“Love is disgusting.” But you knew that already.

nbtb-love is disgusting


How I know he’s mine:

Jane: Cinder? Could you take out the recycling when your game’s over?

Cinder: Is it urgent?

Jane: Well… it’s not urgent right now, but the cupboard’s stuffed full and barely closing, and so next time someone opens it, all the recycling will flow out, screaming, “Freedom! Freedom!” and make a mess on the floor and…

Cinder: So how about, as soon as I hear it screaming, I take it out?

Jane: Ok. Works for me.

Cinder: Just so we understand each other—you’ll scream “Freedom! Freedom!” if you’re the one who opens the cupboard?

Jane: Yes.

Cinder: But you won’t do it on purpose. Only if you actually have to try to stuff something else in there.

Jane: Yes.

Cinder: Ok. Works for me.


How I know she’s mine:

Flora: I can’t believe this. I! Can’t! Believe! This! The only likeable character in the book, and they kill him off—and there’s like a third of the book to go! What the hell? Who does that? What’s wrong with this writer? I am never, ever, EVER reading anything by this jerk again!

Jane: Where are you going?

Flora: I’m going to rewrite this chapter the way it should have been written!


I don’t know where the hell he came from:

Ender: I! Love! Boogers! I! Love! My! Boogers! I! Love! Your! Boogers! I! Love! Everyone’s! Boogers! Sooooooo! Muuuuuuuch!


How they know they’re mine (even though they’re not):

Flora: He’s so disgusting.

Jane: It could be worse. When Cinder was his age? He used to feed you his boogers.

Flora: Jeezus, Mom, seriously? And you let him? What’s wrong with you?

Cinder: She didn’t let me. I mostly did it when she wasn’t looking. And only if you were awake.

Flora: That’s supposed to make me feel better?

Cinder: Well, at least I never puked on you, Ms Lazy Esophagus!

Flora: I didn’t… Mom? Did I puke on Cinder?

Jane: Yes. Kind of incessantly. Don’t feel bad. It’s very common. And he peed in your ear. So, you know. It all balances out.

Flora: Children are really disgusting. Like, the most disgusting thing ever. And that’s not even counting the bloody birthing part.

Jane: Pretty much.

Flora: But you’re happy you had us?

Jane: There is no meaning or purpose to my life without you.


I’ve read Joan Didion’s Blue Nights last week, and it almost killed me. Listen:

“When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children.

… Once she was born I was never not afraid.”

“A question: if we and our children could in fact see the other clear would the fear go away? Would the fear go away for both of us, or would the fear go away only for me?”

““You have your wonderful memories,” people would say later, as if memories were solace. Memories are not. Memories are by definition of times past, things gone. … Memories are what you no longer want to remember.”

“I no longer want reminders of what was, what got broken, what got lost, what got wasted.

In theory these mementos serve to bring back the moment.

In fact they serve only make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here.”

“I do not know many people who think they have succeeded as parents. Those who do tend to cite the markers that indicate (their own) status in the world: the Standford degree, the Harvard MBA, the summer with the white-shoed law firm. Those of us less inclined to compliment ourselves on our parenting skills, in other words, most of us, recite rosaries of our failures, our neglects, our derelictions and delinquencies.”

“I tell you this true story just to prove that I can.”

I am changed.


They are loved.

They know they are loved.

Ender: Mooom! Hug! Kiss!

Cinder: Don’t do it, Mom! He was eating boogers!

Ender: I was not! I was only pretending. I was feeding them to Maggie.

Flora: Well, at least it wasn’t me.

Ender: Next time, I will share… My! Boogers! With! Yooooooooouuuuuuu!

Cinder: That’s my little bro! High-five, man!

Flora: Groooooosss! Moooooom!

Love. Disgusting, innit? 😉



PS Of course he took out the recycling. Of course.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: There is such a thing as loving nature too much, or, more proof that children are disgusting.

Facts of Life


Ender hatched from an egg. That’s how they tell the story, anyway.

Flora: It was the cutest egg ever. Orange, all orange. But I’d decorate it with purple squiggles and rainbows.

Cinder: …and we all took turns sitting on you. Like, when Mom had to go somewhere, or even take a shower, Flora or I had to sit on you. But sometimes, when she was out for a long time, instead of sitting on you, we’d just throw you back and forth like a ball. You’re so lucky we didn’t smash you.

Flora: Mom was so mad was she caught us doing that once…

They’ve told him the story so many times, they’ve even got these details down:

Flora: …and after you hatched, I tried to keep the egg shells for my museum, but Dad said it would be unhygienic and he threw them out.

Cinder: But I kept one. Want to see?

(and the mystery to why he was rooting through the garbage earlier for chicken egg shells, and through Flora’s room for an orange marker, is solved)

Flora: You were the cutest little baby.

Cinder: Well. The cutest little maggot. You were all white and squirmy. You didn’t really look human until you pupated. That happened when you were two.

(he might have crossed the line here. Yes. Yes he did?

Ender: Mooom! Did I pupate when I was two?

What would you say? What should I say?

Isn’t all life just a really long metamorphosis?


This is 100% true: While Ender was in the womb, we called him Two-Horned Rainbow Merlin Stinky Socks Marsh.

So it’s all our fault, really.


I’m in a café, working, and there’s a new proud father at the table next to me, showing off his progeny to co-workers. “She’s such a good baby,” he says.

What he means is “easy.” And “convenient.”

She’s four months old.

In three to six weeks, he and her mother will look at each other, and one will ask the other, “When do things get back to normal?”



What they mean is “the way they were before.”

What they don’t want to hear: Never.


Jane: Do! Not! Call! Your! Brother! A! Maggot!

Ender: Yeah! I’ve pupated!




NBTB-Facts of Life


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.


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.

Cease and desist!

To all the lawyers in my life,  proof that you’ve inadvertently warped my children:

Jane: Flora, baby, what are you doing?

Flora: I’m writing Ender a cease and desist letter.

Jane: You’re what?

Flora: I’m writing Ender cease and desist letter. Telling him to stop taking my pets and chucking them down the stairs.

Jane: Baby, why don’t you just ask him to stop?

Flora: Ask him? But if I just do that, what proof will there be that it really happened?


Flora: Do you still have your old tape recorder?

First published July 18, 2012, on Nothing By The Book.

Re-runs. You know what that means…

F&E Best Author

Photo: When she’s not writing him “Cease and desist” letters, he’s her biggest fan…

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


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.



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.


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

I know you wonder just how much therapy my kids will need…

… the answer? Either less than yours or more. Ha! But until we figure that out, there’s this:


Cinder: Dad will come to the phone in a minute, Mom. He’s just washing his hands–he was cleaning up the blood in the bathroom.

September 16, 2011


Sean: Cinder, if you let me borrow your computer for my client presentation tomorrow, I’ll let you play with my electric nail gun.

September 11, 2011


Sean: Dear god, Flora, what have you done to your brother’s face?

Flora: Whaaat–look, he likes it.

Sean: Is that permanent marker?

Flora: Don’t worry, Dad–you know skin falls off, don’t you?

Good to know: Cheap sunscreen will take off permanent marker. True.

October 5, 2011

“What the hell, Jane? What’s up with the re-runs?” Well, just between you and me, I’m off-line this week. But just because they’re aged, don’t mean they’re not funny. See you next week. xoxo

Poisonous Volvo, Redux

We were uber-heavy on Tuesday, weren’t we? Today, you need to laugh, as do I. Actually–a little secret–as you read this, I’m locked in a hotel room in Banff with my laptop. Wrestling with existential angst. And winning. Meanwhile, for you, from Life’s Archives (December 9, 2006, and first appearing on Nothing By The Book on May 22, 2012), I present… Poisonous Volvo. Flora’s 2.5 and Cinder is five (Ender is still undreamt-of cosmic dust). They’re in the tub. And, cue action:

WAIT! Stop! Warning: yes, this is one of those penis stories. I have warned you, have I not, I am never profound and wise on Fridays? OK. Penis warning completed.  Read on.

Cinder: Flora, stop trying to grab my penis. Flora! No! Stop!

Flora: hee hee hee

Cinder: It’s poisonous. Poisonous! Like the giant red milipedes in the
South American rainforest!

Flora: hee hee hee

Cinder: It will bite you!

Flora: hee hee hee

Cinder: OK, Flora, I know you want to play with it. But you can’t. Only I can play with it. Play with your own.

Flora: Oh… no pee pee!! Brother! No pee pee?

Cinder: Oh, I forgot, you don’t have one. Well, maybe one day, if you are very good, I’ll let you borrow mine. If I can. Mom! (I’m in the next room) Can I borrow my penis to Flora for a while?

Jane: Um… no. It doesn’t work like that.

Cinder: I didn’t think so. Well, sorry, Flora.

Flora: No pee pee? Why?

Cinder: Don’t worry, Flora. I’m sure we can think of something fun to do with your… Mom! What’s Flora’s not-a-penis called?

Jane: Um… (Still haven’t decided if Flora should have a Volvo or a Gavina… OK, I know she has BOTH, but you know what I mean. Go for the Volvo today) A vulva.

Cinder: We can think of something fun to do with your vulva. Hmm. Let me think. Maybe we could attach something to it?

Flora: Yeaah!

Cinder: Or… we could stick something in it.

Flora: Nooooo.

That’s right, sweetie. You should keep on thinking that for another 15 years, okay ma-baby? Twenty, if you want to make your Daddy happy…

But wait. It’s not over yet. The next day…

Cinder: Flora! I will smite you with my poisonous penis!

Flora: Aaaaah! Run! Run!

You might think this is the punch line. But it’s not.

Sean: Well, if Flora turns out to be gay, we’ll know why.

Jane: Sean!

Sean: What? I think it would make the teen years a lot easier, don’t you?

Jane: Sean!

Sean: What? All I’m saying is, if she ends up a lesbian, being chased by her brother’s poisonous penis may be one of the reasons. And don’t you think you’d worry less about boys and teen pregnancy and all that?

Jane: What are you…

The punchline is coming… NOW:

Cinder: Ok, Flora. Now it’s your turn to smite me with your poisonous volvo.

Flora: Aaaaah! Run! Run!

The genitalia of the Callosobruchus analis bee...

The genitalia of the Callosobruchus analis beetle. It is covered in spines from base to tip. Referenced in Rönn, J., Katvala, M. & Arnqvist, G. 2007. Coevolution between harmful male genitalia and female resistance in seed beetles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104, 10921-1092. and Hotzy, C. & Arnqvist, G. 2009. Sperm competition favors harmful males in seed beetles. Current Biology 19, 404-407. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Note: you are none of you allowed to make any kinds of connections between this post and Tuesday’s body image post. NONE. Thank you.

But speaking of which…

As you may have noticed,  Nothing By The Book’s Tuesday post  “Please don’t give my daughter an eating disorder. But you will. Yes, you will…”  set off a bit of an maelstrom. If you haven’t read it yet, and you’ve got a girl… or a body… give it a read. And if you do, spend some time on the comments, especially that by Tirzah Duncan of The Inkcaster.

And if you’ve got daughters and body image issues weigh heavily on your mind, check out these posts the commentators wrote/forwarded to me in the resulting discussion:

Introduction to Eating Disorders by Urban Moo Cow — Deb didn’t have any issues with her body… until her encounter with this whacked teacher

Body Image by Tao of Poop — Rachel’s daughter still loves her belly. For how much longer?

and, wow, this one:

My body is amazing from Villainy Loveless — this one arrived in my in-box via Tarot by Janine the day I was being ripped to shreds for my body image post on Reddit. Thanks, Villainy. Much love and appreciation.

And a big thank you for those of you who defended the post–and by extension me, Flora, and little girls everywhere–in the various fora where it was ripped apart. I have no stomach for such battles, but I appreciate your passion and indignation on my behalf very much.

Fight on. And love those girls.



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.


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.

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.

The sweet sound of silence, not

Cedar Waxwing, Cap Tourmente National Wildlife...

Or, the more things change, the more you feel you’re living in a time warp…

First, step back into the past.

Sunday, January 13, 2008. Flora is three. Cinder five-and-a-half. And Ender undreamed of. We three are walking along our hill and spot some unusual birds―migrants, I think―Cinder thinks they were redheaded warblers and yellow-bellied warblers or maybe finches―and we try to get a closer look. Fail miserably, scare them away.

Cinder: Next time we have to bring binoculars. And we have to be very still, and very quiet so we can get closer to the birds. Hmm… that will be a problem. Mom, we’re going to have to get a bandaid for Flora’s mouth.

Jane: What?

Cinder: A bandaid. For her mouth. So she can be quiet.

Flora: Cinder! I! DO! NOT! WANT! A! BANDAID! FOR! MY! MOUTH!

Cinder: I’m sorry, Flora, but I don’t see another solution. You have to be very still and very quiet to watch birds. I know you can be very still, but I don’t think you can be very quiet.

Jane: Flora likes to talk.

Flora: That’s true. But I don’t want a bandaid for my mouth. Maybe you could just leave me home?

And now, almost five years later to the day. Cinder is 10 and a half. Flora is eight. And Ender is three and change. We four are walking along our hill. Looking at leaves, branches and trees. And… is that a bird? Is that a cedar waxwing? No way! (For the record, I know nothing about birds. Cinder and Flora flip through birding books more than I do. But we all get excited about the little flying rats.) We move in for a closer look. And…

Ender: Birds! Birds! Birds! I love birds! Birds are my favourite! FA-VOUR-EEEEET!

Flora: Shoot. They’re gone. Next time, we’ll have to get binoculars so we can get a closer look.

Cinder: Good idea. And maybe a gag for Ender’s mouth.

Jane: Cinder!

Cinder: What? You think there’s any chance he’ll stop talking long enough for us to sneak up on the birds?

Flora: Cinder! That’s terrible! How you could even think about wanting to gag poor Ender. He just loves birds And…

Cinder: Maybe a gag for Flora too…

It’s hard to be the one silence-loving sibling.

Something useful from the World Wide Web for those of you with toddlers: Five Low- Effort Toddler Games, on The Hair Pin.

And a congratulations to the talented Stephanie Sprenger at Mommy, for Real for raking in the blogging awards last Thursday, and passing on the “fabulous Liebster” to me. And putting me in such fabulous company: check out the other blogs she flags, they look great. I will get on to the proper pay-forward eventually. Really. In the meantime, thanks, Stephanie!

And, writing in at last minute: another congratulations to Little Poppits for drowning in awards, and a thank you kicking the love this way. Sweet.

Happy Monday, everyone. May this week rock.

Of the apocalypse, euphemisms and (un)potty training, 2


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.

(first published June 15, 2012)


Blogosphere Love Payback Moment: I still haven’t properly reciprocated to the funny Momtimes4 for the Very Inspirational Blogger Award,  and now the ridiculously awesome and hilarious Jenn from Something Clever 2.0 has passed on The Liebster to me. Thank you, lovelies–it’s always nice to know you’re not just throwing words into the ether, right? And I’ll dot the T’s and cross the I’s–wait, that doesn’t sound right–of the pay-forward when I can do so with some focus and concentration. In the meantime: thank you much. And keep on laughing. Because it’s cheaper than drugs or therapy…

Growing scientists, or, why it rocks when kids love dinosaurs

Ender discovered dinosaurs a few months ago, and unlike revisiting potty training for the third time (yuck), revisiting dino-mania for the third time just really, really rocks. Regular trips to the amazing Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller are back on the family agenda. Our last trip had Cinder and Flora sharing a lot of “Remember when I was obsessed with dinosaur stories.” Here’s a few of my favourites, from when Cinder was six and Flora three-and-a-half.

On the couch, crawling out from under all the pillows and blankets:

Flora: Where am I?

Cinder: Congratulations! You made it through the mass-extinction!

Flora: But I don’t remember anything about it. Where are my mom and dad?

Cinder: Well, they’re all under the mud over there, see? They thought they were lucky because they survived the asteroid, but ah-ah―the mudslide got them.

Flora: So all my ancestors are dead?

Cinder: Everyone’s ancestors are dead. That’s what makes them ancestors. The important thing is you were born. And look, there are your cousins!

Flora: So some of my family survived!

Cinder: Don’t get comfortable yet―there may be more asteroids coming.

On the floor, playing with K’Nex:

Cinder: Here, Flora, build the Jeep so it can race with my dragster.

Flora: I don’t want to build a Jeep. (Flipping through instruction book.) Oooh! Look―a butterfly. It’s beautiful. Ooh! Stegosaurus. I’m going to make a stegosaurus.

Cinder: Make the Jeep, then we can race.

Flora: I want to make the stegosaurus, so he can play with me and be my friend.

Cinder: Why would you want to make a dinosaurs when you can make something with wheels? Look, see? It’s really cool.

Flora: I have an idea, Cinder―why don’t I make the stegosaurus, and you make two cars, and then my stegosaurus can watch you race? How about that?

Stegosaurus stenops, a stegosaur from the Late...

Back on the couch:

Flora: I forgot how I survived the mass extinction again.

Cinder: Stop asking that―I’ll tell you one more time. You were buried by some rocks during an earthquake. But you managed to crawl out. Now you have to search for food. It shouldn’t be too hard―because of the mass extinction, see?

From Life’s Archives, May 19, 2008, Mass Extinctions and Drag Races

Let the pummelling be: little Caveman explains

Jane: Ender! No! You do not hit Mama! You do not push Mama! You do not pummel Mama! Never! Because frankly, little bum, it’s getting more and more difficult to not whallop you back.

Ender: Oh. Only hit Cinder?

Jane: No! You don’t hit Cinder! You don’t hit anyone!

Ender: But I love when I push Cinder… and then Cinder throw me on bed… and then I hit Cinder… and then Cinder push me… and then I scream… and then Cinder throws me up in the air… I love, love, love it!

Jane: Oh, my cavemen…

Ender: Cinder! Cinder! Bubba! Throw me on the bed! Throw me on the bed!

Cinder: Oh, yeah, little dude? You want some of this? You want some of this?

Ender: Bring! It! On!

…  and a few minutes later, my bed transforms into a WWF wrestling ring.

Cinder: Funky Cinder! Woo-hoo!

Ender: Funky Ender! Woo-hoo!

Cinder: Funky Ender! WHAP! WHAP!

Ender: Funky Cinder! WHAT! WHAP!

Their bodies slam into the mattress. The pillows are flying. They’re laughing, howling, screaming…

Cinder: Funky Cinder will whallop you!

Ender: Funky Ender whallop back!

And the moral of this story gets lost on me somehow…

For a moral, read That hitting thing/When toddlers attack. In the meantime, I need to get ready to stand by for when Ender slams his head into the bedroom wall… or starts to feel that Cinder is outperforming him too much and resorts to biting… and the screaming turns less joyful and more, you know, deafeningly painful and horrid. But until then… I let the cavemen/warriors be.

Let the pummelling be.

It ends with crying, of course it does. And I can see it coming–their energy escalates into psychosis, and they start running back and forth in the hallway, and the doors start slamming, and just as Sean hollers, “Someone’s going to get their fingers slammed in the door!” Ender slams a door into Cinder’s shoulder and Cinder shrieks and pushes him and Ender cries and comes running to me, and Cinder calls him a stupid baby and I reprimand Cinder and Cinder stalks off…

Flora: What happened?

Jane: The boys got too rough with each other.

Flora: Which one did you yell at?

Jane: Sigh. Cinder.

Flora: Why do you always yell at Cinder?

Jane: Sigh. Because it sucks to be the oldest. Because he’s bigger.

Flora: Should I go find him and say you’re not mad?

Jane: That would be great, my little love.

And three minutes later, we’re all in bed reading about Alexander the Great (or not-so-great-and-frankly-insane, as our book puts it). Ender snuggles up against Cinder (punches him once in the stomach for no reason at all).

Cinder: Why do I love this insane creature so much?

Ender: Because I your Bubba!

And that, perhaps, is the moral?

A pillow fight that took place in Lausanne, Sw...

It’s all about presentation

Pool noodle(s).

Flora: Mom! Mom! I’ve got good news and bad news. What do you want first?

Jane: Always, good news first.

Flora: The good news is–I found you this awesome walking stick.

Jane: Cool. Thanks. What’s the bad news?

Flora: The bad news is, Cinder hit me in the face with a pool noodle.

Jane: Um…

Flora: The good news is, he didn’t mean it.

Jane: Oh, good.

Flora: The bad news is, it really hurt.

Jane: Oh, sweetheart.

Flora: The good news is, I had an opportunity to call him a dumb ass.

Jane: Flora…

Flora: I’m not done yet. The bad news is, he then hit me with the pool noodle again.

Jane: This all happened, just now?

Flora: Well, I found this cool walking stick, and Cinder hit me with a pool noodle, and I called him a dumb ass. [Pause] I ran away to tell you about it when he hit with the pool noodle again. I came up with the presentation of it on my way up the stairs. What’d you think?

Jane: It was pretty good.

Flora: So… when can I get my own blog?

21st century children. Scary.

Cease and desist!

To all the lawyers in my life,  proof that you’ve inadvertently warped my children:

Jane: Flora, baby, what are you doing?

Flora: I’m writing Ender a cease and desist letter.

Jane: You’re what?

Flora: I’m writing Ender cease and desist letter. Telling him to stop taking my pets and chucking them down the stairs.

Jane: Baby, why don’t you just ask him to stop?

Flora: Ask him? But if I just do that, what proof will there be that it really happened?


Flora: Do you still have your old tape recorder?

English: A RadioShack brand cassette recorder,...

The girl’s bully-proof… I think

Flora starts her drama camp tomorrow. First camp. First full-day camp. Her mother’s… not anxious, exactly, but you know, a little concerned. How will she fare? Her brother’s not worried. And the girl herself… well. I’ll let them speak for themselves:

Cinder: I think drama camp will be really good for Flora.

Flora: Oh, yes, it will be. I can’t wait. I’m so excited.

Cinder: Yes, quite good for her. Unless there are bullies.

Jane: I don’t think there will be bullies at drama camp. Besides, she and Moxie will be together: they’ll watch out for each other.

Flora: Aha, I will be watching out for Moxie all the time, you bet. And if anyone tries to bully her, well–I’m gonna hit them so hard, they won’t know what hit them.

Jane: (Feels like she should say something. But what, exactly? So she stands there, mouth open, trying to formulate a thought. Something more eloquent than… “Um…”)

Flora: If it’s a boy bully, I’m going to hammer him in the weenie. Pow! And if it’s a girl… well, I’m not sure. I might just kick her in the shins or in the butt. Or just take her down, like this!

Cinder: See, Mom, drama camp will be good for Flora.

Jane: Lunch. I’m going to pack lunch,

One of those moments… where I’m not sure if it’s proof of things I’ve done right… or things I’ve done horribly, horribly wrong with the girl…

Drama Queen

“I am not feeding my baby sister playdough” and other acts of sibling love

Cinder, Flora and Ender’s cousin Matthew turns two this week, and in another four or so months, he will be a proud big brother to his own little sister. Flora is thrilled. But if she had a clear recollection of her own first months in the womb, she’d probably be afraid for the new babe’s life.

Don’t get me wrong, Cinder loved Flora. Loved her. To death. Or so we occasionally feared. Fortunately, she was tougher than she looked.

Happy Birthday Matthew! And, to your ecstatic parents, stories from our life seven years ago. July 13, 2005–Cinder is just over three, and Flora six or seven months. Remember–she survived. That’s the important part.

I. “I am not feeding Flora playdough”

Cinder: Mommy? Can Flora eat playdough?

Jane: No, no she can’t.


Jane: Cinder… what are you doing with that playdough?

Cinder: Don’t worry, mama, I won’t let her eat it. I’m just stuffing it up her nose.

II. Potty tongue

Jane: Okay, baby, go pee and then hop in the tub.

Cinder: Pee in the potty?

Jane: Of course. Where else would you pee?

Cinder: I want to pee on Flora’s tongue!

III. It’s all about redirection

Cinder: Mama, tell Flora not to pull my hair!

Jane: Flora, Flora, pulling hair hurts, don’t pull Cinder’s hair.

Cinder: Mama, tell Flora she can tickle my bum instead.

IV. Sleep positions

Cinder: Mama… I can’t get comfortable… Can I sleep on Flora’s head today?

Two kittens

V. Daddy’s Little Helper

This is your reward for making it to the end… and proof that Cinder’s early years weren’t all about tormenting Flora. He tormented Daddy too…

Sean: Cinder, what are doing?

Cinder: I’m hammering a hole in the wall you painted. Do you want to help me, Daddy?

I’m  in the wilds of Manitoba, and generally unplugged. I’ve got one more post auto-scheduled for your enjoyment, but I won’t be able to respond to comments until July 15th.

Anatomy talk, always and forever

July 22, 2005. Cinder, age 3.2: “Mommy? When you were a little girl, where you a little boy like me?”

June 22, 2012. Ender, age 2.8: “Mommy? Where your penis go? You lose it outside? I go find it…”*

and hey, while we’re talking anatomy:

January 2005. Cinder, age 2.5, witnessing Flora’s first diaper change: “Mama! Help! Flora has two bums!”

and as proof that things never change:

June 26, 2012. Ender, age 2.8: “Flora, why put Cinder’s hat on your penis?”

Flora: “For the last time, Ender, I don’t have a penis.”

Ender: “Why?”

And I leave it up to your imagination how Cinder’s hat fits into all this…

*Yes, this was a blatant attempt to sabotage bedtime. It was, after all, still light out in the Northern Northern hemisphere at 10 p.m….


Flora (Photo credit: CaptSpaulding)

I’m  in the wilds of Manitoba, and generally unplugged. I’ve got a few posts auto-scheduled for your enjoyment, but I won’t be able to respond to comments until July 15th.

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.