Friday, June 24, 2011

Past Deadline: Get-Offa-My-Lawn!

The morning after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, Boychild asked who won.

“Boston,” I said, somewhat solemnly.

“Oh.” He had been rooting for Vancouver, but he didn’t appear heartbroken. Don’t tell anyone, but our family regards hockey with somewhat distant affection. It makes us a little odd, I guess. (Yes, we are all Canadian born.)

“And you know what?” I said, unable to contain my disgust. “After the game, a whole bunch of idiots came out and rioted in Vancouver.” I explained how they smashed windows and set fire to cars and that several people got hurt.

Boychild didn’t say much, but looked pensive. He didn’t have the benefit of watching the compelling coverage of the unfolding mayhem on the late news the night before.

Later that day, as I walked down Wilson Street to meet the kids after school, I noticed the landscapers had returned to replace some of the private cement walkways in front of a few homes. The forms were still in place and the cement still looked dark and wet. There were no workers in sight.

There is something about wet cement that triggers a primal urge, don’t you find? Doesn’t it make you want to draw pictures or carve your initials or leave your mark somehow? Well, that’s what I was thinking as I escorted a small throng of little boys and one Girlchild back along the same route, questioning the wisdom of leaving unattended cement along a school zone.

I stood at the end of one walkway as my entourage passed, with no mishaps to report. Right behind them were four older boys. I continued walking, casting a glance over my shoulder, and sure enough they had stopped right in the danger zone and looked as if they were about to leave a legacy behind.

“Hey!” I hollered, startling my troops. “Leave that alone!” And they did.

“Mom!” Boychild scolded. “What are you doing? You don’t even know those boys!”

“So?” I said. “They were about to damage someone’s property, and I wasn’t going to stand by and let them do it.” (Yes, I know. Next I’ll be standing on my front porch shrieking, “Hey-you-kids-get-offa-my-lawn!”)

“But you’re not the boss of them!” Boychild insisted.

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “When you see someone about to do something wrong, you should speak up.”

I don’t think the message really resonated until later that day when the stories about the riots were recapped on the 6 o’clock news. “Look,” I said to Boychild. “Come and see what these people did in Vancouver.”

He watched with rapt attention. “Those cars that are burning,” I said, “belong to people like us. What if someone had set our car on fire? That’s why you have to speak up when you see people doing bad things.”

I know. Carving your initials in cement is not the same in scope as torching a car, but teaching respect for other people’s property has to start somewhere. And, yes, I realize that not every person who has carved his or her initials in a sidewalk ends up looting and pillaging and committing arson.

It does seem to come back to respect: for people – their feelings and their authority – and for property – their own and other people’s; not to mention taking responsibility for one’s actions. It’s easy to blame “mob mentality” for what happened in Vancouver, I suppose, but that seems awfully convenient when we all have our very own brains to tell us when we’re doing something bad.

After watching the coverage and seeing the flames and the injuries and the craziness of it all, we all agreed that, yes, it was bad.

Maybe it was about hockey and maybe it wasn’t – it depends on who you ask. Whether it all comes out in the wash or not remains to be seen, but is sure is a nasty stain.

Boychild didn’t comment on the part of the coverage that showed a man yelling at looters to stop. They then swarmed him and starting beating him. I hate the thought of having to explain that sometimes the “hey-you-kids-get-offa-my-lawn” approach doesn’t always end well.

Ah, parenting. Not for the weak.

Published in The Perth Courier, June 23/11

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Past Deadline: Moments Turn to Years


Here I’ve gone and let it happen . I’ve let time slip away. I knew it was happening. I’m not good at living in the moment – I’m always jumping ahead to the next step. So as those moments slipped by, they turned around, waved, and said, “You’re going to regret those times you said, ‘I can’t right now because....’”

This thought occurred to me on Friday, several hours after attending our daughter’s graduation from Senior Kindergarten. Maybe some of this was magnified by the fact I also attended, the night before, the convocation ceremony for graduates of the Perth campus of Algonquin College (where I teach part time).

The graduations represent two ends of a spectrum. People who have been parents for a lot longer than I have say the time in between passes in a flash.

It sure does.

As you can imagine, Kindergarten graduation is a Really Big Deal. It requires the perfect dress, the perfect braids, a fruit tray and a minor shoe crisis moments before departure. One of the cool things Girlchild’s teacher does in the ceremony (she did it with Boychild’s class, too) is announce with each diploma what that student wants to be when he or she grows up. The answers are wide ranging – lots of ballet dancers and police officers and teachers and “just like Dads” and farmers.

Girlchild indicated she wants to be a doctor. This was quite a surprise to us. I certainly hope she stops licking doorknobs and gets really good at washing her hands before then. Or maybe she wants to be a doctor so she can go on a quest to kill the germs that did us in this year.

Incidentally, she has already changed her mind on this. Apparently she actually wants to be a nurse. Either way we figure she will be handy to have around. Perhaps she will be able to patch up her brother, who indicated in Kindergarten that he wanted to be a dirt bike racer. Boychild has since decided he doesn’t know what he wants to be, although computer game tester has been suggested.

That future seems so far away, but it also seems like only a few months ago that I was rocking babies to sleep and breathing in that indescribable newborn scent. I do think about this when I am walking with the kids to and from school and my youngest still lets me hold her hand.


I remember when the kids were babies how every stage had its pros and cons. There were always some really great things about newborns (e.g. they tend to be very portable), but also some not-so-fun stuff (e.g. they poo a lot and don’t often sleep through the night).

And then there’s the old saying about how we spend the first several years of our kids’ lives teaching them how to walk and talk, and then when they become teenagers we wish they would sit down and shut up.

Sometimes those fleeting moments of childhood go by so fast it’s hard to recognize them for what they are. Sometimes you’d rather not recognize them, such as when your five-year-old gets ornery and says she’s “not even going to love you on Mothers’ Day.”

I see it as a sign I am doing my job. Apparently I am the Meanest Mother Ever™ because, time and again, I put my foot down at bedtime, which leads to unrest. And by that I mean “turbulence” and “strife,” not “unrested children.” I could live with less turbulence and strife at bedtime, though.

So what has all this reflection taught me? Nothing. I have always known how important it is to live in the moment; to live every moment as if it were your last; to savour your children’s childhoods; to grab life by the horns and yadda yadda yadda. But it doesn’t always happen.

I could use a clone.

As Girlchild prepares to leave Kindergarten behind and move on to Grade 1, and as Boychild edges away from those primary years, one thing is for sure. Time just goes faster and faster.
Before I know it, someone will be asking for car keys.

Published in The Perth Courier, June 16/11

Past Deadline: Running Lessons Learned

Disclaimer: This column is about running, but is in no way, shape or form to be considered the be-all and end-all of advice on this topic. This is, I know, unusual, because my advice is generally taken as the gospel.


The Perth Kilt Run is edging closer. Gulp. I have a very complicated training program, which is basically this: run as much as you can before the big day so you don’t look like an idiot on July 2.

A friend of mine just completed a marathon, which I think is amazing because it requires so much commitment and training for months before the 42K race. I am not that person. I tend to avoid races, preferring to run in solitude (so fewer people can hear me gasping for breath). As admirable as it is, running a marathon is just not on my bucket list.

I am quite likely one of the world’s most amateurish runners. I have great shoes, but beyond that there isn’t much evidence of me having any sort of clue whatsoever about what I am doing.
I don’t seek professional advice. I stretch – but probably not correctly. I don’t know about the best fuels for pre- and post-run, although I did read something somewhere that said chocolate milk is good to drink after a run because it helps with recovery. It sounded good, so sometimes I do. After all, if it’s in print, it must be true. Like this here column (please see disclaimer above).

Other than the occasional advice about ornery muscles and working up to longer runs that I have received from the friend (and her husband) who got me started on this crazy running jag, I really am not knowledgeable on this subject. Sometimes I think I’m actually just a big faker.

I have, however, made a few poignant observations during this running journey of mine that I would like to share. Some of it is stark common sense that proves I am alive. As for the rest, well, remember that disclaimer (above).

Top 10 things I have learned about running:

1. If running at 7:30 p.m. fits best into your schedule, then make sure you finish eating supper at least one hour before or else be prepared to feel like death. It’s like the swimming rule.

2. Before a run, consider eating a smaller portion rather than enough for two hog-like people. Duh.

3. Avoid Chinese food before running. Seriously.

4. Although studies show a glass of red wine with supper can be good for you, it does not go super well with running. You probably shouldn’t drink and run. Hic.

5. Similarly, tanking up on coffee all day, when you know you might run that night, will suck all of the moisture out of your body. It will also make you feel jittery and death-ish.

6. Here’s a thought! On days you plan to run, drink more water in the afternoon and around suppertime! Hydration is good! Duh.

7. Once you have built up to a longer run (and for this runner that means anything more than 5K), try not to stop. It’s not that walking is for sissies; it’s that whole “a body in motion” thing. If you stop, even to sip water, it’s harder to go again.

8. Speaking of water, too much during a run can make you feel like death. The more this runner sips, the barfier she feels. Try to avoid the water unless you start to feel tingly. Tingly can mean thirsty.

9. Once you get to know how long it takes you, on average, to run a certain distance, try to avoid checking your watch. The “how much farther” mental game is a killer. Conjugate French verbs in your head instead. Or create plot lines for the Great Canadian Novel. Or try to remember Hamlet’s soliloquy. Whatever.

10. Don’t expect to lose weight by running. That was a funny joke when I started out. Hahaha.

Ah, the running journey. It is sometimes a painful one or merely uncomfortable (see Chinese food, above). It is also rewarding, though, and after two years of it I have almost decided that I even like it.

I’ll keep you posted on that.
Published June 9/11

Friday, June 10, 2011

Past Deadline: Stop Licking Doorknobs

Warning: this column is icky.

The winter and spring of 2008 was horrible. Boychild was in Senior Kindergarten and for some reason that year he seemed to pick up every germ going. We dealt with antibiotics, probiotics and every biotic you can think of. Strep throat and Barfies were the highlights. I was losing my mind.

After a reprieve of several years with just the standard fare of occasional ickies in the winter, 2011 – the year Girlchild is in Senior Kindergarten, coincidentally – has come along and totally kicked our butts.

I am losing my mind again.

I am starting to think that my children go to school and lick doorknobs. Or, possibly, I am just The Worst Mother Ever. Whatever the reason, this year has left me with a pretty major complex about keeping my children healthy.

The kids have had so many germs this winter and spring that I have completely lost track of what has come and gone through this house. Groom-boy and I have been relatively unscathed, fortunately, unless you count the stress of trying to figure out who will look after sick kids whilst we are working.

I think we both had the Thing With the Cough, though. That was a fun one. It was one of the ailments that afflicted our short people early in the season. It started out innocently enough – as a cold – but it came with a cough that never seemed to go away. For weeks there was coughing. It sounded like a TB ward – not that I know firsthand what that sounds like.

That was the ailment that got shared with the grown-ups. After all, when one coughs for weeks and weeks, one starts to get lazy and forgets to cough into one’s elbow, thus spreading the Joy throughout the abode.

The Thing With The Cough was tricky, too, because for some people it turned into such nasties as pneumonia or bronchitis. Just ask Nanny. Coincidentally, she got saddled with looking after certain afflicted short people by times. Poor Nanny.

The rest of the horrible winter featured an array of ailments, such as The Thing With The Fever, the Barfies, The Sore Tummy Thing Sans Barfies and, most recently, The Thing With a Fever that Makes You Tired with a Sore Throat. Oh, and I musn’t forget pink eye. Three times for Girlchild and once for Boychild.

“Stop licking doorknobs!” we screeched while doling out vitamins. “Don’t rub your eyes!” we’d shout. “Wash your hands!” we beseeched. “Go to sleep so you can get rid of these things,” we hollered (keeping the swear words carefully in our heads).

My children will never receive a perfect attendance award at school. Not only that, but they couldn’t even coordinate things so they were both off at the same time – they always tag teamed the bugs. Just to keep it interesting, they brought home a wide variety of new and different germs.

Last week was particularly fun. As May steamrolls into June, one would think we’d be past the point of all these stupid germs. I suppose, though, when it is almost constantly raining (or at least seems so), that keeps people inside more than usual in the spring, which gives them ample opportunity to lick doorknobs.

I lived in fear as I heard tales of the latest afflictions circulating around schools and dance classes. There seemed to be a Thing With A Fever that Makes You Tired on the move simultaneously with another round of the incorrigible Barfies.

“Surely we have had those things already,” I thought. “Surely we are already immune to these stupid germs.”

Sure enough, though, Girlchild was felled by The Thing With a Fever that Makes You Tired with a Sore Throat thrown in. And it was the week of her dance recital – the culmination of a year of classes.


I kept her home for the first performance, but she recovered in time for the second. Meanwhile other little dancers were succumbing to the Barfies.

Horrible season, please end!

On the weekend I sprayed the entire house, its contents and the children with Lysol™ and covered them with plastic wrap. The bubble will be installed over the house this week.

Okay. Not really. But I thought about it.
Published in The Perth Courier, June 2/11