A conversation, a reading assignment, a writing exercise, and a re-run #7

A conversation:

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

A reading assignment that will change your life:

Lawrence Block’s The Liar’s Bible. It’s a collection of columns on writing fiction Block wrote for Writer’s Digest in the 1980s. And it’s down-to-earth brilliant. READ IT.

 

A writing exercise to do just before making supper:

A garlic and tomato are having a fight. And go.

(No, seriously. Go. It can’t possibly be a good piece. It’s just play. It’s just fun. PLAY, dammit.)

 

An explanation:

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

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

Enjoy.

 

A re-run:

When Toddlers Attack / That Hitting Thing

Toddlers hit. Not all toddlers. But a lot of toddlers. Like, almost all toddlers, at least some of the time. And some of them—not a few, either, a lot—go through phases when they hit all the time. Attachment parented toddlers hit. Breastfed toddlers hit. Bottle-fed toddlers hit. Babyworn toddlers hit. Toddlers of parents who never raise their voices hit. Really. It’s not just your little guy.

When my first little guy when through this hitting phase, I felt incredibly isolated. Alone. And judged up the wazoo. Here’s our story.

From Life’s Archives. “That Hitting Thing,” March 8, 2006. Cinder’s not quite four; Flora’s one and change.

2006. It happened today, in the playroom, and my head is still whirring. “Flora!” Cinder yells. “You wrecked my tower. That bothers me! Bothers me! I am so angry I want to hit you! But I don’t want to hit you! Grrr!” I poke my head in from the hallway. Cinder is standing closing and opening his fists and breathing. He sees me looking, looks at me. “I didn’t hit Flora,” he announces. “But I’m not proud of you!” he yells at her. She gurgles and hands him a Lego block. They start building the tower together.

I’ve been waiting for this day for… what, two years? Two years to the day, I think. And I know today isn’t the cure. It’s not the turn around, the end. He will hit his little sister again, probably later today. He will push her, pinch her. But he’s working through it—we’re muddling through it, he’s “getting” it. And the fact that this huge emotional break through—this discovery by himself that just because he wants to hit he doesn’t have to hit—has come on the heels of eight nights of peeing the bed puts all sorts of things into perspective for me. Makes me feel not quite so resentful as I wash the sheets and covers for the ninth day in a row…

I’ve been delaying posting this “hitting thing” exposition until I felt I could clearly articulate where we were, why, and how we got there. I don’t think that’s going to happen in the next few weeks or even months. But based on some conversations I’ve had with other mothers of closely spaced siblings—particularly when the older is a boy!—I think this is a story that must be told, in all of its messiness.

Continue reading

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!

A day in the life

Strong start to the morning

Ender: Mama! I pee in potty!

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

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

Jane: Um… why?

Ender: Make footprints!

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

Gets even better in the afternoon…

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

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

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

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

[five minutes later]

Flora: Mooom!

Jane: Is he biting the dog again?

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

IMG_0968

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

Interlude for a telephone call…

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

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

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

Every day ends. Mercifully. And in the evening…

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

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

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

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

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

That hitting thing…

Kids Wall 2

Toddlers hit. Not all toddlers. But a lot of toddlers. Like, almost all toddlers, at least some of the time. And some of them—not a few, either, a lot—go through phases when they hit all the time. Attachment parented toddlers hit. Breastfed toddlers hit. Bottle-fed toddlers hit. Babyworn toddlers hit. Toddlers of parents who never raise their voices hit. Really. It’s not just your little guy.

When my first little guy when through this hitting phase, I felt incredibly isolated. Alone. And judged up the wazoo. Here’s our story.

From Life’s Archives. “That Hitting Thing,” March 8, 2006. Cinder’s not quite four; Flora’s one and change.

2006. It happened today, in the playroom, and my head is still whirring. “Flora!” Cinder yells. “You wrecked my tower. That bothers me! Bothers me! I am so angry I want to hit you! But I don’t want to hit you! Grrr!” I poke my head in from the hallway. Cinder is standing closing and opening his fists and breathing. He sees me looking, looks at me. “I didn’t hit Flora,” he announces. “But I’m not proud of you!” he yells at her. She gurgles and hands him a Lego block. They start building the tower together.

I’ve been waiting for this day for… what, two years? Two years to the day, I think. And I know today isn’t the cure. It’s not the turn around, the end. He will hit his little sister again, probably later today. He will push her, pinch her. But he’s working through it—we’re muddling through it, he’s “getting” it. And the fact that this huge emotional break through—this discovery by himself that just because he wants to hit he doesn’t have to hit—has come on the heels of eight nights of peeing the bed puts all sorts of things into perspective for me. Makes me feel not quite so resentful as I wash the sheets and covers for the ninth day in a row…

I’ve been delaying posting this “hitting thing” exposition until I felt I could clearly articulate where we were, why, and how we got there. I don’t think that’s going to happen in the next few weeks or even months. But based on some conversations I’ve had with other mothers of closely spaced siblings—particularly when the older is a boy!—I think this is a story that must be told, in all of its messiness.

Continue reading

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

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

I.

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

Pour.

Discover there are two giant carrots in the milk carton.

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

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

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

II.

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

He grabs bowls. Cereal. Milk. Pours.

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

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

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

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

“Flora was peeing,” Ender replies promptly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did Ender pee in the milk again?”

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

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

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

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

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

Revelation: “So this is why you go to Mom’s Nights Out?”

Setting: Ikea. The cafeteria. God, I love the Swedish, bless their socialist-capitalist little hearts. They think of everything, including giving urban mothers in crappy climates the ultimate “come let your children run wild in our giant show room” indoor play area. (Smalland? We don’t go to Smalland. We test all the beds. And couches. And chairs. And shelving units. “Cinder! Get Ender out of the cupboard! I don’t care if he likes it; do not lock him in the pantry!”) Best of all: the lunch. Where else can I feed three kids and self for $10 for lunch? Although, with Cinder ordering two and sometimes three kids meals’ these days, the price tag’s inching up. Still… Ikea. Love it.

And here we are. For lunch and a mission: reading lights for the kids room, a birthday present for Flora’s friend (I’m all about efficiency shopping. The lil’ girl’s lucky today was Ikea day and not tire change day. What little girl wouldn’t love a socket wrench for her seventh birthday?).

The plan: Eat. Shop. Leave, before Ender-the-toddler breaks something.

The marvellous gift from the universe: Ender falls asleep in the car.

The new plan: Shop. Pay for everything. Look at breakable stuff at leisure. Go eat as soon as Ender wakes up.

The revised plan: Shop. Eat. Because the older children are starving (The first thing you learn as a parent: Life with hungry children is not worth living. Especially in public spaces.) Feed Ender during round 2 when he wakes up.

So there we are. Ender asleep in the stroller. Cinder eating fish and chips, Flora devouring meatballs. Me, piggish, with the shrimp AND the salmon plate. Ender asleep… oh, I already mentioned that. Ender asleep. Ah.

Flora: Wow. This is such a nice, peaceful meal.

And she looks around the table as if it pinpoint the difference. Indeed, it is so peaceful. Eating with a 10-year-old and a seven-and-a-half year-old, really, is pretty much the same as eating with adults. Right? They move the food from their plate to their mouths without too many detours. They don’t throw the food. They don’t choose the middle of the meal as the time that they need to scale your back and head for a better view. They don’t pee their pants five minutes in and require an emergency bathroom run. They don’t throw the food–oh, I already mentioned that, didn’t I?

Flora sighs with contentment and then, the penny drops. She looks at sleeping Ender. She looks at me.

Flora: Oh-my-god. This is why you go to Mom’s Nights Out, isn’t it?

Jane: Yup.

Actually, I go to Mom’s Nights Out to have more sex (see The Authoritative New Parents’ Guide to Sex After Children). But that’s a conversation I’m not planning on having with Flora just yet…

MEATBALLS! How typical! Considering we are, uh...

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My current favourite: The Authoritative New Parents’ Guide to Sex After Children (of course)

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FunnyFloor peas • The rarest song of all • Sarcasm, lawn darts, and toilets  • What humanitarian really means  • The sacrifices mothers make for their children (Warning: grossness factor uber-high)  • It’s all about presentation  • Anatomy talk, now and forever  • Want to hear all the swear words I know?  • Of the apocalypse, euphemisms and (un)potty training  • Mom? Have you noticed I’ve stopped…  • Poisonous Volvo

The rarest song of all

I.

One day, we will remember why it is that we don’t go out for dinner much. But inevitably we forget, and we have a, “Hey, we haven’t been out for dinner as a family for weeks–months, actually. Shall we go?”-“Oh, yes, darling, what a great idea!” conversation. And about 10 minutes in, as one of us restrains Ender, while the other apologizes profusely to the waitstaff–or the poor unfortunates seated next to us–and Cinder and Flora clean up the mess, we swear–never again. We are never, ever going out with the toddler, ever, ever again.

(Do not, by the way, share your “Eating in restaurants with toddlers” tips with me. I don’t need them. I had two civilized, distractible, entertainable toddlers who were absolutely amazing in restaurants. Now I have Ender. This, incidentally, is karma, for every time I cast a superior glance at the mother with the freaking out toddler and wondered why she didn’t just bring books, crayons, and funky toys into the restaurant to amuse her child with.)

(The answer to that last query, if you’re eating out with Ender, is that there is no toy that cannot be turned into a projectile, with the right–er, wrong–motivation.)

Anyway–it happened again. We forgot, we were hungry, we went to the restaurant. I’ll spare you the theatrics (although if I could do justice to the spectacle of Ender standing on his head on his chair and then wiggling his butt left-and-right while making farting sounds, I would)–the end-tail of the meal featured Sean putting the Ender into a full-Nelson and manhandling him out of the restaurant while I ordered the desert promised to Cinder and Flora “to go” (sigh),  and Nana paid for the meal, clearly thinking we should be saving our money for therapy. While we wrapped up the meal (tip for dining out with Enders: leave huge tips. Huuuuuuggggggeeeee TTTTIIIIPPPPSSS), Sean occupied Ender in the parking lot of the restaurant. Which meant, of course, playing in the van. Or so I thought.

And you needed all of the preceding so that you could understand this:

Ender: Mama! You back! I peed in the van!

Jane: Oh, that’s great darling. We’re all here, let’s load up and…

Sean: That’s great? He tells you he peed in the van, and you say that’s great?

Jane: I thought he said he played in the van… Oh, Ender, you peed in the van? Where?

Ender: On the seat. Right here! Now I have no pants. You pack more pants for me?

Sean (moaning): Right on the seat. We are never, ever, ever going to sell this van.

(Mostly irrelevant aside: we’re trying to sell the van. Live in Calgary and want a 2009 Pontiac Montana? Have I got a deal for you! Freshly shampooed and everything!)

Ender: Never, ever, ever ever going to sell this van! Because! I! I! I! Peed! On! The! Seat!

II.

So we drive Nana home, scandalize her neighbours by having half-naked Ender prance down the street to her house, and spend a little time letting Ender vandalize her house while Cinder and Flora watch the last part of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers on Nana’s nice big television screen. And then it’s time to go home–with the Ender partially panted this time, sporting a fashionable doo-hickey fashioned out of a swimsuit. Now, Ender’s not great in the car–that whole restrained-while-sitting-down-when-he’d-rather-be-climbing-on-the-roof thing just doesn’t go over very well–so we generally need to take turns entertaining him, singing with him, playing games with him, and otherwise trying to distract his attention from the fact that he’s strapped into the receptacle of torture (aka the car seat) and, once he kicks his shoes off, unable to pelt anyone with anything for the duration of the ride.

And the preceding (as well as the entire earlier vignette) is all a build-up just for this:

Ender: Can you sing me the P & C song, Mama?

Jane: What? I… I don’t think I know that song, Enderini.

Ender: Oh, it’s a very rare song. I sing it. I! Peed! In! The! Seat! I! Peed! In! The! Seat!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, why we love him beyond all pale of reason, despite everything.

Photo: Ender’s latest potty

2006-2009 Pontiac Montana SV6 photographed in ...

(I know there have been an awful lot of pee stories lately. I apologize. Tis the season, and soon it will pass, and I will never, ever have another potty story to inflict upon you.)

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!

“Why do we have new toothbrushes again?”

English: This is used to pee in the bathroom.

I.

The toilet is plugged, and my contact lens case is missing. We suspect the two items are related.

II.

Sean: Jeezus Kee-rist, there is a ton of Lego in this sink drain? What the hell?

Cinder: You have to ask?

Sean: And where’s the little drain protector I put in here to keep this type of thing from happening?

Ender: I put in the toilet this morning. Weee!

III.

I stand in the bathroom, which looks clean, but smells terribly, terribly like pee. I wish I had one of those hi-tech tools for examining the walls. Where is the secret pee spot now? I remember three-year-old Cinder’s glee when he learned that streams of urine could be used to hit targets (“Mom! Look! When I press my penis like this, I hit the top of the garbage can!”) Where is Ender doing target practice? The boy himself wanders in. Plops down on the potty. Then picks it up and dumps it into the garbage can.

“Oops,” he says. “I put pee in garbage can not toilet. Better luck next time.”

Well. One mystery solved.

IV.

Flora: Why do we all have new toothbrushes again?

Jane: You have to ask?

Flora: Oh, Ender! (pause) Mom? You know, at Mimi’s house, they have this thing on the toilet seat to keep it down, so their new baby won’t throw things in the toilet. Why don’t we get one of those?

Jane: We had one of those, briefly.

Flora: We did?

Jane: Yes. It was awful. You and Cinder didn’t know how to work it, so every time you had to use the bathroom, I had to run upstairs and take it off.

Flora: Oh. So you took it off? Where is it now?

Jane: Um… well, I didn’t actually take it off. Ender wrenched it off.

Flora: And flushed it down the toilet?

Yup.

Sunshine of our lives, or, how toddlers survive

Sunshine, morning, so slow, so lazy… do we get out of bed or not? I guess we should. I tousle the toddler’s head.

Jane: Ready to get out of bed, little Ender?

Ender: Ready. Not ready. Ready. OK. Let’s go, Big Mama.

And we roll out, slowly, and fat sweaty hands wrap around my neck, and we gallop down the hallway. Everyone else is up already. I poke my head into the Lego/Computer Room/Sean’s office, where Cinder is already hard at work… er, play.

Jane: Good morning, little love.

Ender: Good morning, little love.

Cinder: Yo, Ender, how are you doing this morning?

Ender: Me happy, little love. But me need to pee.

And we gallop down the hallway the last two feet to the bathroom. Make it. Relief. We poke our heads in through another door. See the Sean.

Jane: Good morning…

Ender: Good morning, our big love.

And kisses and tousles and sunshine. And Ender is ready for a day of action and destruction. There are things to shove down sink drains and toys to put in toilets, there are pictures to scribble on and books to tear up, there are milk jugs in the fridge that need to be poured onto the floor, pots to bang and rearrange, boxes to squash, a dog to terrorize, a fish tank that desperately needs a bar of soap added to it, a sister’s hair to pull, a brother’s Lego creations to destroy, food to smear on walls and throw on the floor, bathwater to drink and pour down the stairs… Oh, it’s a full, full day for an Ender and he lives each minute as fully as possible, and at day’s end, everyone exhausted to bed goes, exhausted by the pace of life set by the Ender.

And Ender falls asleep, exhausted too and so happy and so fulfilled, and already, I can tell from the cast of his eyes and lips as they close, planning the next day’s mischief. And so we all fall asleep too, so we can keep pace with him.

We yell at him, you know. Snap. Complain. Sometimes, run away and hide (even me). But, boy oh boy, we love him. And when he wakes up the next morning, sunshine of our lives, we forget all the “I want to throttle Ender!” moments and just drown in his sunshiney love.

Ender: Good morning, Big Love Mama.

Jane: Good morning, love of my life.

Ender: No. I not love of your life.

Jane: No? What are you then?

Ender: I littlest love in the house.

Jane: Good morning, littlest love in the house.

Ender: Let’s go play. Outside?

Jane: Let’s pee and have breakfast first.

Ender: Let’s pee. Then me put something in toilet. Maybe Lego. Maybe car. Maybe… pee! Hee hee hee hee.

And the day begins anew.

Sun

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

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.

“Is it a long and boring story?”

I.

Ender: Ma-ma! Ma-ma! Come to the tub!

Jane: Sweetness, in a few minutes, I’m finishing cleaning the sink… What is this gunk?

Ender: No! Mama come in tub now!

Jane: Dude, what’s the rush?

Ender: I need to pee… and I want to pee on YOU!

Sale fail. 

II.

Flora: Mom? Why is the oregano in the tin that’s labeled red lentils?

Jane: It’s a long and boring story. The important thing is you found it.

Flora: Where are the red lentils?

Jane: In the ziploc bag labeled brown rice.

Flora: Is that a long and boring story too?

Jane: No, that one’s actually pretty exciting. Want to hear it?

Flora: No, not really.

Thwarted.

III.

Flora: Mom? Why is there a flat poop floating in the toilet?

Jane: Um… I guess I forgot to flush the toilet when I last changed Ender.

Flora: But why is the poop flat?

Jane: It’s a long and boring story.

Flora: Oh, I’m not in a rush. Why don’t you tell it to me while I poop?

Jane: Seriously? That’s the story you want to hear?

Flora: You can tell me the rice and lentil tin stories too if you really want to.

Why is she humouring me? What is she plotting?

To discourage seed predators, pulses contain t...

I love them bums terribly.

Damn right he’s cool

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

Ender: Outside. Play with the guys.

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

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

Ender: Guys play with me. I’m cool.

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

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

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

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

A youth bouncing on a trampoline

When toddlers attack

Toddlers hit. Not all toddlers. But a lot of toddlers. Like, almost all toddlers, at least some of the time. And some of them—not a few, either, a lot—go through phases when they hit all the time. Attachment parented toddlers hit. Breastfed toddlers hit. Bottle-fed toddlers hit. Babyworn toddlers hit. Toddlers of parents who never raise their voices hit. Really. It’s not just your little guy.

When my first little guy when through this hitting phase, I felt incredibly isolated. Alone. And judged up the wazoo. Here’s our story.

From Life’s Archives. “That Hitting Thing,” March 8, 2006. Cinder’s not quite four; Flora’s one and change.

2006. It happened today, in the playroom, and my head is still whirring. “Flora!” Cinder yells. “You wrecked my tower. That bothers me! Bothers me! I am so angry I want to hit you! But I don’t want to hit you! Grrr!” I poke my head in from the hallway. Cinder is standing closing and opening his fists and breathing. He sees me looking, looks at me. “I didn’t hit Flora,” he announces. “But I’m not proud of you!” he yells at her. She gurgles and hands him a Lego block. They start building the tower together.

I’ve been waiting for this day for… what, two years? Two years to the day, I think. And I know today isn’t the cure. It’s not the turn around, the end. He will hit his little sister again, probably later today. He will push her, pinch her. But he’s working through it—we’re muddling through it, he’s “getting” it. And the fact that this huge emotional break through—this discovery by himself that just because he wants to hit he doesn’t have to hit—has come on the heels of eight nights of peeing the bed puts all sorts of things into perspective for me. Makes me feel not quite so resentful as I wash the sheets and covers for the ninth day in a row…

I’ve been delaying posting this “hitting thing” exposition until I felt I could clearly articulate where we were, why, and how we got there. I don’t think that’s going to happen in the next few weeks or even months. But based on some conversations I’ve had with other mothers of closely spaced siblings—particularly when the older is a boy!—I think this is a story that must be told, in all of its messiness.

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Yes, that kind of day

Flora: Mooom! How are you feeling today?

Jane: Um… pretty good. Thank you.

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

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

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

Jane: Why are you asking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snot. A boy’s best friend. Not.

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

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

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

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

Yuck,” he says. “You eat it, Mommy.”

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

I play my last card.

Your brother would eat it,” I say.

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

They share everything

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

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

Things I’d never thought I’d say…

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

Hmm?”

Should I eat it?”

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

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

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

They share everything still

J: Cinder, what are you doing?

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

Why does my life revolve around snot?

Here’s the sequel:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yuck,” he repeats.

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

Nose diagram.

Nose diagram. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you think he got the stomach flu when…

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

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

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

Flora Takes a Nap