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January 8, 2014

I’ve had a number of emails and messages asking when I was going to start writting again. This blog has been at the top of my mind for a while now, but the past couple months have been busy. Most of my free moments have been spent in the basement. Framing has taken far longer than I had anticipated and the rest of my time has been occupied with holiday cheer, sick Owens, sick Megans, and sick me (i.e., ill, not depraved… screw you guys). Oh, and all the while, my employer expected me to actually do the work they were paying me for, meaning I had to nap at home instead of in my office.

Such has been my lot in life, but I have bravely charged forward, meeting my tasks and responsibilities head on… And cleverly snuck in naps were I could. Important Safety Note: Employees at Wendy’s will poke you with a spatula when you fall asleep in one of their restaurants.

Nevertheless, early this past Monday morning, the electricians showed up to begin wiring my basement. They had a full day ahead of them as we were looking to have the space decked out with all manners of pot lights, switches, plugs and other electrical do-hickies. Electricians aren’t terribly cheap. But whereas I would find myself damp if I messed up the plumbing, if I messed up the wiring I could find myself dead. That’s hard to overcome when you’re negotiating levels of remuneration.

Fortunately, Megan had a specific request concerning how she wanted a string a of lights to work that would prove, it turned out, inordinately difficult for them to do. So, by day’s end, the electricians’ near constant, day-long grumbling somehow justified their fee in my mind.

After an initial walk through with the master electrician, my usefulness was soon rendered more in line with a nuisance, so I skipped up to the living room and reacquainted myself with daytime television. After flipping through a handful of channels, I settled in on a World War II, D-Day documentary.

No sooner had the first landing craft come under German fire, I got a call from a courier looking to deliver the vanity and mirror Megan ordered from The Home Depot. I let him know that I home and could accept the package and, a short while later, a massive 18-wheeler gingerly made its way through my narrow, snow-covered streets. I threw on a pair of shoes and waited to greet the driver at the door. A tiny waif of a man then ambled from the truck and made his way to the back of the trailer. Had I not just seen him climb from the driver’s seat I would have sworn he was Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol.

Standing no more than three apples tall, I wondered incredulously whether the weight of his boots were the only thing tethering his gaunt frame to the Earth. He lowered our package using the truck’s motorized elevator and, with some difficulty, hoisted it onto a trolley. He then scanned the size of my delivery, noted the stairs leading to my front door, spied the box again and said, “We’re putting this in your garage, right?”

“Umm, no. In through the front door,” I said.

He took another look at the box, and turned to me and said, “No, can’t do that. Ummm… Can’t do it. Ahh… too icy. Yes, very icy. Dangerous for me.”

His reluctance to bring the box into my home had, I imagine, far more to do with the snow and ice and absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the box significantly outweighed him. It was freezing out and by then I wanted nothing more than to return to the warmth of my couch and see if the Nazis had gotten what was coming to them. So, with my help, we together put the vanity in the garage. He steered the trolley while I pushed.

The courier was soon exhausted and asked for water. I gave him a glass and wished him well. In hindsight, I likely should have asked if he also wanted a cookie. He thanked me, “God bless us, every one,” and made his way off. Let that be a lesson to us all: no one, no matter how frail or sickly, will ever be disqualified from delivering packages for Scrooge or The Home Depot.

Megan and I later lugged the box into the house. She has an alternate career awaiting her should her regular gig not work out. She did seem confused when I asked if she wanted a cookie.

As the day progressed, the electricians continued to pound their way through the basement. By that point, I was on a high, stoked that the Allies had secured a foothold in occupied Europe. I decided to switch up my television viewing habits and instead watch a movie. Some 20 minutes later, I realized The Hobbit couldn’t hold my interest. I needed something more intellectually stimulating, so I flipped on The Expendables 2. For anyone that isn’t hip to the Expendables franchise, Sylvester Stallone and nearly every action star from the 1980s unite to kill evil-doers. For anyone interested in a more in-depth synopsis, no need. You’re now fully abreast of the movie and its major plot points.

It would do nicely.

No sooner had Sly killed the head baddie (played by noted thespian Jean-Claude Van Damme) than I was greeted by the sound of the doorbell — a drywaller had arrived to proffer me an estimate for dressing my now barren walls with layers of gypsum. It was then that I, with the upmost haste, opened the door and was greeted with, “F*ck, what a shitty day. Forgot my wallet and my smokes. Sh*t, you doin’ ok, brotha?”

Ok, indeed.

We made our way into the basement and, after scanning the space, he asked me, “So what sort of sh*t do you want down here?”

Sorry, what?

I looked at him and noticed the electrician in the background biting his lip. I briefly outlined what I wanted done. He took a couple measurements and then complained about the narrowness of my stairs and the layout of my basement.

I fought the urge to ask if he was stoned and instead asked him a benign question because, well, it seemed like something to do. He ignored my query and questioned whether if I was going to spray foam the basement. I told him I was, which precipitated a sordid rant about a particular company spray foam company I had no intention of using. He actually spent more time complaining about spray foam than he did asking me about my actual needs or concerns.

I could see the electrician was visibly trying to stifle a laugh. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he asked, “So what would you want me to do with your garbage?”

My garbage? Huh? Unable to contain himself, the electrician had to excuse himself.

“Would you want me to get rid of it,” he asked.

“As opposed to what,” I asked.

“Don’t worry, brotha, throw me a couple bucks and I’ll get rid of your sh*t.”

He grabbed a pencil and began scribbling notes on one of the studs. He was calculating his estimate…. on a piece of my lumber. He gave me his estimate and told me to let him know in a couple days whether I wanted to go with his company. I asked if he would give me a written quote and was told he could text it to me if I really needed it. I told him not to bother.

I could go take a picture of my stud if need be.

A shake of the hand and the drywaller was soon gone. All in, he was there little more than five minutes. Most of which he used to complain about spray foam. The electrician returned and, tongue firmly in cheek, asked if I would be hiring him.

I winked and said, “Hey, his price is quite competitive. Go look for yourself. It’s on the stud near the furnace room.”

He laughed. I laughed. His assistant laughed. At good time was had by all. I went back upstairs. I needed to watch the end of The Expendables 2 before the guy slated to repair my boiler showed up.

Days like this remind me of why I need to blog more often. I stopped for a moment and hopped this other guy wouldn’t have to replace my boiler. Not sure what I would do with the garbage….

December 19, 2013

I loved television as a kid.

We didn’t have a lot of money, so tv formed the bulk of our entertainment. The first tv that I can remember was this little black and white set. I can’t imagine that it was any bigger than 12”. We made do with it for a while, picking up whatever channels we could over the air. For such a tiny set, it sported one disproportionately big aerial out the back. Sometime thereafter, we were given a slightly larger television. Now, some 30 years later, I have no concept of how big it was — maybe 20” — but it was enclosed within a massive wooden case that dwarfed the size of the screen. To that point in my life, I had yet to see a televised program in colour.

That would change when, in the early 1980s, we had finally enough money to afford a 20” colour set. It was marvelous. It marked the first time I could say with authority that Big Bird was yellow and that his sidekick, Mr Snuffaluffagus was brown. We were still limited in the number of channels we could get, but for the first time I could remember, I believed we were living the high life! I could tell the colour of Mr. Rogers’ sweaters. I could see that the Maple Leafs sported blue jerseys. Life was sweet.

Even back then, technology, as it’s want to do, was taking all sorts of leaps — and this was especially true in the Wormald household. Friends gave us something called a “converter box” to hook up to our set. It was a box, connected to the television by a wire, that actually allowed you to change the channel you were watching FROM THE COUCH! Gone forever were the days of getting my young ass up and having to manually flip from one channel to another… y’know, like a sucker. Now, I could flip effortlessly between cartoons without batting an eyelash (or endlessly whining at my mom for her to go and do it for me).

Our technological revolution continued a couple years later when a fledgling company called Rogers Cable offered our apartment complex the ability to subscribe to 30, even 40 different channels. Before we knew it, we’d replaced our insanely annoying rabbit ears with a single wire from the wall. Heck, we even replaced the corded convertor box with one embued with all manners of witchcraft and the ability to change from one channel to the next without the need of a cable!

Perhaps nothing illustrated the excesses of the ‘80s quite like when we purchased our first VCR. Too poor to wade into the bloody VHS-Beta conflict that spelled the early part of that decade, we hopped aboard the television-recording bandwagon once Beta finally went by the wayside. Not only were we blessed with literally dozens of full-colour channels, but were suddenly bestowed with the ability to record them at will!

We may not have had much, but we had the ability record and watch WKRP in Cincinnati as many times as we wanted.

I can’t even begin to describe, as the ‘80s turned into the ‘90s what it was like when I got my very own tv in my bedroom. I still choke up a little. Those definitely were the days.

By then, the dozens of channels we had to choose from had grown to such epic heights where we had upwards of 50 or 60 channels, including TSN (an all-sports channel) and The Weather Network (ummm. an all-weather network). Suddenly I could see most every Toronto Maple Leafs game and ALSO know whether it was snowing outside the arena.

Such was life back then. Fast forward to today.

Owen loves tv; so much so that the boy’s first words, right after “Mommy,” were “show” and “clicker.”

Megan and I are far more secure financially than Mom and I were back in the day — but tv nevertheless marks an important aspect of the boy’s everyday life. Presently, we have three televisions, with plans to add a fourth and possibly a fifth set once the basement is done (Meg and I are still debating this… and by “debate” I mean of course, she is against it and I am outfitting the space for the fifth set, assuming my finely-honed whining will eventually wear her down). We have a 47” television in the living room (this will go downstairs when the basement is completed), a 32” set in our bedroom, and a 20” set in the office. Meg wants to add a smaller replacement television for the living room and I want one for my man-land, hideaway bunker.

All of our sets are a flatscreens; two are in HD, and one works on a lower-definition digital signal. Each is connected via Rogers Cable. (Remember them? They’ve grown a smidge since the ‘80s; they now own part of the Toronto Maple Leafs and just bid $5 billion to secure the national rights to the NHL. That’s billion with a ‘b’… They’re doing ok for themselves since they started selling us programming more than 25 years ago.) We currently have access to some six or seven hundred channels — most in high definition.

The television in the living room is equipped with a PVR (a personal video recorder; a DVR for my American readers). It allows me to record most anything I want. We also have access to Video-on-Demand. Most channels offer us the ability to watch their programs whenever we want, usually for free, at the press of a button (hence the “on demand;” it’s convenient if you ever forget to watch or record a particular program).

Among the “on-demand” stations we have access to are TreeHouse and Disney. They each enable us to watch hours and hours and hours of god-awful childrens cartoons, whenever we want, as often as we want.

Owen digs this.

Whereas when my favourite childhood shows ended I had to wait an entire day to see another episode, Owen simply turns to Mummy or Daddy and demands another. And, should we refuse, he grabs the remote, hoists it on to our laps, and points to the tv: “Another show, Mummy! More Dora!”

Or, “More Sam!”

Or, “More Sofia!”

Or, “More Jake!”

Owen is currently able to sing the theme songs, or recite names of the major and minor characters, of each of the following shows:

For perspective, he can name two colours.

So, whether it’s 5:30 am, or 6:30 pm, he knows we have the ability to access each and every one of his favourite shows and that he has multiple episodes to choose from. Where I was happy not to have to get up from the couch to flip between channels, he demands different shows when he grows bored of them part of the way through.

Not content with extraordinary crispness and unending choice from each tv, he has also discovered our tablets…

Between videos and YouTube, tablets have much the same ability to entertain the boy as a full-sized tv. Only he gets to control what he watches himself. At some point between the age of one and two, Owen figured out how to load the video player and change between different cartoons and movies. A seasoned veteran, he’s since figured out how load YouTube. More recently, he has discovered that our smart phones have much the same capabilities as our tablets do — to Owen, they’re miniature televisions.

A little more than two years of age, he has begun to string together simple sentences. Some are more complex than others. Likely nothing will ever quite compare to what he said the other day: “Daddy, I want to watch a show on the tablet.”

He hasn’t said “yellow” just yet, but he can demand "Curious George" by name and specify that he wants it delivered to him on the tablet.

Again... he's two.

Times were simpler when I was a kid.

December 4, 2013

[Cue Dylan: The times, they are a changin’.]

Ignoring for a moment the unpleasantness in North Africa, the Middle East and, well, I suppose across much of the rest of the planet, for some time now, the world — well, the microcosm in which my clan exists — has been peaceful. A serenity, of sorts, has set in. True, I’ve been slaughtering voles en masse before winter fully sets in (quite un-peacful, I admit), but I’ve been largely content to go about hammering away at the basement; Megan has gone about doing her thing; and the boy, well, he hasn’t done anything too untoward for some time.

Were it not bitchin’ cold, I’d be outside smelling the flowers and traipsing through fields of marigolds. (I’ll pause to let that image sink in.)

For a couple months now, Owen’s Daycare experience has approached the mundane: I drop him off; Meg picks him up. Repeat. Ask his minders about his day and you’d be pressed to hear anything more damning than, “He was good.” This was a far cry from the weekly incident reports we had to sign, thereby acknowledging that Owen had bitten or hit another child, or had so annoyed one of his classmates that they, in turn, bit or hit him.

The “bad boy of Daycare,” it seemed, had found God.

…we thought.

Owen has always been among the bigger kids in each of his Daycare classes. He’s not heavy, per se, but he’s thick, and he stands among the taller kids. His minders in the infant and toddler classes have each mistaken him for being older than he actually was. While shy with adults, he’s quite assertive with his classmates and tends to only befriend older, bigger children. He is quite averse to anyone smaller than him — regardless of age. In fact, the boy, himself only two years old, calls smaller children, “Babies.”

Towards the end of his run in the infant room, Owen was, by far, the biggest and the oldest in his class. And, with no one large or assertive enough to effectively stand up to him, the boy became increasingly forceful in his interaction with the “babies.” He’d hit them. He’d steal their toys. He’d jostle them and laugh.

Owen was a bully.

His minders would yank him from class and toss him among the older kids in the toddler room, hoping the bigger, stronger tots would learn him a thing or two. For Owen, it was like placing him among a group of like-minded equals. Far from a shrinking violet, the boy identified the bigger kids from the lot and set about stealing their toys instead.

In Owen’s mind, they were just bigger game.

While his misbehavior continued for a spell after moving into the toddler room — I still remember signing my first incident report and acknowledging that my son bit a little girl — over time, his temperament seemed to improve. Gone, it seemed, were the days where I’d watch Owen wade into a group of children only to see him kick a little boy and run off with the lad’s stuffed Dora the Explorer doll.

It didn’t take long for Owen to identify and bond with the biggest kids in his new class. Within weeks, the boy had formed a clique with three or four other little boys. Each were as big (or bigger) than my son and were able to effectively stand up to the boy. Whereas the littler kids were still largely unable to fend off Owen’s shenanigans, his new friends were sufficiently big enough to put him in his place.

In essence, they didn’t put up with Owen’s sh%t.

It was a sort of Toddler Room détente. Disinclined to hang out with the smaller, more boring kids, none of the kids in Owen’s gang were sufficiently big enough to impose their will each other. It was an alliance of convenience, but in our case, it worked. The hostility and toddler-violence that Owen seemed predisposed towards ebbed away. They each settled into their routines and went about their days.

Hence, peace ensued. [Cue John Lennon: “Imagine…. Nothing to kill or die for.”]

Owen’s newly-adopted disposition carried over to the home. He stopped pulling Mummy’s hair. He stopped hitting Megan. He even stopped biting the cat. He was a reformed prisoner that found religion in the clink. This new Owen was a treat. He slept better. He ate better. He was happier, friendlier, and Megan and I reveled in the fact that he was far less bite-y.

It was a The Vaughan miracle!

As I alluded to earlier, Owen is often mistaken for being older than he actually is. His size is deceptive and makes his actual age difficult to ascertain. While his stature enables him to ride with the bigger kids, he is, nevertheless, younger than those children. And, once these other kids turn two-and-a-half, they’re sent on to the higher-level PreSchool class, and are replaced with 18-month-olds — “babies.” This actually started to happen a short while ago. One of Owen’s chums, a beefy dude that is a full six months older than my son, left the Toddler room for PreSchool. His departure whittled the number of kids my son would play with, and decreased the number of kids with the stature to keep Owen in check. Recently, his clique has continued to dwindle and Owen has been forced to spend increasingly more of his time with the “babies.”

[Cue U2: Sunday, Bloody Sunday.]

Now, Owen’s subsequent behaviour didn’t exactly regress all at once. It was subtle. He’d push the cat off the couch. He’d toss his fork across the table. Little things. But those little things progressed. He’d again hit Mummy. We’d again see him stealing toys from his classmates. His misbehavior regressed incrementally. He’s far more demanding. He’s morphing again into the bully he was towards the end of his run in the Infant room.

I initially assumed a lot of this could be chalked up to the “terrible twos.” But Megan noted the other night that he’s easily the biggest in his class now, and there isn’t anyone near his size to stand up to him anymore. Worse yet, he still has almost five months left with the “babies.”

Asked what he did at Daycare the other day, Owen replied, “Hit Abu.”

Abu is among the bigger kids that Owen counted among his group of friends. Abu is older than Owen and was, for a while, considerably larger than my son. Owen is now a few inches taller than Abu.

Abu is now a “baby.”

One of his minders, for the first time in a long while, told me that Owen had been hitting the other children. I also had to sign an incident report for the first time in months. The boy had a bruise on his cheek. No one was sure whether Owen fell on his own, or was pushed by an angry classmate.

We’re always mindful about attributing too much to a two-year-old’s misbehavior. Most kids Owen’s age are devils to some extent. Owen has always struck me a little different because his behavior is so much more predictable. I can see the trajectory he’s headed. Let’s hope I don’t have to cue Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) any time soon.