Wednesday, August 31, 2005

What's not to love?

Check out this post. Any man who can write like that about pregnant women? Well, you just have to love him. I do, at any rate! :-)



The Competition is Over: We Have THE Winner

Move over, Hausfrau and So Not Martha! Misfit, you're not even in the running for this one. All you wonderful mommies who feel you've fallen down on the job at one time or another (Lory, Susan, Heather, Mrs. A), you may now breathe a sigh of relief and know that Mary P has beat you all cold on this one. Yes, Mary, that parenting paragon, who can take five toddlers to a coffeeshop with nary a sign of a tantrum, and to the Art Gallery without setting off alarms or knocking over statuary, who talks sex to her teens without a ruffle, is officially the Bad Mother of the Year. Possibly the decade. It's about these shoes. They belong to my 16 year old son, Adam. They are in rough shape, this is clear. Grubby, pretty battered. This, however, does not make me a Bad Mother. All kids' shoes, especially teenage boys', get battered at the end of the summer. It's just time for a trip to the shoe store before school, that's all. Everybody does that! These shoes, however, do have issues, as Adam displayed for me yesterday. Yes, that's pretty bad. These shoes are definitely in the "critical" stage. I've now moved down to "Mediocre Mother", but in my defense I point out that this boy has the male aversion to shopping - even his mother's very focussed "get-in-there-get-it-and-get-out" type shopping - and a busy social life. So I'm not a Bad Mother even for this. It has not been easy pinning him down. However, it has surely not been impossible, which would be the only possible excuse for this, which happened last night. That's right. We have a sole-less shoe. And, what really makes me a Bad Mother is that these are his ONLY shoes! The boy will have to "wear" these, however we're going to manage that, to the shoe store! And it's raining today. Raining, raining, raining. Oh, I'm a Bad Mother...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

good

These gorgeous gardens grace a long swathe of park along the Rideau Canal. In the spring, these beds hold thousands upon thousands of tulips, an ongoing gift of appreciation to Canada from The Netherlands for our assistance during the Second World War. Right now, the beds are full of...er...flowers. Pretty ones. These were viewed from the middle of Dow's Lake at the end of the canal, as the youngsters and I had decided that paddle-boating would be our end-of-summer family event. Mummy wanted to visit the gardens from the lake. "All right you guys? Want to go see the flowers?" "Kids? Kids?" Where did they go? Evidently the offspring had other ideas, and were heading to the wild side of the lake. The arboretum borders that side of the lake, a lovely mix of lawns, trees, and water. Perfect for running the dog. Or a couple of getaway children. "Hey, you two! Wait up!" These two in particular. The third was safely paddling with me. No signs of remorse here, are there? Well, maybe they're onto something. This is kind of fun! An hour later though, our time is up, and we're sweatily ready to get something to eat. The soon to return to university eldest opts for Kettleman's, where they make "Montreal Style" bagels, over a wood-burning stove. Sometimes I bring the daycare tots here, just to watch. One day I'll do that again and get you some better pictures. He's bending over so as to see the dozen or two bagels he's putting into the oven. He's got them all lined up on a long wooden plank. They are amazingly deft with those things. He can put fifteen or twenty bagels onto it, then put them in the oven in one long row, slide them all off, and even flip them when they're done with that thing. Fresh bagels on the patio. No picture of this, because we were too hungry to pause. This was a good day. Tomorrow, the last of my holidays, is just for me. And on Thursday, we're back to toddler tales! It's been a good summer!

A Small Price to Pay

Eat babaghanouj for breakfast, reek of garlic all day! Oh, how I love this stuff!


Monday, August 29, 2005

You Go, Brigitte!!

My quote of the month: It is sad to grow old, but nice to ripen. Brigitte Bardot I love this. This is my new goal. Watch me now, ripening gracefully!!
:-)

Let's State the Obvious

From the book cited in the last post. "Fact: Animals with the fewest predators seem to survive the longest." (p. 32) Well, duh. Yeah, you'd tend to survive longer if when you're not someone's breakfast!! And this has what to do with genetics?



It's DNA'd confusing...

I've been reading "The Genomics Age: How DNA Technology is Transforming the Way We Live and Who We Are", by Gina Smith. It's a rather grandiose title for the contents, really. It's science for the masses, and as a result, I'm sure there is some tremendous over-simplification going on. That's okay. If it weren't really simple, I'd be too lost to enjoy it. But as a result of the simplification, I'm awash in questions provoked by the text, to which the text does not provide answers. Poop. Any geneticists out there who care to try to reduce their subject to kindergarten level for me, just for two questions?? Question 1: "There turns out to be no such thing as race at the DNA level...In other words, you cannot tell simply by looking at someone's DNA whether they are black or white. Genotype (the description of a person's DNA) should not be confused with phenotype (what they actually look like)." P. 58-59 All right. I knew that there is only one "Human Race". This is not news to me. I can also see that phenotype doesn't mesh exactly with genotype, because even clones (identical twins) have differences. Though their DNA is identical, you can, if you know them well, tell them apart. But, come on now, the differences are subtle! We do get hair colour, height, shape of nose, etc, from our genes. If ethnic differences don't show up in our genes and chromosomes, then why do we, unless intermarriage occurs, breed true to type? Why don't the occasional white couple produce - surprise! - a baby with "oriental" eyes, or an oriental couple produce a child with super-curly afro hair? Question 2: Mitochrondrial DNA. This stuff has me flummoxed and intrigued in equal measure. Mitochrondrial DNA is not found in the nucleus of the cell with the other DNA, but outside, in the rest of the cell. "Because [it] doesn't recombine with the father's's DNA every time a couple has children, it stays pure. That means the mitochrondrial DNA you have in your cells is exactly the same as the mitochondria in your mother's cells, your mother's mother's cells, and so on. It is a perfect line of descent. That makes it theoretically possible to trace back the DNA in all our mitochondria to a handful or original females." p. 86 An argument for Eve! How cool! Okay. So if it stays pure down the matrilineal line, do men have it? And if it's outside the nucleus and doesn't recombine with the father's contribution, how does it get passed on? I'm baffled. And if there are no geneticists reading this, it's back to the books and the googling for me. This is interesting stuff!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I Love that Boy!

Adam was three and a quarter when little Emma was born; Haley was seven and a half. As you may recall from a previous post, Adam and Haley were both present for Emma's birth. A few days after her birth, Adam presented me with a "picture" that he had drawn, and then directed me to "Write my words, mummy". We often did that for his artwork - a dictated description of what he had created for those less well versed in scribble-interpretation. This one, though, was special: This thing still gets me all teary...

Striding, Part two

Today was another perfect "Let's go for a walk!" day. Our street is still in chaos, as you can see, but I think that we're in the final stages. The water and sewer stuff is done, so I think what's going on now is preparing the road bed so as to lay the new street and sidewalk. I hope, I hope! After our usual 30 to 40 minute stride downtown, we are approaching our coffeeshop destination when we see... ...some sort of commotion further up the street. Having no set agenda and lots of idle curiosity, we have to go check it out. Once we arrive, we realize it's the Pride Parade. Good to see this lot has good relations with the local police! The officers in the car were waving and smiling, joking with the paraders and the parade-viewers. Yes, that is a rainbow flag hanging from the back window. It was this particular group that brought a lump to my throat. It's not the best picture, but what they're doing is line dancing. Line dancing! Such an ordinary, unexceptional, some might call it mundane, even geeky - but an accomplishment for people for whom such a normal, everyday thing like dancing in public with their sweetie could have been dangerous not so very long ago. Still is, in some places. Imagine: line dancing as a subversive act! And here we have it: the Real Reason Mary takes these longish walks every weekend. This, my non-Canadian friends, is a Chiller. A delicious, nicely sweet iced coffee confection, a drink for grown-ups, unlike the sickly-sweet approximation Starbucks offers. Made of espresso, milk, sugar, and crushed ice each one of this packs a nice caffeine wallop, the only form of caffeine my poor stomach will tolerate. (I figure it's the anaesthetic effect of the ice.) It also, by my calculations, packs about 400 calories - but that's okay, because, given that I burn 6.5 calories/minute for the 60+ minutes I walk to get one, I'm breaking even! It doesn't count at all!! Mmmm-mmm-mmm, I love these things.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Sunny Saturday Stride

This is where I go most summer weekends, at least once. Along the canal which runs through the centre of this lovely city is a bike and pedestrian path. It's about a ten minute walk or less from my house to the canal. With this only three blocks from one's home, who wouldn't want to go for a stroll?? Actually, I never stroll - I stride. Strolling hurts my back. Now I've turned around to show you the view in the other direction. That handsome fellow is my sweetie. And once more I ask: With such great company, who wouldn't want to go for a stroll, er, stride? Proceed a little further towards the downtown - see the buildings getting bigger? - and this is what you see. More gorgeousness! The canal does an arc to the left, and shortly we'll come to the bridge we cross to get downtown, though we could, if we chose, continue along the canal to The Market, a pedestrian-friendly area chock full of tourists, restaurants, bistros, and crafty-type shops. I love this little bridge. It's just so pretty! The inlet behind it has a grassy park around it, and some very pricey homes back onto it. I was going to take you right downtown with me, about a 30 minute walk, but I got distracted by conversation with my sweetie, so I'm afraid our tour ends here. See why I love living in this city??

Friday, August 26, 2005

Sex Ed

I am the totally cool mom when it comes to this stuff. My kids get straight information when they ask. Prissiness and prudery are not only not allowed in this household, they are derided as unhealthy dirty-mindedness. I don't get embarrassed. The only way I've ever embarrassed my kids about sex and sexuality is by being enthusiastic about the subject in front of their friends. I'm working on that one... No subject is taboo, and they know it. My children have never felt they needed to be coy about this aspect of their lives, unlike the 20 year old daughter of a friend of mine who, even though she is on the pill and brings her boyfriend to spend the night, gets indignant when mother says anything to indicate that she believes her daughter is sexually active. How stupid do they think we are, again? My children are entitled to their privacy, of course, but they don't have to hide things to protect mum's squeamishness. Anyway. I love the column Savage Love, which appears in a free local entertainment paper each week. I let my kids read it. The youngest (just turned 12) isn't particularly interested yet, finds it either "boring", "gross", or responds with "I don't get it". That's okay. She gets the information as she needs it, from a trusted and reputable source. Me. The other two read it. Why do I let them read something so explicit? Because Dan Savage, for all his in-yer-face, aggressive, tough-talking persona, is very kind to the sexually innocent. Take this weeks's column, in which a teen complains that a 17-year-old friend is so obsessed with a character on Yu-Gi-Oh! that she refuses to have anything to do with actual boys her own age. They all fall short. "She constantly complains that none of the real guys ar our high school as are good as [him]. What can I do to help her?" Savage's reply (will I get in copyright trouble for this?): "Your friend's obsession is juvenile...but I wouldn't call it pointless. Like a lot of high-school kids, your friend probably feels pressured to be sexually active...Most not quite-ready-for-sex teenagers hide behind Jesus' skirts when their friends ask why they're not fucking, but nonreligious kids have to be a bit more creative. Some, like your friend, invent grand/tragic sexual obsessions that prevent them from dating mere mortals. Your friend doesn't want you to think she's unhip, or that she isn't just dying to have sex, or that she isn't heterosexual, so she's convinced you (and perhaps herself) that she's obsessed with [the cartoon character]. And you know what? That's just fine. Finding fault with all potential real-life boys is a way for her to avoid sexual experiences she's not ready for. So just back off, okay?" He's abrasive, he uses colloquial terms - some would call them vulgar or even profane, but there's no doubt what he means, which is good. But his bottom line? No one should be pressured to have sex before they're ready. This is a good message.

Grease!

From the archives. Three years ago. It was naptime for Sweet Girl. She'd had her story on the couch, and being a Sweet Girl, it took about 40 seconds to settle her for her nap. Forty seconds in which Noisy Boy must be left alone downstairs, but that's okay. Noisy Boy was building towers of blocks to smash down. It would be no problem to keep track of his actions. Lay her down, tuck her in, a quick kiss, and I'm on my way back downstairs. It is silent. Noisy Boy is alive. Phew. Noisy Boy has found a quiet activity! He is is happy. Oh, so happy. Noisy Boy glistens and gleams. Noisy Boy's hair protrudes from his head at odd angles in shiny clumps. Noisy Boy's white shirt is strangely translucent. Not wet, but shiney and wax-paperish. Noisy Boy... ...has found an "empty" jar of Vaseline from the steps by the back door, awaiting tranfer to the blue recycling bin outside. In the forty seconds he was left untended, he has managed to entirely coat his head and much of his torso in clear grease. How? This jar was empty! Not enough grease in there to coat a bum, but plenty, it seems to coat a boy from stem to stern. Oh, Lord. Where to start? Stage one: Strip off the shirt. Get out the paper towels. Apply to hair and pull slick strands through the towel wrapped round my hands. Great gobs of grease are removed in this way. We scrape his hair, his face, his arms, his belly, his back, his knees. Towel after towel goes in the garbage. Stage two: richly soapy washcloth is applied to every inch of glistening skin. A thorough scrub, a brisk rinse, and he's grease-free. On his skin. This leaves... Stage Three:

The Hair
Cue sinister music: "ba-ba-ba-baaath". We repair to the tub. He was really, really good about the hairwashing. He really was. For at least the first six repeats. I tried everything: regular shampoo, greasy hair shampoo, hand soap... The next four washes weren't so well received, and the final two were a fight to the finish. By then the poor babe was positively drooping in his misery, so I take pity on him - besides, my arms were getting shaky - and I dry him off. Twelve hair-washes. Twelve! And he still looks like a duck after Exxon. Even when he's thoroughly dry, his hair still looks wet, soaking wet, except that it's dry, and it's standing straight up on end. We're both exhausted, though, so I put him to bed, an old towel over the pillow. After nap, we rejoin the fray. I cannot send him home looking like this. Can't be done. His father, a great guy, fond parent, nicely laid back and a great sense of humour, will think it's hysterically funny, but his mother, Ms. Anal-Retentive Humour-Impaired Whiner, will not. (Was I surprised when they divorced two years later?) This time I opt for dishwashing detergent (with Special Grease-cutting Formula!!) at the kitchen sink. It's much more effective. After only four wash-and-rinses, I can see definite improvement. After another three, the hair in front is looking nearly normal. A final wash or two - I kinda lost count - and I throw in the towel. Literally. Figuratively. Enough is enough. We spent the next half hour snuggled up, reading quietly, recovering. Even Noisy Boy has his limits. Even then, after something like twenty washes, he looked odd. Sticky. Thankfully, dad picked him up that night. Dad also dropped him off the next morning, gleefully telling me that (as per my instructions) he had washed Noisy Boy's hair a few more times with dish detergent that evening. I didn't see Mom for the rest of that week. I don't think she was speaking to me...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Vocabulary Confusion

Conversation between me and small son, then age two and a half. It is January. I am in the basement, using a palm sander. "What's dat, mummy?" "It's a palm sander." "Dat's your pom-pom sander?" I stop the machine. I discern a Teachable Moment, and I can't let that go by. Besides, this is funny. First, let's clarify the source of confusion. We need to Define Our Terms. "What's your palm, Adam?" "It's what goes onna top of my hat!" Yes, it is as I thought. Confounded by a homonym. I turn his dimpled hand over, show him his palm. "This is your palm, sweetie." "Dis is my palm?" "Yes, yes that's right. It's your palm." Very carefully enunciated, very encouraging. Then I take his other pudgy hand and turn it palm-up. "So what's this, then?" He considers both hands very carefully, and looks up. "Dis is my hat???"

Theology 101

This happened round the dining table, back when I was a good Christian girl. (I still have beliefs, but they don't fall neatly into that particular package any more.) We were reading the Genesis story - you know, Adam, Eve, the snake and the apple. We came to the part where Adam blames Eve for leading him into sin. Haley, then 5 and a half, responded with indignation: "That's not fair!!" And of course she's right. Adam is being a weasel. Eve's first sin may have been disobedience; Adam's was moral cowardice. Very pleased with her acuity, I ask, "And where was Adam when Satan was trying to get Eve to disobey? Where was he?" (The answer, which, strangely, was never made entirely clear to me by my various Sunday School teachers, is: STANDING RIGHT BESIDE HER!!) Haley paused before answering, and her little brother Adam (then two and a half) piped in, earnest and intense:

"I go and get God!!"
Well. The story would have had a whole 'nuther ending if my Adam had been in the Garden!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Musical Meme

List ten songs that you are currently digging. It doesn't matter what genre they are from, whether they have words, or even if they're no good but they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions, the artists, and the ten songs in your blog. Then tag five other random people to see what they're listening to. This meme courtesty of IEatCrayonz. Although I have not, nor ever expect, to be "digging" anything except perhaps in my garden. Child of the sixties though I may be, much of my time spent in that decade was spent in diapers and pre-verbal. But ten songs I like? No problem. The only problem will be keeping it to ten. 1. Right now I'm listening to Tracey Chapman, the New Beginning album. My favourite from that: Give me One Reason. 2. Album: Time Out Group: The Dave Brubeck Quartet Favourite Track: Take Five 3. Album: Sunshine on Leith Group: The Proclaimers Track: I'm Gonna Be (I would walk 500 miles) 4. Album: Genius of Modern Music Artist: Thelonius Monk Track: Round Midnight 5. Album: Shrek soundtrack There are three tracks I love on this, and I'm counting them as one choice. Deal with it. I'm a Believer, Smash Mouth; Bad Reputation, Half Cocked; and my really, truly favourite: Hallelujah (written by Leonard Cohen), sung by Rufus Wainwright. 6. Album: A.J. Croce Artist: A. J. Croce (yes, son of Jim) Favourite: He's got a way with Women (because it's punchy, and because of the way the verse ends: "...and he just got away with mine".) 7. Album: Wise and Otherwise Artist: Harry Manx Favourite: Only then will Your House Be Blessed 8. Album: Horn Concertos Composer: W. A. Mozart Favourite: Number 2 in E flat major 9. Album: Practical Man Artist: Tom Lips Favourite: Honesty; This Love is a Weed (Yes, I know this is two. See number 5.) 10. Album: Greatest Hits Group: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Favourite: I Won't Back Down Oh, and as for tagging people. It's up to you, folks: Who wants a go? If you decide to do it, just email me or leave a comment here, so we'll know to check in on your list.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Home Decorating

Pictures, as promised. Here is the inspirational switchplate. She found this at a craft sale last fall, and spent $12.00 of her very own money buying it. Not something she does without thought: my daughter is a saver, not a spender, bless her mother's genes and her own sweet little heart.
And here is the inspired door. Remind you of anything?? Sorry about the blurriness - I was standing on one foot, not so deftly balancing the camera while avoiding all the wet paint, drippy brushes, buckets of drywall mud and strips of leftover trim. Nonetheless, you get the idea.

Summertime...

...savouring my last few days of holiday. I start back next Thursday. I've had a varied morning: down to Home Hardware for paint. Such helpful salespeople in there, and for some unknown reason, half of them seem to be from Ohio. Or thereabouts. Sure sounds like it. How'd they end up here? Why are they all working for the Home Hardware? Nice folk, though. Helpful. A client (Alice's mother) informed me that she's expecting, and will be removing Alice from care in January, when the new baby is due. No, she isn't showing yet. She has some health problems, and it shows in her almost-emaciated frame. I hope all goes well for her. She seems quite confident it will. Then coffee with a friend, who found out only a couple of days ago that her ex is dying. She'd lived with this man for 10 years, he'd helped raise her two children, but she eventually kicked him out five years ago because of his chronic and continuing alcoholism. She always said, though, that if he could ever give it up and stay dry, she'd take him back. Even though her life moved on and she's seeing someone else now, I think some secret part of her psyche always kept hoping. She loves him. He is dying, at the age of 40, because his liver has ceased to function. Such a waste! Tears ensued, hers staunchly choked back, followed - or perhaps precipitated - by an unprecedented PDA (my friend's a Brit, and not given to allowing such things), and a promise on my part to go to the funeral with her. I never met the man: he was before my time in her life, though not by much, but she needs the support. Not only is she genuinely grieving, but I know no one who hates funerals as she does. So we'll go together, I'll hold her hand, and tell her fiercely that it's all right to cry! We chatted of other things, too, comforting, normal things. We laughed. Then home to finish painting my youngest's new room. It's been in construction all month, but the nice young man who we'd hired has now hammered his last nail, and it's almost ready for use. We primed and painted the walls before he put up the trim. We painted the door today - it matches the switchplate she bought, with her own money, at a craft fair last fall. (This child's favourite shows are Trading Spaces and While You Were Out. No kidding. Pictures will follow when my sweetie gets back with the camera.) She ordered the hammock, which will be suspended over her bed like a bunk bed, last night from "Hammockuniverse.com". I'll let you know if they're reputable... My son is home with a couple of friends,lounging about the living room, eating pizzas which they bought themselves and listening to "The Arrogant Worms". Now, the son hasn't listened to them in quite some time - clearly he likes the girl who requested them... Me, I sit on the porch, listening to the sound of the Ex, a mere kilometre away, in the background, watching the construction workers replace the decorative stone that had to be ripped up for the temporary water mains - which have now been removed! We're now back on city water, with our brand spankin'new water and sewer lines. How exciting. This is summer in Ottawa. Just the usual: life, death, and construction.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Gak!

From the archives. Six years ago. Perky Girl has arrived, and has trotted merrily off into the living room to play. I am at the back door greeting parents and later arrivals, but I can still hear her. This is a good thing, because a all parents know that a silent 19 month old is all too often a child who is endangering something - herself, her friends, the pets, the furnishings. It's not quiet out there, but what we can hear is in no way reassuring. Sudden and horrific choking sounds: "Gak! Hork! Whoop!" assault our ears. Perky Girl is quite clearly choking to death out there. Ohmigod, How long do I have? I'm halfway across the room in one giant, adrenaline-fuelled bound, two terrified parents in my wake, when Perky Girl rounds the corner of the kitchen. Her face is a healthy pink. She beams sunnily up at three frozen adult faces. Not even a tinge of blue, nor even of green. What gives? "Hey there, Perky Girl. What on earth were you doing out there?" I aim for calm and cheerful, but I can hear the quiver in my voice. She doesn't notice. She has something to show me, and how convenient I should ask! In her pudgy fist she holds a yellow plastic drumstick, which, I assumed had been used for such benign pursuits as, oh, beating on a drum, or maybe the walls or furniture. Dragging it across the poor long-suffering guinea pig's cage is also a favourite activity, but that wasn't what I'd been hearing. None of the above, not this time. She takes the drum stick, and shoves it down her throat, surely giving her tonsils a solid wallop in the process. "Gak, hork!", she wretches, gags, and heaves. She pulls the drum stick out of her throat, and gives me a repeat of the big, beaming smile. She radiates excitment and satisfaction. Her thoughts are crystal clear: "Way cool!! Great party trick, huh, Mary???" Gak, indeed.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

May I Brag?

When my son, who is sixteen, leaves the house, he always gives me a hug goodbye. Even when his friends are there.

Because it's there, that's why

From the archives, five years ago... This story is of an eighteen-month-old boy, one of the most energetic, happiest, most positive I've ever had in the daycare. Tons of activity, tons of fun. I loved this boy. (You don't love them all, you know. Of course I feel affection for all of them, and take pleasure in their accomplishments and their little emerging characters. Some of them, though, some of them get right under your skin and all the way into your heart, and you know you’d happily take him in as one of your own if it came to that: Lil Dude was one of that type.) That afternoon, Lil Dude, feeling full of beans and tough as nails after his nice long nap, decided needed to stretch himself a little. All his routine stuff - charging around like a mad thing, lifting the end of the dining table bench, knocking over block towers, shoving chairs around, sliding the guinea pig cage across the room, knocking over other children with his signature commando hugs - all that everyday stuff? None of it was sufficiently challenging for Lil Dude today. No sir, what was needed was something different, something significant, something BIG!! He trotted around the house, obviously seeking that special something, that extra challenge, but not quite sure just what he was after. Until he came to the fireplace in the living room. Just the thing! He trotted over to the wall into which the fireplace is set, and wedged himself against the bricks of the fireplace where they jutted out into the room. His back was to the wall, his right shoulder leaning against the 10 cm lip of brick, and he was facing into the living room. His cheek pressed into the bricks, he leaned his shoulder against the fireplace, braced his feet on the floor. All systems go? Yes? Away we gooooo! He grunted, he panted, his face was screwed up with the effort. His legs quivered, his tendons strained, his face slowly reddened as he pushed, and pushed, and pushed! Clearly, the intent was to move the fireplace just a few inches over to the left. Allrightythen...

Friday, August 19, 2005

It's a Stand-Off

How I love this ad! This picture is speaking its thousand words, and I've had such fun speculating on what mom's might be: "Oh, you little sh*t." or, "This. Means. War." or, "I love my baby. I love my baby. I love my baby. I will not kill this child." or...? (Click on the image to enlarge.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Why I'm Going Grey

This one's very old. Sixteen years, pretty much. The Boy was four months old. Like most four-month-olds, he liked to lay on his tummy on the floor and lift his head and torso up, the better to survey his domain. Toss a toy or two in front of him, and I could count on a few minutes of baby-free time, time enough to pop from the dining room to the kitchen to unplug in the kettle, now boiling merrily, and pour a cup of tea to take back to the dining room. To find my baby, my four-month-old, non-crawling, non-rolling baby GONE. Utterly and completely gone. Instant, compelling and completely irrational panic floods me: "Somebody broke into my house and stole my baby!!" All this in 64 seconds of absolute silence. My head whirls madly. My heart roars in my ears. Where could he be? Where could he possibly, possibly be? And how could he have gotten there? I lean to check under the table, where he was only seconds before. He's not there - but I do see a trail marker, a snail's trail of slime, a glistening trickle of drool. It starts where my baby was a moment ago, and arcs gently to the wall against which stands the sideboard holding china and tablecloths. Under which, happily playing amongst the dustballs, lays my Baby Boy. He can't crawl, he can't roll, but he can push! He can push his little self up onto his rigid arms, and, when wearing a terry sleeper on a shiny hardwood floor, he can push that very same little self - backwards. Locomotion! One small step for the boy, one large panic attack for mummy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

ABCD Me, Me, Me

This was emailed to me some while ago, and has been sitting in my inbox ever since. May as well use it. You'll be thrilled, no doubt. Age - early forties Booze - gin&tonic on occasion, Irish cream ales when I go out, and for summer fun: crushed ice lime margaritas, the grown-up slushie. I'm partial to hard lemonade, too. (Something about a cold drink on a shaded porch after work!) Career - originally a teacher, now a daycare provider Dad's name - unknown (my mother was young and foolish once - it worked out well for me!) Essential Item to Bring to a Party - me, with one drink in me for starters Favorite Song(s)/Music - oh, there are so many! - You Can Leave Your Hat On - the Etta James version, though I like Joe Cocker's as well. I own both. - Can't Stand the Weather - Stevie Ray Vaughan - "Honesty", and "All I Want" - Tom Lips - every Christmas I have to hear Jewel's "Rudolph" at least once a day (but apart from that I prefer the traditional carols) - The Gorilla Song - Raffi - Only Then Will Your House Be Blessed - Harry Manx (Not much of a top-40s girl, as you can see. That's only the tiniest tip of the iceberg. I love music, I love to sing. I love the Beatles. Oh, and Pete Townshend, Peter Gabriel, and Tony D, Ella Fitzgerald. Beethoven's 5th (Emperor) Concerto; Debussy's 1st Arabesque; anything by Bach, Mozart's horn concertos; Miles Davis, Leonard Cohen, A.J. Croce, Melissa Etherige... Okay, this is turning into its own post. Must stop now.) Goof Off Thing To Do - read, walk, listen to music Hometown - a hamlet in central Ontario. Population when I left, about 700, now, a town of 5,000! Instrument You Play: Piano. Played oboe in high school. Took fiddle lessons for a few months last year. Jam or Jelly You Like: President's Choice Peach. Yummmm. Kids - 3 of my own, 5 stepkids. (Mine: 19, 16, 12; His: 17, 15, 14, 12, 10) Living Arrangement - commonlaw, 8 years. Mom's Name - Valerie Name of Best Friend - Giulie (pronounced "Julie", short for Giulietta. No, she's not Italian - she was named after an Italian sportscar!) Overnight Hospital Stays - only to give birth: 3. Phobias - I'm claustrophobic in general, but mostly controlled. Caves really scare me. Hyperventilation, pounding heart, dizziness. Can't go in 'em. Quote You Like - "I generally avoid temptation, unless I can't resist it." Mae West Relationship That Lasted the Longest - my first marriage (13 years) Siblings - two: one sister, one brother. True love, ever had? - yes, now! Unique Trait - Optimism Vegetable You Love - Which to choose? I LOVE vegetables! Ummm... asparagus! Worst Trait - impatience X-rays you've had - none, I think... (I'd have to ask my mother!) Yummy Food You Make - What? Me, cook? I really get no pleasure from cooking, so while I'm perfectly competent to turn out decent meals, I can't get excited about this at all, at all. I'm drawing a blank here. Zodiac Sign - Aquarius

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Huh?? Sorry, I'm Tired, What Can I Say?

It's been a full couple of weeks, and I'm a bit tired right now. This post reflects my brain-dead state, but it amuses me in a mild sort of way, and right now, that's good enough for me. You may make of it what you will... Why am I weary? Five step-children in addition to my own two makes a houseful. (My eldest lives in the city where she attends university.) It gets a bit claustrophobic bytimes, when one considers that four of the seven are teens, and two more will be there within a year. You parents of tots don't realize just how much space teens take - physical, auditory, psychic. You feel crowded by a two-year-old? Just wait till your 16-year-old son comes home with four friends: five boys with every bit as much energy as the same number of toddlers, only in adult- sized bodies and with Big, Deep Voices... Which is why I was pleased to see these visitors in my kitchen the other day. Yes, they are quite a few of them, but they're small, very quiet, don't take much space,

and they don't eat much. Check out those bright eyes with the long lashes. "Anyone see my glasses? Guys? Guys?"
"Hey, guys, don't leave..."



Monday, August 15, 2005

Raising a Happy, Unspoiled Child

While the “terrible twos” are indeed a reality, they are by no means inevitable.
Isn’t that a lovely thought? Now let's try this description of a “well-developed” three-year-old on for size:
  1. She is happy...rather than being a chronic complainer.
  2. She is secure and comfortable with all people nearly all the time.
  3. She is able to share and be content with equal treatment.
  4. She is civil and accepts her parents’ authority...except under extraordinary circumstances. (Illness or extreme fatigue.)
  5. She is socially competent.
  6. She is able to express her feelings easily [in socially acceptable ways].
  7. She is able both to lead and to follow another child her own age.
  8. She is aware of what a “good job” is and confident that she is capable of performing well.
And what if I further suggest that most of these characteristics are in place by age two, and only refined in the year between the second and third birthdays. That a well-developed two year old rarely if ever has tantrums, is reasonable, and can be taken out in public without parental nervousness. So, you may be asking yourselves, does Mary actually believe all this? And for my part, I’m wondering how many of you think this is completely pie-in-the-sky nonsense, designed only to torture normal parents with needless guilt. These are all quotes and concepts taken from a book I finished this week. Yes, I believe all this. No, it’s not nonsense. Given a child with no developmental handicap, EVERY parent can have a cheerful, happy, largely obedient two year old. Every single one. So what is the book that promises such heaven on earth? It called “Raising a Happy, Unspoiled Child”, by a long time favourite author of mine, Burton White. This book is terrific. Easy to read, easy to follow. Each chapter covers a stage of your child's social development. There is no doubt, when you come to the end of a chapter, what your child's interests are likely to be at that stage, what its pitfalls are, and how best to manage it to produce the paragon outlined above. (I have only three quibbles with the book: I think he suggests starting toilet-training a bit early; I would modify his contention that no parent should be at home full-time with an 8 to 22 month old child; and I think his advice on dealing with sleep problems is absolutely, dead WRONG. The first and the last issues are minor points in the book, taking no more than eight pages of 238. The second point is a theme that runs through the book, but as I say, while I don’t accept it 100%, I can see his point of view, and would only add a corollary or two to make it acceptable to my perspective.) Those are minor issues, though, given the wealth of sound, sensible, grounded advice in this book. I strongly suggest you all go out and take it out of your local library. (I hardly ever buy a book I haven’t been able to try on for size first!) And then: buy it, apply it, and love it. The man is brilliant. How does one achieve this parental nirvana? Here are some pointers: Birth to 5 1/2 months: no fear. You CANNOT spoil a child of this age. 5 1/2 to 7 1/2 months: hold down the development of excessive crying by providing lots of good stuff for baby to do. (Guidance provided as to what "good stuff" constitutes.) -cultivate "healthy selfishness". It is perfectly acceptable to let your child's needs wait upon yours once in a while! Further, it's GOOD FOR your child's social development. 7 1/2 to 14 months: comfort a child when in true distress, but don't race to cuddle and reassure after every small mishap. (And since most children start walking at this age, there will be lots and lots of small bumps and tumbles to practice this one one!) -diapering is one of the first opportunities to teach your child that while they have the right to express their feelings they sometimes have to do things they don't want to. Mom and dad will not cave every time baby "throws a fit". 14 to 22 months: no matter how well you manage this phase, your child will regularly resist your authority. Hang tight - this doesn't mean your baby doesn't love you, or that you're doing anything wrong. You can't "do a first-rate job of creating a desirable agreement without your baby occasionally becoming very unhappy with the limits you have set". It's just what it is. As long as you don't "yield to that unhappiness on a regular basis", the result will be a child of 24 months who will actually STOP testing your authority. Imagine the peace! Let’s end this with a quote that sums the philosophy of the book superbly: “The core lesson [that your child must learn by the time she’s two is] that she is extremely precious and loved, and that her needs are very important, but that she is no more precious than anyone else in the world, nor are her needs more important than those of other people, especially yours.”

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Worst Shit Story Ever

I hope. Naptime, my time to catch up and relax. Me, I start with the relaxing bit, so of course I was emailing friends, a cup of tea hot at my elbow. All is quiet, save for the tickatickaticka of my keyboard, and then, from above: bump, thump thumpa thump, scrape. I sigh, heavily. Inappropriate activity upstairs, must go put a stop to it. Creep quietly quietly up, wanting to catch whoever it is in the act, so as to determine the culprit without opening the wrong door and waking an innocently sleeping child. Attain the landing, breathing softly. Gah! Inhalation freezes in my throat. Oh, lordy, lordy! Can one spit out air? Can't I? Please? My eyes watered as a foul stench oozed round me, but which bedroom was the source? Little thumper, whoever he/she is, must've heard my muffled wretching, because they've gone silent. Gagging slightly, I sniffed outside one door then the next. It seemed to be coming from Riley's room. The door creaked very softly as I cracked it open. At two and a bit, Riley was no longer sleeping in a crib, but on my young daughter's bed, with his own pillow and quilt. I could just see the bed through the sliver of opening - and it was empty! But the stench: the stench permeated every square millimetre of the room. Taking a big breath of clear(er) air from the landing, I entered The Toxic Zone. The room of devastation, with the greeny-brown miasma of shit almost visible in the air, a stench so strong as to be tangible. Little Riley stood before me, his big punkin head hanging, sandy hair falling forward, masking his face. He is naked from the waist down. His evident shame holds him silent, but the evidence before me told the tale I will now recount. Riley had filled his diaper. Riley decided that, rather than call me, he was a Big Boy and could deal with it himself. Standing on the bed, he removed his very own diaper, All By Himself!! Oh-oh. Something fell from the diaper. Best pick it up and put it back. It pays to be tidy. Except now, oh no, he's got the mess on his hands. So he wipes them off on the wall. Little brown handprints adorn the wall by her bed. Handprints on the wall are Bad. Riley knows that! That's okay, we'll just wipe it off with the bedspread, no problem. Only, when the bedspread is lifted and scrubbing commences, the diaper sitting on the bed is upended, partly onto the pillow, the rest on the floor. Dear, dear, dear. Now what? He's scrubbed at the wall as best he can but now he needs to deal with that mess on the floor! What to do? Bedspread, pillowcase, and sheet are soiled, and can't be used as cleaning cloths, so he casts about for inspiration. And find it, clever lad that he is. Brilliant idea!! There's Emma's dresser, just filled with nice clean cloths for scrubbing up messes... It would be his footsteps across the room to the dresser, and the thud of the drawer falling out that alerted me to the mayhem unfolding. Sadly, I did not arrive before he'd emptied two entire drawers into the filth with his sticky brown hands. "Riley?" I'm not sure what my tone of voice was at this point, but I think incredulous might come closest. Who knew such catastrophe could occur in 132 seconds? His head lifts slowly. His green eyes are huge, wide with sincerity, pleading with me to understand, guilt mixed with the desire to reassure. "It's okay, Mary. I cleanin' up."

Near Miss

On Saturday evening, my sweetie's sister got married. That morning, the father of the bride, while strolling around his yard, noticed that the trap that he keeps for squirrels has been sprung. As is his habit when this happens, he bunged the trap into the back of his van and drove it across the river to release it in a local park, ten or fifteen minutes away. He arrived at the park, lifted the door, and out came the squirrel, only this one didn't bound out, but merely trundled, and this one was darker than the gray squirrels he's been dealing with to date, and this one had a broad white stripe down its back! Good thing the wedding was on a boat. If the worst had happened, they could have put the father of the bride well to the stern... He was calling it the Story of the Day. Indeed.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Back to Bed Now

There. I've responded to all you nice commenters, without whom my blogging life would be so impoverished, but even though I thought I was better there for a while, I think I have to throw up again, and then I'm going back to bed.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What's My Line?

Here's a puzzle for you. Small boy, age two and a half, takes a throw cushion and tosses to the hardwood floor. Places toddler-size chair upon the cushion. Holds onto the back of the chair, and pushes the chair-on-cushion with great vigour all over the living room. What is he doing? For the literal-minded (or just plain smart-asses) among you: No, he is not pushing a chair-on-cushion around the living room. Though one might think this a reasonable enough guess. Hint: the pushing was accompanied by motor noises. Hint 2: think winter, think sports. Hint 3: Remember this is a Canadian two-and-a-half year old!

Conundrum

My neighbour found a card in his mailbox, from the courier company, telling him "Because your road is closed, we were unable to deliver your parcel".

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Interesting Article

Looking up that book title when responding to Matthew's comment, I came across this article that makes reference to it. She's the kind of uber-anxious mommy who warms the hearts of all makers of educational toys and enriching activities, and who chills me to the marrow. There is a happy medium out there!

Pernicious Parenting Paraphenalia

Preamble: those of you who have as an item in your parental mission statement that Good Parents never, ever let their baby cry, not even for a moment, please stop reading now. What follows will only raise your blood pressure needlessly. For the rest of you, now that I've got you all onside regarding baby paraphernalia, and have lulled you into a false sense of security, here's my next bit of babystuff wisdom: Baby Monitors are 100% unnecessary. Maybe more. Worse than unnecessary, used improperly (and most parents do) they are a positive scourge to parental peace. As parents of newborns can attest, a baby's cry can effectively permeate the most oblivious consciousness. In fact, as Matthew can further attest, a baby's cry can permeate your unconscious, and even make inroads into your sanity. And yet somehow we think it needs to be electronically enhanced? Broadcast, even? I was once briefly held hostage by a friend's Baby Monitor (hereafter to be referred to as BM). During dinner, I happily visited with their delightful eleven week old baby. After dinner, he began to droop and was popped into bed upstairs. The BM sat on a coffee table at my elbow. Not having often used one for my children, I was completely unprepared for just how intrusive that thing could be. Every time the baby coughed, murmured, or even rustled a bit, one parent or the other would leap to their feet and dash upstairs, physically vacating the conversation. The other parent would vacate the conversation mentally, eyes and ears glued to the BM, following their spouse's footsteps through the speaker. In a moment or two, parent number one would reappear. "He's fine!" would be the announcement, to the great relief of parent number two. If neither of them went, they would both sit, tense and quivering, all attention drawn to the antenna on the coffee table until complete silence returned. Gee, I had had no idea I'd been invited so we could all watch the BM together. After eight or ten such false alarms, I was completely exasperated. Never mind the mincemeat it was making of the conversation, the anxiety that monitor was causing these nice people was helping no one, least of all their baby. Sooner or later, they were going to wake him up with all this upstairs-and-down-ing. Under pretext of reaching for my coffee, I discreetly turned the damned thing off. Only then did we finally manage to generate (and maintain!) some worthwhile conversation. What a relief. I could see the tension seeping from their weary shoulders as the evening progressed. As I was preparing to leave a couple of hours after my subversive action, one of them innocently commented, "Gee, little Oswald has never settled so easily!" I didn't smirk when I told them what I'd done, but did gently suggest that the BM was perhaps causing more problems for them than it was solving. When you are in the living room, and your baby is up one flight of stairs, you will hear him if he needs you. Not to worry. Now, there are obviously times when a BM can be a handy tool: If you want to do some gardening during baby's nap, say, and baby's room is on the opposite side of the house. (If baby's room overlooks the garden, opening the window will suffice.) And let us not overlook the entertainment value of listening in on your neighbours, whose BM is set to the same channel as yours!! Otherwise, turn it off! Turn it right off!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Mantra for Guilt Reduction

The pee has dried, the blue line appeared! You're going to have a baby! Quick - get down to Babies R Us and whip out a credit card or two. You have a lot of stuff to get and only seven and a half months to get it. A stunning array of baby paraphernalia, a vast cornucopia of convenience awaits you. Things that promise to help your baby sleep, protect his safety, develop her intellect, nurture his emotional development. Make your baby faster, stronger, smarter, kinder, calmer, happier, a full and fulfilled human being, thanks to the wonders of modern manufacturing and marketing. Godalmighty! The pressure! The guilt if you don't buy the critical item and thus have your offspring fall behind some gold standard of babydom! And all this while you're carrying a sleep debt big enough to rival that of a small war-torn country somewhere. Take a deep breath. Mary is about to remove all that nasty guilt and oppression. You parents of chidren under five haven't been in the biz long enough to truly understand that these things are FADS. They ebb and flow. They move in and out of fashion. We think when something goes out of fashion that it's gone because it was inferior, that, with modern knowledge and research, we now Know Better. Nope. Probably it's just a fad. Baby Walkers, for example, the pride of my mother's generation. Moms in the know, who wanted to foster their children's development, put their babies in walkers to strengthen their legs, prepare them for walking, give them independence and a bit of autonomy. They were a Good Thing. Good, good, good, and you were a Good, Progressive, Knowledgeable Mother if you used one. By the time mine were born, the fashion had changed. Children, too young to be that mobile, had died falling down stairs they would never have been able to reach if it weren't for a walker. Walkers accelerated movement artificially, helping children to skip the crawling stage, which as we all know, is necessary to strengthen a child's lower back to ready them for their upright days. They were Bad, Bad, Bad, and you were a Negligent, Reckless, Know-nothing Mother if you used one. And now, they are becoming fashionable once more. Some design changes have been made to increase their safety, and they are re-entering acceptance once again. Thus swings the pendulum, and for each generation, the item was revered or denigrated by loving, caring parents who want to do the Right Thing by their child. So what to do? How do you know? Here's the shocking truth: You don't need a lot of stuff to raise a baby. Really. A baby has two fundamental requirements: nourishment (both emotional and physical), and shelter (a home, a place to sleep, and clothing). That's it, that's all. Anything beyond that is for the parents. Therefore, if it doesn't make YOUR life easier and more fun, mom and dad, You Don't Need It. Take a walk through the baby department with that in mind, and see how much simpler and less expensive all this suddenly becomes. If you're a confirmed shopper with no money concerns, go wild! There's a whole world of consumer goods just waiting for your credit card. Just don't try to convince anyone this is all needful for the baby's growth and development. It's a helluva lot of fun for you, is what it is. And why not?? However, if you hate shopping and/or have few funds to spare, the burden of guilt is hereby lifted. Nourishment and shelter, nourishment and shelter. Does the baby-rocka-romper-cizer feed my baby? Make him/her feel loved? Keep him/her dry in the rain or warm at night? No? Then, if it doesn't turn YOUR crank, if seeing your little one bounce and twist in this thing won't give YOU hours of pleasure, don't buy it. Your sweet patootie can get all the rocking and bouncing he/she needs in your arms. If your arms are ready to fall off from all the bouncing and rocking you've been doing, and you desperately need a break, then buy it - for yourself. Nourishment and shelter. Simple!

knock, knock

Knock-knock jokes are often the first type of joke that children learn. They're formulaic, interactive, and have delightfully punny punch lines. But humour is a tricky concept, and just because a kid's memorized the formula doesn't mean they understand the equation. Here are some I've been subjected to: Kid: Knock, knock! Me: Who's there? Kid: Moo! Me: Moo, who? Kid: A cow Knock, knock! Who's there? Me. Me, who? Is Me, Mary!! Who's there? Isabelle. Isabelle, who? I gots a bicycle! Who's there? Dick. (Hmmm. Do I want to pursue this one? Ah, why not: the tot won't understand the punch line anyway!) Dick, who? I dunno. Daddy wouldn't tell me the rest. Who's there? Banana. (I heave a mental sigh. I know this one, and it can go on for a while in the hands of a knock-knock fanatic.) Banana who? Banana Banana who? Banana Banana who? Orange. Orange who? Banana went away. (For those less familiar with these things, we've omitted a critical part of the punch line: Orange you glad...) Who's there? Amos. Amos, who? A mosquito just bit me! Hey! Someone got one right!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Montreal!

No blog earlier today because I've been in Montreal. Fun! My best girlfriend, Sophie, decided that as we are both on holiday this week, a girl's only trip to Montreal was in order. We were to leave by ten so as to be there comfortably in time for lunch - it's about an hour and a half away. Sophie has never been on time for anything in her life, so when it turned out that we didn't leave till 11:30, it was only Sophie (to whom her chronic tardiness is always an abberation, never normal) who was surprised! The drive went by as quickly as a drive can only when partaken by two good friends who have gone a whole week without a decent conversation. Sophie lived in Montreal for years, so its narrow, elevated highways, bridges, crowded roads, French drivers and French signage were not in the least intimidating. With remarkable dispatch we were sitting to lunch at a nice Greek restaurant on Rue St. Artur, a nice pedestrian-only street entirely inhabited by eating establishments - Greek, Thai, Lebanese, Italian, Mexican, generic, and, yes, French. Though one might argue that in the province of Quebec, all restaurants are by definition French. Then off to the shops!! I have minimal cash, given that I'm having a basement room built this month, but nothing can dull the pleasure of window shopping in the eclectic, funky, fashionable shops we discovered. Clothing stores, of course, but also lighting, a gorgeous furniture shop, toy stores, vegetarian food, and any number of hard-to-define gift shops. Then the tourist trip up Mont Royale to take in the view of the city. It was lovely. It's a low city: few of the building visible in the miles and miles of city we could see passed ten stories; most are under five. The St. Laurence wound its way around - Montreal is on a couple of islands, which hadn't been readily apparent until we stood atop the mountain. We decided we'd had enough just as a bus filled to the brim with very nice cameras accompanied by a few tourists entered the parking lot. An hour and a half later, I'm home. The only thing we'd planned that we didn't squeeze in was the sangria on a patio. But that we can do here at home!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Somebody Help the Boy!

This is one of many Riley stories. Short and sturdy, with a huge punkin head, a mop of sandy hair and hazel eyes, Riley's winsome smile and frank charm and screwball logic could charm the most cynical among us. Riley had been put to bed. Being two and a half and a Big Boy, he no longer slept in a crib, but on my youngest's bed, with his own little pillow and quilt. A few minutes into naptime, I heard muffled talking coming from within the room, decide to peek in. At first I don't see him in the bed. Another step into the room tells me why. From the waist down, Riley is in bed. From the waist up, though, he's hanging over the edge. His palms press into the floor, his big head hanging between his elbows. He is struggling desperately to lift himself back into the bed, but his head is just too heavy. His neck quivers, his shoulders tense, his feet kick, but he's well and truly stuck. He's afraid to let himself drop forward, he can't go back. He talks to himself. "Oh, Riley. Oh, Riley, what you did. Oh, help! Riley is stuck!" You know the adage: "Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime?" It applies. I know this boy. Were I simply to lift him back into bed, that would rescue him only until the next time he tried to wriggle out of bed hands first, probably five minutes from now. Far better to show him how to complete the manoeuvre safely. However, I know this boy. If I do that too readily, he'll be slipping and sliding out of bed five times a nap. I sit on the floor beside him. With warmth and concern, I observe: "You're sure stuck, aren't you, Riley?" "Yeah. I stuck." "It doesn't look very fun. Bet you'd be more comfortable in bed, wouldn't you?" "Yeah. Bed." "Okay, buddy. I'll show you how to get down, but then you're going to get right back in that bed." "Yeah. Bed." "And stay there." A cautionary tone. "Yeah. Bed." A little hand-over-hand, and Riley is sitting on the floor beside me. A snuggle to soothe, and then up he scrambles into bed. I tuck him in and kiss that punkin head. "Have a good snooze, Riley. And Riley?" "It's okay, Mary. My head likes to be in bed now."

Saturday, August 06, 2005

An Orgy of Literary Dimensions

In the past week, I've wallowed shamelessly in an unrestrained self-indulgence of reading. Since July 28 I've read: Amsterdam, by Ian McEwan Mrs. Craddock, Somerset Maugham the five people you meet in heaven, Mitch Albom The Mice Will Play, Edward O. Phillips The Reader, Bernard Schlink Family Matters, Rohinton Mistry The Red Tent, Anita Diamant I'm about to tackle Muhammad, by Karen Armstrong, which I've been told is much more accessible than the last book of hers I tried (A Brief History of God). Never did finish that one, though the first few chapters were very interesting. After that it just became far too dense. My opinions on all these? In the Lots of Fun, or Really Interesting category fall: The Mice Will Play and The Red Tent. In A Good Read, even though I found the epilogue unnecessary, far too long, and a detraction: Family Matters Nice: mildly thought-provoking, not very deep really, but nice: the five people you meet in heaven Disturbing: The Reader. Why, oh why didn't he TELL the judge what he knew? I just don't get it. And without that, what's the point of the story? Much ado about nothing: Mrs. Craddock. This was a short story, stretched out to an entire novel. A waste of 10,000 extra words. Completely inexplicable and far-fetched/unlikely: Amsterdam. (It won the Booker prize, too. So is the problem me or the book?) All that and finished a table, too! What a woman.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Finishing finished

There! The table is done. Well, mostly. It's stripped, scrubbed, cleaned, sanded, and refinished with three coats. It could use some more coats, but they will wait until next week. Pictures have been taken. Will be posted anon. Tomorrow: the back porch!! Woo-hoo. (All this energy,wow!Is it because I'm on holiday, or because I'm mid-cycle?) Love it, whatever the reason.

A Matter of Life and Death

From the archives. I took a group of tots to the Museum of Nature. The focus of today's story is wee Suzie, who was three at the time. Suzie was fascinated by the stuffed animals in their glass dioramas. "Is that a real fox, Mary?" "Well, once it was, but it died. Someone gave it to the museum, and they fixed it up so that we can see what a fox looks like." Which is as detailed an explanation of taxidermy as needed for a three-year-old. The idea took hold, and we repeated this exchange for the next twenty minutes for each of the many stuffed animals, birds, and reptiles we encountered. After that, she seems to have grasped the concept. Now, instead of asking, she observes. "That's a dead bird, isn't it, Mary?" "Those snakes are dead." "Look, Johnny, there's a dead rabbit!" She wasn't the least distressed by this, but one of the more sensitive little guys is beginning to look a bit green. Let's divert her focus, shall we? "Oh, look, everyone! See these ducks? They look kind of like the ones we see in the river by Mary's house, don't they?" The children look and agree that yes, they do. I expand their edification. "Only these ones don't have green heads, do they? What colour are they?" They discuss this a bit, and I'm pleased to have shifted our conversation. "What colour is that duck's head, Suzie?" Suzie chirps: "Brown, and it's dead!"

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Hygiene, sorta

From the archives. Characters, Boy 1 and Boy 2, both 2 and a half. Boy 2 is quite a bit brighter than Boy 1. (What? Don't give me that look. Some kids just have to work a little harder, that's all... And this one rarely bothered.) Between them, the boys have caused a major Cheerios spill. Little oat O's cascade all over the dining room table, bench, and floor. The boys are each given a receptacle and are set to picking them up. Boy 1, not surprisingly, is happily shovelling them into his mouth as quickly as he can manage. Boy 2 reprimands him. "No, no, we don't eat food offa the floor! We eat it out of a bowl, like me, see?" he says, chewing with gusto. And displays for Boy 1's perusal a little orange bowl, filled to the brim with Cheerios. Which he had just picked up from the floor.

Table Talk

I think I need to clarify something for all you people who are shaking your heads at the way I'm wasting perfectly good holiday time sweating over a table. I would never describe myself as someone overburdened with the old work ethic, but it is true that if I don't do a few "productive" things with my down-time, I feel dissatisfied, even a little depressed. So my holiday must encompass diligence, frivolity, and sloth for me to feel wholly satisfied. Now you know. The table, having had three applications of stripper, is, I think, finally varnish-free. I'm waiting for it to dry from its latest before I know for sure, but either way, I'm not using that gunk any more. From here on it, it's all sandpaper... And, I fervently hope, I can begin to apply the new finish either this evening or tomorrow morning. Woo-hoo. Someone asked if I have before and after pictures. Sadly, no. Unlike some of you Friday Stuff people, I don't tend to take pictures of my furniture. I did think of it, in fact, but the day I started my sweetie was in Halifax with the camera. Without a "before" picture, is there any point to an "after"?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Holiday, Day 1

Yesterday was the first real day of my holiday. Real as in the rest of the city is back at work after the long weekend. And I'm not, nyah, nyah! My big excitement? Went to Home Hardware and bought the necessaries for stripping the dining room table. Got all started: paint-stripping gel smeared all over. Tip: Do NOT use one of those foam applicators when applying stripper. The more I smeared, the droopier and softer the applicator became, flopping over limp and spreading wildly on the table. Clearly it, too, was being dissolved. God knows what excess toxic fumes I was breathing. I began to fear for the budgie: poor little sap, the canary in the mines of home improvements. I kept an eye on him. When he fell off his perch, that'd be the time to grab the children and run. However, he continued to chirrup happily, and I continued to smear goo. Waited the proscribed time, then went to town with the scraper. Got lots of vile dark crud off the table. When I'd rinsed it down afterward, I was thrilled with the sight of my lovely clean pine table. Pale yellow, and much duller than before. This is good. Now I can start sanding, right? Eight minutes of sweaty struggle later, I get the sandpaper attached to the palm sander. Why do they make it so damned precise? One mm too far on one side, and it won't snap in the other. Next time I cut the sheet bigger than instructed. Nyah. And awaaay we go!! Except, geez, this thing isn't nearly as powerful as I'd expected. I'd been warned about applying even pressure, not stopping in one spot lest it make a divot and spoil the table. Ha! Nothing like that is remotely possible with my little Black and Decker, but with patience, I get a lovely clean stripe down the table. Clean, pale, white. White? Hmmm... Damn. This means, of course, I've removed only about half the varnish. Sweat is dripping into my eyes. It's time to make dinner. So I quit. We ate dinner on a table that looks like it has leprosy. This project is going to take longer than I expected...

More Singable Songs

(Sorry, Raffi.) One of my favourite songs to sing to teeny ones when they're fractious is done to the tune of "What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor?", except in my version, it's "Cranky Baby". Kinda fun. So the first verse is the question, "What shall we do...ear-lie in the mornin'", and the second verse is the answer: "Bounce her up and down until she giggles", or maybe "Nibble on her toes until she giggles", and then "Swing him all around...", "zerbert on the bellybutton"... There are as many verses as you have imagination. And energy. It usually works! If it doesn't, I'll end with, "Put him up to bed until he's happy..."

Monday, August 01, 2005

Sing My Baby to Sleep

We just bought a couple of new CDs by a fellow named Tom Lips, and I'm loving them. He's a terrific lyricist, and a fascinating mix of total goofball and complete romantic. So you'll find yourself listening to a poignant ballad on one track - one or two actually brought a lump to my throat - and then laughing out loud to something completely wacko on the next. Take, for example, "Big Rocks are Falling", a gentle lullaby in the soothing tradition of Rock-a-Bye Baby. Let's have the first verse and chorus, shall we? (To actually listen to a bit of it, go here.) Go to sleep, my little darling, 'Cause you know you're safe now, right where you are. Just don't go peeking out the window, 'Cause a great big boulder Just crushed our car. Chorus: Big rocks are falling from the blue sky, Falling thick and fast Falling by the score. Big rocks are falling from the blue sky, So go to sleep now baby, Weep no more. Shocked? Then you've never stayed up for long, dark hours, trying with increasing desperation to calm that howling fruit of your loins. Those of who have understand the cathartic value of a little dark humour. Crooning this to our fractious child at three in the morning is a blessedly wholesome way to sublimate those dark urges that arise within the sleep-deprived brain at such times. All of you with under-twos should buy the disk for that one song!!

Snarl, Mutter, Gripe

Computers... As you know, my computer has fallen apart, and is soon to be replaced. For the last week, I've been using my partner's work internet connection, but this weekend we can't seem to get online. I'm assuming that the remote connections have been disconnected while the techies work their magic. It's a long weekend here, and they can reasonably assume minimal users. So now I'm actually AT my partners work so we can blog!! Aren't we dedicated? Or is that obsessed? Or even pathetic... Anyway. Plans are afoot to fix matters, but if contact is sporadic for the next few days, you'll know why.