Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Time To Say Good-bye...Crying...

          She had a shower and was heading upstairs to get her jammies.
      Daddy: "All shiny and clean like a baby's bum?"
      Isobel : "Like what?"
      Daddy: "Skip it. Going to get your warm jammies on?"
      Isobel:  "Yep."
      Daddy: "Well, safe travels then."
      Isobel: "What?"
      Daddy: Never mind."
      Isobel: (Coming downstairs) "Daddy?"
      Daddy: "Yep?"
      Isobel: "Notice anything?"
      Daddy: "No...well, you are walking like a cowboy...you lost your horse, that's it?"
      Isobel: "Daddy."
      Daddy: "Not that huh?"
     Isobel: "Do you know why I am walking like this?"
     Daddy: "Not the horse?"
     Isobel: "Nope."
     Daddy: "OK Pick, I give up. Why are you walking like a cowboy?"
     Isobel: "I'm still sticky."

       I am a pack rat. I come from a long line of pack rats. I suspect it has something to do with thievery somewhere in my family's past but I'm just guessing on that. It wouldn't surprise me though. Filthy, sneaky buggers that we are. There's that wandering away that they warned me about. OK, back in session...pack rats...right... I am one and so is my progeny.
      Izzy made me an Easter egg at school ( I want you to remember that I said Easter) it was about a foot long and decorated with many colours and stripes. It was made with love or at least a sense of holiday obligation and she chose to give it to me. It sat beside the sink in the kitchen for a couple of days and got splashed. That's when I noticed that the Easter egg became sticky.
      "Isobel?" I inquired of my thoughtful child.
       "What?" she came bounding down the stairs as though the speed at which she got to the bottom might get her some kind of reward.
        "What is this Easter egg made of?"
       She answered slowly but with a tone that said she thought I was the most stupid man she had ever known. "...Paper?"
      "No, no." I said trying to prove that I wasn't the most stupid man she had ever known. "What is on it that is making it sticky?"
      "Oh," she said and I swear I hear an 'you old fool' in there somewhere. "We put real cake icing on it and then sprayed it with sugar and water to make it sparkle."
     Ingenious and inventive and very popular with the cats. Now as I mentioned I am a pack rat and a parent of six years. To that end, I am never certain what of my children's master pieces I should keep and for how long? Is there a best before date on school projects? I know the really big ones I should keep for as long as possible (my mother still has a clay turtle that looks as though it had a stroke made by my brother. I believe it was a Mother's day gift for her. In October my brother will turn 49.)
    Anything that I can't immediately make a joke about or something that, dare I say makes me a little misty, is going to go the distance if humanly possible. But where in all of that do sticky Easter cards and drawings of mittens and pictures of damn fine duckies fall? So the icky sticky Easter egg was tucked away with the full intention of being disposed at an opportune time. I would look at the shelf in my room and see it there, the icky sticky Easter egg and it would mock me. It would laugh and in my head I would hear it tell me that it would be there till the house fell or I did and it didn't care which came first. Such are the trials of the pack rat.
      It is the last week of August and I (for whatever earthly reason) looked at my shelf today and noticed the icky sticky Easter egg. It was now the crunchy crusty Easter egg and into the trash can it duly went.
      Now there's a good bet that a pack rat will tend to produce another pack rat, there are few examples of it being a recessive trait. At least in my family. Isobel is NOT an exception.
      "Daddy, why is your picture in the trash?" she asked.
      "It's old and dried out, honey." I fumbled.
      "Oh," she said. "OK."
     I figured that was the end of it.
      "Isobel?" I asked her. "Why is your tongue blue?"
      "It isn't." she said.
      "Are you licking the Easter egg?"
      "No!" she said. The utterly aghast tone and indignation in her voice told me that she was of course licking the crunchy crusty Easter egg. I'm certain it was well on its way to being icky and sticky again. About an hour later, she had completely given in to thew bunny on her back and came down the stairs taking big long licks off the icky sticky Easter egg.
     "Oh god," I said. "Are you nuts?"
      "What?" she said.
      "You're licking that Easter egg."
      "I can't help it Daddy," she pleaded. "It's just so good."
     She took a giant lick of it like it was an all day sucker. It wasn't, it was an icky sticky Easter egg that had sat on my dusty bedroom shelf since April. It is August.
      "It is August, Isobel. That thing has been sitting on my shelf collecting dust since April. You're not going to think t is so good when you are throwing up tonight or shitting yourself blind tomorrow morning."
      While I was fairly certain she wouldn't get the slightest symptom from the icky sticky crunchy crusty Easter egg, I wanted her to understand that we don't eat old food. (All you beer and whisky and cheese people zip it)
      "Isobel," I said. "Sometimes we have to let go of the things that we really like. Especially when they get old and could potentially poison us. It's not a lot of fun but that's just the way it is. As you get older, you'll see I'm right." I was proud of myself for not freaking out and still managing to sound Fathery at the end of it all.
       "That sounds made up." she said.

       I was sitting downstairs when I heard a terrible sound coming from her room. I thought it was a terrible sound. It sounded awful, as though she were up there wailing over some terrible wrong that had just been inflicted on her. Or some great pain she was being made to endure. It is not a sound a parent wants to hear come out of their child. Ever. I raced upstairs to get to her. What could possibly have happened in the few minutes since she had been up there? I tried not to think of the worst. My brain switched into high gear, trying to think of all the things that were upstairs that she could have injured herself with.
     I got to the top of the stairs and bolted to her room...
         She was sitting on her bed, with headphones on and singing into the auto tune singing machine we got her for Christmas. Wailing away without a care in the world...
     "What?" she asked.
      "I thought you were crying," I said. "I was worried.
     "No, I'm OK." she said. "But my singing was so good, I FELT like crying."


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Izzy Asks The Big Questions...Channeling Your Inner Rodent...

      It was my birthday and the tradition (well since Isobel was born anyway) is that one or both of the children pick my cake and what I would like to have for my birthday dinner. Luckily, The Boy and I share many of the same tastes. This year however, The Boy was too involved with online gaming to be involved in any birthday decision making and so it was all left to Isobel.
      Isobel: "Daddy?"
      Daddy: " Yes my sweet Baboo?"
      Isobel: "I got you a barf cake for your birthday this year."
      Daddy: Really? Mummy told me it was a mousse cake and it looked pretty tasty."
      Isobel: "Dang it." I'm going to have cake and ice cream anyway."
      Daddy: "Well I'm going to have cake."
      Isobel: "Can you put my cake and ice cream in a bowl?"
      Mummy: "I'm having my cake and ice cream on a plate."
      Daddy: "That is the traditional presentation of cake and ice cream, Pick."
      Isobel: "I want mine in a bowl."
      Daddy: "OK."
      Isobel: (tasting) "The taste of cake and ice cream in a bowl is like drinking your own birth!"

      We had gone out for a walk, just the two of us. We were going up to the school to see if they had put up the postings for home rooms yet. We stepped outside and both of us just sort of stood there a minute. Taking in the early evening air. It was a little past six and the air was getting cooler but the sun was still throwing enough heat around that Izzy regretted wearing a sweater after only a few steps.
      "I love going for a walk at this time of night and at this time of year." Isobel remarked.
      "You know what? So do I." I replied.  "It's a nice time to be out. Not too hot or cold."
      "It's just right." she agreed. "And it's a good thing you came along."
      "Why is that?" I asked.
      "I wouldn't have anybody to carry my sweater." she said handing me her hoodie.
      It's only a couple of blocks to the school but we took our time walking and talking about nothing in particular. She was excited about going back to school and asked if I was excited about going back to school. I told her that I was but that I was a little nervous too.
      "Why are you nervous?"
       "I haven't been in school for a while and I'm probably going to be the oldest one in my class." I said. "I'll just be nervous the first day, then I'll be OK."
      "I was nervous my first day," she said. "But you went with me and held my hand and then I went inside and it was OK."
      "You want to come and hold my hand on my first day?" I asked.
      "Somethings you HAVE to do by yourself." she said.
      "How'd you get so smart?" I asked her.
      She pointed at the school with a look on her face that said, 'are you really this stupid?'
      There was no posting on the window and so the mystery remained where she would be next year. We had a pretty good idea who's class she'd be in but it would have been nice to see it in writing just the same. We started to walk back home and we noticed something posted on the door of the church near our house.
      "Maybe Martin Luther's been for a visit." I said.
      "What?" Isobel asked.
      "Skip it," I said. Let's just go see what that sign says."
     The sign didn't say anything important. Well, not important to us anyway. We looked around the church grounds and Izzy asked me something I didn't figure I would hear from her. Not yet...
       "We don't go to church, do we?"
       "No," I said. "Why do you ask?"
       "Why don't we go to church?" she asked.
        "We just don't, Mummy and I don't believe in god and so we don't go to church."
        "What is god?" Isobel asked.
      It was one of those moments when you realize-'this is a milestone moment. I am a parent and I can warp my child for all time or I can give an answer that will hopefully, help my child develop and grow as a person and it all comes down to how I answer this question'
     I took a deep breath and sat down on the church steps.
      "It all depends what you believe." I said. "Lots of different people believe lots of different things."
      "And who's right?" she asked.
      "I was a little staggered by the depth of that. I don't think she intended the question to be that metaphysical, she is six after all. But hey why not? They recognized the present Dalai Lama at seven, I believe.
      "All of them." I said. "And none of them." They are all right and they are all wrong"
      "Whaaat?!?" she replied.
      "I think that you can believe whatever you want but once you tell somebody they HAVE to believe the same things you do, then it's not OK anymore. Get it?"
      "Not really." She said. "So why don't we go to church?"
      "We don't believe  in church." I said.
      Oh, OK." she said. "Hey Daddy?"
     "Uh - huh?"
     "I believe we should get some ice cream!"
     "That is an excellent idea," I said. "But we're not going to Indulge. We have ice cream at home."
      "Crap." she said.
    Well, she knows what it is to suffer for her beliefs...

       I was upstairs practicing and Izzy burst into the room making a rat face. You know what I mean, stick your top teeth over your bottom lip an wiggle your nose up and down while making squidgy noises. Now bring your hands up to your chin in a ratty fashion and there you go. Rat faced. Not to be confuse with rat arsed which I have been on those rare occasions that I have had one glass of port too many. Like around the holidays...but I'm wandering...
     So there she was being ratty and making it difficult to practice by putting her ratty little claws on my hands every time I tried to play.
    "You know," I said. "Rats scurry along the floors. They almost never come into their parents rooms."
    "What?" she said.
     "OK, I went a bit too far with that one but they do run along the floor."
    She got down on all fours and tried to be all ratty with her arms at the same time. It didn't go as planned and she fell on her face at least twice that I saw.
     She got up and headed downstairs.
      "Problems?" I asked.
      "Being a rat isn't very fun." she said as she continued down the steps. "It's no wonder there are traps in the basement."
     Maybe I can get her to play cat next.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Green Stripe Mystery...An Angry Young Girl...

      I don't know why her mind set itself on Christmas in August...maybe Christmas in July has skewed us all.

      Isobel: "Daddy?"
      Daddy: "Yes pigeon?"
      Isobel: "Daddy, Does Santa really travel the whole world and give everybody presents in one night?"
      Daddy: "As I understand it, that is how it works."
      Isobel: "OK, that's just creepy. He doesn't even own a plane."
      Daddy: "Nope."
      Isobel: "He does it all from his sled? A sled which has flying reindeers, which I don't even believe in."
      Daddy: "Oh?"
      Isobel: "Daddy, are reindeers white or brown?"
      Daddy: "Santa's reindeer are brown like a...deer."
     Isobel: "OK, it's the white ones I don't believe in."

       There is a story, told by my family...countless times. Usually in the presence of a girlfriend during my teenage years or my wife before we were married. It involves me as a toddler, my brother and my sister, yellow fuzzy sleepers, carpeted stairs and a pile of dog crap. I may have mentioned it here before but suffice it to say that fuzzy yellow sleepers make an excellent delivery system for fresh Schnauzer mess.
     What's the point of this trip in the wayback? I often asked my mother why she would let my brother and sister embarrass me like that...time and time again.
     "I am your Mother, I gave birth to you. I've earned the right to humiliate you."
      To that end, I give you this week's column. I don't think it will embarrass Isobel. She is truly one of the oddest people I have ever know and likely would not be fazed by any of this being shared but in case it does. I am her Father. I have earned the right to humiliate her. Keeps her strong and honest.
     There are times when my children have confided in me. They are few and far between but they do happen on occasion. They usually involve something they think their Mother will lose her mind about and they figure I can help them out of said jam. They fail to realize that not only is their mother going to lose her shit, it will likely be at me anyway for 'letting the children get themselves into such a situation in the first place and do you have any idea what could have happened to the children if they had really gotten their hands on'...wait what? What happened? I disappeared there for a moment...bit of a flash back...
      "Daddy," asked Isobel sheepishly. "Can I ask you something?"
      "You just did, Pick." I replied.
      "You just did ask me a question." I repeated.
      "No, really." she had a worried tone in her voice.
      "What's up?" I asked sounding kindly and very father-esque.
      "I had a problem...in the bathroom." she said.
      My mind raced. I mean I thought about this day and figured it would be me but I guess you never are really prepared for this sort of thing. (insert sound of needle being raked across record) Wait. She's six. Whatever it is, it ISN'T that problem.
     "What is it Isobel?" a little less father knows best tone about it.
     "What colour is your ...poop supposed to be?"
     "I'm sorry?" I asked not quite believing what she just asked.
     "I think I'm sick. Mine has a green stripe in it." she said.
     "A green stripe?" I asked..
     "A green stripe." she repeated.
      I'm certain there are many parenty type things that we are all asked or expected to do by our children but if you would have told me that I would be standing in the bathroom examining the excrement of my six year old child I would have slapped you and then called you odd for even thinking such a thing. Yet, here I was. Looking into the bowl at a poo with a nearly perfect symmetrical stripe running through it.
     I have to say that the first thing that crossed my mind is that it bore a passing resemblance to Fruit Stripe Gum. The next thing I thought how in the hell did it get a green stripe in it in the first place. We are not a big family of green eaters. If it had bones or bits of sausage wrappers in it, I could see but green? It didn't make a lot of sense.
      "I told you." Isobel said. "Green striped."
      "It sure is, Pickle." That nick name took on a whole new meaning just then.
      "What would make it green like that?" she asked.
      For all of the knowledge I have acquired over my years on this planet and to all of you who proclaimed 'Sid knows shit.' I have to say I was stumped. We don't eat a lot of greenery as I mentioned so unless she has started mimicking the cats and munching on the house plants, I could think of no explanation for the green poo.
      "I don't know. What have you been eating?"
      "I don't know?" she answered.
     A day went by and she reported to me the next morning that the stripe was gone and it was ALL green now. Again I looked and sure enough it was. Green as the grass used to be.
      "Are you feeling alright?" I asked her.
      "I feel fine." she said.
      And clearly, she was not ill so I was stumped. Stopped in my tracks by a chartreuse log.
       So anybody that knows me, most especially my wife, knows that if I go out I am (by and large) coming home with something for the kids. Both kids love cotton candy and  gigantic buckets of it were on sale at the grocery store. Two buckets duly arrived at our house. One of which was ravenously devoured  by a ravening six year old candy floss fanatic. The colours in the bucket o' floss were blue (berry) and pink (bubblegum) but primarily blue. Now if you mix the blue candy floss with an acidic beverage like apple juice or lemonade (even better) the resulting liquid is GREEN. Use a six year old sugar freak as your mixing vessel and bingo! A Jade Jobby. Isn't science fun?

      I was going to write about something else here but something happened just tonight that was so good I had to share it. Izzy was asked if she would like to go with her friend on a trip to Montreal. I said that "that is a big something." It wasn't just like sleeping overnight at a friends house. It would be a long day in the car and then a long trip on a train back home. As exciting as that would be, she is just six and the trip wouldn't be with the friends parents (who we know) but with her grandfather (who we don't know at all). I said not to 'get her hopes up' but that ultimately it wasn't up to me as I wouldn't be home all weekend.
     So Mummy was asked and understandably, Mummy said no. Not yet anyway. Maybe in a few years. This is one of the times that it is hard to be a parent. Doing what you know is the best thing for the health and safety of your child, even when it isn't what your child wants. This is also one of the times when I am glad that my wife was the barer of bad tidings.
      After she was told she couldn't go, Isobel sat at the coffee table and scribbled the following note which she unceremoniously chucked at her Mother and then stomped off upstairs.
"Der Mommy. Isobel.
  I'm going tothe
  Dutstr (a picture of a very angry girl's face)
 Love Isobel.
     Dutstr I was told later is dumpster. I guess she figured by her threatening to go live in filth and squalor, her Mother would be so upset that she might change her mind about the whole trip thing. She told me she 'wanted Mummy to be upset at any rate'.  But she still signed it with love! The teen years around here are going to be glorious, I can just tell. Anybody got i room I can rent out in say...ten years?


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Becoming Institutionalized...Beach Day...

      We were swimming at my Mother's trailer and Isobel was displaying all of her new swimming abilities.

      Isobel: "Watch me, Nana. Watch me dive!"
      Nana: "OK Honey, go ahead."
      Isobel: "See, I am a great swimmer now."
      Nana: "You sure are. You're like a little fish."
      Isobel : "Daddy, did Nana just call me a fish?"
      Daddy: "No honey. She said you were like a fish, they way you swim so well."
      Isobel: "OK."
      Daddy: "Were you worried that Nana was seeing things? Like old people things?"
      Isobel: "No!"
      Daddy: "Yes you were. That's OK. Did you show Nana your funky nails?"
      Isobel: "My fucking what?"

     Those of you that know me from past incarnations, know that I used to play in a band of some renown. We traveled up and down the highways and byways of America and I loved every minute of it. I loved nothing better than being inside a hotel room, a cold drink in my hand, TV blaring and the A.C. on full blast.
      This past weekend I was in Maxville for the North American Piping championships. The bad and I are not North American Champions. Three cheers for mediocrity, we'll get 'em next year. At any rate, I left on Thursday and would be there until Sunday. For those of you keeping score, that's four days of walking around the hotel in a shower towel in the freshness of full bore air conditioner mania. I was also four days of family free glory. But I actually started to think about this in the second 45 minute stretch of being stuck in construction.
      It would be four days of not seeing the kids. I have written about this kind of thing before-missing the kids but a new thing dawned on me. The Hotel would have wifi so I could use my ipod and video chat with the kids and it would be as if I were right there. This is such a wonderful world of technology that we live in.
      OK, so first off the Hotel was actually a Motel. A small detail but an important one. Small being the operative word. The bed was in the middle of the room and if I lay in the middle of the bed, I could touch both walls. I tried to do it kind of spread-eagled. Lying on the bed I tried to touch the walls with both my hands and my feet. At least I wouldn't be bored if the cable went out. Ah yes, the cable television. Another marvel of our modern world!
    I, like many of  my countrymen have been watching the Olympics. Or rather having it on the background so at least folks won't say I am unpatriotic. But in a hotel with three channels on the television and only one in English, my patriotism went through the roof in a hurry. I must admit when I got home, I was pleased to discover that the tint on the TV in the motel was shot and Canada's gymnasts were not actually wearing gold and lime green uniforms. But I was out, right? Like the old days!
       The sign in the office did say wifi. The sign written in magic marker was quite clear about that. I would have a shower and then give the kids a ring. The shower was warm and had excellent water pressure and was quite spacious in the hotel where the rest of the band was staying. Mine however would have been the perfect height for Isobel if she bent down a little. The towel I had dreamed of walking around the hotel in was actually wider than the shower curtain and the two shower towels, two hand towels and two wash cloths were nearly absorbent enough to soak up all the water that the shower curtain directed to the floor of the bathroom.
      But it had a fridge. One of the kind of fridges that I've seen in garages. Not the big bastards that have the name of Norge or Westinghouse scrawled across them in stylized lettering, no I mean the little cube shaped ones that you might have sitting on your work bench. It'll hold a couple of six packs and maybe four in the door but I'm only guessing here. That was the kind I had in my room and I gotta say my beer has never been so tepid. It was a joy really. To think I have been drinking all that cold beer lo these many years when I could've been having it a slightly below room temperature all this time?
    I shouldn't complain. The room was small and a little smelly and the pipes above the toilet dripped badly enough that I was starting to think I had a serious aim problem but the bed was really uncomfortable so there's that. I was clean-ish and now I wanted to talk to my kids. One thing the magic marker sign wasn't clear about was that to get wifi, you actually had to go outside of your room and into the parking lot. I got to talk to my kids and so did everybody else staying in the Motel. It was kind of a multi-ethnic; multi-family conference call.
      I talked to Isobel and The Boy (who amazingly enough had taken a break from Mine Craft) and felt overwhelmingly lonely after I hung up with them due to impending battery failure. (the bane of the techno world). I went back into my room and fired back a couple of tepid beers. I sat and stewed and brooded and had another couple of tepid beers.
      There is a disease that effects all who drink. It is the desire to phone people after you have had enough cocktails to alter the chemistry in the reason centre of your brain. This is absolutely how I know that I am NOT who I used to be. When I was in the band, all alone with a head full of beer and I picked up the phone. It was usually to get myself into some kind of trouble. The good kind of trouble and the bad. This time I wanted to call back the kids...can you believe that? Hell, I even missed Mrs. Narrator. I thought better of it. It was a video call after all. I would be hard enough to explain to Izzy why I was calling back after midnight. Let alone why my eyes wouldn't focus. Scotland is gonna be rough...

      The decision went up that there was to be no computer today (except Ipods and Iphones which don't count yet) and bottoms would sit in uncomfortable chairs and faces would squint at the sky and fun would be had by all god dammit.We haven't been to the proper beach as a family since Mexico and too much time has been spent indoors this summer. Partially my fault and partially the obnoxiously hot weather.
      We went to a beach about an hour away from us and it is one of our favourites. It reminds us all a lot of Mexico. Sand beaches, warm water that you can walk out a long way and it has that Mexican beach sound. That sound...when you close your eyes and just listen, can only come from the beach. You know the sound. I thought I t only came from the beaches in Mexico but this beach has it too.
      Anyway, Isobel is ABSOLUTELY MY CHILD and to that end, she needs to be slathered with sunscreen. A fact that she is well aware of and begrudgingly, puts up with.
      "When are we going to get there?" Isobel asked.
       "Pretty soon." I said.
       "When I get there, I'm going right into the water. I am burning hot."
       "Sunscreen first." said Mrs. Narrator.
       "That's right Pick. You need sunscreen before you swim."
       "OK," she relented. "Mummy?"
        "When you put on my sunscreen don't put any on my butt cheeks," Isobel said. "That's just wrong."