Beware the Stuffed Frog Bearing Catalogs

25 09 2008

Here’s a snippet of last night’s dinner conversation:

Me: So, what did you do at school today?

Neener: We had an assembly.

Me: Ooooo, an assembly! What about?

Neener: Prizes.

Me: What kind of prizes?

Roo: Skateboards.

Neener: And stuffed frogs that have big arms that hug around your neck. One hugged the principal.

Me: Wow, skateboards and huggy frogs. How do you get the prizes?

Stunned silence. No idea. But it was starting to dawn on me. Hmmm let’s see, it’s three months before Christmas…assembly…prizes…principal allowing herself to be accosted by a stuffed frog in front of the entire school…wait a garbage pickin’ minute, I know what’s going on here!

Me, to Mr. (Yes, he’s still alive, even after that blog hijacking stunt he pulled) Honey, pass me their backpacks. Now.

And sure enough, there it was. A Sunsweet “Home for the Holidays” catalog, featuring “a wonderful and unique selection of over 100 value priced gift-giving items.” Or so said the gut-wrenching letter from the principal, begging us, Dear Parents, to buy some stuff. You could practically feel the frog-hug induced Post Traumatic Stress in the way she signed off. Thanks again, and happy shopping. She wanted to say hoppy shopping, I just know it.

And I probably would buy some stuff, if only to save the principal from further amphibious hug humiliation, except for one thing: The catalog is full of cheaply made, over priced, useless crap, which we and everyone we know, already has plenty of. I won’t get into my Holiday harangue just yet, but suffice to say that this year, we’re cracking down on the amount of cheap useless crap the Blister family gives and gets for Christmas. So, no one will be getting a $17 spoon rest, or a $12 spaghetti gauge and noodle hook. No Guardian Angel Dog Tag, no Salad Spice Collection Packaged in a Holiday Tin, no Set of 4 Celebration Cake Stencils, and no Lil’ Powerhouse 5 Piece Gift Set Assortment. No bags of Fragranced Decorative Rocks. At least not from us. You’ll all be getting nice pictures of the Blister Sisters like you did last year. Or if time, budget, and sanctimoniousness allow, some chickens, penicillin, and olive trees for kids in third world countries.

But since we won’t be trying to unload Sunsweet junk on our family and friends, Neener and Roo will not, much to their chagrins, be in the running for the “prizes” promoted in the “Prize Mania!” catalog that accompanied the principal’s frantic letter, the money envelope, the triplicated order form, and the big book o’ junk. They will not “Sell $10, Earn Prize A,” a crummy buckle bracelet festooned with smiley faces. And that is fine, since Roo is terrified of smiley faces. I might have to keep her home on “Prize Mania!” prize distribution day though, because every kid who’s parents did get sucked in by the Home for the Holidays catalog will be sporting a smiley face buckle bracelet that day. There will be no “Sell $200, Earn Prize A to D Plus Prize E,” which would yield a Smiley Face buckle bracelet, a Laser Finger Beam, a Smiley Face Stretch Key Chain, a Puff Caterpillar and a 4 pack of Jumbo Pens. Total prize package value? Ohhh, I’m gonna guess about 5 bucks. The hideous carnival-prize quality, principal-hugging 20 inch Plush Frog requires $526 in sales. And the skateboard? The cheap, ugly, obviously hazardous skateboard? A kid would need to sell $750 worth of Sunsweet crap to get their hands on that. That’s 40 bags of Smelly Rocks and 4 pieces of angel-shaped Dog Jewelery! How is a kid supposed to con their family members into spending that much money on that much junk just so she can get a $20 skateboard? It’s not like they can go door-to-door they way we did in the old days. The “Prize Mania!” catalog strictly prohibits door-to-door sales, talking to strangers, and carrying large sums of cash. I’m sure the assembly also included a further explanation of sales and safety tactics, but thankfully, my kids were too dazzled by the lecherous frog and the made-in-China-by-a-three-year-old skateboard to really absorb much in the way of training.

I understand that the school gets a 45% cut of everything sold. And I understand that schools need to fundraise in order to pay for things like special trips, books, heat, and lights. But I really resent my kids being sent out to shill for a big company that distributes crappy stuff, and being lured into doing so by “prizes” of even crappier stuff. And I resent that I feel guilty about not supporting the school because I refuse to participate in this nonsense. So, naturally, I have a plan. If Neener and Roo decide they need a few pieces of shoddy merchandise that can masquerade as prizes, they can crack open their own piggy banks and blow a fiver at the Dollar store. They’ll probably come out with better stuff than what they saw in the “Prize Mania!” catalog. And instead of buying or selling stuff for Sunsweet so the school can salvage 45% of the profits, we’ll just give the school a donation, of which they can put 100% towards new basketball pinnies, or pencil sharpeners, or flushable toilets. Maybe more parents should do the same. Maybe if we all got together and just gave the school a donation, or pitched in on a proper school fundraiser , we could avoid turning our kids into a pint-sized sales force willing to work for pitiful “prizes.” Maybe my kids’ backpacks wouldn’t be crammed with suspicious catalogs, and their gym class wouldn’t have to be usurped by suspicious assemblies. And maybe, just maybe, no principal would ever have to send home desperate, pleading, guilt-inducing letters, or be publically molested by a stuffed frog, ever again.


Confessions of a Lousy Househusband

22 09 2008

Reader Beware! This is an unauthorized blog post! I should not be writing this and you should not be reading it. So continue at you own risk.

Writing late at night, after Mrs. Blister is safely asleep, I type this as quietly as I can. I only pray my words find sympathetic ears before they are discovered and removed. So please dear reader! Copy and paste! Quickly! I don’t expect to survive, but maybe someday, somewhere, somehow, my words will live on. Now I know how Anne Frank felt.

“Why?” You ask. “Why now?” You beg. “Please stop before she finds out! Turn back Mr. Blister! It’s not too late!”

Why now indeed. I’ll tell you why. Because I need to set the record straight. No doubt dear reader, you have read Mrs. Blister’s latest post, “Desperate Househusband”. Well, I need to fill in the blanks for you…

“[he is a] bonbonaholic social butterfly…”

First of all, I am not a bonbonaholic. I am a word-twistaholic, thanks to my cousins on facebook. Secondly, I am less of a social butterfly than an anti-social earwig.

“…he’s not only trying to get used to his new role as stay-at-home-dad, but doing so under a mother’s microscope.”

First of all, I am not trying to get used to my new role as say-at-home-dad. I am still trying to get used to my old role as human being. Secondly, I would not characterize her scrutiny as that of being under a microscope. Have you heard about that crazy particle accelerator thing they built underground in Europe? Well apparently it uses a digital camera that weighs several thousand tons and can take millions of high-resolution pictures in the blink of an eye providing scientists mountains of data for intense future scrutiny. It’s more like that.

“…I feel like I’m trying to get work done in the middle of a zoo, surrounded by poop flinging monkeys, stampeding elephants, and parrots who won’t shut up long enough to let me hear myself think, while the zoo keeper sits there reading the newspaper…”

First of all, no one has flung poop, yet. Second of all… well… okay, the rest of that is pretty accurate.

“…just because Mr. is now a househusband does not mean that he is… suddenly some sort of self sacrificing superman who deserves heaps of glorious praise and admiration…”

First of all, some would say she is right because he was a self sacrificing superman who deserved heaps of glorious praise and admiration long before he became a househusband. Second of all, most people would just say Mrs. Blister is right. Period.

Sssshhhh…. Is that her waking up? I better wrap this up.

Bottom line, life isn’t as easy for the new zoo keeper as Mrs. Blister might have you believe. For example, the only way I can get an afternoon nap these days is if I pretend to be sick. Also, did you know that the newspaper doesn’t have to print every letter you send to them?

In conclusion, after hi-jacking this blog, the only way to ensure my survival is for you, dear reader, to post a comment on this, my first and last post.

Quickly! Post a comment to me now, before it’s too late. If enough people hear my voice, maybe it won’t be silenced forever. Help me Domestic Blister readers, you’re my only hope. Now I know how Princess Leia felt.

Desperate Househusband

19 09 2008

Despite the best efforts of well-meaning folks who for some reason felt uncomfortable with the thought of Mr. being a househusband were eager to see Mr. become gainfully employed, we are happily settling into our newly reversed roles: Me, as the workaholic cash cow hardworking breadwinner, and he as the bonbonaholic social butterfly hardworking toast maker.

But it’s not a simple matter of ‘Mom goes off to work while Dad stays home to raise the kids.’ We’ve got the ‘working from home twist’, in which Mom gets up at six o’clock in the morning and plunks herself at the computer in the middle of the living room and works until Dad needs a) a boob to put the baby to sleep b) someone to take Neener and Roo to school, pick them up for lunch, take them back to school after lunch, and pick them up at the end of the day, or someone to cover his Squiggles shift while he does the drop-off, pick up, drop-off, pick up routine, or c) a swift kick in the arse a little bit of gentle coaching. With me almost always in earshot, Mr. sometimes feels like I’m eavesdropping and judging every move he makes, which I more or less am he’s not only trying to get used to his new role as stay-at-home-dad, but doing so under a mother’s microscope. Which he is. And sometimes, I feel like I’m trying to get my work done in the middle of a zoo, surrounded by poop flinging monkeys, stampeding elephants, and parrots who won’t shut up long enough to let me hear myself think, while the zoo keeper sits there reading the newspaper maybe I should go work in the shed.

Now that we’ve managed to convince everyone that Mr. does not, in fact, want to find a “real job”, and that I, in fact, have a “real job”, there are still some questions about how that affects our domestic roles. So, here it is in a nutshell:

Yes, Mr. does most of the laundry except the putting away, which is currently done by nobody and it’s only a matter of time until he shrinks my new DKNY pants or turns my only white blouse pink has it down to a fine science.

Yes, I still do most of the cooking because I am a control freak, and I don’t want to eat Kraft Dinner and Chunky Beef Burger Soup every night that it’s too cold or rainy to bar b que I love to cook.

No, just because I’m the primary income earner, it does not mean that I now control the purse strings because if I did, we’d be the proud owners of several new purses.

No, just because Mr. is now a househusband does not mean that he is the head Domestic Blister bored, or disrespected, or emasculated. But it also does not mean that he is suddenly some sort of self-sacrificing superman who deserves heaps of glorious praise and admiration for knowing how to work diapers, the washing machine, and how to crack open a storybook.

That last point is a bit of a big one these days. More than one person has commented that since Mr. is now a stay-at-home-dad, he needs ” some time to himself”, ” to have a break every now and then”, and “to have hobbies” and “get out once in a while.” And to those people, I say this: Where the hell were you when I was stuck at home with the kids for the last five years? You’re absolutely right. I make sure that my darling Mr. has twice as much every bit as much time to himself as I have by allowing him to sleep through the night. He regularly gets a much deserved break from me nagging him and pointing out the things he’s doing bass ackwards. And as for hobbies, and getting out once in a while? You betcha. His newest hobby is bitching, and he’s very good at it. He writes smart-assed letters to newspaper. He calls Metro Transit to report bus drivers who nearly mow down people in crosswalks. He tracks down companies who make inferior baby products, like the bibs that turned Squiggle’s face yellow, and scores us free stuff. And he gets out plenty. He’s joining the School Association. He’s volunteering. He gets out golfing. He cleans the shed, washes the car, buys groceries, and runs errands. He gets out to drop off and pick up the kids from school a few times a day. Meanwhile, I’m chained to my desk gleefully working away, happy that I can devote so much of my time and skills to ignoring all the little things about this new situation that could drive us both crazy supporting our family financially, while my husband devotes his time and skills to also ignoring all the little things about this new situation that could drive us both crazy supporting our family domestically. And as long as he doesn’t get all cocky and think he can take over here as Domestic Blister we keep the lines of communication open, I’m sure it’ll all work out just fine.

Out of the frying pan and into…the research study

16 09 2008

In another life, I think I might have been a doctor. Possibly of the witch variety. I might have even been a doctor in this life, had it not been for my profound love of parties and boys, and if such a career path had not held the pre-requisite of grade 12 honors math. Lucky for me, my mind, my line of work, and my family are such that I’ve been able to get my medical nerd fix without taking calculus.

So, when the opportunity arose to take part in a nation-wide research study on infant siblings of children with Autism, you better believe I jumped at the chance.

Here’s what I figured would happen: I’d get an inside look at the research process, and be able to offer up some interesting observations about Roo that might help doctors better recognize Autism in young girls. We’d make an interesting bit of research, and the research would make an interesting bit of fodder for my writing. The doctors, like so many doctors before them, would be impressed by my knowledge and my insights and my enthusiasm for the latest research abstract in the Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health. They’d marvel at our amazingly complex children, and at our amazingly simple approach to enjoying our life even though it’s fraught with the complexities of multiple weirdnesses.

And indeed, all those things did happen.

But here’s what I didn’t figure: I didn’t figure that in the days leading up to our first meeting with the doctors and researchers that I’d start paying closer attention to some of Baby Squiggle’s subtle behaviours. I didn’t figure I’d be struck by how similar some of those subtle little behaviours were to the very same subtle little behaviours we noticed in Roo at the same age. I didn’t figure I’d see the researcher scribbling down notes about inconsistent eye contact and lack of interest in interactive play and minimal response to facial expressions. I didn’t figure I’d have to admit that even though two months ago, Squiggles could happily shout the word CAT as clear as a bell, she has not done it since. And that she seems to have lost the ability to roll over. These are the red flags we saw in Roo. The difference is, we didn’t know they were red flags then. But now we do. I didn’t figure I’d be sitting here figuring that in all probability, in this research study of infant siblings of children with autism, Squiggles will belong to the group of babies later diagnosed with autism themselves.

But here I am, doing just that.

It’s a strange place to be. The doctor inside of me is interested in what this all means clinically, neurologically, genetically. What kind of impact will this have on the research findings and the subsequent diagnostic tools used to screen other infants? But the mother inside of me is afraid of what all this means socially, emotionally and personally. What kind of impact will this have on our family, and on my baby? The mother inside of me is worried and a little stressed by all the unanswered questions, and all the unknowns. But the doctor inside of me is confident that our family has the skills and the tools we need to deal with what ever comes our way. No calculus required.

Only A Little Bit Beautiful

13 09 2008

Everyday when Roo comes home from school, I ask her how her day was. And every day she gives me the same reply: a cheerful and enthusiastic “Great!” But it’s always followed by the much softer, almost trailing off addition of “And a little bit beautiful.” She says this about every single day, regardless of what went down. Even the day she had a bit of a meltdown, crumpled up her worksheets, and threatened to “Litter all over the whole school” was still “Great…and a little bit beautiful.”

I’m sure that part of what makes each of Roo’s days a little bit beautiful is the presence of Rachel. Rachel is an awkward little violet of a girl with long legs and pale blond hair. The most distinct feature of her face is the ever-present thumb firmly planted in her mouth, complete with pointer finger hooked around her nearly invisable nose. Rachel is Roo’s seatmate, and possibly playmate. Who knows, for sure. Roo says that she plays with Rachel at recess, but we all know that Roo’s definition of ‘playing with’ someone, and her definition of a friend is a little different, in that sometimes the other child has no idea that they’ve been befriended, and no idea that they play a role in Roo’s elaborately constructed hypothetical play scenarios. And asking Roo what Rachel is like yields no real information either. The answer is always the same. “She’s a little bit beautiful.” What I do know is this: everyday, Roo rushes to Rachel’s side in the classroom entry line up. Roo plays with the many zipper fobs hanging from Rachel’s backpack. She reads outloud whatever’s written on Rachel’s T-shirt, and there is almost always something written on Rachel’s T-shirts. Sometimes, Roo reaches up and gives Rachel’s fine, stick-straight plaitnum hair a twirl, commenting that Rachel’s hair is “beautiful.” Remarkably, Rachel does not back away. She does not recoil from Roo’s invasion of her personal space. She does not reject this odd little girl who doesn’t quite know how to play or converse with other kids, and who could errupt into paper crumpling litterbugdom at any moment. Rachel just stands there, patiently and securely. Still sucking her thumb. And sometimes while Roo is fiddling with Rachel’s backpack fobs, reading her T-shirt and twirling her hair, from behind the face-obscuring hand hovering in front of Rachel’s mouth, I think I see a little smile. A smile directed at Roo. And it is more than a little bit beautiful.

Operation Oscar Mayer: The Weanee Bites Back

8 09 2008

I swore that when this day came, things were going to change. Fast. But I do that all the time – swear up and down that things are going to change, and then the only thing that ends up changing is my mind. Completely. Some people might call that flakiness. I like to think of it as fluidity. Flexibility. Wisdom.

Squiggles cut her first tooth yesterday. So far, it’s just a jagged little saw blade of white jutting from her lower gum on the right side, but it’s there. And it’s growing. I can tell because she is bursting into tears at the drop of a toy, and she’s sleeping less and accosting my boobs more. I swore that when she cut her first tooth, I was officially done with breastfeeding. Actually, the original start date for Operation Oscar Mayer – the code name, so Squiggles does not catch on and start a war, because I don’t have time to quash a mashed squash rebellion right now – was September 3rd. With Neener and Roo in school, Mr. sliding into his role of stay-at-home dad, and me parked at the computer shaking my money maker, and occasionally banging it on the desk, for several hours a day, I figured it would be the perfect time to push for that next level of personal freedom: freedom for the boobs. I’m pretty sure the boobs are the reason Squiggles still wakes up a couple of times a night. I’m pretty sure the boobs are the reason she gets antsy if I’m gone for longer than a couple of hours at a time. And I’m pretty sure that if it weren’t for the boobs, Squiggles would be a ruthless tyrant rather than a benevolent dictator. But I had myself convinced that the time had come for Squiggles and my breasts to go their separate ways. Mostly because I was dying to get out of these trap-door nursing bras and back to my good ol’ padded underwire push-’em-up pop-’em-out bras again. So, 21st century mother that I am, I hit the internet looking for Ten Easy Ways to Get Your Baby Off Your Boobs. And here’s what I learned: there are, in fact, NO easy ways to get your baby off your boobs. At least none that don’t cause profound emotional trauma for mother and child, and thus dramatically increase the possibility that your baby will seek even more profound revenge. Think incessant screaming, head-butts, eye gouging and hair pulling, followed by rice cereal catapults and nuclear diaper explosions. Most of the advice I came across was aimed at weaning babies who are nursed exclusively, which Squiggles is not. For sanity’s sake, I never approached breastfeeding as an all-or-nothing deal, so, telling me to slowly cut back nursing sessions to two or three a day was not helpful. That’s pretty much where we are right now, give or take. And pointing out how babies also use breastfeeding for comfort, and that if you try to take that comfort away abruptly and suddenly you risk really messing with your baby’s little mind…well, that wasn’t very helpful either. At least not for the part of me set on weaning Squiggles ASAP. But, it may have done Squiggles a world of good. After much careful consideration, I’ve decided that I’m in no hurry to pry my nipple from my baby’s dear little mouth. Even though that dear little mouth is erupting with little pearly white nipple chompers.

My reasoning is this: I like non-screaming, non-hostile babies. I also like being able to comfort, feed, and make my tired Squiggles conk out in 30 seconds flat with parts of my body that, until I saw them in action, I was never really all that crazy about. And, I am a bit of a rebellious shit disturber. My favourite part of breastfeeding, apart from the general convenience and super hero-like status to which it has elevated me, is shocking people. Or at least trying to, since no one actually seems to be shocked and appalled by the sight of a woman breastfeeding a baby anymore. But I’m just waiting for someone to give me a sideways glance, or better yet a stupid comment about me breastfeeding in public, so I can calmly remove my nipple from Squiggles’s mouth and squirt that person square in the eye with a stream of breast milk. Juuuuust waiting.

Yes, I take great pleasure in doing things that catch people off guard. People including myself. I never really considered myself the type to nurse a baby til the age of two, but you just never know. I’ve changed my tactics in Operation Oscar Mayer. I think I’ll give Squiggles the control she so desperately wants and needs in this. It’s the concept of “baby-led weaning,” which means trusting Squiggles to decide when she’s ready to become the weanee. My push-’em-up pop-’em-out bras can wait. But, I also reserve the right to change my mind again, as the tooth population is Squiggles’s mouth grows. It’s all fun and games until somebody gets their nipple chomped. And there you have it. Fluidity. Flexibility. But most of all, wisdom.

Warning: This Post Is Full of Poop

6 09 2008

Maybe it’s the Captain Underpants books. Maybe it’s all foreshadowing a career in internal medicine. Or in scatology. Maybe it’s just their age. Just a phase. Or maybe they’ve inherited my (until now) deeply concealed low brow sense of humour. The sense of humour that saw me nearly pee my pants laughing when I watched Beavis and Butthead Do America. All eleven times. The same sense of humour that sends me into giggle fits every time I contemplate calling our future puppy Fartface McGillicuddy. Or every time I write the word ‘poop’ in the blog. This post could have me convulsing on the floor by the time it’s finished.

Whatever the reason, my sweet little girls are gigantic fans of bathroom humour, and find bodily functions both fascinating and hysterical. Neener is in awe of farts. Armpit farts, mouth farts, and most of all, real farts. She laughs her head off when she farts. She laughs her head off when anyone farts. And she laughs her head off when she smells anything stinky because she feels compelled to speculate ‘What’s that smell? Smells like a fart.’ For Roo, it’s all about the poop. Ever since we explained the process of digestion from start to finish, she’s been obsessed with figuring out ‘What kind of poop‘ everyone and everything has. Dog poop on the sidewalk? ‘What kind of poop did that dog have?’ Bird poop on the car? ‘What is that poop made of?’ And not a single one of Squiggle’s diaper changes goes by without Roo’s close visual inspection and educated guesswork as to what Squiggles might have pooped out. Which would be fine, if only she didn’t require my participation in poop identification quite so often. Let me tell you, trying to use a public washroom with a five year old junior scatologist with no voice volume control is an exercise in mild embarrassment and fast exits. The last time, I could hear the woman in the stall next to us laughing as Roo loudly wondered if I was going to have a big corn poop. I told her I was not. She said she thought I was. We argued about it for a few minutes until I finally, exasperatedly, agreed that yes, I would have a corn poop because of the corn I ate the day before, but I was not going to have a corn poop right now, here in the bathroom at Mac Donald’s. Corn poop is Roo’s absolute favourite. Probably because it’s the only poop she can identify all by herself quickly and easily. Baked potatoe poop, spaghetti poop, rice poop? They all look the same. But you can’t miss a corn poop. Especially when you’re staring in the bowl wearing your junior scatologist hat. When she – or anyone else – has a corn poop, Roo is positively elated. And then there is Squiggles, following in the footsteps of her sisters. Nothing cracks up my nine month old baby more than taking off her dirty diapers all by herself, or staging a first-class craptastrophe in a swanky restaurant, the way she did last night when we all went out to celebrate a highly successful week of school and work for the Blister family.

The good, proper mother inside me knows I should wipe this toilet humour out of our lives. That I should make a big deal about how gross it is, and forbid my daughters from talking about, much less laughing about farts and poop. But the bad mother inside me, the one who wants to name our dog Fartface McGillicuddy, also wants to pull my t-shirt over the back of my head, and go around growling and shouting “I am the great Cornholio! I need T.P. for my Bunghole!” Which I’m sure Neener and Roo would love, but I know it would open a Pandora’s outhouse of Cornholio impersonations. And I’d be too busy peeing myself laughing to put a stop to it. So, I keep both goody-two-shoes prude mother and the Great Cornholio tightly bound and gagged inside of me, and I let mediocre mom handle it. Whenever Neener and Roo go off on toilet tangents, I frown slightly and try to change the subject. But inside, and just below the surface of my mock scowl, I’m howling right along with them.