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Tragic Follow-Up to a Five-Year-Old’s Birthday

You know how everything old is new again? How marketers realized that all the kids of the 80s are having their own kids and will pay good money for things that make them go Aw man, I used to have one of those!!

Well, I didn’t, as it happens, have any of these particular items, although I wished I did. (And I think they’re from much earlier than the 80s, given the age of some of the Archie comics we had at home that contained this very ad.)

sea-monkeys-retro-ad
Image via mentalfloss.com

AB was given a Sea Monkey aquarium, along with a little sachet of eggs, some water purifier, and some powdery sea monkey food, for her birthday. It was just like this one, except blue. (Notice that the sea monkey family portrait has not changed.)

sea-monkeys-ocean-zoo

Both kids were pretty excited. We followed all the instructions to the letter, and sure enough, a few days after we’d put the eggs in, there were super-tiny creatures propelling themselves around the aquarium! So cute! They did not have head-crown-thingies that we could discern, and they were nowhere near as nonchalant as the ones in the ad, but still… Cool stuff!!

The big problem was that the instructions don’t go past the first feeding. You’re supposed to wait five days after you put the eggs in there before you feed them, and the instructions make it clear that if you overfeed them THEY WILL SUFFOCATE. But does that mean you feed them every five days subsequently? Or does the schedule change? I turned to the internet for advice, and determined that we should wait at least a few days between feedings. We did our best.

I don’t know what went wrong. Within a week or so, there were only a couple of moving sea monkeys we could find… and then, only one. And then… a still, still tank. There were pathetic moments like when the kids stirred them (like you’re supposed to) and said, “Look, they’re moving around!” or when there was absolutely no movement and she figured, “Let’s just feed them anyway in case they’re only sleeping.”

We were sad that they were dead. Eventually, AB reached the Acceptance stage. This is what she wrote, in tribute.

[That’s pronounced “Sea Monkey-zuh” like when you REALLY want someone to know that it’s plural.]

It was right around Halloween, hence the gravestone savvy. (Actually, there was a rough draft of this picture that had “RCR” on the gravestone – she couldn’t remember what it was supposed to say, and that was her best guess.)

This reads (in the intended order): “To Sea Monkeys. I love you. You died and I did a surprise.”

This picture itself is the “spris”. Surely the sea monkeys are somewhere in the heavenly ether, smiling at their happy likeness.

On a lighter note, you can see that AB has finally reached that stage where she wants to write stuff and isn’t afraid to spell words any which way. Which is AWESOME; I adore this stage. It’s like seeing them learn to talk all over again.

***

P.S.: I meant to add this to the birthday post, but it segues nicely from sea monkeys. Ever since last spring, AB has been obsessed with the monkey bars. We are lucky at the school because they have lots of bars to climb on at different heights – the kind of structures that have been removed from most playgrounds for some reason. AB does all kinds of tricks on a set of parallel bars and I can just see her little muscles working hard.

And when she crosses the ladder-style monkey bars, which she finally learned to do near the end of JK, her determination is palpable. Her eyes get all steely with focus. And her hands, which are still sweet li’l five-year-old hands with dimply knuckles, have gotten all callused on the palms, as if she were moonlighting as a construction worker. It’s pretty awesome altogether.

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Stress Is Just How We Roll These Days

Doesn’t it seem like stress has been trending for too long? Like it’s a bit ridiculous that feeling hassled is not reserved for crunch times – that instead it’s just a way of life?

kid-drawing-happy-sad
This picture AB drew really captures how I’ve been feeling.

Last week a colleague, who also happens to be my friend and neighbour, asked me, “Do you ever feel like you’re just barely scraping by?”

Fervently, I replied, “Ohmigosh, of course. ALL THE TIME.”

This friend of mine is one of the nicest people you can imagine, smart and hardworking and very compassionate. I’ve never seen her seem anything but serene, even when we’re talking about stress.

We were discussing the ever-tricky work/life balance. She told me about a recent incident in which she’d felt unreliable because she couldn’t remember whether or not she’d completed a particular task. This is something I can definitely relate to. The not-so-shining moments of things falling through cracks because… there’s JUST TOO MUCH.

It was, I think, surprising and comforting to both of us that we feel the same about this. I guess we’re both good at seeming fine when we’re not actually that fine.

The truth was, the previous week had been one in which my undulating perspective was rather more vertiginous than usual. My 39th birthday was on the Thursday, followed by Mother’s Day on the Sunday. My birthday was great – I felt loved and celebrated and worthy.

Things fell abruptly into focus for me on Mother’s Day. It was a lovely morning, with pancakes made by my Hubbibi and sweet little cards from my kids. In spite of this, a few hours later I was grouchy and yelly with those same kids. The little darlings had not taken the bait when I told them my dearest Mother’s Day wish was for them to clean their room and/or the playroom. In fact, both kids have arrived at a stage where they feel entitled to A) not do what I ask, like AT ALL, and B) give me attitude about it.  And I just felt bitter.

We did clean up, but I basically had to threaten them. Great mothering right there. (And great childing too.)

The day got better later on, and everything was fine. It’s just that it happens more than I’d like that I get grumpy and raise my voice – and I hate that. I feel myself using guilt as leverage, and I hate that too. But why don’t they see how much work it is to parent them? Why don’t they want to help out? DON’T THEY LOVE ME??

That’s when I start to fret. Are my kids just lazy and selfish? Is it permanent? And if they are, isn’t it muchly my fault, as their mother?

Sean says I worry too much, and I’m sure he’s right. He generally doesn’t worry – but I have no idea how such non-worrying is accomplished. Case in point…

Examples of Things I Worry About

  • My kids are spoiled beyond all help
  • My house will never be clean or even properly tidy for more than 17 minutes
  • I’m not a good mom
  • I’m not a properly nice person anymore either – I’ve just got people fooled
  • Teaching is not my true calling
  • My “undulating perspective” is actually something wrong with my brain
  • My energy oscillation is actually some weird disease
  • The frequent headaches I get are actually cancer
  • E’s melodrama is actually depression
  • AB will grow up to be a Mean Girl
  • My husband will die young and I’ll be a single mom
  • My mind is disorganized because of all the thoughts that want to much to be written down but can’t be because NO TIME
  • Work/life balance is a pipe dream. Period.

I swear I’ve never been a pessimist or a hypochondriac. I never used to stress out about little things, and it used to take a lot more for me to lose my temper. If I remember correctly, I did not used to be bitchy.

*Sigh.*

When I think about it at this moment, with the kids asleep in bed (no doubt looking like gorgeous innocent cherubs), I can convince myself that it’s probably not that they’re inherently or permanently lazy/selfish/evil. It’s probably just that they’re four and almost-eight, and they’re figuring out what they can get away with.

And maybe I’m not done for, either. I often have those moments where I look at my healthy children, my brick of a husband, my incredibly comfortable bed, my pretty house, my friendly neighbourhood filled with trees… And I’m completely dazzled by my good fortune. I can hardly believe I get to live this life.

As long as I keep coming back to some semblance of equanimity once in a while, I’m sure I’ll be fine. And get some fracking sleep, for crying out loud. (Or for not crying out loud. One would hope.)

Tomorrow I leave for OELC for a week. Experience tells me it will be one of the busiest and most exciting weeks of my year. It does include stress – but it’s all temporary, and all focused in one place. It’s a place to get centred and come back tired but refreshed. And by then it’s June! So EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE PEACHY.

That’s the plan.

***


 

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Spring Flowers and their Intoxicating Magic

Yay, it’s spring! Somehow, I’m even more excited about it this year than usual. I’m glad there’s been plenty of rain, like there’s supposed to be. I’m glad there’s been nice sweater-weather – some years it seems we go straight from winter to summer.

A few weeks ago, I had a dream weekend (for the likes of me). I got to perform with my dance sisters at two different events, and train at two workshops with the amazing Audra Simmons. On Sunday, I had an afternoon date with my Hubbibi in which we had a great meal uninterrupted and then wandered around together conversing uninterrupted in the beautiful spring weather. To top it all off, we went to my parents’ to pick up our children, and I had the chance to go out to the marsh and surround myself with this sound:

It just makes me happy.

And now, the flowers are here! Which makes me even gladder. It seems the flowers are just as affecting for AB. We both got in a tizzy about the sweet, fragrant violets when they popped up.

spring-violets

And we were thrilled about these little irises.

spring-irises

AB was so taken with them, she decided on the spot that she would change her name to Iris. Thenceforth, her name would be Iris Olivia P. (Olivia P. is her best friend’s name). Her own actual name was third in line. That evening, I tried to remember to call her Iris a few times. Luckily, this kind of pretending is usually short-lived. She practiced writing her new name a bunch, but hasn’t made us use it.

A week later, I got a note from her JK teacher asking if there was real significance to the name Iris, since AB had been insisting it was actually her name. She had reportedly gotten upset in line at spring picture day because the silly photographers were outrageously USING HER OLD NAME. The poor supply teacher who was with the class that day didn’t know what to do.

Yesterday when I picked AB up at the end of the day, her teacher looked a little unsure and said, “I hope you’ll find this funny…” and handed me the school photo proofs.

I didn’t just laugh, I practically guffawed. Sean did the same when he saw them. Now THAT is a picture of a girl who is pleased with herself. We may actually order some, for the first time.

Our darling children also insisted on a sibling picture, even though we hadn’t requested one.  Doesn’t it look like they love each other?

Here’s one more picture, from today, because I was so excited. It’s the wee cherry tree we planted last year. We didn’t know whether to expect anything but leaves… but yippee! Cherry blossoms!

spring-cherry-blossoms

Spring is so great.

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Nerdy Mom Plays With Kids’ Toys, Vol. 6 – Tender Moments

Happy Friday, lovely di-hards!

Minnie and the Sea Dragon

Minnie could never have guessed that being lost at sea would result in a very special connection with a misunderstood sea “monster”. After all, he’s really just a creature looking for love, like you and me (but more scaly).

Little Bear’s Rescue

Sometimes, if an orphaned mini counting-bear comes along at the right point in a mama Bakugan-dragon’s life, she will take the cub and raise it as her own. This mother is seen grooming her cub as if he were her own Baku-spawn.

Love for Planet Earth

The green aliens came to Earth for a reason. It really is just a darn lovable place. Makes you want to give it a big smooch. (Canada especially.)

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The 2016 Review + New Year Questionnaire

Happy New Year! Isn’t it nice to have a new start, after the year we’ve had?

Time for the semi-traditional New Year’s Questionnaire. This year, I’ve decided to take some liberties with it. That is to say, I deleted or modified the questions that were annoying me or seemed repetitive. No time for baloney in 2017!

  1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?

Me: Visited North Carolina, taught English, tried an Escape Room (with a team of smart/more experienced people) – and escaped!

Sean: Bought a minivan, subsequently inaugurated it by taking 15 hours in one day to drive two kids and four adults to North Carolina. And then 15 more hours to drive back a week later.

E: Went to the Hogwarts classes and Quidditch practice at the University, licked my own elbow, started Tae Kwon Do classes.

AB: Started school, said lots of French things, learned some Tae Kwon Do moves from my brother.

  1. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions?

Me: No. I did not at all get my 52 blog posts done, despite the scaled-down nature of the resolution. (I got to 32.) Sigh. I am disappointed. I also didn’t achieve what I set out to with my delayed NaBloPoMo strategy. Life is just too hectic, and although I know that writing is important for my brain and my spirit, so is getting sleep. And so is planning lessons and marking stuff. And so is reading stories to my kids. Et cetera. There are not enough hours to do ALL THE THINGS.

Sean: Not exactly. See Question #17.

E, A: We’re kids. We live in the moment.

3. Did anyone close to you die?

Me: A very dear family friend and member of our Friends’ Meeting.

Sean: Two wonderful step-grandparents.

E: So many of my baby teeth.

A: The loops on my rubber boots.

4. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

Me: My report cards done early.

Sean: Really good sleep.

E: A wooden sword. I might make one with all the boards I’ve been breaking in Tae Kwon Do.

A: I would like a unicorn that a princess can ride on!

5. What events from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why:

Me, Sean: Fires in Fort MacMurray, US Election results, deaths of David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Anton Yelchin, Gene Wilder, Charmian Carr, Leonard Cohen, Alan Thicke, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds.

E: North Carolina, and my birthday!

A: North Carolina, and the first day of school!

6. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Me: Being part of Mosaic.

Sean: Becoming a supervisor and initiating the overhaul of the tooling system at work.

E: Earning my yellow and orange belts in Tae Kwon Do and participating in my first tournament. And I really developed the skill of soccer this year.

A: Singing many songs in French, especially the one we did at the school concert (“La neige tombe”).

7. What was your biggest failure?

Me: Still not managing to finish unpacking by 2017. (Sadly, this is not a joke.)

Sean: Not losing weight.

E: I get mad at myself when I do things imperfectly.

A: I have no failings.

8. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Me: I suspect I’ve been suffering from plantar faciitis…

Sean: Toe broken by karma as I ran up the stairs chasing the kids, having just told them not to run up the stairs. And then there was that tiny metal chip that had to be surgically removed from my eyeball.

E: The usual viruses, and the usual grievous injuries about five times a day.

A: The time my brother scratched my hand that had already been scratched!

9. What was the best thing you bought?

Me: Poo-Pourri. Especially Vanilla Mint. Highly recommend. (And thanks for the tip, JP!)

Sean: OluKai flip flops.

E: I bought my smelly markers with my own money! I went to Staples with the six dollars plus tax in coins in a green container with a lid, and when we checked out I put it on the counter, and that’s how I proudly paid for my own markers. (This is Mummy’s description. Gosh, it was cute.)

A: I got five dollars from my Uncle Barry in North Carolina and I helped pay for my very own pink Automoblox.

10. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

MeSean: Trump + supporters, ISIL, other terrorists and corrupt individuals… the usual.

E: Mummy and Daddy, when they make me do my homework.

A: Mummy and Daddy, when they make me use words and manners instead of just reading my mind.

11. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Me: The peaceful Standing Rock protesters, and the two thousand veterans who joined them.

Sean: Pope Francis’s, for his work with the poor and refusal to buy into the pomp of popehood.

E: Mine, when I broke my first board! (And then a whole bunch more.)

A: Mine, for many diaper-free dry nights!

12. What did you get really excited about?

Me: A beautiful white Christmas.

Sean: The US election – good excited… and then bad excited.

E: Pokémon endless cards!

A: My sparkly silver purse!

13. What song will always remind you of 2016?

Me:

Sean:

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Me: Keeping my patience.

Sean: Exercise.

E: Screen time. There’s a lot less of it now that I’m in Grade 2.

A: I’m four. I have no need to examine my own behaviour.

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Me: Stressing out.

Sean: Eating out.

E: Homework.

A: Walking to school. It’s such a long way. I think I still deserve my stroller.

16. How did you spend Christmas?

All: With people we love, all kinds of family. So very fortunate.

17. What is your resolution this year?

Me: Learn not to use the snooze button; use my massage benefits.

Sean: Be fit and productive.

Me, Sean: This year, we are keeping Bullet Journals! We shall thus become organized and effective, beyond all previous experience or expectations. (Sort of like a resolution.) We’ve already started. We are already getting a bit compulsive. I’m sure the Bullet Journal will get its own blog post one of these times.

E: Get my green belt; learn to skate. My mom would like me to resolve to whine less about my responsibilities. We’ll see about that.

A: Try a new dance class or maybe Tae Kwon Do. My mom would like me to resolve to cooperate in the mornings. We’ll see about that.

18. What was your favorite TV program?

Me: The Crown.

Sean: Luke Cage, Daredevil Season 2, The Crown.

E: Lego Ninjago.

A: Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig.

19. What was the best book you read?

MeThe Girl on the Train was basically un-put-down-able.

Sean: A Brief History of the Future and The Harrows of Spring.

E, A: We had the rest of the Harry Potter series read to us, and then all of Narnia, and now we’re on to Roald Dahl. We love them all!

20. What do you regret?

Me: Not being better organized, especially during April through June.

Sean: Spending money on junk food.

E: That time I missed most of gym period because I forgot my indoor shoes at home.

A: All the clothes that are too small for me.

21. What decision are you glad you made?

Me: To buy a mini-van.

Sean: To accept the supervisor position.

E: To ask for Diary of a Wimpy Kid for Christmas. (He has been devouring the series and was almost done book 7 as of Sunday night).

A: Changing my mind at the last minute to be Minnie Mouse for Halloween instead of Elsa again.

22. What was your favorite film of this year?

Me: Moana.

Sean: Captain America – Civil War.

E: Zootopia.

A: Moana.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Me: 38, got surprised by my family coming to dinner and doing beautiful birthday things.

Sean: 39, celebrated the weekend before at an indoor water park in Niagara Falls with family and friends.

E: 7, had my friends over to my house.

A: 4, attended several dinners in my honour.

24. What new thing would you like to try in 2017?

Me: I’m considering an Ugi ball.

Sean: Minimalism.

E: I’ve tried skating, but only a couple times. I’d like to learn for real.

A: I’m considering a haircut.

25. What political issue stirred you the most?

Me: Nestlé’s mercenariness, pipelines.

Sean: US Election.

E: Kids in my class saying I have a crush on someone when I don’t.

A: My right to snuggles EVERY MORNING for as long as I want.

26. Whom did you miss?

Always Sebastian. Also, please see #3.

27. Who was the best new person you met?

All: Two new friends! We have all been really glad to get to know Danielle, and also Matt.

E: It was my first year getting to attend the same school as last year, so it was nice NOT to meet as many new people.

A: My best friend is Olivia P!

28. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016:

Me: Every vote really does matter.

Sean: Replacing the filter on your CPAP machine makes a huge difference to sleep quality.

E: Practice really does make you better at things.

A: W goes down-up-down-up, and N goes up-down-up.

29, Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

Throw a little love till the world stops hurting… Keep on, keep on, keep on truckin’…

lucky family

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Nerdy Mom Plays With Kids’ Toys, Vol. 5: Animal Affinities

Nerdy Mom’s back. ALL RIGHT. [insert classic ’90s hip-hop moves]

pocahontas-lizards
Pocahontas paints with all the colours of the wind, and also hikes with all the lizards of the rocks. She summons them with a single glance.

 

holly-hobby-frogs
Holly Hobby has similar powers with frogs, but realizes that she is too small to corral them properly. She uses her pinchy arms with her handy-dandy kusarigama to keep the situation under control. (I’m pretty sure her technique is all wrong, but the poor gal only has one way to grip.)

 

ravage-transformer-fairy
Lilliana knows the truth about Ravage: he may transform into a badass cassette tape, but underneath his robo-bilities, he’s just an old sweetie who only wants his jowls rubbed.

 

koodo-el-tabador-monkeys
Betcha didn’t know that when he’s done his shifts at Koodo, El Tabador moonlights as a monkey wrangler.

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Antique Children’s Book: The Epic Animal Cutes Conclusion

Here we go. The conclusion of Animal Cutes – and finally, some hope for our ugly friends.

antique-children-book-dog
Puppy DOG, with a wink and smile, Says – “I’ll be lots bigger after a while.”

Puppy knows. Like the sunflowers among which he frolics, his time in the sun will nourish him in health as he becomes an adult dog. He also knows he’s actually the love-child of a Mastiff and a St. Bernard, so he’s gonna be humongous. That’s when he’s gonna stick it to the man and overthrow the system.

antique-children-book-mouse
Sammy MOUSE, with greatest ease, Steals from mouse traps all the cheese.

Ah, the rodentian Robin Hood of his time! Sammy, with his dapper bow-tie and perfect mousie-finger placement, would be perfectly at home having tea with the Queen. He prefers, however, to outwit the powers that would see him die a grisly death in what appears to be a miniature leg-hold trap, and collect cheese for his woodland relatives. He is proficient at this job, with his dexterity and ingenuity, but more importantly, he gives hope to all the animals struggling against ankle-chains, baseball bookies, drug habits, and corporate control.

antique-childrens-book-chick
Animal Cutes: THE END.

The bittersweet ending has arrived. This sweet little chick – her name is actually Mabel – was born with some problems. Her mother died of henbane poisoning when Mabel was just beginning to hatch, and she barely survived. She was rescued from freezing by Cubby Bear who heard her cries – but she subsequently witnessed things at Cubtown to which no chick should be exposed.

Recently, however, things are looking up for her. She has made friends and joined a support group. She has started seeing a therapist, the battle-scarred but compassionate Polly Parrot. She takes great comfort in nature, as long as she’s wearing her earmuffs to soften the harsh sounds of the world. She will be okay, and maybe even have chicks of her own someday.

It’s not an easy life for Animal Cutes. I hope I’ve given you a little bit of insight into the challenges they face, so that if someday you meet one of these strangely-dressed, unlovely-but-lovable creatures, you will treat them with kindness.

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