Overheard

Some nights now the wife is gone helping a friend cater to the rich and richer, listening to the gliterati of an oily cow town discuss the markets, hockey and nannies who don’t have visas to travel with them to Hawaii. Meanwhile at home I am trying to push back the rising tide of maleness* that is my three offspring as it threatens to overturn the small rowboat that is my sanity.  I am probably just barely keeping the water below my knee level as I bale it out by the teaspoonful with handfuls of chocolate chips and pecans I find in the cupboards.  I am like a squirrel gathering bits of sanity to store for these occasions when I feel the slow boil in my throat and hear words expelled with hard edges and volumes that I immediately regret.  I fear capsizing until, laying in my bed, the only quiet point of a triangle of sound, I hear from the room the two oldest boys share the following conversation.

G. the moon is full of candles and that is what makes it light. (this enlightening information is drowned out by the yapping of his little brother slowing rising in volume to a level that can’t be bested)

G. do you mind? it’s my turn to talk now.

H. OK

G. Did you know the moon is glowing houses making them happy?

(meanwhile the little brother yells “GAGA GAGA” until big brother stops to patiently listen to his mumbling and then ask for permission to speak again…)

G. “The moon is private and there’s trees and one of the branches of our tree fell down remember that? OK now your turn….. say something about the moon or the branches or the trees….”

H.” hmblmlbmlbm moo hamdlamlam moo.” (The tones and inflections are those of an animated politician imploring that you can trust his facts, his motives. Of course the sounds themselves are also like those of politicians and lawyers….. gibberish that goes on too long and with too much certainty)

On and on and on in a circle they go about the moon and trees and chimneys with stars flying out of them, followed by unintelligible but equally urgent descriptions of whatever the heck is in that kid’s mouth that makes him unable to enunciate until suddenly as clear as his little blue eyes…

H. “I wanna choo choo an apple….”

G. “YOU CAN’T KEEP SAYING THE SAME THING, STOP TALKING ABOUT THE CHOO CHOO AND THE APPLE,             ok my turn… Do you know any planets, like the monkey planet? Have you ever lived in America?”

H. “uh huh….” (He always says this like a teenager might agree with, in a sort of matter of fact “of course I have who hasn’t” way.)

G. “No you haven’t lived in America…. We used to live in Muncie and now we live in Canada, First we lived in Muncie, then in America and now in Canada…. Do you like Canada?”

H. “yah…”

It goes on like this for an hour and despite the nagging feeling that I should be doing one of the tasks Google keeps telling me are urgent, I lie there and listen to them and feel the boat empty of water and the tide roll out and then suddenly silence.  All points are quiet and still and the wife is not yet home, but you know this will make her smile and that makes you smile and close the Google Task List…..

*maleness because as Nicola often points out this sort of crazy climbing, jumping, head bashing, toy throwing hysteria is apparently all my fault and completely foreign to someone raised without a brother. I always think of it as training although I don’t think any of us have figured out exactly for what…. At any rate maybe it is my fault but when I go to the park it becomes clear that it is not an exclusive club.

On Vans, Toilet Paper and the Unbearable Heaviness of 3 Rows of Seats.

By now it’s no secret that we have recently wasted vast amounts of time shopping for the vehicular equivalent of toilet paper. A necessity perhaps but hardly something to fret over for hours on end…. and yet I do. Of course send me to the store to buy toilet paper and I will fret over the 10 cent difference between one brand or another, I will wonder if the softness and luxury of the brand with butterflies on it trumps the low cost of the strangely coloured economy rolls. If, in a pinch, it can be counted upon to treat my blown nose kindly and wipe up spills. Is it versatile yet able to adeptly accomplish its intended purpose. I almost always regret my decision even as I hear it thud into the bottom of my cart. And so I find myself now trying to decipher the difference between the LXI and the EX and LS on vehicles I couldn’t care less about. I mean how many cup holders does one ugly mass of people moving metal need? Does each person need to spill 2 drinks while watching a DVD and listening to separate radio stations? Do the seats need to disappear, should they be suitable for captains or configured like church pews in worship of the road passing unfelt below our amply cushioned rear ends? Why is it that 2 sliding doors are a necessity over the will to drive?

I ponder all of this while passing listlessly from one sales pitch to the next. The salesmen know my heart is not in it. I am unable to summon enough of a feigned interest for them to feign enthusiasm in trying to sell me what I need but do not want. It is the same attitude they seem to bring to their jobs. They need the money but don’t want to be selling minivans to men who don’t want them, while wives and children look upon both sets of men with the urgency of moving on to the next urgency. So we are stuck, the salesmen and I in a dance of small talk about tire tread, the weather, convenience, how great the car I drove up in looks, how fast it is, how deceptive in its small package, anything but the car we are both prodding, opening doors, and trunks and hoods, looking under seats and mats, in glove boxes, hoping desperately for something to be so wrong with this one that we can rule it out (rule them all out), but also for everything to be fine so we can say this is the one, the one that will end this search and let us move on to the grocery store and school and friends’ houses, possibly with friends in tow and room to spare for all the crap gifted by well intentioned grandparents.

I think back to my own childhood in the back of a giant caprice classic station wagon, seats folded down flat and three boys rolling around on spread-out sleeping bags and playing games amongst the various suitcases and coolers with easy cheese for crackers, celery for my dad, and Oreo cookies if we were lucky. I wonder if my father who grew up in an age of muscular American cars, whose plastic models he collected from the local dealers and assembled growing up, felt a similar sense of loss when he loaded us all up in the cavernous expanse of that wagon which floated across the Midwest’s highways like a boat on an almost tranquil sea, gently rocking over the dips and around the curves of towns and country in Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Kentucky. I remember that sensation of floating even now when I think of those long car rides from one small town to the next and wonder how my children will remember the inevitable journeys of their youth as we glide, sway and labor across the continent from west to east and back. Stuck unhappily behind un-passable tractor-trailers and RV’s like a forlorn caravan transferring its contents from here to there in workmanlike fashion, anticipating home or homecoming.

It is an odyssey that must have an end. A resolution. Our little sporty Volvo will not rendezvous with Montana again. It will not, most likely venture beyond the 150 mile radius of its new owner’s driving life. We will move on, albeit not as fast or stylishly.

We will buy a van and spill drinks and food in it and clean it up with toilet paper laboriously selected for the occasion.

I Pity the Fool

The guest blogger is back to clear his name. OK not really.  I admit it I melted the kids’ sippy cup lids and the pan I was “steaming” them in and I dulled a knife beyond recognition trying to extract said lids from said pan only to find that all of the articles were indeed a total loss.  I may also have something to do with the insanity of these little beings that seem to follow us all over the place, while sneezing in our faces, fighting over objects that have no discernible value to anyone only to abandon them after winning the fight, kicking us either in A. the jewels or B. the container of their future sibling (you can do the math I assume) while riding in the shopping cart and begging, yes begging to get a t-ball bat and ball only to take two swings and say “That’s enough, you can carry it home now”.  

So of course one of us is blameless in all of this.  She is the princess and we are all gigantic boulder sized peas under the mattress.  So if we are to change our ways and give her the respect and deference she deserves we will need to listen to the words of one far wiser than we.  Ladies and gentlemen I give you Mr. T.  I pity the child that does not heed his wisdom, or the woman who dresses like his back up singers.

guess who’s back?

guess who’s back

back again

mommy’s back

tell a friend

now everyone get on the dance floor

pajama time

Loot

Yes, we can all relax now. She decided to come back.  I think the description of her cherub-like spawn from yours truly via this space did the final convincing to board that plane.  Well that and the 8 inches of snow we are scheduled to get over they next two days.  It’s 8:00 and all my peeps are in bed sleeping off there respective ailments. The boys and I engaged in some quick last minute cleanup, followed by a trip to a colleague’s house to watch some Champions League Football.  Arsenal took the lead 1-0 as we left for the airport to pick up the true hottie.  I will let N recount the tales as only she can but I got some awesome loot out of the deal.  Now if only there was a small envelope filled with time for me to read all this while drinking coffee and eating chocolate.  I love this woman.

Colin is it?

Colin

Well my time as your host is drawing to a close. The wife should be returning soon from the land of crooked teeth, tweed and an appallingly low threshold for becoming a celebrity (“Hey is that the guy from the closed circuit tv feed in the Balham tube station?”).  It will be the end of admittedly overly inside jokes, offensive comments and updates on the latest rules of the land (#6 was Lunch), but not the end of the endless fount of entertainment sprouting from the mouths of babes.  So consider this the season finale when all the loose ends are tied up and the hero returns.

Over the last week I have witnessed wondrous things.  G & H have taken mercy on their old man as if sensing his inadequate preparation for the job of sole parent.  They have hugged one another, shared books and secret forts, yelled only occasionally and taken some decent naps along the way.  But today the cracks are beginning to show, at breakfast the little guy was plowing through cinnamon rolls at an impressive clip, until I finally took mercy on his bowels and cut him off.  A howling fit ensued and G helpfully intoned “that’s enough Colin!”.  That’s right G has for reasons yet to be clear to me taken to calling his little brother “Colin” in times of distress or bossiness.  I have asked him about this for the last several days and he simply replies “That’s his nickname”.

THAT’S HIS NICKNAME? “Why pray tell is that his nickname”, I ask, figuring that since we’re all adults here dispensing nicknames and whatnot there’s no need to simplify our conversation.  “I don’t know”, comes the mostly unsatisfactory reply.  “Why Colin, where did you hear Colin”, I ask.  “I don’t know”, he inevitably replies and goes back to whatever he is doing. In this case he was trying to protect his cinamon rolls from his little brother Colin.  So I figured that this new moniker was fair game.  Yesterday I tried it on myself, figuring why not maybe the little guy will respond to direction when called Colin.  “Colin, come here, let’s put your coat on”, I say.  G looks at me as if I just walked in from the moon. “Who’s Colin”?, he asks. “His name isn’t Colin” he says, as if it is the most absurd thing ever uttered by mankind.  In my head I flashed forward 10 years to the time when I, by then an old even less cool man, I will be trying to in some way work myself into my sons’ worlds by bringing up some hip band I can’t stand to listen too, or offering to go with them to wherever the heck it will be that kids hang out in 10 years (please don’t let it be some virtual pod that you access by placing a needle into your eyeball), and they will just look at me as if I am a man trying to follow a mermaid into the sea, shake their heads and say, whose THAT band, that was soo 10 minutes ago and plug needles into their eyes to get away from my retro coolness.

eggcratemagic

Perspective like that doesn’t come to you when you spend all day at work, come home tired and see two boys driving their mother insane.  So I am in some ways really thankful for the chance I had this week to wrestle, built shanty towns and so 20 different things out of egg crates (thank you Calgary Public Library for putting THAT book right in G’s eyeline), removing screaming children from multiple locales (the grocery, the library, a meeting with my boss at work), having a paper ripping and throwing contest, falling on our butts at the hockey rink in the park, waking up at 2 am (I plan on going back to sleeping through these opportunities for bonding on the return of the queen), and seeing them run to the kitchen for our daily ice cream consumption.  I am grateful and so ready for it to be over.

Yeah its Hockey Day Eh.

So some things seem completely unnecessary to me. Like Boss’ Day, the layers of packaging on kids toys or the show Two and a Half Men.   But these things pale in comparison to the national holiday the boys and I awoke to this morning.  CBC radio kindly informed us that it was 10 below and today was Hockey Day in Canada.  This would be highlighted with hockey games all over the country matching retired hockey greats against members of the armed services, children with no teeth against children with fewer teeth and an entire town dressing up as  Don Cherry.  I found myself wondering what the heck every other day since the first flake hit the ground here has been.  This is Canada where the junior hockey team leads the news broadcasts when it announces its lineups. Were the minor league teams can play in the same arenas as their NHL big brothers and still pack the place out. You can smell the stench of sweaty hockey gear every time a minivan/SUV door opens for crying out loud.   Declaring a Hockey Day in Canada is like declaring a Fast Food Day in the US or a Fat Customer Day at Walmart.  You had them at hello and there is no need to rub it in.  OK well now that I have offended pretty much the whole of NAFTA,  let me get to the only reason several of you are tuning in.

ARE THE CHILDREN STILL ALIVE? Yes I have gotten the urgent emails, ignored the caller ID, and tried not to be offended by the insinuation that we are probably just rolling around in piles of macaroni and cheese boxes.   We are all fine thank you.  Like any good Canadians we bundled up and headed down to the local pond to take in some aforementioned hockey and underwhelmed by local talent, we wandered over to the playground and proceeded to play for 20 minutes with the only patch of exposed earth and rocks the boys have seen in months.  We wandered home, basking in the insanely bright and warm sunshine that seems to charactize even the coldest of days here in Calgary and stumbled upon the newly exposed sandbox in the front yard.  Ice was removed from the “digger” and trucks and the boys spent another half hour bulldozing snow and pine cones around the yard.  Finally their desperation for being outside gave way to the complaining of their cold fingers and we headed inside and trashed the house while I prepared the last of our provisions.  Over tomato soup and grilled cheese we debated whether tomorrow would be a “school day, a church day with snacks, a big church day, or just a play day”.  The answer was not well received since due to the lack of certain womanly qualities, I skipped the woman’s “coffee break” at the local church and G missed out on his Thursday snack.

snowbox

So now that we have used up all the food prepared for us by the “beautiful one who travels abroad”, we will be the Three Stooges in a supermarket near you, my fellow Canadians.  I only hope we can score some sweet deals in the after Hockey Day Sales.

One Down and the Second Coming

Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring…. BANANAPHONE.  after a while you don’t even hear it anymore. The CD you put on in a continuous loop in hopes of enticing the boys to fall asleep so you could sit in a chair and watch the locals go INSANE over the Messiah’s coming to Canada.  There are seriously probably not enough paper bags in stock up here to prevent the collective, media/populace hyperventilation going on in the winter wonderland.  But I digress, because I know what you really want to know Mrs. Robinson is how are the kids doing? How many of us survived Day Uno? How many of the rules did we break?

Let’s just say that while you have most likes already made a Maison du Chocolat run, and perhaps indulged in some quiet unencumbered cultural enrichment, we have been preparing for the future.  With the current economic doldrums and the failure of a certain house (You know who you are 520 Alden) to sell we may have to develop some new survival skills in the future.  And so we collectively made a visit to the basement and gathered supplies for this little vocational lesson.

Secret Club

Yes if need be don’t worry the three of us armed with duct tape and boxes can take care of you and build our new house under the nearest bridge.  I am sure its reassuring in some way to know this.  These are of course the famous “Secret Clubs” from the George and Martha Hippo books.  This actually didn’t kill as much time as I had hoped so we had to improvise with some coloring and yes I admit it the nuclear option of parenting…. THE VIDEO…

It was at this moment that rules number 5 & 6 were added by G.  Following a debate  about weather rule number 3 had been broken in an exchange over property rights in our shanty town, G proposed rule #5 as a way to get past the impasse caused by pummeling his little Hermano.

Rule #5. Hugs

Yes its hard not to cry at moments like this, but you must resist. Not because you are a man of Nordic lineage but because it would only encourage this kind of clever escape from being in trouble.  The next time you might enter a room to find coffee poured into your laptop and get a Rule #5 thrown in your face.  So I bit my lip and congratulated the boy on a great new rule, so it was hugs all around.  But nay, he was not finished…

“Rule #6 is Lunch” he informed me.

“Lunch”, I asked.  “Yes and I want macaroni and cheese in a box with a bunny on it, not the OTHER kind (by which he means the delicious kind you slaved over for us the other night)”.  Somehow I imagine this is how our laws end up being so complex. Someone says something like “let’s give kids free health care”, which is a bit like hugs, who can be against that, but then someone insists on adding things like lunch and naps and ice cream and soon we have people arguing about what kind of ice cream and the whole thing goes up in smoke, or we get a tax code with so many little pieces in it you just cross your fingers and mail it in.

So we took care of rules 5 and 6 followed by a rule 4 followed by a rule 1 and managed to do so while observing rules 2 and 3. We revisited our little project….

Making the Best of It

Viola

A trip to the library, some delicious chicken chili, baths and bedtime.  All with only occasional lapses in adherence to rules 3 & 4. So it was a miraculously good day here and we hope you are having fun, living it up in the big city.  Now that you know who has left the country I am sure the sour moods of the populace will return, so I am bracing myself for the coming storm.

4 Rules

Well folks the substitute teacher is now in the room so you get a reprieve from that homework you didn’t finish, so just put your head on your desks and lets all take a nap.  That’s right our favorite blogger is off to jolly olde England and has appointed me to fill in. (A side note: actually as I write this our favorite blogger is sitting at the airport waiting for a replacement plane since the initial craft that was to be used is out of service at the moment. Details forthcoming I am sure)

I don’t of course assume that my appointment is related to anything approximating writing ability, but instead to a desire to see if I can survive a week of variously aged testosterone battles.  The boys and I have hammered out the details of this arrangement and have decided upon 4 simple rules that will make this week of bach’n it a unbridled success.  We have recited these rules in the car sitting in rush hour traffic for a good hour after dropping of the lovely ms. N and I can now shout out “Rule Number 2” and G dutifully spouts the rule with such sincerity it almost seems plausible that he will A. remember the rule and B. obey it.  Its like the Von Trapp family before the curtains become play clothes, or if you prefer the Pre-Mary Poppins clan with the banker father and his clock.  In short there is no way it can last but until our singing heroine returns to bring back joy and laughter we have 4 simple rules.

#1. Naps- (All day, every day) OK we will settle for one nap of a decent length and I don’t mean for the kids. For some reason there are women among us who hate the idea of a full grown man napping in the middle of the day.  Well those women are gone so when I say nap time I will be right there with them, not asking them to do anything I wouldn’t do.

#2. Be Kind- Uh I’m looking at you little man as you try and take big brother’s comic book and run away laughing maniacally only to then pummel said older brother when he tries to take it back.  Its like watching Danny DeVito try and beat up Shawn Bradley (sorry if you aren’t knowledgeable on 90’s era 7 foot white centers in the NBA you may have to google this one.)

#3. NO YELLING!- Its going to be like a library in here.  SHHHHHHH. Actually I am just hoping I’m not the first one to break this rule.

And finally since rules shouldn’t just be about what you have to do or not do but about what you might want to do, I give you the rule that trumps all the other rules and I imagine will be key to us surviving the week.

#4 Ice Cream- In this case it is both verb and noun and comes in a strawberry flavor.