Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Miss Isobel if you please...Chain reaction

It was my first night back on the graveyard shift and she was worried that I was going to be too tired to give her some cuddles before I left. When she realized that wouldn't change, she gave me an anatomy lesson.
Isobel: "You smell nice."
Daddy: "Thank-you, I just had a shower."
Isobel: "Did you wash your hair?" (Smelling my hair)
Daddy: "Uh-huh."
Isobel: (looking very intently at my hair) "Wow."
Daddy: "What?"
Isobel: "It's all the way in there."
Daddy: "What is?"
Isobel: "Your hair, it's all the way in your head."
Daddy: "And?"
Isobel: "No seriously, hair goes all the way through your head and that's why you get hairs caught in your throat."

It never ceases to amaze me just how alike Izzy and me are becoming. I imagine that it won't be long before she and I are sipping expensive scotch (that she will have brought over) and trying to out do each other with hot sauce. I already see things in her that trigger memories that I thought long gone...
My mother had brought over some Halloween type candy, the smaller candy bars in a bag...two bags. One for The Boy and one for Isobel. Izzy had naturally eaten most of hers within an hour and was on the prowl for more. She was trying every so quietly, to open the drawer to get the scissors and open one of the Boy's Kit Kat bars.
"Whatcha doin' Pick?" I asked.
(Whipping the candy bar behind her back) "Nothing, Daddy. I wasn't doing anything."
"Really? Do you know what happens to little girls who lie to their Fathers?"
"No, what happens to them." she asked, a little worried.
"They must surrender the candy they have behind their backs and give it to me!"
"What's surrender mean?" she asked
"Skip it, just gimme the Kit Kat, you."
"Hey! How did you know that I opened a Kit Kat?"
I demonstrated my highly attuned psychic powers by opening the cutlery drawer that Helen Keller could have heard from the next room. Izzy looked crest fallen and guilty. She changed the subject.
"Daddy," she began. "Kit Kat's are so good. I would eat all of them."
"You did eat all of them." I said.
"No," she continued "ALL of them. Like in the world all of them. In a bag in 102 days."

She was worried when I told her that I was going back to the night shift. Worried that The Were-woof might re-emerge and worried that I wouldn't get enough sleep and then fall asleep while I was driving. She was really worried about that one and every time I so much as blinked, she would yell at me to wake up. Finally bed time came and her worry had reached fever pitch.
"Daddy," she began. "I don't want you to fall asleep when you go to work."
"I won't Honey," I replied. " I'm a little tired but I'll be OK." I guess I blinked...
"Daddy! Wake up!" (slap slap) She slapped my face with both hands, one after the other. Left and right cheek.
"Oww!" I said. "What are you doing."
"When someone is tired," she started. "A good way to wake them up is to slap them in the face."
"I'm not that tired Pick." I said. "Where were we?"
We went back to the story we were reading and I let out a yawn.
"Daddy!" (slap slap).
"Pick! Really, I'm not that tired."
I read some more and like a lot of people, the more I read the more I yawned...and the more she slapped. She seemed not to be able to stop herself. They weren't hard slaps and I'm sure she thought she was doing me a favour by doing it. I got up and bent over to kiss her good night. As I leaned in she let fly with two more quick little slaps.
"Just in case." she said.

She decided the other night that she would read a story to me. She had read 'Roller Derby Revenge' to Mrs. Narrator before I came in and now it was my turn.
"Daddy, I'm going to tell you a story tonight. I just told Mummy a story now I can tell you one. Which do you want to hear? Bagpipe Revenge or Bagpipe tales or Bagpipe China?"
"Oh Bagpipe Revenge!" I exclaimed. "That one sounds quite exciting Isobel."
"Mmmm, no. Bagpipe Revenge isn't as good as it sounds. And Call me Miss Isobel."
"OK, how about Bagpipe tales, Miss Isobel?"
"No, not so good either." she said.
"What was the last one? Can I have that one?"
"Bagpipe China, what a good choice. That's one of my favourites."
She began the story by looking it up on her laptop., a broken portable DVD player that she had been dragging from room to room. "Here it is." she said.
"Once upon a time," she began. "There was this girl named China and she liked to play bagpipes all day. She played other music things but bagpipes was her favourite. One day her friends came and told her to stop playing bagpipes all day and she did. The End."
"Wait, what? The End? That's it?"
"Yep, that's it." she said. "You may go now."
"OK Pick." I said, though I made no attempt to move.
"No seriously, you can leave now."
I bent to kiss her forehead as I was turning to leave. "You already kissed me goodnight." she said.
I knew bagpipes were a polarizing instrument but I didn't figure they could anger some one so much by just talking about them.. so there are still a few differences between us...

When I was in school, I wanted to write a thesis called 'Did cavemen find farts funny?' The short answer being of course, yes. To that end,(funny right?) I give further proof that Isobel is my daughter. Lock, stock and very loaded barrel.
I was reading her a story when dinner announced itself with rousing bottom burp.
"Daddy, you're really disgusting sometimes." she said in all seriousness.
"What?" I asked.
"You farted, it's gross and it smells. You're disgusting."
"You've been talking to you mother again I see." I said.
"Yeah, I talk to Mummy. Why?"
"She says the same things." I replied.
"Well it's true," she went on. "It's disgusting."
"I didn't realize you were so sensitive. I won't do it ever again." I said.
"OK." she replied. "Daddy can you tickle me? Just lightly though?"
I had only just lifted my hand toward her and she began giggling. Suddenly I heard a sound. Three distinct and loud pops. POP, POP, POP, that sounded remarkably like a five year old giggling and farting.
"What was that?" I asked. "I thought that was disgusting?"
'Giggle, giggle, giggle, pop, pop, pop...'
I tickled her more, which naturally caused more giggling and more farting.
'Giggle, giggle, giggle, pop, pop, pop...' "No wait, Daddy ..."pop, pop, pop, giggle giggle, giggle..."I can't ...no wait..." 'giggle, poot, pop, giggle scroon...'
The more laughter meant the more gas escaped from her. Physics really. All that gas inside and the pressure of abs contracting has to go somewhere...from the length of time it went on, I'll bet she was holding it in the whole time she lecturing me about how disgusting I am.
"I thought you said that was disgusting?"
"It is disgusting when you do it." she stated.
"Why is it disgusting for me but not you?" I puzzled.
"Mine don't stink." she said.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Daddy's Little Pyromaniac...How can I miss you if you won't go away...

It was late and she was tired and she had a mess to clean up.
Daddy: "Bed time Izzy come and clean up your mess."
Isobel: "What mess?"
Daddy: " Flip-flops, Tumbles, your clothes, your empty juice box, your bracelets, your stuffed dog and anything else that belongs to you that doesn't belong in the living room."
Isobel: "OK, OK, I'm going." (Goes into the living room and picks up one object, then resumes watching television)
Daddy: "Keep going. It's still bed time and you still have a mess."
Isobel: "I know."
Daddy: "If you know why are you not doing it?"
Isobel: (whipping up some quick tears) "I am, I am picking it up!"
Daddy: "Done?"
Isobel: "Yes."
Daddy: (walking into the living room) "Isobel, you forgot this empty juice box."
Isobel: (grumbling all the way into the living room and all the way to the trash can) "See, this is why I hate bed time."

Mrs. Narrator used to sit outside by the fire pit nearly every weekend in the early days of our relationship. We'd have a cocktail or two, sit and smoke and talk and just enjoy the fire. Well then she quit smoking and so stopped coming outside with me. She was determined to stop and I was determined to continue smoking. She stayed indoors for fear, in the early stages, that she would relapse and smoke again. I don't think I quite understood it then but I admire her resolve for not giving in. It has been almost two years since I quit which would make it almost four (or five) since she quit. Funny thing is, I kind of abandoned the fire pit too but there are apples and they do stay close to the tree when they drop...
"Oh yeah!" Izzy belted out when I told her we'd have a fire. I thought she might fly off the globe when I asked her if she wanted to help me get it ready.
"Like light it, you'll let me light it?" she asked with a slightly sinister gleam in her eye."
"Ummm...why don't I light it this time around and when you have kids of your own, you can light the fire for them."
"OK." she said. She couldn't have possibly heard what I said to let me off that easy.
So out we went, my new fireside partner. I was a little excited to be schooling her one of the oldest skills around. Fire making. Granted, if I were in dire need of heat and had little or no modern amenities to make a fire with, I might be able to whip something up the old fashioned way. But in all likelihood, I would be a Popsicle in little or no time. However this is a modern world and we have modern things like barbecue lighters. I could teach my progeny the art of fire making leaving out the art of knuckle hair removal such as my father had handed down to me...but I'm wandering.
"What first,Daddy?" she asked me.
"First comes the news paper, " I said. "We need to scrunch the paper up into a bunch of little balls and put it into the fire pit."
"Like this?" she asked, showing me the tiniest bit of ripped up newspaper rolled into a ball the size of a snow-pea."
"Little bigger," I said. "Like this." I ripped off half a sheet of newspaper and rolled it into a tight was about the size of an apple. "If the balls are tight the burn long enough to get the little pieces of wood to burn."
That was all the information she needed and she set upon the newspaper with relish. The pieces she ripped off were only slightly larger but they had all been squeezed within an inch of their lives. At one point I swear I saw pulp running from between her fingers.
"That's right." She said and strategically place the paper ball in the fire pit.
"You know it's going to burn anyway, so it doesn't matter much how you put it in there, right?"
"I know." she said and continued to arrange them.
So with paper in and kindling on top of that, we put flame to it and it smoked and sputtered and finally crackled to life.
"Cool." she said. "Let's get some drinks and popcorn." She had a Kool Aid and a gigantic bowl of popcorn. I had...not Kool Aid and a big bowl of more not Kool Aid.
It was nice to have someone to sit outside with me and watch the flames dance and talk and enjoy being outside.
Daddy?" she began. "If I fell into the fire would I die?"
"I wouldn't let you fall into the fire, I'd save you before that ever happened. Besides, this fire isn't big enough to kill you. Just burn you really badly."
"What if it was a really big fire? Would I die then?"
"They used to kill witches that way."
"Really?" she asked sounding awfully excited. "They burned them till they died?"
"That's what they thought but really they were dead long before the fire got them. They ran out of air first. Like Joan of Arc." I said.
"Wow. Wait Joan who, Joan who?" she gasped.
" Skip it, too hard to explain. Stay here," I said to her. "I'm gonna go get more wood."
"I'm coming with you." she said sounding nervous.
It had gotten dark during our talk of fire and martyrdom and she was a little nervous at the prospect of sitting alone with no light but what the fire could provide.
"Yep?" I responded.
"Can we go inside now?"
"Sure Pick. Is being in the dark making you nervous?"
"No, I just don't want any witches to come around and take the air out of our fire."
So we went inside and she went off to watch T.V. and I could see whatever fear she had of the dark or suicidal, fire sucking witches had melted away and she laughed and watched her shows and munched the rest of her popcorn. Soon it was time for bed and she kept smelling her jacket as we walked upstairs.
"My sweater smells like a hot dog. How come everything smells like a hot dog when you are by a fire?"
"It's the smell of the smoke and the wood burning." I said.
"Does everything smell like that when it's by the fire?" she asked.
"Probably." I said.
" Cool Daddy, my sweater smells like a witch!"

I had an interesting thing happen to me on the weekend. I was out, doing what I love. Playing my bagpipes and somebody was paying me for it. In addition, they offered me a free meal and a free bar. (which alas I could not enjoy as I was driving solo) I was told that at the reception I could have played as little or as much as I wanted and all in attendance seemed to enjoy what I was playing and appeared to want more.
It was hog heaven. The dream situation that one often hears of...and all I could think of was coming home and hanging out with the kids. Of course the second I walked through the door, the level of noise and chaos that met me made me think, "You fool, you were out and you were not on a time limit!"
But home I came and as I changed from my kilt into my grubby work pants, Izzy came upstairs and asked. " Daddy, are we doing this fire thing or what?"
I took her hand and we headed outside. I chuckled out loud as we walked to the garage.
"What?" Izzy asked
"Nothing, honey. Nothing at all."
"Soooo, you're laughing at nothing?" She puzzled. "OK, so...the fire?"
You never really get out...and why would I want to?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Izzy's Fireside chat...Santa Claus is back in town

It was a bright sunny day and she was looking up at the skin and getting upset.
Isobel: "Arrggh!"
Daddy: "What's the matter?"
Isobel: "I can't see the sun, my eyes keep closing."
Daddy: "You can't look at the sun, honey. Not with just your eyes. You'll burn out your retinas."
Isobel: "What's your retinas?"
Daddy: "Tough to explain. Part of your eye."
Isobel: "What if you wore sunglasses?"
Daddy: "Not dark enough. The only thing that would be dark enough is a welder's mask. You could look at the sun through a welders mask and not hurt your eyes."
Isobel: "A welder's mask would be dark enough?"
Daddy: "Yep."
Isobel: "Daddy?"
Daddy: "Yep?"
Isobel : "Are there lots of welders on the sun?"

The heat has finally broken for more than a day at a time, which means that Isobel now delights in her favourite Fall activity. Bugging me to light a fire in the backyard fire pit. I finally relented this past weekend and the two of us sat out there by the fire. Talking and waving off smoke and smelling like hot dogs.
She began slowly to inch close and closer to the pit. I told her to move back.
"But I'm cold," she said. "And sitting this close is warming me up."
"If a spark jumps out and lands on your leg, you'll soon warm up." I said trying to sound scary and dramatic.
"Good," she replied. I'm freezing."
"Seriously," I said. "Move back a little. "I don't want you to get burnt if a spark pops out."
"It will hurt like H?" she asked.
"Hurt like H?" I asked. "You mean hurt like hell? Yes. It will hurt like hell."
"Daddy," she said. "Don't say that, it's a bad word."
"I don't care if you say hell around here." I said.
"I know," she replied. "But I can't say it anywhere else so I don't want to say them anymore."
I thought this over a while, this was pretty impressive and awfully self aware. Even for her.
"OK Pick," I said. "If saying those words is bothering you, don't say them anymore. I will try not to say them either."
"Really?" she asked sounding rather amazed at the prospect of me not swearing.
"Really. If it bothers you I will try not to do it."
"OK!" she exclaimed. "No more swearing then."
"OK, I'll try my hardest." I said.
"Except the 'F' word." she said.
"What!!?!?" I asked.
"Yeah, I'll probably still say Fuck once a week."
I got up to get more wood for the fire and she came with me to help.
"Daddy?" she began.
"Daddy, I love you."
"I love you too, Pick." I said a little taken aback. It's not that we don't love the children or they us, it's just those three words are only generally thrown about liberally when someone is after something large and/or expensive.
"No seriously," she went on. "I really love you."
"I love you too." I said now quite baffled by this out pouring of emotion.
"Can I have a hug?" she asked me kind of sheepishly.
"Of course you can have a hug. " I said. I have to admit I was a little choked up by all of this. She hadn't been this affectionate with me since she was very little and I kind of missed it. As I bent down to hug her, she put her arms around my neck in a warm embrace. I instantly smelled it.
"Augh!" I choked. "What is that. Was that you?"
"I fahted." she said and exploded with fits of giggling.
"You're rotten." I said. "A healthy girl shouldn't smell like that." I tried to pull my head away from the stench. She giggled louder and hugged my neck tighter...Are you sure FDR ended his fireside chats this way?

For those of you intrepid readers who have been with us a while, I am happy to report that Isobel and Santa have ended their feud and are like peas and carrots again. I must admit I wasn't privy to the whole reason why they were at loggerheads in the first place but she suddenly stopped playing with him after a long spate of him being with her every minute of the day.
"Where's Santa?" I asked her one day after not seeing him for a while.
"Santa is stupid." she said.
"Why is Santa stupid? " I asked unwittingly.
"He just is, alright? Can I go now?"
I knew this was something more serious than her usual spats with the jolly old elf. In her mind anyway. I am noticing the thing-the downside if you will, of having a massive imaginary world as she does, are the politics and intricacies of relationships and how they can sour on so many levels. It's hard to keep up. It's all very real to her and so to us too. And god-dammit, most of the time it's hysterical...you can't make this stuff up.
It had been a couple of months since had paid any attention to Santa at all, even though he had been riding around in my car since their fight. I was going to the States and needed to clean out my car. I thought for a moment of leaving him in the car but thought I might have a little difficulty explaining to the border guard why a grown many is riding around with a dancing, rump shaking Santa who sings 'Y'all ready fo this?'
"Well you see sir, I have this little girl who has this gigantic imaginary world where she is a benevolent dictator and Santa is her chief lieutenant...but they are fighting at the moment and so she banished him to the colonies...and since I was heading that way for the weekend, she stuffed him in with me and hoped I could drop him off at the first gulag I found...and that is the truth of it sir." I can hear the rubber gloves snapping now.
So she was in the garage with me a week ago and low and behold she laid eyes on Kris Kringle and I thought she might weep.
"Santa!" she hollered.
She picked him up and rained kisses in his ever smiling, cotton bearded face. She hugged him for an hour, it seemed and when she finally released him she introduced him to 'Tumbles'. This is the new mechanical toy in her ever growing stable of things that whizz and whirr and move with life like precision. he was also seemingly, Santa's successor. Santa and Tumbles embraced as all political rivals do to keep up their public appearances and off they trundled with their leader. My daughter.
She had asked to play in my car, which nowadays actually means on my car. I told her she could and off they went. A short while later, I went to get her to go inside for lunch. There she sat on the roof of my car. Tumbles in her lap and Santa at her right hand. She muttered something to Tumbles and gave him a giant hug. 'I love you' followed thereafter. After a few moments had passed, she turned to Santa and pointed her finger at his face in a stern and forceful manner. "DON"T!" she hissed at him...I sense an imminent coup...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Of Fall Fairs and First Days of School...The Cost of Laughter...

We were stopped at a light when fro out of the backseat, I heard Isobel make a revelation.
Isobel: "Daddy, I'm evil.
Daddy: "I don't doubt that for a second."
Isobel: "No seriously. I'm evil. Like evil."
Daddy: "OK, I'll bite. Why are you evil?"
Isobel: "I'm evil because I smiled at him." (The Boy that is)
Daddy: "How does smiling at him make you evil?"
Isobel: "No, I smiled at him evil. Like evil. You know, like E-VILLE?"

Ah yes we have entered the most sacred season of the year...fall fair time. Time for crap rides and crap games and crap food in all of their rude hillbilly, horse manure sodden glory. Our local fair was this past weekend and I was particularly excited to go as this is the first year that both kids are of an age to really enjoy all the fair has to offer.
I have very fond memories (likely all false memories) of the New Hamburg fair and the excitement it held. Wandering the gigantic fairgrounds...well, they seemed gigantic to me then. The sounds and smells and sights. We always seemed to go at night...at least that is what I remember the most, the lights of the rides I always said I would go on and then chicken out at the end...The Octopus is still one of my arch nemeses...and the game barkers calling out to me from beneath the glow of fluorescent lighting. One spin for two bucks and you could get a green tin shamrock necklace with your name engraved on it. 'Why yes sonny, I'll engrave her for you right here.' I was frightened and intrigued and pissed away most of my allowance trying to get the god-damned shamrock necklace.
I also remember two things that will say something about the time I grew up in which makes me sound like I am older than my years but the thought of these couple of things makes me sit back and grin when you put next to the things my kids see and say every day. I remember that if you really wanted to, you could get a tattoo at the New Hamburg fall fair. Not a painted on or henna kinda fake tattoo (though I think you could get the fakey kind too) a real friggin' tattoo. There was a booth that had flash displayed outside. You paid your money and you sat inside the booth and got a tattoo. My friend Brian Schlegel and I were fascinated by all of this and desperately tried to figure a way to get enough money between us to get one...the health issues alone boggle the mind. I used to think the carnies who worked all the fairs and carnivals around all the southern Ontario towns, were always drunk or hungover. In retrospect, I always saw them outside the tattoo tent. They weren't drunk, they were all in the throes of hepatitis. They walked that way because their livers were so distended, they likely couldn't straighten up.
The second clear memory I have was Stompin' Tom Connors (a Canadian music icon... look him up) was a fixture at the fall fair. He played nearly every year that I can remember. I also remember that children were strictly forbidden from his shows as there was drinking allowed in the arena (what!!??!? in public??!?!? Just like that?!?!?) and the language used during the show was a little salty.(You're kidding, right? Have you met my folks?) I have seen Stompin' Tom's show. Live and on film from around that time period. I think I head him say 'hell' once. And it was in reference to where he would likely go when he died.
The beauty of the arena in New Hamburg back then, was the siding on the building was still wooden and old and falling apart. If you played hockey there at all, which we all did, you knew the best spots to squeeze into the arena and see the show...well hear the show anyway. Nobody would risk being caught by their folks at the adults only show...funny that the building that housed such forbidden wonderment in my childhood, is now the home arena for Mrs. Narrator's roller derby team. The irony is not lost on me...
Anybody that knows me, understands that these are the kinds of things I love to share with my children. The dirty kneed, pants torn, blackened eye layer of the world that a lot of people don't or won't see. The world of my youth, the world of 'when I was your age.'
Sadly, there is very little of that world left. The carnies smell more of Pierre Cardin then the do of whiskey and stale cigarettes. There is no more pays your money and takes your chances, there is pays your money and win a prize...nearly always. Zuckerman's prize hog has been replaced by Mrs. Elsie De Mondehaben's prize collection of pens.(for real, there was a hobby display and one of them was a collection of ball point pens)
The games are expensive, as is the parking and the food and everything else about it. But it is the magic that it exudes for the kids. The fevered grip that holds onto their tiny minds and can only be released by twirling aloft in a brightly coloured gondola and the near constant ingestion of sugar coated or deep fried everything.
The Boy was allowed to bring a friend along. The greatest gift you can give a ten year old boy, I have learned, is the gift of trust. It is a small town fair, I figured how much trouble can they get into? I gave him a wrist watch and twenty dollars and told them to meet up with Izzy and I in an hour. They never really got out of sight or earshot. (The Loud twins were in full effect) I am convinced they set a new land speed record for spending twenty bucks. It was literally gone and they were asking for more before Izzy and I got to the end of the first row of booths.
I came away with a warmth in my belly that was more than just funnel cake and onion rings and I'm pretty sure that the kids felt the same. There was a certain feeling I always got when I went to the fair as a kid it was knowing that when I was with my parents or as we got older my brother and sister, that as soon as you passed through those front gates and gave your money to the man, the outside world melted away and we all were in for a good time. There was no parents fighting, nor siblings picking on you, nor friends from school leaving you behind to play with somebody else. The whole community was there with one single purpose...one giant exhale as the summer came to a close and the real world threatened to claw it's way back in...You must be this tall to get on this ride so step right up...

Through one way or another, another summer seems to have screamed by and we didn't seem to do much in the way of vacation. With new jobs and derby games and piping competitions, the summer just kinda up and got used up before we did anything...big. The first day of school loomed just over the horizon for both kids and I just didn't want them to think they hadn't done anything summery enough. Sure there were day trips to the beach but nothing that truly said summer vacation to me.
So being the grandiose fool that I am, I decided to take the kids to the fair where I proceeded to spend a scandalous amount of money. OK maybe not scandalous but certainly more than I intended or indeed, should have spent. it was money that could have been better spent on a zillion other things.
The thing is this was the last long weekend before school, the last kick at the cat for summertime fun and Mrs Narrator was away for the weekend. A recipe for Dad style shenanigans if ever I heard one. Again, I'm a dad, I do stupid shit and get berated for it when the responsible one gets home. It doesn't happen often...thankfully but I fly off the stick every now and again and take the kids with me...much to their delight.
I mean let's face facts, there are a lot of father's who are completely irresponsible and completely selfish about it. Booze, drugs, even food, all for themselves without as much as a thought about the wife and kids. At least I threw the money away on the kids.
It was silly and I felt guilty and like a piece of dirt even as I stepped up to the bank machine but the mere fact that The Boy and his friend both said it was the best day they had ever spent and the laughter that bubbled up out of my daughter as she got pushed further and further into my side while we rode the tilt-a whirl, tells me my heart was in the right place even if my bank card wasn't.
Would I do it again? Very Likely. Do I feel guilty and a little stupid? Definitely. Do I regret it? Not for a god-damned second...who needs a green shamrock necklace anyway?