I've got a friend (in a low place)

by Andrea Mulder-Slater


I have a new friend. You may have met her.

In fact, if you’re a woman hurtling through her 40s, then I can pretty much guarantee the two of you have crossed paths - at least once.

For me, the first time we encountered one another was at the bookstore. In the children’s section. On a Tuesday. She was wearing a pink feather boa and she flipped her hair in a carefree way as she manically pointed out a young mother with her nursing newborn, cuddling together in the teacup chair.

Then, she elbowed me - hard - in the left boob.

Not long after, I ran into my new friend at the grocery store. Within minutes, she convinced me I was freezing to death and sent me running to the car to lay down on the seat heaters.

From the day my friend and I first met, she has given me nothing but grief. And facial hair. Problem is, I can’t just shake her. She's worse than glitter.

My friend is a powerful dame and her omnipotence is enough to give me heart palpitations.

Every. Single. Day.

And, a traveling rash. My hip, leg, earlobe, eye, lower back, belly.  Every month the location is different but the scenario is always the same. I end up scratching myself like a gnat-infested ape, while my gal pal looks on and laughs until my head starts to ache.

My friend gives me sinus pains and makes my joints throb. Occasionally, at night, she throws in some insomnia, jimmy legs and sometimes, that little shit sets my skin on fire. Usually at 3am.

But that’s not all.

She mixes me up. Once, she suggested I put ground coffee beans in the teapot. Then there was the time she had me pour sour milk in the garbage can, instead of down the drain.

It's like I'm in a perpetual state of confusion which - I'm certain - is how my new friend stealthily stole my tolerance and replaced it with stabby impatience.

(Do not borrow my socks. Consider yourself warned.)

Since meeting my friend, I’ve become forgetful. Also, since meeting my friend, I’ve become forgetful.

She fills me with anxiety as she coaxes me into believing that I’m ailing. Between the tingling sensations, dizzy spells, phantom ear pain and irregularity, just last week alone I had four separate incurable diseases, including mustache cancer.

The fact of the matter is, this cling-on-chick is merciless. So hear me now and listen to me later. Learn from my mistakes. Don’t let my friend sneak up on you. Because if you do, you’ll find yourself melting into a blubbering puddle of snot the next time you watch cat videos with your kid.

So if you see this new friend, don't pause, just go ahead and dropkick that twat into your golden years - where she belongs.

Or don’t.

The thing is, I’m in no position to give advice. Because since I’ve met Ms. Perimenopause, I’ve lost the ability to make any and all decisions. 

No, really.

Image: FreeImages.com/Derek Kimball


Shhh... it happens

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I’m the first to admit I’m not a perfect mother...

I’ve fed my kid no name brand marshmallows. For breakfast.

I’ve let her pee down the shower drain on the deck of an upscale hotel pool (yeah, you knew that was us, didn't you Courtyard Marriott?).

I’ve backed away – quickly - after she wiped her nose on a fake cashmere scarf in a clothing store (sorry Old Navy, but it's not like you’ve never sneezed).

But none of that really compares to what I did - or rather, what I bought - on Wednesday.



I'd like to say that it is totally out of character for me to pay $19.95 for a plastic dog that craps itself. But I'd be lying. Mostly because there was that time I bought my kid a stuffed toy mole with poop on its head.

Mind you, that was entirely by accident. 

In any case, Doggie Doo - the game - is now at our house and the 5 year old is in love. And why wouldn't she be? It involves a dog, that dumps.

If you're not familiar, let me educate you...



Doggie Doo comes with one wiener dog on a leash, a container of "dog food", a bone, a die and four little shovels. The object of the game is to feed the dog and be the first to collect three canine corndogs.

See?


And, just to be clear, the mooky-sticks need to be on the table before they can be scooped. Because, of course they do.


The steps are simple. First, you feed the little fellow by sticking some of the included yellow goo in his mouth. Then, you shove the bone in the pup's mouth, you know, to create an airlock.


After that, the rules don't really matter because all anyone wants to do is watch that dachshund drop his doo all over the dining room.




Yes. It's like that. 

Usually, the pooch obliges, right down to the sound effects. Problem is... sometimes he doesn't and the yellow goo becomes, well, stuck. Understand there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with this problem and let's just say don't use your finger unless you want to answer some rather uncomfortable questions in the emergency room.

Also, it's probably not by accident that the Doggie Doo dog can be dismantled with nothing more than a screwdriver, a glass of eggnog and a few choice expletives.

In any case, when the channel is clear, the results are disgusting. But you don't have to take my word for it...




Bottom line... it doesn't take much to amuse me. Or my kid. Apparently. Next thing you know I'll be hauling home a game featuring a cat that fires hairballs out of its mouth. Are you paying attention toy manufacturers?

No, really.

Vacations will do that to you...

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Traveling is exhausting, partly because (as you already know) I am unskilled in the art of packing light and so - much like an Asian Weaver Ant - I inevitably end up hauling 100 times my body weight.

Only instead of dead flies, I carry luggage. Most of the time.

Also, keeping a 747 in the air by using sheer mind power alone is exceptionally draining for me, especially around hour seven. As is watching each and every passenger. Did that guy ever come back from the restroom? Why is that woman pacing back and forth? Is that the pilot? Why is he back here? Where did Geoff get that croquette? Is that a child drinking whisky or is that just a remarkably petite man? Why does that flight attendant look worried? Is that man watching porn on his iPad? Did he just notice me staring at his lap?

Grueling.

Still, the holiday happened without a hitch (except for the obvious) and so we topped off our 4 weeks overseas with an additional multi day jetlag-fueled family visit in a neighbouring province before driving back to our house, via the northeastern US states.

Getting back home was to involve a stopover at a hotel in Massachusetts, which is where - at 6pm on a Wednesday (8 hours into our trip) - we giddily pulled in, unloaded the car and stood bleary-eyed at the check in counter with thoughts of freshly baked cookies and spa water floating through our brains, only to be told that our reservation was actually for the following evening and the hotel was fully booked so maybe try the motel with the burned out “L” and enthusiastic bedbugs down the hill and around the corner.

Instead, we crammed ourselves back into the car and pressed on to the Boston by-pass. Just in time for evening rush hour.

When we finally reached New Hampshire, a second wind of sorts kicked in, right after the strangest rest stop in history. Truckers were snoring. Angels were singing. A cat opened the door for us. The man behind the map counter was singing showtunes. I may have been hallucinating.

Further north - in Maine - we lurched into an Applebees and ate something that may or may not have been fish. Magic fish, as it turns out, because after consuming it, we convinced ourselves that we should forgo a hotel altogether and drive straight home through the Downeast Steven King darkness.

Six hours later, in spite of (or more likely, because of) the foul chaos inside our vehicle, we passed the Welcome to Canada border test even though we were unable to answer any of the guard’s questions in a coherent manner. Well sir, we were away for 5 weeks but not in the US. We were in Ontario but only for a week, but not including the two days we were there in October before we flew to Holland and no we have nothing to declare, well except for the ten pairs of shoes we bought overseas and that lion’s tail in the back which looks real but we're pretty sure is fake.

The arrival home was delicious, as were the 2 hours of sleep we had before an emotionally damaged crow hurled himself repeatedly against our basement window in a heroic attempt to welcome us back to reality.

I got up, had a shower, put some clothes on and spent the rest of the day in a drowsy stupor. Which, as it turns out, might be the perfect state for me to be in, because - in spite of my confusion - I was able to clean my closet, bathroom and bedroom to a sparkling shine. Of course, at some point during the day, I also baked ginger-free gingerbread cookies, watered the plants with coffee and washed all of our white bath towels with a red sock.

I may have inadvertently discovered the secret of simulated productivity.

By late afternoon, I was ready to sleep for 8 or 18 hours and so I began the search for my pajamas. They weren’t under the pillow, they weren’t still packed, they weren’t in the cupboard and they weren’t in the laundry room. As I was tearing apart the closet, Geoff appeared before me with a confused look on his face. I explained that I always leave my pjs on the hook in the closet and was completely baffled as to where they might have gone. I described how I had searched every cranny. And nook.

Geoff’s expression was one I had seen many MANY times before.

That’s when I looked down.

The shame. A reenactment.
I’m not proud of my green plaid size large men’s fleece nightclothes. And although I have been known to wear them until noon or 1pm, under normal circumstances, I don’t put them on again after taking them off and showering in the morning.

However in this house, exhaustion equals absurdity. Oh hell, everything equals absurdity in this house.

I’m wondering how long I can blame my behavior on jet lag. I’m counting on at least two more weeks.

No, really.

Under thug, see me

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

We were visiting Volendam - a town of around 23,000 - where wooden shoe makers and cheese factories abound.

It’s pretty touristy with a good amount of shops selling typical cookie-cutter Dutch knick-knacks like miniature wooden shoes, tiny windmills, carved tulips and ceramic cows that spit koffie melk through their open mouths.

As we sat in the back of an open-air café/bar, eating kibbling and drinking koffie, we watched as several tour boats emptied out on the waterfront, delivering eager bodies into the tiny maze-like streets.


Later on, our food finished, Geoff wandered and Jan shopped while I stood with the 4 year old admiring the big brown boats. That’s when I noticed a Japanese couple taking turns snapping photographs of one another standing in front of the picturesque harbour.

Because I’m a nice girl with poor instincts, I offered to take a picture of the two of them together, using their camera.

They looked at me, confused. If not slightly irritated. It didn’t occur to me that they might not speak English.

Not willing to give up easily (remember, I grew up rurally), I broke into a terrific game of charades right there on the street. Those tourists needed my help and I was going to give it to them. Dammit.

I pointed at myself, made a camera shape with my hand, gestured at the harbour and pointed at the two perplexed faces standing before me. All the while holding my daughter’s hand.

Just then, one of the couple’s tour mates noticed the performance and began shouting and flailing her arms wildly. Whatever the helpful friend was ranting about was serious because the look of confusion on my audience’s faces quickly turned to panic.

Judging from the horror in their eyes, I’m guessing it was something along the lines of, “She’s a bloody thief! Get away from her! The travel agent warned us about people like that! She wants to steal your camera! Hide your valuables!”

The woman quickly shoved her purse under her coat while her husband squirreled away his camera. They didn’t take their eyes off of me as they ran - backwards - down the cobblestone, leaving the 4yr old and I standing in the middle of a sizable and highly judgmental crowd.

Not long after, as I explained the ordeal to Geoff and Jan, we passed by several tourist groups. I knew we had encountered the crowd containing my fearful friends when - all at once - fingers started pointing and cameras started flashing… in my direction.

Which is why it's a good thing our Netherlands vacation is coming to an end.

No, really.

Don't follow us, we'll follow you

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I have a pretty terrific imagination, and by that I mean I can be a wee bit paranoid.

It is this innate bent towards suspicion that recently drove me to convince my entire family that we were being followed while visiting a small town in The Netherlands.

It all began when, while exiting a shoe store, I passed two smartly dressed men wandering through the narrow streets.

I’m a visual person. I notice things.

No more than 10 minutes later, I walked into a clothing shop to look at jackets. There again, were the men.

The cheese shop, the bakery, the electronics store.

The men.

At first, I chalked it up to coincidence. But later, when I spotted them right beside my mother, my 4-year-old and I in the supermarket, I began to feel nervous.

No, that’s not true. I FREAKED THE F*#K OUT.

Me: Psssst.
My mother (intrigued): What?!
Me:  Don’t look now but I think those men are following us.
Mom (believing me immediately): Okay, where are they?
Me (turning around, grabbing the 4yr old’s hand):  The bananas. They are at the bananas.

I wildly explained that I had noticed the same two characters in our vicinity for over an hour. I pointed out that they had no shopping bags. I impressed on my mother the fact that they did not look happy. And, they had cell phones. And, really shiny shoes. I went into full-on profiling mode while my mom started warming up her stink eye.

“Just look at them.” I hissed, “That one just picked up three tomatoes and put them back without choosing one. Who does that?!”

We pulled my 4 year old close and headed to the bread aisle on the opposite side of the store.

The men followed us there.

Just then, my husband appeared.

I casually walked over and filled him in, careful not to take my eyes of the little guy fingering the loaves of bread. At this point in our relationship, he knows it’s easier to go along with my imaginings than to question them so he did what any husband and father would have done.

He started tailing the pricks.

He may or may not have talked into his watch - secret agent style.

“Okay Kevin, I’ve got a visual. Have you got my back?”

Understand, we watch Netflix. A lot.

The men picked up half a loaf of whole wheat and headed back to the produce department, my partner walking closely behind them. He returned a few moments later and offered to "secure the exit" while the rest of us finished throwing yogurt and Paprika chips into the cart.

At the checkout, my mom and I looked up to see the “perps” - ahead of us - paying for six slices of bread, two apples and one avocado just as my hero came into view. While my blissfully (thankfully) child sang Crimson and Clover at the top of her lungs, the men quickly paid for their food, stepped over to the cigarette counter - where they bought two cigars - and scurried towards my husband who was standing, arms crossed, in the middle of the doorway.

They had to say, “excuse me” to get past him. (At least, we think that's what they said).

My husband. My hero.

As we drove back to our rental house, I wondered, had we really been followed, or did we just unnecessarily frighten the hell out of two innocent men, who were now busy telling their friends and family about the crazy man in a fedora who talked into his watch and bullied them out of the grocery store?

Back home, we decided if anything like that ever happened again, we would simply take out our cameras and start snapping.

Just then, a car slowed down in front of our floor-to-ceiling window. It was dark and we couldn’t see the driver.

“Oh shit!” I said, “They must have put a bug in my purse and followed us here!”

My heart was racing as hubby grabbed his camera. He talked into his watch (again) while pretending to dial numbers on a deck of cards and taking photos like a mad man.

Within seconds, the car sped away. But not before we captured this incriminating evidence.


Yeah, we couldn’t see anything either but as it turns out, the driver of the car was our next door neighbour. Just a guy, on vacation with his wife. He was just fiddling with his seat belt before heading off to the gas station to pick up chocolate bars when he saw the flashes from our camera and got the f#*k out of there.

Or at least, that’s what he wants us to think…

No, really.


Sleep tight

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Geoff, Jan, the 4 year old and I are visiting Holland.

It’s the birthplace of both of my parents… a country where everything feels familiar, and most every face I see, is like looking in a mirror. It’s a country where my possibly abnormal devotion to all things black and brown makes perfect sense.


Also, you can buy croquettes from vending machines. Croquettes!


The shopkeepers address me in Dutch. I nod for a while before realizing I only understand half of what they say, and can only reply in English. I smile and tell them so. They say,  “But you look so Dutch!”

It’s a compliment, I think. Which was not so much the case when a boy named Dave used to call me “Dutchie” in high school. Of course, he also called me “Inga, from Sweden”. And sometimes: “that cute but dopey girl”. On second thought, maybe he was flirting with me. I was never very good at picking up on signals, mostly because I was usually too tired to think straight.

The thing is, I need a LOT of sleep in order to function and when  I don’t get enough, I’m really kind of a disaster. Trouble is, I’m a ridiculously light sleeper and most any noise, movement or thought will wake me from a deep slumber in a heartbeat.

Here is a list of what wakes me up:

  • An airplane flying in the distance. Like, in Australia.
  • The 4 year old getting up to use the washroom.
  • Me, breathing.
  • A spider, spinning a web.
  • A ladybug crawling on the windowsill.
  • A cloud floating by.
  • A fruit fly landing on a banana in the kitchen.
  • Anyone, anywhere thinking about anything.

You get the idea.

It’s why I avoided sleepovers as a kid, how I became so easily addicted to sleeping pills during my college years and the reason I haven’t slept more than a few hours at a time since marrying an active sleeper. The thing is, as soon as Geoff shuts his eyes, he dreams. About mountain biking. His legs shimmy and shake as he barrels down hills, jumps stumps and hops over rocks. All. Night. Long.

Not at all conducive to a good night’s rest.

However, since landing in The Netherlands, I’ve slept like a baby. First I thought it was the comfortable surroundings, the familiar language, the croquette comas and the fact that we are living below sea level.

But, it isn’t any of those things. It’s the beds.

Instead of a queen or king mattress, Geoff and I are sleeping on two single beds pushed together to form one big bed.

It’s how they do it in Holland. Those Dutch. Always thinking.

Two sets of sheets, two duvets and a nice big crack separating personal space. It’s how I imagine heaven. This way, I  can sleep in the fetal position without being disturbed by the cycling tornado laying beside me.

Here’s our bed(s) after we got up this morning.  Go ahead and guess which side is mine.


I feel as though I’ve been drugged. In a good way. That’s how well I’m resting here. Which is why I’m already planning to chainsaw my mattress in half as soon as I get home.

Methinks Lucy and Ricky were on to something...


No, really.

Stop me if you've seen this one before

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

There was a major crisis at our house this morning. We’re all okay, but are still reeling from the impact.

I’ve since had a chance to regroup and am now able to talk openly about the ordeal.

Here’s what happened…

I couldn’t find my carry-on luggage. My bag was missing. Gone. For an entire hour and a half.

I accused everyone in the house of stealing it.

And then, I found it.

The thing is, we’re about to embark on a trip that we’ve been planning for almost a year. And as a result, I’ve been impossible to live with. You know, more than usual.

Full disclosure. I’m a terrible traveler. Mostly because I’m a wee teensy bit anxious.

Case is point: This is me, in the car, at the beginning of a journey…

“Did we lock the door?” 
“Do I have my wallet?” 
“Is there a roll of paper towels in the car?” 
“Who has the house keys?” 
“Did someone grab that red container I set by the door?” 
“Is it sitting upright in the back?” 

And that’s just a 20 minute trip to the grocery store.

See, I’m a little unclear on the concept of "the voyage". The problem is, instead of “getting away from it all”, I prefer to “take it all with me.”

As a result, packing often involves me digging through my closet and exhuming any and all items I never, ever wear but will inevitably take along because, you know, this is a holiday and nothing says holiday like baby blue corduroy jeans, black velour maternity pants that are really, really comfy and shirts with tiny wooden beads that go click click every time I reach for a coffee.

This is my luggage.
 

Still, I usually forget to bring underwear.

This past weekend, I was well on my way to filling my checked bag to absolute capacity, when we decided to go to a multi-family yard sale. Because, why wouldn’t we?

Wandering around, I spotted the usual flea market fare: stuffed toys, plastic placemats, yoga tapes and such. Also, three cards from a Busytown Mysteries game, an itchy scarf and a ceramic dish with a picture of a cat hugging a monkey. Which, incidentally, is now inside my daughter’s suitcase.

She’s about as efficient as I am when it comes to packing.

Now, the thing about taking a 4 year old to a yard sale is this. People tend to give kids the crap that’s not selling. And kids love crap. Which is how we ended up with a set of tweezers, a scale model of a New England town and the box from a game of Old Maid.

Score?
As I shuffled around, trying to avoid people, I recalled a yard sale we had held prior to our move two years ago. At the time, I was relentless and parted with an absolute abundance of stuff. Some of which I regretted selling.

That’s when I saw it.

A sweater - my sweater – was sitting there, minding its own, for the low, low price of $2.00. It was just $1.75 more than what I had sold it for all those years ago. Mostly because the sweater is pink. And I only ever wear black.

My precious. How I've missed you so.

No sooner had I bought my sweater back than Jan walked up to share with me her $1.00 purchase.

It was a purse. A black purse. The same black purse I had sold 2 years earlier for 25 cents.

I know, right?
We were totally winning the yard sale. (Did I mention our motto is buy high, sell low, buy high again?)

It was then that we decided to quit while we were ahead, but not before someone gave my daughter an unauthorized Miley Cyrus biography.

Apparently, it's what all the 4 year olds are reading.
 
In keeping with my pattern of lugging completely impractical junk with me on any trip I take, I’m planning to throw it in my purse, to read on the plane. Unless someone stops me. Please, someone stop me?


Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a pink sweater to stuff into my suitcase.

No, really.


---

All images are mine unless otherwise noted.
Luggage image: FreeImages.com/Linda DuBose

Clean up on aisle 5

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

You know how whenever you stub your toe, you inevitably spend the next few days whacking said toe into table legs and bed frames before running over it with your office chair because you aren’t paying attention, mostly due to the fact that you are stuffing chocolate chips in your mouth before your preschooler figures out where you are hiding?

Maybe it’s just me.

How about when you’re about to walk into a crowded room, wearing your new black pants, feeling rather Sophia Loren, only to have your old lady briefs slip up where they shouldn’t, right after you catch yourself tripping over your own heels?

Not that either?

Well, trust me, it is inexplicable and also magical – but not in a good way. I think it has something to do with magnets. Or maybe sound waves. I don’t know, really. My memory is fuzzy when it comes to Grade 10 Physics. In fact, I may not have taken that class at all.

In any case, I had one of these magnetic moments at the grocery store the other day.

Screw you aisle 5. Screw you.

Here’s the thing. My kid loves My Little Pony. It’s really my fault for trusting the Netflix ratings and letting her watch several episodes of “Friendship is Magic” before discovering the subliminal messages that run throughout each episode.

Attention preschoolers, this is Princess Celestia. Listen carefully and do as I say: Run around the house like a fool. Whinny at the top of your lungs. Jump over the sofa onto the coffee table. Pretend you are flying. Roll your eyes at your parents. Write letters to me. Put the markers in your mouth. Repeat. 

I’ve since banned the show until my daughter turns 12, but have allowed the odd toy to infiltrate the house, and by the odd toy I mean enough ponies to start a racetrack.

At the post...
I know how to set boundaries.

Also, I'm no monster. Even though - as a kid - I never become hooked on the colorful equines with insanely long tails (seriously, has anyone at Hasbro never watched a horse take a dump?), I did have a probably unhealthy addiction to smelly Strawberry Shortcake dolls and later, easy Glamour Gals figures. In other words, I understand how one could become obsessed with junk.

From this...
...to those. Remember them?
But I digress.

There I was, at the grocery store, with the 4year old sitting calmly in the cart. Nana was at the other end of the supermarket, digging into her list while I was at the end of mine.

That’s when I saw it.

At the end of Aisle 5, a big-ass display featuring Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Rainbow Dash. AKA: the leaders of the obnoxious Equestria gang. Also, Hot Wheels.

Son of a bitch.

I mean, it’s one thing to navigate around the candy at the checkout and the bendy straws, fuzzy worms and tiny plastic xylophones that are cleverly hung in front of the breakfast cereal and next to the peanut butter, but an entire freaking My Little Pony display?

It’s like the supermarket wanted to see me dance.

"Can I have one mommy?"

"No"

"Pleeeeeeeeease can I have one?"

"No"

"Just one?"

"No"

"Mommy?"

"No"


And so, I did what any mother would do. I pirouetted as I quickly distracted my child while turning the cart the opposite direction. You know, towards the KinderSurprise Eggs.

She didn't spot a hoof. Crisis averted.

I checked my list and lost my short-term memory in the process.

  • Dried chives. 

Spices were down at the other end of the store – on the aisle to the right, just past the…

Crap! My Little Pony! 

“Look, over there. What is that?” I shouted at my daughter diverting her gaze over to the ice cream display.

“You mean that fat lady?” She whispered, loudly and unhelpfully.

Never mind. The chives were in my cart and victory was mine.

I looked at the list again.

  • Coffee cream. 

No problem, I decided to take a shortcut and headed past the crackers towards the dairy case…

Dammit! My Little Pony! 

And so it went.


  • Almonds. 

Shit! 


  • Frozen peas. 

Bloody Hell! 


  • Orange juice. 

Oh for the love of god! 


Every item on my list brought me within inches of Ponyville. It was perplexing and exhausting to say the least. Both for me and for the store clerk who started to tail me after spying me on security cameras 4, 7 and 9. I must have appeared drunk as I orbited around the colorful display like a reprobate.

I ran out of distractions (Cheezies, raisins, jellybeans...) just as the last item I needed (Greek Yogurt) was in the cart.

“Here honey, open another Kinder Egg.”

What? At least those tiny toys can be easily lost in a purse, car seat or trashcan.

Suck it grocery store. I win at motherhood.

No, really.

With a cluck cluck here and a cluck cluck there

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

“Do you want to know how to rest a chicken?”

The 4 year old was in the back seat of the car, busting with new found barnyard animal knowledge.

The answer was yes. Geoff, Jan and I did want to know how to rest a chicken. Because, why wouldn't we?

Let me back up…

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my daughter in the short time I’ve known her, it’s that she loves critters more than chocolate, jellybeans, avocados, onions and canned sardines combined.

Yeah. I don’t know whose child she is either.

And she’s not choosy. Insects, amphibians, invertebrates, crustaceans, rodents, canines, felines, bovines, equines and poultry all generate the same level of adoration from the tiny person who, since she could speak, has consistently declared, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a veterinarian, because I take good care of animals.” 
 
If I could, I would fill our home with as many dogs and cats as we have rooms. But I can’t. And here’s why. My kid is allergic to animal saliva. It’s a real son of a bitch because; as you may or may not know, ALL ANIMALS HAVE SPIT. Hive-inducing, itch-producing spit.

So instead, we make due with worms, crickets, moths, houseflies and any random creatures we see while barreling down the highway.

Observe...

Roadside horse, spotted while driving 100km/hr.

"Can I touch it? Can I touch it? Can I touch it?"

So, this is a bearded dragon.

And that's the head of an 8 foot long snake.

 "Do you want to hold it mom?"

Frogger.

There aren't enough pickle jars in the world to house all of the insects this child has brought into our home.

Don't give us live seafood. These lobsters were delivered (alive) BACK into the ocean.  Geoff loves lobsters too but in a very different way.

She keeps this rabbit supplied. 
She's the pusher of the leporid world.

What you see: Squirrel heading for sunflower seeds. What you didn't see: Little girl pouncing on squirrel.

Taken just before the one on the right 
showed her his butt. 

Said to the zookeeper, "Can I feed him?" 

Cute when small. Terrifying when grown...

Sigh.

If you’re a follower of this blog you’ll know that this spring, we took a chance and  adopted a well-hung black bear hamster. Not exactly a dog but much better than a cricket, and - according to our rodent guys (Joe and Philip) - would be alive for 2 to 3 years.

Blackie before.
However, through no fault of their own (probably), Joe and Philip provided us with a dud who – very sadly – went from sick to stiff in a 24 hour period, just 5 short months after coming home with us.

It was a lesson I was not prepared to have my daughter learn at such a young age. Lesson being: you should never, under any circumstances, trust a rodent guy.

Blackie is buried now, in his hamster ball. So he can run. For eternity.

Blackie after.
Shortly after the fatality, Geoff brought home an abandoned baby field mouse.

There are no words.
That little guy filled the void -- for exactly five days, after which time he too found a special place in our garden, which is fast becoming known as the shrine of death.


In case you’re wondering, my daughter handled the expiration of the rodents as well as can be expected. Yes, there were lots of tears, questions, answers and hugs. Also, a few choice expletives (and a curse) directed at our rodent guys. But now the girl has parties in the garden - with her dead friends.

That’s perfectly healthy, right?

The hurt was eased one blissful day when, while at the neighbor’s house, my child discovered that the laying hens roam freely during certain times of the day.
Sure, they look docile enough. That's what they want you to think.
Sure she had handled a couple of newly born baby chicks, but full-sized, egg-laying, dirt-scratching, bug-eating birds? This was better than donuts.

I on the other hand, was less enthused.

I'm a good mom. I've touched wriggly grasshoppers. I've allowed my wrist to be adorned with live worm "bracelets". I've petted slugs.  But I draw the line at chickens because chickens give me the willies.
Her: Can I touch it?

Me: Uh… 

Her: Will it bite me?

Me: I don’t thi….. 

Her (cradling the bird): It’s so soft!

Me (inside my head): Oh dear god, oh dear god, oh dear god… 

Her: What is this flappy thing for? Do you want to pet it?

Me (eyes shut): Lemonade, tulips, ocean breezes, sandwiches, happy place, happy place… 

Her (whispering): Can I bring this one home since they have lots?

And so began a daily late-summer ritual for the 4 year old. Visit the neighbors. Play with the neighbor’s kids. Hold the neighbor's chickens. Try to smuggle a chicken home.

Repeat.
 

It’s a routine which has provided her with invaluable skills, like how to rest a chicken.

"First, you find a chicken that doesn’t move too fast. This is important. Then, you bend down and pick the chicken up, under her belly. Put her face on your shoulder, so she can see behind you. She likes that. Don’t forget to rub her feet, because chickens get sore feet  you know. Then, you lay the chicken down, on the ground and rub her tummy."


 

Understand, I'm paying attention to every word because I never know when this child will succeed in sneaking one of those flappers home and I'll actually find myself in the position of having to "rest" a chicken.
 
Maybe I'll just show it the pet cemetery.

No, really.

Don't touch it! DON'T TOUCH IT!

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Jan, the 4 year old and I were in the car - approaching the stop sign at the end of our road - when a dark roundish object in the middle of the pavement caught our attention.
 
We're a gang. We solve mysteries. What?

Me: I think it’s a baseball glove.

Also me: Or, half a watermelon.

Me again: Maybe it’s a giant cow patty.

Jan: We don’t have cows on our road.

She was right, of course. We may have three hundred and fourteen chickens living amongst us in our little rural neighbourhood (yes, I’ve counted them). But cows? Not so much.

Still…

The 4 year old: There’s a cow?! On our road?! Where’s the cow?! Stop!!!! I want to seeeeeeeee it!

Since it was garbage day, it seemed reasonable that a chunk of something or other had fallen out of the truck that dutifully hauls away whatever the raccoons, coyotes and feral cats haven’t claimed.

It wasn’t until we came to a full stop at the end of the lane, that we realized what was lying in the center of the intersection.

Me: I think it’s a turtle.

Jan: I think you’re right.

The 4 year old: It’s a turtle! I can’t believe it’s a turtle! Can we take it home?

We pulled off onto the gravel and turned on the hazard lights. You know, to investigate.

"Is it dead... I mean, sleeping?" I corrected myself as soon as I remembered I had a 4 year old daughter squeezing her fingernails into my hand. 

The three of us tiptoed up to the prehistoric looking creature. Slowly. There had never been a time when we were more like the gang from Scooby-Doo - minus a few key characters.



I was Velma Dinkely. Obviously.


The turtle's eyes were closed and it didn’t appear to be moving. One leg was contorted, the others hidden beneath its shell.

The prognosis appeared grim. And so, I did the only thing I could do. I stood on the road; blocked oncoming traffic, looked worried and shouted, "Don’t touch it! DON'T TOUCH IT!"

Jan, on the other hand was a little more proactive. Grabbing a leaf-covered branch, she proceeded to tickle the turtle. Because, why wouldn’t she?

The turtle opened its eyes and performed a half-assed snap at the irritating clump of leaves dangling in its face.

I was reminded of a story Geoff once shared about when, as a child, he poked at a snapping turtle with a stick. The creature had lunged at him, mouth open, biting his front bike tire in the process. The tire popped and Geoff ran home… his damaged bike hoisted over his shoulder.

Again, I offered some supportive advice, “Don’t touch it! DON’T TOUCH IT!”

Then, I called Geoff, who happened to be working at a local conservation organization. He asked around and came back with this helpful information from the scientists: “It’s probably a female looking for a place to lay her eggs. Don’t move it, unless it’s injured, in which case, bring it here." 

Zoinks?
"Bring her there?" I asked, "We can't get close to her! She's enormous! She's angry. Jan's tickling her right now. Can you come and do it?"

That last sentence is why Geoff leaves his phone in the truck more often than not.

He agreed to drive over and that's when IT happened.

A local lumber delivery truck came barreling down the road, headed right for the possibly injured, unquestionably irritated snapping turtle.

I immediately channeled my inner Tiananmen Square “Tank Man” and stood tall on the middle of the road with my enemy - the Kent truck - in my sights.

My grip on reality is a little like a clumsy toddler holding a soap-covered cat.

“Sooo. Whatcha doin?” drawled the driver as he slowed to a stop beside me.

“It’s a turtle.” I gasped. “She’s pregnant. Or sleeping. We’re not sure.”

“Uh huh."

Keep in mind, the delivery man was no stranger to my antics, having dropped off numerous building supplies to our home while we were under construction - often while I was in my pyjamas, climbing on dirt piles with my daughter, convinced I had just spotted yet another ostrich in the woods.

Just then, our neighbor, Jay, came around the corner in his truck.

“I’ll just pick her up and move her off the road.” He said, in a matter-of-fact way. Jay keeps chickens. Jay must be fearless.

While Jan chatted with the truck driver about our delivery, I crouched down at the tail end of the critter - a good distance away, with my daughter beside me - and settled in to a good cringe.

I was hoping Jay wouldn't get hurt - or worse - that he wouldn't wound the beast.

“Hey there little fella” he whispered, and with that, the turtle lifted her head, glared at Jay and his incoming arms, stood up, twisted around and came running… straight at me.

Now, you may think that turtles don't run and if you do think that turtles don't run, you would be wrong. They do.



The four year old and I got the hell out of the way and let that little bugger whoosh her way past our car and into the ditch. I called Geoff - who was now on his way - to let him know the ordeal was over.

"I hope you had your camera," he said, turning the truck around.

Um, yeah. I did. Unfortunately, I was too busy chasing after my imagination to take pictures. Except for this one.


No, really.