Thursday, January 17, 2013

Damage Control

Yesterday I started a load of laundry because I had no clean nursing pads left. Benjamin's not been nursing very well—he's been nursing more often but for shorter duration—this past week and it's wreaked havoc on my milk supply. That load never got switched over to the dryer because life happened (and I spent all morning at the doctor's office and forgot about it).

It was raining when we went to the bus stop to pick Rachel up. We're taking care of our neighbour's cat while they're on vacation and so I decided we'd go straight from the bus stop to the neighbour's house since I didn't want to have to get Benjamin and Miriam all bundled up (in...sweaters) to go outside twice. I shared my plan with Rachel as we made our way up our street.

"Right now?" she said excitedly—she's thrilled to be taking care of a pet even though we've never once seen hide or hair of this sweet, incredibly shy kitty—and prepared to dash across the street. "One, two, three!" she counted, looking to the right. "One, two, three!" she counted, looking to the left. "One, two, three!" she counted, looking to the right again.

I hate it when she does that because she doesn't actually look. She simply counts and thinks that alone is enough to protect her from oncoming traffic, as if it's some secret code that generates a forcefield around her. Every time she does it I emphasize that counting is nice but looking is what's actually important. I'm not sure she'll ever get it. *sigh*

So, she took off to the neighbour's house, full speed ahead and... Oh...did I mention it was raining? It's been raining so much that the rain has no where left to go. The water table is apparently full so the rain is puddling up on the lawns instead of soaking into them, which has turned our entire neighbourhood into one big swampish bog (complete with snakes, frogs, and turtles (thank goodness it's January and not July)).

Rachel made it safely across the street but her feet went out from under her the minute she hit the neighbour's lawn. She skidded a few feet before falling flat on her back.

"Wow, are you alright?" I asked. "I guess we won't go straight to the neighbour's after all."

"Why not?" Rachel asked, disappointed.

"Because we should probably change your clothes before we go into their house," I said.

Rachel raised her arms and lifted one of her feet. She studied the mud dripping from all of her limbs.

"Oh," she nodded in agreement. "Good idea."

So we went home and I put Benjamin down so that I could help wrestle Rachel out of her clothes, which went directly into the washing machine. She was a little embarrassed so I told her about the time that I did something similar.

I was walking home from school in the spring sometime. I can't remember what grade I was in because I was walking hom from Joe Clark Elementary School, a school I never went to. It was, however, the bus stop for the kids in my neighbourhood needing to get to the middle school (Senator Riley) which means that I could have been walking home from taking the bus in grade six. It could've also been that I was walking home from volunteering at the elementary school library, which I did in grade seven and eight while I homeschooled. But I kind of remember having a backpack on so I'm going to go with grade six.

I can't help that I can't remember. It was in the "olden days."

I do remember that it was a fairly warm day and that I was wearing a ridiculous red sweatsuit—red sweatpants, red sweatshirt—overtop of long johns. I had my backpack on and was carrying my coat. Things were melting; it was much too warm for a coat.

Unless a series of chinooks blow through and eat all the snow and ice away, springtime can be a long, odious affair in Southern Alberta. Winters are always long and odious. It snows and then it snows again. The snow might start to melt a little but that's even worse because it will freeze again before any of the snow actually disappears. Then it will snow again. Then it won't snow for a long time because it's too darn cold and dry to warrant any precipitation so the snow will dry out and the wind will whip it around, polishing black ice, building huge snow drifts, and cutting into exposed skin like millions of pinpricks.

By the time spring rolls around there's a layer of ice so thick on the street that it will take weeks of warm weather to melt it all away. Until it's gone you never know when you're going to hit a patch of ice—in the spring the melted water pools on top of the ice that's stuck in the gutters forming large, icy puddles that are always very muddy.

They don't use salt on the roads in Alberta. It would take too much salt—I imagine that's expensive, or perhaps that it would be too harmful to the environment; my dad always told me it would make the vehicles rust faster. Instead they use dirt. When it snows, a truck drives around town and down the high ways and sprinkles dirt on the roads to help cars grip the snow. It snows, we add dirt, it snows, we add dirt, it snows, we add dirt and come spring we have a lot of muddy runoff.

So, I was crossing the street on my way home from school, in all my bright red glory, when I came to one of these incredibly large muddy puddles. Chunks of ice were floating on top and I wasn't sure how deep it was but I had my trusty boots on so I began wading across. And then...I slipped and landed, hard, on the icy bottom of that puddle.

My boots filled with ice water, my coat quickly soaked up as much liquid as it could, and I emerged from that puddle soaking wet from the waist down. Soaking wet with muddy water.

I squelched all the way home, leaving a watery trail behind me. And I'm not sure my long johns ever recovered from their swim in that puddle and they lived out their lives a murky grey colour.

"But why didn't you just change into extra clothes?" Rachel wanted to know.

"Well, because I didn't have any. I was on my way home from school. I changed once I got home, just as you're changing now."

"Yes, but, why didn't you have an extra outfit at school?"

"It wouldn't have mattered. I fell into the puddle when I wasn't at school or at home. I was in between."

"Well, I always have an extra outfit at school so if I fall into a puddle I can just get changed."

"Aren't you a super-duper-prepare-o-matic?" I asked. "And suppose you should fall into a puddle on your way home from school before you got home?"

"I'd just change into new clothes at home."

"Like we're doing now?" I asked.

"Yes, like we're doing now."

"Okay, I did the same thing, only I still had to walk a couple of blocks before I got home."

"Then you should have had an extra set of clothes in your backpack."

"You don't keep an extra set of clothes in your backpack," I pointed out.

"Yes, but my bus stop is closer to my house than yours was, Mom."

"Fair enough," I said. "Well, let's go feed that cat now and, uh, don't run on the grass this time."

My second emergency-load was still whirring in the machine when we got back from the neighbour's house—full of muddy school clothes—and I was exhausted and didn't want to make dinner but there was no one else around to make dinner, or so I thought. I voiced my complaint about not wanting to make dinner and Rachel told me not to worry. Rachel had things covered.

She made peanut butter and banana sandwiches for dinner, or at least she wanted to but she couldn't quite spread the peanut butter (so I did that) and she could cut the bananas into even pieces (so I did that) but she did get the bread out and she came up with a super easy dinner idea.

We sat down to eat and Miriam began playing with her food. She took a bite of an apple piece and then stabbed her sandwich with it. She dunked her apple into her cup of milk. She opened her sandwich and picked a banana slice out and ate that. She peeled the crust off her sandwich.

"I'm done!" she announced.

"Oh, no you're not," I said. "Go ahead and sit down. You were just asking for a snack a few minutes ago so I know you're hungry and I'm not giving out any more snacks tonight so you'd better eat some more."

She played around for a few minutes and took a few more nibbles before announcing, once again, that she was done. I told her that she needed to eat a little bit more. We went back and forth like this for quite a while.

"We should have family game time after dinner!" Rachel suggested. "We can play Princess Yahtzee!"

"That sounds like a good idea," I said.

"Yay! Princess Yahtzee!" Miriam squealed, clapping her hands.

That was just the ammunition I needed. Because I'm a mean mom I said, "Oh, not you, Miriam. You won't be able to play unless you can finish half your sandwich and that apple piece you took."

"Oh, okay. I don't want to play," she said.

"Then you can sit there in front of your food and watch us play," I said.

"But I want to play," she said.

"Then eat half your sandwich," I instructed.

"I don't want to eat my sandwich!"

Rachel stepped in to referee. She must have still been hungry because she took the less beaten up half of Miriam's sandwich and offered to eat that for her.

"Look," said Rachel shoving the sandwich into her mouth, "I'll help you." She chewed for a few minutes, took a big swig of milk, and began reasoning with Miriam (if any form of communication with a three-year-old can be called "reasoning").

"Miriam, you just have to eat half of your sandwich. You do that and then you can play Yahtzee with us. It's only a couple of bites. Is that fair?" Rachel asked. Then she went ahead and answered her own question. "No, it is not." she said, shaking her head sadly, "But Mommy's the Mommy up!"

Miriam gobbled up her sandwich and we enjoyed a lovely game of Princess Yahtzee. Rachel kept score and did a fine job. When we'd finished playing it was time to get on pyjamas. Miriam threw a stink about that, too.

"Miriam," I sighed. "You aren't being very cooperative today."

"I am!" Rachel beamed. "I haven't thrown one fit today!"

"Yes, thank you," I said. "Please keep it up."

"I will. I promise," Rachel said solemnly. "And when I promise things I...sometimes keep my promises."

At least she's honest. Or clever. Or both.

She left herself a beautiful loophole that allowed her to throw a temper tantrum just a few minutes later.

We were cleaning up the living room so that we could have story time. This involved folding and putting away some laundry, which Rachel decided she didn't want to do. It didn't help that Miriam was being casually disobedient, pretending she wasn't hearing the things I was asking her to do and instead playing with some of Benjamin's toys that were scattered on the carpet. She was intently playing with a toy designed for a six-month old as if I'd commanded her to "play" rather than "pick up."

Sometimes I let her get away with things like that because I know that while she'd love to help fold the laundry she'd really hinder the process. She wasn't bothering me and I could nag her about toys later.

It only became a problem when Rachel got a little jealous of their roles, abandoned her laundry duties, and started taking toys away from Miriam. Miriam started crying. I started getting frustrated.

"Rachel, leave your sister alone."

"But she's playing with baby toys. She's not a baby!"

"Just leave her alone."

"She's supposed to be picking them up, not playing with them."

"And she will. Right now let's just finish folding these clothes, then you can put ice in your water cups while I help Miriam pick up the toys."

I was fighting a losing battle. The girls were playing tug-of-war over a wooden hammer and screaming wildly at each other.

"Rachel! Let go of that hammer and go find your water bottles, and Miriam's too."

She stormed off to her room and came back with her water cup, which she set slammed down on the arm of the couch.

"And Miriam's too," I reminded her.

She stomped off once again in her gorilla posture—head down, arms dangling, shoulders slumped—and found Miriam's water bottle. She wheeled around and stomped out of the bedroom and down the hallway and then...*smack!*

She stomped right into the wall. I suppose with her hair dangling in her face she misjudged where the wall ended and instead of walking into the living room she found herself face to face with the drywall.

She cried. I comforted. We put ice on it. We talked about walking calmly in the house to avoid calamity.

A few minutes later I sent Miriam off on an errand. She jumped up, surprisingly obedient, and streaked off to her bedroom. As soon as she hit the hardwood floor, however, she found her sock feet slipped right out from under her and she landed on her tummy, crashing her face on the floor.

"Here, Miriam," Rachel snickered, holding out the ice pack she had been holding on her own head.

It was Miriam's turn to cry on my lap, holding ice to her head.

By some sort of miracle I had all three kids in bed by the time Andrew got home (though Benjamin woke up shortly thereafter and continued to scream until 5 AM or so).

"How'd your day go?" Andrew asked.

How did it go? I felt like I was sticking one finger after another into various holes that kept springing up in the dike I call my life. I did little more than wipe noses, administer tylenol, change poopy diapers, do emergency laundry, and hold ice packs. I hardly managed to stay sane—we had peanut butter and banana sandwiches for dinner, for crying out loud. But the dike was still standing, wasn't it?

I do awesome damage control.


  1. You do such a great job recording this crazy time in your life, and someday you will go back and read it and laugh like the rest of us who aren't living it. I just love the image of Rachel holding out the ice pack to Miriam. It just never ends, does it?
    I sure hope you all get feeling better soon and that Benjamin lets you sleep. Hang in there!

  2. Becca said it very well. :o) Thanks for putting a smile on your readers' faces!

  3. I really enjoyed reading that because you just summed up my everyday life perfectly. :)

  4. I seriously love this! So, so easy to relate -

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