Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Foreman...Wrestling Saves...

      For as long as any of us can remember Isobel has been referred to by various members of my family as the Princess of Darkness. The P.O.D. I think it came from my brother originally. She was luxurating on the coach, watching TV.
      Daddy: "Isobel?"
      Isobel: "Yeah?"
      Daddy: "Isobel why is it do you think, that there is so much evil in your heart?"
      Isobel: "What?'
      Daddy: "What is it that makes you so...evil? Is it that you just can't do good?"
      Isobel: "..."
      Daddy: "Is it the Jungian thing?"
      Isobel: "The what?'
      Daddy: " The Jungian thing , that there is a duality in all of us."
      Isobel: "..."
      Daddy: "Or are you the Freudian seething cauldron?"
      Isobel : "What's a cauldron?"
      Daddy: "A big pot."
      Isobel: "..."
      Daddy: "Well? What makes you such a Princess of Darkness?"
      Isobel: "I have allergies."

      This past week, Mrs. Narrator took full advantage of my unemployment and put me to work on the living room. A more wicked task master I have not met. O.K really the living room was due for an overhaul. I hate the doing but always enjoy the end result and looking around it ain't half bad.
      I can't take full credit for the living room's current state however. Mrs. Narrator picked virtually everything in here. From the floor to the colour on the walls. Floor boards to window dressings it was all her design. I am very much the type of person who, unless I am vehemently opposed to something I am fine with leaving the decor decisions to someone else. BUT  if you want me to do the installing of said decor, then let me alone to do it. Don't micro manage me. If I want your help I'll ask. Unless you're six and your name is Isobel. When she found out that we were going to re-do the living room, I thought she might burst.
      I re-did the upstairs bathroom a while ago. So long ago that I remember The Boy seeming so small in the empty bathroom, let alone Isobel. She loved the paint...and it loved her. I told her to put on old clothes she didn't care about which didn't work out so well. She came in dressed in clothes she actually quite liked and naturally had paint on most of it by the time she finished painting. I think we hid some of it from Mrs. Narrator but she eventually discovered the paint stained clothes. Luckily Izzy had since outgrown them.
    So when she found out there was to be a new colour for the living room, she began to pick out the old clothes. This time they were clothes nobody cared about...I think. I don't remember any issues when the kids helped me paint the upstairs bathroom but maybe it was because they didn't really help. In retrospect, I think Izzy painted with a tooth brush and The Boy painted with a brush that you might use for detailing model cars. She slathered on the paint in giant globs with a brush and Mrs. Narrator and I did our best to smooth them out with a roller. She had a ball. Ah well, strategically placed furniture can hide almost anything, right?
     Next came the floor. I hate doing floors. I mean I love them because I can do them and relatively well but I hate doing them just the same. It's a pain and a pain in the ass. I get grouchy when things don't work as simply as I think they're going to and things NEVER go as simply as I think they're going to. Ever. They seem to take forever but are finished before you know it. The bulk of it anyway. The details like base boards and shoe molding can drag on forever if you don't stay on top of it.
      To her credit, Mrs. Narrator gave me breathing room and only came into the room if I asked. Past experiences with flooring have taught us both that we do not work well together. Two completely different personality types that do not mesh when home improvement is involved. Isobel meshes with everybody.
      "What're you doing?" she asked.
      "I'm putting in the floor." I said in a 'did you really just ask that?' tone.
      It's a laminate floor, decent stuff and looks very much like hardwood flooring. It's tongue and groove and so it involves sliding pieces and clicking them together. I had begun to slide a piece into place and stopped for a minute to get the tape measure.
      "Daddy?" Isobel asked.
      "Yes Monkey face banana Popsicle?"
      "Daddy, what goes in this spot?"
     She was referring to the space between the last board and the one I was currently moving but hadn't slid completely into place yet.
       "This board goes there. I haven't moved it into place yet. It attaches to that board and then I keep moving."
      "Whew," she said. "That's good. I was worried we would have a hole in the new floor and that would be bad looking."
      She took a keen interest in the whole renovation process, the further along we got the more interesting the questions got.
       "Yes Pickle?"
       "When we bought this house, did we paint it or did the instruction man do it for us?" she asked.
      "Who?" I asked. "Did who paint it?"
       "The instruction man, the man who builds house."
      "No, actually Mummy painted the living room."
     The whole process of doing the floor took three days and the more floor she had to play on, the better the games got. The first three courses of floor and she was playing Pirate ship. That didn't last long and went into cheerleader practice. Two more rows and she was taking the lead in the school play.
      I was nearing the end, most of the swearing was finished ( it was the last couple of rows so in fact the swearing was really starting to ramp up) and Isobel had transformed the living room into her very own dance school. I was kneeling over trying to fit one of the last pieces. She walked in front of me and asked;
     "Are you the new janitor?"
    I didn't have the chance to answer.
      "Boys and girls this is the new janitor, Gus. You can call him Janitor Jenkins and he put in this wonderful floor that we will all be dancing on."
     I'm still not sure if it was a back handed compliment for the floor or that she felt it necessary to remind me of my social standing-firmly below hers.

     I have been a step father longer than I have been a father. Being a step father is more difficult that being a father I think. You don't have to prove anything to your own kid. Your kid is more or less programmed to like you so long as you stick around. But step children often come with their own ideas about who you are and what you are going to do to them and for them and with them. Often they would prefer you didn't do anything. With anyone ever, at all.
      For seven years I have been with The Boy and it has had many ups and man...many downs. I don't mean that to sound as though there have been problems with The Boy. There haven't The Boy is who he is. It takes a long time to figure out that it is you that needs to change. Not the child. It can be a tough pill to swallow. (it was for me) It is still an ongoing thing but something has changed...for the better.
      I loved wrestling when I was a kid. Rowdy Roddy Piper (um duh!?!) and his ilk we part of Saturday TV watching right up into my early twenties. I knew it wasn't real but neither was Star Wars or any of the other good vs evil movies and stories I enjoyed and still enjoy but I'm wandering.
    Since the kids are home for the summer and I am not working, I am the wake up man. The Boy, approaching the teenage years, is already sleeping like the dead. Ergo, I needed to come up with a way to wake him up that wasn't just hollering and threatening to take stuff away.
    I still don't know what possessed me to do it but I did it and the results speak for themselves. He has a stuffed sheep, Bobo the Hobo( the sheep has a corduroy vest and a bindle stick) that has been his trusted companion since he was very small. I don't know if he still uses him for comfort or that he has just been there for so long that to get rid of Bobo would interrupt the Feng Shui of his room.
     Anyway, one morning I went to wake him up.
      "Wakey- wakey, eggs and bakey." I said to the silence of a sleeping Boy.
     I saw Bobo on the floor and picked him up and suddenly I was consumed with the machismo of Macho Man Randy Savage. I let out a whoop and dropped the flying elbow (Bobo's elbow, mind) on The Boy.
     I have never heard the kind of laughter come out of The Boy that I heard after I assaulted him with the sheep. I was a little taken aback by it. Two days later he told his mother that I wake him up better than she does. We will no doubt have our ups and downs the older he gets and the older I get but the sheep changed something in the relationship. He grew up a bunch and I remembered what it's like to be a kid and laugh because you were enjoying something, not because you thought it was you were supposed to do to be a good parent. Oooooh Yeah!!!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Izzy's Big Wish...Piercings for Everyone!...

      I was getting ready to unload the new flooring from the car. Izzy (as always) wanted to help.
      Isobel: "Where are you going?"
      Daddy: "I'm going to change my shirt."
      Isobel: "Why are you changing your shirt?"
      Daddy: "I need to unload the flooring from the car and I don't want this shirt to get all sweaty and smelly."
      Isobel: "Can I help unload the new flooring?"
      Daddy: "It's pretty heavy, Pick. It's awfully hot out too.
      Isobel : "It's OK, I'm wearing kind of a hippy shirt. I don't mind if it gets sweaty."
      Daddy: "Don't let the hair fool you, I'm no hippy. I like violence."
      Isobel: "What? Hippies don't like violins? What's the matter with them?"

       I think every child has a deep down wish. Something that when they see it or learn about it, it effects their psyche so profoundly that it kind of imprints itself there. Surfacing intermittently throughout the rest of their lives. Everybody has one...yes, even you. Maybe you never told anybody, maybe you were too embarrassed to say anything and you kept it buried way way down in that place that you never let anybody touch.
      With me it was stand up comedy. Hard to believe I know. With my quiet and shy demeanour you might think I'd dream of being a postman or a bus conductor. Something lees in the limelight. The heart wants what the heart wants. OK, really I started listening to my parents records at an early age. I remember a Bill Cosby record and a Jonathan Winters record. I listened to them a lot...probably too much but when I heard the reaction these two men were getting from the audiences they were standing in front of, it did something to me. Turned on a little switch. Next came Mork and Mindy and when I found out Mork started as a stand up comic, well it was all over but the swearing. I got a Robin Williams record for Christmas that year and I remember that nothing was really mentioned about the F bombs that were throughout that record. I think I got a comedy record every Christmas after that. Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin, Billy Connolly, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx. They were all great and I listened to them over and over. Alone and with my friends. In the beginning part of the funny was the getting away with hearing THAT word being said so much and not getting into trouble for it. Once that wore off, we were still listening to them because they were all incredibly fucking funny.(see what I did there?) I never did try stand up comedy and every once in a while, I think of trying an open mike night but I figure I made enough of a fool of myself playing in a band for as long as I did.
      But Isobel...ahh Izzy's dream is not so selfish as mine or yours. No, Izzy's secret dream is all about someone else. My daughter's secret hope is for me. What!? You heard it right.
      "Daddy?" she asked one day.
       "Yes, Stink Pie?"
      "If I had one wish, I would wish for you."
      "What would you wish for me?" I asked. I thought she might have something up her sleeve, like buying a catcher's mitt for your mother on Mother's day.
      "If I could have one wish, " she began. "I would wish that you would win the lottery.
      I was nearly speechless.
      "And?" I asked.
      "And what?" asked Isobel.
      "And what else would you wish for?" I replied.
      "Nothing. Just for you to win the lottery." she said.
     I left it alone. If it was a completely selfless thing, which I was beginning to think it was, I didn't want to make her feel weird or guilty for it. But remember this...I didn't.
      So some time went by and the lottery came and went and I did not win it but that never stopped me from buying tickets before. I will likely never win the lottery. One thing is for certain, I will NEVER, EVER win the lottery if I don't buy a ticket. But I'm greedy, if it dips below $35 million I couldn't be bothered to play.
      We were outside the other day and Isobel mastered the obvious.
      "Holy Jesus it's hot out here." she said.
      "It sure is." I agreed.
      "This kind of heat is not going to be good for the animals."
      "Umm...what animals, Pick?" I foolishly asked.
      "The animals on my farm." Isobel said.
      "You don't have a farm, Pick." I said.
       "I will soon." she said.
      "Oh yeah?" I said. "When are you getting a farm?"
      "Just as soon as you get your lottery money." she said.
     Aha! there's the other shoe dropping just now.
      "You figure I'm going to buy you a farm when I win the lottery?"
       "You said you would." she said matter of factly.
     And I know at some point I told her that if I won the $50 million, I would buy her a farm.
      "What kind of animals will you have on your farm?"
      "Probably a horse and some cows and a pig or two or three." she said.
      "What about some chickens?" I asked.
      "Oh god no." she spat. "Filthy damn birds, chickens are."
      Obviously she thinks a pig sty is purely for the description of a bedroom...well at least we'll have bacon for the cheese burgers.

      Isobel is still on about getting her ears pierced and I keep telling her I will take her. (Any suggestions as to a place to take her are welcome) Today however she announced she wants to get her nose pierced.
      "Daddy, I want to get a nose ring."
      "You're too young." I said almost as a reflex.
      "I don't want a round one like an ear ring, I want a dot one. Here." she said pointing at a spot on her nose.
      "Do you mean you want a stud and not a hoop?"
       "Yeah," she said. "I want a stud in my nose."
       "That's what I had." I said.
      "You had your nose pierced?"
      "Yup. Mummy did too but I think I had mine before her. Grandpa Ron hated it when I had mine."
      "That's crazy." she said. "It's just a nose ring, lot's of people have them."
       "They didn't then." I said.
      "Daddy?" she asked me.
      "Daddy, how come Uncle Doug has rings in his... boobies? I don't know what to call them."
      "Nipples. Uncle Doug has rings in his nipples. Guys have nipples too."
      "How come Uncle Doug has rings in his nipples?"
       "I don't really know, Pick. You might have to ask him."
      "Um..." she fumbled. "I think I just won't look at them and hope he doesn't talk about them."
      Might be for the best...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Good Old Days...Izzy's New School...

It's that time of year when things bite and sting and float through the air and make you itch like mad. Isobel seems to be a favourite target for all of the above.
     Isobel: "GWAH!!!!"
     Daddy: "What's up Pick?"
     Isobel: "ITCHY!!!!"
     Daddy: "What's itchy?"
     Isobel: "Everything. My everything is itchy."
     Daddy: "Everything? I don't know if I have any everything cream left? Could you be a little more vague?"
     Isobel: "What? What does that mean?"
     Daddy: "Skip it. Where do you want cream?"
     Isobel: "My arms and legs are worst."
     Daddy: "Ok but try not to scratch, pat the bites instead."
     Isobel: "..."
     Daddy: "What?"
     Isobel: "That's just awkward and not really helpful."

       I'm always interested in watching the kids' minds work, watching them interact with the things around them and seeing the effects. It's interesting (if not a little frustrating) to watch them both with the computer knowing in all certainty that they both already know how to use it more effectively than I do. I mean I don't feel quite as mystified by it as my parents but within a few years I'm certain I'll be squinting at the screen, befuddled and hoping one of the kids can help me out of whatever electronic mess I have gotten into...I still have a Smith Corona typewriter in the basement for just such an occasion.
      The future isn't what really interests me, not nearly as much as the past and those things that trigger memories in us. We live off the beaten track so to speak, a smaller community that doesn't get a lot of over night traffic. As such, we get the other type of late night traffic, skunks and raccoons. Because there are very few cars to keep their numbers in check, there are many of them to ransack garbage cans and recycle boxes. Everyone's yards are strewn with everyone elses' garbage. Jesus, this is a round a bout way of getting to what I want to talk about this week...guilty I'm afraid but it was a long time getting to it as it happened.
     So Izzy and I were out cleaning up the bits of trash (and being completely skeeved out by it) from the front of the yard for the umpteenth time. OK, really it was me doing the cleaning (and Izzy being completely skeeved out) and I had started walking to get a rake or shovel or something to move the stickier garbage into a pile. Something that didn't involve touching rancid cheese and the other delights on the side walk, with my bare hands.
      "Where are you going?" Isobel asked.
       "I'm going to get a shovel or something to clean this up with."
       "Oh no, you're not leaving me here with that." she said, pointing at the garbage.
     Now here is the important bit She wanted nothing to do with touching the garbage, remember? Like father like daughter. However, after we got the shovel and headed back up the driveway, she bent down and picked up an old corn cob that was a little bit away from the other debris but obviously from the same mess. She continued to hold it as I cleaned up and re-bagged the pile of garbage and remained holding it as I took the bag of trash to the garage. After all the work was finished, I figured she would throw the cob into the garbage and she would be able to say that she did actually help. However;
      "I am not wiping my butt with this." Isobel said.
      "I'm sorry?" I said a little confused. Actually unbelievably confused, this is one of the strangest things I have heard come out Isobel's mouth...and that's saying something.
      "I said I am not wiping my butt with this."
      "Who said you have to wipe your butt with a corn cob?"
      Of all of the things I figured I would ever talk about with my child, I gotta say toilet etiquette and silage was not one of the things that were uppermost in my mind.
      "When we went to the Joseph Schneider house, they told us that all the women wore buttons and that you had to wipe your butt with a corn cob." said Isobel.
      "Women wore what?" I asked.
       "Buttons." said Isobel. "Buttons on their heads."
       "Bonnets." I said.  Women wore bonnets on their heads."
       "That's what I said." said Isobel. "I wore one too when we went there."
       "Did you wipe your butt with a corn cob?" I asked.
       "NO!" she said, sounding terribly embarrassed.
      Now, I am no stranger to history but I have to admit this hole corncob thing had me stymied. I had never heard such a thing before and I had never been to the Joseph Schneider Haus. This could be entirely legit but it is Isobel we are talking about. Her imagination will run rampant if given the opportunity.
      "Who told you they wiped with a corncob back then?" I asked.
       "The lady who worked there. She said the boys went away to work when they were young, like seven and that they didn't come home until all the work was done. Girls stayed home and did the bacon."
         "Baking?" I asked.
          "Probably that too." she replied. "All the girls wore bonnets and nobody was very happy because everybody had to work."
      "Sounds like fun." I said. "Where do the corncobs come in?"
       She took a deep breath, as though she was tired of explaining this because I just wasn't getting it.
       "They used corncobs because there was no toilet paper and there was no electricity so the toilets didn't work and everybody went behind the house."
      Ah the good old days...

      It is summer vacation and I am preparing to go to school in September...hopefully. Isobel is excited and a little confused by the idea. I think she is under the impression that I might be going to her school with her. Nevertheless, I had to go to the school (a real college in case you were worried for Isobel's social life) to hand in some forms and pay for a deferment. We stood patiently in line and when it was our turn, we stepped to the window.
     Maybe it was the length of time we stood in that line or maybe it's just that she is growing up and the shyness is melting away but wen we got to the window and the receptionist started to coo over her, she chirped right back.
      "Well hello," the nice lady said. "How can I help you?"
       "I'm here with my Daddy." Isobel replied.
      "And what is your name?" the nice lady asked.
      "What is Daddy here for, is he going to go to school here?"
       "Yup," said Isobel. "And he needs to pay for something."
       "I need to pay for my deferral." I added.
       "Well," she continued to Isobel without actually acknowledging me. "Did you bring enough money to pay for him?"
       "Pffft." Isobel sputtered. "He's the one with all the money. I don't even know what I'm doing here."
      The nice receptionist took my payment and clicked and clacked on her computer for a few minutes and presented me with several pieces of paper. She put her hand gingerly on Isobel's arm.
      "Well it was very nice to meet you Isobel." she said. "Do you think that you might go to school here too?"
      "No." said Isobel sounding very serious. "I don't have time for that. I have to go back to grade one in September."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Izzy Goes Off The Deep End...One Born Every Minute...

      We were at the hardware store and the nice lady who works there asked me to sign a petition.
      Isobel: "What did you just sign?"
      Daddy: "A piece of paper that will help to stop Tim Horton's from building in town."
      Isobel: "I thought you liked Tim Horton's?"
      Daddy: "I do but if they build one where they want to, it will kick people out of their homes."
      Isobel: "What? What do you mean?"
      Daddy: "They want to build The Tim Horton's where people still live. If they are allowed to build, all those people will have to move and all those house will be knocked down."
      Isobel: "Really?"
      Daddy: "Really."
      Isobel: "That's not very nice...and rude."

      It was Canada Day here this past weekend and the tradition of the last couple of years has carried over to this year. I go and play a competition and then it's over to the in-laws for swimming and homemade burgers. Throw in a couple of beers and it is as near to a perfect day as you can get.
      Both of the kids swim and pretty well. Not to say they couldn't both use proper lessons-they could but this past trip to Mexico was really the beginning of feeling like you could relax a little, safe in the knowledge that neither Izzy nor The Boy were in imminent danger of drowning if Mrs. Narrator or I weren't in the pool.
      This was all based on the prerequisite that the children remained in the shallow end of the pool. The deep end however, was an altogether different beast. It was a far away place that could swallow you up and never let you go if you weren't careful. Well, that's at least the impression that we adults want to give kids. Isn't it odd that we want the kids to be confident swimmers so that they remain safe in the water and won't panic if they ever get into potentially dangerous situations and to do this, we almost always scare the shit out of them first. 'Don't you let your guard down for even a second or by god you'll drown like a rat. Now go have fun swimming.'
      The Boy didn't have to be taught fear, he came with his own supply. To look at him now, romping and splashing and acting the soggy fool, you would never know that as little as two summers ago (maybe three- my memory ain't what it used to be) was still quite of the pool as a whole. When he was much younger, Mrs. Narrator had to carry him into the pool and couldn't be more than a few feet away from him at any given time. Funny how you think kids will be one way forever and almost overnight, they change entirely. Now you can't get him out of the pool. Deep or shallow end.
      But Izzy was never like that, not that I can remember. She was a bonafide water baby almost from day one. We got her one of those floating activity centre things when she was a baby and she didn't car much for it. I loved it and was a little jealous. Legs dangling in the water, roof over your head, squeaky bits to distract you and a holder for your favourite beverage. What's not to love? Everything as far as Izzy was concerned. She preferred to be carried about in the water. Because you can't squirm about and try to break free from a floaty thing you are tethered to. Next came the combination water wing/life vest things that they have for toddlers. Also a gigantic waste of money for the the littlest mermaid. She tried it on and declared it painfully uncomfortable. In her defense, the only thing that keeps the vest from floating around your throat is a two inch wide strap that runs from the front of the vest to the back of it-between your legs. I shouldn't think it would be very comfortable so we didn't raise too much fuss when she wouldn't wear that one. It went on like that for a while, we'd buy things to keep her afloat and she wouldn't wear them. It was really Mexico that caused her to take the big plunge. I have mentioned earlier that once while we were in Mexico, Mrs. Narrator let Izzy go face first into the pool. It was so Mrs. Narrator could get out of standing at the bottom of the slide catching Izzy as she came down. BUT it awoke something in side Isobel. Something deep down, something atavistic that told her the pool was nothing to be afraid of. From that point on, she has been leaping into the pool without hesitation. Except the deep end. Never the deep end.
     That all changed this past weekend. She wanted it, it was palpable. You could see the frustration on her face mixed with a little fear. The Boy was in the deep end and god damn it she wanted to be too. Luckily she is Opa's little girl and if she wants to go into the deep end, he is just the guy to get her there. He would move, inch by inch it seemed, further into the deep end and she would swim to him. He didn't make a big deal out of it until the last time she swam to him.
      "Look where we are." Opa said.
      "Where, the pool?" asked Izzy.
      "We're in the deep end." said Opa. "Hey, you did it!"
      "Daddy look," she shouted to me. "I'm in the deep end!"
      "You are!" I said.
      Within a half an hour of first swimming to Opa, she was swimming to the deep end virtually unaided. Fifteen minutes after that she was jumping off the diving board, wondering why she had ever been afraid of the Deep End...and  you thought it was going to be a metaphor.

      I am a father. I try to be a good father and to that end I want and try to do all I can to make my kids happy. I have threatened to take The Boy's ipod away for any number of things and never actually gone through with them. I have said to Isobel that if her room wasn't cleaned we would not be doing anything enjoyable, least of all going to the movies. Only to walk out of the house with her room still looking like a bomb went off in it. OK it was 'Brave' and I wanted to see it but you get my point. I am for the most part a cream puff and the kids know it.
     But once in a while, the cream puff gets stale and crusty and the foot gets put down. Whatever the hell that means. Izzy wanted a fire and wanted to have s'mores. After the gigantic meal at the in-laws,the very thought of melting marshmallows and squashing them together with bits of chocolate made me positively nauseated.
     "But I really wanted s'mores." Izzy said.
     "And I'll make them for you but I'm not getting the stuff together." I replied. "You get the stuff and put it away when we're done and I'll make you as many as you want."
      Now here is the brilliance of my child. She thought about it and there were no tears or anything like that. No, she first moved her chair away. Far away from the fire and refused to answer with anything except a shrug when I asked her what was the matter. Something that both kids know absolutely grinds my gears. Now here is where it gets good. I grumble a bit and even growl maybe but still hold my ground. No s'mores without her helping-she moves further away and remains silent. I snarl at her and the bottom lip starts to quiver.
      "Fine." I say and walk into the house. I get together the ingredients for two s'mores and walk back out side. By which time Isobel has gone into the garage and gotten the chair back out that I told her to put away.
      "If you're just going to pout, put your chair in the garage go in the house."
     Now the chair is beside mine with her in it waiting for the first s'more.
      I sit down, toast up the marshmallow; layer the chocolate on the graham cracker and squash the whole disgusting thing together. I hand it to her and give her a smile to let her know I'm not mad at her.
      "Daddy, I think I'm too full to eat a s'more."
      Is my sign straight?