Dear Kate,

Eleven years is a long time, but not really for a kid. Even though you’ve outlived every goldfish, gerbil, hamster, flea, spider and most other insects, flowers and animals that were born the same day as you; eleven years ago you went from being young to being young, whereas I went from being young to being old. So Kate the next time you wait anxiously for adulthood, remember that time is measured differently for goldfish, kids and moms.

I’ve learned a lot over the last eleven years, like how much fun can be extracted from tiny, lifelike animal figurines; or that the smartest purchase I will ever make was that first two-pack of Pet Shops. You’ve revealed to me what a boundless imagination really is, and that there is magic in anything done with sincerity. And even though eleven years is a long in the life a goldfish and a mom and it isn’t for a kid, in that small stretch of time you have demonstrated more kindness, empathy and compassion than I have years left in my life to match. So perhaps the greatest lesson for me is that age simply measures how long it’s been since a person was born, not their capacity to think and feel deeply.

I love you when you yell at Simon for eating with his mouth open or for being annoying when we read at bedtime. I love you when you go upstairs to change for school and brush your teeth and I find you 30 minutes later lying in your bed, half-dressed, absorbed in a book. Each day, for 11 years, I’ve loved you a little bit more, because each day you smile and love and remind me how much be easier life is when it’s filled with kindness and a generous appreciation that time is what we make of it.

Happy 11th Birthday Skittles!

Then

ride gatto

Now

aj_026 beach

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Thursdays are hard days.  Thursdays are hard days because it’s the day I volunteer at the hospital, and the day I’m pulled by the people I visit and by my family who wait for my return.  I’m pulled by the dinner I didn’t prepare while I was being pulled by the people I visit and by the family that waits for my return.  I’m pulled by all the assorted things I didn’t do around the house while I tend to the children I didn’t spend time with during the afternoon I was pulled by the people I visit.  There was an old lady who swallowed a fly… It’s  not bad, it’s just full, full in that way I will be empty without it and overflowing with it.  Perhaps that’s simply life with small children.  Perhaps it’s simply life.

I said goodbye to someone today, but it in that rare good way that means he is getting well and will go somewhere where he will get even better.  We have spent several months getting to know one another and as happy as I am that this is a joyous time in his life, the city he will go to is far from here, and I know we will never see each other again.  He cannot move his body, (the plan is to remedy that) so I couldn’t even hug him when I left.  I held his hand, but the intimacy was wrong and our parting felt unfinished.  Stupid Thursday.

This Thursday is particularly hard because Marc is going straight from work to a Christmas party so I can’t collapse for ten minutes on my own while Kate and Simon jump on him instead of me.  I haven’t been home all day, the kids are a mess, I’m exhausted and alone, and for me there’s really only one thing to do on days like this – let the mall make dinner.  Off we went to the mediocre mall with the great parking (underground, free parking south of Bloor, um, yes please), to eat nutrionless, high calorie food. *cheers from small people*

To our great shock as we emerged from the depths of P2, the pay-per-ride-up-and-down-thingys were all new.  Instead of the boat, safari truck, pelican (I don’t get it either) and another, forgotten wheeled machine, there were four, spanking new, 1-dollar-per-15-seconds, rides.

Simon immediately claimed the bulldozer and climbed inside without waiting to see if I planned to stick around.

blurry, iPhone photo. simon's in there somewhere.

While Simon banged on the floor(?) of the bulldozer and yelled some nonsense about doing his “good work” Kate jumped on the train.

trust me, it's a train. pictures lie.

Next stop – falling down in the fire engine.

like any good mother i took a photo while simon struggled to stand up.

Don’t worry, Simon got up right away and declared: “This is my favourite, I want it for my birthday.”  Entitled much.

Finally, er, the… what the fuck is that anyway?

fucked-up-rainbow-bear-bird-with-a-mohawk

Kate adored that thing, like a lot.  So much so she insisted on this:

high-fiving the fucked-up-rainbow-bear-bird-with-a-mohawk

I cannot tell you how badly I wish I was part of the meeting where this mall rider thing was presented.  I’m trying really hard to come up with the dialogue that might have taken place between the designer of this odd, fantasy animal, but I can’t (and it’s killing me).  I suppose the joke’s on me though: my kid’s in love with it and some crazy person just pocketed my loonie.   Rainbows sell.

After about ten minutes of this I’d had enough and had to pry them off the various whatever-you-call-ems, but not before Simon tried to convince me that he and Kate could stay while I got their dinner.   Apparently they wanted to kick it all Agatha Christie style and have a boxed lunch on the train.  I’m not sure how he did this, but once I managed to force inspire them to come along happily, Simon figured out a way to let me know that he merely condescended to join us in the food court.  Without saying a word.  This is definitely my genes.  Shit.

Off we went to load up on good-for-nothing food and enjoy the live piano (the mediocre mall is trying to improve its image).  There we sat, gorging,  listening to Christmas carols and having a grand time, when a group of boisterous teenagers took up residence beside us.  Whatever, they’re just like my kids but bigger and unsupervised.  Mostly they want you to look at them and be jealous you’re not as young as they are, you know, harmless stuff.  There were braces and backpacks, short Catholic school skirts and general good times being had, so I will admit my surprise when the youngest-looking braced one shouted to a departing twosome “remember, safe sex is good sex.”  Wha?  Really? where did that come from?  Perhaps this was all part of the “look at me and how young I am” scheme, and I relaxed when I saw one of her friends shake her head in what I assumed was a “don’t be stupid and shout that out” admonishment.  Then I realised she was shaking her head and mouthing something.  The something: “No it’s not, no it’s totally not.”  That’s right folks, the braced girl, the one who was smart (but stupid) and knows that “safe sex is good sex” was being told IT’S NOT.  Apparently she’s easily convinced because she replied with “yeah, you’re probably right.”  I wanted to walk over and bang their heads together. 

While I silently (and invisibly) poked needles in my eyes to distract me from the pain of what I just witnessed, the know-it-all stood up and teetered away.  Perched on heels no less than 4 inches high (for serious), this grade ten student did her best to walk without looking like she was about to fall over.  She did poorly, and I can’t blame her on those togs, but then I can- she wore shoes she didn’t know how to walk in.  It was just so tragic to see her stumbling around, her confusion about sex and her own sexuality blazing across her cheap clothes and painful looking shoes.  You know the girls, the ones who mis-read all the fashion cues and instead of looking trendy they look like they’re for sale.   She’s young and new to this, it’s hardly her fault she’s not quite getting it all right all the time.  I mean her brain is growing as fast as a toddler’s right now, and look at Simon, he suffocates his sister.  Let’s not even speak of the encouragement she’s obviously getting from somewhere- the girl barely stands a chance (sort of).  The worst part: sex at 16 is crappy sex.  Fast sex.  Unsatisfying sex.  Selfish sex (sorry boys, I’m looking at you).  Do-it-during-the-commercial-while-the-parents-are-upstairs humiliating sex.  Being safe is the only thing that makes it okay.  Being safe means you won’t get a disease, have a baby, or die, because the break between Heroes segments was longer than expected.  Abstinence?  No one practices abstinence, which makes it just about the least effective birth control going. 

Please mall-girl, I’m sure you’re plenty smart and have a lot to offer and a few years will make all the difference, but in the meantime, use one of these so you’re all grown up when you have a baby and are less likely to find this a meaningful product.  Oh yeah and you won’t get sick.  Or die. 

That’s when the pianist switched from Christmas carols to The Girl From Ipanema and I got the hell out of the there. 

To add to the day’s mall headache, Marc and I texted about tonight’s Christmas bash.  Did I mention that Marc has pneumonia?  No?  Well he does.  Marc has pneumonia (the x-ray confirmed, not self diagnosed kind) and is at a work Christmas party.  A Christmas party he claims he will leave by 11, and will have a couple of drinks at.  I will direct you here to the last work Christmas party Marc attended. This is what he said about tonight’s:

stupid marc

You should focus on the bottom two bubbles.  The top two refer to some minor thing about which Marc was correct.  I was responding accordingly. 

So Marc, the lawyer-engineer, is going to an office party (and we all know how responsible those are), with pneumonia, a free taxi, and had to be encouraged not to walk home.

Yeah, Thursdays are hard days.

This is Kate’s latest art installlation.  We’re calling it Dusty fleur wrapped up in dirty string, a beautiful title, no?  Kate loves to wrap crud up, any kind of crud, any kind of wrapper.  It’s a bit odd, but the generally harmless nature of it doesn’t have us losing much sleep.  We do occassionally (when she’s not listening, and thankfully she can’t read yet) ponder the origins of her tying preference, but mostly we just shake our heads and blame each other’s genes for the unexplained behaviour.

Dusty Fleur Wrapped in Dirty String, Blinds on Window, 2009

The reason Kate’s fixation is “generally” rather than “completely” harmless, is down to one incident about a year ago when she decided, with a friend, to tie up Simon.  With the help of the of the cord from the Roman blinds in their room (they share a room, and it’s cuter than a basket full of Cottonelle puppies), Kate and her accomplice proceeded to wrap Simon up so completely he couldn’t move.  Like at all.  Largely their efforts were concentrated in wrapping the cord around his neck, which was nice.  Real nice.

I think we twigged when he started to cry.  Or maybe it was when one of the two guilty parties caved and told on the other one.  Whatever happened, I got up there first and so had the privilege of untangling him from the mess.  I’m almost positive (completely positive) I yelled.  I yelled at my kid, I yelled at someone else’s kid, I yelled for Marc and the parent of the other kid.  It was an emotion-full experience, and quite uncharacteristic: I usually save my “crazy” for the privacy of my immediate family, you know, only act all good an in control when company’s around.    Thankfully Simon wasn’t crying because he was hurt but because he simply wanted to be unstuck, and he escaped with little more than a few red marks on his neck.  But still.  I mean we totallly kept him inside for the rest of the day to give those red marks a chance to fade.  It’s hard to explain away red marks on a child’s neck, and we decided it made more sense to not put ourselves in a position where we would have to.

And yet, I do wonder about the conversation that could evolve should someone on the “outside” notice and question it.  I imagine it could go something like this:

Inquiring Mind: Well hello there young man, aren’t you looking a little sad today.  I notice you have some red marks on your neck, how did that happen sweetheart?

Me: *pissed off that I.M. passive-aggressively asked my child rather than me as a way of being critical* Um, he’s fine.

I.M.: Oh, it’s just that he has those red marks and I was curious is all.

Me: *pissed-off-edness mounting* I know, it looks worse than it is, his older sister got a little carried away with cord on the blinds in their (Cottonelle) room, and she accidentally wrapped it around his neck.

I.M.: You have blinds in their (Cottonelle) room with a cord, is that safe?

Me: *feeling the heat* Um, I think so.  It was an accident, I mean my kids could get hit by a runaway train, walking on a sidewalk, far away from train tracks.  Stuff happens.

I.M.: That’s true *full on I’m-not-judging-you-but-totally-judging-you-voice*, but you can’t predict a runaway train, not having cords in a child’s room is completely within your control.

Me: Are you suggesting I put the blinds in their room, hoping my daughter would develop a tying fetish, and then channel that to strangle her brother?

I.M.: *startled* Er, no.  I’m just saying it’s not safe; this is an accident that could easily have been prevented.

Me: You’re not safe.

I.M.: Pardon.

Me: You’re not safe.

I.M.: What on earth is that supposed to mean?

Me: It means “You’re not safe,” do you want a dictionary?

I.M.: What are you talking about, I mean, I don’t…

Me: *Cutting I.M. off and getting a little fired up* I know what you mean when you say “its” not safe, you’re saying “I’m” not safe.  You don’t know me, you don’t know anything about how safe I am, and here you are, looking at my kid’s red neck and deciding we’re not a safe people.  Well fuck you.  I’ve just had a good look at you, and I’ve decided, with the same amount of information as you have about me, that YOU’RE NOT SAFE!

I.M.: That makes no sense, I’ve done nothing unsafe, I’m just talking, I mean…

Me: *Cutting I.M. off* Really, what do you call confronting a complete stranger about their safety record, practically accusing them of child abuse? 

I.M. *stammering* But I didn’t, that’s not what I meant, I was just saying…

Me: What, are you trying to say I’m crazy, that I can’t even assess this situation accurately THATI’MGETTINGALITTLEWORKEDUPOVERBEINGACCUSEDOFSTRANGLINGMYSONANDLIVINGINAHELLHOLEOFAHOUSE *pause for breath* ANDTHATMYCHILDRENWILLDIEIFTHEYCONTINUETOLIVEWITHME?! IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE TRYING TO SAY?

*Unexpectedly, Simon produces his chainsaw, holding it  high over his head revving the can’t-chop-a-tree-down motor, crying out “I will cut Kate, she will die” over and over and over again*

I.M. *Shocked by this unexpected display, backs away from scene, making the sign of the cross and damning us all to hell.*

Me: RUN AWAY, see if I care. 

Me: Come on Simon, let’s get some juice.

Simon: Okay Mummy.

So you can see it was probably a wise decision on our part to keep a low profile that day.  There are crazy people out there you know.  Crazy, crazy people.

We still have the blinds, and dastardly cords attached to them.  Since then Kate has thankfully only tied up her toys, and chooses to annoy her brother in myriad other ways instead.  It’s a win-win situation really.

Evil Blinds. Fucking Ikea.

The Cord of Ill Repute