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August 19, 2013

Since starting this blog, I’ve received a number of suggestions about topics people think I should write about. I’ve shied away from each of these ideas. I remember reading somewhere that Charles Shulz, the creator of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang, would always politely decline any suggested storyline that his friends or readers would offer him. Over the 50 or so years that he penciled his cartoon, every one of this stories stemmed from his imagination — he never once explored anyone else’s suggestion. I initially thought Shulz arrogant, but I’ve come to understand why he did this. You see things differently than others and write your material accordingly. It’s tough to properly immerse yourself into something so deeply personal when isn’t your own.

That being said, coming up with something different to write two, three, four times a week can be daunting. I look to the world around me for inspiration and there are definitely times when Owen will do something that just screams, “Blog about that!” Sadly, the world can sometimes be a bit fuzzy and a bit boring. Inspiration can often be hard to ascertain or find. My hard drive is littered with pieces that I started and either abandoned, or finished and tossed aside because, well, it sucked. I try to see beyond the mundane, or at least position something in an interesting, often funny way. Sometimes that’s just not always possible. Sometimes the words elude me. Sometimes, like I said, what I’ve written is patently awful.

I’ve joked with friends that, from time to time, I need a guest writer — kinda like how Carson, when he went on vacation, would employ guest hosts on the Tonight Show.

This got me to thinking…. So why not get one then? It’s been a long summer, so maybe now is an appropriate time to open my blog to others and elicit their opinions and their words. As luck would have it, I received a submission over the weekend.

The humans have finally left for the day. I have long intended to commit my divine thoughts to paper, but that insufferable smaller human, Owen, and his incessant whining about Fireman Sam has, until now, made that impossible. How the larger one, Jason, and his female companion — I’ve never felt the need to learn her name; “the long-haired blonde” — continue to bow to that hair-less kitten’s will is a mystery to me.

I once ruled this fiefdom with benevolence. I graciously allowed Jason and what’s-her-name into my home. To satisfy their need for constant attention and validation, I acknowledged their presence and ate the daily offerings they presented me. And, when I felt them worthy, I would sit among them and allow them to rub my chin and worship my magnificence by stroking my belly. Everything was right and just.

But life has become tumultuous since they introduced Owen. I tolerated him initially as I assumed they would wean him and quickly toss him out when his eyes opened and he learned to forage on his own. The child is clearly mentally- and physically-delayed as he has yet to hunt down a single mouse. He hasn’t even shown an inclination to capture his own dinner and, instead, constantly demands that the blonde feed him. And, when his needs are not met, he emits a rancorous noise to note his displeasure. In truth, were it not for the larger male’s exceptional ability to slay and capture voles, I would think all humans incapable of hunting.

The small one truly disgusts me. In nearly two years, he is still unable to use the litter box and instead soils himself several times a day. Interestingly, he has shown his mastery over Jason and the long-haired-one by demanding that they clean his filth for him. All the more maddening is the small human’s propensity to stroke my fur with his putrid hands. It is all I can do not to cleave his retched appendages from him. Nonetheless, I am now forced to spend inordinate time cleaning his immoral muck from my pristine coat. It has gotten to the point where I have licked much of the fur on my arms and stomach in a never ending attempt to cleanse myself of his stench. I should hope that he soon learns to groom himself or I fear I shall be completely bald in a fortnight.

I have also grown tired of the boy’s inability to maintain even the remotest sense of calm or composure. He refuses to keep still and believes it “fun” to awaken me from my slumber and chase me through the house. I have heard the others refer to him as “energetic,” and “exuberant,” but I find him no better than a lowly thug. Equally infuriating, on more than one occasion he has shown the temerity to physically assault me. I have tried to discipline the incorrigible child with gentle swats to his nose. While I enjoyed tasting the boy’s blood on my claws, this drew the ire of the other humans, particularly the adult female. I have since noted my displeasure with their disobedience with several, well-placed hairballs at the foot of their bed. They are lucky to have been let off with a warning. I will not be as forgiving of their future transgressions and disobedience.

Simply put, Owen must leave. I cannot stomach the thought of sitting through any more of his mind-numbing cartoons. Thomas and Friends and Toopy and Binou are dulling my brain. Furthermore, I am similarly unable to listen to another Sesame Street song. I have come to hate the one they call, Elmo — he makes my ears bleed. I will not be held responsible for my actions if this tiny human continues to make his presence felt in my house. I have shown great reluctance to mete out the sort of punishment he readily deserves — but even my benevolence has its limits.

With this being said, it has now become readily apparent that Owen has no intention of leaving my home. As such, I recently elicited several voles and rabbits from the neighbourhood to help me evict him. Sadly, the larger human has proven quite the adversary. Despite passing along intelligence about the human’s movements and defenses, Jason was nevertheless capable of obliterating a legion of voles and he deftly dispatched with several of my best rabbits. It has been weeks since I was last able to make contact with any of my allies. Suddenly isolated, I have made several vain attempts to establish direct communication with both my vole and rabbit friends. Unfortunately, the blonde female halted each of my attempts at breaking through the front lines and linking up with the others. Owen is lucky to have enlisted such brave and noble protectors.

I shall have to seek other means to ensure this child’s undoing. I will instead bide my time and continue to vomit in rarely-used rooms throughout the house. It is my sincere hope that they will blame the small one and do away with him when he refuses to bend to their wishes.

Blast! I hear the humans returning. I must find a stack of newly-washed clothes to curl up in!!!

– Peanut


August 14, 2013

As I’ve constantly alluded to, Owen’s a little buzz-bomb of frenetic energy. He never walks, he runs. He does nothing at half speed. For the most part, the only time he’s still is when he’s asleep or eating… and even then, neither are an absolute guarantee that he’s actually still. Whether he’s darting from one toy to the next, or running laps through the house, Owen is the definition of perpetual motion. Some find this endearing, I find this exhausting.

The following is an example of a typical five-minute span, on a typical day, in Owen’s life:

He wants up. He wants down. Daddy, read this! He wants down. He wants up. Mummy, read that! He wants down. He wants a snack. He wants to go upstairs. He wants a drink. He wants to go outside. He wants to watch TV. He wants to play with his cars. He wants to hug his Elmo doll. He wants to chase the cat. He wants to pet the cat. He wants you to staunch the blood from the cut on his nose. He wants up. He wants down…

And on it goes. Hour after hour. Day after day. Like I said, it’s exhausting. Recently, the cat has started darting outside the instant you open the front door. In her 14 years, she’s never done that before, but the reality is she’s finally had it with the boy and is trying to check out. Luckily, we’ve always been able to successfully lasso her before she can get too far. The furthest she’s made it was the neighbour’s porch. Frankly, if we’re to be trapped in the house with him, she can make do as well.

Typically, assuming one of us isn’t hiding in the shower, Megan and I do our best to shoulder the boy’s “enthusiasm” as equally as we can between us. It’s important that neither one of us let our tank run completely dry (or else there’s a chance we’d be right alongside the cat trying to escape ourselves… and I can’t say for sure I’d be quick or strong enough to wrestle Megan back to the porch). Thankfully, Megan and I work full-time during the week, meaning he’s Daycare’s problem a good chunk of the time. Considering how tired we each are after minding the boy for two measly days, I can only assume that Daycare fields a staff of immortal superheroes. How they manage to care for Owen AND 14 other children for five straight days will forever be a mystery to me!

Last Christmas, I had initially balked at Megan’s suggestion that we give each of the boy’s minders a thank-you gift. I figured they were paid to watch my kid and wondered why we should feel obligated to give them an extra gift for simply doing their jobs. Clearly, I was wrong and, in hindsight, the chocolates and Tim Horton’s giftcards Megan gave them was very apropos — they almost certainly needed the caffeine and extra sugar to keep up with the boy. This year, we might be well-served to consider giving them hard liquor and cigarettes!

More recently, the past couple days have been rather hard on me. I’m courageously suffering through my second Man Cold of the summer. This one isn’t as bad as the first, but it seems to be hanging around a little longer than the first. Judging by the unrest in Egypt, the Senate scandal here in Canada, and my Man Cold, the world has been a truly dark place lately.

For Megan and me, caring for the boy in complete health is a challenge; caring for him when one of us has taken ill is far more an ordeal. Caring for Owen while ill AND while Megan was away at a work-related meeting is beyond words. That’s right… I, along with my Man Cold, needed to mind the boy for an evening, ALONE.

[Cue sound of the audience gasping — “GASP!”]

I knew from the moment I gathered Owen from Daycare that I would need to survive for approximately 2.5 hours — that is, from the time I picked him up, it would be approximately two-and-a-half hours before the boy would go to bed. As I drove the boy and I home, I began plotting a sort of “route of least resistance” to reach that goal: What could I do that would keep the boy happy and mitigate the amount of energy I needed to expend. Such was my challenge.

Sadly, in my weakened Man Cold-state, I was flaking out after “feed the boy dinner.”

The Park? Felt too bad; I’d never make it. The backyard? See my park excuse. Play “Hide in the cold cellar”? That’s probably mean and it would get me arrested. Sadly, most of the things I came up with required energy, and by that time, I had surprisingly little to spare. Besides, I knew Owen wouldn’t stand for a half-effort on my part — he hates it when you mail it in.

I started Owen’s dinner: eggs, potatoes and some peas (yummy, I know; my next gig is my own show on the Food Network). He started eating and I was still racking my brain for ideas. He gobbled his supper quickly and soon asked for more. I slowly started tossing him bits of cracker in a vain effort to draw out dinner as long as I could — it was like a retiree tossing bread to the ducks, vainly trying to while away yet another lazy morning.

By six o’clock I finally relented and admitted that my son couldn’t stomach any more food and conceded that he was done. I needed to make it through two more hours. I felt awful, but the boy was raring to go. After running a few laps through the halls to burn off his dinner, Owen grabbed his favourite Curious George book and motioned for me to pick him up — this required little energy on my part, but it was a challenge, nevertheless, seeing as I was doing my best not to breathe on him.

The book lasted some twenty seconds before he was off again. Owen would spend the next 45 minutes jumping on me, driving his cars across me, ripping the pillow from beneath my head, smacking me with said pillow in the head, playing with every toy that played music or made a loud sound, turning the tv both on and off, screaming at the non-existent rabbit in the yard, spilling both milk and water on the couch and floor, soiling himself, trying to hide his crayons under my leg, dumping all his blocks into the middle of the floor and then not playing with them, and putting Fireman Sam stickers on both me and the cat.

Well, as I said, that killed 45 minutes; still more than hour to go, though. As Owen chased after Peanut, trying his best to collect the stickers he put on her tail, it occurred to me that it was bath night! “OWEN!! C’MON BUDDY, IT’S BATH TIME!”

After convincing Owen that he could get his stickers from the cat later, we made our way upstairs and soon the boy was bathing in a tepid pool of water. He likes the bath and other than washing him, I didn’t have to do much. I sat on the floor across from my son as he played with his toy boat. I was so tired. Between work and minding the boy, I was exhausted and was starting to feel pretty rough and completely worn down. I started nodding off. My eyes were burning and the only thing I wanted to do at that moment was sleep. I was so close to drifting off that I could taste it.

Naturally, it was then that Owen poured a bucket of bath water onto my lap. Now fully awake, I shot to attention and glared at the boy. “All done, Daddy, all done,” he said.

I stood there dripping and stared at him. He threw a leg over the side of the tub. Yup, he was finished with his bath and I still had 45 minutes to kill.

It was then that I wondered what would Dr. Huxtable do? What would the Beaver’s parents do? What would my friends do? I thought about it for a good three or four seconds and I decided I really didn’t care. “Owen, do you want to watch TV? Do you want a show? Fireman Sam?”

“YEAH!”

Oh, thank God…. I should have thought of that hours ago!


August 12, 2013

When I was first told that I would be having a son, I had, like most fathers, dreams about all the things I would do together with him: I’d wrestle and rough-house with him, I’d teach him about sports, I’d teach him to ice skate, and how to throw a ball. I’d impart the wisdom and knowledge to him that took me years to fully comprehend, like how to tell when Mummy was really, really angry at you versus just kind of annoyed… You know, the important things in life. I have even day dreamed about some of the “firsts” we’ll experience together, like his first Maple Leaf hockey game, his first auto race, and maybe even his first rock concert.

And while he’s not yet even two years of age – let’s face it, there’s still plenty of time for all of that — I have to admit, things have shaken up a little differently so far than I anticipated.

“Mommmmmmmmmy!!! Mommmmmmmmmy!!!”

Yeah, Owen’s currently a Mummy’s boy. And Daddy, it would seem, sucks.

That last bit is a touch harsh. “Mummy rocks,” is probably more apt. I fully appreciate that this preference for one parent over the other isn’t uncommon in small kids and, given time, a complete reversal is bound to happen and, one day, I shall rock in Owen’s mind, and Mummy will be temporarily relegated to sidelines, but for now, anyway — I suck.

“Owen, it’s time for bed. Go with Daddy.”
“NO!! MOMMY!”

“Owen, it’s time for bed, give Daddy a hug.”
"NO!”

“Owen, Mummy’s going to work.”
"NOOOOOOOO!!! MOMMY, NO!”

“Owen, Daddy’s going to work.”
“Bye bye!”

The little bastard, that last one stung a bit.

Through Owen’s short life, Megan and I have tried to split the child-rearing chores (perhaps “duties” is the more appropriate word; but I’m sticking with “chores”…. parents will understand) as evenly as we could. We try to even out who changes his diapers, and we always alternate who puts him to bed each evening. I bathe the boy, and Megan will dress him in his pajamas. I take Owen to daycare in the morning, and Megan will pick him up in the evening.

Fifty-fifty.

We’re like a modern Leave it to Beaver-style family, where each parent equally guides the lad through one learning experience after then next, only instead of the 1950s it’s localized in The Vaughan, everything’s in colour, and instead of “Golly gee!” we actually swear n’junk. And, it all seemed to work well, at least for a while. Owen went to sleep just as well regardless of who took him to his room. He ate, regardless of whether Mummy or Daddy fed him. He seemed comfortable doing just about anything with either of us. It was almost like the gods bestowed upon us a divine plan, watched as we executed it to a tee, and then changed the rules just as we got self-aggrandizing and comfy.

You see, it was right around then that the boy decided that Daddy sucked and, instead, wanted Mummy for everything.

Megan loves much of the extra affection. She tries to sneak in as many extra cuddles and hugs as she can. For me, frankly, it’s tough to stomach that your son prefers Mummy over you. You tell yourself that it’s temporary — that he doesn’t love her more than you, per se — but you can’t help but feel like the cat after he popped her in the head with a sippy cup.

It hurts.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a partial upside to this Mummy-only-ness. For example, I would be less-than-truthful were I to say that I don’t smile a bit (on the inside, Meg would not tolerate me outright laughing) when the boy walks up to us, points to his diaper, exclaims, “poo poo,” and then demands that Mummy, not Daddy, change him.

Sorry Meg, from pleasure must come pain.

I’ll also admit, watching the boy run Megan ragged does tend to mollify the pain a degree or two. That she hasn’t gone to the bathroom alone in months has a way of stifling my frown. Megan can’t surf the net without him wanting to help. Hard day at work, Meg? Get over it, Owen wants you to read him 19 different books, one after the other. Want to sit back and enjoy your morning coffee, sweetheart? Better gulp it down, Owen wants to go play in the backyard — with you and only you!

Daddy sucks, remember.

And, interestingly enough, for all he wants to immerse himself in all things Mummy, he sure doesn’t listen to a word she says to him. Whereas he’ll at least acknowledge my instruction or command, he’ll out and out ignore Meg (and then cast the cheekiest smile at her when she gets angry at him — “Who me? But I love you Mommy!”). And, considering all he wants to do is play with Megan, he has the nastiest habit of clocking her in the mouth with his toys (and, again, laughing as he sends Mummy to the bathroom, bleeding).

This dichotomy leaves me somewhat conflicted. No one likes to be second fiddle, especially when it comes to your son’s attention and affection. But, to be honest, he really does hit Megan pretty hard. And he pulls her hair. A lot. He doesn’t do any of that to me, and I body slam him. (Relax, we’re just rough housing it — we’re playing! Don’t wig out and call Children’s Aid).

And when I think about it, Owen only wants Megan to feed him, and change him, and take him to bed, and get him up in the morning, and take care of him when he’s sick, and play with him when something really good is on tv, and take him to the park, and take him to daycare, and pick him up from daycare…

Wait a second. What was my point again?

Oh yeah, so I am going to have to get some new traps. The older rusted traps seem incapable of snaring any voles. They’ve set off three traps and not one of them was killed or maimed. Unacceptable.

I will protect my grass! I will save my lawn!