2 surprises

1. I, for some reason, know all the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody.

2. Alice loves it.

The Right Pooh

Henry and I were the first up this morning. We chatted quietly as we set the breakfast table together. Every now and again, he would cough a tiny cough. After the fifth or sixth cough, I started to worry a bit.

Me: What's that? You keep coughing.

Henry: It's just a biscuit cough, Dad. Not one to tell about.

Which, is almost a direct quote from A.A. Milne. Which made me very very very happy. Especially after the cough went away.

*hint hint*

If a certain prime minister were really wondering what he should get me for Christmas, might I remind him of a few vacancies in his senate.

I'd be a great senator. People would talk.

"Damn," they'd say. "Great senator."

And I'd be like, "Come on. Great?"

People love humility.

A hazy memory

I've been struck down with a fantastic combination of stomach flu and a sore throat, which, at a loss for something clever to say, sucks.

During the worst of it, Erin managed to restrict the chaos of our house to the first floor, which left me time and space to sleep/moan upstairs. I have a vague memory of a mid-afternoon visit by Henry and Jane.

Henry snuck into my room, his stuffed dog Walk Walk held before him. He tip-toed his way towards me, placed the dog gently beside me, and whispered, "I'm not supposed to say anything. I'm being very quiet."

"Thx, bddy," I moaned.

Jane, two steps behind him, approached with her stuffed dog, Blue Puppy. She tip-toed her way towards me, placed the dog gently beside me, stood back, and smiled. Her head cocked to one side, her smile slowly melted to a look of concern.

She picked up the dog. "Mine," she whispered, and walked out of the room.

Overheard: Their mouths, my words

"Listen here, buddy boy..." - Jane, to Henry.

"I see two problems." -Henry, to Jane as she tried for the third time to fix a toppled block tower.

"Jane is what you call a Jerk." -Henry, to me. Let it be clear, I would never call either of my kids a jerk, even if they're being one. But the first part of the sentence is classic me.

I bet you can't.

I arrived home from work today to find Henry and Jane marching around the house, blowing whistles and banging drums. They both wore cowboy hats with paper signs stapled to the fronts. They read:

"DADDY'S WELCOME HOME WEEKEND PARADE!"

Top that.

A feat of feet

Henry is a cougher. Any type of cold he gets eventually migrates to his chest. It keeps him up; it keeps me up. I happened to mention this to a neighbour, who recommended I slather his feet with Vicks Vaporup. "It sounds crazy, but it works."

It did sound crazy. I smiled and said it sounded interesting.

Henry started coughing again last night just after supper. I gave him a bit of cough medicine before bed. The poor boy coughed himself into a tizzy in the first hour of the night. Suddenly, the Vicks On The Feet Thing didn't seem so crazy.

I crept into his room, quietly told him I was putting medicine on his feet, and slathered them up.

It worked. I mean, it really, really worked.

I'm as skeptical as the next guy, but oh man. Next time he has a cough, I'm doing it again. Only next time, I'll put a pair of socks on him. His sheets are a mess today (sort of Shroud of Turiny, but more feety).

Operation Mole

When the kids write their annual letters to Santa, besides the customary pleasantries and inquiries about Rudolph's health, we ask them to list two things they want for Christmas. Then, we try to give them just one of those things. I believe the lesson has something to do with learning you can't always get what you want. (but if you try sometimes...)

For Henry, weeding the list down to just two items is a matter of great stress. After many weeks of whining, looking for legal loopholes, and - frankly - questioning the authenticity of such an unjust elf, he managed to select: 1. Lego (which he recently discovered at his grandma's house); and 2. "some Thomas trains" (note the plural "trains" - that's his attempt at squeezing through a Santa loophole).

And then there's Jane. Dear, sweet Jane.

Erin: Jane, I'm writing the letter to Santa. Have you decided what you want to ask for?

Jane: Mmmm. (thinking) A mole.

Erin: Um.. a mole?

Jane: (ignores her, keeps playing)

Erin: Ok. (writing) "Jane would like a mole "... What else would you like?

Jane: (ignores her, keeps playing)
Erin: Jane?
Jane: (ignores her, keeps playing)
Me: Janey.. you've got to answer Mummy. We're sending the letter to Santa tomorrow.
Jane: (ignores me, keeps playing)
Erin/Me: Jane!
Jane throws down her toy, levels a powerful pair of eyes at us, and furrows her brow.
Jane: I. WANT. A. MOLE.
And now Erin must learn in about three weeks how to sew a stuffed mole... and make it look an life elven handcraft.

Barber cuts to the quick

Henry and I walked the other day past our new barber's shop.

Henry: Hey! That's Alphie's!

Me: Hey, you're right! I wonder if he's in today.

Suddenly, Alphie pops out of the shop, waving a hat of Jane's.

Alphie: Your little girl left this when you were here last week.

Me: Thanks, Alphie! Y'know, we didn't even miss it.

Alphie: Well, that's prosperity for you.

Whither paternity leave?

It's over. 12 weeks have passed. I am back at work.

I am.

Back.

At work.

While I sort through more than 300 e-mails, Henry and Jane paint the paper mâché model of the solar system we made this weekend.

Remind me again what is important.

Dear Nice-Smelling One: a letter of longing from my cat to my wife

This is a letter we found sitting on the kitchen table when we returned home from our trip.  It smelled vaguely of tuna and Brut.

Dear Nice-Smelling One,

You are not here.  It took me 3 or 4 nights to realize this.  I try not to concern myself terribly with the affairs of the bipeds.  But eventually, you absence became obvious.   Your bed stopped smelling like you.  Distantly, the smell was still there, but it was fading.  I peed and pooped there in order to fill the scent void.

After the realization of the bed scent, I started paying closer attention.  I noticed it was quiet.  No screaming or anything.  Also, I had not been chased in many days. 

I've dreamed of the bipeds leaving before.  Mostly, I think about the Tall, Dumb-Looking One and The Small Ones Who Make Too Much Noise leaving.  In my dreams, you stay.  As I say, you smell nice.  And you scoop my litter promptly.

I pooped on the small ones' beds too.

Somewhere around Day Six I realized that Someone had been filling my food bowl.  Then, I noticed a strange biped coming in and out, opening windows, turning on lights, filling my bowl.  He smelled Very Bad and dressed in trailer park fur.  When he came, I hid for many hours, despite his calling of "Kitty kitty kitty..."

If you do return, I have prepared a feast to welcome you home: a big, juicy mouse awaits you on your bed (beside the pee and poo).

Yours in Fur,
Joan the Cat



What's not to love?

We're in Leamington this week, visiting our family. We arrived here by way of a 30-hour train ride. I'm sure I'll have more to write about that later.

Today, I pushed Jane on the swings at a park near Erin's folk's place. A neighbour of theirs, who happens to be one of my high-school teachers, stopped by for a chat. He left Jane very curious.

Jane: Who that man, Daddy?

Me: That's the man who taught me math in school.

Jane: Where that man going?

Me:
I think he's walking home.

Jane: Where that man's house?

Me:
Right across the street from Grandma and Grandpa's.

(pause)

Jane: I love him.

To boldly go

Erin sat at the computer nursing the baby while Joan (our useless cat) and I hunted for a mouse. It had just run from under the couch to the bookshelf in the corner.

Me: I think we've got 'im, Joan.

Joan: (lays down, starts purring)

I flushed the mouse out of the corner. It ran for the first dark space it saw.

Erin: Where is it?

Me: (dancing, kicking) UP MY PANT LEG!

An editing conversation

As I finished writing my last post, I asked Erin a grammar/spelling question.

Me: 'Driveway.' One word or two?

Erin: One. But just say 'dooryard.' You're writing for a mostly Maritime audience.

Yet another item for Henry's Christmas list

Jane loves to play with a small, plastic elephant named 'Hoompra'. She carries him around, hangs him on low-hanging branches by his curly trunk, and, occasionally, takes him for walks. For the latter, she ties a string to his trunk and slowly pulls him along the sidewalk. He has no wheels, so he jiggle/slides in a way that almost makes him look as if he was actually walking.

A few weeks back, Jane towed Hoompra up our driveway, which we share with our next-door neighbours. They walked out of their back door just in time to see Hoompra's string fall off.

At about this time, Henry popped out the front door. He walked to the edge of the porch and looked up the driveway. He saw Roy (our neighbour) re-attach Hoompra's string and give him back to Jane, who proceeded to pull him the rest of the way up the driveway. Henry was aghast.

Henry: What about me?

Erin: What? What do you mean?

Henry: I want one!

Erin: 'Want one' what?

Henry: A pet rat! Roy just gave Jane a pet rat on a leash! Where's mine?

I'm a horrible parent (part two)

The day was winding down, and 4/5ths of our household was upstairs getting ready for bed. Jane, who is developing a bit of a stubborn streak, was downstairs playing. I stood at the top of the stairs trying to coax her up.

Me: Janey, time for PJs.

Jane: (muted because she's on the other side of the house) No.

Me: Come on, Janer. It's PJ time.

Jane: No. Playing.

Me: Play time is over, Sweety. Come on up.

Jane: No want to, Daddy. No like PJs.

(Here's where I briefly divert to remind you of Jane's fear which has recently evolved about ghosts. At least once a day, she runs into the room we're in and yells, "Ghost! Ghost!" )

Me: (sounding frustrated and tired) Jane, I'm not asking you again. Please come upstairs and get your PJs on.

Jane: No, Daddy. No, Daddy! NO, DADDY!

(a brief pause)

Me: Ghost.

(Insert here the pitter-patter sound of terrified feed on hardwood, followed by hugging and reassurance)

I'm a horrible parent (part one)

It was a beautiful afternoon. The sun shone. Erin sat beside me on the front porch, a pot of tea between us. The baby lay blissfully sleeping on Erin's lap. Henry pedaled his bike up and down the sidewalk. And Jane, sweet Jane, ran laps around the peony bushes.

Jane's giggling reached a crescendo as she careened from one of the bushes toward where I sat on the porch. I was so happy in the moment, so joyfully anticipating the hug she would inevitably wrap around my neck. I decided to cheer her on.

Me: Run, Jane! Run!

Those words instantly changed the look on her face from one of pure bliss, to one of pure terror... because, clearly, I had just shouted a warning that someone was chasing her with a gun.

The poor girl tripped over herself to try to climb the stairs to safety. Tripping over her own feet and wild, screaming tears.

(Insert hugging and reassurance here.)

Overheard at the park

We live near a beautiful park which is a favourite spot for wedding photos.  We've seen as many as 4 wedding parties there at one time. 

Here's an exchange we overheard yesterday between a particularly screechy-voiced bride and her mum.

Screechy Bride:
  WHO'S GOT THE CIGARETTES?

Mum:  (looking around, feeling embarrassed)  Uh, you don't need a cigarette, Dear.

Screechy Bride:
  FRIG OFF, MA.  YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT I NEED.

Perfect Grief

One day, when Henry was just under two-years old, someone gave him a yellow balloon. Despite the pains I took to tie it securely to his wrist, the inevitable happened.

I remember it was a perfect day: not a cloud in the sky, and just a tiny puff of wind. We watched the thing fly away for probably 10 minutes. If it hadn't been so sad, it would have been kinda cool to watch.

There it was -- right there -- floating along. No amount of wishing or crying would bring it back. I decided Henry was experiencing Perfect Grief.

Today, we took the kids to a beautiful park on the other side of the river. We hiked, played hide-and-seek, and skipped stones on the beach. It wasn't until we were back in the car that Jane asked where her turtle was.

Me: Uh...

Erin: Um...

Jane: Turtle, please!

Me: Uh...

Erin: Um....

It was just a tiny, plastic turtle someone gave her a few days ago. She normally doesn't attach to toys, but she had just spent the whole day carrying it around.

She cried the whole way home, and then again when we were home. She had many variations of "I left turtle on beach!", each one more heart breaking than the last.

Little does she know, tonight after she goes to sleep, Erin is going to sew her a small, stuffed replacement. I hope when she wakes up to her new friend, she feels a little better.

Alfie: my new barber

We've walked passed a barber shop on our way to and from the library a zillion (literally, a zillion) times. One day, while Erin and the kids picked out books, I decided to pop in for a trim.

A white-haired, friendly-faced man sat alone on the barber chair in the middle of the shop. He had a black cape around his neck, trimmed by a neat little paper collar. He held a mirror in one hand and electric clippers in the other.

Clippers: Zzzt.

Man: Damn.

Clippers: Zzzt.

Man: Damn.

Clippers: Zzt.

Man: Damn. You have any idea how hard it is to cut your own hair?

Me: About that hard?

Man: Yer right. My name's Alphie. I'll be with you in a minute.

After Alfie finished trimming his own hair, he stepped down and offered me the chair. I sat down and took a look around the room.

A red, vinyl-covered day bed sat in the corner. Posters of old ship wrecks and classic cars covered the walls. Then I spotted a photo that had been clipped from the paper several years ago. It was Alphie standing over a man whose face was covered in shaving foam; Alphie frozen in mid-stroke with a straight razor in his hand.

I love a shave. I used to go to an old, stubby-fingered barber in Windsor who shouted in Italian at a fuzzy TV screen while his razor cleaned my face smooth as Alice's bottom.

Me: Do you still do straight razor shaves, Alphie?

Alphie: I wish. It's the one thing I gave up after I had my stroke.

Me: Oh, that's too bad. When was that?

Alphie: Oh, about six months ago.

He then turned to the work at hand: my head.

Clippers: Zzzt

Alphie: Damn.

Special Surprise

In the tomato fields of my youth (I'm trademarking that phrase), there was a phenomenon I feared more than any other: the Special Surprise.

I believe my brother coined the phrase. You're walking, stooped over, up and down the rows of tomatoes. You're trying to navigate the waist-high weeds, all the while searching for tomatoes to add to your basket.

The perfect tomato is one that has just begun its journey to ripeness: not so green that it will never ripen, but not so ripe that it will spoil before it hits the market stands. Not that we ignored the ripe ones. Heck no. My dad kept a salt shaker in his shirt pocket for just such tomatoes. We ate them on the spot, like apples.

Every now and again, you'd see a ripe, perky tomato still clinging to the vine. You'd truly believe you'd found the reward for all your sweaty hard work. You'd reach down to grasp that ripe fruit, only to have your thumb go through the rotten part hiding on the far side.

It was drippy. It was sticky. It was the Special Surprise.

I changed a diaper like that today.

Mouse!

Ah, Fall.

Erin sat on the couch last night, feeding little Al. Our two big kids lay asleep in their beds and the house had settled into a beautiful calm. Joan, our cat, hopped up on the couch beside Erin.

"Hello, Joan." said Erin. She then noticed the ass end (including still-wriggling tail) of a mouse sticking out of Joan's mouth.

"Ew! Ew.ew.ew.ew.ew.ew.ew.ew!" she cried, leaping from the seat with the baby still attached.

I chased the cat up the stairs to try and get the mouse from her. I knew that if I left Joan alone, she'd play with the thing for hours and then triumphantly deliver its corpse to Erin.

I found Joan in our spare room. She had just released the mouse (for sport), and it had escaped behind a shelf. I moved the shelf. Joan caught the mouse again and ran out of the room. I was hoping she wouldn't take it into the kids' room. She did not. After a silly, silent television-style chase, I managed to get the mouse trapped under a garbage bucket.

It was still alive. For all its time in my cat's mouth, that mouse faired pretty well. I let it go outside, confident it wouldn't return to do battle with Joan again.

PS: Did I ever tell you we call all mice in our house "Pete Daitch"? As in, "Did I tell you Joan caught Pete Daitch again last night?" I was trying to remember why, when I remembered that Erin had once made a delicious batch of peach/date muffins. They were so good, I mixed up my consonants.

Me: These pete daitch muffins are awesome.

Erin: Thanks. Who is Pete Daitch?

Me: Ummm.... that mouse Joan caught last night. Silly fellow, really.

Ok. She's a real baby.

Al turned two weeks old just after midnight.  She woke up at that exact moment and decided she wanted a birthday party.  So much for our illusion of a miraculous sleeping baby.


Scary/Cute

About a week ago, Jane ran into the kitchen with a look of terror on her face.

"Ghost! Ghost!"

She had run from a room where she was completely alone. It was broad daylight. Still, it kinda creeped me out.

Because we responded so enthusiastically the first time, she now does it about three times a day. Usually, she has a smile on her face. But every now again, her fear is quite genuine.

The spookiest/cutest ever was the other day. She ran in yelling, "Baby ghost! Baby ghost!"

I ain't changing its diaper.

Pampered

We have been very well taken care of since Al's birth by our friends and neighbours. Mostly in the food department (though, the lawn mowing department ain't too shabby).

We have had so much food dropped off that Al was eight days old before I had to wonder what to make for supper.

I mentioned this fact to a friend who was dropping off dinner for the second time.

Friend: Say what you will about Cape Bretoners, but we keep you fed.

Updated: Nachips Butt Soap

*see end of post for update

Henry and I were halfway through our grocery trip when I found the most peculiar item on our shopping list: Nachips Butt Soap.

"Is Nachips a brand of butt soap?" thought I. "Does Erin use butt soap? Is there such a thing as butt soap?"

Following Erin's shopping lists is an adventure at the best of times. She's fond of creative short forms. I remember one time spending several minutes staring at the word bloobs. Did you figure out she meant blueberries? I did, only after noticing their proximity on the list to strawbs.

Here's your assignment: Leave your interpretation of Nachips Butt Soap in the comments. Extra points if you can come up with a good marketing slogan (ex. "Mr Nachips, you make GOOD butt soap").

Update: It was actually two items written serendipitously close to each other. Nachips, as many guessed, was nacho chips. Butt Soap was soap to scrub Al's cloth diapers with. I actually cracked the code in the middle of the produce aisle.

We made a POPCORN CANNON!

That's right. You read correctly.

While Henry and Jane munched on their snack of apple slices and popcorn, my mind turned to an engineering problem: how to get this crunchy, salty corn airborne.

I made a paper cone just big enough to hold one piece of popcorn. I taped it to the air spout of Henry's Super Slammer (a toy that shoots an airplane across the room when you pound on a small plastic bellows).

Voila. A Popcorn Cannon.

We took turns firing popcorn into each other's mouths for nearly an hour. Imagine the giggling.

Then, the inevitable cleanup of the floor ('cause we missed..... a lot).

Can I stay on paternity leave for the rest of my life?

That would be nice. Thank-you.

1 week down, 11 to go.

Hormones can be fun! (not really)

*I have full permission to tell this story.

I walked upstairs the other morning to find Erin hanging up the phone from a longish call. She was weeping.

Me: What's wrong?

Her: (sob) It's nothing. (sob)

Me: Come on.. who were you talking to?

Her: The lady at the (sob) health department.

Me: Oh.. did she give you a hard time over the health card number?

I should interject to say we had a home birth with a midwife in a province that is only now in the early stages of recognizing midwifery. We've had to do things like getting a health card, birth certificate, etc ourselves.

Her: No. (sob) She gave it to me.

Me: Then, what's wrong?

Her: (blows nose) It's just... she was so nice!! (sob)

Jane's new reality

I was upstairs in the bedroom, changing Alice's wee, infant diaper. I wasn't doing it fast enough (apparently), so she started crying at me. You know: that tiny, tin-can cry that newborns have.

I didn't realize Jane had followed us up and was standing behind me. She was not happy with the sounds our until-recently silent baby was making.

Jane: Loud! Loud!

words words and one photo


I know I once promised to only provide words on this blog, but when you have kids this cute, you exploit.

Thanks for all the kind words, everyone.

I have no energy to write, but I have to brag about three things:

1. I totally KNEW it was a girl! No one believed me.

2. I'm the world's best swaddler.

3. Erin is amazing. Jeesh.

It's a girl!

And her name is Alice.

And I'm very tired.

But not as tired as Erin.

Send casseroles.

Things are going to change around here, blog.

Mummy and I have already had a chat with Henry and Jane. I've been putting off having this talk with you for too long.

Things are soon going to be very different around here. When the baby comes -- and it could be any day now -- I might not have as much time to spend with you.

Babies take a lot of work. Oh sure, they're lots of fun! And there are lots of things you can do to help. But... the most helpful thing you can be is patient. Daddy may not be able to post as often as he usually does.. for a while.

It's not that Daddy doesn't love you! You'll always be Daddy's special blog! It's just that I know that you're a big blog now! You can play by yourself more than you used to.

That's a good blog.

That kind of dad

We attended a birthday party this weekend for a little girl who was turning one. A couple of hours in, I slunk my way to the empty kitchen. I kept a keen eye on the door while I shoved handfuls of cracked pepper and olive oil Triscuits in my mouth.

A little girl walked in. She was maybe 3-years old. She carried a toy that had just been unwrapped in the still-ongoing mayhem of gift opening. It was stuck to the package with Fort Knox Security-style plastic ties.

The girl looked up at me with imploring eyes. She lifted the toy towards my Triscuit-filled face. I took it from her, then fished around in my pocket for my jack knife. Ah, yes. I remembered it.

Four quick snips later, the toy was free. She smiled, took it from my hands, and ran back to the party.

Me: Aaaaaand... back to the Triscuits.

I'm that kind of dad.

The baby is due TOMORROW

oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man. Dat crazy.

Me: Want me to live blog the birth?

Erin: No.

They egged my house

Seriously. I woke up this morning and found egg all over the front of my house. To use some stronger-than usual language for tomato transplants: I was mighty ticked off.

I walked down the street to see if anyone else's house was hit.

Nope. Just random us.

I filled a bucket with hot water and vinegar, grabbed a j-cloth and headed out to scrub the window. Henry grabbed his own bucket and followed along to help.

I was so grumpy. Too grumpy. Everything made me mad. I kept snapping at Henry for slopping water all over the place.

Then, I thought of Bruce McCulloch from Kids in the Hall. Specifically, his open letter to the guy who stole his bike tire.

I felt much better. And Henry really was being a great helper. Within minutes, we were laughing.

Then we had scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Jane would like you to know...

Jane: Chop down!

Me: Something was chopped down? What?

Jane: Boosh!

Me: The bushes at the front of our house?

Jane: Yah!

Me: Which ones?

Jane: (frowning, wriggling her fingers) Picky.

Me: The picky ones that we all hated?

Jane: Yap.

Me: Who cut them down?

Jane: Wayne!

Me: Our neighbour, Wayne?

Jane: Mmm hmm. Men!

Me: And some men helped him?

Jane: Two.

Me: Two men?

Jane: Mmm hmm. Truck.

Me: They came in a truck?

Jane: Blue!

Me: A blue truck?

Jane: Yas. (pause, thinking) Loud!

Me: Was it loud? They must have had a noisy saw.

Jane: Yas. Chop down.

Erin is not heartless

Contrary to what you may have read previously, Erin is pretty rad. She just completed sewing a wall hanging for the baby's room.

She salvaged an old quilt of my grandma's. It was the quilt that covered my bed when I was Henry's age. It was demoted to a dog blanket probably 20 years ago.

Not all of it was recoverable. Of the 12 original squares, Erin was able to save nine. It took a lot of time and patience to patch up some very old holes, but she did it. It's on the wall now, and it looks great.

Not heartless.

Shame on you for thinking so.

Erin is heartless

Me: Do you realize it's been nearly 9 months since Murph died?

Erin: Has it been that long?

Me: Yeah.

Short, thoughtful pause.

Erin: Good-old Murpha-girl.

Me: I know.

Erin: I miss her so much.

Me: Me too.

Another pause.

Me: I think I'm ready to love again.

Erin: We're having a baby in a week and a half. Save your love for that thing.

Five Star Service

After reading a book last night about chameleons, Henry transformed into Dr. Atkinson: the world's foremost expert in chameleons. Our house became a bed and breakfast he was staying in while visiting from his research station in Madagascar.

Me: Would you like a nightcap before retiring, Dr. Atkinson?

Henry: Yes, I would. What's a nightcap?

Me: It's a little drink before bed to help you sleep.

Henry: Does this bed and breakfast have cold water?

Me: Yes. Would you like it in a dinosaur cup?

Henry: That would be excellent.

We walk to the kitchen.

Me: This room serves as both our kitchen and dining room, Dr. Atkinson. This is where we'll be serving breakfast tomorrow morning.

Henry: It's very nice.

He puts down his glass.

Henry: I think I would like to go to bed now.

Me: This way to the stairs, Dr. Atkinson.

Henry: Can you carry me up?

Me: Of course. It's a service we offer all our guests.

I pick him up. Erin meets us on our way to the stairs.

Erin: Will you continue telling me about your chameleon research at tomorrow morning's breakfast, Dr. Atkinson?

Henry: It would be a pleasure.

I carry him up the stairs. We walk down the hall to his bedroom.

Me: I should tell you, Dr. Atkinson, we're a bit over booked tonight. You'll actually be sharing your room with a young lady.

Henry: Really? What's her name?

Me: Jane. A lovely woman. She's actually sleeping right now, so we'll have to be quiet.

I walk him into the room, place him on his bed, and tuck him in.

Me: Comfy?

Henry: Mmm hmm.

Me: Would you like me to lie beside you for a while, Dr. Atkinson?

Henry: That would be nice.

Henry hugs his stuffed dog. Eyes closed, his mouth pulled to a sleepy grin.

Henry: (sigh) This is a very nice bed and breakfast.

Help a very pregnant woman

People say the silliest things to pregnant women. Erin is now 2 weeks from her due date. One woman insists on telling her how huge she is every time they meet.

Woman: Oh, god. You are huge.

Erin: I know.

Woman: No, seriously. HUUUGE.

Erin: Yes. I'm pregnant.

Woman: You must be due, like, any day now. 'Cause that thing (pointing to belly) is huge.

Erin: Yes. I'm a fat, fat cow.*

(*she doesn't really say this)

More often than not, these things are said by women (mothers) who should know better. Perhaps they're saying it in sisterhood, but it doesn't come across that way. Amazingly, Erin finds the most helpful statements come from older men. Like this exchange yesterday:

Man: Look at you. That's wonderful.

Erin: Thank-you. It doesn't always feel wonderful.

Man: Not in this heat it wouldn't. How are you feeling?

See? Simple. Sympathetic. Helpful.

Erin can roll with the punches with almost anyone (she married me), but there's one statement that drives her crazy. It usually comes when she's out with Henry and Jane.

Random Person: You are going to be busy.

Erin has yet to find an appropriate response. Here are a couple I suggested:

-"Yes. But there will also be joy."
-"I know. It will take a lot of work to track down your home and begin my campaign of pestering."
-"And you will eventually wither and die."
-"Why?"

Suggestions?

Why Henry never wins pillow fights against me: A List

1. Weight disadvantage of nearly 1:4

2. Height disadvantage of nearly 1:2

3. Poor pillow selection. He always chooses for size, rather than density or even available pillowcase to use as a handle.

4. The giggling (doesn't take this seriously).

5. Always falls for The Oldest Trick in the Book. He swings and misses with his gigantic pillow, which pulls him slightly off balance and leaves his backside completely exposed for one good whack, which sends him tumbling.

6. His inability to capitalize on useful alliances which could bolster his chances (example: Jane).

7. Lack of killer instinct (see #4).

8. Poor recovery technique. After a fall, he always tries to get up butt first, giving me an excellent target.

9. Lack of intimidating vocabulary (example: "Bring it, Weeble.")

10. I completely rule.

Me: killer of hares

I killed a snowshoe hare today.

There it was - hippity, hoppity - scurrying along in its beautiful, brown summer attire. It hopped in front of the car I was driving.

This is one of the reasons why I've been proud to not own a car for the last five years (I was driving a work vehicle today). I grew up in the country. Driving in the country, you kill a lot of cute things.

I hit a little cottontail rabbit with my first car within a week of buying it. I remember wondering if my need to get from Point A to Point B really trumped the bunny's need to be alive.

I also saw a red fox today. I didn't kill that.

I did, however, ride shotgun in my dad's car when he did kill a fox. He was driving me home from the airport one summer evening. We came up over a crest in the dark road and there it was: bright red fur with a fluffy, white-tipped tail, and thin legs tapering down to perfect black socks. As it darted across the road, it glanced up and had just enough time to think the word "crap."

Dad and I rode on in silence for a full minute.

Dad: That was a really pretty fox.

Fish cakes for supper

I love Cape Breton.

The garden: year one

We weren't going to put in a vegetable garden this year, seeing as it's our first summer and we have lots to do around the house/yard. But suddenly, there I was at the beginning of June, digging up a strip of sod behind our deck with dreams of beets and tomatoes dancing in my head.

Over the next several weeks, we built up the soil with some bagged stuff from Sobeys, and a nice load of 9-year old, composted manure from a local farm. We didn't put seeds into the ground until after the solstice, but then again, in the Maritimes they say not to plant until after the full moon in June.

Our meagre, first-year attempt is growing quite well. Here's an inventory:

-2 rows of Swiss chard (we've been eating this for a week or so)
-2 rows of beets (ditto on the greens. ate some the other day)
-2 rows radishes (Henry: "Hot!")
-3 rows peas (love 'em)
-2 rows carrots (obligatory)
-a whack of onions (Henry: "I hate onions!")
-big patch of garlic chives (I'm rarely seen without one sticking out of my teeth)
-3 sweet pepper plants
-a box with basil and cilantro

and, of course:

-2 tomato plants, transplanted to pots.

A Prayer for Creamy

Creamy, Henry's best stuffed pall in the world, is going under the knife this morning.

He's never had what I call a surplus of stuffing. Indeed, a recent density scan shows he's deficient in both grain and batting. Dr. Erin believes the only solution is a transplant, which she will perform this morning.

Henry is pacing around the kitchen, wringing his little hands, mumbling about all the times he should have told Creamy he loved him, but instead chucked him across the room to see if maybe he really could fly.

I'm reminded of the music box-ectomy my own little dog, Spot, underwent when I was about Henry's age. He recovered, but the scar of red thread never truly healed.

Dr. Erin tells me she has to go in through the neck. Apparently, this is due to the fact that many of Creamy's seams come together at this point. I'm also keenly aware it also makes the surgery much more dangerous.

I also find very little comfort in the callous attitude of Nurse Jane.

"Cut! Cut! Cut!"

Update: I saw Creamy after he came out of recovery. He's quite groggy, but much more full (of cotton). He's a much fattier Creamy: maybe even 18% milk fat.

Colours: by Jane

"Pink, boo, pink, wed, pink, geen, pink, hello, pink, bown, pink, pooplay, pink, oh, pink."

Flippin' babies!

That's not a swear word substitute, our baby truly has flipped.

One more month to go and everyone is pointed in the right direction.

Cue the narrator

Henry recently started narrating his adventures as they happen.

"Suddenly, he leapt out of the darkness..."

Which is cute, but often spoils his advantage of surprise in an attack.

Here's my favourite narration to date. He was pretending to be a squirrel.

Henry: He came bounding through the branches to speak to the hiker. Hello, Hiker.

Erin: Hello, Squirrel. How are you?

Henry: Very exhausted.

Erin: Why? Has your squirrel father been forcing you to pick too many nuts?

Henry: He has.

Me: We have quotas. How do you expect me to fill them?

(pause)

Henry: No one answered.

Too hot to type

I find relief standing in a kiddy pool filled with ice-cold water. How about you?

Sweet Jane. Try again.

Henry woke up this morning feeling a bit upset. He realized he had slept the whole night without his best pal Creamy. Here's the conversation I heard tossed between beds.

Henry: I want him!

Erin: He's downstairs. Why don't you go get him?

Henry: Ooooooh!

Jane: Me!

Erin: Are you going to get Creamy for Henry?

Jane: Puppy!

I hear the patter of bare feet running down the hall, climbing down the stairs, then scampering around the downstairs. Several minutes later, she comes back empty handed.

Jane: No puppy.

Erin: You couldn't find him?

Jane: Puppy.

Erin: It was very nice of you to go and look for him for Henry. Wasn't that nice, Henry?

Henry: Thank-you, Jane. But it's just not good enough. You're just going to have to go back downstairs and look again until you find him.

Jane: Puppy?

Not Irritable Uterus

As quick as Erin's contractions came, they went. She felt the last one at about the same instant I posted my last entry.

Hurray!

Oh wait.

Our fabulous midwives visited on Friday night. It took about 30 seconds for them to discover Erin wasn't experiencing Irritable Uterus, as her doctor suspected. Instead, the baby spent the last week turning into the breech position. This, with only about six weeks left until her due date.

Think downward thoughts for us.

Irritable Uterus

We tried to get away earlier this week to the other side of Cape Breton, which we did, but the trip was cut short. Erin started having some pretty intense contractions six weeks too early. I won't go into the details, but we ended up making a midnight run across the island to the Sydney hospital for some tests.

She's not in labour. She' s not having Braxton Hicks contractions. She's experiencing something called irritable uterus.

Good news is, the baby is fine. But Erin is feeling lots of pain and is very tired. The contractions occur mostly at night, so you can imagine how much sleep she's getting.

I'm trying to give her as much rest as possible and time from the kids. We've fabulous neighbours who have been a great help.

I'll let you know if anything changes.

P.S. Despite the suckiness, life goes on: including a shirts off, lying down, make-out session between Jane and our 4-year old neighbour. I had a brief glimpse of what life will be like when she's 15. I knew I shouldn't have let her wear that dress.

Four now

Henry rolled over in bed this morning around 6:15.

Henry: What time do I turn four?

Me: Cornbread, you're four right now.

He jumed out of bed and propped himself up on sleepy legs. He looked down to his feet, then up, then back down.

Henry: Am I taller?

"The Pike Shark Eater"

Henry turns four tomorrow. Four! In honour of the occasion, I share with you a story he dictated to his mother a few days ago. It's for his library class teacher, but I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you read it.

One day, the Pike Shark Eater was eating his prey of sharks and squids. Suddenly, he saw an octopus he thought he could catch. He tried hard. He chased quickly and took speed. He took off down river like a tornado. He fled and tore down the river. He chases and chases and chases and, "Boom!" , he's in a flash. He catches him up and brings him back to his meal. He eats him all up. He's great. He grows big. The End.

Suspenseful, eh? Four!

Manly is as manly does (part 2)

There's a great park at the end of our street with a big lake right in the middle. On this lake live many, many ducks. All spring, we told the kids we'd be seeing baby ducks "any day now." Here's what happened Sunday as we strolled along the banks.

Me: What a beautiful day. The sun is -- heeeey. What are those little things swimming behind that female mallard? They're not -- THEY ARE!

Here's where my mid-baritone shrills unbidden to a shrieking, high tenor.

Me: OHMIGOSH! JANE! HENRY! DUCKIES! LOOK! DUCKIES!

I run toward the water.

Me: BABY DUCKIES! LOOK AT THE LITTLE, BROWN AND YELLOW SPOTS! DUCKIES! OOOOOHHH! THAT ONE IS CLIMBING OUT OF THE WATER! LOOK AT THE FEET! DUCKY FEET! HOW MANY ARE THERE? ONETWOTHREEFOURFIVESIXSEVENEIGHTNINE! NINE DUCKIES! SO FLUFFY!

Henry: (to Jane) Daddy REALLY likes baby duckies, Jane.

Manly is as manly does (part 1)

I assembled a bar-b-q this weekend.

Fire. Steel. Tools. And lots of cuss words.

It took 3 times as long as I anticipated. I blamed all setbacks and errors on the (obviously faulty) instructions.

When I finished, only two mystery pieces remained. I did what any self-respecting manly man would do.

I hid them.

A boy?

Erin showed Henry last night how you can feel the baby through her tummy.

Erin: Feel this down here? This is the head.

Henry: Wow!

Erin: And this flat part along here is the baby's back.

Henry: I can feel it!

Erin: And this big lump here...

Henry: That must be the crotch!

Jack knife and duct tape

Erin called me at work the other day to announce she'd picked up a surprise for me at the library.

MacGyver. Season One. Complete. On DVD.

We watched the pilot last night after the kids went to bed. It was so lame! But I was transported back to my 10-year-old self.

I remembered the number of times I almost killed myself trying to re-create MacGyver's tricks. I actually cut a shot-gun shell in half to retrieve the powder. I was just about to ignite my flash bomb before my dad caught me.

It's amazing I survived to procreate. Thank you, evolution. I owe you one.

Truth hurts

As I've said before, Henry's a talker. He was born speaking in sentences. He is very good at articulating exactly what he wants/feels/needs.

He knows he's not supposed to call people names. He tested us once and called his sister "stupid." We put our foot down and he never said it again. Instead, he started doing something funny.

Henry: Jane! You're a miltzaber!

He made up his own words. We didn't know how to deal with it, at first. We ended up changing the ban to include made-up words that are obvious substitutes for bad words (a few times his made-up words came a little too close to the real thing, like the time he called me a "fucko"). In response, he started calling us perfectly acceptable words, with biting tone.

Henry: Mum! Stop being such a sabre tooth!

On one hand, good for him for using language so creatively. On the other hand, what a dink... looking for loopholes to insult his family. Now we've had to ban the intention to insult, rather than just the word content. A few days later, he got angry with me for mowing the lawn when I should have been playing with him.

Henry: Dad! You're such a journalist!

Me: (open-mouthed silence)

Erin: Truth hurts, Dave.

A persuasive argument

Jane: (entering the kitchen) Peese cheese?

Me: It's almost supper, sweetie. Sorry.

Jane: (furrowing brow) Peese cheese!

Me: We're about to eat. You don't need a piece of cheese.

Jane: (running to the fridge, pointing to it) Peese cheese.

Me: I know where it is. No cheese. No.

Jane: (getting serious) Peese. Cheese.

Me: No.

Jane: (changing tactics, smiling) Peese cheese pease?

Me: That's very polite. No.

Jane: Daddy peese cheese?

Me: What?

Jane: (pointing to me) Peese cheese Daddy.

Me: A piece for me?

Jane: (nodding) Peese cheese.

Me: Well... maybe we can split a piece.

A little advice?

Erin was chatting with our next-door neighbour a few days back when he surprised (shocked) her with a bit of news.

"I sprayed your front lawn for you. Just wanted to take care of all those dandelions."

I must be clear, this is a good neighbour. A very friendly man who is great with our kids. He recently retired and spends most of his time grooming his own yard.

His idea of a nice yard, however, differs from ours. We'd rather have dandelions than chemicals. His yard is impeccable; the lawn is a green carpet. I swear, it needs vacuuming more than mowing.

He has lived next door to what is now my house for more than 30 years. And in that time, he's done a lot of work on what is now my yard. The two giant peonies out front, he transplanted from his grandparents house (he's even named them). He also planted the rose bush out back (which he's told me he's thrown fertilizer at over the fence).

On more than one occasion, he has said to me, "If your lawn looks green, my lawn looks green."

Erin was too dumbfounded to say anything. She, pregnant, mother of two small kids who like to roll around on grass and shove everything in their mouths.

I've got to talk to him. I don't want to insult him, or his yard. What should I say?

Fathers Day Weekend

It was a nice one.

-treated to a shave and a haircut here.
-slept in Sunday 'til my eyes popped open.
-received hand-made cards, including one on which Henry painstakingly wrote the words 'HAPPY FATHERS DAY'
-was serenaded with several random choruses of "Happy Birthday" by Jane
-ate french toast and fried potatoes for breakfast
-spent the morning throwing sticks in a lake with the kids
-spent the afternoon preparing the backyard veggie patch for planting (I broke a spade!)
-ate hoppin' john (spicy black-eyed peas) and johnny cake for supper

All this can be yours, for the low, low price of Fatherhood.

Girls just wanna have_______.

Erin: Do you want me to paint your face this afternoon?

Jane: Yap!

Erin: What animal do you want to be?

Jane: Pink!

If you have six spoons at your place setting...

...don't be alarmed. Jane's been setting the table. She tends to err on the side of redundancy.

Poem

You pull down my pants.
I quickly rip off my shirt, and then yours.
I let my my underwear drop while you do the same with your pants.
I sit back and watch as you carefully, delicately remove your underwear and bra.
Now we're tied in a confusing tangle of summer-scented sheets and tugging hands.

Thanks for helping me take the laundry down from the line.

Leaky deck

Henry played this afternoon in the back yard while I mowed the lawn. He would hide a little Spiderman toy in funny places, then ask me to find it. Every four or five passes with the mower, I would take a break to look for Spidey.

"Is he over here by the tree?" I'd ask.

"May-bee!" he would giggle.

I made a big production of looking in places I knew it wasn't. Henry was having a blast.

Which is probably why he allowed his bladder to get as full as he did. He was playing with himself little-boy style an awful lot.

"Hey, Hen. Do you have to pee?"

"Nope," he quickly replied. "Now where is that Spiderman?"

Finally, he announced he had to go. I told him to go ahead and run upstairs. He ran to the back door, and froze.

"Dad. I need help."

"You know how to open the door," I said. "Go on up. I'll be right here."

"Daaaaaaaad. I need -"

A little stain appeared at the front of his grey jogging pants.

"-help."

He looked so disappointed with himself. I could see him straining to hold it in.

"It's OK, buddy." I said. "Just go, man."

Relief. And a huge pee stain on my deck.

I'm secure in the knowledge that Henry doesn't feel bad about his little mistake... and that it's going to rain tonight.

Love is...

...the 8 pack of Heinz Tomato Juice Erin bought for my lunches.

She's sexy and thoughtful.

2 afflicted comedians

Since June began, we've been eating most of our meals on the picnic table on the back deck. Henry and Erin spent most of last night's supper working on their routines.

Erin, upon getting her fourth black fly bite, got a little frustrated at why they seem to like her so much. I told her I'd read somewhere they're attracted to pregnant women.

Me: Pheromones, I guess.

Erin: It's not fair-imone.

A few minutes later, Henry was trying to find a way to be too sick to finish his tomato and lentil soup, but not too sick for dessert.

Henry: Ugh. My tummy is feeling...... ice cream sandwichy.

At this point, Erin high fived him and declared theirs the "hilarious side of the table."

Now if she would only go...

Jane was in a giggly mood last night while I tried to wrestle her into her PJs. Mid-way through (when she was buck naked), she got a funny gleam in her eye, hopped up and ran out of the bedroom. I found her down the hall in the bathroom.

She grabbed Henry's potty seat and slammed it on top of the toilet. She then dragged the bathroom stool to the base of the toilet and used it to hop up.

We haven't even started thinking about training her yet, so I was interested in what she would do next. She's obviously been paying attention to Henry, because she had (nearly) the whole ritual down. Her feet dangled. She played with the toilet paper roll. She sang a tune to pass the time.

"Happy birfday, Mummy.
Happy birfday, Mummy.
Happyooooooooo
Mummy!"

She didn't actually go to the bathroom, but she was very proud of herself. Then, after about her third time through Happy Birthday, she hopped off.

"Done!"

She even washed her hands.

Lobster litter

It's such a sunny, beautiful day. It's the first day that it really feels like summer might actually come. I went for a stroll over lunch. I wasn't paying close attention to what was at my feet, so the lobster took me by surprise.

There it was. On the sidwalk. Staring at me.

Not actually staring at me. It was missing its tail and claws and was a lovely, boiled-lobster shade of red, so I'm quite sure it was dead. Still, I nearly jumped out of my skin when my foot almost landed atop its giant, insecty body.

Oh, Cape Breton.

The Walk

A comic worth reading.

And underneath the mint-green stucco...

...the brightest gold paint money can buy.  And lots, and lots of drywall dust.
 
Cough.

Righting a wrong

At some point in the history of my house, someone truly believed the master bedroom should be painted with mint green stucco.  Welcome to scraping and painting day.

Overheard: nutritionist meets inquisitor

When Henry is feeling Older Brotherly, he refers to his sister as 'Sweetie.' All other times, she is a shrill, multi-syllabled 'Jaayaayne!' Here is a pre-breakfast conversation from this morning.

Jane: Koo-key.

Henry: No, Sweetie. We don't eat cookies for breakfast.

Jane: (tilting her head to one side) Why?

Henry: Because it's not a good way to start your day.

Jane: (tilting the other way) Why?

Henry: Because it's not noo-tri-shuss.

Jane: Why?

Henry: Because cookies don't have things that are good for our bodies.

Jane: Oh.

Slight pause.

Jane: Koo-key.

The whole, carroty root

I have nothing specifically against dandelions. This time of year, I think they look kinda nice in the yard. Cheery. Yellow.

I do, however, love pulling them up. It's especially good fun in the spring after the rains. The soil is loose. The growth is fairly new.

You have to lift all of the leaves to get a good, strong hold. Then give it a firm yank. Do it right, and you can get most, if not all, of the thick, carroty root. So satisfying.

Last spring, I had the kids in the park near our old house in Saint John. The slide, teeter-totters et al were arranged on a bed of sand. While the kids played, I spotted what seemed like a medium-sized dandelion growing near the edge of the sand.

I gave it the gentlest tug and the whole bloody thing came up. I swear, that root had to be a foot and-a-half long.

Name That Baby 2

Six months into Erin's pregnancy and all this stuff still applies to our search for a name. Thanks to those who left name suggestions in the comments. If anyone else has an idea, just leave a comment on this post. (Remember the criteria: known, but not common; easy to spell.)

And, no. We still have no idea whether it's a girl or a boy. Erin thinks it's a boy. I think Erin is a girl.

For fun, check this out. It's an interactive chart which allows you to track the popularity (in the US) of any name. It goes back to the 1880s.

(hint: my favourite boy name was the 17th most popular name in the 1970s; the girl name was 41st in the 1940s.)

Jane's shiner

Jane was helping Erin with some things upstairs yesterday afternoon while I was at work. They were in the bedroom. Erin asked Jane to get her something from the bathroom.

While Jane was in the hallway, she must have been distracted by the cat.

"Oan!", Erin heard her yell (the cat's name is Joan).

Jane loves Joan. Joan can't stand Jane. Janey has a tendency to shriek when Joan is nearby. Their relationship is usually one of shrieking and fleeing. This must have been the case this particular time.

The cat's nearest escape (by Erin's reckoning, she didn't see it happen) was the stairs. Jane chased her down the first flight of four steps no problem. It was the long flight of 12 that she lost her footing on.

I shudder to think what it must have sounded like to Erin. To hear Jane shift in an instant from an exciting chase to a terrifying fall.

She was at the bottom by the time Erin found her. Both crying, I imagine. Jane already had a goose egg on her forehead and the beginnings of shiner. Erin frantically felt all of her limbs.

"Does it hurt here? How about here?" Jane had not a bruise, break or cut anywhere else but her big melon.

Jane has since told me the story many times. It always ends with a big smile.

"Mummy!" she says.

"Did Mummy pick you up at the bottom and make it better?"

"Mmm hmmm. Mummy."

Take THAT, intern

Henry's always been very curious about maps. He's spent hours studying our giant map of Canada. He also loves an electronic globe our friend lent us which identifies any point when you touch it with a special pen.

Henry showed up at my office one day a few months back. As he toured around the newsroom, he bumped into an intern who happened to be sitting beside a world map.

Henry: (pointing) Hey!

Intern: This is called a map.

Henry: I know!

Intern: See this? This is a country called 'Canada.'

Henry: Right! And this is the Gulf of Tonkin.

Erin's relaxing bath

Erin: I think I'm going to take a shower.

Me: Why don't you take a bath?

Erin: Really?

Me: Go for it. Your back hurts. It's early. The kids and I will play. It'll be great.

Erin: I couldn't.

Me: You must.

Erin: Ok.

She heads upstairs. I hear the bath run. I'm pleased this hard-working, beautiful, pregnant woman will finally get a bit of quiet time to soak and relax. Henry, Jane and I sit at the kitchen table spelling delicious words with letter-shaped pretzels. Suddenly....

Henry: I have to poo.

Me: No you don't.

Henry: (thinks about it for a moment) Yes, I do.

We have one bathroom. This means he'll have to interrupt Erin's quiet soak.

Me: Crap.

I take him up. We break into Mummy's den of silence. I set him up for what is normally a long sit on the can.

Me: Erin, I'm so sorry, but he's going to be a few minutes. Jane's downstairs and needs a bit of company. Just call when he's done and I'll take care of it.

Erin: Ok.

I return to the pretzel game. Jane gets bored. We head to the couch to read some books. A few minutes pass.

Me: (yelling upstairs) Are you done yet, Hen?

Henry: (faintly) Nope.

I continue reading with Jane. Out of the blue -- perhaps she didn't enjoy my rendition of The Gruffalo -- she kicks me in the groin.

Me: Ow! Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow...

Henry: I'm done!

Me: Ow ow ow ow ow ow...

I hobble up the stairs and throw open the door to the bathroom. Erin's telling Henry not to stand up. He stands up. I rush to clean his dirty bum. Jane enters the room singing "Happy Birthday!" at the top of her lungs. I'm still moaning in pain. Henry is complaining about Jane being in His bathroom.

Erin: (rising from the tepid water) Great idea. A bath.

Need a bigger dust pan

Our house is big enough you would think there would be a more satisfying spot to stand than in the middle of my sweeping pile.  For Jane, apparently not. 

Thief, or just kinda dumb?

I was momentarily suspected today of theft by a woman working the cash at the corner store near my office. Upon reviewing the incident, I don't blame her.

What she saw:

A scruffy-looking, thirty-ish guy walks into the store. He wanders around the snacks. After lingering for an eerily long time around the chip aisle, he picks up a bag and heads to the cash register. There, he grabs a copy of Frank magazine and mumbles, "Hello."

He hands over the money. As the transaction ends, an older woman enters the store, creating a momentary distraction. The man takes his snack and magazine, then quickly snatches a Maritime Merchant (advertising paper) from a nearby stack and turns to dash out of the store.

"Sir!" she blurts out loudly. "You have to pay for that."

What really happened:

Yes, I'm a bit scruffy. I didn't shave today or yesterday. And I never learned to tuck in my shirt.

Despite the healthy lunch I packed this morning, I'm feeling a bit peckish. I walk into the store. I tell myself I'm going to find something decent to eat that isn't a bag of chips.

I walk past the chips, just to make sure they're there. Indeed, they are. I then walk toward the area where they sell small bags of peanuts and sunflower seeds. Arriving there, I realize I truly do want chips. I head back to the chips.

So many types of chips. Do I want potato or tortilla? Oh wait, there's a whole bunch more on the other side of the rack. I grab a bag of Doritos.

I walk to the cash. Just when I should be politely making eye contact, I see the stack of Frank magazines. It's a guilty pleasure. As I'm deciding whether to pick one up, I realize I haven't greeted the woman behind the cash. I awkwardly mumble, "Hello."

She rings in both the chips and magazine. As she does, I notice a stack of Maritime Merchants. The container they're kept in describes it as a "Free Classified." Great! I think to myself. Erin has wanted me to pick up one of those.

She hands me the change. An older woman enters the store. I take my merchandise. In the same swoop (thinking, "I'm minimizing movement by doing two things at once!"), I grab a Maritime Merchant. I turn around and make for the door.

"Sir!" blurts out the woman behind the cash. "You have to pay for that."

The awkward conclusion

Me: Oh, I -- (I realize what she thinks I've done) -- it says here "Free Classifieds."

Her: (looks at me like a dirty thief)

Me: Uh.. that must mean.. free to advertise. I thought... Ha ha. Oh. Ha! Oh god. (I put it back on the pile)

Her: (looks at me like a dirty thief)

retirement 3

I try not to wish away time, especially not with the kids. But my mind tends to wander to the idea of retiring to some little, old house in the Kennebecasis Valley.

I think what seems most appealing is the idea of having my wife back. I love my kids (repeat: LOVE MY KIDS), but they're hogging Erin. I keep telling them I saw her first. They don't seem to get the hint.

We'll take lots of road trips. Mostly day trips to it-doesn't-matter where. The fun will be the chatting in the car. We're good at that.

almanac 14

Snow.

Any previous words I've written or spoken in favour of this form of precipitation are void.

A song for Creamy

Here's a little ditty Henry and I penned for his best stuffed pal. The melody is vaguely similar to "Polly Wolly Doodle."

Creamy is a dog.
He's a really nice dog.
He's a really, really, really nice dog.
He's not a frog,
or a log;
He's just a really, really, really, nice dog.

The trip in five points

1. Henry woke up on Day Four and decided he wanted to wear underwear. Henceforth, he was potty trained. Even at night! I'm calling it Henry's Working Vacation.

2. A 90-ish year-old woman approached Jane in a cafe in our hometown. With a sweet smile, she told my daughter, "I'd like to give you a smack!" I'm hoping she meant to say "kiss."

3. I hate air mattresses.

4. My Grandmother is wonderful.

5. The attendant on the flight from Toronto to Halifax gave me instructions on how to hold Jane during take off and landing. He kept referring to "the infant", and how important it was to support "the head."

A few minutes later, as Jane enjoyed a snack, Erin said, "The head seems to enjoy the popcorn."

I'm back!

Thanks Bojan! It was fun to log into my own blog and be surprised by what it said. It was like waking up the morning after a drunken blogging blitz without the painful hangover.

Great job, and I hope you're not the next victim of the stomach flu.

Guest blogger: One more thing...

Guest posted by Bojan. He's minding the tomato patch while Dave spends a few weeks in Ontario.

We were listening to a Don Genova’s podcast this morning while making breakfast. It was an episode about meatballs - Dannika’s favourite food in the whole world. So, naturally I made meatballs and pasta for dinner. It was one of those total disaster days. Dannika jumped off the stool and into the cat’s dish with dry food and water flying all over the place. Elise thinks this is great. she can - finally- get the taste of cat food. She almost does, too. While trying to hold on to Elise while Dannika is wailing that her leotards are wet I manage to knock over a wine glass which promptly shatters. Anyways, nobody got hurt and we all enjoyed those meatballs. Afterwards we were sitting on the couch when Dannika remembers that she has to tell me about school on Friday:

Dannika: There is no school on Friday.
Me (mockingly): Oh nooooo! What am I supposed to do with you... Arghhhhh...
Dannika: You can read to me and Elise whoooole day...
Me: Noooo... I don’t want to be with any children... no more children... Arghhhh...
Dannika (sternly): You have two wonderful children and you HAVE to take care of them.
Me: Aye, aye ma’am!

At this point Michelle comes home from work, walks over to the kitchen and eats couple of meatballs from the pan.

Michelle: Nice balls you have here Bojan.
Me: Gee, thanks honey.

Guest blogger: Goodbye

Guest posted by Bojan. He's minding the tomato patch while Dave spends a few weeks in Ontario.

It has been my pleasure to mind the tomato patch.

Welcome home gang!

Guest blogger: Fearless

Guest posted by Bojan. He's minding the tomato patch while Dave spends a few weeks in Ontario.

We have a very steep flight of stairs in our apartment. Our 10-month old Elise climbed the whole thing. It’s time to put up the gates. The kid is fearless. We don’t have much experience with fearless... but, I think, it’s going to be quite a ride.

Guest blogger: A question

Guest posted by Bojan. He's minding the tomato patch while Dave spends a few weeks in Ontario.

I am thinking that mornings might go a lot smoother if I spike my first coffee...

Guest blogger: Stomach flu strikes again...

Guest posted by Bojan. He's minding the tomato patch while Dave spends a few weeks in Ontario.

The thing that schools are really, really, REALLY good at is spreading germs. I wonder who's next...

Guest blogger: Baby freelances

Guest posted by Bojan. He's minding the tomato patch while Dave spends a few weeks in Ontario.

I like staying home with my kids. They are two great girls and most of the time we keep out of trouble. Sometimes, though, trouble finds us.

I stay home and freelance. I like assignments. They pay bills and are fun and I don’t have to jump through hoops to convince somebody to run a photo or a story. Except, today I had no babysitter and my wife was working the afternoon shift which, of course, NEVER happened before. The older girl jumped at the opportunity to have an extra playdate at friend’s place. I took Elise who is ten months old on her first job. She promptly fell asleep in my arms at the CBC Saint John station while I was uploading files which I have previously accidentally deleted and had to recover from my backup at home. And then I took her to Quispamsis where we followed a national story together. A woman wanted to put her maiden name on a vanity licence plates, but the province refused to do it because her last name is Weed. Can’t promote drugs on the licence plates - no sire. Elise woke up before we got to the lady’s home and entertained her husband while we completed the shoot. She was fabulous - graciously smiling and charming the man who obviously knew a thing or two about being a grandfather.

It’s been a weird week in New Brunswick. First somebody stole puppets from a ventriloquist’s trunk, then the Weed thing gripped the nation, and then somebody stole a monkey from the Saint John zoo. Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas any more.

So the tomatoes are watered and I hope that flying was not too painful, Dave.

I leave you in good hands

I'm taking off for a few weeks to visit family in Ontario. But fear not! I leave Tomato Transplants in the capable hands of one of my favourite bloggers.

My buddy Bojan has graciously agreed to water the tomatoes while I'm away. I hope you enjoy the wacky antics of a stay-at-home dad in Saint John, New Brunswick (who happens to take wonderful pictures and make fancy-schmancy radio pieces for CBC).

He has two little girls: one is five, the other ten-months. The younger one likes to bite. The older one likes to remind her father the kitchen is on fire.

See you in Upper Canada.

What?

My ears felt funny when I woke up this morning. Not plugged; I know what that feels like. Not painful; I know that one too. Just funny.

I could definitely hear better from my left ear. The other, while still working, was also giving me a funny whooshing sound. I kept hoping it would clear up before I left for work, but it didn't.

It made me feel dizzy. I had a hard time concentrating on my work. Shortly after lunch, I decided I'd brave the hospital's emergency room.

The sensation in my ears is most annoying when there are several sources of noise in one room. The emergency room was about as bad as it gets: A TV blared kids' shows in the corner; several conversations went on throughout the room; plus the normal comings and goings of any hospital.

I don't like waiting in emergency rooms (who does?), but I pride myself in being The Patient Guy. After three hours, a small group of waiters were starting to grumble about how "totally unfair" it was that they hadn't been served yet. About that time, a woman wheeled her obviously hurt partner into the room. He was called in within minutes. That drove some people crazy.

"I mean, how long has he been here? I've been waiting for two hours."

This woman was mad enough that she tried to squeeze some answers from the triage nurse. After a few minutes, the woman walked back to her seat in a huff.

"She says patients are admitted based on priority. Huh!"

I got in after four hours ("Huh!") and found I'm not going deaf. I have fluid in my ears. It's probably a holdover from my cold, and will take care of itself.

"I'm flying on Wednesday," I told the doctor. "How's that going to be?"

"Oh, it's going to hurt."

Hurray!

Henry the poet

Two turns of phrase today:

"The moon is a haunted croissant."

and

"...a curtain of mice." (meaning a lot of them)

Sit ups. Need sit ups.

Jane strolled in to the bathroom this morning as I got ready for work. I had my shirt up a bit, to get my deodorant on. She pointed at my mid-section.

"Baby!"

Grandma D's quilts

My grandma is a life-long quilter. For most of her nearly nine decades, Grandma has been churning out warmth for her family.

Some of my most prized possessions are Grandma Quilts. We have three baby-sized ones, a worn out double she made for me when I was a teen (which, over time has been demoted to a dog blanket), and the beautiful wedding quilt she had to rush to completion when Erin and I shocked her with our short engagement.

Her mum taught her how. Grandma once told me she and her brothers and sisters had to crawl under her mum's quilting rack in order to get to the stairs in their little farm house.

Since my grandpa died, she's quilted with a group of women who meet a few times a week in an old school/community centre. A few years back, the stitches of one of the group's older members started to become inconsistent enough to become a problem. That day, Grandma gave a fateful job to one of the other women.

"When that happens to me, let me know."

Grandma got that call a few weeks ago. I don't think she's been back since. She could still go and knit or even just have tea, but Grandma doesn't want to. It's always been 'work', and if she can't work, she doesn't feel she should be there.

Tonight, I'll wrap one of Grandma's finest efforts, a beautiful green and yellow nine-block baby quilt, around Jane as I take her up to bed. The others I may put into retirement along with their maker. At least until Henry, Jane and baby X can wrap their own kids in them.

Jane: The Other Great Communicator

If my memory is correct, Henry was born speaking in sentences. I hate when parents brag about stuff like that, but it's a fact: Henry's a fantastic talker.

Jane's vocabulary hit a plateau about four months ago. She speaks about as well at 20 months as Henry did at maybe 10. However, she communicates almost as well as he does now, thanks to some tricks she's invented.

She has mastered all the basic words (hi, bye, yes, no, Mumma, Daddy, Nenny [Henry], sorry, pease [please], that, mine, baby...). But she also has a few expressions she stretches to mean a whole lot of different things. Here are a couple of my favourite:

Oh: This can mean several things. Sometimes it's, "Well! That's new, isn't it?" Other times it's, "I accept what you're saying as true." Or, "Explain this foreign thing, please." Or, "Things aren't working out like I planned." Or even, "Leave me alone, Parent. I've got this on my own."

Mmm Hmm: This can be a simple affirmative, but more often it's an acknowledgement of understanding a new concept or a request.

Happy Daddy: This originally was Jane's version of the song Happy Birthday. It has since morphed into her catch-all phrase for almost anything to do with me. It can be as simple as, "Daddy's home!" But has been used for more complicated things like asking me how I feel about something.

She's also developed her own version of sign language which has become quite complex. In combination* with her actual words and her Jane Words, it's very effective. Here's an example:

I walk in the door from work.

Me: Hello!

Jane: (running to the door) Daddy! Happy Daddy!

Me: Yes! I had a great day! What did you do today?

Jane: Baby!

Me: Did you see a baby today?

Jane: Mmm hmm. (She pauses, points in the direction of our friends' house) Oh! Oh!

Me: Was it baby Zadie? Did you go to her house?

Jane: Yes!

Me: She's so nice.

Jane: (cups her hands together and slowly brings them towards her chest)

Me: Did you get to hold her?

Jane: Mmmn Hmm!

Me: Were you gentle?

Jane: (scowling a bit) Oh.

Me: Did you maybe squeeze her too tight?

Jane: Mmm Hmm.

She's so good at this, she was able to completely explain to me the process of how a work crew built a new step on our neighbours' house the other day. Without having to get Erin to clarify, Jane explained the entire process, including how she and Henry watched from separate windows through the day.

*Edit: in fairness, I should point out she also occasionally makes annoying shrieking sounds until we desperately figure out what she's trying to say.

The Empire Strikes Back

By "Empire", I mean "nasty chest cold."

It had to strike on a Friday. Lousy dark side.

Almanac 13

The sea ice left the harbour this weekend and Spring whooshed in to take its place. What a beautiful couple of days of warm sun.

A friend of mine (who watched the kids for a few hours) told me about this exchange with Henry:

Friend: It's Spring! Are you excited?

Henry: Of course! Have you seen the crocuses? They're fabulous!

The measure of a boy

Henry got in a bit of a fight last week with his best friend/nemesis Kinnon. It wasn't so much of a fight as a demonstration of Henry's wimpiness (this is written with love, I promise).

We were playing soccer in Kinnon's yard. Kinnon lost interest in the game after a few kicks; he was off in the far corner of the yard climbing a tree. Daniel (Kinnon's dad) and I took turns as goalie while Henry took shots.

I was in net when the fight broke out. Henry ran to mid field (yard) and performed the classic soccer blooper: he swung at the ball and missed, brought his foot back for a second pass and instead ended up standing on it. Gravity being what it is, Henry was on his butt pretty quick.

I have no idea how he moved so quickly, but Kinnon was there in a flash. In what can only be described as mid-eighties WWF technique, Kinnon dished out a perfect flying elbow drop to Henry's gut (he may have even tapped his elbow with his other hand before executing, I can't be sure).

Henry, stunned, rolled over to face his now prone (and grinning wildly) opponent. Henry peppered him with a series of sissy punches (the boy didn't even try to make fists), accenting each with the sound "Eeh! Eeh! Eeh!"

Daniel and I pulled them apart. We were laughing too hard at this point to dish out any serious punishment.

My son. The sissy puncher.

Bruised oats

I love oatmeal. We eat it almost every morning. I'm usually the first one up in my house, and so, I'm the oatmeal maker.

I've refined my technique over the years. What I will freely admit was formerly described as "gluey" has evolved into delicate grains of deliciousness. I attribute most of my success to a recent discovery.

After boiling the (slightly salted) water, I add the oats, a handful of raisins and a bit of cinnamon. I give it one quick stir, then leave it to simmer on low.

The discovery -- which I'm sure took most people less than a decade to figure out -- is to not touch it from this point on. No further stirring required. The next time you touch the spoon (or spurtle), you should be scooping it into bowls.

The result is perfect oatmeal. Swollen, fluffy, unbroken oats. Perfect vessels for brown sugar and milk.

Erin commented recently on how much nicer her morning porridge tastes, but she attributed it to what must be an extra-good batch of oats.

She got up a bit earlier this morning than usual. She entered the kitchen while the oats were still cooking. Before I could catch her, she grabbed a long spoon and gave the pot a good stir.

"Stop!" I shouted. "You're bruising the oats!"

Sure enough, gluey again.

I felt the baby kick!

At breakfast this morning! 

No. No. Mine!

Henry's best pal in the world is a black, stuffed dog named Creamy.

Correction: Henry's best pal in the world is a real dog named Creamy.

We've tried hard to not make any one toy belong to one kid. Creamy is one of very few exceptions. Jane knows (and Henry reminds her often) Creamy is off limits.

Last night, Henry and Erin were upstairs while Jane and I read some books on the couch. Mid-way through, Jane realized Creamy was sitting beside her. She picked him up.

"No."

"That's right. Creamy's not yours."

She pointed to the stairs. "Nenny."

"Yes. Henry's dog."

She put Creamy down. "No."

"Good job, Jane. Creamy isn't yours."

"Puppy."

"Yes. He's a dog."

"Nenny."

"Henry's dog, yes."

She paused, leaned forward, looked at the stairs, made sure Henry was definitely not coming down.

She snatched Creamy back into her arms for a desperate hug.

"Mine!"

Don't tell anyone...

Henry's been doing some fine work in the potty-training department. My only real complaint is he takes so dang long on the toilet. He'd sit there for hours, if you'd let him.

It wasn't really a problem until last night. He was just nicely settling in for a marathon session when Erin's bladder started ringing alarms. Pregnant chicks, apparently, can't wait as long as you or I in that department. She was pretty desperate.

The good news is, we now know the kids' potty is strong enough to support the weight of an adult.

The bad news is, well, now YOU know about it (ah, blogging).

Tension problem

I miscalculated the tension on the pair of socks I'm knitting myself. The first one is much smaller than I'd hoped. As a result, I'm now knitting them for Erin.

It's just as well. I find I'm more motivated to finish something if I'm knitting for someone else.

Chapter Books?

Since Henry discovered chapter books, he's been burning through them. We started when he was two with Charlotte's Web. He loved it so much, we probably read it to him 4 or 5 times.

Since then, we've gone through most of the Little House books, Pippi Longstocking, Stuart Little, and.. I can't remember what else. We need suggestions for some more.

Here's the criteria: nothing too scary. The boy gets freaked out by ominous music, so it's got to be pretty light. He likes fantasy. He likes history. He isn't a huge fan of the absurd (like Pippi). He's not ready for Harry Potter, and I can't stand any of the Chronicles of Narnia (the allegory gives me a rash). He might be ready for some Cornelia Fudge...

What do you recommend? What did you like when you were a kid? What do your kids/grand kids like?

In Praise of the Mini Post

It never fails. The fewer words I write in a blog entry, the more comments I get.

Look at the previous two posts, written within minutes of each other.

The longer is an over-written, self-centred vanity post (ah, blogging). The shorter is an honest portrayal of life with two crazy kids. It also fed my need to type the phrase "evil death robot of grumpiness."