Asides

Five

This boy is going to wake up 5 today.

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And so will this one.

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Technically, they were born mid-morning, but only for a minute will I have a 4 year old and a 5 year old and then 4 will be a memory. A fellow twin mom lamented how there is no time to think about it when it’s over; no going back when your second child reaches that age. No reflection. I never felt that more than this year, where I was just trying to keep pace with the relentless nature of four. Until this year, their needs were always fairly easily met; exhausting, but simple. An endless run of snacks, meals, drinks, diapers, and desperately seeking any form of socialization.

Then four comes and all that goes out the flipping window. Suddenly I am knee deep in shark puppets.

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Hiding treasure boxes.

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Conceptualizing dreams.

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Having birthday parties for angry birds

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And in between swimming, soccer, preschool, piano, snowboarding, dance parties, camping, and the library, there is the more mundane aspects of life. As we make beds, we are answering how babies are made, what happens when we die, and every question that can be made out of all permutations of words in the English language.

Doesn't this look like it ended calmly? It didn't. SOMEONE'S BUTT GOT BITTEN AND IT WASN'T SOMEONE I KNOW.

Doesn’t this look like it ended calmly? It didn’t. SOMEONE’S BUTT GOT BITTEN AND IT WASN’T SOMEONE I KNOW.

Suddenly, this year, I had to think about what would happen if a shark ate a turtle, or ate a people, or ate another shark, or ate a dead sperm whale, or if the shark died, or if people ate a shark, or what things eat in the abyssal zone. If I stopped to think too hard, if I had the time, it would seem to me that life is SO unfair, that things get eaten and die. But my four year olds, now five year olds, take this all in stride. Life is what it is, and it is their job to figure out what that it is.

We help them navigate daycare politics, but more often than not, I find myself just listening in on their conversations; clues to the things that are important to them. What I hear is secrets and jokes that they have with their friends; the first things that I won’t understand. I see a decade into the future; a world entirely their own. I know we’re on our way to that.

Life is big and complicated, and it’s impossible to keep up with little brains that never stop. Looking back at how much they’ve grown this year, it makes me also realize how much I haven’t; I am constantly trying to apply the same expectations and methods to boys who have clearly outpaced us. I’ve had a lot of failures this year, tripping over myself and my words, and letting my own feelings get in the way of being a good parent. Hopefully, all they see is that I tried really hard, tried to be present with them. But now, more than ever, I feel behind them. Constantly trying to catch up to something I’ll never grasp again.

Every year, on their birthday, our mayday tree blooms. For a few days before and after, our front yard has erupted in white. I like to imagine it is just for them, even though the tree long preceded their birth and mayday trees have been blooming for time immemorial. I tell them that it’s their birthday present, and we  stop to look at the flowers and the little ecosystem of bugs they host. This year, the mayday is a little late. Like everything this year. I hope it’s enough for you, sweet boys. I hope you don’t notice how far behind you the world is; just keep powering ahead and we’ll all catch up. Or maybe I’ll just stop for a bit to watch you blaze ahead; I don’t want to miss the streak you leave trying in vain to keep up.

What this photo mostly told me is that I need a new macro lens for my camera. My birthday is also happening, family.

Maydays just about to go. What this photo mostly told me is that I need a new macro lens for my camera. My birthday is also happening, family.

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday. Your old mom loves you more than you know.

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The unicorn and his many “smile!” faces this year.. things that are important to remember.

Also, thank you to Brother Jon for the shout out. If you don’t read his blog, you really should. The internet needs more gentle, kind people like him. On the plus side, he’s also funny and goodlooking. And SMART. He even understands what engineers want sometimes.

Happy Father’s Day, RollerDad

I have certain traits that I don’t have to think very hard to figure out where they came from. In many ways, I am my dad in female form.This is not surprising; until my tumultuous teenage years I was my dad’s shadow. I would watch him carving ducks in his wood shop, happy to go retrieve the dead mallard from the freezer when asked. I was reasonably competent with power tools for all of my overachieving art projects. He would let me sit on his lap and drive the big blue GMC around the prairies when I was merely 8 years old (or maybe it was the red Dodge by then?). We went for family bike rides in the prairies and hikes into the coulees and we would stop along the way to check everything out.  Our annual family vacations were just roaming with only a final destination in mind; stopping along the way to see anything that interested us. Saturdays were for mowing my grandma’s lawn, and Sundays were for going; anywhere and everywhere. Even in our small prairie town, I grew up as cultured as we could manage because my dad challenged me to try new foods and see new things wherever we went. And oh my god, we had to watch so much PBS.

Because of him I had a free childhood, and I learned to explore. This is probably the best gift that I have from my dad, although my power washer was a close second.

About a year ago my dad sent me copies of slides from the 70’s that he had scanned and I laughed and laughed when I realized how much of my dad I have become.

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My Dad, sometime in the late 70’s

Me in 2011

Me in 2011

That fierce, get’er done, explore everything, be afraid of nothing, kind of guy that he is. And I love that he now passes this on to my kids, and reminds me to do the same even when I want to wrap them up in bubble wrap. I think he would have been a natural raising boys, but I think I did my best despite being a girl.

A family that drinks together has a very expensive wedding. Paid for by my dad.

A family that drinks together has a very expensive wedding. Paid for by my dad.

Now, life is not without it’s challenges being raised by your exact personality match, but I am very glad now to have a dad that will bravely go approach a beehive with a screwdriver at midnight after I have wussed out and gotten stung three times already. In his shirtsleeves. Thanks for taking one for the team, Dad.

Happy Father’s Day.

Snowy Sunday Misadventures

It looks like this outside this morning.

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Stop focusing on the fact that my Christmas lights are still up and look at all that stupid snow.

That is some major bullshit. To some of you southerners this might appear like the end of times, but up here in Canadaland we just call this “March”. It’s Sunday so people will still go to church if they’re really dedicated, but less people will go shopping and we shall collectively roll our eyes and generally endure.

So anyway, that’s happening today. I may have over-imbibed a bit with the neighbors last night and my kids have the sniffles so I was really looking forward to a movie day. Maybe some baking. If things got wild, I’d make popcorn. You know, really earth shattering type stuff. But nothing that would require me to put my winter jacket on because I am totally done with that fucking thing. I am really serious about that.

You can imagine how delighted I was to wake up to the following conversation:

Engineer: Mommy, get the gray thing out of my mouth.

Mommy: (launching self out of bed) WHAT? What grey thing? What did you eat?

Engineer: The grey thing. From playgroup.

Mommy: (stabbing at eyes to make eyes work before remembering to put on my glasses) WHERE DID YOU GET IT?

Engineer: (Points at desk)

I surveyed my desk. Grey things include: paperclips, staples, tacks, money, BATTERIES. No grey things that seemed like a good idea to eat. Maybe I am not being imaginative enough, but I can’t think of any grey things that seem like a good idea to eat. (Google says buckwheat noodles. I’ll give them that.)

Mommy: (In shrill, shrieking voice) Where is the grey thing?

Engineer: In my tummy.

And so in a flurry of coats and hats and boots and car seats, we found ourselves at the Children’s Hospital before breakfast. Not to cast aspersions on our local Children’s Hospital, because they are wonderful people who have given us excellent care over the years, but they were NOT AS PANICKED AS I WANTED THEM TO BE. In fact, they barely registered any alarm at all. They directed us to the waiting room where we sat next to the poster full of “Actual Items Swallowed by Children”. The actual items were glued to the poster and included things like buttons, pennies, small toys, a safety pin, magnets a KNITTING NEEDLE. Not one of those little crochet hooks, either; this needle could have been a bonafide weapon.  I am not shitting you. This informative poster did nothing to make me feel better.

There was virtually no waiting time because not many children were committed to self harm on a Sunday morning, so it was us and a few pukers. The Engineer informed the doctor that a grey thing was in his tummy and he wanted a picture of it, so off we went to x-ray. By the time we got to the x-ray, I was kind of didn’t know what to wish for. I kind of suspected that this could all be a lie, and here I was calling his bluff by shooting him with radiation. I had only a couple of seconds to ponder the risks of either proposition though, and decided on the balance it was better to find out what he ate.

The Engineer was a superstar about it and laid as still as he has ever laid for five seconds at a time. And we learned just a few minutes later that the kid was completely full of crap. Literally and figuratively. But no dangerously sharp, life threatening metal objects that were going to poison him and shred his insides, as I had naturally assumed.

Then we braved the blowing snow and crappy roads home. I am sure that the worst part for the Engineer was the twenty minute lecture, borne out of complete gratitude that he was totally fine and this was just a misadventure. Now we can get started on doing absolutely nothing today.

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Resume regular programming. MORE OF THIS TODAY, CHILDREN.

 

13 Years in 6 Songs, Plus one for the future

I first started dating Mr. Giraffe in January 2000, after he chased me down in the food court that our office buildings shared after being egged on by his friends. True story. Thirteen years later we are married with twin boys and a wayward dog, and we owe it all to the eerie yellow glow of the subway sign.

A major theme in our relationship has been music. Apart from chess and spreadsheets, it’s what drives Mr. Giraffe. He plays music, better than he would admit to. In high school he resembled Neil Young in both hair and guitar. A thousand times I heard the songs he taught himself guitar to, never lessening in my admiration for his talent. It still makes me swoon a little, even though he doesn’t know that.

He saved me with the lyric: “I am lonely, but you can free me all in the way that you smile” a million times over.

At first it was Miles Davis that we had in common. I listened to the album in my grandparents’ basement a thousand times when I was in high school. We would go on to jazz festivals in Montreal and Monterey. We’d go to smoky clubs, we’d see Maceo Parker in the sweltering summer, still in our fancy clothes and faces still creased from sleeping in the car the night before after a wedding in the country.

We hit the record store downtown and found Hang Up your Hangups. Mr. Giraffe recorded it on our answering machine. It was on there for so long that I called the CBC and begged them to broadcast it for a final farewell. It stayed on until we moved though. Later, we would meet Herbie Hancock at the Monterey Jazz Festival just before we watched him rock a keytar, and I had nothing to say anything other than “Sir, you were on our answering machine for 4 years”. Security whisked him away.

We raced around music festivals; the Calgary Folk Music Festival being the highlight of our year. We spent my 30th birthday in the dust and heat of Bonnaroo. Mr. Giraffe discovered Old Crow Medicine Show and learned to play that song, and performed it with friends that year.

And somewhere in the middle of all of that, we got married. With a party band at our wedding, where all of our friends and family, some lost or forgotten now, danced all night long and we were still singing on the bus to our hotel.

We danced to Sweet Virginia the morning that Mr. Giraffe proposed to me, in the kitchen of our old house. We danced to it on our wedding day. We went to California and Austin for our honeymoon. “Thank you, for your wine, California. Thank you for your sweet and bitter fruit

After the honeymoon we went to Iron and Wine. I nearly fainted at the concert. I would find out days later that I was pregnant, months later with twins. “Mother remember the blink of an eye when I breathed through your body, So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten, Sons are like birds flying upwards over the mountain.

And then our lives as we knew them ended.  We’ve been to our Folk Festival, we’ve been moved to tears by Gillian Welch. We’ve been to Monterey. But kids have taken all of my focus and attention. I let myself get too far in one direction, away from you. My valentine to you, Mr. Giraffe, is the promise to try to recapture some of that energy. The stuff we’ve lost in the flood, the drudgery of having kids, and general weariness of age. Because really, that’s where we’ve felt the best and been our best; when the music is good.

Unsolicited advice from a crusty old broad

Hey dude (do you guys still use the word dude? we used it a lot ironically when I was your age. I don’t know what the douches are hip with or something now)

I won’t lie; it was freaking amazing when you yelled out “nice bum, where you from” today when I was untangling my kids from their car seats. I have lost five pounds and a bit of twin skin recently, and that made my year. Sadly, I am being serious. That kind of thing doesn’t happen to me very often anymore and I’ll take the validation, even if it comes in the form of a half-baked eighteen year old in the passenger side of his buddy’s sweet ’91 ford tempo.

As a form of thanks I want to pass on a little advice: the suburbs at 6 pm is a terrible place to cruise for chicks. I know the shotgun approach is popular among lads your age, and I have heard that it is sometimes met with success. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to hop in a car full of sweaty dudes who yell out rhymes? I am not questioning your methods so much as your intended sexytimes partner. Look for young nubile women, not women anywhere within ten yards of a minivan wearing mom jeans and a disapproving look. I know most of the things that come out of your mouth right now are made of testosterone, melting through any kind of social filters that might prevent you from making such an egregious error (look up egregious on your iPhone, I promise you a good vocabulary will help you actually bag chicks with actual nice bums and other parts). There are no hot chicks here except for maybe a few sanctimonious yoga moms and trust me, you are not ready for that; that is for advanced users only.

Get to the mall or a club or some douchey restaurant with terrible food and too loud music where girls are pretending to develop a taste for red wine or wherever girls your age hang out before you speak one word to any female. I am literally old enough to be your mother. And not even a young teenage mother, just a regular mother. Just realizing that makes me sad, and also now kind of squicked out at the fact that I was even momentarily flattered. And mad. I would never let a son of mine yell at women like that! YOU GET BACK HERE THIS INSTANT YOUNG MAN SO I CAN TALK TO YOU. You don’t treat women that way. Go to the library instead and seek out interesting age appropriate girls and treat them with respect. Also, put on an actual shirt; tank tops are not cute on boys and this is not the Jersey Shore.

You’re welcome,

Crusty Old Broad