Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Acidic Tax Trip

I'm afraid the only person who may find this post funny is me, but I'm writing it because Heather commented on my previous post, which featured the Storm Cloud Girl graphic. She wondered whether I drew it myself and, alas, I cannot take credit. Say what you will about Microsoft, but it does have some pretty compelling clipart!

Storm Cloud Girl (my term, not Microsoft's) reminds me a little of some images I found for one of my various gigs. I was hired in the spring by a municipality to produce a brochure to be distributed to all ratepayers outlining their tax dollars at work. Let me tell you, doing a tax brochure is, well, um, let's just say it was daunting for me. In my communications career I have been asked to explain a lot of things. As a reporter I covered municipal councils and had to write about budgets and taxes routinely. Always, though, I approached this topic with a degree of trepidation. I don't find it easy.

Fortunately, the mayor and some of his staff had a vision for what they wanted to see in the brochure, and so it was relatively easy for me to follow through. They wanted simple graphics included that would help to explain this vision.

So I found a bunch of clip art with a theme. Stuff like this

and this

and this.

When I met with the mayor, who I have worked with before, to review my first draft, he slowly circled a couple of my funky arrow guys, honing in on the bulging eyeball, and said, "Um, were you on acid when you did this?"

Of course you had to be there, and you have to know that I am unlikely to ever do acid, but the context of that question in relation to a tax brochure AND that clip art had me snorting with laughter. Even today, when I'm perusing clip art and encounter this one-bulging-eyeball theme Microsoft has going on, I can't help but giggle.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Creeping Uglies

If someone were to take a picture of me today (heaven forbid), I think there would be a little cloud over my head and my own personal storm. I have no idea why.

The day has gone reasonably well. I've had no less sleep than usual (which isn't to say I got a lot of sleep, of course). Maybe it's because I'm slowly cutting back on coffee - eliminating that silly afternoon cup that had snuck back into my routine after a 10-year absence.

For whatever reason, late this afternoon the Creeping Uglies(TM) came over to hang out. All this means is that I am not as well equipped to handle the Suppertime Nasties(TM) - you know, when everyone is crabby and hungry - with my usual grace, charm and wit. HA! I use the word "handle" loosely, of course.

Things that usually don't bother me much are suddenly quite annoying, such as:

* Boychild's 20 questions about something inane

* Boychild's habit of not actually looking for something before assuming I, through some sort of telepathy, know where he dropped it ("It's at your feet, Boy!")

* Girlchild squirming all over me while I try to help Boychild with his homework

* Girlchild shouting "Mine!" in that special two-year-old way

It's all the usual stuff and it comes with a routine set of responses (some good, some not so good), but without that usual stock of patience I am just at a loss. Sigh. I betcha it has to do with the coffee.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oh, the Screaming!

Over the last few days, Girlchild has started another new thing. Think "banshee," "screaming demon," "blood-curdling shriek" and "tortuous screams" and you'll get the idea.

For whatever reason a two-year-old might have, she has decided it is just fine to wait a short time after going down for a nap or off to bed, lulling her parents into a false sense of security, and then she starts to scream as if someone is poking her with hot irons or shoving bamboo under her fingernails.

Naturally, the first few times this happened, Daddy or I made the grave error of "rushing in" to see what was wrong. As soon as I entered her room, she stopped shrieking and said, very happily, "Hello, Mommy! Want juice!" Yes, these dramatic episodes generally end with some sort of simple request, like a drink, a snuggle or more music.


It didn't take us overly long to realize she had a New Great Game and that this horrible, horrible sound brought Mommy and/or Daddy in on the run. So we stopped running and started setting the timer for five-minutes-that-seemed-liked-45-minutes before going into her room, patting her on the head and saying, "There there. You go to sleep now, dear. Nighty night." This is sooooo hard to do at 3 in the morning when you just KNOW it is going to wake up Boychild, too. It makes for a long day.

Ever looking for the silver lining in things, I'll say this: 1. At least at this time of year the windows are closed, otherwise the neighbours would be calling the police to investigate whatever it is that is causing someone to scream like she's being sawed in half. I tell you, it would wake the neighbourhood in the summer. 2. This whole horrible, horrible phase may be short lived. The frequency was down today. We can always hope it will be over soon because anything that involves demon-like shrieking is just not good.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Octopus

Girlchild has reached a new milestone.

I'm not sure when it happened, but she seems to have grown an inch or so taller almost overnight, which means she can now access a number of areas that were previously unreachable. Hurray.

She likes this new-found height so much that she is constantly seeking ways to enhance it. She will stand on almost anything - toys, cushions, packages of toilet paper, piles of junk - to get those extra inches and to be able to see a whole new world that was previously not there for her.

Not only that, her Octopus gene seems to have kicked in. So she's naturally taller, she's artificially taller and she has suddenly grown what seems to be six new arms that are constantly unfurling and creeping and reaching around to explore.

This means it is time to retrain the grown-ups. No longer can we get away with hiding the chocolate at the back of the counter because, darn it, she either sees it or she feels around for it. She's onto us! This also raises innumerable safety issues. Knives can no longer be left simply back from the edge of the counter when taking a break from chopping things - they actually have to be removed. We're into that whole new stage of childproofing - it's time for our feeble brains to kick into the mode.

This milestone came into play this morning in an unexpected (although I should have known) way. I was helping Boychild with something in another room. I could hear Girlchild - I knew she was taking things out of her toy box. What I didn't realize until I walked back into the other room about five minutes later was that she was taking these toys - be they soft plush puppets or Made-in-China battery-operated plastic doodads - and reaching a way up high so she could drop them over the lip of the aquarium that houses our red-eared slider - Myrtle the Turtle. By the time I got there, about two dozen toys had been dropped into Myrtle's somewhat-less-than-pristine water. In fact, it took me a moment before I could actually SEE Myrtle amid Dora the Explorer doll, a pink key chain, a few Mega Blocks, a toy van, some Mr. Potato Head pieces, two electronic shape and number games, a toy cell phone, etc.

It was definitely a unique experience for Myrtle. At most she has been joined by a single toy before some alarmed adult has swooped down to prevent further drama. She seemed, in her turtley way, to be somewhat bemused by the whole thing. Mommy, however, was not so thrilled. It meant unscheduled laundry and toy washing for me, not to mention reconfiguring the opening of Myrtle's tank to prevent further toy-dropping exercises. Seems to me I remember doing this with Boychild, too. I wish I had remembered earlier....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Red or Pink?

I lost the snowsuit battle.

We have what I think is a perfectly good snowsuit for the little princess on the block. It's a boy's snowsuit, a hand-me-down from a friend, but it has a snazzy red coat with navy blue pants. Girlchild, in all her blondness and blue-eyedness, looks quite lovely in red. She is quite compelling in navy blue, for that matter. Her pink hat clashes a bit with the red, but oh well.

Daddy, however, is a big goof for his daughter. I can see the princess being handed the keys to the shiny new convertible at 16 while the rest of us loll about eating scraps of stale bread and wearing burlap sacks. He, I'm sure, would slay dragons and cross bridges of broken glass and rusty nails over a river of fire for her. Daddy is ga ga for his girl.

As you can well imagine, a boy's snowsuit simply would not do. No sir.

I am heartless, so I resisted. All that meant was that Daddy went on his own little shopping trip, traipsing all over town, all over a nearby town, all over another nearby town and then to the city to find a snowsuit. (I'm exaggerating a little, but just a little.)

First he came back with a coral-coloured one-piece jobby. It was nice enough, but he had already rejected it on the way home because he thought a two-piece would be better. I agreed and used the opportunity to, for the eleventy-thousandths time, promote the fact we should save our hard-earned cash for the convertible - or college - rather than spending it on a snowsuit when we already have a perfectly good one.

"She's two," I said. "She's not even in school. There is no fashion show." I'm sure she'd love a fashion show if one came along.

I thought maybe I had won. He returned to the city, allegedly to get a refund, but returned with two more snowsuits.


One was a fairly hideous gaudy pink. It was ruled out almost immediately for being obnoxious and shouty. The second one was calmer. It has a white coat covered with pink flowers and is paired with gleaming white snowpants.

White. On a two-year-old who hangs out with boys who like to play in dirt. And it now lives here.

Man, do I ever hope it snows a lot this winter or I'm going to be doing a LOT of laundry. Of course navy blue snowpants would like fine with white and pink, right?

I guess I better decide which I prefer - laundry or shovelling? Or perhaps Daddy will be doing the laundry more often. Hm....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Costume Chronicles

A few entries ago I mentioned how I wasn't sure whether Girlchild would be amenable to wearing her fairy princess costume for Halloween.

As it turned out, she very nearly went trick or treating as "typical two-year-old girl."

After school that day, Boychild and his two buddies were at our house. They had worn their costumes at school, so their Mom and I had them dress up for a photo when she came to collect them at suppertime and begin The Great Halloween Evening Rush that takes place every year. For the photo, we wanted to include Girlchild. Would she even look at her fairy princess costume? Absolutely not. She did, however, agree to wear the Dalmatian puppy costume that has been kicking around the house since Boychild wore it a few years ago. So we have a grand photo of Black Spider-Man, Red Power Ranger, a Transformer and a Dalmatian Puppy.

After supper, when the time came to don costumes for trick or treating, we once again faced battle. I had already decided to promote the puppy costume over the fairy princess based on the earlier events:
1. She wore it fairly willingly.
2. I would not have to worry about adding layers under the dress to keep her warm.
3. I would not have to force her into tights, which she doesn't like on the best of days. (Smart girl. I loathe pantyhose.)
4. I could throw the puppy on over whatever she was already wearing and she would be warm enough.

It was looking for a while as if no costume would be worn, although she was eager to go outside with Black Spider-Man and start trick or treating. Ultimately I did what any good mother would do: I put my own selfish desires above hers and stuffed her, kicking and screaming (for her own good, by gum) into the puppy costume. As I had suspected, once we got going outside, she was absolutely fine. As soon as she saw all the other costumes, including a large number of princesses, she was very into Halloween. She and her brother had a fabulous time.

We now have enough get-ups lying around here to open a small children's costume store. When the buddies come over, it is not uncommon to see the place crawling with superheroes because they bring their costumes, too. Since Halloween, Girlchild has discovered Boychild's old Spider-Man costume (the non-evil one). It's too small for him and miles big for her, but she gamely puts it on and runs around with the other superheroes, wearing the mask like a hat with the eyes facing the wrong way. That Spidey has eyes in the back of her head. We've been calling her Spider-Girl.

She still won't wear the fairy princess dress, but she has worn the wings a couple of times. She's practical, you know. Flying is the important part - who needs to look like a princess when you have big blue eyes, lots of blond curls and pink wings?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What is the world coming to?

How can the "date-rape drug" be in toys for children? What are manufacturers doing - just throwing together any old toxic waste that sticks together and using it to make children's toys? The lead paint was one thing, but the date-rape drug? I really can't believe it. Honest to Pete!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Foreign Language

My daughter is bilingual. I'm not sure what her second language is, but it's quite lovely. She's two, so everything she has to say is imbued with great importance. Generally, she speaks quite well. There are times, however....

She's on an "Old McDonald" kick right now. Every book she has that contains pictures of animals is miraculously transformed into an "Old McDonald" tale. He is one busy and diversified farmer, let me tell you. He has the usual sheep, cows, pigs and horses on his farm, along with snakes, bees, hippos, rhinos, zebras, lions, tigers...and what the heck sound does a giraffe make, anyway? As far as I'm concerned, a lot of Old McDonald's menagerie grunt and snort. Works for me; works for her.

Tonight she wanted to read "
Time for Bed" by Mem Fox. I like that book. It's nice for bedtime. Alas, since she asked for "Old McDonald" when she picked it out, that's what I started to sing. We got hung up on the first page, though - the mouse part. Here's the conversation, more or less:

Me: "Old McDonald had a farm..."

Her: "Onna mousey!"
Me: "Eeyieeyi...."
Her: "Onna murble lagella buna gallalla mousey erbollum."
Me: Pause. "And on his farm...."
Her: "I wanna gerbon lallo murble mallow mousey."
Me: Longer pause. "Ooh! You want it this way? 'It's time to sleep, little mouse, little mouse. Darkness is falling all over the house.'"

She snuggles against me, milk in one hand, thumb in mouth, blankie over us. I'm not sure what exactly she was saying ("No, Mommy" probably would have been as effective), but eventually the message gets through my thick time-change fog. Have I mentioned how I loathe the time change?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Rise and Shine

Oh, how I loathe the time change.

When most of the rest of the continent is prattling on about how lovely it is to gain an hour of sleep in the fall, I navigate the morning after in a coma. I imagine there are millions of other parents in the same boat, who have kids with an uncanny internal clock set to the same time every morning.

Boychild's is set for 7:02. No alarm is needed for him. It is a rare rare thing to ever have to wake him up to get somewhere. It usually doesn't matter how late he is up at night, either. The next day starts, almost without exception, at roughly 7:02.

So for those of us living with creatures who do not need an alarm clock in the morning, the day starts at the same time, no matter what the clock says. As a result, Boychild was looking to get up at 6:02 today. Yay. If only I were a morning person. This morning has felt like it has been going on for about 100 hours and it's not getting any better.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The I Wants

As the day wears down so, too, do one's nerves. This is me having a turn at whining.

Today started out not bad considering Girlchild decided to wake up and sing "Old McDonald" for over an hour in the middle of the night. Nanny arrived and was here so Mommy could do some work, then Mommy took Girlchild for her checkup at the doctor's, where she was well behaved and giggly and all went well. In the afternoon she napped well and Boychild visited the other grandparents, which meant Mommy had some more time to work. I actually crossed some tasks off a list, which is always lovely lovely lovely. Suppertime was the usual hell, so there was nothing unexpected there, but for half an hour before that and for the rest of the evening it seemed everyone under four-feet tall felt compelled to be whiney.

When the children are whiney, my name gets overused. Every sentence begins with "Mom" and contains the words "I want." A request is usually made every 13.2 seconds.

"Mom! I want Goldfish."
"Mom! I want a banana."
"Mom! I want you to change the channel."

"Mom! I want toothbrush!"
"Mom! I want Old McDonald!"
"Mom! I no want dis."
"Mom! I want blankie!"
"Mom! I want walk."
"Mom! I want a shower."
"Mom! I want a bath instead."

It doesn't really matter what they are asking for, it's the repetition and the tone of voice and the general lack of "please" that I find so very grating. I hate ending the day feeling that way - glad they've gone to bed so I don't have to hear "Mom!" anymore. And yet, I bet there are a million women out there who would give anything to hear a child call their name - even a whiney one. I wish I could remember that every time I raise my voice or feel my last nerve fray or respond with a harsh "What!?" or stifle a bad word or two.

Sigh. Perhaps a bowl of chocolate would help.