Episode #405: Pre-holiday Smörgåsbord


Ender is crying that his daddy is at work.

Flora: Daddy has to work a lot right now because we have to eat and Mommy’s writing another book, and books don’t pay nearly as well as corporate whoring.

It’s one of those moments when you (I) just don’t know when to laugh or cry, right?

I laugh.

Note to Self: deploy internal censor more often when speaking in front of the children. And instruct Flora to not use the term “corporate whoring” when talking to her friends. Better yet, perhaps, I should stop using the term in front of Flora. Children. People, period.


Flora’s lost my car keys and is panicking. She can’t find them, and we can’t leave, and it’s all her fault, and tears, panic, self-hate, help mom… I find them, in five seconds, under her brother’s ice-skating helmet. Then deliver a lecture about how panicking is a useful response only if it gives you the adrenaline boost you need to run away from a predator but is absolutely useless when you need to strategize, i.e. retrace your steps and figure out…

Cinder: Not helping, Mom.

True. I know this. What am I doing? Never, ever deliver a lecture to a hysterical child. Instead:

Jane: Ok, everyone in the car. No, don’t turn the radio. We’re going to listen to Beethoven’s violin sonatas until Flora calms down.

Flora: I’m good.

Jane: I think you’re still upset.

Flora: Totally good. Perfect. In total control of self and over that whole car key incident. Radio?

I preen.

Cinder: Well played, Mom.

And when I really need to shut them up? Sufi meditation music. Oh-yes. I say, “I’m going to play The Passion of Rumi,” and the car falls COMPLETELY SILENT and they will DO ANYTHING I ask…

Caution for the beginners in the crowd: the secret to the efficacy of this technique is to NOT overuse it. Deploy sparingly.

(Apply the same rule to the use of obscenity, in writing and speaking. That’s a separate conversation I have with Cinder a few minutes later.)


I’m trying very hard to practice loving communication, mindfulness, presence, compassion, and then, traffic…

Jane: Goddammit, bitch, get-the-hell-out-of-my-way-and-let-me-merge, what-da’-fuck-is-wrong-with-you?

Cinder: You’re kind of a terrible role model.


I’d turn on The Passion of Rumi to punish myself but I’ve raised clever children; they won’t let me.


I’m burning supper, and the kids are pretending to be helping, and nobody’s doing the dishes, but there are enough clean plates left to set the table and Ender is really really hungry and getting really really annoying and…

Jane: Cinder, please, please, please do something to amuse your brother for five more minutes so I can get supper on the table?

Cinder: But of course. At your service, sir-yes-sir. Ender, come here. Come here ya’ little buttsack. Listen. ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, children turn dead if you hold them by the neck for a minute or two.’ Look, I’m a poet, just like Mom.

My proudest moment.


Actually, maybe this was my proudest moment:

Cinder: Mom, Mom, Mom, you have to see this!

And he’s right. I HAD to see it. And so do you:

[youtube http://youtu.be/I776Ibj3iTs]



For the writers in the crowd: Famous Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers via BrainPickings.org

For you: “When I count my blessings, I count you twice.”



nbtb-405 anatomy of a good day

tweet tweet @NothingBTBook / Instagram @NothingByTheBook

Episode 356, in which everyone swears, metaphors are tortured, and a bad story gets filed

subtitled, why my children swear… and why I’m not going to stop…


Ender: Mom? You know what the difference between you and me is? You swear at people. I just swear for fun.

Go ahead. No, please, go ahead, indulge the judge within. There are so many things WRONG with that statement, I don’t even know where to start.

It’s only partially true.

I don’t really swear AT people. More at the THINGS they do.

More often yet: at my self. My brain. The things it refuses to do when I really need it to perform…

Still. I hereby resolve to swear less. In front of the sponge-like four-year-old, anyway.


I have this deeply insightful point to make and I’m just trying to find the right way to lead up to it, and then…

Flora: Mom? Do we have any of that delicious bean mush left?

Jane: What? That? Yeah?

Flora: Can I have that for breakfast?

Yes, of course, but I have to help her heat it up—because it’s been left overnight in the pan and so requires some, um, resuscitation shall we say—and then, ok, a tortilla or two to go with it, and then by the time I come back to the laptop, I can’t remember where I was going, what I was thinking…

Yeah, gone. Forever. Here. Read this instead:


Jane: Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, why is this piece so fucking bad? It’s easy. It’s simple. A goddamn chimpanzee at a typewriter could write it, so why… Jeezus—Keerist, why. Am. I. So. Fucking. Brain. Dead. Today? … hey, Cinder? I’m going to walk over to Vendome to get a coffee with whipped cream in it and clear my head, wanna come with?

Cinder: That depends. Are you going to talk to yourself and make weird hand gestures and roll your eyes and stop suddenly and shout, “YES!” or “Fuck, no, that won’t work,” because you’re stuck on that story?

Jane: Um… maybe…

Cinder: Then no. But can you bring back some of that good focaccia bread? And don’t eat it all on the way home!

OK, this stopping swearing in front of my children thing probably isn’t going to happen.

And also: seriously, a goddamn chimpanzee with a typewriter could have written it better than I had in that first draft form. Your writing tip for the day, boys and girls: an amateur despairs and gives up. A professional despairs, goes for a walk, downs a triple mocha, and redrafts.


The thing is, though, I’m feeling kind of lonely and really do want company.

Jane: Flora? Wanna go to Vendome with me?

Flora: Are you going to talk to me as we walk, or ignore me and just mumble to yourself and do that creepy thing with your eyes?

Jane: Um. I don’t know. Maybe?

Flora: Can I make a video of you and put it on Youtube?

Jane: No!

Flora: Can I make a video of you and show it to all my friends?

Jane: Why do you hate me?

Flora: We don’t hate you, Mom. We just like to mock you.

Awesome. I go for my walk alone.


I redraft. It still sucks. Woe is I. Or rather, woe is my editor, who will have to fix it.

Point: “Filed.” I’ve told you before, have I not? An amateur thinks it has to be good. A professional knows it just has to be done.


This is the moment where I try to adapt the good/done, amateur/professional metaphor to parenting. It’s rather torturous, but it goes like this. The amateur/theoretical parent—i.e., your childless friend who is so full of theory and advice and knows exactly how he will raise his kids or even any first-time, first-year mom at that stage of the journey (do you remember that stage? I find it’s fading for me, too fast, thank goodness I write so I have proof of how insufferably arrogant and “right” I was)—thinks it has to be perfect. That it can be perfect. The professional parent—that is, anyone who’s done it in the real world for more than a year—knows it just has to… be. It just… is.

It gets done, every day.




NBTB-Everyone Swears

Summer rerun3: Ender says rock

Polonius: What do you read, my Lord?

Hamlet: Words, words, words.

That would be a pretentious warning that the following rerun contains words that may offend. Well, just one. But repeated a lot. Because. This is a story of Ender learning to say… ROCK.

Yes, rock can be a dirty word. Read on.

(Originally published on November 22, 2011, when Ender was two’ish.)

NBTB-Ender Says Rock

Ender learned a new word today. His fourth or fifth I suppose. I’m so proud. I only wish his pronunciation was a mite better…

We’re at the Glenbow Museum, yyc’s answer to whatever THE museum in your town is. It has armour, paintings. Teepees. Rocks. That’s the trouble…

Cinder and Flora do their crafts in the Discovery Room, and then decide that they want to show Ender the rocks and minerals collection. We go up. They all pet the geode. (There’s a pet geode you can pet there. For real. You should come visit.) And Cinder says,

“See, Ender? You know what that is? A rock. That’s a rock.”

And Ender, adulation in his eyes, looks at his big brother and says…


Flora’s eyes get big as saucers. Cinder howls and howls. “Yes, Ender, that’s a fuck. A great big fuck.” Sideways glance at me. “What? He said it first.”

Jane: “Doesn’t mean you have to say it.”

Cinder: “You say it’s ok for us to swear when it’s appropriate.”

Jane: “I’d say right now is not appropriate.”

Cinder: “Fine. Ender? Come with Bubba. Look here. What’s this?”

Ender: “Fuck!”

Cinder: “And this?”

Ender: “Fuck!”

Cinder: “How about these over here?”

Ender: “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”

I may never be able to return to the Glenbow again.

2014: I’ve been back. I have no shame.



PS Looking for me? Awesome. Click here.

Why the rerun: Nothing By The Book is taking a page from old school un-social media and doing a re-run summer, while I spend the hot days getting a tan, running through sprinkles, selling one book, writing another, reading two dozen more, neglecting my garden, falling in love, jumping off cliffs—you know. Everything but blogging. But, you get reruns of my favourite stuff, so everyone wins. Likely keeping up with Instagram—NothingByTheBook—connect there, if you like? Or Twitter—  or/and .”

Why I love them


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)


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)


Why I love him:

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


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)


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!


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.



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.

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.

Merry Christmas, from Mythbusters and Cinder

This is really hilarious, but also a little offensive, so if you’ve got bad language sensitivity, click delete / next now. It’s a story from August 6, 2009, when Cinder was about seven, and it’s our Christmas gift to you.

Christmas tree

We were on a crazy Mythbusters marathon, and Cinder and Flora’s absolute favourite episode, which they watched over and over again, was the Holiday Special, in which the Mythbusters test, among other things, the variety of products that are supposed to keep yer X-Mas tree greener, fresher, and needle-full longer.

Remember the episode? They put the trees in a bleach solution, spray one with hairspray, etc etc and one of them gets a “little blue pill” added to its water.

The little blue pill is Viagra, but they don’t say so. The announcer introduces it as the little blue pill, and then one of the Mythbusters does a “well, how do I describe this, people are probably watching this with their kids—Santa’s little helper?” and make a big deal out of it.

Viagra Clock

Anyway—the first time I watched the episode with me kinder, I said without much reflection, “Viagra? They must mean Viagra?” the kids asked what’s Viagra, I said, a little blue pill, apparently not being in a mood to discuss erectile dysfunction with a 7 year old and a 4 year old, and the episode continued.

Having committed the episode to memory over repeated viewings, Cinder at one point starts telling me what the bleach did to the tree (bad things), what the hairspray (pretty good, actually) and other stuff. I, having only watched parts of the show but once, have no real recollection.

“But you know what the best preservative of all was?” he asks.


“The little fuck pill.”


“You know—the little fuck pill.”

Words I did not expect to come out of MY seven year old’s mouth, ever—yet a strangely appropriate moniker for Viagra. And I’m naturally curious where and by whom he heard Viagra thus described (and am wondering if that’s something that came out of Sean or my mouth at some point? Cause it sounds like something we might say… but would we be so obtuse as to say it in front of the children? Well… maybe…)

“Where… what…” I start to phrase the question.

“You called it another name, remember? It sounded like Vinegar?”


“Yeah, Viagra. But on the show, they said, the little blue pill, and they wouldn’t say the name of it, because kids could be watching, remember?”


“Well, so I figured it was probably called the fuck pill. Because that’s the word grown-ups never want kids to hear.”


“But you know how I know it? Fuck?”


“Cause that’s what you and Daddy say whenever you break something.”

Merry Christmas,


who breaks a lot of glasses

More Broken Glass

Photo (More Broken Glass) by autowitch

More like this: Want to hear all the swear words I know? and Why parents swear

How I broke my children

It starts innocently:

Ender: I sorry, Daddy!
Sean: Um… why are you sorry, Ender?
Ender: I am sorry. I peed on your sheet. And now I sorry.
Sean: You peed on my sheet? Like, the sheet on my bed?
Ender: I did. I am sorry. Mama giving you a new sheet right now.
Sean: Oh, good.
Ender: I also peed on your pillow.

And I can’t tell you what Sean said next.

a pillow case (or pillow slip), with the pillo...

But I can tell you what Cinder said a little later when:

Ender: I! PEED!
Cinder: Yeah, so did I, Ender. Y’a know what the difference is? I peed in the toilet.
Ender: I peed on your foot.
Cinder: I know!

And then, their mother had a bit of a struggle with a project and:

Jane: Fuck, fuck, fuck!
Cinder: What’s wrong?
Jane: I’m just having a really hard time focusing on my work.
Cinder: I’m having a really hard time getting this Minecraft mod to work properly. Want to swear together?

And then, there was a horrible, horrible conference call, and the mother lost all moral high ground and self-restraint:

Jane (on telephone to editor): Fucking hell, I don’t fucking believe this==the [bleep bleep bleeps], they’re just [bleep bleep bleep], they’re [bleep bleep] and taking it in the [bleeeeeeep]…
Cinder (on extension): I’d like to apologize for my mother’s language. She’s having a very bad day.

[five minutes later]

Jane (to Sean): And then they [bleeeeeeeeeeep]…
Flora to Cinder: Wow, that was a new one. Are you taking notes?
Cinder: You bet.

It was, may I say in my defence, an exceedingly difficult day.

But I survived.

Although the children are probably permanently scarred.

swearing in cartoon Suomi: Kiroileva sarjakuva...

“Want to hear all the swear words I know?”

My own personal goal for this month… next month… any month, really: to swear less. At least in front of the children. At the children. I mean, in front of the children. I don’t swear at them. At least not out loud. Much. Hey, it’s been a stressful month, ok? Anyway. My goal. Swear less. So it’s eerily appropriate that I revisit today the time Cinder regaled me with all the swear words he knew.

We picked up some books at the library yesterday, including a stack of “Phonics Comix” for Cinder by request. He’s flipping through one on the way to the car. “Fuck! The only word in this book I can read is “moo!” Well, I guess this one here is probably cow…”

A few hours later that night, as we are getting ready for bed, said child comes up to be with a sneaky look on his face. “Hey, mom–do you want to hear me say all the swear words I know?”

(What, by the way, would be the proper response to this request?)

I say, “Um, not particularly.”

“Are you sure?”

“Have you a burning desire to regale me with all the swear words you know?”


“OK, go.”

So he starts to list off—an amazingly modest list, actually that starts with “darn”—not “a real one, but apparently it used to be, did you know that?”—gives top billing to “Jesus Christ!” (which is what Catholic-raised I holler when I explode a pyrex baking dish and what not)—proceeds through shoot, shit and fuck, adds for reasons I do not understand “shoulder” and then, after a dramatic pause, finishes with hell.


“So, do you want to know how I learned these?”

“Unfortunately, I think we can trace pretty much every single one of those to either me or Daddy.”

“Um… I guess. But actually, the other day, at the potluck party, we played this game, Truth or Dare, and one of the kids was dared to say all the swear words he knew, and he did, and I was taking notes.”


“You know, mental notes. And KH said swear words were useful things to use if you wanted to offend your enemies, did you know that?”


“But if I want to offend my enemies, I know something better! Know what?”


“I will bend over and fart at them!”


From Life’s Archives, Swearing, February 3, 2009

If you liked this, you’ll love this: Why Parents Swear

swearing in cartoon Suomi: Kiroileva sarjakuva...

Why Parents Swear

…or, more appropriately perhaps, why children swear?

Language warning for the sensitive of eye and ear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daddy would say fuck,” he says seriously.

From Life’s Archives, March 31, 2005.

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

diaper pile

Ender Says Rock

Language warning for the sensitive of eye and ear.

Ender learned a new word today. His fourth or fifth I suppose. I’m so proud. I only wish his pronunciation was a mite better…

We’re at the Glenbow Museum. A perfect day. Cinder and Flora do their crafts in the Discovery Room, and then decide that they want to show Ender the rocks and minerals collection. We go up. They all pet the geode. And Cinder says, “See, Ender? You know what that is? A rock. That’s a rock.”

And Ender, adulation in his eyes, looks at his big brother and says… “Fuck?”

Flora’s eyes get big as saucers. Cinder howls and howls. “Yes, Ender, that’s a fuck. A great big fuck.” Sideways glance at me. “What? He said it first.”

J: “Doesn’t mean you have to say it.”

C: “You say it’s ok for us to swear when it’s appropriate.”

J: “I’d say right now is not appropriate.”

C: “Fine. Ender? Come with Bubba. Look here. What’s this?”

E: “Fuck!”

C: “And this?”

E: “Fuck!”

C: “How about these over here?”

E: “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”

I may never be able to return to the Glenbow again.