This is an essay written specifically for the 2011 Family Christmas Book: As I’m putting 2011 to bed and doing a late-night proof of the book―a sloppy light night proof, as I know you’re mostly looking at the pictures―I’m struck by how Ender-light the text of the book is. And slightly shocked, because the days and the hours are extremely Ender-heavy. Ender and Ender’s life stage dominates everything right now: how little I work, how early I go to bed, how early I rise. How diligent Cinder (also known as Austen) has to be about hiding his Lego projects―how on top of putting away her markers and paints Flora needs to be if she doesn’t want to find them in the fish tank, the garbage or the toilet. Ender’s absence from most of the text of 2011, however, reflects the reality of what I’ve been writing in 2011: not an awful lot for love and pleasure. Most of the stories about Cinder and Flora come from the need to document their homeschooling; if it weren’t for the progress reports, learning plans and other tidbits for the portfolio, there wouldn’t be nearly as much Cinder and Flora content either.
But before we end 2011, we need to give Mr. E his own story. We can’t have the third child feeling any more neglected than he is bound to feel…
Meet Ender. Little brother of Flora and Cinder. Son of Jane and Sean. Big brother of Maggie. Charmer of the entire world. Proof that gorgeous, grinning children never get disciplined, even when they’re doing things that make you want to sell them to the gypsies. Or, in the modern parlance, to put them up on Kijiji. “Free, to a good home: a two-year-old with attitude…”
Actually, Ender doesn’t have attitude―at least not in the way most people define it when they use it with reference to a child. Really, what passes for a cranky Ender or a distraught Ender is still an incredibly happy, easy Ender. It’s quite amazing. We sometimes engage in the the not-very-productive nurture versus nature debate. Is Ender the way he is because, well, that’s just the way he is? Or is he the way he is because he’s the third child, the one who has had to accommodate to everyone else’s set patterns and quirks, the one who got the already trained, relaxed parents?
We’ll never know. We just have to enjoy him. Adore him. And make more of an effort to document him, so he doesn’t totally resent us when he grows up and asks for where all the Ender stories are.
So, some Ender stories from 2011, as remembered by Cinder and Flora and his parents.
The most disgusting thing Ender has done to date: sucked on the toilet brush. And not on the end you hold. Think of that next time you kiss him.
The most embarrassing thing Ender has ever said: Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock! Rock! At the top of his lungs in the Glenbow Museum. Except it didn’t sound like rock. The r sounded like an f and the o like the short u. Yeah.
“Look what I taught the baby to do, Mom,” Part I: Ender, running down the hall naked after Maggie, swinging a hot pink Lego foam sword, yelling, “Die, puppy, die!”
“Look what I taught the baby to do, Mom,” Part II: R: “Ender, show Mommy the moon. The moon, Ender. Remember?” (Yes, the next frame is Ender taking off his diaper.)
The most adorable thing Ender does after pummelling Flora in the head with something hard: “Awie, Flora? Awie, Flora? En-duh kiss.”
The most adorable thing Ender does for no reason at all: Go up and down the stairs, singing, “En-duh-en-en-en-duh. En-en-en-duh. En-duh!”
How to get Ender to eat pretty much anything: Indicate that you would like to eat it.
How to get Ender to play with this trains, cars, or pretty much anything else: Decide you need to put them away.
The price of getting supper on the table with an Ender underfoot if Flora and Cinder are away: A flooded kitchen. He loves to play in the sink.
The price of washing the kitchen floor with an Ender helping: A flooded kitchen.
The price of five minutes of peace on the telephone: A flooded kitchen.
The thing I never thought I’d say before Ender: “For God’s sake, stop biting the dog!”
The day Ender discovered dinosaurs: November 23, 2011.
Most memorable quote Ender elicited from Cinder: “Mom, are you putting that pink diaper on him again? He’s a baby―he’s not colour-blind or stupid!”
Most memorable quote Ender elicited from Flora: “Now’s my chance to turn Ender into my slave!”
Ender’s word for penguins: “Fish birdies!”
Ender’s word for turtles: “Rock puppies!”
Flora’s favourite thing to do with Ender: Colour his face with Sharpies.
Flora’s least favourite thing to do with Ender: Change his diaper.
Best conversation Ender caused between his parents: S: “Hurry! I need to pee and the baby is grabbing the camera, the box of nails and my beer!” J: “Where are you?” S: “In the bathroom! Hurry!” J: “Your camera, box of nails, and beer are in the bathroom?” S: “Now is not the time to discuss the inappropriateness of me putting all these things in the bathroom sink. Just save my beer… and the camera. He can have the box of nails.”
Most frequent Facebook comment Ender has elicited from his mother: “Sunrises are over-rated.”
Best Greek myth analogy: From August 16: “Today, Flora is Hermes, messenger of the gods. Cinder is Hades. And we are all agreed Ender is Chaos personified.”
But the bestest Chaos personified you could ever ask for.
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