Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Some things a kiss won't make better...John Denver doesn't live around here.

Isobel always seems to fall asleep after she has been at the sitter's all day. Too much playing I suppose. She doesn't fall asleep after school usually, just after spending the day at the baby sitter's house. I picked her up the other day and predictably she was out in a few minutes after getting home.
Isobel:(grumbling and moaning) "Not that one. No"
I walked over to ask her to repeat what she said and noticed she was still asleep.
Isobel: "It's a spoon...a lost spoon, I said."
She sat bolt upright and stared at me with a look that says 'Something is not quite right here.'

I am a Dad. And being a Dad means second line of defense, as in 'I'm in a bit of distress and Mummy is not around. I could just suck it up and move on...or I could go get the Old Man.' I'm O.K. with it though, I have bandaged my share of scraped knees, wiped mud caked and tear stained cheeks and kissed away owies...all when Mrs. Narrator isn't home of course.
Isobel is a tough kid for the most part and a kiss on the forehead will usually, send her into all better land and back on her merry way but a couple of weeks ago she started complaining of a sore ear. She also had a bit of a fever that always went away with medicine so when the fever dropped, so did the complaints about the ear. It's tougher to judge what's real and what's just for attention when you can't readily see it and what you can monitor, goes away with meds. I'm not kidding...after ten minutes of giving her ibuprofen you'd never even know she hadn't been feeling well. It wasn't as if it were a broken arm. we kept up with the fever reducers and left it at that.
There is one place where I always seem to be the first line of defense, for everyone in the house. Medical advice. I have no idea why. I have no specific training other than first aid (infant Heimlich maneuver comes in handy at the damnedest of times...) but if there is a medical problem they all come to me...which is why I felt even guiltier that we didn't take her to the doctor.

"My ear hurts." she said when she would wake up and come into our room and ask if she could sleep in our bed and so we gave her ibuprofen and she went back to sleep. It went on like this for a while...a couple of days...maybe more but the point is it went on and it just didn't seem to be going away. Finally she said her left ear was feeling better only to have the right one start to hurt.
But honestly, it didn't occur to us that we should take her to see anyone and I don't mean it facetiously or to make it seem that we are stupid people. Her fever had all but disappeared and when she complained, we gave her medicine and it went away. I had a ton of ear-aches as a kid and the routine was always the same. A couple of ear drops( which I found out later were vegetable oil) a cotton ball and your head on a heating pad. Within a couple of hours...a day at the most, it was gone. Mrs. Narrator experienced much the same so there was no reason to think that it would be any different with our children.
It is a terrible, heart wrenching thing to watch your child cup her hands around her ears and curl up in a fetal position because she is in that much pain... to have her come into your bedroom in the middle of the night sobbing that her ear is making her mouth hurt now...to try and do something, anything to make her feel better. Including the offer of a kiss better from Dad, only to hear her say that 'a kiss won't make it better.'
It was going into the third week and it was the same back and forth that it had been, ear pain equals ibuprofen for Isobel equals no more ear pain equals happy Isobel. But then the fever came raging back and we knew that it was getting serious and this thing was starting to grow roots.
As it is, she has had a crap go of it this winter, it's as though she has been sick every three weeks. Even on the way to Mexico she had the sniffles. I think it was only the heat of the sun around the pool that finally dried the river of snot out of her nose....only to be flooded by it again the second we landed back home...
So off to the after hours Doctor went Isobel and Mrs. Narrator and the tears that flowed at the doctors office were absolute proof of what she was going through. Izzy has always been one of those kids (much like her father) that seems to start to feel better at the mere mention of going to see the Doctor but this time there was only pain and tears...my hat is off to Mrs. Narrator, if it had been me to take Isobel to the Doctor's she likely would have come home with a pony for her troubles.
After all was said and done and the Doctor was seen, it was an ear infection and a nasty one at that and she wasn't the only one. One or two other kids in the office that day were also suffering through the same thing...From there it as off to the pharmacy to get the vile banana liquid and then back home to bed.
I think the thing I take away from this was just how quickly the vile banana liquid changed everything. Within a day she was feeling better and two days later there wasn't a single complaint about a sore ear. In my mind she was going to lose her hearing and I would have to carry the burden of my ignorance and laziness...and pockets full of hearing aid batteries and pony chow for the rest of my days...

So with Isobel's being sick the last little while, she has been allowed to sleep in our bed...though she pretty much muscles her way in there when she's feeling alright too. Come to think of it, she comes into our room virtually every night. She used to ask if she could sleep in our room. Then she would just sort of edge her way in and push one of us (me) out of bed.
Last night she came into our room around 2:47:52 a.m. When your child display an act of the magnitude that Isobel did, you tend to make not of the time it happened. I thought I was dreaming (and I am still not convinced that I wasn't) but I would swear that she had already decided that the best place for her was between Mrs. Narrator and Me and to that end, she leaped over top of me to get to that very spot. I would like to say that she cleared me cleanly with deft, cat-like grace but the sharp sudden onset pain just slightly south of my stomach, told me she did not.
I don't remember much after that and so she must have gotten comfortable and gone back to sleep fairly quickly. I don't understand the logistics of it all but I am quite certain that Isobel expands while she sleeps. It just isn't possible that a five year old girl that is 38 pounds and a little over three feet tall can take up that much room in a bed where two adults can sleep comfortably and never touch each other.
I do remember Mrs. Narrator telling me that my alarm was going off and discovering that it IS possible to sleep entirely on the seam that runs the complete circumference of a mattress...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Izzy hits the links...It's the end of the world...

We were going through some of Izzy's clothes and separating the ones that didn't fit from the ones that still did. She was getting anxious about the whole affair and was becoming more and more upset as some of her favourite things were put into bags and put out into the hallway.
Isobel: "I don't like this."
Daddy: "What don't you like, honey?"
Isobel: "Giving my clothes away. My best clothes. Why are we only giving away MY clothes?"
Daddy: "Because they don't fit you anymore. These are clothes from when you were little and you're getting bigger, so we'll give them to somebody who they will fit."
Isobel: "I don't want to get bigger. None of my good clothes fit anymore and It's making me way too bossy."

It was the first long weekend of the season and the first decent weather we had experienced in a long, long time. For once, I was actually at a loss of what to do with the kids since Mrs. Narrator was off throwing down eight wheels worth of bitch-slap somewhere in Wisconsin. It was warm and sunny and gorgeous so it had to be an outdoor activity. The kids agreed, anything to get out of the house and get away from each other.
I had considered the zoo or other such wild adventures, even the science centre came to mind but I think the only one that would have enjoyed that was me and as for the zoo or the lion safari, the distance to get to them is quite far and the cost of them would poke a gigantic hole in the chances of doing anything else that weekend.
They had been brother and sister all day. Many hours of 'Stop touching me,' and 'I'm not touching you' and 'Daddy, he's touching me'. You know, I always thought that that sort of thing was a joke. Kids don't really talk like that or act that way...the joke's on me...in spades.
"Get you shoes on and get in the car." I said, my patience becoming more threadbare by the moment.
"Where are we going?" asked The Boy.
"Get your shoes on and get...in...the...car..."
"Why are you talking like a robot Daddy?" Asked Izzy.
"Yeah, why are you talking like that?" seconded The Boy.
"Get your shoes on...oh forget it." I sighed. "Let's just go, we'll figure out where on the way."
Whatever authority I had over them vanished the second they realized that if they posed a united front that they were likely to get whatever they wanted from me. Proud as I was that they could work together as a team, even if I had to become the enemy to get them to do it.
OK so I had an idea of where I would take them but didn't want to let on that I had a plan. How can I ever hope to truly be 'The Old Man' if I don't appear disorganized and lost at least some of the time. Where does one take two kids who are on the verge of physically assaulting one another You take those two kids to a mini golf course and give them each a weapon (complete with a non-slip handle) in hopes that they will cancel each other out.
Neither of the kids had ever been mini golfing and I remember many fond hours playing round after round in the summer when I would go to stay with my grandmother. So we went to a little roadside place just outside of town where they had eighteen holes of mini golf and go kart track that seemed to go on forever. We picked out or clubs (including one that was actually small enough for Izzy) and our balls. Purple for The Boy, Pink for Izzy (who couldn't stop giggling about the peach basket full of balls...yes she is my kid) and a black one for me.
First up was The Boy who has the power behind his shots if not the finesse. If the object of the game were to shoot from the tee of the first hole clear to the cup of the sixth hole, the boy would be champion of the free world. He was excited and laughing and happy and it was grand.
Next up was Isobel. Let me state for the record that written on the score card are the words 'Six Stroke Limit On Any Hole'. Now Izzy didn't so much putt the ball as she did push it up. Not like a hockey stick but still with the broadest surface of the club which I thought would be the natural way to use a golf club for the uninitiated. No Izzy used it more like a polo mallet, attempting to hit the ball with the smallest available surface of the club. By the end she had become rather proficient in this technique.Maybe I shouldn't have joked about the pony. Towards the end, she finally put one in the cup without any help from me and asked;
"Daddy, how many hits?"
"Six." I said.
"Oh my god, I'm rocking this." she said.
She shot a lot of sixes that day but you may as well have given her the green jacket right there and then, as far as she was concerned.
From there it was on to go karts. My first concern was that they wouldn't allow Izzy to ride with me and that The Boy would not be big enough to ride on his own. Wrong on both counts and so off to the track we went.
We got geared up in our helmets and breathed in the gasoline fumes that stir the blood and make you want to go like a bastard down that narrow, tire lined track.
"The two seat car is broken right now and I don't think we're going to get it working anytime soon." The track operator said.
We were all a little saddened by this news and turned to go as he called out to us and said that we could use the coupons for a single ride. The Boy was the only single ride possible and he looked at me with both pleading and terror in his eyes.
"What do you think?" I asked him.
"I'm ready," he said already sitting in the car.
He took off like a shot and squealed his tires going around the first of the fifteen wild turns that made up the course...I'm certain the boy remembers it that way, though closer to the truth he was driving like my father. Slow, little faster, little slower, little faster, lot slower, nervous wave with hand very quickly put back on the steering wheel. And in fifteen minutes it was over. The course at normal speed take approximately two and a half minutes to complete a lap (for a seasoned driver said the man) I tipped my hat to the boy for squeezing as much drive time out of his three laps as possible...I have heard him speaking to his mother and his father, describing his day at the races. Two things about that day make me smile...It was his first time on a go kart and I was there to help him experience it and the way he describes his driving, I'm quite certain he will be changing his name to Earnhart any day now...

This past Saturday was meant to be the end of the world according to a particularly religious fellow in the United States. As I have stated many times, we are not a religious family by any stretch and so paid as much mind to this turn of events as we do most other religious events (the exceptions of course being the gift giving religious events).
Isobel and I were out in the driveway working on my car when two men came walking up the driveway. One older one younger. Both carrying a familiar looking book, a brief case and a shirt pocket full of colourful papers.
"Good afternoon sir, could we take a moment of your time on this beautiful day?"
"Right down to the wire, huh?" I asked.
"Something like that. You see sir, on a day with such importance around it..."
"Go away." I said.
"Pardon?" he asked.
"Go away," I said. "I think there's a foxhole next door."
The younger man offered me some of his colourful pamphlets but I politely refused. As they made their way back up the driveway, Izzy asked "Did you know those guys?"
"No," I said. "Why?"
"The way you were talking to them, you seemed like you knew them. What did they want?"
"They think the world is going to end, so they want people to believe in the baby jesus." I explained.
"For real?" She asked.
"For real," I said. "Even though they know that the world really isn't going to end, they still want people to believe in the baby jesus."
"Don't they know that THEY aren't real?"
I was pretty sure I knew what she meant by that last statement, given Isobel's history and perception of christendom but the way she phrased it could open a metaphysical can of worms I was totally unprepared to deal with.
"I guess not. Let's go have lunch." I said.
"Yes Pick?"
"Why did you tell those guys that a fox lived next door?" She asked.
"Kind of tough to explain," Isaid. 'ask me when you're older."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kids still say the god-damnedest things...sleep ninjas ...

There are two distinct schools of thought on growing pains. One side thinks them legitimate and real and excruciating. The other thinks them little more than coincidence and hokum. But Izzy thinks growing pains are very real and they are, generally responsible for every unknown ache or pain that happens to her.
Isobel: (Groaning and writhing on the couch) "Daddy!"
Daddy: "What is it my delicate flower?"
Isobel: "Wait, what? What am I?"
Daddy: "My delicate flower?"
Isobel: "No I'm not."
Daddy: "Whatever. What's the matter?"
Isobel: "Daddy, I'm having a growing pain."
Daddy: "Are you? Would a kiss make it better?"
Isobel: "O.K."
Daddy: (Giving a very reassuring and father like kiss on the forehead) "Better?"
Isobel: "Not there you goof... Here." (pointing at her knee)

One of my favourite things to do is eavesdrop on Izzy, especially when she is playing by herself, speaking to the masses. We like many other middle class never enough time parents, have a basement full of crap that we have been meaning to throw away/use/sort/put away/organize etc...etc. One of her prized basement possessions is the dancing Santa toy that comes upstairs every Christmas. She cuddles him and cradles him like a baby.
Recently she found an old toaster down there and the basement was instantly transformed into Izzy's Kitchen...and there's always something cooking...
"Now boys and girls," she began. "Who would like to have some toast with butter?" She pointed to several of her minions. "And who would like toast with peanut butter?" She made a couple of uh-huhs and then turned to Santa.
"Santa, would you like to have some toast? With butter or peanut butter? OK, you just sit there and wait then." She went about making the toast and handing it out to all...except Santa who must have been a little over zealous.
"Santa," she said. "I said you have to wait your turn." She turned back to the toaster but was onto him again. "Santa, I said you have to wait your turn." The frustration was noticeably rising in her voice. "Now who wants this piece?" she asked the thronging masses. Then it all went wrong, big time.
"Santa!" she screamed at the jolly old elf. "I said you would have to wait your turn. Now you will not get any toast. EVER." She turned away from him but Thought better of it. "Santa!" (Crack!) She had reached over and smacked Santa off of the table he was perched on. By the expression of pain that crossed her ever reddening face, she had obviously forgotten that Santa was a hard plastic mechanical toy.
"Are you O.K?" I asked, walking over to her.
She kicked Santa where he lay and started heading upstairs. "I hate Christmas." she said.

I can see why Seinfeld was a show about nothing, sometimes the best things (in my case, the best writing fodder) just happens. You can't write it, you can only write it down. I picked up Isobel from school and she had two plastic cups in hand.
"Daddy, I made cupcakes at school!" she proudly exclaimed. I complimented her on her canny use of frosting and sprinkles and her total grasp of the cubist use of marshmallows. She didn't get that but thought it was totally cool when I told her she did a good job on her cupcakes.
We went to get the mail and The Boy was waiting at the post office and took us up on our offer of a ride home. He noticed the cups straight off.
"What's in the cups?" he asked.
"Izzy made cupcakes," I said.
"Good job Izzy," he said in a kind big brotherly kind of way. "Are they edible?"
Pffffft," sputtered Isobel in a moist rebuttal. "No, you eat them."
"That's what edible means Izzy." replied The Boy.
"Oh," said Isobel. "...then yes."

Mrs. Narrator is happy that she has finally found a clothes shopping buddy and the two of them have looked through the catalogue more than once to pick out the coming season's wardrobe. Well, Izzy picks out her wardrobe, Mrs. Narrator mostly looks, points and laughs at what passes for fashion for adults these days. At least they can agree on bathing suits.
"Look Mummy, there are bathing suits in this catalogue." Izzy said gleefully holding up a magazine.
"Let's have a look," said Mrs. Narrator. Ooh look Izzy, these ones are mix and match."
"Let me see that," said Izzy taking back the catalogue. "Mummy, which one is this one?" she asked pointing at the picture of a red one piece bathing suit. "Is this a mix or a match?"

It was one of those rare tender moments that Isobel and I share far too infrequently these days. She had come over to me and after giving me a gigantic bear hug, curled up beside me and snuggled into me. It took me back to the days of when she was very young and I was the only person she would nap with. Or when she would lay on my chest on the couch and we would both watch the T.V. and try to stay awake. They were pure moments...moments that made me feel how I picture a father to be and here was another of those moments, seemingly a lifetime later. Me and my girl on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Completely unsolicited, she looked up at me, grabbed my cheeks and bent my head down to kiss my forehead. "I love you," she said.
"I love you too, Pick." I replied.
"I know," she said. "everybody loves me."

Isobel has recently become one of those children that must have every light within a fifty mile radius of her turned on at bedtime. At first I insisted on her turning off the lights but gave in quickly when I remembered the length of time I required a nightlight of my own (T.V. doesn't count, right?) At least she comes by it honestly.
But as we are not yet the Gettys or the Rothschilds (the Bakers of Ayr if you please) I turn off all the lights as a part of my nightly bedtime ritual. Isobel is no slouch however and within a day or two had figured out that the lights are not on when she wakes up in the morning, therefore someone must be turning them off...but who?
"Daddy," she asked me. "When I go to sleep at night my light is on and the hallway light is on. When I wake up in the morning, the lights are off. Who keeps turning them off?"
"The sleep ninjas." I said. All children know and have a healthy fear of ninjas...as they should.
"That's stupid, who is really turning them off?" she demanded.
"O.K. you caught me. It's really me." I said trying to sound as sarcastic as humanly possible.
"No really Daddy, who turns them out?"
"It's the sleep ninjas. You don't have to believe me but its true. They use their ninja skills to sneak into your room and turn off your light without you ever knowing they were even there."
This idea of nighty-night ninjas came to me one night as I went to turn off her lights and she started stirring. For fear of her waking up, I froze in a bizarre kung fu type pose in the middle of her room(I don't know why I did it either but it seemed an appropriate pose to strike at the time) waiting for her to settle back down.
I've never known a child to have such a dramatic reaction to her nightlight being turned off. Some nights its as though she is experiencing an electric shock the way she jerks in her bed as I click the switch. This past weekend, It was later than usual when I went to bed and so figured there was no chance of her even hearing a cannon go off when I went in to turn the lights off. She is such a sound sleeper.
"What are you doing?" she asked just after I put the light out, shooting gigantic holes through my entire sound sleeper misconception.
"I thought I heard a ninja in here so I came in to look and saw that the lights were out. Go back to sleep, honey." I thought I might have just kicked a gigantic hornet's nest if she clued into the fact that I just said I thought I heard someone in her room. She might not ever sleep in the dark again. I looked over at her and she was drifting off quickly. I turned to leave and she sat bolt upright, scaring the bejesus out of me.
"Daddy!" she whisper-yelled.
"Yes?" I whispered back.
"Leave my lights alone, O.K?"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Isobel discovers her gift...The Mall always brings out the best in the children...

It was supper time and Izzy was getting hungry.
Isobel: "What's for supper?"
Daddy: "Noodles and beef and other stuff you like."
Isobel: "I don't like that stuff. What else is there?"
Daddy: "Look in the pot."
Isobel: (looking into pot) "Oh boy, my favourite! Chicken Pox!"

I don't know what has happened to Isobel over the last week or so but she has become an old man. A walking, grousing three foot two inch bag of wind...literally. Now we are all no strangers to the workings of the human body around here, specifically what happens after consumption of food. It has become downright symphonic some nights but It was always me and the boy and the boy seldom revels in it in the same way I do...
Maybe it was my own naivety or thinking that little girls weren't like that. Snips and snails and all that. Little girls don't do that sort of thing. I can remember somebody saying that and me thinking that little girls must explode when they hit old age. But then again, this is my kid we are talking about.
At any rate, lately Isobel has been all about the fart. Farting preacher videos on my ipod, fart noises to and from and at the dinner table. Fart jokes, fart word substitutions ("Hello Mrs. Fart, would you be interested in smelling my fart?") Blaming farts on the cat and everything that I am absolutely certain that little girls have no interest in doing (I wish I could remember who told me little girls don't do that sort of thing so I could introduce them to Isobel)
So we were in her bed at story time and a look came across her face that must be the face of someone who has found inner peace. The sound was like the pop of bubble wrap in a half full plastic orange juice jug. The look on her face had become more intense.
"If you push too hard, you'll crap your pants." I said.
She giggled a little which set of a chain reaction of giggling and farting and half talking: "Hehehe...phhht....Daddy wait...hehehehe...poot...I just wann...hehehe...ffzzzt...no wait, I.....scroon...ahahahah...
It seemed to go on forever and it got to the point where even I was having a hard time stopping the laughter. It was becoming a full on contagious case of the giggles. Izzy called them "The Gilgas"
Later on that night, Mrs. Narrator asked what the two of us were howling with laughter about. I tried to mentally articulate it before I said anything but didn't figure I could do it justice and so just said that Isobel is a funny kid....she doesn't know the half of it...

I was flipping through the channels one day and I honestly don't know why I stopped where I did (I'm certain many will read more into this than there actually is) but I stopped on a religious program. Not a hellfire and damnation and "Demons come out!" kind of program but not a legitimate "Mass for Shut-Ins" kind of show either. Both of us sat there, mesmerized not saying a word. There was much talk of god and the devil and of Jesus Christ, you know a Sunday morning kind of show. I figured there would be some questions coming and when they didn't, I put it out of my mind...Fool that I am...
It was a week or so later and the kids and I were at the mall-our new favorite restaurant. O.K so it's not a restaurant but everybody gets what they want and nobody argues about who got to choose where we ate last time AND we usually do a little shopping afterward. Even if it is only window shopping, everybody leaves happy...So we had finally gotten all of our food and proceeded to sit down in the Friday night crowded food court. More families than teenagers which I found a little surprising until I noticed very few children were arguing with each other and very few parents telling their children to just stop.
There is a particular buzz to the food court that one only really notices when it changes or disappears. Like it changes when a five year old girl begins a conversation by taking a big bite of an A & W cheese burger and saying (in a voice louder than one would think possible with a mouthful of A & W cheese burger) "Daddy, I need to ask you one thing."
"You can ask me anything , honey." I said feeling very fathery at the impending sharing of wisdom with my progeny.
"Daddy, who the hell IS Jesus Christ anyway?"
The movies are rife with scenes such as these, scenes where the level of discomfort in the main participant begins to multiply exponentially. I know that it goes that way because I have been involved in it many times. I played in greasy haired rock and roll bands and toured the deep south where, despite the fact that you looked like Elvis, you were still a god-damned weirdo and people needed to stop what they were doing and have a gawk at you.
I swear I could actually hear people spitting out their lo mein as the din of the food court came to an abrupt halt with the screech of an unseen needle across some ghastly record.
"Well, it's never too good to be too full." I said, looking around for the quickest route of escape.
I looked around and caught a few of the eyes that were now glued on us and the adults around us all seemed to be waiting for a response. I'm sure they were waiting to see how I would dig my way out of this sectarian nightmare. The Boy put his head in his hands and tried disappear under the table. "Izzy..." he gasped.
Thankfully a family of Indians sat down beside us and began happily munching away on KFC. Isobel is getting to the age now where using my smart-assery is going to get her into more trouble than her own smart-assery and cuteness can get her out of. I opted for a non committal answer.
"It depends what you believe, honey. Eat your fruit roll up."
I just hope that Col. Sanders and Polytheism are still around when Izzy needs them again ...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Isobel's white trash Bonanza...Life, The Universe and Isobel...

I picked Isobel up at the sitters and she was very quiet. I though maybe she had gotten into trouble until the sitter told me that she had taken a bad step and fell down the stairs. On her way down, she had clipped on or two stairs and the sitter was concerned she might have a bruise. I gave her a kiss and finally got her talking.
Daddy: "What happened? Were you not paying attention and slipped?"
Isobel: "No, I was paying attention. I just fell."
Daddy: "You just fell? Really?"
Isobel: "Well, I walked the wrong way at the top of the stairs and I slipped a little bit. That's when I fell."
Daddy: "Did you cry?"
Isobel: " Daddy, of course I cried, it hurt like hell."

With the head cat away at another weekend long roller derby outing, we decided it was time to do something 'different' with our time, so it was off to the area's biggest farmer's market to see how the other half lives. We couldn't actually figure out who or what the other half is but in a couple of minutes of the first gorgeous weather Saturday that any of us could remember seeing in a long time, it was clear that ALL of the other half was at this farmer's market.
We had been there before but didn't have a a lot of time to look around and so this Saturday with Mrs. Narrator away and a virtual limitless supply of time, the kids and I were in our element. The kids, knowing full well that I would likely buy them almost anything they wanted because it was all dirt cheap and me because I was literally, led around by the nose the second we got there. The smells of barbecue and smoked meat and fresh baking and cotton candy and kettle corn...and we hadn't even parked the car yet...
There are two things I have learned that come in handy at the farmers market. From my wife and my mother in law, I have learned to barter like an Arab trader. In Mexico, they both refused to come with me and haggle for jewelry anymore but imparted me the wisdom of how to do so. I can haggle with the best of them now. The second I learned from a former work colleague who`s mother had a stall. Nobody, especially the food vendors, wants to take anything home. They will always bargain to get rid of the stock. Throw that in with a hungry little girl who is quick to tears when she is tired and a ravenous ten year old boy who can look as forlorn as anyone I know and you can snack and sample and barter food for next to nothing from one end of the pavilion to the other... we made out like bandits.
The real fun of the whole thing was the horse auction that was taking place in the large open field next to the market. I hadn`t seen one in years and the kids had never seen one. We jockeyed for a good position along the fence a prepared to watch the spectacle unfold. The auctioneer began his calling and Isobel lost her mind.
"Holy crap he is talking fast!" she hollered. "What the hell is he saying anyway?"
"He is calling out the bids, the amount of money people are willing to pay for the horse. Whoever bids the most money, wins the horse."
The auction was over quickly and the winner led his horse out followed by his wife and their children. They were Amish and I realized that Isobel and the boy had never seen Amish people before.
"Why are they dressed like that?" The Boy asked .
"Dressing plainly like that is part of what they believe in." I said.
As the women walked by, Isobel stood there speechless. After they passed she whispered "Daddy why were they wearing a basket on their heads?" Oh I could have such fun with this...but no. I'd never figure my way off of the path I was about to step on...
"Same reason," I said. "It's part of what they believe in." "It's almost a shame that they won that beautiful horse, because now it will be a work horse for a long time."
"What do you mean?" Izzy asked.
"That's why they sell the horses here, honey. People come to buy horses and put them to work on their farms."
"Those swines." she said.
From the farmers market it was off to that uniquely Canadian (I'm sure they exist elsewhere but I don't ever remember seeing them anywhere but here) of weekend happenings, the fair in the car dealership parking lot.
It is a fair like any other. Fall fair, carnival, fete, street fair...parking lot fair. Complete with rides, greasy food, surly carnies including the one with a black eye (why is there always one of them?) and games that are fixed and no one has any chance of winning for under $600.00. And it was these that I had intended to use to school my children in the evil and unfairness that is the world. As a boy, I saved my allowance for weeks leading up to the fall fair, hoping that finally this would be the year that I popped the balloon with a red star under it that won you the big bastard teddy bear. I found out some years later that the balloons are under-inflated and there is almost never a red star....ah but the games have changed. You still can't win the big bastard teddy bear, unless you are prepared to spend the big bastard amount of money but there isn't a kid playing a game that doesn't walk away with some kind of stuffed prize. Little though it may be. I was happy for the kids but secretly it chapped my ass just a little to remember back to all the hucksters that took my money and let me leave empty handed.
We could see the fair from the road, especially it's biggest feature-a roller coaster that consisted of a single 360 loop.
"I'm riding that," said The Boy as we walked up to the fair. "and the Ferris wheel and I hope we get stuck at the top."
"We won't get stuck at the top will we?" asked Izzy nervously.
"We might ," I said "but it won't be for long."
We stood under the coaster and I could see The Boy's bravado melt away as he looked up at it from ground level. (turns out he wasn't 'this tall' enough to ride it anyway but I wasn't going to say anything) They opted instead for the ghetto jungle gym, which consisted of two cargo nets, a slide that was more of a drag and four moving blankets piled on top of some school exercise mats. From there it was on to the truck and motorcycle 'merry go around' which The Boy was too big to ride. I thought Izzy would be a little more enthusiastic about the whole ride but she looked more like she was on her way home from work and was stuck in traffic. I'm certain that at some point during the ride, thins very thought crossed her mind.
The Ferris wheel... operated by the surliest looking of all the carnies we saw that day. Immediately my back went up and I started to posture, all the while thinking 'say just one thing to my kids you surly carny prick and I'll knock you on your ass.' He instead complimented me on my tattoos and made sure the kids were comfortable and safe. All in all he was a very pleasant fellow.
As we began our ascent, The Boy's attitude changed from one of Edmund Hillary conquering Everest to Burt Lahr standing in the Emerald City. He never actually let on that he was afraid but his expression did little to hide his feelings. He came through like a champ in spite of himself and I was proud of him for facing his fears.
His sister on the other hand, who was so nervous about getting in the car that we nearly backed out of it had to be told repeatedly to sit down and keep her arms inside. She likely didn't hear it though from all the screams of unbridled joy that were coming out of her. The carny opened our gondola at the end of our ride and bade us enjoy the rest of this beautiful Saturday.
I learned two important lessons at the fair-number one, both of my kids are much braver that I ever was at their age(insert image of Sid screaming in terror on the Octopus ride I never did manage to conquer) and much braver than I give them credit for. And number two that carnies and fairs are exactly the same and not a damn thing like they were when I was a kid and I will still take the kids to them every chance I get.

I always enjoy when Isobel comes home with tales of her school mates and friends from daycare. She has a tendency to be dramatic at the best of times but there always are nuggets of truth in them. The fun part is trying to figure out what the story actually is and at what point it careened of the rails into Izzydom. She got into the car with a "Harrumph" when I picked her up at the sitter's, went straight to her room and started rummaging around looking for pink blankets (She found at least three) and throwing them into the hallway when she found them. (Who the hell knew she had more than one?)
"What are you doing?" I foolishly asked.
"Edith." she replied.
"Pardon me?"
"Edith, she's this girl at my babysitters."
"And Edith said you should come home and destroy your room and throw your bedding into the hallway?" I inquired.
"Edith is this girl at my babysitters who pees in her pants."she began.
"And you need to dry her off and she gets a rash from everything except pink blankets?" I was trying to find a morsel of logic in here but, honestly, I didn't have a clue where this was leading to.
"No," Izzy said. She was beginning to get frustrated by this, you could hear it rising in her voice. "She pees in her pants because she is younger than me. She is younger than me (she said it this time with much emphasis) and she doesn't even know what dead means."
"O.K. What does it mean?"
"Dead is like when you go away, like when your Nana turned yellow and went away and then she was dead. Edith said that they cover you with a pink blanket and you go to sleep and then you're dead and that isn't it at all...is it Daddy?" There was worry in her voice when she finally asked the question.
In a lot of situations I would let her twist for a bit and try and figure her own answer to this but I've had a little experience with this kind of thing and I learned long ago that you can't plant the seeds of fear into a fertile imagination like hers, (or mine) they take root under the bed and grow into great big monsters that sometimes never go away.
"No honey," I said and gave her a hug. "That's not it at all. Nobody covers you with a pink blanket and nobody is dead when they go to sleep." I picked up the blankets and showed her they were just the same pink blankets that she had gotten when she was born and when she was still very small.
I went up to tuck her in later that night and noticed that the pink blankets were still in the hallway, not folded anymore but pulled down and looking as though they had been stomped on...well the old man doesn't know everything and there's no harm in hedging one's bet a little after all...