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August 8, 2013

My son is nothing if not an enigma.

The boy can be one tough little dude. I originally posted the following to Facebook on January 7, 2013:

I got a call from Daycare Wednesday to let me know that the boy had tripped and hit his face along the edge of a shelf. He cut his lip and, apparently, it took 15 minutes for them to staunch the blood. Interestingly, they said that, though he was still bleeding quite heavily, he got angry at them because they wouldn't put him back down so he could play with his little friends. “He’s the toughest baby I’ve ever seen,” one of his minders said. Fortunately he didn't require a stitch and he got to spend the rest of the day at home with Grandma.

Then, Saturday, he decided to do some wind sprints in our room and, predictably, fell head first into the bathroom door frame. Shortly thereafter he sprouted a Flintstone bump, the colour of which closely matched his lip.

Frankly, for all he looked like he’d gone through the ringer, he barely shed a tear. In fact, his behavior suggested that he felt these were little more than a nuisance; he barely batted an eye at them.

More recently, Megan was asked to sign another incident report at Daycare. A child bit Owen on the arm. Twice. Owen annoyed another toddler to the point that he felt compelled to gnaw at my son’s flesh not once, but twice. Hours later, two sets of teeth marks were still clearly visible. I’m told that, after the incident, while the other child shook with rage, Owen wanted lunch.

Pain, after all, doesn’t hurt. Hunger pangs, however, apparently do.

He’s fallen from great heights, righted himself, and gone about his way. He’s been clawed by the cat hard enough that even I have cringed, only to laugh and toddle off to watch tv in the next room. He’s tumbled down a handful of stairs; skidded off the furniture; and run face-first into tables, chairs, and windows. Heck, given the space to pick up enough speed, he’ll bounce off the walls and giggle at the “thud.”

And, like always, he’ll brush himself off, and set out to do it again and again….

Smaller children bore Owen. Given the opportunity to play with a kid his own age, Owen would far prefer to hang with boys or girls several times older and several times bigger than him. Last week we nearly had to tackle the boy as he tried to dart into the middle of a girl’s little league soccer match at the park. He was so excited watching all the older kids running around and enjoying themselves that he felt he simply HAD to be a part of it. Had we not reached him, Owen likely would have been trampled. He was angry that we wouldn’t let him play with the dozens of kids, each more than ten years his senior.

Again, wanting to be a part of “the fun,” Owen has, on more than one occasion, charged directly in the path of older kids riding their skate boards and bikes (and, as I alluded to a couple weeks ago, nearly brought a ten-year-old to tears after colliding with my son). And, more recently, the boy has deemed the toddler park too serene — he now wants to play at the bigger-kids playground. it’s far higher and far more dangerous, after all.

But that’s the point: Nothing phases him. Nothing scares him. He’s fearless. And, if things do go wrong, he’s proven to be a cross between a pinball and weeble. He’s nearly impervious to pain.

Which brings me back to the enigma.

Megan and I decided to spend some time this past Monday, a civic holiday here in Ontario, at the beach. We made the hour-drive north to Willow Beach, on Lake Simcoe. The weather was beautiful and, surprisingly, traffic was light. With much of this summer being cooler than normal, the water at the lake had a bit of a chill — nothing terrible, you adjusted once you were in it for a bit, but we knew it would be far too cold for the boy. Meg and I would take turns in the water while the other minded the boy as he played on the beach. We brought snacks and some toys: more than enough to occupy us as we whiled away a lazy afternoon.

We found ourselves a cozy nook on the beach and set out our blankets. We dished out our snacks (Owen digs Dorritos), and laid the boy’s toys out for him to make sand castles. The sun was out, and life was good.

There was one problem of course… it turns out our fearless, tough-as-nails little boy, hates sand.

He hated the feel of it on his fingers. He hated it on his feet. He hated it on his swimsuit. He didn’t much care for it on his toys — you remember, the ones he was supposed to build sand castles with. He absolutely abhorred the fact that there was sand everywhere on the beach.

My child refused to leave the safe confines of his beach towel because that would have necessitated stepping onto the sand. Owen was briefly coaxed from the towel after insisting (i.e., having a hissy fit) that we put his sandals on. That was short-lived, however, as he quickly became incensed when they too got sand in them.

A bloody nose? Put him down, he wants to play! Bitten on the arm? Is lunch ready? Jostled by kids several times his size and age? Pain? That’s just a word! Let him back at ‘em.

Sand? SAND?!?! THE HORROR!!!


August 6, 2013

While mowing the lawn this past weekend, I took a moment to admire my handiwork. I’ve worked hard to once again have my lawn looking rather nice. Quite a few people in my neighbourhood have largely neglected their lawns. I couldn’t do that. So, I spent a fair amount of time repairing much of the damage I was left with this past Spring — and I’ve also done a decent job of keeping on top of the weeds. Critters were the primary cause of all the damage, but the past couple of months have even been quiet. I haven’t seen Hoppy or any of his buddies in months and our shrubs are starting to bounce back because of it. There are still a few problem areas, but I would dare say that the landscaping at the Wormald homestead is beginning to look tip top.

So, after spending some time patting myself on my shoulder, I lugged the mower to the shed and, after packing it away, noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I walked to the side of the shed and spied three small holes along the foundation. I’ve seen these holes before.

Voles. The voles are back.

As I alluded to, this summer had been largely quiet. Never mind the rabbits, I hadn’t seen a vole in months. But after a quick inspection, it was apparent that a small team of specially-trained voles had crossed into my territory and had probed my defenses for weaknesses. The summer Détente was over.

The Vole Wars have returned to my yard.

For those of you that think I’m being melodramatic, consider this. Over the past three years, the United Nations and Amnesty International (had they actually been contacted or, frankly, cared) each estimated the number of voles maimed or killed on my property to be upwards of 100. This past Spring was particularly gruesome, with the number of confirmed casualties set at more than 20.

The Vole Wars tend to play out the same: voles clear tunnels beneath the shed and deck in the Fall and fortify their positions to last them through the Winter. The snow not only covers their movements, but makes offensive action against them impossible. The Spring thaw reveals the damage they’ve inflicted on my grass (they burrow small tunnels just below the grass; i.e., ”runs”), but also marks the beginning of my counter-offensive. Within a month or two, I have typically decimated their numbers and, unable to sustain such crippling losses, they retreat to other backyards during the summer months. They immediately begin breading a new crop of vole-troopers. Once they’ve sufficiently replenished their numbers, they return again and game continues. Think of it as furry guerilla fighters against a First-World blogger with access to modern artillery (mouse traps and chemical weapons).

I fished out some traps from the shed. They’d been laid previously this past Spring and were now rusted and showing their age. Older traps don’t snap with the same speed and force that new ones do, meaning Voles are sometimes able to escape (it also means that they’ll sometimes cripple, and not kill, the vole; meaning I'll need to finish the job — The Vole Wars can be gross). Older traps are a bit like unexploded munitions; they don’t always go off, but can still be quite deadly when they do. At any rate, they’d have to do for the time being. I set and laid the traps along the holes; if any voles were still under the shed, they’d be dealt with. It was then that I looked up and saw a lone vole dash along the fence and behind the shed.

A scout.

They’re far too nimble out in the open to catch. I would have needed Peanut were I to have had any chance. And even then, the ‘Nut is more of a “roll in the grass and warm my tummy” sort of cat now, and much less a “mercilessly hunt our enemies” sort of kitty (cut her some slack she’s old and has to deal with the boy each day).

Last summer, I tried to tell myself that I couldn’t war with the voles forever. I decided I needed to live in peace and, by late summer, I’d become so lax in my efforts to wage battle that you’d see a vole scurry along each time you went into the yard. I was weary from nearly two straight years of death (dead voles are icky; and I’m a usually a peacenik, in a non-hippie sort of way) and I subsequently allowed my defenses to become dilapidated and completely over-run. I simply lost the will to reset or lay new traps and, soon, the voles had gained unfettered access to my land. This lapse in judgement on my part enabled them to set up base and reinforce their numbers. Come Spring, however, I was taken aback by the amount of damage they were able to do to my grass. This year, I vowed to be resolute. I will not allow them unrestricted rite of passage. I will use everything at my disposal to prevent them from setting up redoubts and firebases along the perimeter of my yard.

I shall annihilate them before Winter.

This scout will have reported my movements to the other voles. They will also know about the old traps. When they return in numbers, however, new traps — each at their maximum effectiveness — will have replaced the older, slower ones. I shall seek out and locate the voles' entry points along the fence and mine those passage ways as well. If need be, I will spike their points of entry with Warfarin — vole poison. It has been years since I have unleashed a chemical attack. This year, however, I am determined to use everything at my disposal.

In the past, voles have launched their offensives from the safe confines of my neighbours’ properties. I will need to speak to them about the possibility of laying traps on their side of the boarder. While this is clearly an escalation of hostilities — Nixon seemed ok with going into Cambodia, and things turned out great for him — it is important that I deny them use of their industries, nullify their sanctuary, and inhibit their ability to make war against me.

I’m tired of spending weeks and countless dollars repairing the damage a God-less army of voles inflicts each year. This year, I will make the voles pay dearly for each step and every incursion they make into my yard. This year, I shall wage unlimited war. I shall destroy them all.

August 1, 2013

What’s in a word? Does a turn of phrase simply mean what was said, or is there a deeper meaning? How one uses a word and what that word really comes to mean aren’t always part and parcel. The past couple months have come to show me how people‘s idioms change when they’re discussing or referring to a child. They talk in a type of doublespeak and, the longer you’re exposed to it, the more you come to understand that it’s actually a secret “parent code” or “language” that's employed when talking about kids — particularly someone else’s kid.

A couple days ago, I needed to sign an accident report at Daycare. Owen, in his enthusiasm to say goodbye to one of his little friends, ran headlong into a door frame, leaving him with a bump on his forehead. Daycares, for liability reasons, need to fully document when your kid does something stupid. So, while I was going over the report with his minder the next morning, Owen, who had been sitting eating his breakfast, popped from his chair and started making the rounds, saying hello to all of his classmates as they ate their Rice Krispies.

His minder grabbed tmy son’s hand and led him back to his chair. “Owen is always an active eater,” she said.


“Active eater,” as in, he gesticulates a lot when he eats? He actively enjoys his food? He chews his food thoroughly? No, it was apparent that this was daycare-speak for, “Your kid won’t keep still, and he consistently bothers the other children.”

“Oh,” I said, “an active eater.”

Here’s another example. While I now tend to drop Owen off at Daycare in the morning, and Megan usually picks him up in the evening, an after-work appointment that Meg needed to tend to left me responsible for springing the boy last night. The ladies overseeing the afternoon shift aren’t the chattiest lot and queries about the boy’s day tend to be little more than, “He was good.” Last night was different, however. Instead, I was told that “We worked on Owen’s sharing skills.”

This comment, at least initially, seemed rather innocuous. “Oh,” I said, “sharing?”

Apparently, this didn’t mean that they tried to teach Owen to lend a crayon to the crayon-less little girl beside him. Instead, it turns out, even this is seemingly straight-forward statement is a form of daycare-speak — a more complicated example of “the code.” In reality, Owen’s lackluster “sharing skills” cryptically meant that he was actually trying to toss smaller kids from the peddle cars in the outdoor playground so that he could play in them instead. Thus, in everyday parlance, “We worked on Owen’s sharing skills” really meant, “Your son was an inpatient bully and we did our best to save the smaller children.”

As I blogged about last month, Owen spent an afternoon at a daycare chum’s birthday party. The event was held at an indoor play yard, meaning Owen had loads of room to run and carry on in. At times, Megan and I had our hands full trying to slow the boy and reign in some of his boundless energy. He bounced off of things, he tumbled, he darted, be nearly blew the walls off of the joint. He had a great time.

Towards the end of the party, all the kids were corralled into a smaller room for pizza and cake. Once Owen had rested and had thoroughly replenished his energy reserves, he jumped from his chair and started running laps around the tables and around the children that were still enjoying their lunch. The birthday boy’s grandmother asked me if Owen was "always this happy.”

hap•py /ˈhapē/

1. Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.
2. Having a sense of confidence in or satisfaction with (a person, arrangement, or situation).

I can assure you that she didn’t mean “pleasure” or “contentment.” And she sure as Hell didn’t mean “confidence with a situation.” No, this was another form of "code" and, from the look on her face, I didn’t need a cypher to understand that she really meant, “Why won’t your kid keep still like all the other children?”

Frankly, I could go on. (“Your son doesn’t have an ‘off button,’ does he?” “Your son sure is enthusiastic.”) But this obviously begs the question: why won’t anyone simply come out and say what’s on their mind. I mean, even trained daycare professionals are apparently forced to speak in tongues when discussing your child’s development or behaviour. You’d think they, of all people, would be more forthcoming with their assertions that your kid can be a pain in the ass.

For Pete’s sake, I’m the boy’s father. No one knows that he’s a pain in the butt more than me! I think I can handle the straight truth — after all, I live it every day! I can only assume there are some bleeding heart parents out there that honestly believe their children walk on water and are genuinely gobsmacked to learn that neither Emily or Jacob are the Second Coming. “What do you mean Gabriel bit someone? NO! NOT MY GABRIEL!”

I am under no such allusions. The boy came running from the dining room last night, crying. Peanut popped him on the nose again. He looked to me with those sad eyes, his lip quivering. “Get over it, boy. What did you do to her,” I said, rather bluntly. We all know full well that he instigated the situation (he either hit her, or at least frightened her, with a soccer ball). In her 14 years, the Nut has never just walked up to someone and randomly clawed them on the nose. Sorry Owen, but it's true.

Nonetheless, things are so much easier when you deal with the obvious and discuss the facts in a similar manner. Rather than saying, “Megan and I are endeavouring to work on Owen’s poor ball-handling skills,” I’m more inclined to say, “The boy annoyed the cat and got walloped for his troubles. He can cry all he wants, but he needs to learn to leave the cat alone.”

See? Wasn’t that easy? I just wish people would get over themselves and comment on my kid’s misbehavior in a similarly straightforward way. It'll save us all a lot of time if I don't need to go home and decipher someone's cryptic assertion about my son's behaviour or activities.

I dropped Owen off at daycare this morning. An assistant from one of the other classes saw Owen and I walking down the hall. “Owen, sweetheart, come give me a hug,” she said. She then turned her attention to me and said, “He’s my absolute favourite! He’s the best!”

What? Wait, what the Hell does that mean?!