Thursday, 8 December 2016

Peer Pressure: It Starts at Home

Dan and I are pretty strict about LB watching television, and I want to assure you that statement is being said with the least amount of pretension as possible. There is nothing worse than some sanctimonious parent smugly shrugging, "My perfect snowflake has no idea what that giant electrical box even does. She's too busy solving math problems for fun. Gosh, what a kid."

We have rules about t.v. being a privilege that must be earned and maintained, otherwise it goes away and she has to rely on her good ol' imagination for fun. Which is no fun for us. You guys, t.v. is the BEST babysitter! I'm always so sad when I have to take it away, because then I end up having to participate in elaborate games of My Little Pony, or Mommy and Sweetie, or Family Apartment.

And my imagination sucks.

Case in point:

LB:  "Mommy! Can you hear that beautiful song playing on the radio?! It's so fun! I think we should dance."

Me: "The radio isn't even on. What are you talking about?"

LB: *huff of irritation* "Mommy! We're JUST pretending!"

Oh...right, that.

I hate playing. I am a kick-ass story teller, I can bake with the best of 'em. Want to go for a walk? Let's do it! Playing...not my thing. Dan excels at playing, so that's his department.

Our general rule for LB is every Friday is family movie night, and a few days a week she's allowed to watch two shows in the afternoon, three max, and the shows are heavily vetted. Of the shows we think are age appropriate, not too sassy, not violent, and not rude, all of them run about twenty minutes long. That means I have about forty minutes to an hour to sit down with my tea and piss around on my phone.

What?

You thought I'd be doing something productive? In the words of the great Michelle Tanner, "AS IF."

Well, for the past oh...SIX MONTHS this has all changed and the rules got frigging tossed in an effort to survive. Lulu Bird is a really easy-going baby, but even easy-going babies are a lot of work, and drain your energy, and leave you feeling lifeless from exhaustion.

The t.v. got clicked on on May 15th and didn't get turned off until probably September. Whoops! What does it all mean? We created a t.v. monster of course. When I no longer felt like a lurching zombie, I was ready to enforce the old t.v. rules and LB was making it clear that I was going to have to pry the remote from her cold dead hands.

It was rough.

Now the most common question I hear first thing every morning is: "ISITAT.V.DAYORAPLAYDAY?" Said in one hurried exclamation of morning breath, which said breath is then held baited as she waits for my response.

In the past when I'd tiredly mumble from my pillow, "For the love of...it's a play day sweetie. No t.v., it's a play day." I would of course get anguished cries of NO FAIR, as her tiny body crumpled into a heap on top of my head.

Now I get this:

"I have a great idea!" (said in a sing-songy voice). "Why don't me make it...a t.v. day."

I of course mumble, "No, it's a play day."

"Come on Mommy. Let's make it a t.v. day. What do you say? It's easy to turn on. We'll go to Netflix. Let's make it a t.v. day."

"Wha..? No! It's a play day! Don't try that on me."

"Instead of two shows, I only watch one."

"[LB] no! It's no shows today. Zero."

"Oh come on Mommy. It's just one show. Just one. That's not too bad. One show isn't too bad."

"I can't even with this. Are you peer pressuring me to watch t.v.?"

"Come on Mommy. Just turn it on for one show. I know you can do it."

Internet, I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING.  My four year old peer pressures me. It started with t.v. and has moved on to toys and donuts.

"Come on Mommy, let's go to Toys 'R' Us, and I'll just get one toy. It's only one, that's not a big deal. Just one toy. I'll pay for it."

????? With what money ?????????

"You'll give me some. Some money for my toy."

"Let's go get me a donut. I'll let you have a bite. Come on, just one donut."

I'm pretty sure I got lessons in elementary school on how to stand up to peer pressure, but it's hard to think over the drone of just this one t.v. show.

I mean, it's just one.

One's not so bad...

Friday, 2 December 2016

Sears Portrait Studio: The Grimmest Place on Earth

It dawned on me last year, as I was opening up yet another Christmas card where the sender's child was folded up like a piece of origami and stuck in a bucket, that the whole "children and props and pictures" craze was getting out of hand.

Babies in boots.

Babies in buckets.

Babies in crates, in baskets, in toolboxes, in luggage, in bird's nests, and in really sketchy looking hammocks.

It's all too much! I blame Anne Geddes. I mean, remember when it was a thing that people went crazy for buying Anne Geddes calendars of strange babies dressed up like flowers, and stuck in pots?! It's like they couldn't wait to start procreating so they too could have their very own month-of-August baby bumblebee, pictured slipping dangerously off an acrylic flower petal.

I shook my head at the nonsense of it all and vowed that next year I was going old-school with the Christmas kid portrait. I was going to blow people's minds when they opened the Christmas card and saw a human shaped child in the picture, and not an infant contorted into the shape of a sleigh.

I was going to Sears!

***

Cue yesterday.

Our Sears portrait session was booked for promptly at 11:00, which was optimal smiling time for our Lulu Bird, and the promise of a lunch hot dog was a tangible bribe for LB since we could literally smell them from the neighbouring food court. We arrived at Sears, and the photographer shook a frazzled hand at me and ordered me to take a chair.

Okay.

I kept our Lulu Bird happy by rocking her buggy back and forth, and LB was content to play with what can only be described as the rotting corpses of toys of Christmas past. These were so decrepit they were almost the ghosts of toys of Christmas past.

One of the other customers eventually wandered over to have a peek in the buggy, smiled at LW, and then told me that she was there getting portraits done of her daughter "and [her] daughter's brothers." Took me a minute to figure out the family that was eating up my portrait time was three women who all had kids from the same guy. He's not in the picture (haha, punny!), but she told me the moms all get together so the kids can play and they can see who got paid child support.

I'm not even kidding.

Eventually the frazzled photographer stomped into the portrait cave and ordered me to follow. I stepped in and she said, "I'm assuming this is for Christmas so I'm just leaving this Christmas background down. It's our nicest one, you don't want to see the others."

Um, what?

Then I said I don't want a Christmas background, I want a plain colour because this is going to go on our wall at home. Year round. With great irritation she dropped the other backgrounds so I could choose, but I have a sneaking suspicion she didn't let me see all of them.

And let's pause for a minute to discuss this portrait studio. As soon as you walk in, you bang your toes and knees on props that are scattered everywhere. Chairs, trunks, artificial flowers, random strands of pearls, sleds, and enormous candy canes. When you look to your right, there is a wooden block and that's where the children sit. And oh, did I mention the entire room is the size of my dining room table? Cozy!

I got my girls set up, and the photographer said in a bored voice: "Okay, look up here. Hey, look up here. Smile. It will be nicer if you smile."

So what does LB do? She makes a deliberate frown and says, "I'm too sad to smile today."

The photographer, who is obviously not 'leaning in' to this job, sighs, "Well that's perfect. As if today isn't hard enough."

And just like that my dreams of an old-school Sears portrait with my cherubic kids looking up and off into the distance turned to dust; just like the gross toys in the waiting room are going to do in about five minutes.

After thirty minutes of coaxing and tears, I finally pulled myself together and tried to get the kids to smile. Nope. What a mess. We got ONE, literally one, picture of LB looking left with a glimmer of mischief in her eye, and my Lulu Bird looking right with her mouth open and what can only be described as a, "Duh, what's happening Mom?" look on her face. And that was the winner.

The whole experience was made worse by the photographer leaving me hanging mid-checkout (with a crying baby who was losing her shit) to help a stray Sears shopper who wanted to book an appointment.

Please enjoy the following exchange:

Stray shopper: "Oh, a portrait studio. Didn't know they still had these. Well, I think I'll book an appointment."

Unmotivated photographer: "For when."

SS: "What do you have."

UP: "What day do you want?"

SS: "Thursday?"

UP: "Here are our free times, akldh;ilghadkhga;hk. Got that?"

SS: "11:00?"

UP: "Okay, 11:00."

SS: "Well, I can't do 11:00! It's for my kids!"

UP: "Why not 11:00."

SS: "They're in school at 11:00!"

UP: "Okay....pick a time."

SS: "3:00? No. 4:00? 4:30?"

OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL CAN NO ONE HEAR MY BABY GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER I WAS ALMOST FINISHED WITH THIS PLACE.

Next year, I'm paying someone to fold my kids up and stick them in a Santa sack.

It will be perfect.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Guess Who's Back, Back Again?

So last week Dan had a business dinner to go to, and while there he got to talking to a table of people he didn't know. And while talking it came out that one realized Dan was Dan. The Dan. The Dan of A Cait's Life. Which means, she...read my blog!

Ack!

He came in the house that night and said, "I've got a story that will blow your mind!"

I was really hoping he'd entered a draw for a Hawaiian getaway, and won! Or a trip to the Maldives, and won! Or a trip to Mexico, and won! Or a trip to Bali, and won! (If you can't tell, I'm in serious need of a very specific sort of holiday.) But it was a story about someone who we don't know, who read my blog! Zoinks!

And she was wondering why I don't blog anymore, and to be honest I wonder about that too.

So let's start.

***

Since I last blogged our LB turned three, and then four. She went from short, to still short but not as short as before. She went from adorably mispronouncing things and telling me she "woved" me to letting out huffs of irritation and shouting, "I'M REALLY ANNOYED RIGHT NOW, MOMMY." And saying things like, "Because I'm a grown-up big sister now, I should probably have wine."

Her preschool teacher has told us that she has a "very expansive vocabulary with a firm grasp on knowing exactly what she wants."

Being back in a politically correct country is so adorable. I'm pretty sure what she meant was, "she talks a lot and is quite demanding."

Oh...wha? The whole "grown-up big sister" comment?

Yeah, we had another baby.

Louisa Wren

She was born May 13, 2016, and is Dan's mini-me. She is such a good baby, and I firmly believe the saying "know your limit, play within it" applies to children, so I'm stopping at two. 

We also bought a new house, and that's the story I'll tell you today.

So snuggle in tight, that's right, like that. (Okay, honestly, I just verbally spew children's book one liners all day e'ery day. I can recite the entire length of Tabby McTat and What the Ladybird Heard, from memory, which comes in handy on long car trips).

***

Dan and I started renting a house in December, the year we moved back. Because we had to re-establish residency requirements for tax breaks, we settled in to renting and thought maybe we'd rent for two years to get reacquainted with Kamloops and decide what we wanted life to look for us.

Well, but a few short months into that rental and I was aggressively ticking off boxes on the calendar until we could buy because holy shiz, renting in Canada is the freaking worst and landlords should all be collectively ashamed of themselves (except for the good ones). All of sudden I was having flashbacks to our old apartment where the people below us fought loudly about ridiculous things, and the landlords didn't do anything about it.

Canadians: we think we're polite, but really we don't give a shit about you if it's inconvenient to us.

We rented in my parents' neighbourhood so that we could be close to the free babysitters...err, I mean grandparents. Our house was in the bungalow style that littered the streets of the older parts of the neighbourhood, and it seemed so huge compared to the apartment we'd lived in. Our landlady was excited to have us as renters, as apparently--as I'd come to discover--good renters are about as elusive as good landlords. She practically threw the keys at us the night we toured, such was her joy to find us. I think the fact we turned up in structured clothing, as opposed to pajama pants and slippers (LIKE THE PEOPLE BEHIND US, yes I'm still a snobby asshole about this) is what really sealed the deal for us. 

So we moved in, and a month later the washing machine broke.

She had it carted away and replaced with a model that had previously been broken, but someone had fixed and so now we had only a half-broken washing machine. Neat.

Then the dryer broke. 

She had it carted away and replaced with a model that had previously been broken, but someone fixed and so now we had only a half-broken dryer. Neat.

Then the fridge broke.

I'm sure you can guess what happened next.

Then the furnace broke.

It was February, and it was cold. She sends someone over to fix it, furnace guy recommends replacing the furnace because it is really old and not exactly safe. She opts to spend $600 fixing it, instead of $1,200 replacing it. He warns her it will break again. I go out and buy heating dishes and carbon monoxide detectors and take them off my rent. She is not happy with me. I tell her it's a two way street: we waited for one week for the furnace guy to show up, and he told me it's not very safe. I'm looking at other rentals. She relents. 

The furnace breaks again.

Furnace guy is called again. Costs her $300.

The furnace breaks again.

Furnace guys is called. Costs her $600. 

She still won't replace.

I go to open the back window in our boot room and the window FALLS OUT OF THE HOUSE. There is a window shaped hole in our house. She sends her husband to fix it, who essentially just props it back in the hole and applies some sort of glue. It's a hack job for sure. 

I'm furious.

I skip looking at rentals and move straight on to buying and drag Dan along with me. He gets whiplash from the sudden change of life direction.

April showers bring gusts of wind so strong THEY START BLOWING THE ROOF OFF THE HOUSE. The neighbour shows up with handfuls of our roof, more roof in buckets, and wants to talk to her. Then he tells me that the people before us essentially were operating a puppy mill out of the house and now all of sudden it makes sense why the wood siding of the house is chewed down to nubbins.

My fervor to get out of there intensifies. I'm borderline a crazy person. 

Dan's used to it.

Summer settles in, and it's so hot in the house the smoke alarm goes off ON A REGULAR BASIS.

August 27th arrives, and with it our residency requirement is met. I pick up the phone and call a realtor.

***

Enter Helen, our guardian angel.

Dan is chill about the house hunting process, but surprise surprise: I'm not. I want my house, and I wanted it yesterday.

But the excitement to own is strong, and every night we get into the habit of watching HGTV like it's our damn job. And watching HGTV while buying is not a good idea. It gives you ideas. Grand ideas. Lofty ideas. It makes you believe you are handier than you are.

(*Clears throat*)

Helen is a motherly figure, and she takes us from house to house, steering my inexperienced emoji-heart-shaped-eyes from almost every house we choose to look at.

"I'm going to find you a house."

"This is not the house for you!"

"I wouldn't live in this house if someone paid me a million bucks!" (That being said after Dan and I viewed the house for a second time and considered putting an offer in.)

So like the good little Hufflepuff I am, I gradually learned to accept Helen's guidance but still firmly "wanted a project". 

"But Helen, I don't want a cookie-cutter new build! I want a quirky house with character, and trees, and a yard. I want a big ass yard!" She shook her head, as only the wise do, but indulged me. 

And we found it. THE HOUSE.

A beautiful house built in the 1970's. A one owner home built as a dream home, in the West Coast Modern style. It is everything. 

It is unique. 

It is structurally sound and well maintained.

It has trees. 

It has a big ass yard.

It is cosmetically outdated.

It is a lot of work.

We are surrounded by nature.

We don't know what we're doing.

We have realized that HGTV led us astray. Renovations are for the rested, not the weary. What dumb-dumbs we were to think we could tackle everything in two months. 

When we moved in I was sick as dog because I was two months pregnant. Then I was sick as a dog at three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine months pregnant. Who knew! The fact I was growing a giant (she was 23 inches long at birth! I mean OMFG, my poor body) played into this. So we moved in and never did anything again.

Then spring came, our beautiful Louisa Wren was finally evicted on doctor's orders (She started to like going for little wanders: "Think I'll be breech today. Nay, just playin', ma! I'll be head down again. Nay, breech. Nay, head down!" My doctor did an ultrasound in the hospital and her exact words were: "We've got a floater. And that's dangerous. Hope you don't have plans, because you're not leaving this hospital without a baby in your arms."). 

After she was born we cracked our knuckles and started to get to work on doing the cosmetic renovations. So we started painting our kitchen in June...

And now it's November and we're still painting our kitchen. Dear god. 

And Dan has decided that he LIKES the carpet; I can't even with that! 

We have decided that home ownership is a constant battle to keep nature and decay, at bay. Despite Cosmo's best efforts (yes, he's still alive! Only marginally more coordinated, and he's an outside cat now), we are surrounded by mice. They were even in our ATTIC. I nearly burned the whole place down the first night I heard those little scurries. I called the exterminator at 7 a.m. (dramatic? yes) and it took three weeks and four years off my life to figure out where those vermin were entering from. Then there's the woodpeckers. Oh the woodpeckers. Those assholes drill the holes and the mice wander in.

I. Hate. Nature.

But I love our house. It's ours, all ours. 

Gross carpet and half-painted kitchen, included. 

But if someone wanted to nominate us for an HGTV make-over show that'd be cool, because at the rate we're going LW is going to be graduating from high school before we get that damn kitchen done.