Because, life.

NBTB-because life

I.

In the category of things I’d never thought I’d hear:

Ender: And Mom is driving AND eating bacon! That’s just wrong. And dangerous. Aren’t you going to stop her, Daddy?

II.

In the category of things I’d never thought I’d say:

Jane: Do! Not! Use! Your! Butt! As! A! Bookmark!

III.

In the category of things I hope other people don’t hear them say:

Cinder: Mom! Construction workers in the middle of the street! Go to ramming speed! Mom? Come on? Please? You can swerve to the side at the last second…

IV.

In the category of “This my life”:

Client: What we’re really looking for… See, how can I put this… Have you any experience… have you ever dealt with someone completely, totally irrational, unreasonable and prone to throwing temper tantrums at the least provocation—and you had to deal with them, and work around them, and get the job done in spite of them, because firing isn’t an option, and killing them is wrong?”

Jane: Yes. Yes, I have some experience in working with people like that.

V.

I’m in the shower and I’m writing bad poetry in my head and life is really, really good.

That’s all. There’s no punchline. Maybe this: and nobody interrupted me.

Bliss.

xoxo,

Jane

PS Eating bacon while driving is NOT dangerous. Eating salted caramel ice cream, however, is.

An unhappy childhood

I.

I know you all worry about fucking up your children. You wouldn’t be a thinking parent if you didn’t. I’ve got great news for you. We* had a meeting the other day, and we decided that:

1. All of our kids will need therapy anyway.

2. “Successful” parenting means they’ll need therapy for different things than WE need therapy for.

Right? We can’t get everything right, of course not. How can we? So long as we avoid/minimize doing what we know is wrong—what we know first hand is wrong… we’re doing ok.

So chill. But also, add a “saving for Joey’s therapy” line to the family budget…

II.

Proof that, on the whole, we get it right:

Flora: Mom? What does that say?

Jane: It’s an excerpt from an Ernest Hemingway book. Someone asks, “What is the best early training for a writer?” And the answer is, “An unhappy childhood.”

Flora: Well, I’m screwed then. Good thing I’d rather be an artist or a veterinarian, anyway.

Neurotic parenting for the win!

III.

Sean: What are you doing?

Jane: Wallowing in existential angst.

Sean: Again?

Jane: I put it in calendar as a regular thing. Every Monday, 8:30-8:45. Then I drink coffee. Then I function.

Flora: Dad? Is Mom crazy?

Sean: Yes. But she’s ours, and we take care of her. Now, go let the dog out while I grind her coffee beans.

Flora: You’d better give her some chocolate too.

Ender: On it!

I love them buttsacks of mine.

xoxo

“Jane”

NBTB-Unhappy childhood

PS Looking for me? Find me here.

 * “We” = select members of a select club I belong to called Elitist Bitches Who Don’t Like to Make New Friends, thinking mothers with issues all. No, you can’t join, but you could secretly start your own chapter. Except now that I’ve told you about it, the other bitches will probably blacklist me. Ooops. My bad…

xo

PS2 “This is a very short post, and sort of short on insight, Jane. What’s up?”

“What? Nothing. Why? What have you heard? Not true. Ssssh. I’ll be long-winded next week. Maybe. Deadlines…”

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…

“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.”

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.

xoxo

“Jane”

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 .”

She loves Sherlock but David Tennant will never love me—and no one is doing the dishes…

I.

Well. That was how many weeks in a row of making-you-cry-and-angst serious? Change of pace. And go:

Flora: Do you know why I love Sherlock so much, Mom?

Jane: Well, he’s a timeless character, a hero-anti-hero figure rolled into one, a dragon slayer, yes, but also a so-bad-boy, on-the-side-of-right and yet essentially amoral, brilliant-yet-obtuse—he’s really the perfect archetype of…

Flora: It’s because he looks just like Daddy and talks just like you.

Oh. From which you may deduce a) that the father of my children is h-h-h-o-t and b) that I’m a high-functioning sociopath.

II.

Jane: Keerist. Would someone please command, order, TELL ME to go do the dishes? Or better yet, go in the kitchen and do them for me?

Cinder: Meh. Just go read a book. We’ll just eat the chicken from the baking tray.

Flora: With our fingers.

Ender: I! Want! A! Fork!

There’s always a demanding one, isn’t there?

I can wash one fork.

I. Will. Wash. One. Fork.

III.

Flora: And another thing! Don’t you dare blog about this!

Jane: But…

Flora: No!

Jane: But…

Flora: Absolutely, never, ever, NO!

Sorry. You don’t get to find out. But man. It was brilliant.

But she says I can tell you this one:

IV.

Flora: Mom? What do adults talk about?

What a question. What do adults talk about? My friend Marie and I look at each other. Laugh.

Jane: Kids?

Marie: Books?

Jane: Oh, homeschooling.

Marie: Boys.

Jane: Girls.

Flora: You can’t talk about boys and girls! You’re married!

Marie: Well, your dad’s a boy, you know.

Flora: OMG. Do married people get crushes?

Jane: Well…

Marie: Um…

Flora: OMG. You do. Like Daddy has a crush on Felicia Day? And you think David Tennant is hot?

Jane: Well…

Marie: Um…

Flora: Mom? There’s something you need to know.

Jane: What’s that?

Flora: David Tennant will never love you!

Meh. I’ll live.

V.

So, 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 (please, weather gods, grant this piece of flood plain some scalding hot days, will you?) 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. Stay in touch via Instagram—NothingByTheBook—will you? Or Twitter—  or/and . Or, just come back in September.

I will.

xoxo

“Jane”

NBTB-Rafting in the wading pool.jpg

Post-script:

Jane: And then she says, “David Tennant will never love you!”

Flora: It’s true.

Sean: I don’t know about that. I mean, just look at your mom, and she’s really smart too. And David Tennant’s pretty intelligent and dresses like he’s got great taste. I bet he’d be totally into her. And then, you know how we had to stand in line for hours to get that Matt Smith photo? We’d get to hang out with David Tennant all the time and take pictures of him all the time and then sell them on e-Bay for a fortune and…

Flora: I didn’t think of it like that. OK. What do we have to do to hook them up?

My family. They deserve a high-functioning sociopath.

Post-script 2:

“Sunny days, long weekends, flood anniversary trauma. I’ve missed so much!”

“Oh, let me catch you up, ma’ darling. June posts you might have missed below.”

Would Edgar Allan Poe by any other name smell so sweet? (And wear a fez?)

I.

First, this:

Flora: Was Edgar Allan Poe a real person?

Jane: What? Yes, of course.

Flora: And he really wrote The Raven?

Jane: Yes.

Flora: And his real name really was Edgar Allan Poe?

Jane: Yes. Well, he was born Edgar Poe, but then he was sort-of-adopted by a family called Allan, and so he became Edgar Allan Poe…

Flora: That’s just brilliant. He’s so lucky. Because suppose he had been named Edgar Steve Poe? Or Edgar Smith Poe? He’d never have written The Raven then. No way.

Jane: Really?

Flora: Yes. Only someone with a cool name like Edgar Allan Poe could have written The Raven. Edgar Steve Smith Poe would have written… The Pigeon.

With apologies to Steve Smiths… everywhere…

II.

Then this:

Flora: Was Charles Dickens a real person?

Jane: What?

Flora: Was Charles Dickens a real person? A real writer?

Jane: Yes. He wrote… David Copperfield, which is so good. And of course, A Christmas Carol. And The Bleak House, and Nicholas Nickleby, and…

Flora: OK, so Charles Dickens is like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Not like Sherlock Holmes.

Jane: Yes. Sherlock Holmes was not a real person—he was a character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Flora: It’s important to get these things straight.

Jane: Absolutely.

Gods, I love her.

III.

And finally:

Flora: So Agatha Christie was a real person.

Jane: Yes.

Flora: But The Doctor is not a real person.

Jane: No. I mean, yes, he is not a real person.

Flora: But Matt Smith is a real person. And so is David Tennant.

Jane: Yes.

Flora: Two different real people, playing the same character.

Jane: Yes. Well, actually—what, 12? 13 different people playing the same character over 50 years…

Flora: Why is all of this so confusing?

Because… life. Art. Authors. Characters. Creators. Creations.

Yes, she’s watching The Wasp and The Unicorn, and The Day of the Doctor. Simultaneously. Reading Sherlock Holmes (graphic novel version, adapted by Ian Edginton, and illustrated by I.N.J. Culbard—brilliant). I’m not quite sure from where Charles Dickens makes an appearance. I ask. “Horrible Histories.” Of course.

NBTB-Fez Medley for Edgar Allan Poe post

xoxo

“Jane”

PS  “Well, this is all very nice interesting, but I’m here looking for that interview tips for kids video that’s part of the Sunnyside YYC Flood Scrap Book Project.”

“Are you? Thrilled. That’s this here: Filing, flooding, interviewing—or, ‘Confluence.’ Our kids and the film crew will be at the Hillhurst-Sunnyhill Farmers’ Market today interviewing. If you’re a YYC reader: come tell your story.”

On big egos, scared-scarred-little-boys, and what to do when one of them tells you, my girl, that you have a big ego

I look at her and she takes my breath away. She is just so perfectly… herself. And I am envious. And in such love, my lungs, heart, stomach ache…

Jane: Do you know how utterly amazing you are? You are just awesome.

Flora: Aw. Thank you.

And she smiles her incredible smile at me. She’s at that lovely, unwrecked age when she still knows how to take a compliment, you know? When you tell her she’s beautiful, she just smiles a lovely smile that says, “I know.” When you tell her she’s clever, she looks at you, a little surprised—“Isn’t it obvious? Why must you say so?”

But the world-around-us is making inroads, attempting all sorts of assaults at her sense of self. And while she accepted the compliment as her natural due… she’s self-reflective enough to ponder whether that was ok. And so, she scrunches up her lovely, brilliant face, and looks at me…

Flora: Mom? Is it bad to have a big ego?

Oh, my beloved. The questions you ask. And would not your life be easier if I could just give you pap, pat answers? I hold her look and ponder my answer.

Jane: I suppose it depends on what you do with that ego…

But that’s no answer at all, is it? And it’s actually the wrong question, too. So I try again, to come closer to truth:

Jane: I think it’s probably worse to have no ego at all that to have a big one

She thinks on that for a while. Is not sure she understands. Asks for clarification. And so I ask her… what’s her perception? What does she think—is it good or bad to have a big ego? What does she understand by ego? What does she mean by “big ego”? Is she thinking of someone specific?

Flora: Someone with a big ego is someone who thinks they are oh-so-great.

And, oh-yes, she’s thinking of someone specific…

But is someone with a big ego really someone who thinks they are oh-so-great? I want to see where she takes this, so I ask her—how do you know that they think they are oh-so-great?

Flora: Well, they tell you how great they are. All the time.

Right. So listen to this, my Flora: in my experience—and in my line of work, I’ve become something of an expert on big egos, and egos-that-want-to-be-big-but-are-actually-egos-of-scarred-and-scared-little-boys—the people who tell you how great they are (all the time) don’t actually have big egos. They are scarred-and-scared-insecure-and-easily-threatened-little-boys-and-girls who need to talk big to feel big…

Flora: So… they tell you they’re oh-so-great… because they’re actually worried they aren’t?

Exactly, my love. The people with big-secure-confident-I’m-your-Mona-Lisa-and-I-know-it-down-to-my-toes egos… they don’t need to tell you how great they are. (You do it for them, to them, all the time, unprompted…)

My Flora is fascinated, and slightly perturbed. She stoops down, sits down. Thinks and thinks. Finally:

Flora: Do I have a big ego?

Ah, THE question. And so how do we answer that, within the parameters we have set? And with some consideration for the inroads the world-around-us is making into her mind?

Jane: Well… do you think you’re oh-so-great?

And what she says, beloved, what she says… well, this is what she says:

Flora: Well, I don’t know if I’m oh-so-great… but I’m pretty good. And pretty cool. Most of the time. Except sometimes, when I’m an obnoxious jerk. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident… but generally, I’m just… I’m pretty good.

I’m me.

My blogging colleague Jen Rose at Something Clever 2.0 once commented here, “Flora for President!” Let me up that, today, to “Flora, Ultimate Ruler of the Universe!” Cause what a wonderful universe that would be…

Jane: So I think you have a perfectly healthy, solid ego that doesn’t need to tell others how great it is, because it is confident that it’s just awesome, and that’s pretty awesome.

She glows with… Floraness. And… did I tell you already? I look at her and she takes my breath away. She is just so perfectly… herself. I love her so much, my lungs, heart, stomach ache…

She smiles and me. And slants her eyes … and smiles again…

Flora: So if someone tells me I have a big ego… should I just kick him in the balls as hard as I can?

Well… um.

So…

What would you say?

xoxo

“Jane”

NBTB-On big egos

P.S. Somewhere, out there, I’m sure there is an article–course–workshop on how to write short, pithy, search engine friendly post headlines. Don’t tell me about it. I don’t care.

I’m raising a blackmailer. Oops

This one is for “Narf,” from The Road to Serenity, who asked for something funny. And for  B., who thinks he needs to review all my future NDAs, because… well, read on…

***

First, this: the children find out how utterly broke I am:

Flora: Mom? How much money do you have in your bank account?

I scrunch up my forehead, pull up the date, calculate the total number of bills deducted from my not-very-impressive balance as of today, and respond…

Jane: About $50.

Flora: OMFG! I have more than that in my Three Jars!

(Three Jars, by the way, is a very brilliant way of managing your children’s money without actually giving them real money. What I mean is—Aunt August sends a check for $16.66* for their birthday, and it’s in your name… you deposit it, of course, in your bank account, and then do you transfer it to their bank account? Of course not. At least I never do. I spend it, on, you know—food. Visa bills. Until Three Jars. Now, I “deposit” that amount into their account. It’s virtual money: I don’t put any real money in there. It’s just a record. Then, when we’re at a store, and Flora wants another Rainbow Loom, and wants to pay for it with her money—I pay for it with my visa… and deduct the money from her Three Jars account. Brilliant. Check it out.)**

Flora is very, very clever—I may have mentioned this before, how clever my girl is?—and my apparent indigence is causing her some concern. She’s following the matter to the obvious conclusion.

Flora: Mom? So I have more than $300 in my Three Jars. If I ask you for that money, where is it going to come from?

Here’s the part where I teach my children a terrible life lesson.

Jane: I would write you a cheque on my Line of Credit.

… and here’s the part where they learn the paradox of a freelance writer’s life:

Flora: Mom? Why do you have so little money when you’ve just worked so much?

Jane: Because I haven’t been paid yet.

… and here comes the part where I realize my children learn all sorts of financial lessons I don’t realize I teach them…

Cinder: Because Mom’s a freelance, Flora, and that means clients don’t pay her for weeks and weeks and sometimes months after she does the work.

Flora is outraged.

Flora: Well, that really sucks!

Me, you know, I haven’t had a biweekly, predictable paycheque since Y2K, so I rather take it in stride. Most of them pay. Eventually. In the meantime, there’s my treasured line of credit…

And here comes the part where… well, just listen:

Cinder: Hey, Mom? That client you wouldn’t tell us anything about, the one that you did that top secret project for—you know, the one that you said if you told us about, they’d send ninja assassins to Calgary to kill us and also everyone we talked to about it?

(Sometimes, I get REALLY interesting jobs. They come with these NDAs…)

Jane: Um, yeah?

Cinder: Have they paid you yet?

Jane: Um, no.

Cinder: So… why don’t you call them and say, “Pay me now, or I’m going to put your top secret project on Facebook?”

I crane around in the front seat of the car—these conversations almost often take place in the car—and stare at my son-the-future-blackmailer. Who 1) totally understands the power of social media and 2) knows that privacy in our current world is only a delusion…

… and I wonder exactly where I went wrong on the path of shaping his moral make-up…

… and then Flora—have I mentioned how very, very clever she is?—sets him straight:

Flora: But Cinder. Maybe they’d pay her this time—but then, she’d never, ever get another top-secret-don’t-tell-anyone-about-this-or-we-will-send-ninja-assasins-to-kill-you-and-everyone-you-might-have-talked-to job.

Cinder: But she’d get paid.

Flora: But she’d never get hired to do anything top secret again.

Silence falls. I do some mental arithmetic on how much room there is left on my line of credit, and decide plenty enough that I don’t need to panic. Yet. Flora, I suspect, is wondering if she should call in all her Three Jars savings now, before the line of credit is maxed. Cinder, I’m a little worried, might be thinking whether he should take the financial health of the family into his own blackmailing hands—and I make a mental note to change all my laptop and file passwords again. Just in case. Not that I doubt his integrity… just his, you know… judgement.  I turn again to look at him. His look is pensive rather than cunning—more like he’s feeling pity for my lack of ruthlessness rather than planning the demise of my professional reputation by threatening my client in my name.

I relax. Peek over at Ender, who was listening to but not following the conversation, but now has his brow furrowed in concentration. I love to watch him think: I see him chasing a thought… wrestling it… figuring out how to articulate it. What did he take away from all that? What did he glean, process?

And, here it comes.

Ender: Mom?

Jane: Yes, my darling?

Ender: Penis!

The four-year-old has spoken.

xoxo

“Jane”

Raising a blackmailer

*You remember Aunt Augusta? She’s not real—she’s a metaphor for every relative-aquaintance-friend-of-the-family-well-meaning-stranger-at-the-bus-stop-nosy-neighbour who has an opinion about how I live my life/raise my children and misses no opportunity to tell me I’m doing it wrong. I hope you have an Aunt Augusta or two in your life: there is no better barometer by which to measure your parenting. Aunt Augusta thinks you suck? Awesome. You’re doing something right.

**Not a sponsored post. I don’t do that. I’m a real user of the service and a real fan.

Photo: My blackmailer-in-training practicing breaking secret codes…

Math, penises, impaired visual memory and existential angst

I.

Somewhere, in the math word problem instructions, was the phrase “be as creative as you like.” Oops. Here comes Flora:

Question: There are five elephants at the zoo. How many big elephant ears are there in the zoo herd?

Answer: There are nine ears, because Bill the male elephant only has one ear. He lost the other one when the zookeepers were rescuing him during the flood. This is a terrible tragedy, especially as all the other elephants make fun of him. You might think elephants are all cute and kind, but some of them are evil bastards.

And, here comes Cinder:

Question: Farmer Jones’ field is 167 m long and 4 m wide. Calculate the perimeter ( P ) and area ( A ).

Answer: P = ENIS A = SS.

II.

Speaking of penises (and when don’t I?), we’re renovating our bathroom. Because we’re insane and the reconstruction in the basement isn’t enough (actually, truly: it was a sanity-saving move: this one small thing, we can do and get done NOW). We’re en route to one of those horrid stores full of home renovation crap* and Sean asks me what kind of faucet I want. I stare at him blankly.

Sean: You know there are different kinds of faucets.

Jane: Um… sure. Yeah.

Sean: Do you want one that’s like the one we have now, or do you want something different?

I spare you the long technical and thoroughly incomprehensible to me description of European versus North American faucet styles and why this matters that follows, and jump to this: I am trying, very hard, to visualize our current sink and faucet, the place where I wash my hands and brush my teeth several times a day and have done so for eight, nine years? What does our sink look like? I’m fairly sure it’s white… possibly that colour they call ecru or ivory… round? Aren’t most sinks round? And the faucet? Christ. It’s just a faucet. Water comes out of it. I gather that one of the things my considerate beloved is trying to determine is whether I want a faucet with two separate hot-and-cold taps or one swivel tap. I close my eyes. Concentrate. I have no fucking clue what our faucet looks like. He reads my mind…

Sean: You have no idea what our faucet looks like?

The kids howl.

Jane: Fine, laugh. What do you think our faucet looks like?

Flora: It’s this dark shade of silver, with a beautiful curve. A line of green just around its base.** It’s just high enough that it reflects in the mirror, and when the taps are turned off, the cold one points at Ender’s collection of orange tooth brushes and the hot one at that weird splotch of red that you say is not blood on the wall beside the toilet.***

Cinder: That is not what Mom wants to know. The faucet has three holes, and they’re less than an inch way from the back splash… and probably eight inches apart from each other―I mean the outside two. And the sink is just over three feet high, and not quite two feet deep and 30 inches―no, actually, probably only 26 inches long.

Ender, paying intense attention to the conversation, shakes his head. And jumps in…

Ender: Our faucet looks like a penis.

Cinder: Actually, I’d like to change my answer to Ender’s.

Flora: I hate to ever agree with the boys, Mom, but yeah, Ender’s right. Our faucet looks like a penis.

Apparently, so does the new one.

Or so they tell me. When I close my eyes and try to see it… all I see is flowing water…

III.

Flora: Mom? What do adults talk about when there are no kids around?

Jane: Existential angst.

Flora: What’s that?

Jane: I think… it’s like trying to figure out who the heck you want to be when you grow up. Except that you’re already grown up, and so you feel like you should have figured this out already. But you haven’t. But you think you should…

Flora: But aren’t you just you?

Jane: What?

Flora: Well, I’m a kid. But I’m me. And when I grow up, maybe I’ll be a veterinarian. Or a painter. Or something. But I’ll still be me, right?

Right. And so… is that what existential angst is? Thinking that being you―being me―just isn’t enough?

xoxo
“Jane”

PS For those of you who’ve been unfortunate enough to witness me hitting my head against a brick wall last week: I’m not quite ready for the sledge hammer, but I’ve found me a rope ladder… Don’t get the reference? Then you’ve missed “I just want my kids to be happy.” Really? I don’t, and here’s why.

Next week: why I think “The CEO has a uterus―no, wait, he doesn’t but half his workforce does” is the most important thing I’ve ever written (as my real self), and why you―yes, you―need to go change the work world.****

Math-penises-staircase-to-everywhere.jpg

Footnotes galore

*I know you love those stores. I don’t. They smell. They’re too full of stuff. Worse, it’s all―well, a lot of it―stuff I need, because a third of my house is still a skeleton of its former self. Now what have you done? I’m all post-flood weepy again… OK. Moving on…

**The green is a deposit of limestone, because… crappy housekeeper. I know you think you are―I really am.

***It’s not blood. I promise. You don’t want to know what it is… but it’s not blood.

****Having a split on-line/writing personality is getting incredibly onerous. If you’re thinking of doing it: don’t. It leads to mild on-line schizophrenia, has bizarre implications on your real life, and reintegration is a bitch.

Looking for me?  Go to the for-stalkers-and-bloggers-and-no-I’m-a-real-sane-fan! section: Find “Jane”

Who will win “most annoying child contest” and other tales

Sleeping Mommy Approach with Coffee

I.

I know I’ve trained you all to NOT ask me if things are back to normal or how reconstruction is going. And I appreciate that. But I know you want to know. So. It’s going like this:

Flora: Oh, look, there’s one of the workers!

Sean: I don’t think we should call them workers. That suggests they actually, you know, work.

Cinder: We should call them the guys who come into our unit every once in a while and look around.

Flora: That’s not fair. Sometimes, they also smoke in our driveway.

And there you have it. That’s better than what Ender and his mother call them. Did you catch that, beloved, in my running away story? Go look.

II.

Flora: Ender’s so cute when he’s sleeping… and not demanding stuff!

Yup. Flora and I drink in that peaceful cherubic face… and magically, it blots out the trauma of the tantrum he threw when he found out that he could not share that chocolate croissant all by himself

III.

Cinder: Mom? Are you running the ‘Who’s the most annoying child?’ contest today?

Jane: Um… well, no, I wasn’t planning on it… Why?

Cinder: Too bad. If you were, I think I just won. Want to know what I did?

Jane: No. No. Not even a little bit.

IV.

Flora: Mom! Where is my iPad?

Jane: On your bed, under the rainbow pillow.

Ender: Mooooooom! I can’t find my shark-car. Have you seen my shark-car?

Jane: In the bathtub, under the blue washcloth.

Cinder: Where is my Calvin & Hobbes book? Mom! Where is…

Jane: On the landing, under your snowpants!

Sean: Jaaaane! Have you seen my phone?

Jane: Under the couch…

Wait. I see the pattern. I am going to break it.

Flora: Mom? Where is…

Jane: I don’t know.

Ender: Mooooom!

Jane: Don’t know.

Cinder: Mom, I can’t find…

Jane: Not a clue.

Sean: Jane, have you seen…

Jane: Nope. Don’t. Know.

Will it work? Fingers crossed.

Next week: a meditation on guilt and gratitude. And the week after… oh, that one, I really can’t wait for you to read. Do you “just want your kids to be happy?” Let that marinate in the back of your head for the next two weeks, and then you can read me explain why I don’t…

xoxo

Jane

P.S. My very brilliant friend Katia wrote this amazing piece last week on fighting in front of children: Forgive Me For Stomping All Over Your Victory. Highly recommended, insightful piece.

P.P.S. Yes, we have the plague right now. Three down. Two to go. But it’s only Wednesday…

Flu Bed

On yelling, authenticity, aspiration and the usefulness of judgemental relatives-and-strangers

Jane: Cinder! I mean Flora! Ender! Gah—child-I’m-mad-at, come here!

Flora: Which one? We were all being kind of buttsacks.

Jane: Wah! All of you! Just come here, line up, and I’m going to yell at each of you in turn. Or maybe all together…

Cinder: I did not do anything! Not really!

Jane: But I guarantee you will do something yell-worthy soon. Get over here. Now here’s what we’re going to do. I am going to deliver an all purpose yelling-lecture session now. Then, whenever you’re buttsacks the rest of the day, I can just go, “Waah! Remember what I said this morning?” And we can move on without more lecturing-yelling.

Flora: I don’t think that’s going to work.

Cinder: You’re really weird.

Ender: Maybe I’ll be really good the rest of the day.

Flora: Probably not.

Cinder: Definitely not.

Ender: You! Suck!

Cinder: You’re! A! Buttsack!

Flora: I think this is why Mom wanted to yell at us. Ok, we’re ready, Mom. Go.

So here’s the thing, friends. I don’t really yell at the kids that much. More than I’d like to… less than Aunt Augusta—you know Aunt Augusta, you’ve got one too*—thinks I ought to. But sometimes, I yell.

Sometimes, they really need to be yelled at, and I really need to yell.

Sometimes, “You! Are! Driving! Me! Insane!” is better—more real—more authentic—less damaging—than taking a deep breath, gritting my teeth, and muttering, “Never mind.”

Actually—gritting my teeth and muttering “Never mind”—when, in truth, I really, really, REALLY DO MIND—is never the better thing to do, the healthy thing to do.

Do this. Think of something that makes you extremely angry. Whatever it is. Clubbing baby seals or keying cars or taking the chicken carcass out of the garbage and trying to flush it down the toilet…** Now, sigh, shrug, and say, “Never mind.” You liar. Of course you mind. Feel yourself tightening up and going mad as a result? Acknowledge that you mind. And then move on.

Cinder: Mom? Mom! You did that spacing out thing again! We’re waiting for the yelling!

Jane: Oh. Right. The moment’s kind of passed. I’m no longer in a yelling mood. Just try not to be buttsacks*** to each other.

Cinder: You know that’s probably not going to happen.

Jane: I know. Try. Most of life is aspirational.

And as Flora explains to her brothers what aspirational means, I decide that today may be an ice-cream discipline kind of day. And also, a good day to NOT clean the kitchen and NOT do laundry and NOT try to squeeze in a couple of hours of research on that project—the deadline’s too far away to be urgent, kitchens just get dirty again, and everyone still has socks. Instead, it’s a good day to text a friend or two and take our collective brood to roam some urban park or other. Climb a hill. Break some ice floes. Get soaking wet and dirty in melting puddles. And then do THAT laundry. Or not.

Most of life is aspirational.

xoxo

“Jane”

LanternsPin

* You don’t know Aunt Augusta? Are you sure? She’s my all-purpose metaphor for every relative-aquaintance-friend-of-the-family-well-meaning-stranger-at-the-bus-stop-nosy-neighbour who has an opinion about how I live my life/raise my children and misses no opportunity to tell me I’m doing it wrong. Ah, Aunt Augusta. The pain and angst you caused me when I was a brand-new, vulnerable mother… The amusement and opportunity for passive-aggressive and just-out-right-aggressive barbs you give me now… I won’t say I love you, darling, because you’re bitchy, abrasive, judgemental, intolerant, invasive and well, kinda nasty. But I’m glad you exist, because you’ve become this amazing barometer for me. If I ever do anything of which you wholeheartedly approved—man, I’ll have fucked up but majorly. So please, darling. Criticize away. I’m too permissive, messy, insufficiently-hovering-spoiling-my-children-too-much? Awesome. Thank you. I was worried I was too-cranky-angry-controlling-snappy these days, but clearly, I’m still doing ok.

**I caught up with him before Part II was fully in effect.

***It’s also a metaphor. Cinder’s creation. I’ve stopped fighting it and now fully embrace its use as a term of… endearment. That’s what it is. Endearment.

##

Naked face politics

There is no preamble, no set-up. She simply looks at me and says:

“Mom? Why don’t you ever wear make-up?”

And I look back at her, and pause. And ponder. What do I say? It has been years—not decades, but more than a decade, more—since I’ve thought about my always-naked face. What does she need to know? What does she want to know? Should I tell her that I’m too practical-busy-lazy, that when one naps in the middle of the day with babies and toddlers, one doesn’t want to smear mascara-eye-shadow-foundation on pillows? Sort of true, maybe, except I don’t think that’s quite how it happened.

I can’t quite remember when or why I chose a naked face. Or if it was even a choice…

I could tell her it’s because I exercise in the middle of the day and I love that clean up involves nothing but the quickest of showers, a wipe with a towel.

I could tell her it’s an aesthetic thing and choice and preference, one devoid of any merit, because most of the women in her life dress their faces, and I love them, she loves them, and I want her to honour their choice. And, in a couple of years, she will long for mascara and eye-liner and blush and all those things—I wallpapered my face enthusiastically as a teenager too—and I don’t want her to, ever, think that I’m judging her, denigrating her preference of the moment.

If she was older, I might tell her that in my experience lovers always prefer the taste of naked skin to the taste of cosmetics… but no, not now, I won’t tell her that.

I could tell her I like my skin. My eyes. My lips. Just the way they are. And I like to smear on lipstick for special occasions, sure, but it gets on wine glasses and her daddy’s shirts and… TMI. Stop.

I could tell her… oh, so much. Too much. I’m an anthropologist by training, after all, and I know too much about the “why” theories for most of humanity’s quaint customs.

I don’t know what to tell her, because she’s an almost-pre-teen girl in a sick culture that warps beauty and body image and aesthetics and personal choice and turns everything into a weapon, a war, a conflict, an assault on her own sense of beauty and self and joy, and oh, why-does-raising-a-daughter-have-to-be-so-fucking-hard and oh, why-do-I-always-overthink-everything, why-can’t-I-just-say, “Because I don’t want to” and be done with it?

I should tell her… what? What the hell should I tell her?

But then, she answers herself:

“Is it because it wouldn’t be fair to the other moms? Because you’re so beautiful already?”

Flora, my most beloved child, I’ve said before I know I’m not supposed to have a favourite… but at moments like this… it’s really hard for your brothers to compete with you.

I wrap my arms around her. Press my naked face against her naked face. Kiss her. Love her. And she says:

“We’re so lucky we’re so beautiful, aren’t we?”

Flora, my most beloved. We are. You are. Hold on to this feeling as you grow.

“Jane”

N.B. I wrote this post before Avital Norman Nathman of The Mamafesto brought the #365FeministSelfie project, masterminded by Veronica Arreola from Viva La Feminista, to my attention. Naked face, painted face, happy face, sad face, angry face–REAL face. Real people. An aesthetic of the real, as seen-captured by the subject, without a mediating eye. That’s power. And also… play, joy. I’ve been in since Day 2. Come celebrate the reality of you with me, on Twitter or Instagram with #365FeministSelfie–or, you know what? Privately. Just for yourself. There’s power in that too.

The photos, Week 1. Do I love them? One of them is awesome. Two of them make me cringe. All of them are me.

Naked Face Politics Pin

On getting kids to do their own laundry, slime molds and deadlines

I.

So it goes like this:

Cinder: Mooooom! I’m out of pajamas! And pants! And socks! And…

Jane: Cindeeeer! The washing machine is, I believe, empty and fully functional. Do a load, or go scavenge in your dirty clothes pile! I’m writing!

Cinder: I’ve already worn everything twice… Will you show me how you do the laundry again?

Jane: As soon as I… just ask Flora to show you.

Cinder: Flora knows how to do laundry?

Jane: She ran out of underwear on Sunday.

Interlude for the aspiring writers in the crowd: Once or twice a week, I get an email from a “I want to be a freelance writer!” asking me if I have any advice to impart. It boils down to this: Pitch. Query. Write. And when you get assignments, MEET YOUR DEADLINES (and if you break them, you’d better have a really good excuse, like… FLOOD! And even then, your editors will say, “So… if you get power back on Thursday, does that mean you might be able to file on Friday?”). MEET YOUR DEADLINES. And did I mention… MEET YOUR DEADLINES.

Awesome Dryerase Board
II.

And then it goes like this:

Flora: Mooooom! What’s wrong with our sink?

Jane: Keee-rist, did Ender clog the drain with Lego again?

Flora: No, come look.

Jane: Sweetie, I really need to finish…

Cinder: Gah, Mom, you need to come see this.

Jane: This better be… Kee-rist. What the hell is that?

Flora: I think it’s a slime mold.

Jane: Is that moving?

Cinder: Sometimes, slime molds move.

Jane: That is not a slime mold. I doused the entire bathroom in cleaners and alcohol after we had the plague. I’ve only been neglecting the house for two weeks. Not enough time for a slime mold to..

Flora: Oh-my-god, it totally moved.

How you know we’re all a little whack:

Cinder: Should we take a picture?

Flora: Can I keep it for my museum?

Jane: I think if we leave it until Daddy gets home, he’ll deal with it.*

Interlude for the aspiring writers in the crowd: MEET YOUR DEADLINES. Deal with the slime mold later–or delegate.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS I’m not reading anything not directly related to my billable work right now, my apologies to the blogosphere. Um, well, except for this. Have you read Jessica Olien’s Salon piece, Inside the Box: people don’t actually like creativity. Brilliant. Painfully true.

*He did. Cause he’s the best Daddy-husband-to-writer ever. And, if you’re wondering: it was just a blob of shampoo-toothpaste mixture, carefully sculpted by the Ender. Of course. Obvious, you’d think. But we sort of liked going with the whole moving slime mold thing…

Board game Friday and strategic acts of violence

photo (29)

The game: Settlers of Catan. Here, if you want, you can see Wil Wheaton play it on Table Top, so you know it’s cool. Or not.

The point of this post (of course, never a board game review. Why would I do that?):

Flora: Ha! I have conditioned him to cringe in fear every time I come to trade!

Jane: What? Um… yeah, I guess. How?

Cinder: She’s been kicking me in the shin every time she’s come to trade in her stupid sheep! What the hell?

Jane: I didn’t realize Settlers of Catan was this violent.

Cinder: All trade and expansion, when done properly by one of the parties, is inherently violent and leads to the ultimate destruction of the weaker or dumber partner.

My son. The new Machiavelli.

Flora: Mom and I have been co-operating and working together against you!

Cinder: Yeah? And who’s gonna win this game?

Jane: You little…

Sean: Hey, hey–you are not allowed to call your son names because he’s winning. Actually, he’s not just winning. He’s destroying you. Wow, Cinder, well done!

Someone come over to my house and beat my son at some board game. Please. Please? I’ll bake cookies.*

xoxo

“Jane”

*OK, I’m lying. I won’t. I’ve documented how much I hate baking. But maybe I’ll buy you Peak Freens? Hmmm? And if you catch me in the right mood, I’ll throw in a smart-ass husband.

“Deadlines met, Jane?”

“Um, yeah. Of course. Sure. All of them. With plenty of time to spare Shut up. My editors and clients might be reading…”**

**If I had spent any time procrastinating this past week, say, and not fully dedicated to my tasks at hand, I might have spent time gawking at an old, old Billy Idol, discussing Dr. Who with my kids, and laughing at the worst Asian sign translations of all time. I’m not saying I did. But I might have. Because the secret to working efficiently is to take lots of breaks. And naps. Tony Schwartz says so.

 

 

 

How they know they’re the children of a writer

Math Medley

I.

How you know she’s my daughter:

Math question: Jamie had 2 video games. He got 2 more video games for his birthday. How many video games does he have now?

Flora’s answer: Well, Jamie is a nerd so he has four video games. If he lived in our house, Mom would make him give away the first two video games when he got two new ones, so he would still only have two. And he’d only get one new video game for his birthday, because how could he play two video games at the same time.

True.

Math question: Yesterday, Claire found six pennies laying on the ground. Today, she found one penny. How many pennies did she find altogether?

Flora’s answer: Why were the pennies laying on the ground? Who put them there? Was today’s penny in exactly the same spot? And, the real question: how many pennies will there be on the ground tomorrow?

Um. So. I need to ask…

Jane: Flora? Why did you just write “She found seven pennies”?

Flora: It said to answer in full sentences. See?

Of course.

II.

How you know he’s my son:

Jane: My sweet, I know that you know the answer as soon as you look at these two ridiculously large numbers. But for these questions, you need to break it down into the steps you’d use to find the answer. Can’t you just pretend you don’t know the answer right away and work it out like this…

Cinder: I don’t want to jump through these idiotic hoops! I want to get this crap done as quickly as possible so I can go do something interesting!

I know, beloved, I know. I wish I could tell you that one day life runs out of idiotic hoops. Still. I think we do get better at avoiding the most onerous of them, with practice. So. Yeah. Go on to something more interesting.

III.

How they know they’re the children of a writer:

Jane: OK, guys, here’s the sich. As you know, I lost a week of work and consciousness because of the Plague, and I have three massive deadlines this week. So here’s what’s going to happen. Today, I’m doing research and scheduling interviews. Tomorrow, I’ll be stressed, frustrated and panicking because no one is returning my emails and probably unproductive as a result, so we might as well take a field trip. Let’s go to Banff—Cinder, you’re in charge of finding the swim stuff. It might be molding in the basement from the last time we went swimming. Wednesday, I absolutely need to write because one of the stories is due Thursday morning, so don’t talk to me: Daddy is the only parent alive as far as you’re concerned. Thursday is going to be hell, because Daddy has a shoot, and that’s when I’ll be doing the interviews for the story due Friday… You can basically watch movies all day and night until you pass out. Um, Friday… Friday, Daddy’s home and I need to write.. don’t talk to me. But Saturday, Saturday I’ll probably make supper.

Cinder: You’re not going to feed us until Saturday?

Jane: I’m also not doing any laundry this week. So either do your own or ration your underwear.

Cinder: I don’t think this happens in other people’s houses.

Flora: No, I’ve conducted surveys. She’s extra weird. And look. Now she’s texting and dancing!*

Jane: Yes! New plan! The Friday story is now due Monday. The good news is, I will now make you supper on Thursday. The bad news is, I’m going to be stressed and bitchy all weekend.

Flora: It’s ok, Mom. We’re used to it.

Awesome.

*I was actually emailing and dancing. But, same diff.

I’m on deadline. So I’m not really here. I was never here. You never saw me. Shhhhh.

xoxo

“Jane”

Kill! The! Cheater! Or, playing board games with children

photo (22)

The game: Carcassonne.

The purpose: Build a… screw it. It doesn’t matter. This is not a board game review. You want a board game review, go watch Will Wheaton’s Table Top, the Carcassonne edition, or spend some time on Board Game Geek. You’re hear to read this:

Ender: Kill! The! Cheater!

Sean: I am not cheating! Jesus, Ender, what the hell…

Cinder: That’s how they used to do it in ancient times. Kill the cheater.

Jane: Flora–get Mom more wine. Please.

Cinder: Why are you upset , Mom? Did you just notice the mistake that cost you nine points?

Jane: F@ck.

I play board games with them. It’s proof of how much I love them.

Bonus Phrase aka Guess the Context:

Sean: Well, if our Carcassonne game smells the next time we play, we’ll have to get a new one.

The plague visited my house this week. ’twas awful. I’m still not sure I will live. But let’s not dwell on my imminent death. All three kids survived, and they have a great Daddy.

Meanwhile, in the Blogosphere: My brilliant blogging friend Kimberly from All Work And No Play Make Mommy Go Something Something wants to tell you about true love. Or is it Barf and Bracelets? Go let her. And my also brilliant blogging friend Stephanie from Where Crazy Meets Exhaustion (I only have brilliant friends; I’m prejudiced that way) was interviewed Inside the Blogger’s Studio on Danielle Herzog’s Martinis and Minivans: it’s a really neat piece on the “why” of blogging. And, have you heard? Deni from Denn State is finally no longer pregnant! Go say congrats!

But if you only read one thing this week (other than me), go read Brian Sorrell’s A Thousand Words About Bullying Poverty & Fathers.

xoxo

“Jane”

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.

It’s a game: what’s your totem animal? And what’s mine?

Brothers with Snakes

From the source of all current knowledge, aka Wikipedia: totem is a being, object, or symbol representing an animal or plant that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a familyclan, group, lineage, ortribe, reminding them of their ancestry (or mythic past).[1] In kinship and descent, if the apical ancestor of a clan is nonhuman, it is called a totem. Normally this belief is accompanied by a totemic myth.

Although the term is of Ojibwe origin in North Americatotemistic beliefs are not limited to Native Americans and Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Similar totem-like beliefs have been historically present in societies throughout much of the world, including Africa, Arabia, Asia, Australia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and the Arctic polar region.

Ender’s is a Bear. “You’re sure it’s not Cthulu?” Flora asks—I shake my head, “A Bear, for sure, I know this,” I say. “No!” Ender interrupts. “My totem animal is a reindeer.” “Really? A reindeer?” I ask. Yup. He’s sure. Reindeer. OK. Flora’s might be a unicorn. Or a frog? A frogi-corn? (“Mom! Stop writing now! I’m still thinking!”). OK. She’s still thinking. And Cinder doesn’t want anyone to know what his is, although he knows. He gives me an evil grin. I bet it’s something venomous… or stinky… Probably both…

Sean’s is… a whale. “Really?” “Yup. A humpback whale.” “How do you know this?” “I just know.”

OK.

Me, I’m with Flora. I don’t know. I’m not sure. I think… maybe… um… no. I don’t know.

“Blue-green algae?” I ponder.

“Mom! That’ not even a plant!”

I feel rather primitive at the moment. And it doesn’t have to be an animal, does it?

But. For the game, it does. So—go. What’s your totem animal? And why?

And if you think you know me well enough to hazard a guess—tell me what you think mine might be.

And look how low I’ve set the bar. Blue-green algae? You can all do better than that.

Happy Friday. Hashtag  #whatsyourtotemanimal if you’re tweeting.

“Jane”

P.S. My IRL friend Dr. Christopher Gibbins, a psychologist who specializes in the assessment of neurodevelopmental disorders of early childhood, was on CTV news last week talking about tablet use and young children. If you’re a thinking parent, you’ve thought–and overthought–this subject ad nauseam, and probably feel guilty non-stop about whatever it is you’ve chosen to do. Have a listen to what Chris has to say: Interview Clip. Key line: “Parents don’t need to be perfect.” Chris’ other qualification: he’s a daddy too. So nothing he’s telling you is just theoretical. (Although it’s always backed by research…)

P.P.S. YYC Floodster? You’re looking for this: After the flood: Running on empty and why “So are things back to normal?” is not the right question. I’d encourage you to read the comments… because see, it’s not just you and me. It’s all of us.

P.P.P.S. Two of my cyber-friends have put together, and more are featured in,  The HerStories Project, Women Explore the Joy, Pain and Power of Female Friendship. Sarah of Left Brain Buddha reviews it, as well as a few other “end of the Mommy Wars” initiatives here, if you want to have a gander.

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.

On wanting to eat cake, magic pee, fairies, adult temper tantrums, and sub-performing grey matter

I.

Flora: Blow out your candles, Ender, blow them out and make a wish! … And what did you wish for?

Ender: I wished that I could eat some cake!

See? Wishes do come true. And I suppose this is the point at which I should make the obvious sappy comment about how maybe happiness is just about … wanting what you can get.

Maybe. But how incredibly boring and safe would such a life be? If all you ever wanted was the cake that was put, that moment, in front of you?

II.

“To ensure peak performance, your mom needs eight hours of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep each night. This will never happen, but it’s important to set goals.”

“Remarkably, despite their size, moms can sleep on as little as three inches of bed. Science has no explanation of this.”

from M.O.M.* (Mom Operating Manual),
written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Laura Cornell
*batteries not included

III.

Flora: I really hate the people who think science explains everything.

Jane: Really? Why?

Flora: What about all the things science can’t explain? Like unicorns? And fairies?

Jane: Um… well…

Flora: Don’t you dare give me another evolution lecture. I WILL believe in fairies.

All right, my beloved. Believe. Believe.

IV.

My brain is slow. The hamster that operates the wheel is lazy. The machinery is worn out. I’m grasping for words, simple words, all elusive, out of reach. Clumsy sentences. Awkward paragraphs. Lack of motivation, desire, ability to finish, to start. Nothing is working. Nothing is right. I’m stupid. Incompetent. I poke at the keyboard. Stare at the screen. Howl.

Cinder: See, and this is why I don’t think it’s fair when you lecture me about getting mad at the computer when I play Minecraft.

Jane: I want you to be better disciplined and better behaved than I am.

Cinder: Probably not going to happen.

Probably not. But. We always hope, don’t we. We always want them to be better than their imperfect parents.

V.

“Should your mother be experiencing a minor malfunction, your best option is simply avoidance. Tiptoe quietly to another part of the house until the coast is clear.”

“If you cannot leave the room, camouflage can be very effective during minor malfunctions. Silence is key. … Take your surroundings into account. If you are behind the sofa, a tall leafy branch is probably not a great idea.”

from M.O.M.* (Mom Operating Manual),
written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Laura Cornell
*batteries not included

VI.

Ender: Mama, I did it! I peed in the potty!

Jane: Oh, Ender, that’s… there’s nothing here.

Ender: It’s imaginary pee. Flora can see it.

Of course.

VII.

I do all the things that need to be done. Always. I force that goddamn hamster in my brain to perform, no matter how lazy he’s feeling. Meet every deadline. Then, do all the things that didn’t get done while I was doing all the things that had to be done. Well, maybe not all of them. But—a few.

And now, I’m trying to get hamster to get this post across the finish line—even as he tries to convince me that his higher purpose right now is to have a nap. And that while he naps, someone—the fairies, maybe?—will come and oil his wheel and the rest of my machinery, and everything will magically work better soon.

I scowl at him. Eat cake. But then—choose to want more. Always.

Because life is supposed to be full. Interesting. Hard.

xoxo

“Jane”

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P.S. M.O.M.* (Mom Operating Manual), written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Laura Cornell is a brilliant picture book, targeted I would say at four to six-year-olds, but my entire crew howled as we read it. Check it out. If you’re in YYC, we’ll be returning our copy to the library shortly. But you probably don’t want to wait for that. It’s $14 and change at Chapters-Indigo.

*batteries not included

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!