that doesn't play fair.  Empowering them with the sum of my experiences so that they can learn from my triumphs and failures without having to repeat my mistakes.  All of which needs to be presented in a way that captures their easily distracted attention.  Did you digest all of that?  Don't worry if you didn't, because your dog will likely be dead by the time my kids are just beginning their respective futures.

And please, don't embarrass yourself by trying to compare losing a pet to losing a child.  Not.  Even.  Close.  I am fortunate that I don't know that kind of pain and there aren't enough stars in a billion universes to thank for that blessing.  It's like equating losing your baby teeth to severing a limb in a horrific accident.  One is expected to happen.  The other is not.  Tragically, it does happen and unlike a pet, that bottomless void of vast emptiness, that devastating and heart wrenching loss which is too unbearable to imagine, cannot be eased by replacing that loss with another child.

So next time you feel the urge to describe yourself as a parent to your pet, please don't.  You can't possibly know what it means to be 'Mommy' or 'Daddy' until you understand that the life you hold in your arms means more to you than your own.  Only then, will you truly know what it is to be a parent.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Grand Night Out

Other than weekly trips to the grocery store, children in tow, home is where I spend my time.  For five years, my husband and I have searched for a willing babysitter.  There are a few to choose from in the area, but none willing to take on the responsibility of twins.  None, except the little girl next door who expressed an interest in growing up to be a kindergarten teacher and is adored by Ty and Erin.  Ever since, hubby and I have been anticipating the time when she would be old enough to baby-sit.   

That time has come.

Last night was her second time at the helm.  She is awesome.  Once the kids are washed, brushed, emptied of fluids and dressed in their jams, she takes over... 

...and for a few hours, we are free!

Erik and I have a history of starting out with good intentions and coming back with tales of strange and humourous happenings.  Our honeymoon plans included a week in seclusion aboard a houseboat along the Trent Severn system of lakes and locks.  What should have been a self-guided romantic cruise turned into a comedy of errors and mishaps that include taking on water as we left the dock, and a malfunction of our second craft's ship wheel during a lock transfer.  We were able to regain steering by shoving salvageable parts of the wheel into grooves in the support column.  Add in the many near collisions with several poorly placed yachts (which would be anywhere near us) and that unfortunate episode with the zodiac.  It's no wonder we aren't the sea-faring types.

Fast forward ten years and we are headed out to dinner.  After pondering a list of delicious suggestions, we opt to stay close to home and take in the fare offered by The Keg.  Our greeter explained that a table for two would not be available for 45 minutes.  The restaurant was crowded, noisy.  Just like home on any ordinary weekday.  I wanted a less stimulating environment so we headed off to Shoeless Joe's in nearby Georgetown.

The restaurant is quiet, virtually empty save for a few groups seated in the bar.  We are seated in a booth by the front window.  The seating is comfy, except for the blast of air conditioning on my right shoulder.  It's 7 (C) degrees outside.  I take shelter in my coat until we have a chance to tell the waitress.

"Oh, I noticed it's quite a bit cooler over here.  I'll take care of that right away.  What can I bring you to drink?"

We order beverages and it's not long before the blast of arctic air on my shoulder disappears.  Our drinks arrive and we order appetizers and entrees.  Nachos with jalapenos on the side, please.  Hubby's tummy doesn't do spicy.

Nachos arrive with jalapenos mixed in AND a bowl of extra on the side.  Um.... close. 

They're big enough to pick out so we accept it with our waitress' apologies.  We nibble and chat until our entrees of ribs and chicken wings arrive at the table.  Caesar salad for hubby, garden for me.

"Enjoy your meal."

We had just enough time to figure out what to devour first when the lights dimmed in the dining area to darkness.  I could just barely make out where my plate was as I felt around blindly for my food.

"How is everything over here?"


"I don't know what happened there, but I'll get that fixed right away."  Our waitress disappears.  Lights brighten over an already well lit area around the bar, and another area far from us.  TVs lose their signal and finally, the light over our table brightens to an ambiance appropriate level.

The founding basis for many relationships include things like truth, honesty, integrity.  For Erik and I, it's ribs.  We had been dating for a few weeks when he had his first taste of my signature ribs.  After reveling in the flavour of the sauce, sweet and tang infused into the tender meat that slid effortlessly off the bone, he knew.  This girl is a keeper.   

I notice Erik's plate still has half of his rib order.  Something is terribly wrong.  Is he ill?  He must have devastating news for me!  He hands me a little piece of meat off the bone to try.  The taste is unusual, somewhat salty.  Familiar.


Erik's baby back beef ribs taste like canned, packed-in-water tuna. Apparently that's how it's supposed to taste.   The last time I noticed a fishy smell coming from beef, it was well past the time to throw it away.  To each their own.

Perhaps this is why we don't go out much.   The food was mediocre and the restaurant, uniquely and unintentionally entertaining.  More importantly we shared a evening laughing at our luck for misadventure and a mutual lack of knowledge on the rules of rugby. 

It's good to know that after ten years of marriage and almost fourteen years together, a night out still includes a little adventure.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

That Thing

I first noticed this strange phenomenon shortly before the kids had their first birthday.  I had lost the ability to use nouns.  I had hoped that this grammatical absence would correct itself once I was able to resume sleeping for extended periods of time.  So far, using nouns in verbal speech remains a skill lost like the hundreds of hours of sleep I will never recover.  This concerned me slightly until I started speaking to other moms and quickly realized that not only was it normal, it seemed entirely possible that weary moms like myself were creating a new dialect of English.

Apparently most of the nouns I've learned since my first verbal exchanges have been wiped out to make room for more important functions.  Breathing, possibly or more likely an autonomic parenting reflex so that preparing bottles and changing diapers and knowing who is crying and why requires little conscious thought.  Nouns.  Who needs 'em?  All the nouns I might ever need to use are combined into one tidy little word that continues to serve me quite well.


Fortunately, I have retained most of the adjectives in my vocabulary and combined an assortment of arm movements and hand waving, I can almost make myself understood.

"Where's the thing?" (palms up, slowly spreads arms wide, keeping hands flat)

"You know, the thing that used to be in that cooking thing?" (points to large kitchen appliance)

"No, not that thing.  The other thing." (husband opens cupboard and displays muffin tin? cookie sheet?)

"Yes, that thing."

While my family was visiting during the kids' first Christmas, Ty and Erin's faces were covered in everything they were eating.  Their feeding chairs were inaccessible so  I served as a feeding chair on the floor, a child on each leg.

"Erik, can you hand me that thing?"

"What thing?"

"That thing on the thing... the thing on the thing.... that thing right there on.... the..... THING!!!"

The poor man.  He knew I couldn't get whatever I needed and I couldn't explain what this mysterious 'thing' was.  He stood posed like a linebacker ready to hold back an invading army over the kitchen counter.  He knew something I needed was close to him.  Slowly he moved his hands over the Christmas chaos of dinner dishes, clean baby bottles and teething rings and finally hovered over a damp facecloth.


We were used to this.  It was normal communication between us.  My family, however, nervously backed away from me and by the looks on their faces, it was clear they thought I had completely lost my mind.

They were probably right.

In my defense, tending to the relentless needs of two infants is a time intensive task.  Evening sleep was interrupted by feedings and Tylenol for the constant onslaught of teeth.  Rest was an elusive creature that was easy to catch, but difficult to contain.  I was beyond exhausted.  I wished I was exhausted because that seemed like a huge improvement over the zombie pseudo-coma that was my state of consciousness.  I had no short term memory.  If I misplaced something, the sites to search included the most ludicrous of places.  I frequently found my house keys and freshly brewed pots of coffee in the freezer. 

Five years and many consecutive hours of sleep later, my vocabulary is slowly starting to expand.  I now have a repertoire of non-descriptive noun replacements to choose from.  Stuff.  Do-hickey. Whassit.  Thing-a-majig.  Watchamacallit. Doo-dad.

Last weekend I had planned to cook something both my husband and I enjoy and the kids would be willing to try.  In an effort to eat out less and save time on planning meals, I often make big batches of some of our favourite recipes and freeze them in smaller sizes for a handy and easy-to-reheat meals.  Hubby was planning a trip to the store and wanted to know if there was anything else that we needed to accomplish that day, to which I replied:

"Well, if we get the stuff for the watchamacallit, I can make that thing."

It made perfect sense to me.  He looked up from his coffee, and stared at me, puzzled, as he processed my gibberish. I showed him the page I had ripped out of a magazine.  On it was the recipe for "Cheesy Chicken Watchamacallit."

"Oh," he says, looking relieved, "That thing!"

Even though we don't often make sense to anybody else who might be listening, at least we understand each other.  As a mother of twins, I commonly get asked if the kids have ESP or their own language.  I've come to learn that this skill is not unique to them.  It is the cornerstone of communication in our little family.  It's not paranormal; it is simply taking the time to listen to what someone else is trying to say.  Patience equals understanding.

Perhaps THAT is the most important thing.

Friday, September 9, 2011


I've been in a bit of a funk lately for what could be several reasons or possibly nothing specific.  I can't say.  I know that lunar fluctuations in hormones don't help and neither do colder days darkened by thick cloud and diminishing daylight.

I can do nothing to change these elements that affect my mood.  I try not to let things linger, even if they weren't worth worrying about in the first place.  Still, I'd rather not let something insignificant linger unaddressed and find it has mushroomed into something monumental later.  In this state, I search for inspiration.  The following excerpt from 'The Wolves Within, Native American Tales' was just what was needed to put it all back into perspective.

An Old Cherokee was teaching his grandchildren about life.  He said to them, "a battle is raging inside of me... it is a terrible fight between two wolves.  One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.  The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The old man fixed the children with a firm stare.  "This same fight is going on inside of you and inside every other person too."

They thought for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The Old Cherokee replied: "The one you feed."


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Side of Nostalgia

I try not to dwell on the past.  What's happened cannot be changed.  All one can do is embrace where previous choices have led us to and make the best of the present.  If the present is an unbearable place, one must attempt to change the present to prepare a better future.

I don't wish to relive my childhood and adolescence through my children.  They are individuals with their own future to form, their own present to live, their own past to learn from.  

On one of our recent adventures to the library, the kids were searching for new bedtime stories while I browsed for selected themes for the daycare's storytime.  I stumbled onto a 'How To' section of educational resources for parents.  As I browsed along the shelf, I found a book that offered titles for a child's reading interests.  Beside that were several 'Homeschooling' books.  At the end of this collection was one book that caught my attention.


I'm not expecting my kids to earn a diploma from their front facing booster seats, but if you've ever driven any distance with one or more children on board, you are very aware that the best way to get to your destination with your sanity intact is to entertain the kids along the way.  Maybe they could learn something at the same time?

The book contains simple games to play, some requiring nothing more than participation.  Others require a small suitcase of supplies, (including glue, paint and markers and make me question if the author actually has children).  I was pleasantly surprised to find several participation-only ideas for almost every subject in the book.

One of the social science projects I found of particular interest, offering a way to help a child explore their own identity by learning about the past of their family members.  It suggested interviewing a loved relative and asking them questions about life when they were little.  This interview could even be recorded for a family history project or as a memento of remembrance. The questions all start with "When you were little...." and add the following to the question:

1. ...did you live in a town or a city?
2. ...did you travel by car or public transit, by horse or by foot?
3. ...what kind of games did you play and what were your favourite toys?
4. ...what kind of chores did you have to do at your house?
5. ...what kind of food did you eat?
6. ...did you go to preschool, elementary school, high school?  What was school like?
7. ...what major event in history was taking place that you remember?  What did you think about it?

Basics, really.  It's likely I am more intrigued than the little ones, but I think they will come to appreciate their origins and ultimately the decisions made before they were born that have helped to shape the people they will eventually become. 

Buried somewhere in my growing pile of "Stuff I Will Accomplish At Some Point Before I Die" are my journals from my travels abroad some (*gulp) twenty years ago.  Twenty years ago today, I was planning the trip of a lifetime funded by a summer of savings and propelled by a one way Round The World ticket.  Twenty years later, my children are interested in who their mother was before her hair turned grey with maternal worries.  Twenty years later, I wonder who that young woman was and if she's changed much.  Her life certainly has.

And for the better.