A conversation, a reading assignment, a writing exercise, and a re-run #3

A conversation:

Sean: Hurry! I need to pee and the baby is grabbing the camera, the box of nails and my beer!
Jane: Where are you?
Sean: In the bathroom! Hurry!
Jane: Your camera, box of nails, and beer are in the bathroom?
Sean: 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.

September 9, 2011

 A reading assignment that will change your life:

Vera Pavlova’s If There Is Something To Desire: 100 Poems.

for a shot of Vera to convince you to devour her beautiful book of poetry, check out this article she wrote for Poetry magazine: Heaven is not verbose: a Notebook.

 

A writing exercise to do instead of wishing you were writing:

This is my favourite Vera Pavlova poem:

I walk a tightrope,

a kid on each arm for balance.

This is all a poem can be, this is all a poem should be. Now. Write your own. Two lines. That’s all.

 

 

An explanation:

This is the third week of my 12-week unplugged AWOL (don’t tell my clients… um or too many of my friends 😉 ). No phones, no wifi… also, no winter! I’m going to be documenting things old school via journals and postcards (if you want a postcard from… well, that place where I’m hiding… email your snail mail address to nothingbythebook@gmail.com).

The blog’s on auto-pilot with a conversation from the archives, a reading recommendation, a writing assignment (cause I can’t nag any of you in person), and unsolicited advice… er, that is, a re-run post of the kind I don’t write very often anymore.

Enjoy.

 

A re-run:

In defence of routines

 (first published on September 21, 2011)

I wrote this essay in response to a long and heated thread called “Discipline for Young Children” on one of the yahoo groups I belong to. I’m not as active a participant in those discussions as I was when Cinder and Flora were little―partly because I no longer have napping kids, partly because I’ve become much more reluctant to offer advice, even when nominally asked for (because I’ve learnt most people don’t want advice and solutions: they just want to whinge, and get unconditional support for their whinging… but that’s food for another post), but mostly because I work and write for money so much more now than I did in those first years… and I’m kind of written out at the end of the day. But every once in a while, against my better judgement, I just can’t resist…
…I would like to offer a defence of―or the case for―rhythms and routines in an unschooled life, with young children and older ones too. [Another poster] wrote in one of her earlier posts “Whenever someone reaches for some additional form of external or arbitrary ‘structure’ I wonder, usually in my head, what is making them feel insecure this week and why they feel that will solve the problem…”

And I would like to answer that with, yes, actually, it can.

The stuff that you have a predictable routine/rhythm for―so long as it works for you in a positive way―is stuff you don’t have to expand energy thinking about and reacting to. (I’m reminded of The Big Bang Theory episode in which Sheldon uses gaming dice to make all non-essential decisions to leave his precious brain cells free to do the important work of “the mind.”)

My partner and I are both self-employed, random-deadline driven people engaged in creative, chaotic work. That injects a great deal of surprise, unpredictability and “must make this decision Now!” and “must upset any and all plans made to date and respond to this Crisis Now!” into our professional―and because we are self-employed and work from home and see our lives as intertwined etc.―personal lives.

The counterbalance or anchor if you prefer that word to that chaos is predictability and simplicity wherever it makes sense. And we didn’t arrive at that conclusion/practice overnight: it slowly evolved as we kept on adding children and responsibilities to the chaos.

So we have a morning routine, for example, that I stick to even when there’s a deadline fire burning under me and what I want to do the second I wake up is start pounding away at the keyboard. It’s a routine that honours the fact that 3/5 of the members of this family suck at mornings, and 2/5 are ridiculous early birds, and it includes things like me sitting on the couch with a book ignoring the kids while I drink my first―and hopefully second―cup of coffee and my eldest not speaking or looking at anyone for 45 minutes or so after he wakes up and playing his X-box or just lying on the couch with a blanket over his head. (A routine, see, doesn’t have to be about “doing” stuff. It can also be about safeguarding time to just “be.”) It also includes things like getting dressed, brushing hair, recorder practice, tossing a load of laundry in, making the big bed, and culminates with a morning walk with the dog. But its most important thing is―the time for three of us to just wake up and hang for a bit. (Two of us starting playing and doing stuff as soon as they wake up. The bums.)
This is what we do 9 out of 10 mornings. And it’s not something that anyone complains about as rigid, boring, limiting―it’s a guarded part of our day that, on that 1 out of 10 mornings where we have to miss it―where we have to get into the car first thing in the morning for example―makes us appreciate it all the more on the morrow when we return to it.

There are other anchors like that throughout the day and the week―I’m pretty protective of the last part of our evenings and bedtime, for example, so even though there’s no magic time by which everyone’s in bed or sleep, there sure is a rhythm to the last part of each evening. I have a built-in 3 p.m. tea break for me―that’s the magic time when I run out of steam and get cranky, so I plan for it: tea for me, snack for the kids, something to do (if just flopping on the couch to watch a DVD) so that I don’t become Evil Exhausted Mom (it took me six years to realize I consistently lost it at 3 p.m. Super-observant, I am.) We go swimming each Monday and Thursday―unless something else comes up, but that’s the “default” setting on each week, just as our girl’s music class mid-week is. But there was a time―when my eldest was four to six in particular―when the routines had to be perfectly predictable and inviolate, because that was what he needed at that time.

This last year, I’ve outsourced dinner to routines, a la Taco Tuesday, Slow Cooker Wednesday, Pizza Friday. (Also “What the Fuck’s for Dinner Thursday,” the day that reminds me to stick to the boring predictability of the rest of the week.) This is not my default setting: my default setting is―I’m getting hungry, what should we make for dinner, oh no, the fridge is empty, let’s go out―but this Taco Tuesday setting, although it makes me sound like the most boring person in the world, is better. It means we eat even when I’m on deadline, when my default setting is to not eat at all until the project is done―oh, crap, you mean you kids need to eat?

There are personalities, families, life cycles and individuals who don’t need any of this and don’t thrive on it. For sure. But there are very unschooled families who do. And hyper-organized people who need strict routines to have something to deviate from. And hyper-unorganized people who need some kind of even aspirational guideline to be fly-by-the-seat of-their-pants with.

I’m not sure which one I am, or my family is: we’re five individuals with very different personalities. But I do know that routines/rhythms/anchors―whatever you want to call them if the word schedule gives you the willies―make our family life more peaceful, our work life possible. Most of our days have plenty of spontaneity, go with the flow, live in the moment kinda stuff―too much, I would argue, on the days when work throws me a really unexpected curveball.

Does Slow Cooker Wednesday and 3 p.m. tea mean the baby getting sick, the washing machine flooding the basement, the 9 y o breaking an arm doesn’t throw us into chaos? Of course it doesn’t. But Slow Cooker Wednesday does mean we eat a good supper on Wednesday even if we spent most of the day at the ER (unless of course the broken arm happened before the chicken went into the slow cooker) or mopping up the basement and calling plumbers (see previous caveat).

Making my and my eldest’s morning incapacitation part of our morning routine respects our biological clocks and sets the stage for a good day―and it keeps me from unproductive feelings of guilt over being unproductive in the mornings. And that 3 p.m. tea break I give myself? I don’t like being Evil Exhausted Mommy. And it takes such a small act and such a small amount of planning to keep that from happening.

End of pro-routine pontification.

An Ode to My Messy House

I.

I love you.

But oh, you infuriate me. How do you get so filthy?

(It’s your fault, you don’t clean me.)

Why are you blaming me? You lousy ingrate, what have you done for me lately?

(More than you’ve done for me, slovenly slattern.)

And it just goes downhill from here. There’s a slam. And a bang. I threaten to leave it, walk out, FOREVER. It says fine, but it gets to keep the children. Oh yeah? I holler.

(Oh, yeah, you foul slob, where do you think they’re going to want to live?)

I weep.

II.

Flora: What the heck’s going on?

Jane: I’m fighting with the house! Leave us alone.

Cinder: She’s lost it.

Flora: Totally.

Ender: Does anyone want to build a fort in the living room?

III.

I think I would clean you more if… oh, I don’t know. If you just didn’t get dirty again. Immediately! If you could give me a day’s… hour’s respite. You know? Would it kill you? To stay clean, tidy, organized for more than 30 seconds?

(I am not the one who messes myself up, you know.)

I know.

Sob.

(Beloved. Do I not take good care of you?)

No! You’re drafty and squeaky! Too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. You’re dusty and stinky and…

(Beloved. I wrap myself around you the best I can. Don’t I? Am I not your sanctuary? The place you run to when you need a rest from the rest of the world? Do you not write me the most delicious love letters when you are in that mood?)

Sob. Yes. But you are such a mess. And you need so much work. And I don’t want to do any of it. It’s thankless and never-ending. And you never say thank you.

(Beloved…)

Screw off. Do you ever thank me? Never! And then, when I do all the things… you just get filthy again! Look at that wall! That floor! And is that spaghetti sauce on the ceiling?

I don’t even remember the last time I made spaghetti…

(I just want to be clean. And beautiful. And welcoming. For you. You know? Don’t you love me more when I’m all, you know, all beautiful, all dressed up?)

Sigh.

Do I?

I don’t know. Maybe. Sure. But it doesn’t last. Ever. And so… I really don’t give a fuck. No. When you’re all prettied up and sterilized and scrubbed? You’re just this reminder, slap-in-the-face of what I’ve just done with my time that will immediately be undone.

(Bitch.)

Ingrate.

(Ingrate for what? You do nothing for me!)

I do everything! And it’s never enough!

IV.

Flora: Do you think we should call someone?

Cinder: We shouldn’t. They might take her away. You know. To the loony bin.

Ender: Let’s go hide in my fort.

V.

(Beloved.)

Go away.

(Just the bathroom and the kitchen floor. Ok? Please? Just… just the toilet and the mirror. Please?)

 I pour Listerine into the toilet. Because, no cleaner. I feel the house roll its eyes and I bristle.

(Beloved.)

Fuck off!

(Thank you.)

What?

(Thank you.)

Really? Did you just…

(Thank you. Now… scrub the tub. And fill it. And put in bubbles. And my pipes and furnace will sing to you while you relax. Yes? Take all the time you want. Unwind… Yeees. Like this… And then… you can wash the kitchen floor.)

VI.

Flora: Hey, Mom… are you writing? I thought you said you were going to clean the kitchen floor?

Jane: Um, well, I was. But I decided to write about how I didn’t want to do it instead.

xoxo

“Jane”

NBTB-Hey Mom Kitchen Floor

PS The kitchen floor’s still filthy. What, you think I’m that easy to play? This house has no idea who it’s dealing with.

Life hacks for work-at-home moms and other crazy people: always have a Plan Z (and, be a Timelord)

NBTB-Life Hacks1

My day goes horribly wrong at 10:08 a.m., when the planned child hand-off misfires, and, instead of starting my working day with a child-free and care-free work-out session, I show up at the gym with a crying five-year-old in tow. You know how there are moments when… oh, what? Essentially, you need to make a conscious decision:

“This day will not go as planned. Attempting to fulfill the agenda I set for it yesterday is suicide.”

And then, you need to take a five minute—five second, even—pause to weep. Then breathe.

Then, you need to do physically exhausting, difficult things for a while. No, really. Take a page from my active children: when the world’s just not right, and you want to punch someone… run. Hang upside down from the ceiling. Do push ups until you puke. (That’s 14 for me…)

And then… you look at the day and think. OK. So. No six-hour block of time during which I was going to do all the things. AND write the next great novel. OK. So. What can I do instead? What bits and pieces can I pick off the agenda instead?

And maybe the answer is… none of them. Today, none of them is going to get done. Today needs to be a kid day, a sick day, a play day, a no-earn day, a no-set-goals day.

But often, the answer is… Well, fine. No way can I write today, that won’t happen. But. I can send THAT long overdue email. And I can book THAT interview. And I can follow up with THAT client about THAT no-show payment. (Excuse me… I’m going to go do just that…)

And maybe, with the five-year-old in tow, today is the day that I prep suppers for the next two days… because that buys me an hour, two on each of those days, during which I can do, if not ALL THE THINGS, then at least some of the things.

Or maybe, today’s the day I have a mid-day bath. Or hey, today’s the day I call the client who knows and loves my kids… and interject family reality into the life of Corporate Canada.

“Want to grab a coffee with me and this gorgeous redhead I know?”

And so, some of that happens, and also this: I meet a friend who’s going to a play matinee, and she takes my progeny into the play, and I sit outside the theatre and I write…

Not the six hours I planned to have. But one hour, two hours—hell, 20 minutes—is better than zero.

When I talk with work-at-home parents and parents who’d like to… but can’t imagine how the hell to do it, I find the difference between the two groups is pretty simple. Those of us who work-at-home have two skills.

First, we know how to turn on a dime. To reposition. To recognize that Plan A just went out the window, Plan B is impossible, but maybe, maybe we can take some elements of Plan F and Plan X and graft a zombie that will see us through the day. (Also, we have Plans A through Z, and their variations, in the back of our minds at all times. Because Plan A pretty much never happens…)

Second, we’re Timelords. We know how to grab every last minute of productivity out of those 20 minutes when we have to.

If I had had my six hours, as planned, some of my time would have gone to… making coffee. Drinking coffee. Going for a walk. Checking Facebook. Maybe popping in a load of laundry….

In the 90 minutes that my son is watching Y-Stage’s Pinocchio, I work for 88 minutes. (I have to take a pee break at the 67 minute mark.)*

I leave you today with the most useful productivity-sanity strategy I’ve acquired over the past decade. Turn reading – writing – sending email messages… into three separate tasks.

Mind-blowing, I know. Bear with me. Consider:

  1. It takes no time at all to read email messages. And you can do it during periods of distraction, with children turning summersaults in the background.
  2. It takes no time at all to send an email message. And, ditto.
  3. It takes time, concentration and attention to write email messages. And nothing worth reading (over 144 characters, anyway) was ever typed with thumbs on a phone.

So. Read your messages on the fly if you must. Why not (actually… so many reasons to why not. But more on that another day). But don’t respond. Think. Then think some more. And then, when you have that 20 minute-1 hour block of time… think about it, that’s really quite a lot of time, and yet not enough time to write a draft of the next great Canadian novel or even a barely coherent-but-fileable feature… write out your thoughtful e-mail drafts… that actually answer the question your clients / sources / grandmothers raised in their email.

And then… you can send them out when you’ve got a minute or two here or there. And you will never think, “Oh, crap, why did I hit send!” on anything again.

You’re welcome. You may not realize what I’ve done, but I’ve just completely changed your life.

xoxo

“Jane”

P.S. For about 10 minutes last week, I changed the world. Read about it here: Women in Leadership: Opportunities lost, and not because our bosses are misogynist pricks.

Don’t fight with the four-year-old. Just don’t.

photo (21)

It goes like this:

Jane: For Keeee-rrriiiissst’s sake, what is wrong with you guys? Do. Not. Fight. With. The. Four. Year. Old!

But do they understand? No.

Flora: Is it too much to ask to not have him pull my hair?

Sean: Is it too much to ask to not have him screech in the car?

Cinder: Is it too much to want my testicles to be intact?

So I try to explain. Of course it’s not too much to ask to have him not pull your hair. It’s a perfectly reasonable request. But how about you just move your head like so, so it’s not within grasp of his crazy little fingers? He’s restrained in the car seat. There’s only so far he can reach. Just… move more to the right.

Flora: But I want to rest my head on the car seat!

Jane: Then he will pull your hair.

Flora: Because he’s evil?

Jane: Because he’s four…

I re-coach Sean through this, again. Yes, it sucks when he screeches in the car. But he’s at this awesome phase that the more of a reaction he gets from you, the more he will do it. Ask him to stop, once… if it doesn’t work, zone out. Don’t pay attention. The more you ask, the more—and with more glee—he will do it. That’s the phase. It should be over in four-to-six months.

Sean: But it’s driving me crazy!

Jane: But you will never, ever win that kind of argument with a four-year-old.

Sean: But you hate it too! I saw you—when we stopped at that red light, you clicked open the door and your hand was on the door handle. I know what you were thinking!

True. I almost leapt out of the car and walked the remaining 4 km home. And there was a blizzard happening, and I was NOT wearing sensible shoes. But it wasn’t just the screeching. It was the combination of screeching-and-counter-screeching… because, see, it always takes two.

Which brings me to…

Cinder: I can’t wait to see how you justify Ender’s incessant assault on my privates.

Jane: Cinder, you do everything to provoke him but tape a “kick me” sign to your groin.

Cinder: A “kick me” sign on my groin? Now there’s an idea…

Jane: I have absolutely no pity or sympathy for you. And I’m becoming resigned to the idea that you will never give me grandchildren. Thank Zeus I have two other children who may continue the genetic line…

I own this: the four-year-old is… exhausting. He is such an amazing combination of exuberance, glee, joy—and utter chaos, destruction, self-centredness and irrationality—that… well, exhausting. There’s no other way to describe it. Chaos personified, joy personified. Love personified, too, but energy draining more often than energy-giving. The mantra that gets me through his most intense moments is pretty simple:

It takes two to fight.

So I don’t.*

Ender: I’m going to pee in my potty, and then I’m going to put it on my head and dance, dance, dance!

Jane: I’m going to start the bath running, then.

And look for the mop.

Caveat: I don’t always succeed. Of course not. Them four-year-olds are wily creatures. And sometimes, they crave the conflict as much as I crave peace. They—or the Ender, at least—will work tirelessly and methodically to elicit a scream. To arouse the Evil-Mommy-Within. To evoke The-Voice-of-Cthulu.

Cinder: Jeezus, Mom, what the hell was that?

Jane: Um… sorry. That was the crazy, I’ve lost all control voice.

Cinder: Wow. Did you ever yell at me like that?

Jane: I can honestly say, No. But, you know, I don’t think it’s that you were any less annoying. I think I had more patience.

Flora: Mom? I don’t think the crazy voice worked. Ender just ran out the front door.

Jane: But it’s -10! And he’s naked!

Flora: He’s also holding a pair of garden shears in one hand and a drywall saw in the other.

Send chocolate. Wine. And the business cards of some good therapists.

xoxo,
Jane

P.S. I still want to know what your totem animal is. I’ll collect all the answers in this Friday’s post. The things you will learn about yourselves and your friends… Hashtag #whatsyourtotemanimal if you’re tweeting the answer or respond in comments below the original post, It’s a game: what’s your totem animal? And what’s mine? Email me at nothingbythebook@gmail.com if you want to play but keep it all undercover.

P.P.S. I want to ensure none of you construe the above post as parenting advice. To that end, I direct you to Rachel of Tao of Poop’s recent post, Can’t you just stop the parenting advice?

P.P.P.S. For the bloggers in the crowd: last week, my Twitter feed introduced me to Shane Prather, from Whispering Sweetly and her Bloggers Coast to Coast map. It’s a fun idea: you list your blog with her and can use the resulting interactive map as a way to meet local bloggers. Have a peek:

*I will also own that my conflict-avoidance powers are legendary. For better or worse.

Why I love them

I.

Why I love her:

Her bead work spills and runs all over the room, everywhere, everything wrecked, hours of work, destroyed, and:

Flora: Aaaaaaaah! There are not enough bad words in my vocabulary to express how I feel right now!

photo (15)

II.

Why I love him:

Cinder: Want me to turn off Mom’s computer so you can learn a few new ones?

(He doesn’t. So I really love him. And he makes Flora laugh.)

photo (14)

III.

Why I love him:

Sean: Oh, sweetheart. Want Daddy to help you pick them up?

IV.

Why I love him:

Ender: Moooooom! Look how brilliant I am! I am swinging from this rope, upside down, holding all my snakes with my feet! AND, I have a pencil in my nose!

Proof I love him: I take the pencil away. My wholesome neglect and permissiveness only go so far.

photo (16)

V.

Why they love me:

Jane: I am in a piss-bad mood, stressed, and possibly completely insane. No one talk to me, and more importantly, for fcksk, no one listen to anything I say!

VI.

Oh, how they know me:

Cinder: Is it because I was a big buttsack* all day?

Ender: It’s because I peed in the garbage can, not the toilet.

Flora: I think it’s because Mercury’s in retrograde.**

Sean: I’m going to run out and get some chocolate.***

* It’s a metaphor. Don’t think about it too much. Don’t. You did, didn’t you?

** Also, how you know we live next door to a psychic.

*** I really am that easy.

xoxo

“Jane”

P.S. So… apparently half of Calgary needed to read Tuesday’s After the flood: Running on empty and why “Are things back to normal?” is not the right question post. Thank you for the tremendous response. I’m on deadline and behind on everything non-billable, but yes of course you can share it, reprint it, reblog it, and photocopy it (although … wouldn’t it be easier to just email the link?). Thank you.

P.P.S. Flora was Cousin Itt. Cinder was–creepy. Ender was sometimes a dragon and sometimes a dinosaur–anyway, a reptile with an identity crisis.

The obvious correlation between crying over spilt coffee and potty training

Sean: Ender! Why did you spill Mama’s coffee?

Ender: I not spill coffee. I pour coffee out.

Sean: The question stands: Why? Why? Why?

Ender: I have to pee.

Sean: Of course. Let’s go.

Ender: No. I pee in coffee cup. That’s why I pour coffee out.

it's potty time!

Sob.

First published October 26, 2012 on Nothing By The Book. This happened more than a year ago. And is the Ender potty-trained yet?

Sob.

Sob.

Sob.

Waaaaaaaah!

“Jane”

P.S. I’m back from the land of the sun and the mouse. Mired in critical deadlines. So you’ll only see me around if the work isn’t going well. In which case, you need to look at me very sternly–in my IRL eye or my cyber-eye–and say, “Get back to work, Jane!” My clients thank you in advance.

P.P.S. Cloudy With a Chance of Wine, that’s the coffee cup you’re getting if you ever have the guts to visit my house. Ha!

How you know he’s his mother’s son…

I.

Sean: Ugh, it’s time for this test tube full of Scope to go.

Jane: No! Not in the sink over the dishes! It’s got urine in it!

Sean: You let Cinder keep a test tube full of urine next to our wine glasses? For how long?

Jane: It’s not full of urine, it only has a little bit of urine in it–it’s mostly mouthwash. And isn’t the point here that I stopped you from pouring it over our dishes, which if you had done, would have had you rushing out to buy new dishes before our next meal?

Sean: You are so my son’s mother.

Yup. To that end, I offer more proof:

II.

Sean: Is this test tube in the sink the urine test tube?

Cinder: I don’t know. There are lot of test tubes in the house. Odds are good someone peed in one of them at some time.

Sean: Someone?

Cinder: Well, ,when I say someone, I mean me. But if it makes you feel better, I don’t remember peeing in any test tubes recently.

Ender: I do!

Sean: I want my own sterilized kitchen. And none of you can ever come in.

Well. This is why I didn’t tell him about The Floor Peas.

Line art representation of a Test tube

First published October 8, 2012, Nothing By The Book

“Jane, why the re-run?”

“A) Funny as all hell, no? B) I’m travelling. Guess where? Guess where? Clues: critical items in the suitcase were good walking shoes, painkillers, and a hot pink bikini. PS Dear clients, also a laptop. Always, the laptop.”

The love is unconditional. The patience… not so much

Cinder: Hey, Mom, when I get facial hair, can I grow a little mustache like this? You know, like that evil Nazi Hitler guy had? It would be totally ironic…

Jane: Your face, your facial hair. Do as you will. I just won’t be able to go anywhere in public with you.

Cinder: What? I thought your love for me was… what? Unconditional?

Jane: It absolutely is. But just because I love you fully, totally and unconditionally does not mean I have to put up with, support or encourage your crazy.

He gets not what I say at all, but that’s ok—he’s not really planning to grow a Hitler mustache. I’m pretty sure he’s not. Anyway, point does not arise: no facial hair yet. Just another attempt to get a rise out of Mom.

We’re talking about unconditional love in the context of one of history’s most terrifying monsters because, earlier that day:

Ender: Oh, Mama, I love you so much when you do sweet things for me.

Jane: Oh, Ender, I love doing sweet things for you.

Ender: But sometimes, you don’t. You won’t do sweet things for me, or you do mean things to me.

Jane: Like what?

Ender: Like not letting me bother the girls. And when you don’t do sweet things for me, then I hate you.

Words. Isn’t it crazy how words from our little ones hurt? Even when we know that they don’t actually understand what they’re saying in quite the way we hear what they’re saying.

Words.

Jane: Well you know what, Ender? I love you when you do sweet things for me. And I love you when you do mean things to me. And I even love you when you say you hate me. I love you always, always, always.

Ender: Why?

Jane: Cause that’s what moms do. That’s unconditional love. No strings. No ifs. Just—always.

The not-yet-four-year-old does not get it. At all. But at this moment, Cinder walks by and…

Cinder: I find it really hard to love Ender when he kicks me in the balls.

Ender: I’m gonna kick you in the balls really hard for that!

Cinder: Mooooom! I seriously have to love Ender when he does that?

Jane: Yes. Yes, you must.

And the noise and the chaos moves away from me as the beast chases the beast-taunter. It’s hard to parse if the screaming is joy or anger, love or hate. It’s just… life, right?

And is there a lesson in all of it?

I think so. Because later that day, Cinder talks to me about unconditional love. Um, in the context of growing a Hitler mustache, but… that’s not the important bit. And yes, my love. It’s there, it’s always, always, fully unconditional.

But unconditional love does not equal… what? Perfection. Perfect patience. Perfect parenting. The perfect response to every situation.

It doesn’t even equal unconditional understanding or unconditional support.

Sometimes, I can’t understand. Sometimes, I won’t support…

But. I always, always love.

And isn’t it something how when they know it’s unconditional, they like to test it all the more?

So later that day, all three of them push and prod and poke, and I finally snap. And come up with the best mantra ever:

Jane: My love for you is unconditional. My patience, however, is very much finite. AND. IT. IS. DONE!

Like it? I thought so. Use it. Love–unconditional. Patience–not infinite. It sounds so much better when you yell it at them at the top of your lungs in front of witnesses than some of the alternatives…

You’re welcome.

xoxo

“Jane”

Brothers with Snakes

Photo: Cinder and Ender not kicking each other in the balls, but sitting beautifully and peacefully next to each other. It does happen. And yes, it does usually involve holding a reptile. 

Interweb Pay-It-Forward: Cait Beauchaine (@theHonestMother on Twitter, blog @ The Honest Mommy) shared this awesome website on Twitter last week: Emergency Compliment. You know? For the days when you need someone to say something, anything NICE to you, and instead your toddler screams “I hate you because you’re mean!” at you sixty seven times? Click. It delivers. (The last time I went, it told me “You don’t get drunk, you get super-human.” I’m taking that to heart as I run away from the fam for a night of revelry and dancing tonight.)

##

Ka-thunk. The sweet sound of Jane falling off a pedestal

Brothers wrestling 4

I.

Cinder: Moooom! There’s blood all over the bouncy house! Creeper has a bloody nose!

Jane: What do you need?

Cinder: Toilet paper and a responsible adult. Is Dad here?

Jane: No.

Cinder: Fuck. Nevermind—I’m going to go get Lacey!

There are consequences to too much un-helicopter parenting. Hoverers and smotherers, take heart. This will never happen to you.

II.

Jane: Great. That’s just great, Ender. So because you didn’t want to share the chocolate bar with Flora, when I took off a little piece for her, instead of enjoying yours, you threw it on the car floor and stomped it into the mat. That is just awesome. Fan-tas-tic.

Ender: Waaaaaaaaaaaah!

Flora: Are you going to yell at him?

Jane: I’m kind of yelled out, honestly. Yeah. I’m done. No more yelling in this throat.

Flora: Does that apply just to Ender, or to me as well?

Jane: What?

Flora: If I do something obnoxious and awful right now—are you so yelled out you won’t yell at me?

Jane: The question here, my love, is are you brave enough to risk testing that hypothesis?

She didn’t. She’s a smart cookie, that one. Just like her mama. Speaking of which…

III.

Flora: Dad, what does arrogant mean?

Sean: Arrogant… sort of someone who thinks they’re better than everyone else.

Jane: Or it’s what incompetent people who expect you to be all shy and self-effacing because you’re young and a woman call you when you tell them you can do the fucking job.

Flora: Dad? Is Mom arrogant?

Sean: Yeah, kind of.

Jane: The word is competent. Com-pe-tent.

IV.

Ender: Maaaa-maaa! I peed!

Jane: In the potty?

Ender: No. In my diaper.

Jane: Jeezus—Kee-rist, Ender, you need to start peeing in the potty. Please. For the sake of your only mother’s sanity.

Ender: I will never pee in the potty. But I will pee in the toilet.

Jane: Great. Let’s…

Ender: When I’m big.

Jane: My beloved, you’re already big.

Ender: When I’m big as you.

A. Jesus, Buddha, Vishnu, Zeus, animistic spirits that live in trees and rocks—any potential deity in the universe—if you potty-train this child, I will convert. I’ll sacrifice a white bull, I’ll get a lame hair cut, I’ll wear a robe and dance at airports, I’ll hand out fliers door-to-door outlining the genesis of the great Ender-out-of-diapers miracle. Just. Please. Get him to toilet train. Now.*

B. Gentle reader, it is possible that at some point in the future, my arrogance will over take me and I will give you advice on toilet training. Don’t listen to a word I’ll say. Just don’t.

Have a kick-ass weekend. If you’re in YYC, join us at Beakerhead, especially the Suistanaval.

xoxo

“Jane”

*To effect the conversion, you must give me a clear and unfake-able sign it was you and not one of your competitors who effected the miracle. I’m desperate. Not gullible.

P.S. Two of the top searches bringing people to Nothing By The Book this week: “parents who don’t brush kids hair” & “kids hairstyle book.” Some of those people will be horribly, horribly disappointed.

P.P.S. Yeah, that’s our living room. We have crash mats, not carpets. You don’t have to ask why, do you? No, of course not…

P.P.P.S. I’m amping up that whole social media reach out thang, so if you want to connect, follow me on Twitter:  or like Nothing by the Book on Facebook.

Or, add me to your circles on GOOGLE+: Jane Marsh on

If you’re looking for the real me, or want to follow my YYC Twitter feed,  .

Sometimes a wrench really is a metaphor. Not for what you’d think, of course…

R&Maggie

Cinder: Mom? Can I go outside with a wrench? One of those really, really big ones? Or a crowbar?

Good to know: He knows where they are. He could just grab one. He’s asking to be told, ‘No.’

Jane: No.

Cinder: How about if I promise not to wield it as a weapon?

Jane: Um… No.

Cinder: Moooom! I promise, absolutely promise I will not bludgeon the girls with it.

Jane: No.

Cinder: Mooooom….

Jane: If you tell me I never let you do anything, I just might bludgeon you with it.

Cinder: Fine. Will you bake cookies?

Jane: Um… how about we bike over to Safeway and buy a box of Peak Freens?

Cinder: Deal.

What I’ve learned over the last 11 years of listening to Cinder: It’s really, really hard to say, “Mom, I’m feeling really left out of the game Flora and her friends are playing.” Much easier to say/do something that annoys the girls and requires an active Mother-intervention. Like chasing them with a wrench.

Always listen for the subtext. Even when you–like me–are inclined to take what is said as what is meant. Always. Subtext.

xoxo,

“Jane”

From my newsfeed this am: My son wears dresses, get over it, by the brilliant Matt Duron.

From my archives: My sons don’t wear dresses anymore–or should I say right now, but they did; to wit: The return of the Princess dress.

Post of the week from my reader: Act Your Age? on the Tao of Poop. “Playdough has similar soothing properties to a glass of wine or Prozac,” she writes. And then just gets better.

A day in the 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?

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

Jane: Um… why?

Ender: Make footprints!

One day, he will be potty-trained. One day, he will be potty-trained. Oh, gods above, please, let him one day be potty-trained…

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?

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

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

[five minutes later]

Flora: Mooom!

Jane: Is he biting the dog again?

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

IMG_0968

Photo: Ender and Maggie. We should have gotten him a Doberman.

Interlude for a telephone call…

Phone. I’m the kitchen. I run. I lose.

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

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

Every day ends. Mercifully. And 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?

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

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

Originally published as From the sitcom that is my life, March 19, 2012

“No, we were just being normal”

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Jane: ARE! YOU! TRYING! TO! DRIVE! ME! CRA-ZEEEE!?!

Cinder: Um, no, Mom, this is just us being normal. If we were trying to drive you crazy—Flora! Ender! Come how Mom what it would be like if we were trying to drive Mom crazy on purpose!

Flora: Moist. Moist. Moist. Moist. Moist. Moist.

Ender: I pooped my pants. And you can’t clean my bum. I pooped my pants. And you can’t clean my bum. I. POOOPED. M-AAAAAA-YYYYY…

Cinder: I know a song which will annoy, which will annoy, which will annoy / I know a song which will annoy, which will annoy, which will annoy / I know a song which will annoy…

Jane: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Cinder: Now do you see the difference?

Jane: Fine. Yes. You were just being normal. Today, your normal is driving me crazy. Go and be unnormal—and, I don’t know, quiet. Repressed.

Flora: Here, Mom, chocolate? And, I think Ender really did poop his pants.

Happy Friday.

xoxo

“Jane”

P.S. Dear future girlfriends, boyfriends, and perhaps spouses of my children: I’m sorry. Yes, it’s all my fault. And if you think you can fix them—ha. Good luck with that. You’ve just got to love them as they are, you know.

P.P.S.  “What the hell is this? I heard you were this profound, sagacious, over-flowing with widsom mama. I mean, last Tuesday’s post on the “It Gets Easier” Lie was brilliant! That’s why I’m here!” Um. Sorry. I’m only ever insightful and wise on Tuesdays, and then, honestly, not every Tuesday.  On Fridays, we laugh, always. Or at least try not to cry. But if you want serious, have you read my almost-viral (she has delusions of grandeur) Tongues Off My Facebook post? If not, you might want to. Cause it rocks. And if you want hard-core attachment parenting ranting, I refer you to Why Isn’t It Natural? a heart-wrenching wail about why no little about parenting seems to come to us :naturally.”

P.P.P.S. Some things from this week’s blog box I really enjoyed:

Rachel at Tao of Poop reveals she has a past!

Kimberly at All Work And No Play Make Mommy Go Something Something confesses that she’s a snail killer.

Jenn at Something Clever 2.0 tells you how to cure writer’s block.

P.P.P.P.S. And thank you for Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday’s delusions of viral grandeur. I enjoyed them immensely. Now back to web obscurity…

 

I blog because… #FTSF

I blog because moments like this need to be immortalized:

Cinder: Mom, I just shot Ender in the balls. Now, under normal circumstances, you’d probably be mad at me. But as he was peeing off the balcony at the time, you should just say, ‘Good job.’ Full story here.

I blog because the world needs more Cinder and Ender penis stories. I mean, is there such a thing as enough? OK, maybe. But just one more

I blog because I think attachment parenting is an amazing, amazing thing… but I want AP moms to know that this is perfectly normal:

I make no resolutions to yell less. Or discipline more. I will lose my temper, and I will yell, and there will be days when, as I survey the destruction wrought by the whirlwind in the kitchen while I absented myself from his side for five minutes, I seriously ponder just how wrong it would be to put him in the dog’s kennel. Just, you know, for a little while. And there will be days—and weeks—when I’ll be counting the hours until bedtime from 11:15 a.m. And days when, as soon as Sean comes home, I will hand over the entire parenting business to him, and lock myself in the bathroom with a bottle—um, glass, I meant to type glass, glass—of wine. (From Embracing Chaos: unParenting unResolutions)

I blog because I want Flora—and other Sensitive Seven and Emotional Eight girls out there, and their mothers—to know how loved she is (they are). And how amazing. And also, how exhausting. I want her to look back at these moments, these days, when she’s a mother. I don’t want her to put me on an unachievable mothering pedestal. I want her to see I struggled. I want her to know it was hard. 

But, worth it, Mom? Was it worth it?

Fuck, yeah.

I blog because I had a toddler who beat the crap out of other children—and his parents—and he’s grown up to be the most amazing, caring, sensitive, responsible pre-teen… and I want you—you, exhausted, petrified mom of a mini-Caveman—I want you to know that you’re not raising a psychopath. It’s a stage. It’ll pass. You’ll survive.

And maybe, I blog because I don’t want to wait until I’m dead and famous before the world reads my diaries. (While the odds are excellent that I will indeed be dead one day, that famous thing? Not so much. And let’s face it, boys and girls, be you Susan Sontag, Jane Austen or Anne Frank, if you write something down, you’re secretly or not-so secretly writing for a reader. If you really wanted to keep it secret—you wouldn’t write it down. You know it’s true.)

I blog because I want to. And so I do. Reason enough.

##

This post is part of the Finish The Sentence Blog Hop, co-hosted  by, inter alia, Janine Huldie of Confessions of A Mommyaholic, Stephanie Sprenger of Mommy, for Real and Kristie Campbell of Finding Ninee. The sentence—obviously–is I blog because. More answers here…

Finish the Sentence Friday

Why do you blog? And for beautiful, usually silent majority of non-bloggers in the audience—why don’t you? Tell me.

xoxo

Jane
Marzena 1 - jpeg-1

P.S. This week, on Undogmatic Unschoolers, I quote John Holt (again, I know, what can I say, he rocks) and take you on a little walk through my house as I confess that there is, indeed, a secret reason as to why I’m so chill about my late reader.

P.P.S. Meanwhile, my professional alter-ego is dreaming the future landscape of Calgary for Avenue magazine, prognosticating on the future of Husky Energy under Asim Ghosh, and trying to convince people that greener oil is the key to Keystone XL at Canadian Business.

How you know you get the kids you’re raising

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How you know my kids are brilliant:

Flora: Who invented swearing?

Cinder: Shakespeare.

How you know I’m kind of insufferable:

Jane: Actually, it was probably the first caveman who ever dropped a large stone on his big toe.

How you know my kids take it in stride:

Flora: Mom, not everything has to be about evolution.

Cinder: Shakespeare invented the word “puke.” That beats “ugh ugh ugh my toe” hands down.

How you know that they are just as annoying as your kids; maybe more:

Ender: Cinder! You suck! You suck, suck, suck, suck, suck! You all suck. Except me. I! Do! Not! Suck!

Cinder: Are you sure, Ender? Are you really, really sure?

An Interlude for Blogosphere love:

1. The inimitable Julie DeNeed at Life According to Julie 2.0 1) invented the most awesome new blogging award and awarded it to Nothing By The Book and five other bloggers way funnier than me. But the reason you should meander over to her blog and read that particular post is because you will never, ever be able to think of  elevators in churches the same way again. Enough said. Just… go.

2. While I wasn’t paying attention, Nothing By The Book clicked over the 100 mark and how has 110 Facebook fans. Sweet! Thank you. And welcome! And as I do not have 110 mothers, I know at least some of you like NBTB purely on merit and not as a result of consanguineal or affineal obligation. Score for me.

3. I’m scaling down to one or two posts a week these days. Which means I’m only visiting your blogs once or twice a week. Because the sun is coming out and I’m Vitamin-D deprived. But I’m still reading. Especially you. You know who you are.

P.S. In purely personal and irrelevant news, I’m cutting off the last bits of platinum blonde, and crowd-sourcing a new hair colour. What do you want to see? Blonde, brunette, or redhead? Flora’s voting pink…

And if you didn’t read Tuesday’s post, unLessons from The Posse, get thee over there now. It’s one of the best things I’ve written in a while.

Persevere,

“Jane”

 

 

unLessons from the Posse

Biking in Waterton Lakes National Park

Photo from the newspaper "Nogales Herald&...

As we come around the corner, the crowds scatter, jump, recoil. First one–two–three–flying like the wind, silver scooters carrying them along like lightening, legs pumping–and then four–five–bent lower over the handle bars, legs pumping even faster to keep up with the vanguard–and you think they’re all through, but no, here comes six, working harder than everyone else because he has to keep up. And me, at the end, with number seven in the bike. Calling out, “High traffic area! Everyone keep to the right!” But they don’t hear me, of course; of course, they don’t, because there is only speed, wind, the path, and the posse.

I love the posse. Three are mine, four are borrowed for the day. Four people have the temerity to ask, as we zoom by, “Oh-my-god-are-they-all-yours?” and sometimes, I would punish them with The Look, but today I am happy, so I just smile. One-half of one couple is so appalled by the procession that is us that the beautiful young woman turns to her husband-boyfriend and says, loudly, fully intending me to hear, “And this, honey, is why we always use condoms.” I’d give her The Look, but then I catch the husband-boyfriend’s look, and it is one of such joy-envy-lust that instead of giving her The Look, I give him The Grin, and we have a very quick, secret psychic conversation:

Him: Seven, eh? Six boys? Man. My own fucking hockey team.

Me: Imagine the soccer games you would have.

Him: Basketball. Camping!

Me: You’d just sit in the chair, and they’d set up the tent.

Him: The littlest one would bring me beer.

Me: You’d build them the best treehouse ever, right?

Him: Oh, fuck, yeah. Would I ever. So… um… you wanna have more kids?

Me: No, I’m done. Sorry.

Him: Okay then. Well, have a good day

Me: Good luck with her, eh?

Him: Yeah… not sure this is going to work out.

We move on. Along the river. Over this bridge. That one. I don’t even attempt to tell them to stick with me–they are a posse, The Posse, and The Posse don’t wait for no Mom. But I am wise in the ways of The Posse, so I don’t ask. I command. “Meet me at the Dragonfly!” I yell to their backs. “Go ahead–and wait for me at the crossing! We all cross together!” It doesn’t matter how fast I go–they go faster. It’s all about being alone, really. I can read the fantasy, in the three eldest anyway. As far as they are concerned, they are alone.

We stop. Regroup. Do a headcount.

Me: Fuck. Five. Who’s missing?

They: The twins.

Me: Your mom’s going to kill me. Where are they?

They: Who knows?

Me: Dudes! No man left behind! Find them!

Phew. Just fixing their helmets by some bushes. Onward. But now I have given them a new war cry. They push off:

No man left behind!

Flora scoots beside me. “Did they leave me behind because I’m not a man?” she whines. “They didn’t leave you behind,” I point out. “You came to visit with me.”

Up ahead on the path: wipeout!

Me: Blood?

Him: I’m okay.

You don’t show weakness in The Posse.

The Posse fractures. Its members fight. When we stop at a playground and they play a mad game of tag with rules so complicated it makes my head spin, my eldest gets his nose out of joint. The twins think they’re picked on. Flora feels left out. Mostly, I stay out of it. Sometimes, I nudge towards a solution. But mostly–I let them be The Posse. I’m there to make sure there is no real injustice … but they know most of the rules of engagement. They are learning how to work things out. This is not Lord of the Flies.

My final test as Mom-wise-in-the-ways-of-The-Posse comes when we hit an ice rink. The ice is melting, sloppy. But still slippery. I see the desire in their eyes. The two eldest look and do a risk analysis. Then decide to try to break their bones on the nearby playground instead. The littles dump the scooters and go to slip and slide on their feet. But he-who-will-test-me comes up to me and says,

“Can we scooter on that?”

It’s a test. Any mother in her right mind would say no, and he knows this. And I know that he knows this. We look at each other, take each other’s measure. And I say,

“I can’t fit seven kids in my car if we have to go to the Children’s Hospital… Look, keep your helmet on, and no whining or crying at all unless there’s massive amounts of blood, and you’ve lost more than two teeth.”

He looks at me. Mildly appalled. His mom would have said no, outright, his eyes tell me, and I’m clearly irresponsible. Criminally so. But I’ve just given him permission. Really. If he doesn’t go on the ice, I’ll know it’s because he’s afraid. Of blood. Losing teeth. He’ll lose face.

He puts the scooter on the ice. Scoots.

“It’s not slippery enough to be fun,” he tells me. Drops it. And goes off to join The Posse.

We pass another couple on the last block home. This time, I have a quick, secret psychic conversation with the girl:

Her: Is it hard?

Me: Fuck, yeah. But so worth it.

When The Possee’s split up, and four-sevenths goes home with Fishtank Mom, they are all exhausted. And not-a-little tired of each other. But next time–next time, they’ll gel together again. Feel the wind, the speed. Be the pack. Fight, fracture, learn. Is it hard? Fuck, yeah. But so worth it.

Photo from the newspaper “Nogales Herald” dated July 20, 1922 showing an American posse after capturing the Mexican bandits Manuel Martinez and Placidio Silvas (middle of back row) who killed or wounded five people at or around Ruby, Arizona in 1921 and 1922. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And a thank you to the fabulous Tatu from Wonderland By Tatu for including Nothing By The Book in the shininess of the Sunshine Award. As you may have noticed, I truly suck at passing these on adequately. Not out of any better-than-thouness, truly, just out of… what shall we call it… laziness.Pure laziness. But thank you muchly, Tatu, you made me all smiley and sunny on a hard day. Here’s the link to the last one of these that I’ve paid back “properly,” which includes some irrelevant facts about myself and some of my favourite bloggers.

The Princess Bride, almost severed body parts, and the thing that matters the most to little boys

The Princess Bride (film)

First, this: Flora, eight years old with braids almost reaching her waist, pirouetting in the middle  of the living room, an egg-spattered spatula in her hand, and delivering, as if she were possessed by Mandy Patinkin, absolutely perfectly:

My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!

Then, this: Ender enters from stage left, with charred bamboo skewer in one hand and a steak knife in the other–who the hell gave the baby a knife?–and screams, loudly if not accurately:

My name is Ender! Killed my mother! Time to die!

…and lunges for Cinder, in a move more worthy of Fezzik/Andre the Giant than Inigo Montoya.

(You will be glad to know a combination side-step by big brother/tackle by mother narrowly averts a potential castration or evisceration).

But everything pales compared to this, when, after ensuring all the knives, steak and otherwise, are where little hands cannot get at them (I may be permissive but I am rarely negligent), I see Ender run down the stairs, Flora’s tiara (a gift, incidentally, from lovely Anka at Keeping It Real) thrust onto his head, and what looks like a sword built out of straws and connectors in his hand. And I stop what I’m doing, and prepare myself for the delivery of another immortal line from The Princess Bride.

And instead get this:

I am the King and this is my giant penis!

Because, when you’re a 3.5 year-old boy with an older brother, this is where everything leads to.

Andre the Giant applying a bear hug to Hulk Ho...

PSA

You too, of course, have the entire script of The Princess Bride committed to memory, right? No? Truly? Now, you know I hate to tell you what to do. But if you were to die tomorrow, without having seen this movie at least a dozen–preferably a dozen dozen times–I think your life would lack meaning. Get thee to iTunes, Netflix or a library, and, oh, enjoy. (The William Goldman book, on which the movie is based–beyond fabulous as well.) End of PSA.

… and if you’ve already got the entire script of The Princess Bride committed to memory (and of course most of you do, because after all, you are my people), hop over to Undogmatic Unschoolers for the best-ever quote for Isaac Asimov. And then follow the link there to my new best-ever, most-favourite site on the Internet.

And may your Monday rock. Even if you hate Mondays. And if you really hate Mondays, head on over to Mod Mom Beyond Indiedom’s I Hate Mondays Blog Hop. And we can all sob together…

… but seriously. May your Monday, and your week, not suck.

Agent of Karma, Redux

From February 8, 2012:

Flora: Ender! Go bite Cinder right now!
Jane: Flora! What are you doing?
F: I’m making Ender an agent of Karma.
J: We’ve talked about that. You can’t be an agent of karma, and you can’t make someone an agent of karma. Karma just is.
F: Fine. I’ll just make Ender an agent of Flora. Ender! Are you going to bite Cinder or not?
J: Flora…
F: What? I have a mere year or maybe two while he’s in that do-what-sister tells you phase. Remember, you told me about that?
J: So?
F: So? I have to take advantage of it!

''Fish Karma logo

Brief interlude for homeschoolers: On Undogmatic Unschoolers yesterday, I explain why we don’t “teach” math. But if you’re going to read only one thing about homeschooling ever, it should be this: What being homeschooled is actually like, by Summer Anne Burton on buzzfeed.com.

Favourite thing in my in-box yesterday: Play Dates: Should My Toddler Be Practicing? from Deni at The Diary of a Reluctant Mother. (The short answer, btw, is “No!”)

Proof that other mothers’ children also swear and it’s not just me and mine: Where is that f-ing hat? from The Four Eyed Momster.

And the fabric of the universe does not come apart…

Toilet paper Español: Papel higiénico

Ender: I don’t want you to wash my bum ever again!

Jane: Jesus, Ender, you have no idea how much I want to never have to wash your bum ever again. Ever. And you know when that will happen? When you start pooping in the freakin’ toilet!

Cinder: Don’t believe her, Ender! She’s obsessed with cleaning your bum, and even after you’re totally toilet trained, she’ll be putting you under the shower until you’re four or five because she does not believe in toilet paper.

Jane: What the… First all, you can’t not believe in toilet paper. Look–toilet paper. Right here. You can’t not, pardon me for using a double negative, believe in it. You can believe in not using toilet paper. Which, incidentally, I don’t not believe in–we buy and go through so much toilet paper–but you try cleaning THIS with toilet paper, you little…

Cinder: Mom? While you were doing your toilet paper rant, Ender took off. I bet he’s plopping his poopy bum down on the couch right now…

It’s one of those moments, right, when you ponder–what to do, throw something heavy at the smart-ass 10 year-old and then chase after the poopy three-year-old or… but before you have time to process, because this is my life, the telephone rings. And it’s the CEO-VP-GC-analyst-insert-your-favourite-acronym-or-title here I’ve been stalking all week and need to talk to right now. And the phone is on a different floor, of course, and I’m up to my elbows in toddler feces…

If I’m lucky, my Flora will get to the phone and say,

“I’m sorry, she can’t come to the phone right now, can I take a message?”

But if this day continues to unfold as it has, Cinder will get to the phone first, and, the mood he’s in, will say,

“Sorry, she’s up to her elbows in shit. And in a piss-bad mood, so I don’t know if you want to call back. And she’s been calling you a rat-fuck bastard all week because you haven’t called her back yet.”

See, but although the universe has a wicked sense of humour, it also sometimes knows that at this particular point in time the last straw will really be the last straw, and if it throws you one more curve ball, you–and when I say you, I mean me–will tear its very fabric into pieces and bring about the end of life as we know it–and so, although it is Cinder who gets to the telephone, what he says is,

“Yes, she’s been waiting for you to call–hold on just a minute, she’ll be right here!”

Followed, granted, by,

“Mom! It’s that guy who hasn’t called you back all week!”

but he doesn’t call the guy a rat-fuck bastard, and that makes him golden, and I get to the phone, and I get the interview that will make me meet deadline and be golden with the editor. And then, I clean the poopy bum. And the poopy couch. And then, after kissing Cinder on the forehead for answering the phone properly, begging Ender to please-for-whatever-gods-he-may-ever-choose-to-believe-in-sake-to-tell-me-next-time-he-has-to-go, and making sure Flora is in the house (sometimes, I  lose track of whichever child isn’t causing me angst at the moment…), I restock the bathroom with toilet paper.

Because, a. I believe in toilet paper. It exists. I don’t just think it exists. I know. b. Whatever my smart-ass 10 year-old son is trying to make you think for evil purposes of his own–I believe in using toilet paper. And by all the gods I don’t believe in–I can’t wait until Ender does too.

More like this: The naked truth about working from home, the real post and The naked truth about working from home, the teaser.

And, playing here today:

I f#%$ing hate baking

Photo on 2013-02-14 at 15.35 #2

Cinder: Mom? Do other moms swear this much when they bake?

Jane: Yes. Yes they do. Now where the fuck is that spatula?

Cinder: I think the dog’s licking it.

Jane: Fucking hell! Wash it! We need it to ice the cake.

Jane: Fuck, fuck, fuck. Fuck!

Cinder: Mom? How about I ice the cake?

Jane: Oh thank God. I’ll just get you the food colouring. And the vodka.

Cinder: We need vodka?

Jane: Um, yes.

And you know what I hope? That at one point, some time in the future, they realize that each act of my swearing-infested baking, each batch of rock-hard cupcakes, every lopsided cake, and are-they-supposed-to-taste like this cookies–each one of those was an act of unconditional love.

Because I fucking hate baking. And every time I do it–and, frankly, I do it as rarely as possible and only when they ask (beg) me to–I do it only because I love them.

Photo: Cinder and his Minecraft watermelon block cake. Only partially ruined by Mom.

The not-so-mysterious incident of the carrots in the milk carton

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

I.

I sleepwalk into the kitchen in search of the first cup of coffee. Boil water. Fight with the grinder. Dump old coffee grounds all over the floor. Clean them up. Make the coffee. Inhale the smell of… sheer bliss, really. If you’re a coffee lover, you know what I mean–there is nothing like it, it is the smell of perfection, the birth and end of the universe in one olfactory sensation, the promise of everything. Ah. Pour the first cup. No cream in the fridge–reach for the milk carton.

Pour.

Discover there are two giant carrots in the milk carton.

Look at them uncomprehendingly, because, you know, I have just smelled and not yet drunk the coffee.

Pour the milk into the coffee carefully. Replace the milk carton in the fridge.

Go sit on the couch beside the 3.5 year old. Drink my coffee.

II.

Sean stumbles into the kitchen in search of his cup of coffee. Lucky man, the lag between his wake up time and mine insufficient today for the first pot to be empty. Pours himself a cup of coffee. Savours the smell. And, responsible father that he is, asks the 2/3 of the awake progeny if they want to eat something. (Their mother does not speak, or serve, until she has finished her second cup of coffee. She is still on the couch drinking the first…) The progeny want cereal.

He grabs bowls. Cereal. Milk. Pours.

“Why the fuck are there two carrots in the milk carton?”

Neither the milk nor the carrots answer. I look at the 3.5 year old. He grins a wicked grin.

“I put them there, Dadda!” he calls out happily.

“Why… why did you put carrots in the milk?” Sean says. His voice full of angst and despair–and see, this is why I do not talk until after the second cup. Why suffer? And make others suffer? Let the caffeine do its work first…

“Flora was peeing,” Ender replies promptly.

I am almost done my first cup of coffee, so I understand perfectly. What he wanted to do was to flush the carrots down the toilet. However, the toilet was occupied. What else could he do with them? Aha! Milk carton!

Sean is still just smelling the coffee. And trying to understand all this. And perhaps on the verge of tears.

And here is proof that I am an excellent, excellent wife and helpmeet: although the effort involved in this is Herculean, I lift myself off the couch, stagger into the kitchen, grab his coffee cup, and put it into his hands. He tries to speak–I shut his mouth with a kiss.

I’d say drink–but I do not speak until I’ve downed the second cup of coffee.

He takes a sip. Then another. The world is slowly becoming a better place, and the case of the carrots in the milk losing its power to ruin his day.

I pour my second cup of coffee. Pour the rest of the milk into it. Shake the carrots out into the sink. Rinse them.

“They don’t look like they’ve been in there very long,” Sean says. He picks up the empty milk carton and peers into it. To determine–by what evidence?–the length of the carrot milk immersion?

Cinder, our 10 year old, stumbles down the stairs. Stops, and stares at the tableau, dominated by his father, evidently distraught, peering into the milk carton. And says…

“Did Ender pee in the milk again?”

I draw the curtain on the resulting scene. Suffice it to say, Sean was never happier that he was lactose intolerant… and Flora may never eat cereal again.

More like this: The obvious correlation between crying over spilt coffee and potty training

And some blogger love. Last week, Tirzah Duncan, the talented writer-poet-entrepreneur-cynical optimist-coiner-of-phrases-extraordinaire at The Ink Caster, passed The Versatile Blogger award on to me (which of course means someone gave it to her, congratulations, Tirzah). In addition to being a talented writer, Tirzah would be a great person to watch your back come the Zombie Apocalypse. If you don’t believe me, check out this post.

My head wasn’t quite done swelling when TJ, Sara and Jen from Chi-Town Mommy Mayhem — well, possibly just one of them, but I prefer to take the compliment from all three — handed off the Liebster Award to Nothing By The Book. Their blog is “dedicated to the uncensored mommies of Chicago” and their motto is “We don’t sugar coat anything here.” And they have kick ass tweets ( @MayhemMommyTJ).

I’m eight awards or possibly more behind doing the proper reciprocity thing, and with each passing day… Well. If you really want to know seven random things about me, read this my last Blogosphere Group Hug and find out how I once interviewed the prime minister of Canada sans underwear. For blogs that deserve to have the awards passed on to them–check out the blogs I follow, bottom of each page of the blog. Cause, you know, I only follow good ones.