9:53 AM

My Favorite Mug

Gandhi was right about one thing: if we all live with an eye for an eye mentality the entire world would be blind                 ...an...
6:36 PM

That Kid Stinks!

Liam .   L ittle I diosyncrasies: A musing M ammal.  Yup, that about sums it up.  I adore him but there is no one else in the world who f...
10:04 AM

This is NOT an Apology!

"And what will she have?" We were sitting in a diner that we frequent for their fish and chips and terrible coffee. The she b...
10:02 AM

A Good Big Brother

Zander adores his sister.  He is quick to hug her and never forgets to kiss her goodbye when he leaves for school in the morning.  While Lia...


The Day Spring Stole Zander's Shoes It was April and warm enough to feel like early summer.  Tulips had poked through.  The bleeding he...

Friday, April 30, 2010

My Favorite Mug

Gandhi was right about one thing: if we all live with an eye for an eye mentality the entire world would be blind

                ...and mugless...

I was in the kitchen working on dinner or some other daily monotony.  The kids were playing (fighting) in the living room.  It wasn't a crash - more like a THUNK followed by a darling "Uh oh," à la Noa.  I enter the living room to find her standing over the remains of my mug - my favorite mug, hands clasped in front of her, head tilted in a oh, please don't be mad at me sort of way.

I survey the massacre, feeling the loss like a physical pain.  It was my favorite.  MY FAVORITE.  It lay in two pieces, almost symmetrical, a dribble of morning coffee staining the floor like so many tears.

It wasn't in me to get mad.  Here is the truth: I left the mug on the counter of which I am well aware that Noa can reach by climbing from chair to side table.  I left it there with some naive belief that she would leave it alone, that the pretty colours wouldn't call her name, that she wouldn't be overcome with a need for a taste of whatever it is that mommy was drinking.  

She is one.  I am not. She has won.  I have not.  I shoulder the blame. 

So I gather the pieces, cradle them like a fetus in the womb of my palm, tell myself that I have a million other mugs...(but it was the only one that wasn't chipped...it was the only one lined in red...STOP IT!)  A mug is just a mug; a vessel for warmth, a comfort on a cool morning, an art piece in my cabinet.  And what was I going to do anyway?  Smash her sippy cup with a hammer?
I kiss Noa.  I forgive Noa.  I forgive myself. 

Rest in pieces oh favorite mug of mine...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thoughts from Edmonton International

Winter, 2000.  I missed my flight.  I purchased a small notebook at the Duty Free Shop.  Today I found that notebook.  Here are some of my thoughts...

Provocative stunner on some rich power trip assesses the view with critically painted eyes.  Lids fluttering in an attempt to seduce a lower rate from the gate attendant who is indifferent and rude in her sensible shoes and ugly smock - refusing to make eye contact with the whore who's lipstick makes her feel insignificant and small - though, in her plainness she defines beauty beside one who tries so hard but fails...

Who shall he be?  Shall he be young and beautiful?  Dressed in innocence with beautiful brown eyes that sparkle with mischief and humor?  Or shall he be older (though not passed 50) with a Travolta chin and salted hair that falls across a forehead smooth with the memory of childhood peace?  Or shall he be tall and 30 and happy to see me with long hair and a Lennon grin, relieved to watch me come through that gate, late but appreciated, ready to take me home to bed...

So I'm late.  And who's fault is that?  None but the one who forgot to hang the signs to direct us where to go.  And now in my lateness I am six hours early, destined to fill six hours watching people pass me - happy to come and go - women experimenting with different ways to use their breasts in an attempt to get their way only to discover there's no such things as a free coffee.  36D pays $2.  34A pays $2.  So the boob job wasn't really worth it, was it?  It only took me two minutes to write this.  Maybe 36B will get me a coke...

The carpet looks as though it's been vomited on enough to warrant a new one but the chairs are comfortable and soft and green.  There are clouds on the wall but they look digital - blown up too big for the pixels.  I like the checkered flags they have wrapped around the poles - advertisement for the Grand Prix or something equally as masculine.  They dress things up (in a testosteroney way).  The man sitting across from me has left.  I don't remember him leaving.  He was there.  Now he's not.  Wonder who he was meeting?  He seemed sad...

And here is love: at the International Arrivals gate where loved ones dance and await the return of those gone too long...

And here is love: stamping his two-year-old feet, asking, "where is mommy?" and "can I get a treat?"...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

That Kid Stinks!

Liam.  Little Idiosyncrasies: Amusing Mammal.  Yup, that about sums it up.  I adore him but there is no one else in the world who frustrates me more.  He is strong willed.  He is busy.  If Liam were a painting he would be a Picasso.  He is demanding.  He is hilarious.  He is mine.

"What's your name?"
"LIAM OLIVER 'DISCO' RUSNAK!"  He owns it.  He's proud of it.  He just hit his sister with a drum stick...
"Liam - get upstairs!"  And he runs because he doesn't want to find out what will happen if he doesn't.
Noa's crying her drama queen tears and Liam's calling from the top step before the first minute is up, "I'm weady to be nice!"
"Three minutes, Liam!"
He waits it out until I let him come back down.  He tries to hug Noa but she pushes him away.  "I'm sorrwy, Noa."
"Nooooo!" She pushes him again.
"Why did you hit your sister with the drum stick, Liam?"
He shrugs, "Her head was cwoser den da dwums."

   Oh, how I love him.

Monday morning.  I enter the living room to find Liam standing spread-eagle, a puddle growing at his feet, and he's struggling to spread his legs farther apart as the puddle grows - heaven forbid he get his ninja turtle socks wet.  He finishes. Walks away.  Sees me.  "Dood morning, Mommy."
"What happened on the floor?"
"I don't know."
"Did you pee on the floor?"
"Dander did it.  Tan I have Torn Pops?"

   Oh, how I love him.

   "Knock, knock." Grinning.
   "Who's there?"
   "Simpson's." Little giggle.
   "Simpson's who?"
   "Simpson's GooGoo GaGa - HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!"
   Liam is his own favorite comedian.  He made that one up himself.

   Oh, how I love him.

If PullUps was a political party Liam would be their most dedicated supporter.  He has chosen a firm anti-potty position and he's sticking to it.  He could be the spirited campaign manager.  He could start a protest - leading a parade of kids waving signs chanting, "No, no, we won't go!" or "Death to the Potties!"
I've put in a good year of dedicated effort.  I've been encouraging.  I've been supportive.  I've also been frustrated and angry.  I've threatened to make him wear diapers again.
We conquered number 2 a long time ago.  That's supposed to be the hard one but it's the other that he doesn't care about.  He's just lazy and it makes me crazy.  Every time I load a new package into my shopping cart I have to swallow my frustration.  There goes another $15.
And then there's the smell.  "Can't you smell yourself, Liam?  You stink!"
He shrugs.  He doesn't care.

   Oh, how I love him.

"Mommy, Liam got the baseball bat stuck in the tree again!"
I go outside.  The bat and the happy face frisbee are both stuck in the apple tree far beyond my reach.        
"Daddy will be home in three days, you'll have to wait until then."
"NO - I need them NOW!" And he sounds like a kid in dire need of an exorcist. 

   Oh, how I love him.

   Every night I tuck him in and sing him a Christmas carol no matter what time of year it is.  I kiss him.    
   "Love you, Mommy."  
   "I love you, too,  Liam."  And I really, really do.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Everything You've Heard Is True

"I would compare it to the microwave oven - or the internet."
She's talking about laundry.
"This will definitely change things.  Some people will just keep doing it the old way..."
That's right, laundry.

     You've seen it, right?  The commercial with the blond woman in an orange shirt singing the praises of the next new laundry product.
     Purex 3 in 1.  
It was my friend, not the commercial who first introduced us, inviting me to sleep in her freshly laundered sheets - I LOVE Hotel Wardell!  It was a coupon for $2.50 off that actually convinced me to buy my first package.  $5.97 in WalMart's detergent aisle.  Six bucks.  Twenty loads.  That's thirty cents a load - or eighteen cents after my coupon!  Thirty cents for washing, softening and anti-staticing (which apparently isn't even a word).
     Last night I crawled beneath soft, cool, fresh sheets and as I buried my nose in my pillow, (inhaling what I'm sure was the very scent of heaven) I laughed at myself because I had become that woman in the orange shirt who couldn't stop smelling the towel.  I had become a believer.  Everything I'd heard was true.
     So, let's compare.  My regular detergent is Purex 2X Ultra Concentrate After The Rain Mega Costco 150 loads.  $15.  That's ten cents a load with no softeners or anti-static magical powers.  And I get 1% cash back on every Costco purchase which might be about 45 cents a year - SCORE!
     It's important to me to be frugal.  I love a good deal.  I love to save money.  I love coupons. And now I love Purex 3 in 1.  The question is, will I give another twenty cents to surround myself in it?
     Here is my decision:  I will keep it in supply but I'll treat it like a laundry diet.  Only for bedding and towels.  My regular detergent is completely adequate for our everyday clothes.  Who knows, maybe Costco will start carrying it and I'll make a whole dollar back!
     The bottom line:  Purex 3 in 1 is amazing!  It's brilliant!  I don't know why someone didn't come up with it before.  Find coupons.  Use them.  Turn into a ridiculous commercial mom who can't get her nose out of her linens.  You won't regret it, I promise!

Monday, April 26, 2010

This is NOT an Apology!

"And what will she have?"

We were sitting in a diner that we frequent for their fish and chips and terrible coffee.

The she being referred to was Zander.

"Chocolate milk, please.  And she's a he."

And there's a double take and a blush and a quick apology and a dash to the counter to grab an Iron Man colouring book to replace the Disney Princesses.

Zander doesn't react.  He doesn't care.  This happens all the time.
It bothers me.  I'm shocked every time because when I look at Zander all I see is boy.  He dresses like a boy.  He talks like a boy.  He even smells like a boy.  He's gorgeous, granted.  But not girly.  Not by any means.

It's the hair.  When he was four years old he firmly decided that he wanted long hair like daddy.  He wanted to be a rock star.  And why not?  Where was the harm?  If it was terrible we'd just cut it.  So we let him grow it.  He entered Kindergarten with hair that slowly grew into his eyes.  He adopted this adorable hair flip to get it out of his way.  "No, mommy, I don't want you to cut it, I want to be a rock star."  So he tolerated the awkward growth and we stood by him despite the teachers recommendation to the contrary.

He's proud of who he is.  So am I.  His self confidence is inspiring.  The kids at school gave up teasing him a long time ago because he just didn't care.  And when Scott went on a field trip with them it moved Zander into a new level of cool.  None of them have Rock 'n' Roll Daddy's.

I don't know if he'll keep his long hair forever.  Every once in a while we suggest a hair cut but he confidently declines.
"What about Zach Efron hair, Zander?"
"Check out Zach & Cody's new hair cut - that'd look great on you"
"No thanks.  I like my hair."
And I like it, too.  I need to stop worrying that he'll develop a complex every time a waitress thinks he's a girl.  He knows who he is.  He likes who he is.  That's good enough for me.

He came home from school one day and told us that when he gets older he might do Cops for Cancer.  I was proud of him and devastated but I only let him see my pride.
"That would be amazing, Zander."  I would have to stand in the back of the gymnasium so he wouldn't see me cry.
"Yeah, maybe when I'm 12."
Okay, that gives me almost four years to prepare myself.

"Why would you let him grow his hair so long?"  We get asked this - pulled aside like it's some terrible secret and to this question I answer boldly, "Why not?"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Like Any Other Night

7:30 pm

We ascend the stairs to the boys shared room upstairs.  I have to duck beneath the solar system that's hanging from the ridiculously low ceiling while dodging ninja turtles and dress-up clothes.  We pile into Zander's bunk.  "Who wants to pray first?" I ask.

"Meeeee!"  Liam and Noa say simultaneously.

Liam: "Dear Desus, tanks for a dood day, help Dwampa Gigi to feel better, dive us a dood sleep, Amen."

Zander: "Dear Jesus, thanks for a good day, help Grandpa Gigi and Ms. Castles to feel better and not have cancer anymore.  Keep Daddy safe at work.  Give us a good sleep.  I love you, Jesus, Amen."

Noa: "Yeah, Yeah!"

Mommy: "Dear Jesus, thank you for keeping us safe and for the beautiful sunshine.  Give us patience with each other and help us get along.  Please give us all a good night's sleep - all night - in our own beds -  and help us to have a good day tomorrow.  We love you, Jesus, Amen."

"What song do you want, Zander?"
"You Are My Sunshine - and rub my back."  And he rolls over so I can rub his back and sing to him and I do.
"Do you want dream angels?"
He sits up.  "Yes."
"What kind?"
"Hmmmm...Going to Disney World."
So I tickle his scalp with my finger tips and make kissy noises - these are dream angels.
He hugs me.
He kisses me.
"Good night, Zander."
"Good night, Mommy."

I crawl into Liam's bunk.
"Do you want a song?"
"Wudolph Da Wed Nosed Weindeer! Wub my back!" And he rolls over so I can rub his back and sing to him and I do.
He stops me.  "No, Mommy, wap."
So I rap Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and he giggles because it's funny when mommy raps.

"Do you want dream angels?"
He sits up.  "Yes."
"What kind?"
"Buzz Lightyear!" he says with enthusiasm
So I tickle his scalp with my finger tips and make kissy noises and I throw in a "to infinity and beyond" for good measure.
He hugs me.
He kisses me.
"Good night, Liam."
"Dood night, Mommy."

I pull Noa out of Zander's bed where they're cuddling.  
"Do you want angels, Noa?" Zander asks her.
"What kind?"
"Bzzzzzzz!" That's Buzz Lightyear.
So Zander delivers her angels and kisses her.
I hold her so Liam can kiss her and add his own angels.

I turn on the globe that shows the constellations in the dark and then Noa and I pick our way through the toys on the floor to the door.

Mommy: "See you later, alligator."
Zander: "In awhile, crocodile."
Mommy: "See you soon, baboon."
Zander: "See you 'round, funny clown."
Mommy: "Time I went, elephant."
Zander: "See you later, silly turtle."  (It doesn't rhyme but he thinks it's funny.)
Mommy: "Good night, sleep tight, don't let the Zipparumpazoo's bite...I love you!"
Zander and Liam: "Love you, too."
Mommy: "Good night!"
Zander and Liam: "Good night."

And kisses are blown and the light is turned off and I breathe out a satisfied sigh.  Two down.  One to go.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Don't Mind Me: I'm Just Saving The World

I found the crib on the side of the road.  It was leaning against a hydro pole, abandoned, rejected, calling to me.  This was in 2001.  My sister and I and my pregnant belly wrestled the dirty pieces into the car.  It was like putting together a puzzle once it was unloaded in what was to be the nursery.  It took hours.  It was fine.  I like puzzles.  And all the pieces were there.  It went together.  It was strong.  I climbed into it and jumped on the mattress. (No, I didn't get a mattress from the ditch - it was a $5 yard sale steal!)  After a vigorous cleaning, a coat of white paint and some adorable bedding, it could have been on display at Babies'R'Us.  I surveyed my work smugly, satisfied that, with a little elbow grease, I had saved myself about $150.

That poor crib has survived three babies beyond what it's original owner had intended.  It is scratched and stained and bite-marked.  Yesterday I dismantled it, staking definite claim in the "I'm done having babies" club.  Noa was excited to move into a sweet little toddler bed that we rescued from my best friend's garage and yes, the $5 mattress is still going strong!

The inspiration came as I was carrying the crib spring down the stairs with full intention to send it to the dump.  I love organization.  I love everything in it's place.  I love when organization looks interesting.  On a whim I cleared a spot on my bedroom wall, secured the spring with screws and used it to hang my necklaces, bracelets and earrings.  We'll call it a piece of sculpture.  This is art and memory and sentimental display and I have to say, I love it and just maybe I've reduced my carbon footprint by a percentage point.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Good Big Brother

Zander adores his sister.  He is quick to hug her and never forgets to kiss her goodbye when he leaves for school in the morning.  While Liam says, "Mommy, I don't think we should have had a baby,"  Zander keeps asking us to have another one.  Keep on dreaming, Zander!
He recently brought home a paper he wrote, slightly embarrassed over his sentiment, proud of the A+ sticker on the bottom.  This is what it said (his spelling - not mine):

I love my sisster very much and she's the best.  This is why she's the best.  She always gives me hugs and kisses because she loves me.  She also likes to play ball with her bunny ball.  Another reasin is when ever she sees me she sais my name in a cute vocie.  And sometimes when I come home from school she runs as fast as her little legs kan kary her to the door.  I love my sisster very much and my sisster loves me very much.

So, I'm a sap but this got me swallowing against a sob and promising to frame it and hang it in Noa's room so that she'll always know her big brother loves her.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


The Day Spring Stole Zander's Shoes
It was April and warm enough to feel like early summer.  Tulips had poked through.  The bleeding heart in the corner was getting bigger every day.  Trees were starting to bud.  Winter coats were already stored away.  Spring fever had taken hold of the neighborhood, manifesting itself in rakes and paint and window washing and baseball cards in bicycle spokes.

Beside our house is a one level seniors apartment complex and beyond that is a little gully full of sticks (and rotten potatoes, apparently) where Zander and his friends like to play after school.  We can see them from the kitchen window and he can hear us if we call from the back deck so we let them play as long as he's home by 4:00.  They have sword fights with sticks and see who can make the biggest potato bomb explosion and entertain the poor bored geezers leaning against their walkers, soaking up the sun.

Up the little rise from the gully is the Saugeen River.  Come spring time it's usually a high, rushing death trap from all the melted snow but because everything happened so early this year (what's so bad about global warming anyway???) the water was very low.  More than half of the river bed was "dry".  There's an island in the middle of the river and at first glance it looks like all you'd have to do is dodge a few mud puddles to get there and surely, upon this island, there would be bigger sticks and louder bombs; so, being the brilliant, gung-ho for adventure, don't-think-it-through boys that they are, they decided to set out for this new, unexplored wilderness.

They didn't get far.  The earth opened up, said, "I don't think so, fool!" and swallowed Zander's feet in a slough of thick, hungry mud.  And he was stuck.  Really stuck.  Enough to make him panic and think that he was in quick sand for sure and that he'd never get out and that mom would be so mad and he might die there or never get that new Pokemon DS game that he's been saving for because mom would make him buy his own new shoes which would be almost as bad as dying...I don't know what all went through his head but it was at least 10 minutes from the time I watched his head disappear over the edge of gully until it reappeared again.  That's an eternity to be stuck in the death grip of an unrelenting spring monster.

He managed to get his feet out, sans shoes.  They were swallowed whole.  And of course they were brown shoes and he was so close to the breaking point that he couldn't find them to pull them out.
He was like a dead man walking as he made his way home.  He was pushing his bike, jeans muddy up to his knees, white socks (that will never, ever be white again no matter what I spray on them) flopping against the sidewalk, making wet, splatting noises and leaving a squishy trail.  And he was trying so hard to hold it together, backpack askew, jacket hanging off one shoulder, taking deep breathes that shivered through his entire body.  He put away his bike and hung up his helmet and made the walk to meet the executioner waiting on the deck.

"What happened?"  Not condescending.  Not threatening.
"I (breath) got (breath) stuck (breath) in (breath) the (breath) mud...(sniffle, bottom lip quiver).

And I laughed.  It was horrible of me.  He was devastated and I was laughing.  I hugged him - mud and all - he clung to me like a life preserver and then, "My (breath) shoes (breath) are (breath) gone."
I made him undress right there on the deck - nothing muddy was going into my house - and he asked to have some time alone.  When I went up to his room ten minutes later he was dressed, sitting on his bed crying over the terror he had survived.  Some more hugs - you're never too old for hugs, Zander - and he was calm enough to go back to the river with grandpa, who like some hero was able to find his shoes.

Healthy fear of the river instilled?  Check.
Shoes cleaned - though a little worse for wear?  Check.
Hugs to heal the most wounded survivor?  Check.  Check.

"Zander, if you can't see our house - we can't see you.  We need to be able to see you."
"Okay, mom."
"We love you.  We want you to be safe."
"Okay, mom."
"We love you."
"Love you, too."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Riding the Rocket

On Saturday we left the comforts of small town Ontario for the chaos and shuffle of the city.  When you're used to living in a place with only one traffic light venturing into a metropolis is an experience in itself.  At 8 years old, Zander is already jaded to the bustle - annoyed that we had to wait for a train and then a bus when we had a perfectly good car in the mall parking lot.  Liam, however, embraced the adventure like any three-year-old boy - with enthusiasm and fearless joy.  It was for him that we abandoned our car in the covered (free) parking lot at the Yorkdale Mall in exchange for a ride on the subway.

Liam approaches new experiences with a kind of wide eyed wonder that I wish I could capture and bottle up for those moments I feel ready to scream at him in frustration.

Before entering the station we made a potty stop.  I took Liam into the stall with me.  This was no Hanover Zellers, no way was I going to let him wait outside the door.  Watching me squeal as the automatic flusher went off three times while I peed made him forget to protest such a request.  And the sinks.  Have you seen the sinks at the Yorkdale Mall?  They're incredible.  "Like on a spaceship," according to Liam.  They glow with some ethereal blue light - like washing your hands over an extraterrestrial crystal or something.  Gorgeous!  We leave the bathroom and Zander's leaning against a pillar, water stains on his jeans from where he'd dried his hands.  "Dander, weren't doz sinks tool?"  And he just shrugs and goes, "Yeah," and I get this horrible flash of motorcycles and tattoos.  Not yet, I remind myself.

For ten bucks we bought an all day family pass for the TTC.  That's cheap entertainment, if you ask me.

We travelled through what felt like mazes of underground streets and tunnels and magic stairs (escalators in Liam speak).  Liam danced to the saxophone player in a blue plaid suit and asked if he could make money if he played his harmomnica.

We heard the subway train before we could see it.  The thunder rumbled up through our sensible walk-around-the-city shoes. ("No, Zander, you can't wear your heelies.")  The wind it generated as it blew past us swept our hair into our eyes and made Liam squeal with excitement.

We boarded.  The car was almost empty.  We sat underneath a sign for the next big bestseller.  Zander wanted to stand because he'd seen people do that in a movie once.  I wanted to attack him with kisses and embarrass the cool right out of him but I let him have his moment.  He loved his moment.

Liam rocked with the car, asking questions about everything, wanting so badly to pull the yellow emergency chord, weaving back and forth in a rhythm beating it's way towards motion sickness.

I'm sure we were entertainment for the veterans of the rocket, checking out these hick town tourists getting excited about what to them is a necessary annoyance.

And Zander did loosen up.  When we got off our first car (we took 5 during the day) he tried to run beside it as it took off again.  A girl watched him out the window - distracted from her book long enough to smile at the innocence of a child amazed by a train.

BoneMan's Daughters by Ted Dekker {book review}

This book broke my heart. It was horrifying and gut-wrenching, chill-you-to-the-bone, hard to stomach but impossible to put down. It crawled into my mind and made me squirm. Ted Dekker has created characters that will take me a long time to forget. The BoneMan is a terrifying monster, and the fact that he's loosely based on a real predator from Dekker's own life makes him that much more frightening. The love of a failed father for the daughter that coldly rejects him propels the plot as it twists from a bunker in Iraq to a basement in Texas. It's a heart-pounding, adrenaline fueled ride that left me breathless and blinking at tears. The best $5.99 (Costco special!!!!!) that I've spent in a long time.
Ted Dekker continues to surpass my expectations and has earned and maintains his spot in my all time top five!
There are two things I love about Ted Dekker; nay, three that I would abandon all obligations to lose myself in.
One: He is a master of suspense.
Two: His exploration of the human psyche, in all it's flaws and glory, blows my mind.
Three: The tales he weaves are so brilliant, so vivid and riddled with that timeless theme of good verses evil (without seeming ordinary and redundant) that I can revisit his stories over and over again and always be surprised, always entertained and always convicted on some level within my own character.

The BoneMan's Daughters
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