Upchuck Fail

It had been a long time since one of my daughters was ill, but this weekend Olivia’s number was up.

She started complaining that her stomach was hurting on Saturday afternoon. OK, not so much complaining as letting out a loud chain of whines and cries. Sadly, we know Olivia often tends to exaggerate for attention, and we didn’t really take her seriously at first. For which I feel quite guilty, in retrospect. She said she felt like she might be sick. A few minutes later, turns out she was right.

Now, I understand she was sick and out of sorts. And she’s normally a very bright girl. But I really wish that when we told her to run to the toilet, she had grasped that we meant *stand in front of the toilet*, and not *sit on the toilet*. FAIL.

Whatever you’re picturing, it’s probably accurate.

A couple of loads of laundry later (not to mention some mopping and disinfecting), we realized the tone was set for the weekend. Throw in a fever, and now we’re really having fun.

She’s much better now. Finally managed to hold down some chicken broth, and her complexion is definitely a healthier shade of green.

But lesson learned – next time, specify what to do when arriving at the toilet.


Nina’s Surgery

Today wasn’t a good day. If I met today in an alley, I’d turn and run the other way. Our baby, Angelina, had surgery for a hernia.

We’ve known for a month that she’d need surgery, but we only found out yesterday that a spot opened up for her this morning. Now, I know that the hernia wasn’t serious, that she’d only require day surgery, and that the risks were very low. But there’s just something fundamentally nauseating about the idea of my little girl lying helpless in a hospital, about to be put to sleep, not quite understanding what’s going on, and clinging to you for comfort.

She was so brave. She accepted our oversimplified explanations, and went along with whatever we said. I went into the OR with her, wearing scrubs and a mask. We asked her questions to try to distract her, and her answer to everything was a nervous “I don’t know”. She asked me to hold her, which I did as best I could, considering they were getting her IV ready. I caressed her and told her everything was OK. When they finally pushed the anesthetic through the IV, within seconds her little arms plopped down and her eyelids fell. Mostly.

Her eyes weren’t completely closed, and I asked if she could still hear me. They assured me that she was very much unconscious, and they ushered me out. They don’t even let you watch from the other side of the door, because they were about to insert a tube down her throat to help her breathing. They strongly believe – and I share their belief – that no parent needs to see this.

I returned to where Chris was waiting, with the unpleasant image of my baby lying under harsh lights, and amongst all those strangers and sharp metal instruments.

About half an hour later, the doctor told us that the surgery had gone fine, and that we could see Angelina when she woke up. So we waited. And waited. I stared at the domed mirror on the ceiling, trying to see if someone in scrubs was walking up the hallway to tell us we could see her. And as other parents were being called to see their children, I felt like that person at the restaurant who orders first but then watches everyone else get their food.


Domed mirror


Nina took an hour and a half to wake up. Likely payback for the morning’s experience. She was groggy, but happy to see us. And she was fine. In fact, she was enjoying a Popsicle within 10 minutes.


Nina Sicle


As difficult as this morning was, I have the distinct impression that it will be much harder trying to keep our almost-4-year-old from being the monkey that she indisputably is.

Me too, me too!

Lately everything is a competition with our girls. Constantly measuring fairness. Singing an endless chorus of “Me too”.

The girls are play-baking together. Angelina decides to go play something else. Olivia barely notices and keeps playing. When she finally tires of it, she starts walking away.



Me: “Olivia, could you please put the toys away if you’re done?”

Olivia: “Angelina too. She played with it too.”

Me: “Angelina is busy right now, and I’m asking you to do it.”

Olivia: “It’s not fair.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll often get one of them to come help the other (to which that one will reply, “It’s not fair!”), but when one girl monopolized a particular toy, it seems a little too convenient for child 1 to suddenly implicate child 2.

Besides, who said this was a democracy?

So I ask if it’s fair that I’d have to pick everything up, on top of everything else I do. I secretly love the sheepish “No…” response that follows. Plus it has the intended effect of putting a stop to any whining and getting their toys put away.

Then there is the never-ending dress saga. Girls love wearing dresses and getting prettied up. Practically every morning, the same question comes out of both their little mouths: “Can I wear a dress?”

We often let them; but if one of them has an outdoor activity, we opt for something they can more readily monkey around in. The next day, the question becomes: “Can I wear a dress? She wore one yesterday.”
I find it very amusing that somehow, what one wore the previous day has any bearing on what happens to the other the following day. Perhaps I should explain that her sister wearing a dress yesterday actually doesn’t reduce the inventory of dresses in her own closet…

I’ve also recently noticed that both girls have an intriguing physical anomaly. If I stand right in front of them and speak, they don’t notice – those noisy crayons and stickers must be interfering with their hearing. But if one asks me for a gum or candy and I agree, miracle of miracles, the other’s ears suddenly come alive, and I hear a little voice from upstairs yelling, “Me too! I want one too!”, quickly followed by little feet running down the stairs.

Sigh. Will this translate into future competitions about who’s helped with chores most, and who did their homework first?

Because I said so

Beware of little girls

Beware of little girls

This being Chris’s second business trip in a very short time, I’ve developed a greater admiration for single parents. Not that I’m comparing myself to a single parent by any means – but let’s just say I’m looking forward to Chris’s return home this weekend.

Actually, Chris has become quite good around the house. He hardly ever steps over the hurricane of toys anymore, but rather puts them  away. He loads and unloads the dishwasher, and has even developed his own “method”, which he claims cleans the dishes better, and for which I find him most endearing. He even occasionally washes pots and pans. I make sure to thank him profusely and recognize his efforts. A little praise goes a long way to encourage wanted behaviour. Because, ladies, men don’t come out of a box that way.

I’ve convinced myself that the girls choose the periods of Chris’s absence to test the limits of my patience as a favour to me. They probably figure that by requiring my constant attention as a cook, maid or referee, I won’t be nearly as lonely.  That’s probably why my little angels have argued about everything from who gets to wear the most costume jewelry (thanks again, Chris, for the three hundred plastic beaded necklaces you brought back from your last trade show), to whose little toe is over the imaginary line dividing the couch into two equal parts, to who gets to sit in the back or the front of the bath.

I hold the same diversion argument for sleep deprivation.

How do I wake thee? Let me count the ways.

We spent part of last weekend at my cousin Lidia’s house. The kids got to play together, and Lidia and I got to hang out and even treat ourselves to a culinary treat at the Staye House. The sleeping arrangements seemed logical: my youngest shared a bedroom with her younger cousin, and my oldest shared a bed with me.

I quickly found out that Olivia, who incidentally squirms around, slowly abandons her pillow and invades mine, and affectionately leaches on to my arm, all while being sound asleep, also grinds her teeth. In fact, I believe she secretly swallowed a loudspeaker before bedtime, just to make sure I could hear it nice and loud. Every hour or two. Until about 6:45 a.m., when Angelina wandered into the bedroom, claiming her cousin sings to herself and woke her up. Naturally, the only thing she could do was share the joy.

The next night, I was happy to be back in my bed and relieved to have my girls in their own beds. Until about 4:30 a.m., when a very groggy Angelina came into my room and woke me up. At first I assumed maybe she had to go potty. She said “Mommy, my pillow is crooked.” My first thought: “Go ask daddy.” Oh right. He’s not here. I got up, took her by the hand, brought her back to bed, straightened out the damn pillow and told her to go to sleep. Sigh.

Anyone remember this commercial? A cute little girl comes into her parents’ bedroom, goes to mommy and asks “Mommy, can you make me breakfast?” To which the mommy replies, “Go ask daddy.” The little girl walks around the bed and asks “Daddy, can mommy make me breakfast?” as a smile appears on daddy’s face, his eyes still closed.

I never wanted to know what 4:30 a.m. looked like. My revenge will come in about 15 years, the morning after they’ve gone out partying with friends. Wakey wakey… eggs and bakey!!

I guess it’s not that bad. Olivia helps clear the table after meals, and even helped Angelina get her coat, shoes and hat on both before school, and before swimming lessons, as a surprise to me. More importantly, it involved no whining on their part. I really do enjoy seeing them spend time together without hearing any arguing or bickering.

Note to self: buy more duct tape.

Tasty and healthy: a paradox?

We parents do everything we can to ensure our kids grow up healthy and happy. For instance, we try to buy healthy, wholesome snacks for them, which they’ll actually want to eat. That’s the catch, right? If it’s tasty, it’s probably crap; but if it’s healthy, it probably tastes a little like sawdust.

At the top of the snack list are nature’s treats — fresh fruits and vegetables. Next come dried fruits, yogurt, nuts and whole grain crackers and cereal. But have you tried looking at alternatives? Slim pickings to say the least. Take a stroll to your local supermarket and go down the snack aisle.  You’ll find dozens of brands of granola bars in dozens of flavours, many claiming the benefits of either whole grains, high fibre, or some other trendy catch phrase.

Before throwing the box into your basket, turn it over and take a look at the nutritional content. The average granola bar will have 1 to 2 grams of fibre (2 grams being the minimum quantity necessary to claim “Source of fibre”). Keep reading. The sugar content, on average, will range anywhere between 9 and 16 grams. Let me put that into context for you: 1 teaspoon of granulated white sugar contains 4.2 grams. It’s like feeding your child rolled oats and nuts, with up to 4 teaspoons of sugar sprinkled on top.

Example #1: Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain bars — 3 g fat, 2 g fibre, 13 g sugar, 2 g protein

Example #2: General Mills’ Nature Valley Trail Mix bars — 4 g fat, 1 g fibre, 12 g sugar, 3 g protein (Their crunchy bars have 6 g of fat)

I wonder if they feed their own kids this stuff. Note that I didn’t bother referencing anything involving chocolate, honey, maple or the like.

I can spend up to 20 minutes in that aisle, comparing the backs of boxes, looking for the lesser of all evils. I can occasionally bake my own concoctions, but like most parents who work full-time, have kids to drive to multiple activities, and still have a home to manage, it’s not a permanent solution. So short of starting my own bakery, is there a decent solution on the market?

The light at the end of the tunnel: Kashi. Their granola bars are both nutritious and delicious. Evidently, they employ smart, responsible parents. Thank you, Kashi, for setting the example.

Consider Kashi’s Cherry Dark Chocolate granola bars — 3.5 g fat, 4 g fibre, 6 g sugar, 6 g protein

Their only flaw is that their products aren’t certified as being nut-free, which most schools today insist upon.

Oh well. The girls can at least enjoy Kashi bars at home or on the way to soccer. Incidentally, they’ve come up with some new flavours, which aren’t on their web site yet, but are available in stores – Dark chocolate & Coconut, for one, is sinfully delicious, and still boasts the same wholesome benefits. Just sayin’.

I do intend on using my relentless powers of harassment to contact some of the major players and suggest they follow Kashi’s lead and start offering some healthier alternatives. They all have R&D facilities. With enough pressure from the public, perhaps they’ll eventually come out with something that will make both kids and moms happy.

From the mouths of children

Sisterly Camaraderie

Sisterly Camaraderie

Chris and I are parents to two wonderful creatures. They’re smart, funny, sensitive and beautiful. As with all parents, we have ups and downs with our girls – a breakdown in communications, if you will. Miscommunication between parents and children isn’t a teenage phenomenon. It actually starts in their toddler years.

What I say vs. what they hear:

  1. OK, but just this once = Sure, go ahead. Anytime you want.
  2. Not now, maybe later = Ask me again in about 2.5 seconds. Surely I’ll say yes then.
  3. Share your toys = You should take that toy from your sister, because you shouldn’t have to wait your turn.
  4. Come here right now = Once you’re done whatever you’re doing, if you decide to get to it, and if it’s not too much trouble, come see me.
  5. We’re having pork chops and broccoli tonight = We’re going to force-feed you fecal matter.
  6. Time to put the toys away = It’s the end of the world and we want you to fuss loudly.

Never a dull moment. We fill our girls’ lives with activities that will help shape them into somewhat normal functioning adults. We try to teach our children everything from reading and writing to social graces, but I truly believe we learn as much from them in return.

Things I’ve learned from my kids:

  1. Asking one of my girls what they did wrong will always generate a response about what the other one did wrong.
  2. Even the best-behaved kids will wait until they’re in public before having a meltdown. Hence the phrase “She really isn’t usually like that…” followed by the other person’s usual smile and nod.
  3. However hellish your child can be with you, she will spontaneously become angelic around grandparents. Just to prove you wrong. That’s how they flip you the bird before learning how to.
  4. When my girls tell me they’re too full to finish their meal, they’re actually taking into account how much room they need to leave for dessert.
  5. I can try to teach them things countless times before it sinks in. But I let a four-letter word slip just once, and of course they pick that one up instantly.
  6. Kids notice everything. Like the veggie you tried to purée and sneak into the food. Or the doll you accidentally sat on the left side of the toy chest instead of on the right.
  7. A hand-made cardboard crown can in fact turn a little girl into a princess.
  8. Kids give the best hugs because they mean them with every fibre of their being.

I look forward to many life lessons from them as the years go by. Each one adding grey hair to my formerly all-brown mane.