snowstorms and the stomach flu

Here it comes!

I’ve noticed something curious about my use of the word exciting lately. I’ve started using it in both the positive and negative sense. As in:

You’re going to New York! Exciting!


You’re driving the bus for the school field trip. Exciting!

Being the language geek that I am, I am more amused than I should be by the times when the listener doesn’t know which way I’m intending the adjective. As in:

A book signing at the library. Exciting!


Backcountry Skiing. Exciting!

Living in a ski town, most people are thrown off  by the above examples.

Anyway, it got me thinking about how some things relatively common to the human experience, like snowstorms or the stomach flu, always inspire such great excitement. It’s like we never build up a tolerance to this stuff.

In all fairness, snowstorms in Vancouver were exciting.  The city’s snow clearing budget was as unpredictable as the annual snowfall, and more often than not, that meant side streets weren’t cleared until just before the rain came to wash it all away. Almost no one had snow tires and almost everyone experienced the exhilaration of the four-wheel drift at least once a season. Exciting!

So, I was pretty surprised when the first snowfall hit Whistler this year and the locals greeted it with the same buzz, the same speculation, the same attempt to control the uncontrollable – the same excitement, as our Vancouver neighbours.  If you were on the highway in your four-wheel drive with your snow tires on, it suddenly became of the utmost importance to call/text everyone you knew to complain about the tourists.

“Seriously, I just saw a Volkswagen Van with summers on sliding sideways down the middle of the highway for at least a hundred feet! What were they thinking?”

From the safety of gridlock in a mountain-ready vehicle, this stuff was exciting!

But, as I recently learned, nothing quite tops the excitement of the stomach flu. I was e-mailing a friend the other night when my ten year old stumbled into the living room.

“I’m going to throw up! No, I need to lay down. No, I’m going to throw up.”

I steered him into the bathroom, lay a towel down on the floor and wiped down the toilet seat.

“No, I just really need to lie down.”

I redirected him to the closest bed where my husband Squirrel was already sleeping.

“Blaaarghhh, blaaarghhh, bleccchhhh, blaarghhh…..”

Squirrel bolted upright:

“He’s throwing up on the bed!”

“Gee, thanks for pointing that out…I’ll run him a bath, do you think you clean this up?”

“I don’t think I can,” Squirrel said quite honestly before disappearing down the hallway to crawl in with our other son.

I wasn’t sure I could either. How does vomit get underneath the night table and inside slippers?

And, just like that, my night became a lot more exciting. I mean, the sound of my 10-year-old whispering “save me” between rounds of dry heaving is just so much more, I don’t know…inspiring than say, a forty-four year man laid up on the couch with the sniffles begging for DayQuil.

Unable to hold anything down including water, I pulled a chair up next to the poor limp thing and begged him to take little drops of weak tea from a teaspoon.

“See it’s making you feel better,” I coaxed, “you haven’t thrown up in at least 20 minutes…”

“Blaaaarrrggghhh….Mom, no more tea.”

Twelve hours later, he finally felt well enough to unfurl from the fetal position he’d assumed on the living room chair and crawl into bed. As I waited for him to succumb to a much-needed sleep, we reminisced about the horrors of the evening:

“I think I barfed like sixteen times!”

“Probably more like twenty.”

And I realized we hadn’t spent so much time together locked in battle against a common evil since he was three months old in the throes of colic. And, it was just so…exciting….

Who’s that for Santa?

bike for Christmas

It’s every parent’s dilemma – get your kids the gift they want today, or the gift you know they’ll still enjoy three months from now.

We did the latter and, instead of squeals of joy on Christmas morning, Squirrel and I were greeted with a flood of tears and our five-year old’s declaration:

“Santa is mean!”

As he burrowed his head in my lap weeping, I found myself agreeing – Santa is mean.

After all,  I had asked for happy children, not this horribly disappointed one.

You see, my little guy had been writing and revising his list and talking non-stop about the rules of Christmas for weeks. As in:

“If I get you something, you have to get something for me,” and:

“Santa has to bring us what we ask for.”

I didn’t spend enough time debunking these fallacies, it seems.

That, or my claim that Santa sometimes knows what we want better than we do, isn’t really true, because the little dude ran right past the BMX Santa Squirrel thought he’d want and asked:

“Who’s that for?”

It was a sad moment for both of them and one no amount of spiked Egg Nog could erase from my mental movie screen.

What happened?

Are we insensitive parents who don’t understand our child?

Do we have a spoiled brat on our hands?

Is Santa actually mean?

In retrospect it was pretty obvious where we went wrong.

For a rule based, type A, like our youngest, Christmas just has too many unknowns.

If you think about it, eleven months out of the year his world makes sense, then on December 1st we start talking to him about magic and goodwill, about flying reindeer and elves, and a fat man in a red suit who knows what he wants and watches him when he sleeps.

So, what will I do differently next year?

More rules, of course:

– you can ask Santa for one age and cost appropriate thing, keeping in mind Santa shops for all the girls and boys in the whole world

– Santa brings that thing if you are reasonably good as judged by your parents

– You must submit your request to Santa by December 15, no substitutions after this date

– everything else is a bonus not an expectation

He’s over it now, of course. He was over it by about two o’clock on Christmas Day. I, however, will carry it with me for 363 more days or until the weather is fair enough for him to get on that BMX.

Squirrel is right, he’s going to love it – just not until April.

How do you deal with Christmas morning tears, your own or someone else’s?

how some young guy in Starbuck’s just became part of my parenting plan

img. c/o The Retronaut on flickr

So, I was in Starbuck’s this morning ordering a Grande Pike Place and chatting with anyone who will listen as per my usual custom. But when I lidded up and turned to go, I practically collided with a young guy who seemed to be attempting to exit the double doors of the bathroom and the cafe in the very same stride.

(If you frequent the Whistler Starbuck’s you’ll know exactly what I mean.)

I imagine he was late for work or whatever young men are late for these days. He was perfectly nice though, in fact, he looked as if the last thing he wanted to do was cut off some lady in a faux fur coat with an enormous coffee.

“Sorry,” he said, as he pirouetted in front of me to graciously hold the door for the entire time it took for me, my shopping and my grande coffee to pass through.

“What a nice young guy,” I thought.

Note to self: teach boys manners, better yet – teach them manners and how to recover them with grace when things go wrong.

midnight encounter

All the lights are on.

And he still uses his flashlight to walk right past me on the couch where I’m up late working.

I get up to watch him thump-thump the rest of the of the way down the stairs half asleep in his striped underpants.

“Where’s Mommy?” he wants to know as he climbs in bed with Squirrel and starts snoring.

Life is good.