Of the apocalypse, euphemisms and (un)potty training


Jane: I don’t understand. I don’t understand how two people who love each other as much as I know you two do can fight so much!

Flora: Oh, Mom. Don’t worry. We’re just like Sadie and Carter. (Sadie and Carter Kane, from The Kane Chronicles.)

Cinder: Yeah, we fight all the time…

Flora: … but we cooperate when it matters.

Cinder: Yeah, we’d totally work together to save the world. Right, Flora?

Flora: Right… Ouch! Why’d you punch me?

Cinder: The world is not in peril right now.

The Revelation of St John: 4. The Four Riders ...


Cinder: Mom! I taught Ender a new word!

Jane: Oh, dear God. Do I want to hear this?

Cinder: Ender! What do you say?

Ender: Butt sack! Butt sack!

Jane: Butt sack?

Cinder: It’s a euphemism. Do you want to know for what?

Jane: No.


Jane: Ender, beloved, the potty is right there. Why did you pee on the floor? Again?

Ender: I hate potty. I never pee in potty again.

Jane: Why?

Ender: Potty evil.

Jane: Cinder!

Cinder: What? Why are you assuming I told him the potty was evil?


Cinder: Well, it’s not like he was using it much anyway.


Flora: Moooom! Maggie’s drinking pee!

Jane: What? Oh… no, that’s okay, that’s water.

Flora: You… gave… Maggie… water… in… Ender’s POTTY?

Jane: Well… it’s not like he’s using it these days.

“But I don’t want to marry a handsome prince!”

Setting: Playground.

The Players: Ursa, 3.5, as the Princess. Flora, 7.5 and “in charge” of Ursa, as the Mother. Ender, 2.5, as Everyone Else.

Ursa: Save me, Mother, save me!

Flora: Mama to the rescue! Where is that fiendish dragon?

Ursa: Is Ender the dragon?

Flora: Yes. Ender! Come and guard Ursa!

Ursa: He’s not coming.

Flora: Well, toddlers are like that. Not very obedient. Ender! Come attack Ursa!

Ender: OK!

Ursa: Aaah!

Flora: It’s okay! I’ll save you, darling!

Ursa: Now that you’ve saved me, you have to marry me.

Flora: I can’t marry you! I’m your mother!

Ursa: But you saved me.

Flora: You’re supposed to marry a handsome prince, my darling.

Ursa: But I don’t want to marry a handsome prince.

Flora: Oh. Do you want to marry a handsome princess?

Ursa: No, I want to marry you. Because you saved me.

Flora: How about we replay the game, and Ender saves you? He can be the handsome prince.

Ursa: Who will be the dragon?

Flora: That rock over.

Ursa: Save me, save me!

Flora: Ender! Go save the princess!

Ender: Attack!

Ursa: He’s attacking me!

Flora: Just pretending he’s attacking the dragon. Now, Ender, kiss her and save her.

Ursa: I don’t want him to kiss me. I just want him to save me and marry me.

… For “Ursa,” and her mom, who didn’t get to hear it. Thanks for visiting with us. We love you.

English: Ursa Major, Astronomical chart showin...

Damn right he’s cool

Jane: Ender, dude, where do you think you’re going?

Ender: Outside. Play with the guys.

(“The guys” are Cinder and his friends, currently bouncing like mad on the trampoline. And I pause and wonder how to explain to the little dude that 1) he’s two-and-a-half, so I can’t just send him out into the wild that is our Common unsupervised and I can’t supervise him because I need to make supper and, perhaps just as pertinently 2) I’m pretty sure “the guys,” 9, 10 and 12 years old, don’t want him on the trampoline with them. Finally, I say:)

Jane: I think the guys can’t play with you right now; they’re doing something pretty tricky.

Ender: Guys play with me. I’m cool.

(And I pause again, loving the confidence and dreading the meltdown that will follow the rejection that I’m sure is inevitable the second he shows up on the trampoline. But we’re talking on the balcony that overhangs the trampoline, and “the guys” here us.)

And one of them says: For sure you’re cool Ender. Come on down.

(And as he toddles off, brimming with joy, I take a moment to feel thoroughly ashamed. For yet again underestimating children: my children, their good friends that I know so very well. For underestimating their goodness and kindness. And I get all sappy and mellow and happy and reflective, and then a voice brings me back.)

Cinder: But Mom? Can you make sure he’s wearing pants?

A youth bouncing on a trampoline

The lighter side of hitting toddlers

…or, Shoehorns are for whacking

Ender’s two-and-a-half, and as per the When toddlers hit post, I’ve had an active-active-active two-and-a-half year-old before, so top of my list of to-do things today was to put away the house shoehorn. Here’s why:

Actors: five-year-old Doberman with the patience of a medieval Catholic saint, three-years plus four-months old Cinder, two-foot long shoe horn (Cinder’s daddy is such a dandy), frazzled mother with nine-month-old strapped to back.

Setting: Kitchen. Mother at stove stir-frying slop (incidentally, it was slop—terrible, one of the worst things I’ve ever cooked; we had peanut butter and jam sandwiches for supper instead). Mother turns around from kitchen disaster to discover three- year-old whacking dog with shoehorn.
Jane: Cinder!
Cinder[drops shoe horn]: Waaaaah! [collapses on floor in fetal position]
J [kneels down beside him]: Why are you crying?
C: Waaaaah! Because waaaah you waaaaah yelled yaaaaaaaah at me waaaaah…
J: Why did I yell at you?
C: Because I was hitting waaaaah Anya.
J: You know better than that. We never, ever hit Anya. We take care of Anya, we pet her, we feed her, we love her… It’s a terrible, terrible thing to do to hit her [bla bla bla].
C: Waaaaaah!
J: Why are you crying now?
C: Because I was having so much fun hitting Anya…

From Life’s Archives, September 24, 2005—Shoehorn are bad

What’s the weapon of choice, confiscated or otherwise, at your house?

A female Doberman Pinscher.

Yes, that kind of day

Flora: Mooom! How are you feeling today?

Jane: Um… pretty good. Thank you.

Flora: I mean—are you having a ‘I need to clean up messes’ kind of day, or a ‘If I have to clean up another poopy mess I’ll scream’ kind of day?

Jane: Um… I don’t think I like where this is heading. What happened?

Flora: Well, what kind of day are you having?

Jane: Why are you asking?

Flora: Well, I need to know whether I should restrain Maggie and ask you to go get toilet paper, or whether I should let her go and, you know, eat the poop?

Jane: Fucking hell, did Ender poop on the floor again?

Flora: Oh. That kind of day. Maggie… Maggie, where are you?

Jane: No! No! Don’t let the dog eat the poop!

Two lessons: a. My children know me much too well. Must fake being calm and in control more. b. Never, ever let our Boston Terrier runt lick your face. Never.

8 day old Boston Terrier (December 2006). Phot...

Snot. A boy’s best friend. Not.

I’m cuddling the Ender before bedtime and he’s sniffling and snuffling and yup, there’s a big booger up the nostril. And I look at that booger and I become obsessed: IT MUST COME OUT NOW! So I reach and snatch it—Ender wails at the intrusion of his personal space and the violation of the mother-toddler nursing contract (Section 4.3.12 “The mother shall not use the promixity of nursing as an excuse to a. Pick the nursling’s nose, b. Scrape cradle cap off the nusling’s scalp, c. Clip the nursling’s fingernails or toenails)—and I am immediately punished. For there I am, all settled for the night in bed, with a giant booger on my finger… and not a tissue in sight.

I look at Ender. He looks at me. He has this, “Well, you’re the dolt who took that out of my nose. It wasn’t bother me at all” look on his face. I’m pretty sure I have a speculative look on my face. He’s my third baby, see, and my other two, well, they shared a habit that would be very useful right now. Yup. They ate snot. Which at the time struck me as horribly, terribly gross—but now I find myself thinking was a pretty useful thing to do.

I can’t believe I’m about to do this. I look at the booger.

Want to eat it?” I ask Ender. Ender looks back at me. His little eyebrows go up. His little eyes go round. And very slowly, very solemnly, he shakes his head.

Yuck,” he says. “You eat it, Mommy.”

It took me three kids, but I finally got one that won’t eat snot. This is good news, I remind myself. But there’s that booger on my finger.

I play my last card.

Your brother would eat it,” I say.

Cause he would. When Cinder was this age—two-and-a-half and change, my life revolved around snot. His snot. Flora’s new baby snot. Her lack of snot. Here are the four bestest snottiest moments:

They share everything

So we’re in the nursing chair, Flora sucking away and holding on for dear life, Cinder climbing on my head, and me 1) reading (for the 7th time that day, god help me, perhaps I can accidentally “lose it”) Pooh’s Grand Adventure, 2) trying to keep Cinder from falling on his pantless bum, or 3) landing on his sister’s head, when all of a sudden Cinder leans over, pats Flora’s face, and says something. I’m sure I heard him wrong. I squint, I ask him to repeat. He says it again. I think, I can’t possibly be hearing that right. I say, “One more time, sweetie?”

I jus’ put some of my snot in Flora’s nose.” (From Life’s Archives, March 22, 2005)

Things I’d never thought I’d say…

3:30 a.m, “Mama, wake up, I have a booger!”


Should I eat it?”

No… ah… here, give it to me, I’ll put it on the wall…”

3:56 a.m. “Mama, I have another booger. Should I put it on the wall?”

Yes.” (From Life’s Archives, July 9, 2005)

They share everything still

J: Cinder, what are you doing?

C: Oh, hi, mama. I’m giving Flora some of my snot, because she doesn’t have any. (From Life’s Archives, July 13, 2005)

Why does my life revolve around snot?

Here’s the sequel:

C: Mama, look, Flora has a mosquito in her hair.

J: Oh, no. Oh. It’s not a mosquito. It’s… snot… how on earth did snot get in Flora’s hair? (minute examination of Flora’s nose for signs of a cold)

C: Oh, I remember. I put a booger there in the night.

J: ??? Why did you do that, sweetie?

C: I couldn’t reach the wall. (From Life’s Archives, July 19, 2005)

2012. “Your brother would eat it,” I repeat. Ender gives me the Look. And very slowly rolls away from me.

Yuck,” he repeats.

I put tissues, box of, on the shopping list.

Nose diagram.

Nose diagram. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you think he got the stomach flu when…

Cinder: Do you think Ender got the stomach flu when he ate that gum ball off the floor at Market Mall, or when he licked the watch display case?

Flora: I think it’s probably food poisoning from when he grabbed those chicken bones out of the garbage.

I’m spending the day today on the couch with a puking toddler. What are you up to?

Flora Takes a Nap

But I like poking Flora…

Nobody who hasn’t been there understands just how much effort goes into keeping a baby alive when there’s an active toddler in the house. Flora’s three months old in the following vignettes. Cinder? About six weeks short of three years, and the most loving big brother imaginable. Yet their parents are terrified Flora will not make it to her first birthday. Why?

Babies are for wrestling:

J: Why is Flora crying?

C: Because I wrestled her.

J: Did she like it?

C: No, that’s why she’s crying. She’s too little. I’ll try again tomorrow when she’s bigger.

Babies are for jumping on:

J: Cinder, what are you doing?

C: I’m going to build a mountain and jump on Flora.

J: I don’t think that’s a good idea.

C: It is a good idea. Flora said she wants to play with me like that.

Babies love to play leap frog

J: Stop!

C: What, mama?

J: You’re stepping on Flora.

C: No, I’m not. I’m playing leap frog, like Franklin and Rabbit.

Brothers like to poke babies

C: Mama, can I poke Flora in the eye?

J: That’s not a good idea. We have to be very careful about eyes.

C: Mama, can I poke Flora in the ear?[etc. Etc.]

J: How about we don’t poke Flora at all?

C: But I like poking Flora.

From Life’s Archives, April 5, 2005.

2012. Poor Flora. She’s going through it all again… with a baby brother. At least this time around, she outweighs him. Although, because I make giant boys and small-boned girls, not by much. Do you have a “But I like poking Flora” story from your toddler/baby life to share with me? I’d love to hear it. Tell me I wasn’t alone with this phase…

Agneta Block (Emmerich 29-10-1629 – Amsterdam ...

Why Parents Swear

…or, more appropriately perhaps, why children swear?

Language warning for the sensitive of eye and ear.

What they didn’t tell you in any of the parenting books is just how gross the first years of parenthood are. Snot. Poop. Or, as we used to call it in the time before children—shit. So many, many shit stories.

So here, to celebrate April Fools’ Day, is the one of the best two-in-one poop-n-swear stories from Flora’s first year. Cinder was two months short of three years.

Flora has the mother of all blow outs first thing in the morning. (I’ve always thought people exaggerated when they reported these kinds of things; now I know.) There was poop up her back to her hairline; grosser still, it went up her sleeves to her elbows.

Aaaah!” I say, as I realize it left the diaper.

Iiick!” I say, as I realize it’s soaked through the entire sleeper.

Ugh!” I say as I realize it’s leaked through the sleeper onto the sheet and the mattress.

What happened?” Cinder, sitting beside the bed, asks. I summarize. Cinder looks.

Do you want to say fuck?” he asks after a moment.

What? Why?” I stammer. My toddler—my baby—what’s coming out of his mouth?

Daddy would say fuck,” he says seriously.

From Life’s Archives, March 31, 2005.

Seven years later: The first time Ender said fuck, I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised. Mortified beyond belief because of where we were at the time, but definitely not surprised (that story’s here). We do learn something along the journey. Not always what we’re supposed to learn, or what we should learn, but we do learn something.

diaper pile

“He’s not evil, he’s a toddler.”

Yesterday, mid-day:

Cinder: Mooooooom! Ender’s got the handsoap and is smearing it everywhere!

Jane: Ummm…

Cinder: Well? Aren’t you going to do anything about it?

Jane: Ummm… well, probably not. It’s pretty much the least destructive thing he’s chosen to do today, so I’m just going to go with it.

Cinder: Oh. [Pause] Saving your energy for bedtime, huh?




Jane: Oh, Ender, I love you. I love you.

Cinder: You’re saying that as if you’re trying really had to convince yourself.

Jane: No! I love him! Always!

Cinder: Even right now? When he’s being this evil?

Jane: Even right now. [Pause] He’s not being evil. He’s being a toddler.

Cinder: Was I ever this evil when I was a toddler?

Jane: [Pause] I know it might be hard to believe this, but if anything, you were worse.

Cinder: Really? Huh. And you didn’t freecycle me. [Pause] Because you loved me?


Jane Austen

Caveman Redux

Good news: Ender does not have a younger sibling to torment right now. Bad news: He’s got Maggie the runt Boston Terrier. And his baby cousin. Good news: his baby cousin is almost in the same stage. That’s Karma. If you think we’re being cavalier about Ender’s current caveman stage… well, we’ve been here before. And Flora survived. Mostly intact.

Flora’s 10 months old in these vingettes, and Cinder’s a solid three-and-a-half. Oh, God. A full 12 more months of this? Where’s the secret chocolate stash? (By the way, have you seen this research report that chocoholics are thinner than abstainers? Ha!)

J: Cinder! You need to be more careful with Flora. What do big people do?
C [sullenly]: Big people take care of little people.
J: That’s right. Big people take care of little people. You’re big and strong, so you have to take care of Flora…
C: Well, I know that. But sometimes I just want to poke her!

C: [to Flora] I love this little bald creature who won’t get hurt.
J: She’s not bald. She has hair. Look, lots of hair!
C: I love saying I love this little bald creature who won’t get hurt, okay Mommy?

C: Mommy? Can I pinch this little bald creature so she wakes up?
J: I’d rather you didn’t. I like it when she naps in the car.
C: Well, I do too. But I really want to pinch her, too. Can I pinch Daddy instead?
J: Well…
S: No!
From Life’s Archives, November 30, 2005―The fun and the frustration…

Through the Chaos

Through the Chaos (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being Ender Redux

I originally wrote this essay in November 2011, for the 2011 Family Christmas Book. But given Ender’s performances over the last few days, it seems appropriate to revisit it today.

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, 2011: “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.

Pants Optional

Austen/Cinder: Moooom! Ender’s following me outside!

Jane: Just watch him for a few minutes; I’ll be right there.

Cinder: But he’s not wearing any pants!

Jane: Ender! You need shoes and pants before you go outside!

Cinder: He’s got his boots on. He’s just no diaper and no pants. [Pause.] It must be great to be a baby.

From the sitcom that is my life…

Strong start to the morning

Ender: Mama! I pee in potty!

Jane: Awesome! Way to go… um… if you peed in the potty, why is there a big puddle of pee on the floor?

E: I dump pee. Dump pee on floor. Hee hee hee.

J: Um… why?

E: Make footprints! (takes appropriate action)

Gets even better in the afternoon…

Flora: Moooooom! Ender’s biting the dog again! Should I make him stop?

Jane: Well–yeah! Get him off her! Why are you even asking me?

F: Well–cause if he’s biting Maggie, then he’s not biting me. [Pause.} Or you.

J: That does make sense. … No, for Chris’ sake, get him off her. Poor dog.

[five minutes later]

F: Mooom!

J: Is he biting the dog again?

F: No, he’s dragging me around the floor by my feet. I knew we should have just left him biting the dog.

Interlude for a telephone call…

On the telephone–the Vice President (Legal) of a Calgary investment banking outfit. Of course. At least it wasn’t the CEO.

Ender: Hello… Mommy? Talk with Mommy? … No talk with Mama. … I go have nursies. [Receiver slam!]

And wrapping up in the evening…

Jane (reading): “Holi is a joyous Indian holiday that comes at the end of winter. Holi is also known as the festival of colors. On this holiday, people run through the streets smearing strangers and friends with colored powder and douring each other with colored water. At the end of the day, everyone is decked out in all the colors of the rainbow.”

Flora: Oh, oh, oh, we could totally do that tomorrow to celebrate the Equinox. Can we, Mom? Can we?

J: Well, it would be very fun, I totally agree. But all our neighbours would pretty much hate us.

Austen: They already think we’re the crazy people, don’t they?

How two-year-olds clean the floor

Pro: My kitchen floor hasn’t been this smooth and shiny in, well, years, frankly.

Con: That gorgeous gleam? The remains of two dozen eggs from a biodynamic family farm.

The morale: Never, ever look in the fridge at four dozen eggs and ask yourself, “God, what am I going to do with all those eggs?” Because when you have a two-year-old agent of Chaos in the house–the Universe will provide. Oh, it will provide.

Love you, Ender. To pieces.

“Ender pee on the floor!”

Jane: Well, thanks for not peeing in my lap. I guess that’s something.
Ender: En-duh pee on floor.
J: Yeah. Where should Ender pee? Ender should pee in the toilet.
E: No, En-deh like pee on floor. Is fun.
J (pause): Fun? Why is it fun?
E: Make pee prints on floor. See?
… and before I make it to a rag, there is a trail of little pee foot prints racing down the hallway.
If you’ve ever wondered why our house smells funny… now you know.

“Floor Peas?”

The consequence of a two-year-old helping prepare dinner–a bowl full of frozen peas all over the floor. Siblings to the rescue… sort of.

Jane: Cinder, get Maggie out of here. Flora, help Ender get those peas back in the bowl.

Flora: Why are we putting them back in the bowl?

J: To eat them.

F: You’re going to make us eat floor peas?

J: They’re organic, sustainably grown floor peas, and I just washed the floor the other day. There’s nothing wrong with them.

F: Are you going to tell Daddy they’re floor peas?

Cinder: Daddy won’t mind–he ate those floor noodles, remember?

F: I don’t think he realized they were floor noodles at the time.

J: Guys, stop eating the floor peas, and put them in the bowl.

C: What’s the big deal? We’re just going to eat them out of the bowl after we put them in it.

J: Cause I want to sweep the floor after.

F: To remove the evidence?

J: No, to… you’d better not eat the ones that rolled too close to the garbage.

F: Do you think other mothers would make their children eat floor peas?

J: For God’s sake, I’m not making you eat floor peas, I’m asking you to pick them up!

C: I think the floor peas are delicious.

F: I still think you shouldn’t tell Daddy they’re floor peas.

J: Just put them in the freakin’ bowl…