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.

It Was Bound to Happen…

I am alone tonight because Duncan is working late. Owen and I had a great afternoon, much of it spent outside, shovelling mounds of snow off the deck to help it melt and looking in the flower beds for baby flowers (floflos). I even read a magazine in the sunlight.

Owen has a bath every night as part of a bedtime ritual; in general, he loves his baths and we love them too. Tonight’s bath was especially slip-slidey slippery, excited, let’s try swimming and splashing… I sprayed bath water in my face and splashed some more on Owen’s face. His hair was already soaked from his swimming maneuvers…… and then, under the bubbles, I noticed some dirt. I swished the water, thinking, could all this have come from between his toes (sock fluff?), or was one of his bath toys growing copious quantities of algae? It took me so long to figure out this puzzle that I swished the water around quite a bit with my hand, until it dawned on me.

I think I screamed. I do that. I hauled Owen out of the bathtub and left him naked and shivering on the bath mat. I drained the water and in my frenzy to get as much poop as possible out of the tub, started scooping it up with paper towels and throwing them in the toilet. I know, in the back of my head I knew I was going to block the toilet, but what do you do? What does one do? I flushed. Blocked. Then I realised my face was full of bath water. When did I splash it? I scrubbed my face with soap. I scooped more out of the bathtub, ran the shower to flush down some residue, scrubbed that tub, and got Owen back in it to scrub him and soap him more vigorously than ever before… I got a little carried away, and at some point his laughter turned into tears, but we got through it, and I got him towelled off and diapered. I asked him to please please tell me if he has to do this again, making him repeat the word “poop” over and over like some crazy mantra. He was laughing again, and so was I. At some point I realised I had popped his pacifier from the bathwater (then presumed clean-ish) into his mouth so hauled it out (with another scream) and insisted on some heavy-duty tooth brushing. I changed my clothes, fearing that the splashing had sprayed contaminants on me… I unblocked the toilet.

Calm, finally, we read some stories together. I sniffed his (CLEAN) hair, hoping I had done a thorough job. I soaked his bath toys in a bleach solution.

I do so hope this is the only time I have to deal with this (I hear) inevitable (and disgusting) event.