Monday, February 28, 2011

Just A Dream?

Overcast skies hid the moon and blanketed our home in heavy, winter darkness.  I was tucked beneath the duvet, relishing in the warmth of my homemade heating pad (four minutes in a microwave buying me an hour of thermal bliss), drifting off to sleep to the lullaby of little critters pattering along the deck outside my window in their nocturnal dance with my garbage can.  I had only just fallen into dreams when the first screams broke off all semblance of sleep.  Panic, immediate and violent, rose to my throat, constricting breath and jump-starting my sleeping heart like a fierce defibrillator.

My bare feet pounded the stairs, their staccato beat rivaling the pounding of my heart.  Noa was curled into a fetal position, shaking, sobbing, screaming and gasping with eyes closed tight against whatever onslaught was painted on her lids.  I lay my hand on her back.  She tensed and flailed, screams changing to such a curdling, high pitched decibel that I'm not sure I can call them human.  I pulled her from her bed, held her against me, speaking quietly around the fear in my throat.  She managed a shuttering breath and focused on my face, clinging to my neck, trembling like an epileptic.  "Ba-ad gu-uy," she stuttered between sobs before her gaze shifted to the corner and she started screaming again, clawing against me like she was trying to crawl over my shoulder.

I carried her downstairs where living room lamps dispelled shadows and dreams.  She continued to cling, the contagion of her panic like cold fingers on the back of my neck and rolling around in my stomach like a flu.

"Ba-ad guy," she said again.

"Who was it?"  I asked her, smoothing sweaty hair from her fevered forehead.


"What was the boy doing?"

Shaky breath.  "Eat me."

We cuddled and rocked and let our breathing become calm.  We sent daddy upstairs to kill dragons and frighten away monsters.  Her eyes grew heavy and she patted my neck.  "Dood durl, mommy."

And I kissed her and told her about the animals I heard walking on the deck.  "What do you think they were?"  I asked her.

She smiled a sleepy, goofy grin.  "Taow."

"You think there's a cow on the deck?"

"Yeah, mommy - funny."

And our hearts were returned to an acceptable rhythm and I let her sleep beside me in my bed and the next morning she had absolutely no memory of the terror that assaulted her in the middle of the night.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Give Peace A Chance

I was eight months pregnant when the Twin Towers were hit.  I remember sitting numbly on the couch, watching the devastating images, rubbing my belly and telling my baby how sorry I was to be offering him a world in such chaos.  Now, every night, Zander prays for the Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.  He prays for their safety.  He prays for their families.  He prays for the fighting to be over.  He has never known a time without war.

I was ten years old when news of the Gulf War filled the kitchen, relayed by tense reporters on the CBC.  War existed only on the encyclopedia shelf and in conflict between fairy-tale princes and dragons.  I had read a short novel; Polish Jews hiding in abandoned buildings, burning banisters for heat and eating horses that had been shot in the street.  Abstract fiction until news flowed beneath radio static.  And all I could think was that we didn't live near any horses and we were surely going to starve.

That night I crawled into my mothers bed, hugging her like a life-preserver.  "Mommy, are we going to die?"  Because every noise outside was Saddam Hussein cocking a pistol and every rumble of a semi on Highway 6 was a bomber plane taking aim at our house.

"No, honey, we're not going to die."  And she explained how big the world was and how far away this was happening and how vast and wide the ocean was.

It still felt personal.

Zander is not afraid.  He is completely confident in his Canadian safety bubble.  He believes in our troops even though he has no idea what they're doing over there and I like to think that his innocent prayers will save lives and bring peace.  So, if the war ends tomorrow, I will expect to find Obama on my door step, awarding Zander with the fifth ever Metal of Honor (for a Canadian) for conspicuous gallantry, intrepid prayer beyond the call of duty and for sticking flowers in the barrel of a gun.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Never In A Million Years...

He was fourteen and scrawny.  The musky evidence of his fathers trapping clung to his wear-weary Wranglers like a hinted aura.  I was seventeen and gaining heavenly crowns and english credits by tutoring him in the J.D.S.S. library.

Getting him to read was like pulling teeth or, as he might have said, skinning a tough old muskrat.  He would rather spend his time lassoing the flies that had settled to die in the east stairwell window with a piece of my hair than read about Piggy's glasses in Lord of the Flies.  And Shakespeare?  Not a chance.  Twelfth Night might as well have been in Latin.  So we'd play Scrabble with a two letter word exception.  We'd watch Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and write "book reports" about them.  I'd get annoyed when he pulled my hair and he'd pretend he didn't know me whenever we passed in the hallways apart from our tutoring time.

If someone had shown me a snapshot of the future I would probably have spit a mouthful of cafeteria fries all over it.  Not in a million years...

But here we are.  More than a decade later.  And now he's my brother.  And I really like him.

Even though he's still kind of a dork.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Concuss This, Telehealth

The man on the other end of the line is bored and baritone.  "Thank you for calling Telehealth Ontario.  How can I help?"  Completely monotone.  Doesn't care that my nine-year old might have a concussion.

I explain the story.  Quick.  Concise.  I just need to know if I should take him to emerg and let a doctor check him out.

"I'm sorry," he mutters without apology.  "All of our nurses are busy.  I can have one call you in about ninety minutes."  I hang up.

I call the hospital.

"Thank you for calling the Bruce Grey Health Unit.  If this is an emergency please hang up and call 911.  If you have a question regarding a medical condition you can access a registered nurse at any time by calling Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000."


[you can kind of see his bruise in this photo]
It's 12:30 am.  I'll be my own nurse.  I slip into the boys room.  Zander is sprawled, mouth hanging open, breathing even.  The lump on his forehead is darkening into an angry purple bruise but the swelling seems to have gone down.  He's peaceful.  Sleep divorcing him from memories of plunging off the sheer edge of the gas station snow bank - said forehead breaking his fall against freshly plowed asphalt.

"Zander?"  I shake him.  Gently at first.  Then harder.  I gain a groan and click on the bedside lamp.  His lids squeeze tight against the glaring assault.  "Zander?"  He fights me weakly.  "Zander...what's your name, Zander?"

"Whaaat?"  He's trying to block the light with a palm.

"What's your name Zander?  Do you know who you are?"

He squints and tries to hide his face in a pillow.  "Ioknow," he mumbles.

"What's your name?"


"Zander, what's your name?"

He sits up.  "Liam.  Liam.  Liam."

"Your name is Liam?"

And then he really wakes up.  Finally focuses on my face.  "What?  No.  I'm Zander."

"Where do you live?"

"Durham."  Like I'm a dummy.

"How many fingers am I holding up?"

He watches my hand.  "Two.  Four.  One."

I click off the light and kiss his hair.  "Good night, Zander.  See you in two to three hours."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Look Who Wears The Pants Now

It shouldn't surprise me.  At the house in Eugina he hid under a blanket while I chased a bat out the back door with a broom and a bucket.  I kill the spiders.  I unclog the drains.  I take out the garbage.  When I picked him up at work and told him about the rat the size of a cat that jumped out of the garbage can and scrambled through the house to hide beneath the hutch at the entry he was disgusted.  "Well, were going to have to deal with that."  Meaning I'm going to have to deal with that.

We're on the couch, watching a mindless sitcom, laughing over nighttime tea and oreos.  There's a rustle in the kitchen cabinet.  We both stiffen.  It's back.  Rustle...rustle...SNAP - like a pop gun.  The Better RODENTRAP by intruder.  It's a heavy-duty, grey, plastic pitfall of death.  There's a frantic scramble from within the coffin of the sink cabinet.  Pitiful squeals.  Sharp little talons struggling for purchase on the formica cupboard lining, trap banging against the back wall in one futile fight against inevitable assassination.

And then it's over.  The death dance is complete.  We stare at each other.  Each willing the other to act.  Each feeling the fingers of revulsion tickling along our spines.  Neither moving.  Oreos sitting like so much sand on our tongues.  Defiant.  Disgusted.  Disheartened.

I wait two hours.  Foolishly thinking he will step up.  He does not.  Of course.

I don my pretty pink rubber gloves - trying to put a little happily-ever-after into a task void of sunshine.  He is in full rigor.  Surrounded in the coffee grinds he managed to free from the garbage before succumbing to my prowess.  Like he was digging his own grave in a pile of Folgers Classic Roast.  I disengage the trap and he falls into the garbage bag without ceremony, nestling among slimy yogurt cups and shriveled spinach.  I remove the bag to the can on the deck where weather will petrify and garbage man will soon relocate far from my presence.

I return to his smug grin, slightly traumatized, acutely annoyed.  "How's it feel to know I'm more of a man than you are?"

All he does is laugh.

Want more rat stories?
Massacre At 212 Queen St S
Where Angels Fear To Tread
Where Angels Fear To Tread Part 2

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Consequence of Toilets

When he's angry he lashes out.  He might only be four but his slap packs a sting that smarts (both skin and heart).

I'm doing the dishes.  He's left solo at the table, smearing meat loaf around his plate, eyeing Zander and his ice cream cone in the living room.  "But I don't wike it!"  He scrapes back his chair and stomps over to me.  "I want dessert wight NOW!"  Arms crossed over his chest.  Angry tears welling.

"If you don't eat your supper, you don't get dessert."  I'm tired of the daily repetition.

He slams one foot down on the linoleum.  The rooster platter on the bakers rack rattles against the wall.  "WHAAAAAYYYYYYYYY??!!  You're so MEAN!!!!!!"  And he winds back, teeth clenched, growl building, eyes sparking and lands an angry open palm on my lower back.

I stiffen, hands still in the dishwater.  I am calm.  "Liam," I say, turning my head slowly to face his so-what-you-gonna-do-about-it expression.  "The next time you hit me, you're going to clean the toilet."

He scoffs.  "Yeah, wight."  And he stalks off.

Thirty minutes pass.

I turn off an episode of Johnny Test because it's distracting the boys from getting into their pajamas.  Liam's shoulders come up to his ears - or maybe his ears sink down to his shoulders...he looks up at me - the whites of his eyes flashing in what he's sure is righteous anger.  He snarls through his teeth.  "Mooooom-meeeeeeeeee."  The crescendo of his mommy-growl is bordering on being animalistic and if he was more than three feet tall it might have been scary.  "Dat's not FAIR!!!!!"  I see it building.  The decision being weighed.  The angel on his right shoulder (me) saying, "Don't do it.  It's not worth it."  The devil on his left shoulder (Darth Vader) saying, "Go ahead, she's earned it."  Vader wins.  This time he catches me in the stomach.

He fights me as I lead him to the bathroom.  He fights me as I put a disinfecting wipe in his hand.  He fights he as I direct him.  Lid.  Tank.  Inside of lid.  Seat.  Bottom of seat.  Rim.  He's too angry to cry.  He fights me when I tell him he has to wash his hands.

He's finally calm when it's all over.

"Do you have anything to say to me, Liam?" I ask him.

He looks at the floor.  "Sowwy, Mommy."

"Why are you sorry?"

"Sowwy I hit you."

"Are you going to hit me again?"

He shakes his head.

"Do you love me?"

He shrugs but a little half grin knocks Darth Vader right off his offending shoulder.

"How much do you love me, Liam?"

The half grin breaks into a full one and I'm amazed at how beautiful he is when his heart is shinning through his eyes.  "Two hundred and eighty-four," he tells me as if I should have already known that.  And off he runs to put on his pajamas in the hope that I will let him finish what is left of the cartoon.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Kitchen Kisses

"UUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHHH!" It's a gutteral, eye rolling, four-year old moan.  "Dat is so an-noy-ing!!!"  He flings himself forward across the coffee table, hiding his eyes beneath blond bangs that desperately need a hairdresser.

Mommy and Daddy are kissing in the kitchen.

We laugh at him.

Noa toddles past.  Smiles.  "Dood durl, mummy."

"See Liam?" I say, arms still around his daddy's neck.  "I'm a good girl!"

I plant another kiss.

He rolls off the table onto the floor.  "You're gwoss!"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Jerry Seinfeld, Remove Thyself

The album had been left out.  I had used it as a prop in my well-received (though maybe slightly inappropriate) Snow Camp Video Contest entry.  I have this lingering affection for John Travolta.  So what.  We all have our vices...

So the album's propped up on my dresser.  (Obviously it's weird that John Travolta is in my bedroom.  Don't worry.  I've returned him to his shelf in the living room - Yes, I have a John Travolta shelf and no, I'm not going to say any more about it.)

I am passing said dresser to exit my room.  A picture frame is blocking part of the album.  This is what I see...

What in the name of all things beautiful is Jerry Seinfeld doing in my bedroom?

A cruel joke.  That's what it is.

And now I will watch Grease four times in a row and imagine what my pinkie finger would look like nestled in John's chin dimple.

Table Talk

When we bought our house the kitchen was a boxed in cave, papered in polka dots and Coca-Cola border. We knocked out half a wall between the kitchen and living room and topped the half-wall with a $5 Re-Store counter top.  For six years we have been unable to share a meal around a table.  The kids sat on stools at the counter while we ate at the coffee table.  Six years.

Last week my dad tore out the wall.  Leveled the floor.  Resituated wiring.  Brought over an old table.

we used to play games on the kitchen floor
but not anymore : )
I set the table, the same one I ate around when I was a child.  Forks on the left, knives and spoons on the right.  Drinking glass above the knife.  Salt and pepper in the center.  I called everyone to the table.  Television off.  We talked around mouthfuls of rice.  Liam complained about the green beans.  ("But I don't wike peas!!!")  Zander complained about the rib sauce.  ("But I don't like it on my rice.")  Noa ate everything and then rubbed her messy plate through her hair.  What a beautiful thing.

And someday we'll have beautiful flooring to pull it all together but, for now, I'm content with the red linoleum kitchen meeting the orange tiled living room because, let's face it, I'm just a patchwork, mish-mash kind of girl.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jesus Has A DSi

Liam is hanging his head over the edge of the bunk, his hair reaching for the floor like blond stalactites, cheeks flushed from the rush of blood.  "When duz Desus even sweep?" he asks.
I'm tucking Zander in.  Verse two of You Are My Sunshine has been interrupted.  "I don't think Jesus needs to sleep, Liam."
"What?  Why?  How duz he det any west den?"
"You don't need rest in heaven."
"Yeah, Liam," Zander interjects, "heaven has everything you could ever want."
Liam sits back up, shakes out a head rush.  "Evwee-ting?"
"Yup, everything."
"Weally, Mommy?"
I tuck him back in again.  "Heaven has everything you need so you won't want anything."
"Oh...I'm dunna ast Desus for my own DSi.  Where duz Desus keep da DSi's in heaven?"
"I don't think there will be DSi's in heaven."
"Oh yes dare are.  I tink Desus has a gweat big woom in da back sumwhere where he hides dem all.  I'll dust ast him when I get dare."