Boy Oh Boy

Heroes with a half-brain.

Max has gone completely wookiee for Stars Wars. I’m glad, because it means, to amuse him, I get to rock side-buns like Princess Leia and say things like “Aren’t you a little short for a storm trooper?” and “Luke, I wonder who your real father is…muhahaha.”

And because it means he’s leaving those jackass Ninja Turtles behind. And take your bubble bath with you, turtles!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
ManuelSagra / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

About a year ago, Max decided he liked “the world’s most fearsome fighting team”. I was thrilled. I mean, it could have been Barney, or the Wiggles, and then I would have had to get all King Lear up in here and pluck out my own eyes. A tomboy from the 80s, I had watched TMNT too. “Those turtle boys don’t cut off no slacks.” Great theme song. And very respectful of people’s pants.

So I discovered that the old school episodes came on Teletoon Retro. We PVR’d a few episodes and played them for Max, 24-7, so we’d never have to actually play with him or teach him stuff like the alphabet or how to behave socially. The turtles would teach him how to bust skulls and eat pizza instead. Score.

One day, I pressed play on the PVR and went about my bidness, Max on the couch pumped for some Turtle Power. A few minutes later, I heard this moaning and groaning coming from the television, with some bow-chicka-wow music in the background. WHAT THE. I ran to the TV and saw a commercial for a chat line, The Night Exchange, with a woman slithering all over the place in a black mini-dress. Max’s eyes were glued to the screen with Destiny Chastity over here telling him to “show off [his] fun side”. Great. My toddler’s favourite show about heroes in a half-shell was interrupted every few minutes by herpes in a half-dress.

I quickly realized who Teletoon Retro is actually for. (Well, the late-night programming at least, which is when we must have recorded these episodes.) It ain’t for my son, I’ll tell you that. It’s for a 35-year-old dude sitting around in his underwear holding a bong and surrounded by takeout boxes and crusty tissues. Or maybe that dude is a dad, up late at night to feed the baby, and…Oh hey, look what’s on TV, Junior! Here buddy, you hold your own bottle while Daddy makes a wittle itty bitty phone call.

And Ninja Turtles isn’t the only show on Teletoon Retro. Are these guys jerking off to Jem and the Holograms? That’s truly outrageous. Truly truly truly outrageous. Although you can hardly blame the wankers when the lyrics to the theme song include “The way she crosses her legs…The way she moves her arms…” Dear god in heaven, to what corruption were we 80s children unknowingly subjected? No wonder we’re all fucked up beyond repair. Look at me — NO WONDER I AM LIKE THIS.

These icky ads are Teletoon Retro’s doing, but the early Ninja Turtles franchise is not without a few faults of its own. (Which is probably why the new TMNT have remedied some of these retro wrongs.) Hey, I’m all for cursing and swearing, but words like “fat” and “stupid”… not a fan. Maybe it’s the “carrot top” in me, but I’d much rather Max tell his friend to fuck off than call him a “bloated beanbag”.

But the worst thing of all I heard from these 80s Turtles episodes was stuff like, “You know what women are like.” Like…what? Excuse me, what did you say, Donatello? Come over here so I can stuff your bow staff up your green, reptilian ass.

They were probably referring to the lone female in the show, April O’Neil. In the new 21st-century series, April is more of a badass and carries a samurai sword called a katana. But in these 80s episodes, apparently before we gals were fully liberated from the kitchen, she is a reporter (well at least they gave her a brain?) who constantly gets captured. And time and time again, the hero turtles come to the rescue of the poor, stupid, big-boobied damsel in distress.

No fucking way. If Max is going to watch Teletoon Retro, he’s going to have to watch She-ra. Don’t judge her by her short skirt and strapless corset; she was actually a pretty hardcore feminist. A real leader and a hero, whose conversations with other females were about freeing Etheria from the clutches of evil, not about her hair and her nails and her super cute boyfriend like oh my goddddddd giggle giggle barf.

And he’s also going to have to watch it IN THE DAYTIME. With ads for Fisher Price telephones, not phone calls to Whoreville.

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Selling my baby at the Babylon Mall.

Something struck me funny today as I was sitting outside of Coles at the mall, pimping my book. Two years ago, I was right here in this very spot, fighting for my life.

Okay maybe not my life, but certainly my dignity. Here’s a sweaty morsel from the story called “Shopping Maul” on page 123 of MotherFumbler. Max, two and a half, is in the middle of a full-fledged ginger snap, so I’m bee-lining for the exit.

I managed to drag him over to a bench. We were so close to the exit now. So very close. I could taste the asphalt and it was delicious. I just needed to gather myself together and prepare for the parking lot, where flailing gingers and hard pavement do not mix well. And why did I park so far from the door? I hate me.

 

En route to the bench, by the way, I saw my cousin and his new girlfriend. There was an on-the-fly introduction and they ran for their lives. He probably went straight home and hammered his nuts with a mallet.

 

I tried to sit Max on the bench, to get him to calm down a tad. There was no reasoning. The impenetrable wall of crazy was up and I was but a fetus with a slingshot. His arms were flailing, his teeth were gnawing, and my face was a bowl of sweat on the concrete floor. I think I saw a freckle float by.

 

A young father was sitting on the bench next to me with a little boy in a stroller. The kid leaned over the side of the stroller to look at the spectacle unfolding before him. His father looked astounded too.

 

“What? Like your kid is perfect! Look at him. He doesn’t even have any hair and what is he – five? Get that kid a toupee for Christ’s sake!”

 

That’s what I was thinking. What I said was: “Wanna trade?”

 

His silence meant no, I guess. Fine. Be that way, Caillou’s dad.

 

There ya go — 250 free words without having to buy the book. That’s seven cents worth of material, at no cost to you. You’re welcome. There’s another 67,000 words where those came from though, if you want some more shit to make you feel better about your life.

Today, however, there were no flailing limbs. No hissy fits. No need to call the adoption agency to see if anyone wants a Savage Patch Kid. Today, my four and a half year old sat at the table with me, flashing grins at potential customers, keeping me company as I waited for people to stop and check out the book that contains this very story.

HOWEVER! He won’t be getting the blue ribbon for best mall behaviour anytime soon. While I was signing books, he went to Sears with Nanny Shirley and Aunt Linda. Upon catching a glimpse of an interesting toy, he ran off. Fun trumps safety, like, obviously. Nan and Aunt looked high and low for 10 or 15 minutes. No sign of Max. Nanny was starting to panic. Aunt Linda was wondering where they might find another one just like him and replace him like a dead goldfish. A Sears staffer was just about to make an announcement on the loudspeaker when Nan’s cell phone rang. It was me.

“Did you lose something?” I asked her.

Max had wandered out of Sears and scurried all the way through the mall, finally getting escorted to Coles by a couple ladies who were wondering why this orange-headed gremlin child was running around the mall unsupervised. He looked like nobody owned him. No jacket, and face covered in chocolate ice cream. I wondered if this was what his father looked like all those years ago when he too ran off from his folks at the mall and was found two hours later with his pockets full of stolen candy and his shorts full of shit. But let’s save that story for another time.

Nan, near tears, was relieved that Max was safe and sound. But she was also really fuckin’ pissed.

When I hung up, I looked at Max. “Max, you ran away from Nanny. That’s not nice. Nanny was very worried.”

Knowing she was on her way to find us, he said “I don’t want to see Nanny’s mean face.”

Ha ha. Oh my. I’ll save my kidnapping lecture for tomorrow.

 Mall rat

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I’ve fallen in love with someone.

I usually like ‘em tall, but this guy stands at just three and a half feet. He loves trains, Legos, chocolate milk, and farting in the bathtub.

Christmas is an important time of year for me. Not because of the whole baby Jesus thing, but because I get to spend some quality time with my baby boy. (Side joke: What’s the one thing Max and Jesus have in common? During both their births, there was an ass in the room. Just kidding, honey.) After 350+ days of working and parenting and trying to ignore the voices in my head screaming “bad mommy!” and “bad wife!” and “bad daughter!”,  I need this breather. Ten days to sit around in fat pants, eat cookies, and open my eyes to the joy right in front of me – not the joy-to-the-world yuletide crap, but the joy (the boy!) that did spring from mine virgin loins. (Just go with it.)

Max is three and a half now, so we’ve had four Christmases together so far. I know that math seems fucked up, but during his first Christmas he was, in whole-number years, age zero. Eight months, to be exact. Picture a drunk midget in a crusty sweater. I tried to find a photo of him under the tree or on Santa’s knee, but all I could find was this one, taken right after sweet baby Hannibal ate his first liver.

His second Christmas, he was a tree-tipping toddler on crack. Don’t be deceived by the angelic face below. Lucifer and Danny Bonaduce also looked like this as children.

Last year, our third Christmas together, he was a bumbling two-year-old with about 20 words in his vocabulary. Just enough to be dangerous – and perpetually frustrated. In spite of his toddler angst, this ginger sure could take a great ginger snap.

This Christmas, at age three and two-thirds, he was absolutely perfect. All the holiday hoopla was finally starting to make sense to him: why there’s a tree in the living room, why we make him sit on the lap of a creepy old dude in a red suit, why he needs to be a good boy all year — so Santa doesn’t fill his stocking with coal from the quarry and leave the trains he asked for at the North Pole, of course. Yes indeed, all the lies and deceit were finally starting to come together in his wee little head. High fives.

For ten days, without work or distraction, I got to see who Max really is. And man, he is really something. I mean seriously, your kid is a total loser compared to mine. I’m kidding. Please keep reading.

Last Christmas, asking him to sit with me and write a letter to Santa was like asking a honey badger to make me some tea. This year, we cozied up together at the kitchen table and he thoughtfully dictated his letter to me. He asked for three things only, never changing his mind. Some kids’ lists are epic and change daily, those greedy and indecisive little monsters. At the end of his letter, he reminded Santa to bring food to the “boys and grills who don’t got no food.” Not just any food though – “raisin bread and suckers.” That’ll cure the cholera. He also insisted his letter be signed, “Love, Muffin.” Don’t ask.

Not so long ago, he was a rude little jerk. I’d take him to the store where some nice sales lady would grin at him and say, “Aw, would you just look at the curls!” I’d smile politely while Max scowled and darted his foot toward her face. I once took him to a clinic and when the nurse came in to greet us Max said, loud and clear, “I DON’T WANT THAT ONE.” He had been tended to by a younger, prettier nurse during his previous visit and Pervo Ginger wanted an encore. Now, he is incredibly polite. (Yes, in spite of me.) His reaction to every gift he opened this year, be it toys or tube socks, was an enthusiastic “Wowwww!” And he remembers exactly who gave him what. As I was helping him pull on his Thomas the Tank Engine slippers last night I asked him, “Do you remember who gave you these slippers, buddy?” I thought he might say Santa, without thinking. “Aunt Robin,” he said. She sure did.

There was a time when he resisted all affection. He was just too busy pulling the dog’s tail and swinging from doorknobs to hug or kiss or cuddle. Now, he is full of love and gives it away freely. Ask for a hug and before you’ve finished the question he’s halfway across the room with his arms open wide. He does a quick lipstick check first though; if your lips are bright red, fergetaboutit, hooker. When I help him out of his pajama shirt in the morning, his hands holding onto my shoulders for balance, he comes in for a hug just because he feels like it. Sometimes, mid-embrace, he softly says, “mommy…” like he has just rediscovered that I’m his mom and he’s pretty pumped about it.

He is smart. He can count to eleventeen. He doesn’t have his alphabet down pat yet and he still thinks we live in “Torbag,” but I know he’s sharp as a tack. One day when I heard him say “fucker,” I immediately scolded him: “Now mister, what did you just say?” As quick as a fox, he replied, “Sucker, I said sucker.” Yes, I’m sure you did. Working on your Santa letter, I suppose.

And damn, he’s hilarious. His latest schtick is taking off all his clothes and marching around the house chanting, “hand-some, hand-some, hand-some…” Clearly, his band instrument is the kazoo. It’s like some baby bootcamp hazing ritual taking place in our living room.

Yeah, yeah, I know every parent says their kid is the bomb and of course we’re all right. But I think it’s important for me, of all people, to declare my kid’s awesomeness because I spend so much time likening him to Satan. It’s not that I didn’t love the little devil before now. Of course I did. But up until recently, it was like loving a raving lunatic. Imagine trying to cuddle a school of capelin, or dress a huge harbour tomcod, or kiss a flatty on a prong. (Sorry – fish theme.) He was just doing what toddlers do: exploring a strange new world with all his ginger might – limbs flailing, teeth gnashing, mommy cracking. I guess you could say: I loved him completely, but I didn’t completely like him. Maybe he was always this rad and I’ve just been too busy to see it. Hard to see things clearly with your head up your ass. Or maybe I’m finally starting to forgive him for tearing me a new one.

Don’t get me wrong, Turbo Ginger has his moments. And I’m glad; where else am I going to get my material? I don’t plan to write my second book about motherhood’s rainbows and butterflies. It’ll be much like my first book where the only butterflies are the moths that took up residence in my vaginal scar tissue.

Max made this my best Christmas ever. You know, if I ignore the fact that my dad is dead, stuff like that. Funny I should mention that though because, feeling about Max as I do, I better understand how my dad felt about me. And how my mom stills does. (Let’s leave my domestic shortcomings out of this, mom.)

I’ve experienced all kinds of love. Love among friends. The love of men. Many, many, many men. Call me a cynic, but it’s never a sure thing. Shit happens. I think the love between my dog and I is pretty pure, but I also know she’d drop me like a wet mitt for a grilled cheese sandwich. This love for Max is perfect. It’s not without frustration and chaos and shit and puke, but somehow it’s perfect nonetheless. He’s perfect. And to think, this perfect little person entered the world via my trés imperfect fur biscuit. Oh the irony.

These days, I come home from work, more excited than ever to see him. I flash him a silly look and watch his lips stretch across his face, revealing every tooth in his wooly little head. His eyes narrow and twinkle, bracing themselves for the quake of his belly laugh that’s certainly on its way, possibly with a fart in tow. Oh Max. He at once picks me up and makes me fall to pieces.

One day he’ll think I’m a total dork, and run off with some beautiful girl and break my heart. So I’m going to enjoy this while it lasts. I’m going to keep hugging him and kissing him and twirling him around the living room to songs like this one, stepping on train tracks and Legos while an excited dog nips at our ankles. It’s a song about lovers, but I think it works for us too. I’m his mama and he’s my baby — the mother bloggin’ love of my life.

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Planes, trains and autoOOOH SHIT.

The theme of Max’s trip to Ontario? Transportation.

1. First, he got to ride on a BIG AIRPLANE. Sweet action.

But I soon realized flying Porter, with two stopovers en route to Toronto, was not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. (The smartest thing was taking the iPad; Porter doesn’t have TVs.) When we pitched down in Halifax, Max simply could not understand why we were not getting off the plane. I mean we had landed, there was an airport right there, others were getting off, but we were just going to sit here and rot??? WTF, MOM! Let’s get off this hunk o’ junk and get the apple juice flowing already!

I managed to keep him in his seat until all the Halifax-bound passengers had gotten off. Then, with 20 minutes to kill, I let him march up and down the aisle for a bit to stretch his legs. But soon there was congestion at the front of the plane: a lineup to the lavatory, a flight attendant sorting through her pretzels, a pilot emerging from the cockpit to drain the main vein. I lost sight of that orange head I’ve grown accustomed to seeking in crowds, so I began to make my way to the front of the aircraft. When I got there, I saw Max standing near the door on the verge of tears. I asked him, “aw, were you afraid you had lost mommy, honey?” He replied with a pout, “No, they wouldn’t let me get off the plane!”

2. Next up – the much-anticipated TRAIN RIDE. If you know Max, you know he has two obsessions: popsicles, and trains. (Forget the popsicles – focus!) Here in Newfoundland, we haven’t had any moving trains since the 1980s. And there are only so many popsicles you can give your kid to compensate. So we were really looking forward to this ride on a classic steam engine. Running from Waterloo to St. Jacob’s, the railway is operated entirely by volunteers. One of them – playing the friendly old conductor – even punched our tickets.

3. Next on the agenda – AMUSEMENT PARK RIDES at Canada’s Wonderland. (It’s okay – this time I’ll be kind to the wankers.) Max rode all sorts of things here, from Snoopy’s airplane to a high-flyin’ (not really) swing.

4. And then there was the ride to end all rides. The GHOSTER COASTER. Now before you get caught up in what is quite possibly the world’s most hilarious photograph below, let me explain. We were in Snoopy Land or Snoopy’s Village or Snoop Dogg’s Crib or whatever the frig they call the area of the park for little kids. It is total snoozeville – strollers everywhere, toddlers on lame-ass rides, nobody is over four feet tall unless they are pushing a stroller or handing out cotton candy or a giant ass kid who was born with a full set of teeth. So Max and I happily make our way along the various rides, trying this one, lining up for that one, having a time. Eventually we come to a ride – yes, still right here in the land of the teacups – the Ghoster Coaster.

Now for those of you quite familiar with Wonderland and are now gasping with shock – bite me. I didn’t know the Ghoster Coaster was a 4 out of 5 on the scary scale. I couldn’t see the rickety old track from the ride entrance. At a glance it looked fine to me, and the other kids lining up to get on were not much bigger than Max. Surely if the ride was located right here in the land of bunnies and clouds and babies, it was suitable for Turbo Ginger. Right? Right?

By the way, if you’re wondering where daddy is during this moment of weakness, daddy was lining up to ride the Leviathan – the freaky new roller coaster at the other end of the park. If he had been with us instead off getting his thrills elsewhere, he probably would have prevented this epic mistake. But he would have also prevented this picture…

So it turns out Turbo Ginger is not fearless, after all. But it’s okay, son. Your mom – the love child of Carrot Top and the Incredible Hulk – will protect you.

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Big Candy

Worky worky work work.

My theme song as of late as I bust my arse at the office.

I worked 23 hours straight on Father’s Day. A welcome distraction from my fatherlessness.

A couple days went by where I barely saw Max at all.

Ah, the glamourous world of advertising – t’is not for the faint of heart, or the single parent.

Thankfully, I have a husband who picks up the slack with scarcely a complaint. (I said scarcely, not never.)

So this weekend, he’s cashing in on his earned time and taking a three-day canoe trip with two of his buddies. I like to joke that it’s a three-day circle jerk slash sausage fest – because I like to crack inappropriate jokes, and because I’m ever so slightly resentful that he earns leisure time in exchange for my overtime. WTF kind of system is this? Did I mention he’s a teacher with the whole summer off? KILL KILL KILL.

But, alas, it’s time for me to spend some quality time with the squirt.

So the moment Andrew left this morning, I switched into mommy mode. No work. All play. Just Mama and Max Murphy.

We started with a morning visit to Middle Cove Beach. We had heard that the capelin were rolling last night, bringing minke whales and laughing children. So we checked it out after breakfast. It was eight degrees and we could barely see the ocean for the fog. I pulled up as close as I could, pointed to the shoreline and said “Look Max – capelin!” And then we left.

Beach. Check.

Screw this climate to hell, let’s go swimming at Kim’s. Max had a blast splashing around in the warm indoor pool, practicing his leg kick and his blunt honesty. At one point he quietly confessed, “I’m peeing.” Hmmm, present tense. Oh well. C’est la pee. (Sorry, Kim.)

Next on the schedule – a gun fight with Ryan, Kim’s 8-year-old son. Apparently Ryan has a toy-box brimming with artillery, and I suspect a room full of Ninja swords, poisoned darts, and chains and sickles. Max was charging around the corner every three minutes with a different weapon, aiming some rubber dart or styrofoam arrow at my eye, cackling like a maniacal Jack Nicholson hybrid of the Joker and Jack Torrance.

Later, when I asked him what the best part of his day was, he replied – “guns.”

Peachy.

As I was gathering our stuff to leave, I realized Max was nowhere to be found. We walked out front to see him halfway down the driveway in Ryan’s red Lightning McQueen, pedal to the metal. I ran, barefoot, to stop him from crashing into the basketball net, or our car. It’s moments like these I’m thankful I’m fit. You can’t escape me, Turbo Ginger; Turbo Mommy got game.

Next stop? Movie theatre. Pixar’s new flick, Brave, about a feisty ginger. What it lacked in story it made up for in flowing red locks.

I was slightly disturbed by the protagonist’s three little brothers, however.

They bore an uncanny resemblance to the little dude sitting beside me, so I kept imagining having three of him. THREE. Triple Turbo Ginger Trouble. Hells no.

Max was a little tired by the end of the film, so for the last 15 minutes he lay his head on my shoulder and placed his hand in mine as our scarlet-haired sister on the big screen kicked some hairy ursine arse. A perfect end to a perfect day.

But darn it, why didn’t I take some photos of this perfect day to send to Andrew, so he could see what a perfect — okay, good — mother I am?

A couple days ago, while I was working late yet again, he sent me this pic. See what I’m competing with here? GAWD.

Kodak moments were over for today. As Max and I were leaving the theatre, he saw some insufferable shit-disturbing kid with candy. I didn’t see the kid, but he had to be a jerk, because Max saw the candy and the wailing ensued.

I WANT CANDY.

I WANT CANDY!

I WANT CANDY!!!

Then he took it to adjective level:

I WANT BIG CANDY.

I WANT BIG CANDY!!!

Do they still make Bonkers? I could use a giant ass bunch of grapes right about now to bonk a certain ungrateful little bugger out. Some candy.

Listen here kid – we did the beach, the pool, the western saloon, the popcorn overdose. What more do you want from me?

A pony?

A kidney?

A sibling? (Dream on, dingaling.)

Oh and by the way, thanks for tearing me a new one back in 2009. How’s that for big candy? Try squeezing an eight-pound candy apple out of your goodies.

He snot-n-bawled for candy all the way to the car. Nothing quite as special as dragging a sobbing, sugar-addicted toddler across the Avalon Mall parking lot. He cried halfway home. I cranked Bohemian Rhapsody to drown out his howls. I glanced in the rearview mirror and imagined him singing…

Mama, I just killed a man.
Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, 
now he’s dead.
Mama… life had just begun,
but now I’ve gone and thrown it all away…

That’s what happens when you play with guns, son.

All of a sudden, his screeching came to a screeching halt and he exclaimed – “POCK-A-SO!” (That’s how he says popsicle. Everything resembling a sugary treat from the icebox is a pock-a-so.) He was referring to a big blue Mr. Freeze his dad had placed in the freezer yesterday, and Max had been waiting for it to freeze solid ever since. By now, it’d be ready. And he knew it. And he suddenly remembered it. Tears literally recoiled back up into his eyes.

I could have stood my ground and refused the Mr. Freeze, said “save the drama for your mama, mister.” And by “mama” I mean someone else’s mama. Tears don’t get you no thang, foo’.

But this was my day to be mother of the year. Or mother of the day, whatevs. I was not about to end this day with one of us in the naughty chair.

So when we got home, I sat Snotface down at the table without a word, fetched the Mr. Freeze from the freezer, sliced it in half, plunked down next to him, clinked our halves together like champagne, and said “let’s make our tongues blue.”

 

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Max, Most Sportsmanlike Toddler Ever. NOTTTTTT.

Max hates potatoes.

He hates ’em baked.

He hates ’em mashed.

He hates ’em french-fried.

Okay that last one’s a lie. Damn you, Ronald McDonald.

But the rest is true. He hates virtually all forms of potato. He won’t even play with Mr. Potato Head.

But when someone’s passing him a hot one – you know, during a game of Hot Potato at a birthday party – he will cling to it like sour cream on a chive.

At a birthday party last weekend, Max was one of seven kids, all aged five and under, sitting on the floor playing a game of Hot Potato. Now normally during Hot Potato, you want to get rid of the darn thing; pass it to the next kid as quickly as possible, because if you’re holding it when the music stops, you’re out.

But this game of Hot Potato was essentially the game of Pass the Parcel, where the prize is wrapped a dozen times and passed around, a layer of paper removed each time the music stops by the kid holding the goods until there are no more layers just sweet victory. Except in this case, the prize beneath all that paper was, well, a potato. So we called it Hot Potato. It just felt right. And it’s way more fun when the kids think it’s going to burn their hands.

But not when my stage-four clinger is in the circle. Apparently Max likes to feel a good, deep burn. The sought-after spud would come to him and, despite all pleas to pass it to the next eager child, he just could not let it go. Parting is such sweet potato sorrow.

At one point, the music stopped just as I intervened to flick the beloved tuber from his grubby paws into the hands of the next child. If we did a slow-mo replay of the action, it would show that it was indeed in Max’s hands at the moment the music stopped, but it had been there for the last two to three bars of music! It should have been halfway around the circle by now. In fact, it should be halfway around the neighbourhood, in a pot up the street next to a few carrots. The next kid got to take off a layer of paper while Max kicked and screamed and sobbed, spudless.

Last time there was this much fuss over a potato, it was 1741 Ireland.

I could chock it up to the terrible-twos or almost-threes. Toddlerhood is an emotional time. But here were a handful of kids, all around Max’s age, and he was the only one freaking his freak. I was so proud, so very proud.

But I didn’t let this potato drama boil my water. Instead I thought, How do I fix this?

Do I yank him from the circle as punishment for misbehaving? Show him that if he can’t play properly, he doesn’t get to play at all.

Or do I sit down in the circle with him and force him to do what is required of this game (and this life!) so he sees what’s happening and, hopefully, learns? I mean maybe it’s all a bit confusing for my little guy: This irresistible mystery package is plopped into his empty hands, and then, in a fraction of a second, he’s expected to give it up to the next guy.

If I were at Neiman Marcus and the sales lady said, “Congratulations – you’re our millionth customer, you win this Gucci purse! Here you go. Uh, oh wait, no, you’re our 999,999th customer, sorry, my bad. Could you pass that cherry red genuine leather luxury handbag with the gold hardware to the nice lady behind you, please?”

Waaaaaaaaaah. I’d be heartbroken. And I’m not three years old.

So I opted for plan B. I sat down next to him in the circle, cradled his sticky hands in mine and proceeded to facilitate the receipt and passing of the stupendous spud. I also refrained from making inappropriate jokes like, “Idaho who’s gonna win this game!”

Each time the potato made its way around to Team Ginger, I plucked it from Max’s death grip and passed it on at lightning speed; I didn’t want him holding it when the music stopped, not even to take off an upper layer of paper. If he got to take off one layer, there’d be no stopping the human vegetable peeler from hitting pay dirt. And plus, the potato is hot, remember? “Toss that tuber, kids! Save your fingerprints!”

But lo and behold, despite my fast-handed action and good intentions, the little frigger won the game. The music stopped when the potato, now barely concealed by a thin layer of pink tissue paper, was fair and square in Max’s mitts. Turbo Ginger’s maniacal laughter broke through his tears. It was terrifying.

Victory was the worst possible outcome. Today’s lesson in Toddlerville: Have more hissy fits, get more stuff.

Damn it.

He unwrapped the final layer of paper and there it was. He had no idea the potato-shaped parcel that we were all calling the hot potato was really a… wait for it… potato. Kids are so wonderfully dumb.

The long-awaited prize looked him in the face with a hundred gnarly eyes and said, Surprise, kid. What’d you think I was – a truck?

What the heck?, Max thought.

Then, Ah well, Idaho who’s gonna give this a go.

He traded in his potato for a real prize, of course: a pair of wind-up fish that swim around in the bathtub. He didn’t let the precious cargo out of his sight for the rest of the day. They were donated organs on ice, en route to the operating room.

A second game quickly ensued, but this time I ejected the spud champ. I couldn’t risk the greedy bugger winning for a second time. It would go right to his potato head.

 

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Ho ho hold onto your youngster.

I’m convinced:

Behind a red curtain in the basement of the mall is a sneaky little wizard whose sole purpose is to watch the monitors for any sign of Vicki Murphy and her ginger-head man. When he sees us, he flips a switch that emits sugar vapour from all the vents. Max breathes the sweet stuff in and – presto – he’s a shopping sidekick from hell.

So today, when we took him to the mall to get his snap taken with Santa, I expected no different. I even brought my video camera to capture the chaos and share it with the world. Here I am, wizard. Go ahead and press your button. This will be excellent material for my blog.

He was the perfect child. What a disappointment.

It was quick and painless. Max walked right up to the jolly elf and said, “Bring Thomas.” (What else.) Then he sat in his lap for five or six minutes, which is like half a century in Turbo Ginger time.

I was so happy, I paid $18 for a single crappy, poorly-lit photo. And gosh darn it, how swell is that – I still had tons of time before I had to get back to work. So we went to Winners – the three of us, hand in hand in hand. Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds was playing on the loud speaker. What a perfect day.

[Insert ‘record needle scratching’ sound effect.]

40 seconds after we entered the store, Max vanished. Gone. He broke free from our hands, ran down the shoe aisle, turned a corner, and disappeared. Andrew was on his heels with his gazelle-like stride, but the three-foot fugitive had the advantage of flying under the radar – and the clothes racks. This is why short men can not be trusted.

Genghis Khan – famous warlord, 5’1″

Harry Houdini – famous trickster, 5’5″

George “Baby Face” Nelson – famous gangster, 5’5″

Joseph Stalin – famous Communist freakazoid, 5’6″

Prince – famous wearer of high-heel booties, 5’2″

Robert Blake – famous actor, better known for the suspicious death of his wife than his acting, 5’4″

Ghandi – 5’3″.

Scratch that last one.

My cell phone rang. It was Andrew. “I can’t find him.

“Oh Jesus.”

Click.

Panic.

In half a second, my blood pressure skyrocketed from normal to Notorious BIG.

We scoped out the store for three or four minutes, asking people if they had seen a little boy about “yea high.” Nope. Nobody had. My mind was racing…

How long do you search before freaking the hell out?

Should I jump up on a chair and start yelling for help?

Do I go grab the microphone at the front of the store and announce “Attention shoppers: This is a Ginger Alert. A toddler is missing in the store. Three feet tall, plaid shirt, answers to the name Max, as well as Thomas.”

Do I send Max’s picture to the good people at Central Dairies? You know… for the side of the milk carton.

“Do you have a recent photo?” they’ll ask.

“Can Santa be in it?” I’ll reply.

Oh God oh God. Every second he’s missing increases the chances that some sicko will come along and snatch him. I had seen some dude scratching tickets at the lotto booth earlier like he was trying to start a fire. It was weird. He better not be in this store. He might think Max is a leprechaun and demand, “I just spent my entire EI cheque. Now take me to the pot of gold – or else!”

Someone find my precious child because I’ll be damned if I have to go make another one, you hear me!?!!!

Andrew stepped outside the store to talk to two old guys on the bench facing the store, no doubt waiting for wives with big purses and bigger perms.

“Did you see a kid run out of here?”

They hadn’t.

“If a little boy runs out of here, grab him for me.”

They agreed. Exit points covered. Unless those guys were creeps, in which case we were royally screwed.

I scoped out the toy aisle first. No Max. Then I tried the jewelry counter; maybe he was admiring the shiny stuff. Nope, guess he didn’t inherit that gene. Next, I scurried toward housewares, and immediately saw a young woman leading a child by the hand. But I couldn’t see the short stuff until I turned the corner. Then, there he was, pube-headed little frigger.

“Thank you so much. Where did you find him?”

“He was playing with a toy over there. I saw your husband looking around earlier so I figured it was him.”

Phew. Relief is such an underrated emotion, isn’t it?

I grabbed his hand tight.

“Listen here, Charles Lindbergh Jr. Don’t ever run away from mommy and daddy again. If you do, Santa won’t bring you any trains. He’ll only bring you what fuels them…”

 

 

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A mid-autumn night’s dream.

There are few things in life as cute as a sleeping child.

Exhibit A:

Brussels sprouts. Fair enough.

 

Exhibit B:

Another couple inches and his gut could be a pillow.

 

Exhibit ZZZZZZZ:

Chum chweet.

But what the heck do they dream about? I mean, at the ripe old age of two, what could Max possibly have to conjure up in his subatomic little egghead?

Everyone dreams, and Max surely is no exception. He often has night terrors, waking during the wee hours to scream out “mommy!” or “daddy!” in sheer toddler terror, then falling off to sleep once again.

But last night, around 3am, we heard him scream something else. Something that revealed the unfathomable depths of his munchkin mind. In a burst of pure rage, he yelled…

I HATE STICKERS!!!!!!

Followed by a solid thump on the wall, probably a fist or a skull, then silence until 8am.

Frightened the living shit out of us. But damn it was worth it. Amusing – and informative! Santa will appreciate the tip.

 

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Trains, boats and goats.

Where’d you take vacation this summer?

Florida or Flower’s Island?

St. Lucia or St. Anthony?

Gayside or Baytona formerly known as Gayside until they changed it because it had ‘side’ in the name?

We went out around the bay. (If you’re not from Newfoundland, let this be a lesson in bayness.) But here’s the catch – it wasn’t MY bay. It was another bay. So it was new to me. Oh wait a sec, actually it was the same bay – just the other side of it. Damn it.

Ugly map of Bonavista Bay. You’re welcome.

Anywho, same deal. I had never been to Bonavista and Trinity before – not since I was a kid with a mullet throwing up in an empty ice cream bucket in the backseat of dad’s Pontiac Bonneville.

We’re not dumb enough to waste our time and money toting a rabid toddler beyond the east coast of Newfoundland. Especially without a portable dvd player. (Dear Santa, please bring. And P.S. — where’s my fucken pony?)

Bonavista: landing spot of the original Italian Stallion, Giovanni Caboto, founder of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1497. (Supposedly.) This begs the question: why aren’t there more Italian-blooded men around these parts? Humph. Guess Johnny Boy claimed the land but didn’t spread his seed. Meany.

As mother of a boy who loves trains more than candy, I was sad to hear the Trinity Loop Train was kaput. It was an amusement park with a working train and passenger cars for tourists, established after the 1984 closing of the Bonavista railway branch. But it was shut down in 2004 due to poor attendance and disrepair. Fizzlin’ fireboxes.

As a substitute, there were a couple old train cars parked in the middle of the town of Bonavista. So we took Max there and pretended this was way cooler than it was.

Max thought it was the bomb. But I can imagine how his eyes would have lit up if the damn thing had been, oh I don’t know, moving?

Or if it had a face.

Or the voice of one of the Beatles.

We went to the Harbour Quarters for lunch, where Max was the lone child among a room full of folk in knee-high socks and Birkenstocks.

He screamed a couple of times just to stretch his vocal cords. Once, he squealed so loud, everyone in the room simultaneously dropped their spoons into their chowder. Someone must be being brought to the gallows.

We got a couple scowls from khaki-clad mainlanders who eat children for breakfast. They weren’t mean, though; their faces were simply numbed with ointment and the aroma of mattress money.

We toured the Matthew – the replica of Cabot’s majestic ship – but we couldn’t let Max out of our arms because the stairs were so darn steep. We couldn’t risk having Turbo Ginger sleep with the fishes… like this guy.

Besides, it seemed fitting for Max to stay close to the poop deck.

(By the way, the Matthew replica is in desperate need of repair or she will never sail the seas again. The shipbuilder in Bonavista is willing and able to do the work but needs money for the supplies. MUNN Insurance is sponsoring the cause in the Aviva Community Fund competition. If it gets enough votes, the Matthew Legacy Fund could receive $150,000. Save that ship! “Vote for the Matthew”)

Next, we drove out to the Dungeon – a circular opening in the cliff with two seaward-side channels where the sea roars through.

But after a quick glance at the geological phenomenon I decided Max would sit this one out. In the car. Too bad, he would have gotten a kick (literally) out of our tour guide.

His name was Billy. I know, right!? He got canned the next day for eating the brochures.

It was getting late and Max was getting cranky, but I had a bag of cheese twists and a doggy poop bag so that bought us some time.

We stayed in Port Union at a B&B that graciously accepted kids, so when we checked out the next day, we thanked them for their hospitality, handed Max over, and left.

We were pulling out of the driveway when we caught a glimpse of a disgusted B&B owner in the rearview mirror. Handing Max back, of course. His pants were lying low with crap. Well-played, right?

The second – and final – day of our excursion, we went to the Random Passage film set in New Bonaventure. (Sidenote: yours truly was the first to play the part of Lavinia Andrews – for realsies). I took the tour while Andrew chased Max around the set.

In the little church on the set, Max decided to lean against a giant freestanding candleholder and went smashing to the floor – both him and the candle. When the bow breaks, the candle will fall.

I immediately picked up the candle and dusted it off, then picked up the candleholder and placed the candle back on top. Phew, nothing broken. Oh right, Max… Yup, also unbroken. Also good.

Next, we walked around the whimsical little town of Trinity, with Max insisting on pushing the stroller.

This never goes well, mainly because he can’t see above or around the stroller, so essentially he is driving blind. Boy + Ginger + Blind = Triple Trouble. Andrew and I got about 300 yards and were so exhausted from keeping him out of ditches and traffic and jail.

There’d be no rest for us in this sleepy little town. And no dinner theatre, either. Max would have been swinging from rafter to apron to curtain.

Yes, our vacation was one day and one night. But it was 48 hours jam-packed with at least half that many verbs: squealing, running, climbing, swinging, biting, dangling, freaking, kicking, screaming, laughing, smiling, pooping, peeing, squirming, pushing, pulling, pointing, kissing, hugging, adoring, sighing, breathing, chasing, embracing.

Now that’s what I call an all-inclusive.

~ Don’t forget to vote for the boat that helped make us who we are. ~

 

 

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Shopping Maul

It seems like every other day I’m blogging about how naughty my boy is. Please note: he does good things too. A lot of good things. But do you really want to hear about the three new words he learned today, or how cute his poop is, or where I got diapers on sale, or how amazing my life is? Exactly. And, touché. This is entertainment, people. This is comedy. And comedy is pain.

So. Let’s get on with it, shall we? This morning, we arrive at the mall with no stroller. And now you know, with just one brief sentence, to which genre this story belongs. “When the feeling’s gone and you can’t go on it’s tragedy.”

When you venture into the world beyond your living room with one of those children that’s not a stage-four clinger, you need one of three things: a stroller, a leash, or a pet carrier with wheels. Pretty sure that last one is illegal. And even the leash is not my fave because it doesn’t prevent the ol’ Drop & Resist. (I’ll explain later.) Basically, you need a straightjacket with wheels to keep things contained and moving forward.

Rental stroller it is. Best kind.

So we shop around, la la la whistle whistle whistle, life is good. We go to Winners and I tell Max he can have one thing. So he picks a Thomas the Tank Engine puzzle book. Improves cognitive skills and under seven bucks – excellent choice, son!

Yeah, yeah, I know. You shouldn’t give your kid something every time you go to the store as he will come to expect it and then what next – the world? Mon dieu! I don’t do that. I mean, not every time. Just most of the time. It’s a small price to pay for my sanity for the next two hours, okay? I see it as a seven-dollar cover charge for entering the mall in the first place. I build the loss into my budget.

So we get in the checkout line that’s a little too long under these toddler-toting circumstances. But he has his book; his patience will be rewarded. Suddenly Max lets the book slide to the floor and makes no effort to retrieve it. I know where this is going…

Oops, you dropped your book there, buddy.

I pick it up and put it back in his lap. His grip on it is weak. He is having doubt. He is vulnerable. Oh God no, don’t look around! The shelves around the checkout, of course, are loaded with crap, strategically placed there to fuck with you.

He sees it: a monster truck. Want it, want it, want it.

Damn it, damn it, damn it.

You can only have one thing, so do you want the truck or this awesome, amazing, stupendous book?  

Truck.

Son of a.

Improves motor skills and… ten dollars??? Shit. Okay fine. If it means I can go to one more store in peace while he plays with this big-wheeled bastard, so be it.

So we pay for it and head to Sears. About 20 minutes later as I am going through the Sears checkout, I notice the truck is gone.

Where’s your new truck, Max?

Blank stare. He has no idea and doesn’t give a rat’s ass.

The lady behind me overhears and says she saw a toy truck down in the slipper section. Yup. Here I am paying for slippers. Truck must have slipped right out of his hand. That can happen when you’re in the slipper section.

Great, so he hates it already. Ten bucks up in smoke. I go back to the slipper aisle, find it, and place it back in his lap. He would have shown more excitement if I had handed him a potato.

Okay we’re done here. Let’s bring back the stroller and get the heck outta Dodge before naptime creeps up and bites me in the arse.

Too late. As I am taking all the stuff out of the rental stroller to carry by hand, Max starts saying – no, demanding — Thomas book! Thomas book!

No way, Stockwell Day. He always does this. Picks one thing over the other and then changes his mind when it’s too late.

A really lazy mother would have taken him back to the store and got the book, right? A smarter mother might have said, Oh we’ll go back and get that book, we just need to go to the car and get more money. And never go back, obviously. I am neither lazy nor smart. I simply explained that he had made his choice and we were going home now.

And then the ginger fever took hold. Crying. Stomping. And the symptoms were bound to get worse. I mustered up all my courage, took his hand, and beelined for the exit.

We had to walk the length of the mall to get to the exit where I had parked. It felt like the distance of the Tely freakin’ Ten. As we were passing through the main lobby, my disgruntled leprechaun kicked things up a notch with the ol’ Drop & Resist. If you’ve ever had a kid, you know what this is. He plops down on the floor, refusing to go any further. I try and pull him along by the arm, but he throws himself backward, making it virtually impossible to move him without looking like the mother from Carrie.

Very clever, children of the corn. And quite maddening. Max likes to add an extra twist by biting my hand to make me let go. Ever been bitten by your own kid? I know you have. And I know you had that split-second desire to punch them square in the face. But you didn’t. Because you love your kid. Especially those little serrated teeth. Love bites.

Oh, and we weren’t just in the lobby with Saturday afternoon foot traffic comparable to Grand Central Station. We were also smack dab in front of a bunch of cute firefighters who had an info table set up there. Well that’s just peachy. I chuckled and did an exaggerated eyeroll that said, “Kids… what are ya gonna do?” I had sweat dripping from my face, but I tried to keep my cool so they wouldn’t have to use their hoses to put me out.

By the way, I should tell you – I would have thrown the scallywag over my shoulder and stomped out of there five minutes ago had I been born an octopus instead of a fox. I had Max’s backpack in my hand, and a bulky bag of new purchases. I was at capacity. Physically, and now mentally.

I did try to carry him along with all the stuff, but I just couldn’t position Max in a way that prevented his feet and hands and teeth from maiming me. He was a shark trying to escape a fisherman’s net. Yes, a shark with feet and hands.

So I tried to ignore him, like so many mothers so kindly advise. But here’s the thing. Ignoring is definitely the most effective option – at home, in the shopping cart at the grocery store, even on foot in a more secluded area of a store. But in the busy lobby of the mall it’s a little more challenging. And yes, half of the challenge is my own embarrassment. People were looking at me, damn it! Oh that poor girl, with that savage of a child… I just wanted it all to end! And knowing my headstrong mini, we could be “ignoring” this episode for a good 10 or 15 minutes. (The other morning, he wouldn’t let me get him ready for daycare so I put him in the naughty chair and he sat there for 15 minutes just staring at the wall. When I asked if he was now ready to get dressed, he said no, and went back to sitting and staring. Maybe the naughty chair is a little too comfy.) Next time I resolve to hang tough for as long as it takes, no matter how many witnesses.

I managed to drag him over to a bench outside of Winners. We were so close to the exit now. So very close. I just needed to gather myself together and prepare for the parking lot, where flailing gingers and hard pavement do not mix well. And why did I park so far from the door? I hate me.

En route to the bench, by the way, I saw my cousin Chris and his new girlfriend. There was an on-the-fly introduction and they ran for their lives. Chris is probably home right now hammering his nuts with a mallet.

I tried to sit Max on the bench, get him to calm down a tad. There was no reasoning. The impenetrable wall of crazy was up and I was but a fetus with a slingshot. His arms were flailing, his teeth were gnawing, and my face was a bowl of sweat on the concrete floor. I think I just saw a freckle float by.

A young father was sitting on the bench next to me with a little boy in a stroller. The kid leaned over the side of his stroller to look at the spectacle unfolding before him. His father looked astounded too.

What? Like your kid is perfect! Look at him – he doesn’t even have any hair and what is he – five? Get that kid a toupeé for Christ sake! 

That’s what I was thinking. What I said was: Wanna trade?

His silence meant no, I guess. Fine be that way.

The manager at Winners was working near the store entrance and flashed me a couple understanding eyes. I love understanding eyes. If every person perfected that look, the crime rate would plummet. Of course, he would have really impressed me if he had offered to carry my bags to my car while I carried the Savage Patch Kid.

So I bit the bullet and grabbed everything – child, crap I wish I hadn’t bought, sweaty hog face – and headed for the parking lot. He was jammed under my arm like a sheep about to be sheared. When I got through the door, I set him down and dragged him by one arm across the parking lot, crying all the way. He was crying too.

We were almost to the car when he plopped down between two trucks, still saying “Thomas book” over and over until there’s not enough vodka in the world to erase the word from my mental chalkboard. I told him a big truck was coming and would squish him to a pulp if he didn’t get in the car. He jumped up and took my hand, suddenly compliant. If that hadn’t worked, I would have resorted to the age-old threat: If you don’t listen to mommy, the big man is going to come and take you. I haven’t used that one yet, but it’s probably gonna happen.

I will have my revenge one day when I am the one pooping in my pants and going ape-shit on the floor of the senior citizens’ home. I want more pudding, damn it!

And in the meantime, while I’m waiting for that fine day to arrive, I will show his teenage friends these photos.

Should have bought the car seat with the nipples.
The white Don King.
WTF
Mick Jagger?
He’s not just the President; he’s also a client.
You say bath. We say Broadway musical.
A Hobbit in Lord of the Ring.
Dude, where was I last night?
Be straight with me – Is it too much?
Uhhhhhhhhhh… Me so stooooopid.
Checking out in 3… 2…
Cereal killer.
Pothead.
Making a point.
He’s the cheeky one.
Get a playroom.
Nice wheels, girlfriend.
Bathroom antics.
Tickled pink.

 

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