Boy Oh Boy

Ah, the sounds of summer…

There are no sidewalks in Torbay, unless you live in a newer subdivision where you’re rich enough to deserve them.

The rest of us – the ones with the view, na na na na na – have to jump in the nearest ditch to avoid heedless drivers. Occasionally I venture out to the main drag: Torbay Road, better known in my letters to the town council as Satan’s Speedway.

I haven’t called the cops on any reckless (and probably drunk) drivers in a while, so now I only wear the breast plate from my suit of armour. To protect what’s left of my post-breastfeeding chesticles.

But if I decide to walk the little dude and the dog simultaneously, I must resolve to throw one of the three parties into the road-side stinger nettles should an extra-wide vehicle come barreling toward us. The dog usually gets the raw deal, although if Max is having a cranky day, it’s a toss-up. Heads or tails, one of y’all is about to get prickly. Obviously I can’t throw myself into the ditch. That’d be like handing the oxygen mask to the guy next to you on the plane while you pass out, when you were the one who could have saved everyone on the aircraft! Simple logic.

No odds; I usually stick to the quaint cow-path roads around the house. On Sunday mornings, with the nearby traffic of Beelzebub reduced to a dull roar, I savour the sweet sounds of summer.

The tender rustle of the wind in the trees.

The sweet tweet of birds waltzing overhead.

The rumble of ocean waves in the harbour.

And this… sweet Turbo Ginger action.


a shoe in…

Did I mention my husband is one of seven children? His parents took the memo from God very seriously:

“Be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it. Peace out, mutha fuckas. God.”

A few of their fruit turned out a little rotten, but for the most part the Murphys make a lovely basket.

Yesterday, the usual onslaught of the humble Murphy nest ensued: Nanny and Poppy bombarded by six of their seven offspring and six of their nine grandchildren. Half a dozen wee ones underfoot, all under the age of five, all under four feet tall. We have to walk around with our eyes toward the floor to avoid giving the kids shiners with our knees. I am Dorothy in Munchkin Country. (And no, my mother-in-law is not the Wicked Witch. Although she does wield a broom from time to time.)

For supper we devoured two chickens, 20 carrots, two turnips and a truckload of potatoes, followed by a box of cookies, half a gallon of ice cream and a pot of tea. And then it was time for the sugar-induced pre-bedtime chaos that makes me kinda understand why Kate Gosselin is a crazy bitch.

Did I mention that three of the kids were all born within the span of two months? So many children! No wonder the family can only afford to clothe a third of them: monkeys.

These family gatherings are an absolute joy, but they require patience… and eyes in the back of our heads! Thank God Uncle Chris was sober enough after supper to see Max slip something into the baby’s mouth. (Six-month-old Liam is the youngest grandchild.) Daddy Bruce flew toward the exersaucer at lightning speed and did a quick sweep of the youngster’s yapper. Out came a red, plastic Barbie shoe. Max had been playing with a Barbie just moments before. This is a photo taken of him just after the close-call…

Well at least Andrew now has a valid reason for preventing Max from playing with dolls. Not because dolls are gay, but because they’re lethal.

Damn Barbie. Girls who look that good are always trouble.

And remember kids…

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Rock-the-boat baby.

We are an outdoorsy family. Well, it’s mostly my husband. Truth be told, I prefer luxury hotel rooms, but my poverty and inner poet necessitate the camping/nature-loving lifestyle, so I go with it. To hell with worldly travels and gourmet meals; I have perfected the s’more! I can carve the perfect wiener-roasting stick! And I will poop in a bush if required, with a shit-load of wet wipes to erase all memory of it from both arse and hands. Andrew calls me a germiphobe. But seriously, does he want me to get poop particles on his wiener? I think not.

The moment Max was born, Andrew excitedly followed the nurses over to the table where they cleaned and weighed our gooey gift from the gods. He wanted to get a head-to-toe gander at his boy. He was, of course, sizing him up to see how big the lil’ tyke’s first lifejacket should be.

Andrew wisely delayed the purchase until last month, and this week we took our 2-year-old tot to Great Pond, just a few minutes from the house. The evening was peaceful. The water was calm. But the 20-minute canoe ride to come would be neither of these things. (You didn’t see that coming, did you? One day I’m going to blog about the perfect day and blow your freakin’ mind.)

When we got to the pond’s edge, we kept Max locked securely in his car-seat while we hoisted the boat off the roof of the car and unloaded all the gear. Otherwise, in about 18 seconds Max would have been up to his neck in pond scum with a fishing hook in his nostril.

While Andrew dragged the canoe to the water, I took Max out of the car and got him into his bright, new, yellow life vest. Excellent. No matter what mayhem was about to ensue, at least the little meatball would float, and choppers would spot him from above.

I had dressed him appropriately before we left the house. A wide brim hat, waterproof jacket, and camouflage rubber boots – so I wouldn’t see the dirt on them later and be compelled to clean them. And because camouflage is cool on people under the age of 9. After that, you’re looking for trouble, skeet ball.

The flies were t’ousands, as grandfather would say. But according to the OFF! can, fly dope is not to be used on children 12 and under. Okay then. So we can start protecting our kids from mosquitoes around the same time we start protecting them from gonorrhea:

Max, I need to have a talk with you about the birds and the bees… and the nippers.”

Fine, no fly dope. I’m innovative. I attached five plastic frogs to Max’s jacket and stapled a Venus Flytrap to the top of his hat. Ha ha, tricked ya now, ya little black buggers! I will be appearing on the Dragon’s Den with these inventions next season. As well as my prototype for a robot that picks up beer bottles and dirty socks, and magically removes the ungodly stench from hockey equipment. I expect Android Andrew to be on the market by 2012.

We strategically placed ourselves in the boat: Daddy in the back, Mama in the front, and Max sitting on a little folding chair right in front of me where my hand was mere millimeters from the handle on the back of his life vest. So THAT’S why they put that there! All this time I thought it was for hanging it to dry. Drowning is not a concept Max has grasped yet. First, pooping in the toilet. Then, avoiding death. All in good time.

The chair worked for about five minutes. Then he started to get shifty. Of course. Nobody puts Baby in the corner, and nobody puts Turbo Ginger in the bow.

Time for the art of distraction.

Oh look at the bird, Max! Oh, look at the pretty trees; let’s count them, one… two… 47… Oh, listen to the loon! And do you hear the trike ripping the shit out of the ecosystem across the way? Awesome.

My bullshit worked for about 90 seconds. Then he called my bluff and started grabbing at my paddle that I had been trying to keep out of his view from the get-go. I would have had to shove it up my ass to keep his eyes off it now.

I quickly gave in. I had no choice, really. He was flipping out, and with no naughty chair in sight except a watery grave for three, I let him hold the paddle. He slapped the water with it as gracefully as a crack baby beaver slapping its tail. I kept my hand on the top of the handle. Until he noticed I was doing so. He would have none of my paddle-groping. Skipper Max Murphy could man this ship alone! So I let go and the heavy oar almost pulled him headlong into the pond. But it was okay; I had a ninja death grip on his life vest handle. Giving birth to this child was extremely painful and I’m not doing it over.

So the heavy oar escaped Max’s puny pipes and he watched with horror as it drifted away… until daddy reached out and grabbed it! Daddy, our hero! So we played this new game of Drop the Paddle, oh, seven or eight times, and as riveting as it was, it got old fast, especially when Max wouldn’t let anyone else have a turn. Once, the paddle got away from daddy’s Elastigirly reach and we had to circle back around to retrieve it. The Love Boat soon ran out of fuel, and patience. Come on, Tattoo, it’s time to head back to shore.

And by the way, all this time, as I struggled to keep Max of this world with one hand on him and the other batting away flies as they harvested my delicious flesh, Andrew – our hero – was in the back of the boat fishing, footloose and fancy-free. I was trying to keep our little one in the boat, and he was trying to snag the big one. I prayed a 150-pound mud trout would emerge from the depths and swallow him whole. A good way to die in Andrew’s books, I reckon. But not today; I needed him to get us back to shore where safety and sanity awaited like a cold bottle of beer.

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Patience is the companion of… wisdom?

Ah, no, Saint Augustine, you’re WRONG. What do you know anyway? You were the Bishop of Hippo! (True story. Hippo is in present-day Algeria.)

Ancient proverbs were meant to be changed: Patience is the companion of pain. For parents of toddlers anyways.

I often describe Max as the kind of kid who runs into oncoming traffic.

Into the mouth of a lion, who is also hungry. And rabid.

Into the path of stampeding buffalo, with hooves the size of grandmother’s knitting bag. (Mind you, this boundless energy has snagged him a sweet ass part-time job at the local Costco.)

So of course yesterday when my babysitter-aunt takes him for a walk and he is the toddler from Baby Utopia, holding her hand and prancing calmly alongside her, she has to call and tell me about it. I know he’s not all bad; he has his halo moments. And I was truly glad they were having such an amicable outing (mainly because I want her to keep wanting to babysit the little bugger). My voice said, I’m so glad he’s being such a good boy. My inner voice said, I know he’s saving the Turbo Ginger just for me…

So 5pm finally arrives and I rush home from work on this glorious spring day that just begs to be splattered in barbecue sauce. Max was in the backyard playing with daddy and doggy. I hand daddy the hamburger patties and he fires up the barbecue, leaving me to mind Max. But I need to go to the store to get a couple extra things for supper. And I am starving, so I will kill the last surviving panda bear to get to the place where they sell food in great quantities.

So I try and entice Max to come with me. Wanna go to the store with mama? Fake excitement falls on deaf ears on account of busy hands. He is holding a giant spade shovel, jabbing at the dusty horseshoe pit with all his mini might. To abandon this riveting work would be a fate worse than death. And that’s how it almost played out as I carried him, body and bones and stark ravin’ mad, back to the house to try and negotiate a plan to get my food-deprived ass (not!) to the store. And by the way, leaving him in the backyard unsupervised is not an option, as our backyard is more of a half-acre patch of grass carved out of some farmland, surrounded by a moat of stinger nettles, with a steep drop-off on one side that will land you among pointy alders and a secret village of evil dwarves. I had to go to the store, and he had to come with. No options.

Attempt #1: Hold mama’s hand and we’ll walk to the store together. Maybe mama will even buy you some Smarties over there!

Shag the Smarties. No go. He was determined to get back to the shovel. He tried to rip his hand out of mine, and when I held on tight he hit the ground flailing, his head nearly smacking off the pavement. My further attempts to negotiate were futile; he was in Turbo Ginger mode and I was wasting my breath. So I dragged him into the house and plopped him into the naughty chair.

Attempt #2: I tell Andrew to get his tricycle. (It has a handle on the back that I push; his feet can barely touch the pedals.) Ooooh Max, daddy’s getting your bike! Let’s go to the store on your bike! Yay!

His eyes lit up, tears receded like the Red Sea as Moses honed his mad skillz. Yes, he took the bait! But 20 seconds later as we were approaching the bike, he tried to turn the tables. He wouldn’t get on the bike; he wanted to push the fucken thing! But short stuff couldn’t reach the handle, so that simply wasn’t going to work. I tried to get him on the bike again. I even took off his helmet to see if that was half the problem. (Yes, I was willing to sacrifice safety for sanity, and potato salad.) But no sir. He kicked and screamed and I dragged him back into the house again, the bike parked at the edge of our country road. Back to the familiar spot: the naughty chair. (I should get a wooden chair and call it the knotty chair for added amusement. With a few discipline-enforcing splinters perhaps?)

Attempt #3: At this point I had resigned myself to NOT going to the store. Whatever we had in the fridge was a freakin’ cornucopia of deliciousness right about now. But here he comes again, wiping his tears with a dirty sleeve. Store, mama? Store, mama?

Okay sure, I’ll try this one more time, Max. I bend down to his eye level and say, extra clear: Now, are you gonna be a good boy and hold mama’s hand and never let go? Affirmative. We walk to the store without incident. We pass the neighbour’s doggy and give him a wave. We pass some ducks and practice our quacking. We walk by a couple irresistible puddles and he didn’t even try to jump in them. Could this be… sweet victory? At the store, I actually tried to let go of his hand a couple times in order to carry the groceries, but he would not let go for nothin’, so I made it work to stick to my agreement. He grabbed an orange out of the produce bin, his reward for being a good boy.

And he coulda had Smarties. Suckerrrrrrrr.

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Kids are gross.

And that’s a gross understatement.

As I was tidying up the living room after Max went to bed last night – my riveting nightly ritual – I noticed a big gooey streak, about two inches long, across the couch. It was like a slug had slithered by, leaving behind its thick, yellowy ooze to say “I was here.” But I have never seen a slug inside our house (except my husband after a night out with the boys), and I doubted if this was the first sighting. No, this stripe of sticky spunk had the look of something emitted by a wet nostril. A tiny wet nostril, on the face of a gorgeous yet gruesome kid who sees no difference between a Kleenex and mama’s new sectional sofa.

I never particularly liked to talk about bodily fluids. I mean, come on, who does? But since I became a mother, it has become a part of my everyday vocab. Snot. Poop. Spit. Pee. Boogers. Wax. Scabs. When you see me on the street, I look pretty together; but guaranteed somewhere on my clothes is a little patch of crud that originated from some orifice of my son.

Now I know he can’t help it. He’s still pretty new to the planet, still exploring the order of the universe. But still – he’s a disgusting little explorer, ain’t he?

He sits there eating supper in his high chair, with a giant noodle stuck to the side of his face. Now, how on earth does he not know that’s there? This truly boggles my mind. Or maybe he does know, and he just doesn’t care. Same reason he doesn’t care that there’s a pound of poop dangling between his legs and squishing into his butt cheeks when he sits down.

Last Sunday we went swimming at the Aquarena. Oh the mayhem of getting us both out of the wet clothes and into dry clothes with Max constantly running back toward the showers where we had just spent 25 minutes with a boogie board. (Yes, he’d rather stand in the shower than get in the pool.) So I whipped out the raisins, a fave treat, to try and occupy him while I speed-dressed. He skipped around the change room with the teeny Sunmaid box, dropping raisins onto the grotesque, wet floor and picking them up and eating them. EW x 1,000,000. Can you get athlete’s foot in your mouth? Hope not.

During his first visit to a beach, beautiful Windmill Bight, he ate about two cups of sand. I have pictures and witnesses to prove it.

He makes out with Splash – a lot. Seriously, he consumes at least a couple tablespoons of dog saliva daily. Gross, I know. What am I supposed to do? He loves doggy kisses, and Splash loves searching the inside of his mouth for leftovers.

He eats bubbles. Like, those oily orbs that float around in the air with which every kid on earth is fascinated. At Little Gym on Tuesday, at bubble time, Max got down on all fours and ate a big bubble that had landed on the floor without popping. Bursting it with his finger was not enough for Curious Ginger; he had to eat it.

When he gets in the bathtub, he drinks the bath water. If there’s no cup in the tub to scoop it up, he’ll suck it out of a facecloth.

And that’s not the worst of the bathtub shenanigans, trust me. On Monday morning, he woke up at 6am (sigh), and my aunt Linda (Max’s awesome babysitter) wasn’t picking him up until 8:45. So we had lots of time to get things accomplished – breakfast, play, maybe even a bath! I really should be less ambitious. Max was in the tub playing and splashing, so I left the bathroom for a minute to get dressed, then returned to the bathroom to de-uglify. I didn’t glance toward the tub. I could hear him playing as usual; all was well. But then a whiff of something foul danced across my nose. I turned to see Max in the tub – with about ten little brown balls of excrement floating around him. (Excrement – that’s polite for shit. Oh who are we kidding, let’s just say shit, shall we? It’s easier, and funnier.) I immediately plucked him from the chocolate milk and dried him off and released him so I could try and clean up this horrendous crime scene. I scooped chunks of undigested orange from the tub to the toilet. Too much information? Too bad; this is my nightmare and now you’re in it too. Cackle, cackle.

My week was off to an explosive start. On the bright side, maybe this was potty training progress; the tub is right next to the toilet!

So I did a preliminary clean-up, knowing a more thorough disinfecting was going to be required, and walked out to the living room to check on my little shit disturber. He was standing there watching TV with a little puddle in front of him. Of course – he had peed on the floor; I mean he couldn’t have peed in the tub, that would have been WRONG.

But wait, it gets better. I went back to the loo to spray the tub with Lysol, then I grabbed a diaper from his room. (Hey, there was no rush to diaper him now that he had expelled everything in his system!) But by the time I got back to the living room, he was standing there with a shocked look on his face, pointing to a spot on the floor about 5 feet away from him. I walked gingerly toward the spot that was hidden from my view by the ottoman, and there it was – another lovely steamer. I honestly wondered if it was doggy barf, but Splash hadn’t budged from her spot under the highchair where she waits, shark-like, for the remnants of breakfast. It had to be Max. And I found a smudge of the putrid evidence on him when I carted him off to his change table – to get diapered and dressed, but first – corked.

I hope this is chocolate.

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A walking nightmare.

I admit. I sometimes delve a little deep into the sea of emotions. And I take you with me; I’ve heard. I appreciate all of your feedback from the bottom of my digital inkwell.

But ya know, sometimes you gotta keep things light. So today I write about yesterday’s walk from hell. The hike from Hades. The promenade from pandemonium.

It began flawlessly. A beautiful, dry, sunny winter day. A rare December 29th. The trails near Nanny and Poppy’s pad in the Pearl begged to be traipsed; days like these must be savoured. So we all got ready to hit the path – Poppy, Auntie Kim (visiting from Montreal), Uncle Chris (visiting from Vancouver), cousin Aidan, mama (moi), Splash (ruff ruff) and my muse, Mad Max Murphy, who was about to live up to this nickname.

Max held Aunt Kim’s hand and marched along beside her, so happy to be in this magical place they call the outdoors. I thought, okay, we can do this. But I felt a slight twinge of fear as I watched Andrew drive off moments earlier with the stroller peeking out the window of the hatchback. Gulp. Dear, sweet stroller with glorious seatbelt that securely contains ornery offspring in safe and trouble-free confines.

The first three minutes of our excursion went splendidly. Cool breeze. Bright sun. Well-behaved son.

And then…

Max’s independence kicked in. He didn’t need to hold anybody’s hand. Holding hands was for babies! I mean, come on, he had been walking now for like nine whole months; he had this walking shit down pat yo. He was the envy of crawlers everywhere. Booyah.

Okay, fine, so no hand-holding. But he insisted on walking off the pavement of the trails, into the grass beside it, which just so happens to be where every piece of broken glass and dog turd is hiding, waiting for an unsuspecting shoe.

We tried to redirect him to the beaten path, but then he decided he would try out the other side of the trail – the downward sloping side that tumbles into a babbling brook full of jagged rocks and green slime. Excellent.

I’m all for letting him do his thing and acquire a couple bumps and bruises which my grandfather would have affectionately called “larnin’”, but we simply couldn’t let the little frolicker out of our grasp here. If he tumbled over the slope, with no control of his momentum, he’d end up face-first in the stream with a rock in one nostril and a tiny fish in the other, and his two front teeth in his back pocket.

I had started out chilly, wishing I had brought along my hat and mittens. By now, just 10 minutes in, I was sweating, and cursing Andrew for driving off with the sacred stroller; someone must be blamed! But I mustered up my courage and trudged on, this time holding the hood of Max’s coat to try and steer him in the direction of the rest of the Murphy pack, or just away from certain death. But no go; if we were walking that way, Max was walking – no, running – this way. And I swear, if I stood there and let him go, waving my hand and saying “bye-bye, Max”, he’d just keep on going. I tried it, several times. Does he look back? Sure. And then he chuckles, flashing every little tooth in that gorgeous head of his, and keeps on motoring. If I could read his mind, he’d be shouting Freeeeeeedom!, Braveheart style. My little rogue warrior. My little reason to drink wine straight from the bottle.

Then things took a turn for the worse. Puddles. It had rained – a lot – a couple of days earlier, depositing pools of water in every darn dent in the asphalt. Max’s socks and shoes were wet within seconds. That’s all we need – to start the new year off with pneumonia. We tried everything to divert his attention. But as soon as I’d attempt to guide him in another direction, he’d fall to the ground in a wiry heap. Next thing he’d be face and eyes into a big, cold puddle, and that would just be gross. The only way to drag him away? Body and bones.

Between myself and Chris, we made our way back to the house with Max kicking and screaming in our arms. He flicked off his sneakers, snatched my sunglasses off my face, and grabbed at my earrings. Big-time ginger spite. There was no going back now. I just needed to get him inside and into his cage.

When we finally reached the house, I ripped off his soaking shoes, socks and pants, and released him into the living room, still crying and flailing his arms. Within seconds, the diapered demon had snatched the remote controls off the coffee table and hurled them, one by one, over the stairs into the porch.

So. That was an enjoyable walk. Perhaps similar to the walk to the electric chair. Or a walk on red-hot coals en route to a cannibal feast where you are the main course. Or the walk toward a room with a door that reads “drug-free childbirth”.

One day he’ll be able to walk sensibly beside me as I point out trees – “Look, that’s a fir, like a Christmas tree!” And birds – “That’s a Blue Jay, like the baseball team!” And other items in nature – “That’s not a furry white rock, honey. Put that down.”

But that day was not yesterday, and it probably won’t be tomorrow either. So, unless there’s a chariot (i.e. stroller) awaiting us, we’ll just stay put right here where it’s warm and safe, and where mommy is perfectly sane. Max will play with his trains, and I’ll finish writing about the time we took that crazy-ass walk on the trails near Nanny and Poppy Murphy’s house. One day, we’ll read this together and laugh, maybe while he’s holding my old, withered hand as we slowly walk along some trails somewhere.

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A word from the snottery…

Andrew and I make a great team. One of us holds down Mad Max’s flailing limbs while the other one squirts pretty, pink antibiotics into his mouth.

“Here ya go, buddy, take the yummy medicine and make your ears allllll better.”

WHOOF! He smacks the syringe out of my hand with a jerk of frustration. We both silently hold one another’s gaze for a moment. He knows he’s done something bad. He knows the wrath of Mother Ginger is coming.

“Okay, that’s it ya little bugger, open up.”

I snatch the syringe out of the dog’s mouth.

Legs kick, arms punch the air, copper curls swirl with pint-sized insanity.

“Daddy!” I call in the reinforcements.

“Holy crap, he’s squirmy.”

“And strong! Hurry up and get it in there.”

“He’s fighting me with his tongue.”

“Ouch, he bit me!”


“Okay, five mills, we’re done.”

“Now, see, that wasn’t so bad, was it buddy?”

The wild billy goat is free. Tears dry up instantly. Peace resumes. “High five, honey!” Meet you here in four hours for another rumble with the rascal.

Oddly, Max has not yet discovered that he could actually spit the medicine out instead of swallowing it. Kids are so dumb.

Sometimes he takes the syringe and drinks it like it’s liquid candy; mmmmm, bubble gum. But if he’s not in the mood, he’ll flick that gadget at your retina quicker than you can say penicillin. Hence the need for force. We’ll traumatize him with our aggressive methods, but hey, at least his ears will work.

I used to inwardly judge people whose kids were always sick. I mean clearly it was because their kids ate nothing but wieners and chicken nuggets, or because their house was filthy rotten dirty. But now I see the snot-nosed truth. Every kid is a cesspool of disease and infestation. A towering kettle of snot ready to explode at any given moment. The reason the Kleenex people are filthy stinkin’ rich.

Max is a pretty healthy boy. When he gets sick, he’s tough about it. Even with boogers flying, he’s still motorin’. And wiping his nose-goo into the couch. But he has had a few ailments since I went back to work, when I released him into the big, scary world beyond my ample bosom. (Okay it’s not so ample anymore, but it felt right so I said it.)

He has rocked the pinkeye with style.

He has sported a polka-dot rash on his belly. The doctor took one look and said, “roseola”. I was confused; he doesn’t even eat Chef-Boyardee.

Recently, he had the croup with that distinct seal-like bark – a sound so startling, I caught sight of someone lurking in the bushes outside the house wielding a club and a thirst for blood in the snow.

And now he has an ear infection for which he is getting his first (but surely not his last) dose of antibiotics.

I’d like to think I’m keeping my boy as germ-free as possible. He loves broccoli, brussel sprouts, and fish – good immunity-boosting foods, I reckon.

(Brussel sprouts: world's most exciting meal.)
(There's more than one way to eat corn, missus.)

I mean sure he has his treats, and the occasional heaping pile of good ol’ Kraft Dinner. And seriously, what kind of mother would I be if I didn’t let him lick the beaters? It’s a rite of passage, mandatory in my books.

(zombie beater-lickin' baby)

I blow the dirt off the fork when it hits the floor; if there’s a sink or a wet rag nearby, I might even rinse it off. I dress him nice and warm so he doesn’t catch a chill. And I try and keep him away from other kids who are snottin’ and barkin’ and spreading their cooties. Which is virtually impossible, because there is always at least one kid in the room who is clearly an expert in boogerology. I once saw a little girl with her hair stuck to her face on both sides – with what one might call homemade glue. I almost tossed my cookies.

(attack on poppy murphy's birthday cake)

I can’t keep my mini in a bubble. And even if I could, I wouldn’t. He needs to be around people, even other little three-foot pillars of phlegm. Besides, not all germs are bad. Yogurt is bacteria! So there. And some bacteria found in our ears and mouths actually protect us from invading pathogens.

Colds and ear infections and this-ola and that-itis… It’s all a part of childhood. Nature’s way of armouring our little soldiers for life. We just do the best we can to keep them healthy, roll with the punches, and thank Lady Luck for sparing us from anything worse (and bribe her with our souls to keep it that way.)

Note: I used the word snot too many times in this post. Turns out there are snot a lot of synonyms for snot.

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A vroom of ones own.

Thursday is garbage day in our neck of the woods. Around 8am, the big green trash eater pulls up out front. It passes by twice – once to get the trash on the opposite side of the street, and then again on its way back to get ours. When Max hears the slow groan of the truck, he scurries to the couch, climbs it like a koala bear on bennies, pulls open the drapes, and leans his face to the window to witness the glory of the big-wheeled hunk of metal. Sweet garbage-collecting action. A Thursday morning ritual.

I sometimes wonder about the nature versus nurture debate when it comes to gender, intelligence, sexuality, etc. Well, when it comes to gender at least, Max has convinced me – nature is boss. I certainly didn’t teach him to be a dirt-diggin’, train- obsessed boy; he was simply born that way. Predetermined machismo. One of his first words was vroom. Onomatopoeia – well done, Maximus Manliness. He was just seven or eight months old when he started driving a toy car up the arm of the sofa; a perfect hill. (And my boobs; imperfect speed bumps.) Who taught him that? Not I. Not anyone. He is snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, through and through. Sometimes I expect him to emerge from his bedroom with a frog in his pocket.

I admit – I let him watch too much TV. He likes a variety of shows, but the ones that really get his blood pumping are Bob the Builder, Mighty Machines, Thomas and Friends; you get the idea. Tools, heavy equipment, trains, trucks. How does he even know what these things are? He doesn’t, but he knows what he likes; it’s in his DNA. He has an innate attraction to things that have power, movement, and aggression. The vroom of Roary (the racing car)’s engine, the buzz of Bob’s powertools, the choo-choo of Thomas and his chugging chums. Give ‘er, says Max Murphy, in not so many words.

When he was about ten months old, he could use a hockey stick like nobody’s business. Check out the natural goalie stance. When he makes it big in the NHL one day, they’ll use this pic in his player bio.  NHL. Torbay rec league. Whatev.

Eat your heart out, Patrick Roy!

We take walks to the farm down the road, with an eye out for cows and horses that often graze in pastures sloping to the harbour. We are lucky to live near such breathtaking scenery. But Max has other ideas. On the way there is a big, yellow school bus, parked on a strip of gravel, off duty. With eyes as big as saucers and a twinkle to boot, Max points to it and makes a vroom-like sound in his throat, with a question mark vocalized at the end. “Yeah, that’s a school bus!” I assure him. He sits back in the umbrella stroller, satisfied. Who needs animals when there’s this big, beautiful, yellow creature before us?

I love his rough and tumble ways. But I want to show him that’s it okay to be tender too. When he pulls on Splash’s tail or hugs her a little too hard, I say “be gentle”, and he starts to pet her softly. Though his inborn nature tells him to be strong and fast, I want to nurture him to also be soft and thoughtful. I will start with a Cabbage Patch Doll for Christmas. No joke. Think little boys shouldn’t play with dolls? Fair enough. But by telling your son “dolls are for girls”, aren’t you also telling him that caring for children is the mother’s job? Not cool. I save this debate for another post. It’ll be called Long Live Paddy Shane! Paddy Shane was the name of my husband’s Cabbage Patch Kid, circa 1983. Laugh if you want, but Paddy Shane could very well be the reason Andrew is just as nurturing as I am, if not more.

The other night, Max was walking around the living room hugging and squeezing a plush dog. A rare sight. Since birth, Max has never taken to anything for comfort. Not a soother, not a stuffed animal, not a blanket. Now, here he was, cuddling this stuffed pup. Wow, I thought; maybe he’s finally developing a softer side.

Five minutes later I found the toy facedown in Splash’s water dish. It was too late for CPR.

Sunday driving.
Playing dinkies at Nanny's in Badger's Quay.

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Our house is about 900 square feet. Not a lot of space for a man, a woman, a dog, a new baby, and a zillion big and little things that either entertain, clean, clothe, feed or soothe said baby.

It wasn’t so bad when Max was a cooing infant. I could organize the chaos around us, create a manger of inanimate onlookers with my swaddled miracle in his bouncy chair smack dab in the middle. (Our black and white pooch also bears a striking resemblance to a cow. Bonus.) There were breast pump attachments curled up on tabletops, receiving blankets and teeny tiny facecloths stacked to the sky. It wasn’t necessarily clean, but it was neat. Even the dirt was categorized into perfect little piles: cooties here, scuz there, crud up there, gook and gunk over there. Everything had its own spot or shelf or basket. I even have a basket for orphaned socks; as we all know, the dryer eats them.

“Another fuckin’ basket?” the husband would scold when I’d bring home yet another wonder of wicker weavery. He just didn’t understand. “It’s not a lowly basket, honey. It’s a cozy home for a bunch of CRAP!” As my dad used to say, even Moses was a basketcase.

Then, my perfectly immobile baby turned into a wrecking ball. I remember when I first declared on facebook that he was walking. A co-worker and father of three boys commented, “Take it from me, push him down, push him down!” I quickly understood what he meant. I have scratched “trip wire” off my shopping list at least twice.

He skipped the walking stage and graduated right to running, his tootsies chauffeuring his hands to the next item on his list of “Things I Must Destroy”. He climbs the couch, King Kong style, and throws the remote behind it, where adult hands fear to forage. He hurls toys into the bathtub, then stands there, watching them lie facedown and helpless at the bottom of the porcelain ravine. He jabs his mini hockey stick at the flatscreen TV, a frequent cause of Daddy Angina. As soon as I put his wooden blocks into their designated basket, he dumps them out. And God forbid I try to build a tower with them. It’s crashing down before I get to two, which means it’s never actually a tower but a pathetic block on a sticky floor.

Around his first birthday, sitting amidst the clutter, compounded by the dread of going back to work, I snapped! I needed to simplify this house and this life – pronto. A clutter-free home is a clutter-free mind. Amen, Oprah, amen.

I realized the key to this endeavour was having less. Getting rid of the excess. Not necessarily spending less, but buying fewer – but higher quality – things. Things that last. Overall, I needed to have less “stuff”, and, in turn, lessen my carbon footprint. (Eco-Mother of the Year award imminent.)

So I started giving things to charity. The guy driving the truck with the clothesline on the side – my hero. And I started saying no to charity. Do I want your hand-me-downs? Nope. Stuff with stains on it? Dude, we’re in Torbay, not Bangladesh.

I was getting things under control, embracing my newfound simplicity. Then, a couple of months ago, I met someone, and my Sort-of-Utopia began to unravel. His name is Thomas. The cheeky one. And he wasn’t alone. He brought his whole red and green and brown and blue posse with him. There are trains and tracks everywhere. On the floor, in the couch, in my butt crack. Max goes to bed with a smiling locomotive in each hand, and wakes up with them, still in his death grip, often with a chassis impressed into his face. By Christmas, our living room will have morphed into the Island of Sodor. If Sir Topham Hat walked into my front door right now, I would not be surprised. But he would get a startle, because he’d be getting a swift kick in those high-waisted pants.

And apparently this is just the beginning. Next up? Dinkies, then Transformers, then Legos, then what? Little parts and doodads and gadgets up the yin yang. Clutter-free simplicity up in smoke. But hey, while my matchbox home is chock full of stuff and toys and trains, my beautiful boy is brimming with joy. So what are ya gonna do? Buy more baskets, that’s what.

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