The Runaway Nunny

We had a lovely Easter. Two outdoor egg hunts (one at my parents’ house and another at a friend’s), two indoor jelly bean hunts (one at my parents’ house and another one here), two delicious dinners cooked by someone else (one by my mother and another by a friend), and lots of happy toddlers getting giddy on chocolate and great companionship.

Owen got to learn that some children are not TWO (as his friends Natasha and Layla are) but even THREE (as Willow turned on the weekend). With Owen’s weird habit of what I call word symmetry, Willow becomes “wiwwo,” just as shower is “shasho,” Cheerios are “cheechos” and bunny is “nunny.”

Owen has become captivated by bunnies lately (for obvious reasons). He calls jelly beans “nunnies” because we told him that the bunny brought them, though for some reason he knows the word for chocolate “chocha.”

My mum bought him an adorable stuffed bunny for Easter, which she hid under a cushion for him to discover. When he did he gave it lots of kisses, which he has been doing ever since (mmmmah!) while assuring himself that the bunny is happy. These past couple of days, Owen has been very concerned with the general well being of everyone and everything around him.

“Nana Papa happy?”

“Yes, I am sure that Nana and Grandpa will be happy to see Owen.”

“Mama happy? Dada happy?”

“Yes, Owen, very happy.”

“Cheechos happy?”

“Will cheerios make you happy?”

“Yellow boots happy?”

And on and on. His first words two mornings in a row have been “Mama happy?” – kind of melts my heart.

He’s also become obsessed with all books bunny, including “The Runaway Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown. I love it too, especially that I don’t have to look at the words – it’s getting more and more difficult to read stories to Owen because I can no longer see over the top of his head! Owen loves that the mummy bunny fishes for her baby bunny with a carrot, and he likes to find the baby bunny on the mountain top and in the hidden garden.

The title of this post is deceptively cute, though, because I need to move onto a grimmer theme. At the gym this morning I passed a poster of missing children’s faces. Cedrika Provencher’s was the only one I recognized. I don’t know why I remember her, maybe because people initially seemed so hopeful. She had been helping a man find his dog – the man they assume took her. There was another poster with her image and “do not remove” written in ink across it. I glanced at another face, that of a little blond boy, maybe three years old, and I had to look away. Well, I did look away. And as I sit here now I am realizing that that is precisely what I should not have done. Those faces are there so that we do look, scrutinize, memorize, so that if we see those children we can do something. My only concern this morning was in limiting my personal “pain” – the contemplation that this could happen to any parent (i.e. me).

At school today I attended a talk by Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire about another group of lost children: child soldiers. He was invited by the Zero Force Cycling Team (some of whom are John Abbott students) who are cycling across Canada to raise money and awareness, working to eliminate child soldiering. I knew Dallaire’s talk would be moving, but I didn’t expect that one story would bring me to tears. He told of how when he was moving across a No Man’s Land in Rwanda, he and his fellow soldiers stopped their truck because there was a little boy in their path. He said that when children block the roads, there is usually an ambush waiting – the children are used as decoys because the armies know that no one will run over a child. When they had determined there was no ambush, they realized that the boy had gone missing. They found him in a hut that contained the dog-eaten remains of a man, a woman, and two children. The little boy looked to be completely at home – because he was. He was the only person left alive in the village. Dallaire said that he looked into the boy’s eyes and was reminded of his own five-year old son waiting for him at home. He stressed over and over again: “No human is more valuable than any other human.” And he reminded us: “Inaction is an action.”

Dallaire and the Zero Force team asked everyone in the audience to spread the word, so that’s part of what I’m doing here. They are hoping to raise money but their website also mentions that donations can take other forms (housing, camping gear, frequent flyer miles, etc).

It is so easy to look away but it is so important not to. And please know that I am not trying to be preachy. I am trying to remind myself. Because we are happy, because we are lucky, because we are afraid of tragedy we must confront it.

Child Hazard

That is, I am.

My child is safer at daycare. I mean, there, it’s someone’s JOB to look after the boy. And they have padded floor mats and gates installed and childproofed rooms and padding, and no unnecessary ledges or metal footrests or velvet footstools (OK – we don’t have velvet footstools but they can be a hazard). Let me explain.

It seems that every time I am left to look after my child for an extended period of time (say, Christmas or Easter or, you know, the weekend), he ends up with a black eye or a bruise or a bump on the head. Because it’s not my JOB to look after him and I am just trying to get on with my life. That sounds bad. I didn’t entirely mean it that way.

At Christmas, you may recall, Owen was standing on an ottoman at his great-grandmother’s house in Halifax (with at least three adults within arm’s reach, so I didn’t think it was a huge problem) and he managed to fall between an arm chair and a velvet footstool, in the process getting a black eye and (who knew you could even get this:) velvet burn.

This morning, as I was very busy (getting on with my life, see) putting the finishing touches on a birthday cake for my dad, Owen somehow slipped off the treadmill and whacked his head on the metal footrest of our kitchen table (an angular, cocktailish thing). I’d take a picture to show you but he’s sleeping.

There have been countless other injuries, too. And with me, he gets dirty. He was sick yesterday and his nose ran onto his shirt I guess, and then the spare, so he was sent home in a borrowed one. A lovely white pristine turtleneck. Within 5 minutes at home, there were grape juice stains down the front of it. Now I have to clean it somehow and give it back. Owen never comes home from daycare with banana squished in the creases of his pants or raisins in his diaper or crushed cheerios on his socks, but here? Standard.

So what I am trying to say is to all of you who think I am being less of a mother by sending Owen off to daycare? Think again. It’s for his own good.

These Boots are made for Splashing!

On a very very windy day this weekend, Owen, my mum, and I went for a walk down the driveway. My parents have a half-mile driveway, so that really is an activity. We went a bit further down the road with the wind at our backs, but turned back early, since we were afraid of being blown away.

We let Owen out of the stroller on the way back so he could try out his yellow boots in the massive puddles. And my, was he excited. It was all well and good until he decided that he would try splashing with his red mittens (not designed for puddles as were his boots). Still, I was glad I let him loose, even glad I let him get dirty. I am so conscious after listening to David Suzuki describe “nature deficit disorder” not to limit Owen’s play because I don’t want to do laundry. Go mud!

** All photos courtesy of Mary Ellen O’Neil (my mum). That’s a link to her Etsy shop. You know, in case you’re looking for awesomeness.

A Daily Conversation

“Owen, what would you like for breakfast?”

“Cheese”

“What would you like for lunch?”

“Cheese”

“What would you like for supper?”

“Cheese”

“Does cheese make you happy?”

“Cheese, happy, happy, cheese, uh huh!” (bright smile)

“Can you say cheese please?”

“Pees! Cheese! Pees!”

“Owen, what did you have for lunch at daycare?”

“Cheese” (this is a joke, similar to his other joke: “Who did you see today at daycare?” Answer: “Tasha” – Natasha is a friend of his he sees occasionally, but not at daycare. He thinks it’s hilarious)

“What do you eat with macaroni?”

“Cheese”

“Crackers and…”

“Cheese!”

My boy loves cheese. Did you notice? He takes after my cousin Conor who apparently once showed up at my parents’ house to visit for a couple of days with his very own personal brick of cheese (or was that two?). My mother didn’t understand why until she saw him devour the stuff.

So serious is his obsession that we have tricked him into eating things that look vaguely like cheese (say, yellow peppers) by LYING to him and saying they are cheese. Feels dirty, but it works.

“Say cheese!”

“Cheese!”

Mo’Dirt

One of the most delightful perks of parenting Owen as an almost-two-year-old is that he can now occupy himself for a very long time. We did some gardening together on Sunday and some more this afternoon. Armed with a small plastic shovel and a little encouragement, Owen can be persuaded to spend over an hour in busy happiness… while I get some real gardening done. This is exciting because it’s the first year since he was born that I think I may get to garden as much as I wish.

On Sunday, as I weeded and spread compost, I asked Owen to dig some dirt from one area and to feed the plants with it (his dad was making some political signage and we were trying to keep the child free of spray paint). Owen obliged, quite willingly, and toddled back and forth to give the plants (perennial geraniums, in this case, which look like there never was a winter) their “num-a-num.” He muttered to himself, as he walked to and fro, “Mo’dirt, Mo’dirt.” Of course, because this is Owen, and Owen thinks about food most of the time, he must have decided that if plants found dirt delicious, then he might as well. Picking up a big clod of earth, he bit into it. “Num-a-num?” he said hopefully. When he actually tasted the dirt he must have changed his mind, because his little hand was trying to get as much dirt out of his mouth as possible. Later on, he fell over and rolled in the spread compost and this was so much fun that he continued to fall and roll another 15 or so times. When we finally brought him into the house, he had dirt in his ear, in his hair, and in his diaper, crushed leaves on his shirt and socks (because of course his boots fell off), and even a slight flush from the sun. Silly me – 5 days after the last snowfall and I forgot to put sunscreen on my boy (and myself).

Side note: Though he didn’t eat dirt yesterday, he did take a bite out of a bar of soap. The child does not believe us when we tell him that things like dirt, rocks, and soap are not delicious! I have never seen Owen brush his teeth with so much relish – the fruity toothpaste must have been a welcome change from the soap stuck to his front teeth.

Owen wanted nothing to do with his shovel today (he actually started to have a meltdown that lasted until I put it back in the shed), but he moved rocks around, ate another handful of dirt, and bit into a rock. I had provided him with fish crackers, too, but he seemed to need to taste nature.

On the radio recently, David Suzuki was talking about a new condition called “nature deficiency.” I’m a little suspicious of it, since I can’t imagine a place where people encounter nothing organic, but the idea is that exposure to things like trees and grass reduces anxiety and aggression and pumps up our immune systems. Still, many children are being brought up in sterile environments (because of a societal fear of dirt). I kind of winced when I heard one of the interviewed mothers (a British woman) confess that she kept her son inside sometimes just so she wouldn’t have to wash his clothes. It was more convenient, she admitted, to keep him clean. I so completely know what she means, and have had similar thoughts, but hearing it verbalized made me kind of horrified. David Suzuki’s stories of bringing home frogs and insects most nights to his family home, his free exploration of creeks and woods, also made me remember my own messy childhood, the dirt, the sunburns, the field mice in shoeboxes… and I thought that I have to try to give as much of that freedom as possible to Owen, though he is growing up in a suburb and is still too small to roam free.

So as much as I advise him not to eat dirt (not num-a-num. No no no no no), a big part of me is rooting for him as he explores the textures (and tastes) of the natural world.

A Rainy Day

Now that the snow has mostly melted and the weather is no longer threatening to freeze us, we’ve been able to break out all the fun spring clothes!

Here’s Owen in his sou’wester, rain suit (courtesy of Grandmum) and new yellow boots (“Yellow boo’s, Yellow boo’s”):

Doesn't he look a little like Paddington Bear here?
Our happy boy

... with his Daddy

Swimming Lessons

On Friday afternoons, Owen and I go to the pool for “Starfish” level swimming lessons. We did the same class last year, from January to March, when Owen was 7 to 10 months old. Then, as I do, I missed the next sign-up deadline, summer came, and then I thought, well, better to wait until the skills and familiarity he gains can be put to some use (i.e. in the summer).

This is last year:

So here we are again. Owen LOVED swimming last year, but this year, in his almost twos, he is bad at beginnings in general. He cries when he arrives at birthday parties right now. The first lesson was a little bit stressful because it took a lot of encouragement and distraction to keep him involved in the activities. Last week was better: walking the plank (walking across a floating mat and jumping into my arms) and going under the tunnel were both a big hit.

This week was the best so far. He fussed for 2 minutes at the beginning, but then loved jumping off the edge of the pool, doing floating puzzles, and blowing bubbles. I am convinced that he drank a fair bit of pool water, too, since every time he blew bubbles he also said “num-a-num.”

Another attraction the pool offers is that it’s full of babies. I don’t know if it’s the age, but Owen loves babies. He pretends to give doll babies water (de l’eau) in bottles. Last night, he tried to put a diaper on his stuffed dog. Anyway, he likes to wave at the babies and watch them swim, so it’s an added selling point, and when I tell him we’re going swimming, he almost always says “babies?”

The only embarrassing aspect of tonight’s lesson involved Owen’s non-existent bladder control. He peed on the floor as soon as I took off his diaper to put his bathing suit on, and then he peed again when I took his bathing suit off… I held a towel to the stream, which he thought was pretty hilarious. I dried the floor off as best I could, and even used some baby wipes. I guess that’s why people wear shoes in there? Oh well. Here he is after his lesson:

Happy, Happy

Owen’s newest word is “happy,” which is so fun. We discovered he could say it yesterday when he was looking at his Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever, in which there is a page about emotions and actions and such, and there are three pigs in a row, one laughing, one smiling, and the third crying. Owen already likes to imitate crying. After he’s has a particularly bad crying episode (I don’t want to be at this birthday party or some other weird integration problem), we tease him about it afterward, asking what he looked like when he cried before, and he usually obliges with a rubbed eye and a boo hoo hoo (and then a grin).

When he looked at the images of the three pigs, he said “happy, happy, boo hoo hoo (eye rub)” … and I think I reacted so delightedly that he’s been saying happy ever since. “Hapy, Happy! Owie Happy! Owie Happy! Mama Happy!” – And it’s true. A happy Owen makes a very happy Mama.

[Insert Expletive Here]

[Look away if excrement is not your thing]

So… it was bound to happen. Once. But two out-of-diaper poop incidents in one week? Not likely, right? And yet, Thursday night, the night Duncan teaches late and I am alone, after Owen’s bath, was much worse. I gathered the clean boy up in a towel, showed him in the mirror how cute he is (as we do), and carried him into his room. After drying him off with the towel, I put him onto a clean diaper, hauled up his legs, and… well, there was poop there. I thought he had just started, so I tried to get the diaper on so he could do his business. Except then (slowly… think every 45 seconds or so) I noticed some on his feet, and then on the towel, and then a streak on his back. And I was trying to clean him bit by bit (thinking there couldn’t be much) and get the diaper on, which I did, but then I picked up the towel and a big chunk fell out onto the carpet. I cleaned the carpet, but not before I knelt on another small smudge. So off with my clothes, too. I washed out the towel, threw in a load of heavily bleached laundry, and came up to put Owen’s pajamas on. And I saw another small streak on his back, but wiped that off, still denying, somehow, that I had toweled him off in a poopy towel, which I must have done. And we got into the reading chair with some books and instead of smelling bath-fresh, Owen smelled, well, you know. And so we had to start over – back in the bath, back in another towel, diaper, pajamas.

I was near tears this time, I will confess to you.

And as my mother always said, things tend to happen in threes.