Friday, March 21, 2008

Jack Turns Four!

Jack turned four on the 6th. It’s unbelievable that he’s already so old, and at the same time his infancy seems like eons ago. Since we didn’t sleep for the first year of his life, it’s understandable that we don’t remember much from 2004. Every year on their birthdays, I take a little trip down memory lane. It’s not as bad as Billy Crystal’s mother in that movie City Slickers, where she calls him every year on his birthday to tell him how many minutes old he is, but something like that. I thumb through the scrapbooks I did for their first birthdays, and I read the journals I kept while I was pregnant with them, and then sporadically for their first year. I also write a card to them with a photo of them on their birthday, and I stick the cards away in a sealed box for them to open on their 19th birthdays. So I re-read what I wrote on their previous birthdays, too. Then I blow my nose and go downstairs, back in my role of Cinderella, and in general take care of whatever crisis has arisen since I sequestered myself an hour before.
His birthday was on a Thursday this year, so we celebrated simply, with a meatball pizza (by request from the birthday boy even though he only ever picks off the meatballs and never eats the pizza so it seems like a colossal waste to order it for the 5 or 6 meatballs he actually consumes for his dinner) and cupcakes. He had a great day and enjoyed his presents very much. We had given him his big present (ski equipment) in February, but he still had several little things to open, so he was quite thrilled.
I was really struck by how old he looks in the face. I know what you’re thinking because he’s just a little guy, but I can really tell, though. He is still so physically small that people have actually doubted me when I tell them his age. As if I don’t know his age! I find myself defending him: “No, he really IS four” before I realize how ridiculous the argument is and steer it to another topic.
His party theme this year was Space. I asked him, did he want a rocket cake? And of course, he said no – he would like all the planets in the solar system. A week before his birthday I baked all the cakes in different size glass bowls and then froze them. The morning of his party I was icing all the cakes in different colours to match all the different planets. I even took a paintbrush to draw Earth’s continents in green icing on the blue-iced planet, until my sister pointed out how ridiculous I was being. Then Mike came upstairs and asked, “Is that Venus” and I came very close to smashing the darn thing into his face. I was most proud of Jupiter with its stormy red spot, and the much-maligned Earth (I even did Greenland and Australia – why could nobody SEE that?). He had invited three kids from preschool and four other close friends, plus his cousins and Ethan. The party was a big success, with a “toss the flying saucer” game, and a “stick the planet in the solar system” game. The highlight was the scavenger hunt for their goody bag items. I had made up a poem and they had to listen for the clues to figure out where their goodies would be. They got Mars bars, Starburst candy, Glow sticks, Alien eggs, Rockets candy and Glow-in-the-dark stars. We were exhausted when everyone left!
It was great to see Briana and Rob for the weekend, too. Liam and Kieran played very well with Ethan and Jack and they really enjoyed themselves. Briana and I got to play on Saturday night, too – we joined Jen, Sonia, Jas, Shannon and Jen at Breanne’s place to play Rock Band. It was a lot of fun, and we each took a turn on the four instruments. I discovered I can rock the guitar and the bass, too, although I still need a lot of help before I can get off Easy level on the drums. Vocals are still my favourite – I am onto Expert level singing at home. If you have ever heard me sing, you would be laughing at this point, but it's true - for one reason or another, I can kill these songs when I sing them on Rock Band...
Last night Marzia had a group of us girls over for dinner. Lori was in town for a visit and it was fantastic to see her again. I thought she looked wonderful despite the three-year struggle she has had with TTP, a very serious autoimmune blood disorder. She has come a long way since the early days of the diagnosis, since the steroids and the chemo and the plasma exchanges, since the shocking news that as recently as 20 years ago this diagnosis was 90% fatal. Marzia, Chantal, Lori, Michelle and I had a delicious dinner, champagne and wine, tiramisu and limoncello for dessert but the best part of the evening was being able to laugh like old times. We also had some interesting conversations about spirituality and alternative healing methods. It was a very enjoyable evening and I was sad to tear myself away at the end of the night. Hopefully Lori will be back again this summer, and we can spend more leisurely time together.
We’re looking forward to an appearance this weekend by the Easter bunny (because my kids sure do need more candy to add to their – ahem – energy) and a little more spring break next week. I am loving the sleep-in mornings although I am puzzled by the fact that the kids are sleeping later and also going to bed earlier. It is so hard to get them to bed at a decent hour on a school night, but they’re snoring by 8 o’clock every night in spring break. Go figure.
So go pig out on chocolate and jelly beans, everyone. Stay away from those nasty marshmallow Peeps, though – ew. Until next week!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

More bum stuff? Are you serious?

Have you ever heard something like this:
“Mummy, my brother just stuck a marble up his bum!”
There are various thoughts that rush through your head as you sprint up the stairs three at a time towards said sibling’s room.
#1 Why would someone be SO interested in that area of his body? (See last week’s post for much more detail on that particular area)
#2 How did he get the marble up there?
#3 Will we be driving to emergency in the next few minutes?
#4 If so, do we choose a different hospital from the one who extracted the peas and corn from the nose of older sibling? (Just in case they have a “file” of some sort started on our family)
And by the end of question 4 you are likely already in the boy’s room, and you’re wondering what happened to his pants. Because you know you put pyjama pants on him an hour earlier and personally you usually keep your pants on and you feel that if HE could just keep his pants on, certain parts of the body might be less tempting in general. And then you find yourself turning the boy over and looking in areas you would rather not peruse while demanding “Is it up there?” You will be relieved to discover that the marble is not in fact still "up there" and you are happy to have it in your hand until you remember where it WAS prior to the alarm being raised. Then you are even happier to throw it in the garbage and scrub your hands (“Out, damn spot” – as Mr. Shakespeare would say) just as you scrubbed your hands not even a week prior when the pootastrophe happened. (again let me direct you to last week’s post)
Take a deep breath because now you must have a conversation with your son; one of the ones that fall into the category of “I never thought I would need to say this, but...” did you know it is a bad idea to stick things up your bum/nose/ears? If it got stuck the doctors would need to cut your bum open! Your son considers this for a second, then states that cutting his bum open might hurt. You confirm that it would, in fact, hurt a LOT and that he’d better NOT be putting ANYTHING else up ANYWHERE ANYTIME soon. Kiss good night, tuck in, shut out light, close doors, scrub hands intensely one more time, go and fetch a hefty gin & tonic and rue the day you gave birth to boys.

Friday, March 7, 2008


If you don’t have a strong stomach, skip this one. Really.
For those of you who are involuntarily drawn in by the fascinating title of today’s post, read on. I have no pictures to add this week, and I think you’ll thank me for that. Having children has really opened my eyes to the disgusting side of life. I don’t think it’s entirely due to the fact that they are both boys, but... my friends who have girls don’t seem to talk about things like “the fart zone” or endless discussions about poo. Which brings us to today’s topic.

In the beginning, when the boys were infants, the first poos were a bit of a surprise. What came out of them was completely unfamiliar to me – it looked like black tar. Then that changed within the first few days to something that resembled Dijon mustard, but smelled just the teensiest bit like buttered popcorn. We lived that life for a while, with the occasional “blowout” where the poo would somehow blow up out of the back of the diaper all the way up the back of the onesie into their hair. Otherwise, the breastfeeding days were not too bad – people would still smile when they heard the boys filling their diapers.

When they started on solid food, things got worse. All of a sudden, my mother was not as interested in doing the diaper changes when we visited. The smells got intolerable, especially when meat was introduced into their diets. With Ethan particularly, who was allergic to so much, there seemed to be an inverse relationship with how good it smelled as food and how bad it smelled as poo. We also discovered the different types of poo, from the hard nuggets that would roll out of the diaper when you opened it to change them, to the “pootastrophes” of diarrhea that would spill out and pour down in a tidal wave off the changing table onto the floor. We also lived our lives in absolute terror for 21 days when Jack was 4 months old – he went that whole time without pooing once. We were terrified as to what would come out when he finally did go. It was actually kind of a let-down when it was just a normal one on day 22.

Toilet training was a treat. This time of our lives was my least favourite as a parent so far. We went through SO many accidents with Ethan. He didn’t care if he crapped everywhere, and given the fact that he has a – ahem – healthy digestive system, we were cleaning up a LOT. In the first three days of toilet training with him, we went through 21 pairs of underwear. Yes, you read that right. And I’d love to say that I was only cleaning up pee, but alas, that was not the case. There was an ever-rotating laundry of underwear that I’d flushed the gross bits out of, the soaking in the sink pile, the pile in the washer and the pile in the dryer. Underwear never even made it into his clean clothes drawer before it was in use again. That stage went on far too long but eventually we got over the hump.

We still wipe Jack’s bum, but Ethan is self-sufficient now. It means we go through a lot of toilet paper and soap, but I’m cool with that. Jack will get there one day.

But I’m not done with poo – I have my top five favourite stories to tell still.
Ethan was 2 months old when we flew back to Vancouver for the first time. I nursed him and changed him with plenty of time before our boarding call, but of course he chose the moment the flight was announced to have a total blowout, prompting a run to the restroom. Not only did I use up his emergency outfit before we even got on the flight (which we nearly missed due to his timing) but I had to completely bathe him and wash his hair in the airport sink. I did not have a change of shirt for me, however, and arrived into the loving arms of my family exhausted and smelling like baby poo and spit-up.
Jack was only about 8 months old – a crawler – when he decided to navigate downstairs (maybe to let me know he needed changing?) He was new to stairs, and so he would go down backwards on his tummy. Well, he was only wearing a diaper and crawling backwards opened the Velcro on the diaper and he squirmed right out of it, smearing poo down 11 stairs. 11 stairs carpeted in off-white carpet, of course. Good times.
Ethan gave up his naps at 17 months, on basically the same day that Jack was born, but I kept trying for “quiet time” for a while afterwards. I would put the baby gate on his doorway and he would bump around for a while and play with toys. One day I thought I was actually successful, that he had actually gone to sleep, but I should have realized that the eerie quiet could mean nothing good. I went upstairs and the smell hit me around stair 5. Ethan had taken the contents of his diaper and painstakingly finger painted the entire baby gate with poo. Baby gates are FULL of tiny crevices, and this one was no exception – about 50 diamond-shaped holes that were all filled with poo. But he hadn’t stopped there – oh no – he had also paid careful attention to the door of his room. You know that little hole in the door frame, where the sticky-outie part of the door shoots into when the door is closed? He’d stuffed that full of poo, too – it was carefully packed in. I had to pick it out with Q-Tips. And to add insult to injury, when I took the gate outside to clean it with the hose, the nozzle was set to something close to sandblasting. So when I sprayed the gate, the poo-water sprayed right back up into my face, up my nose and into my open mouth. And that was the Poo-gate incident.
Jack was extremely resistant to toilet training and was 3 months past his third birthday with no hope in sight. Then he announced on the eve of our road trip to California that he was ready to pee and poo on the toilet now. And that was it; he went from diapers one day to staying dry both day and night the next. He did have one memorable accident, though, just as we were trying to get to the next rest stop in time. He pooed his pants and I carried him into the rest stop bathroom. Of course, there was no change table, and it was about 110 degrees in there and FILTHY. I got into a tiny stall and laid paper towel down on the floor to get Jack undressed. His sweaty little feet stuck to the paper and it started to shred so he was standing on the bare floor. I put more down and laid him on it to take off his underwear. When I took it off, there was only a small poo mark in the underwear, and no poo – I was confused. Then I noticed that the whole ladies’ room line-up had gone silent, and I peeked under the door. The poo ball had rolled out into the aisle. I reached for it under the door and picked up the ball while trying to ignore the gasp from nice-sandal lady with toe ring. I dropped the poo ball into the toilet with a splash and used every last wipe on Jack, my hand, and even the floor out into the aisle where it had rolled. I walked out of the stall without looking at anyone and washed my hands for five minutes before wiping the sweat off my face and returning to the car with Jack. Mike asked me what was wrong and I just told him I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. It was about 500 miles before I told him and we could laugh about it...
Jack’s most recent accident is what prompted this whole rambling poo retrospective. On Tuesday, we were playing in the fort we had made in the living room, when he started farting. Jack reminds me of the Fire Swamp in Princess Bride. You know how the flame spurts are preceded by several popping sounds? Well, he’s like that too – you can always tell when he needs to go number two. So he started farting and over the next half an hour, I repeatedly asked him to go to the bathroom. He kept insisting he didn’t have to go, until the moment where he ran to the hall and there was this giant “plurp” noise. The look on his face said it all and I ran him upstairs to the bathroom (Why, oh why, did we ever buy a place with no bathroom on the main floor?) dripping the whole way – on those darn stairs again! I couldn’t throw him into the bathtub because I had clothes drying on a rack in there, so I put him on the floor and pulled everything down. What a nightmare! He was hopping all around because he had to pee now, too, so there were poo footprints all over the tiles. I put him on the toilet so he could pee and washed my hands just so I could pull the drying rack out of the bath. Jack kept slipping off the toilet (use your imagination why) so I quickly ran the bath to clean him up. Guess what a bum shower is? Ask Jack to demonstrate. Once he was clean I threw him out the door and lifted the pants into the bath. I guess I had underestimated the volume and depth of the contents of the underwear, and now I realized I had to flush this down the toilet, not rinse it down the drain. I had no choice, and I admit to throwing up in my mouth a little, but I used my hands and took two fistfuls of poo and threw them into the toilet. I could then rinse the pants and underwear enough to get them into the sink to soak. Did I mention I was yelling “I’m going to throw up” over and over again? Ethan poked his head in once, took one look at my face and smelled the stench and ducked right back out again. After the pants were soaking, I then had to clean up the toilet, the bath, the floor, the cupboard door, the toilet paper holder and of course the stairs. I wrapped the clothes in a towel to get them to the washer and went back to the sink. I scrubbed my hands like a surgeon. I’m serious, I worked on them forEVER! And even still, all afternoon I washed my hands every time I needed to use them. I remembered what those hands had done and I needed to wash over and over again. It was traumatic, to say the least.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the poo stories if only for the fact that you didn’t have to live through them. You may have some of your own, but I really hope not. The glimmer of hope for me is that Jack turned 4 yesterday (more on his birthday next time) so there will eventually come a time when I don’t even need to be involved in anyone else’s poo. I am eagerly awaiting that day!