Sunday, November 29, 2009

Renovations done! With a MILLION photos

This post is for Omaha Mama, who seems honestly enthusiastic about renovations, and for Bea, who is--I can attest with certainty--rabidly enthusiastic about paint colours.

The living room is done! Just to refresh, this is what the living room looked like when we bought the house (these are the agent's photos):

Does it look like an old lady lived here? Because she did!

Aaaaand, here's what it looks like now! The paint colours are: Oat Straw on the walls and Polar Bear on the trim, both by Behr, and I have to say, the paint went on just lovely, but smells absolutely terrible, still. Okay, ready?

What do you think? I adore it (other than the smell, and the lingering wrist pain from doing all that fussy and humongous Edwardian woodwork). I think it looks bright and moder and unfussy. My mom and my sister and Pynchon's parents are horrified every time we paint over the wood, but you know, you can actually see it now that it's not grimmest darkest stain. At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I freaked out and hung four sets of blinds this week to. Of course I'll show you!

I went with brushed aluminum miniblinds in the kitchen and bathroom, both because they reflect the light back nicely and because they're easier to care for in a high humidity dust-attracting zone.

And here's the blind in the living room, which you can't actually see in the photos above. Please note I put them up when the trim was painted -- but the walls were still that weird peachy-pink I increasingly find myself unable to live with any longer.


Yeah, so I blew NaBloPoMo again this month. I got sick on Friday and really wanted to focus my remaining energy on getting the painting done. Failed again! D'oh!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Queen of teh Internets. Not.

Today it finally happened: I misfired an email so that something personal went to the wrong, wrong, wrong person. Doesn't this happen to everyone at some point? Did I think I would be spared, just because I'm the resident Professor of Internet Culture and Printer-Hookup and Switching People to Macs?

Sadly, no.

A month or so ago, a bunch of professors from all across campus got hauled out of our quotidian lives to Do a Big Favor for the Dean in a public presentation. The presentation exceeded expectations, I guess, and so today I got an email from some admin support staff in the Dean's office, a mass-email to all of us who participated, inviting us to a cocktail shindig of gratitude. It runs from 4-6. Okay.

Being an excellent and thoughtful wife and partner, I forwarded--so I thought--the invitation to Pynchon, with the following text added at the top:

"Can I go to this?

Yeah. That didn't go to Pynchon. It went to the admin assistant--at least, THANK GOD, I didn't hit 'reply all'. She promptly sent back a reply:

"Of course. You were an important part of the presentation in September."

Oh dear Lord. I wrote her back immediately explaining that I had meant to be asking my husband if he could do the daycare pickup, and that while she seemed very nice, I didn't think we were yet on kissing and hugging terms. I told her I was embarrassed, and I apologized for the awkwardness. I did NOT sign off with kisses and hugs.

She wrote back:


So, Internet friends. I feel like an ass. Send me your stories of how and if and when you've pulled a like manoeuvre on the World Wide Embarrassment Machine. That'd make me feel less silly.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Moral Dilemma

Having waited an eternity to get to the front of the line to order, and then to receive, my triple grande nonfat extra-hot latte, I fairly sprinted out of Starbucks towards my car. We had been too late leaving the house to pick up my coffee on the way to drop Pynchon off, so I dropped him at his building on campus and then Munchkin off at hers, before driving my behind-schedule self to the strip-mall Starbucks closest to daycare to load up on hot caffeine before dashing in to the office myself.

As the sun hit me in the face and I looked up to see exactly where it was I had parked, something in a minivan parked right in front of me caught my eye. It was two toddlers, strapped in to their car seats, completely unattended.

I pulled up short.

The girl was about 2, and the little boy I assume to have been her brother was about 1. They were smiling and swatting at one another. Nevertheless, completely unattended. I looked left, right, behind me: no one.

What to do?

They seemed happy. The weather was a cool 5 or 6 degrees, so they were in imminent danger neither from heat stroke nor hypothermia. But then, completely unattended! My mommy senses were tingling. I didn't know what to do. Confusion and indecision is no reason to just shrug my shoulders and march on--but it didn't seem smart or kind to intrude myself upon their notice, which would likely just scare them.

So I stood there, blinking ineffectually, and keeping my eye on them from where I stood, about 10 feet away from the van.

What to think?

On the one hand, it is just NOT COOL to leave little tiny kids unattended in a van in a parking lot at a strip mall. Even if they're strapped into their seats and happy. NOT COOL.

On the other hand, I only get to grab my coffee in speed and solitude because my kid is in daycare; many is the time I have deferred running an urgent errand because the inevitable tra-la-la of removing her from the car seat and cajoling her into and out of the dry cleaner's / pharmacy / tailor / liquor store and then back into the car and the seat belt is just too daunting.

On the one hand, this isn't the small town where everyone knows everyone and you can leave your kid unattended with security.

On the other hand, because this isn't the small town where everyone knows everyone you maybe don't have anyone you can ask to watch your kids for a couple of minutes while you nip out to the corner store. And in strip-mall-land on the northwest end of the city, there is precious little in the way of amenities it is possible to walk to even if you wanted to.

After about 6 or 7 minutes, the woman I assume to be their mother dashed out of Starbucks, hopped into the car, and drove off, no one harmed and no one the wiser as to my surveillance and confusion.

I've decided, I think, that I'm glad I didn't give her The Glare or make a scene. It was certainly not the smartest or safest way she could have got her coffee, but I had her back. I kept my eye on her kids, a small kindness to someone who likely quite needed it. I know that I would need something a lot stronger than coffee to stay home full time with two toddlers.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

WW: Mid-paint

It gets worse before it gets better, right?

Monday, November 23, 2009

I figured it out

Remember when I hacked off the end of my thumb last year, and failed once more to start the new year with grace, dignity, and professionalism?

Can you believe it's still not quite right? It's all healed over, of course, and the end of the thumb is all nice and round like before, but it's all scar tissue, and when I try to do something like button my jeans, it hurts, and I just figured out how to describe it.

You know how when you get a rock in your shoe, it hurts? Not bad, but tender and irritating? Like your sole is expecting to make contact with shoe, but there's something sharp and jabby in the way?

It's like I have a rock in my thumb, it's that exact sensation of something sharp and jabby at the end of my thumb where I expect to hit a smooth surface of, say, the button on my jeans.

Descriptive problem solved. You may all rest easier now.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ho, Ho, Home Depot

Here's a new holiday ritual to add to our family scrapbook: repaint the living room.

Somehow, it's 10:30 pm and I've just cleaned my trusty angled sash brush of the remaining primer, having sanded, rinsed, repaired, de-greased, rinsed, and primed the two big window, two large doorways, and all the baseboards in the living after rolling up the rug, pushing the couches into the middle of the room, distributing all the other furniture and toys into the rest of the house.

How did this happen to my Sunday?

Well, I was thinking:

* my sister is coming to bake Christmas cookies next weekend
* that means I should get out the reindeer aprons and the recipes
* these things are in the Christmas decorations boxes in the attic
* next weekend is effectively the very end of November, so the decorations should be done anyways
* God, I really don't want to see my ugly living room pink walls and dark trim and ugly leftover curtains in all the Christmas pictures this year.

And so the painting, I guess. Because once the decorations go up, there's too much holiday bric-a-brac to do any renovating. The fall doo-dads all got packed away when I took the living room apart, and in the window between harvest theme and snow theme comes, of course, 'back-breaking labour' theme.

While I was at Home Depot replenishing the painting supplies, I also picked up 6 custom-cut window blinds. I'm increasingly losing patience with the cheap-o, too-short sheers the previous owner installed for the sale. Besides, they don't open all the way. So if I get bored with painting, I can get out the drill and the level and install my shiny new curtain-replacements.

Once all that's done, then I can decorate for Christmas. It's going to be a busy week, I think.

Happy holidays! Here's a paintbrush!


Pynchon holds back my Christmas Elf tendencies as long as he can, but he gave me license to just go with it, as of today. So you know that he spent the afternoon putting up our outdoor Christmas lights.

We didn't manage to put them up last year, our first holiday in our new home. I didn't know what or how or anything, but I've taken 18 months to think about it and so today Pynchon installed a bunch of permanent hooks along the roof-edge of the porch and strung our multicoloured lights out from the light fixture and all around. Munchkin helped him, enthralled. My heart broke a little, from the happiness of listening to them as I painted.

(Yeah, I was inside the house and they were outside. I could hear them breathing. Our main living room window, that fronts on the porch is a single pane of 90 year old glass. Sigh. And my neighbours probably just heard that.)

Let the festive season begin!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Various government initiatives


Unexpectedly, we received a cheque for $3054.00 from the federal government on Wednesday afternoon. This was our 'eco-energy' rebate, and it was unexpected because the accredited inspector who submitted our paperwork in early October told us we could probably expect to wait 90 days, give our take, to get our rebate. It was more like 40 days, a welcome efficiency in government service.

$3054! Hooray! Actually, we can expect to receive (within 90 days?) the provincial portion of our rebate, which matches the federal funds, so another $3054. I just like to write that number down, because it seems so satisfying large. Let's gloss over for the moment the fact that the renovations being rebated cost more in the line of $18,000, and that all rebate monies are being applied directly against a line of credit, rather than funding a trip, say, to Paris.

My 30s seem to be about tankless water heaters a little more than about trips to Paris. Oh well.

Our energy inspector gave us a new sticker for our electrical panel, to reflect the value of all the changes we've made to the house. At our first inspection, our house score a 12. If you're wondering, that's 12 OUT OF A HUNDRED, where 100 means your house is airtight and distills its own water from the vapour in your breath, and 1 means you live on an uncovered porch. After installing a new furnace, new air conditioner, new water heater, and insulating all the exterior walls, we're up to a ... (drum roll) ... 64! Which is apparently very very good for a house built in 1917.


Pynchon and I both work at the university, and on Thursday the university health services opened its H1N1 vaccination clinic to the general university population, after a couple of weeks of rationing and targeting.

Naturally, we made a Friday lunch date to go get needled.

There was hardly a lineup at all and the whole process was very organized. I had heard that the injection was more painful than the normal flu shot so I was pleasantly surprised to find it didn't hurt at all! And no bleeding! And no sore arm. I crowed about the sheer niceness of the whole experience and basked in my 15 minutes of enforced relaxation with my husband in the don't-drop-dead-of-shock waiting area after we were vaccinated.

I felt, I gotta tell you, quite good about the whole experience.

Until today, when the fatigue walloped me like a Black Friday crowd trying to get at the early bird TV specials at a New Jersey Wal-Mart.

Holy smokes I'm tired. I don't remember feeling this wiped out for a really long time, not without being sick. I guess I should be feeling better by tomorrow. I'll let you know.

Friday, November 20, 2009

13 minutes to midnigth!

Damn you, NaBloPoMo!

Let me tell you quickly that I had that parental cliché nightmare scenario at the grocery store today. You know, the one where your three year old is goofing off while you feverishly unpack items from the cart to the conveyor belt, and you take your eyes off her for ten seconds and ll of a sudden there's a terrible din and your three year old is in the middle of it and it appears in a flash that what has happened is that she has knocked over a giant angled display of boxes of Christmas chocolates and everyone in the whole world is looking at you?

Yeah. That happened.

Maybe I'll fill in the details tomorrow. But we were buying supplies for a party that has ended just this very minute, with 13 minutes to spare for concocting and publishing my Friday post.

Phew. Done.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'm gonna live forever ...

... or at least until the 11pm news.

I took a media call today about, of all things, Twilight (or rather, The Twilight Saga: New Moon) and 10 minutes later, a TV news reporter and her camera guy pulled up to my office and asked me some questions on camera, and 3 minutes after that, it was all done.

Two hours later, interspersed among clips teenagers in high school parking lots talking about Taylor Lautner's hotness and random people at the mall food court decrying teen lit, is a five second clip of me talking about the sexual tension in the novel and how we're never sure Bella is going to become a vampire or not. Immediate cut to a scene from the film, a juxtaposition sure never to be repeated.


Then Edward.

Then Bella.

(Oh my.)

Then we switched over to Treehouse on demand for a command performance of Dora and Diego save the lost spectacled bears.

Media stardom was exciting, while it lasted.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WW: Horn of Plenty, preschool-style

What, your cornucopia doesn't contain plastic toast, plastic carrots, plastic lettuce, and a plastic waffle? I just found this still life configuration when I was cleaning up one night after Munchkin and Pynchon had been playing while I was at yoga. It surprised me; I laughed.

More common an examplar in the preschooler horn of plenty genre is the following:

The shoe of plenty. Plenty of sand. Yikes!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Didn't wanna, but did

Why are the things that are good for us, that make us feel good, so hard to get done? Why, in fact, (and I don't think I'm alone here), do I actively sabotage my own participation in activities that I enjoy and that make positive contributions to my life and to my family?

Why, if I enjoy it so much, feel so good afterwards, and clearly notice the benefits to my muscle tone, balance and flexibility, want TO SKIP OUT ON YOGA EVERY SINGLE DAMN TIME? I forced myself to go tonight, and it was awesome from the moment I rolled out my mat to the moment I touched my head to the ground, namaste. At 6:01, yoga is the only place in the world I want to be. At 5:59? I would have volunteered to muck out the organic waste bin to get out of leaving the house.

Why do I just not take my vitamins? I see them there in the cupboard, every day, right there beside the peanut butter for which I am reaching. I reach right past them. Every day. I would feel better if I took them. It's not hard to take them. And yet? I don't.

I made soup stock the other day so that I could do a new slow cooker recipe for a weeknight dinner. Actually, that was last week. The potato-leek-mushroom au gratin only got made tonight, and I had to force myself to get started. However, as soon as I slipped on my apron and lined up the first mushroom on the cutting board, chef knife in hand, I felt peaceful, competent, organized and happy. And of course, tomorrow's dinner is now made and I don't have to think about it anymore. Why, why, why do I put off cooking? I enjoy cooking, fer chrissake.

Why do I stay up too late? Um, okay, that one I think I know: I'm afraid I won't be able to fall asleep (insomnia becoming something of a Chronic Condition around here, I regret to inform) and there's more agency in staying awake deliberately than otherwise. But either way, I wake up really tired.

Blogging, too: I love it, and two years running I hop on the NaBloPoMo train to give my blogging some external structuring and motivating force. I love blogging--love reading your blogs, love writing my own and reading comments and checking my sitemeter--and yet I don't do it. It's not that I don't have time, I just avoid doing it for some reason.

Self-sabotage, thy name is, err, self.

Why, why, why?

Do you self-sabotage? How? Why? Help me, oh Internets, help me to understand, at least!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Preschoolers are prescriptive grammarians

Pynchon: "Munchkin, okay, it's time to get dressed for bed! Mommy's coming home soon and you want to be ready for your stories!"

Munchkin: [play, play, play] "Play! Play! Play!"

Pynchon: "C'mon now, Munchkin. It's pajama time: let's put on your diapers."

Munchkin: "Dad, it's only one. It's a DIAPER, it's not diapers."

Pynchon: "!!!!"

Technically, it's a matter of usage that either construction, the plural or the singular formation, is idiomatic. However, I say diaper and Pynchon says diapers and Munchkin has noticed there's a difference. And, prescriptive grammarian that she's turned out to be, she has picked one version as correct and will not hesitate to correct what she sees as an error.

(I'm a little appalled. I'm more from the descriptive grammar camp, myself. Munchkin needs to be schooled in academic fashion, obviously.)

As it turns out, she peed through everything, diaper, diapers, whatever. Laundry? Is being done.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Way the Hell Up North!

Is where I'm going! Right now! At 5:15am! With my sister!

Pynchon is taking the weekend shift so that I can have a girls' weekend with my mom and my sister. We haven't done something like this for years--just the three of us, no kids, no husbands. We'll be going to Christmas Tea this afternoon, just like we used to do in, err, the 1970s. And 1980s.

Set the wayback machine for vinyl tablecloths, doilies, and green-dyed bread with no crust.

I'm so happy about it all that I'm even looking forward to 3.5 hours just hanging out in the car listening to Vinyl Café (and a bunch of other stuff) on CBC, rolling north north north up the highway, away from all those responsibilities that make my life my life. Just a wee break.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ain't life funny like that?

You ever troll your site meter to see where people are coming from? I discover some great blogs that way--usually lurkers who link me in their own side bars and click over that way, pretty regularly. You know who you are, lurky-loos.

Anyhoodle, I noticed a new link around the same time I noticed a new commenter. Nancy writes "The B in Subtle" (and isn't that the best blog title, ever?) and her first post I happened to read ... demonstrated that she hangs out in the same Starbucks as me.

Well, holy smokes.

I dropped her a comment, noting that I was a local. She sent me an email and I wrote one back--"I'll see you, maybe sooner than latte," she punned.

Today, a little voice behind me at Starbucks says, tentatively, "[Mimi]?" And there she is, in the flesh, with her ADORABLE baby boy, six months old today, just cooing and smiling and being ADORABLE.

(Obviously she recognized me because my profile photo has the same giant coffee cup in front of my head that was in front of my head today, lit by the blue glow of the MacBook Pro that was lighting it up today. I need a new shtick ...)

A new friend!


Why don't YOU delurk and say hi. Maybe I'll see you at Starbucks next week as a direct result. Who knows?

(Now feel of course like I should have had lipstick on to meet a new friend. And that I should have made more eye contact with her instead of practically eating her baby alive. Whoops. When I'm nervous, I focus on the ADORABLE babies, who are not likely to notice I seem to have food on my cardigan. Of course.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Two stories, about language development.


Last night Pynchon tucked me into bed (as he does) at 10pm. As he left our room, he peered in on Munchkin, pulled her door near-to-closed, and turned off the hallway light (as he does). Munchkin half woke, mad to find herself, I guess, in the dark.

She shouted out once or twice, inarticulate angry and sad noises, intermittently. Then she started crying in earnest. In I went to her room where she gazed at me, tears in her eyes, and wailed. Then she hit me and rolled away. I stood up to leave and she smacked me again, bawling. I asked her over and over what she wanted, but she just cried.

So I went back to our room with Pynchon. We sat on the bed and listened to her cry, not sure what to do. It was like nothing so much as her infancy: inarticulate sobbing and no obvious remedy.

After a few minutes, I went back in to her room. She faced me and said, piteously, "I'm tired, Mom, can you crawl into bed with me for a bed snug." I did, and she calmed down immediately. "No, don't put your arm around me. Just be still and stay beside me." I did. After a while I made to get out of bed. "Mom, not yet, I need one more minute ... okay, you can leave now."

I'll tell you what: a wailing child who can use words is a lot easier to comfort than a wailing child who cannot.

Go, language development!


They're big on self-help at preschool. All the kids can put on their own jackets (if not do the zippers), pull up their own boots (if not on the right feet), and get their hats on their heads (if not in such a way that they can still see). And when they come in, all the kids get themselves undressed and put all their own gear away on hooks and mats and in cubbies.

Munchkin has trouble with her splash pants. She wears a lot of skirts, and tends to get tangled, or to pull off everything and flash her bum. She finds this frustrating.

Yesterday, she was the last kid in the vestibule before storytime, struggling to get out of her outside clothes. Teacher M called out to her to hurry up, because story time (Munchkin's VERY FAVORITE PART OF THE DAY) was about to start without her. What she got in response?

"I CAN'T GET THESE GODDAMN SPLASH PANTS OFF." (grumble, grumble, inarticulate swearing and grunting).

Go, language development!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

WW: The Artist at Work

The portable dishwasher: not just a movable kitchen island, but also a movable painting easel.

I think she's got real talent ... I mean, this is what we've got hanging in the dining room and it doesn't look much different:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This Sh*t is Bananas

Poor Pynchon. Munchkin really gives him the gears, she truly does. She's harder on him than on me, and, worse, two nights a week, while I'm at yoga, he's in charge and parenting solo during ... The Arsenic Hour, that very long and poisonous period of two hours starting with the end of the working and ending with the start of bedtime.

If you are interested in seeing and hearing one of Munchkin's legendary tantrums, come during The Arsenic Hour.

One night, after a protracted struggle to get Munchkin out of the car and into the house, and then from the end of the TV show and into the high chair, Pynchon had finally sat down to his pizza and removed his earplugs. (Oh yes, that's the kind of tantrums we're talking about. Loud.)

She wanted a banana. He got her a banana. She couldn't start the peel. He started the peel ... but peeled too far! Oh noes! The banana lost structural integrity! When Munchkin lunged at it and took her first bite with the tears still drying on her face, the banana snapped.

The banana snapped.

Munchkin snapped.

She wailed, she caterwauled, she completely. lost. her. shit. Through the sirening, keening, crying, eventually Pynchon could make out "Fix it! The banana ... is ... broken .... broooooo-kennnnnnn! Fix it!"

He tried to reason with her. He tried to console her. He tried to ignore her. He tried to distract her. It was the last banana, and the banana that is rent asunder can never be made whole.

She wailed and wailed and then: "Daaaaaa-ddddyyyyy! Fix it! You can use the taaaaaaaaaaape."

Pynchon snapped.

He went into the kitchen digging around for tape, banana bits in hand. No tape. In desperation, instead, this:

A paper towel and rubber band tourniquet. On the banana.

He brought it back into teh dining room. Munchkin looked at it, surprised. The wailing ... ceased. She paused. And then? Uproarious, glorious laughter. Complete hysterical laughter, a kind of disbelief and pleasure at the absurdity.

It took her a long time to stop shaking too hard to hold the banana, but she finally managed it.

She took one bite, and put it down. Satisfied.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Blue Monday

Not the New Order song (I find their earlier stuff way better, actually.) And not the mathematically calculated "most depressing day of the year." But laundry, traditionally done on Monday. According to this site, laundry wasn't really a Monday job, but a Sunday through Wednesday affair.

This probably doesn't surprise you, huh?

I've washed Munchkin's fall jacket no fewer than twice in the past 7 days; her splash pants three times. And mitts, and hat. And bedding. And all her clothes. Two sets of big-bed sheets. Many towels and kitchen laundry.

Empty the school bag. Pack the school bag.

Tidy. Cook. Wipe. Plan. Shop. Refill the toilet paper. Find four ponies, distributed through the house. Things into the car, then things back from the car. Toys into my purse, toys out of my purse. Run the dishwasher, but accumulate a week's worth of martini glasses, roasting pans, and pots and hide them in the oven until morale can be mustered to clean them.

Refill the jetdry dispenser.

Find a very very very dirty pink and white striped butterfly sock under the bench in the foyer. Take it outside to dump out the sand before reuniting it with its mate in the hamper.

The sheer repetitive drudgery of daily life is astonishing me all over again. And dudes, I have the most amazingly egalitarian husband in the world. He's up to his elbows in organic waste, newpaper and cardboard, plastics and glass, and the pullup pail. He's raking a dumptruck of leaves onto the street for the city to pick up. He's making beds and pulling a million little foam rubber toys out of the bottom of the tub and squashing them into a wet bag.

We have, I must protest here, a cleaning lady. We don't do: vacuuming, mopping, bathrooms, dusting, the stove, the fridge, the microwave. We only have one kid!

How? On? Earth? Can we possibly be spending so much time on this stuff?

And yet, in some kind of drudge work-related Stockholm Syndrome, tonight, as I hunched my yoga-sore back over to retrieve one little sneaker from the carpet, I kinda felt ... right.

"Awww," I thought, "I'm somebody's Mom, picking up sneakers and wearing a cardigan waiting for Dancing With the Stars to come on. Life is perfect."

Well, if you gotta do chores for 90% of your waking hours ... A blue Monday through rose coloured glasses is the way to go.

Now where's my ice cubes for my bourbon?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A meme! Woot!

I got tagged for a meme, and it couldn't have come at a better time: Sunday night!

10 Honest Things about Me

1. I eat a lot more junk food than I let on. I am metabolically blessed, apparently, and it's not fair that I'm as judgmental about others' food choices as I am. I just don't seem to pay the price for my own bad choices.

2. I'm at my very best when I in front of a classroom. I'm funny, I'm charming, I'm incisive, I'm rigorously smart and precise, I'm irreverent.

3. I'm trying not to look at the Christmas flyers yet, because I'm one white-star-on-red-background motif away from bringing out the Charlie Brown Xmas CD and putting it on repeat until New Years. Intellectually, I know it's too soon ....

4. If you met me, you would find me funny. Unless we're in a group. Then you might find me a little pushy or maybe manic. Sorry 'bout that.

5. I'm more interested in non-fiction reading (eg, How to Read Like an English Professor) than novels, for the last several years at least, which kind of appalls me, seeing as I am an English professor. But this week I'm really grooving on a Jeeves omnibus edition. 700 pages of modernist idle rich goofiness, ahhhhh.

6. I have really ugly feet. Wide and mismatched. But it really doesn't bother me, and I can be fond of them, subjectively, even as I can see, dispassionately, that they're really not the kind of feet to show of in any context at all.

7. As much as I love complicated critical theories of media or subjectivity or written expression, as much as I decipher and tease apart political and public culture and texts with a clear eye and an engaged adult mind, I increasingly recoil from much adult entertainment: I find most serious novels too depressing to read, most TV dramas far too bleak or gruelling, most Hollywood film beyond romantic-comedy overwrought and emotionally exhausting. I could watch Dancing with the Stars forever and just be done with adult art, I think, and live a happy life.

8. I find Crocs really really really comfortable. I have a pair that is in constant use as my year-round indoor slippers. I do not walk 10 feet without putting my Crocs on. Yes, they're ugly, blah blah. But! Oh, the comfort. Sometimes, I bring them to other people's houses when we visit. Yikes.

9. I can read faster than most people I know, but the truth is, I don't really remember anything about any of it after about 24 hours. Sometimes I'll get halfway through a scholarly article before I realize I've already read it. Fast but sloppy.

10. Once, I wrote Ricky Shroeder a fan letter--I was the queen of the elementary school playground for a week or so when he wrote! me! back! and sent an autographed picture. Swoon. It was a really good week, and it was nice to not be a loser dork getting shoved and ignored, however briefly.

Thanks Debbie at Pink Journey for lobbing this my way!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

NaBloPoMo! I can't quit you!

And so it is that I'm posting a photo of me and Pynchon, on a date, taken with my iPhone sometime shorty after 10 pm tonight. We're at the fancy-shmancy bar area of the go-to fancy-shmancy restaurant in our town centre. So, about five minutes walk from home, so we can both have a stiff drink before staring deeply into ... the camera phone:

We got a sitter--let's call her Mary. Mary is the only sitter we've ever had, the pint-sized daughter of a colleague who, much to her own chagrin and our delight, has not yet managed to find a retail job to pay her high-school-student entertainment and fashion expenses. Hence her willingness to babysit for us lo these past 2.5 years. Munchkin loves her, and shoos us out the door the minute Mary arrives. Mary allows Munchkin to boss her mercilessly ("No! This way! Hold the pony like this, and then you say 'Hola! Soy Pinkie Pie!'"), and in return Munchkin idolizes her ("Please Mary, can I look at your beautiful braces again? Oooh, they're so beauuuutiful").

It sure is nice to traipse down the front steps, holding hands with my husband, while our daughter cheerfully orders us to get out and leave her with her beloved Mary. "I'll see you tomorrow! Have a great party!"

A fine time was had by all.

Better content tomorrow, I swear ...

Friday, November 06, 2009

Just like you can't store sleep ...

I had an epiphany today.

I was thinking about how everyone is telling Amy to get lots of sleep now, because she soon won't have much choice in the matter. We all give this advice ruefully and ironically: you can't store sleep, obviously, and while it's nice to head into labour after a nice nap rather than after an 18 hour cupboard cleaning binge, in the bigger picture, the best night's sleep in the world while hugely pregnant offers little or no benefit much after the first 12 hours of wakefulness.

Sleep is great. You'll miss sleep. Very true. But you can't stock it up now, in a time of plenty, for use later.

It's like that with babies, too. Amy, get used to people also telling you to "enjoy this time" because "it's all gone so fast." Enjoy the mustard poops and the toothless smiles and those couple of days of funny caveman reflexes in your baby. Drink it in! Savor it! Don't waste a minute of it! These days will Soon! Be! Gone! Forever!

Well, I guess that's true: look at me! My kid used to be a newborn and now she's nearly three and a half. Time has, in fact, flown and, from the rate at which she continues to grow, the prospect is remote that she will return to her original squally if adorable nine pounds.


Looking back, I find that I cherish the memories that I have from that time. Of course I do.

However. I also find that I do not regret one single instance of handing her to her father and running out to Starbucks to read the paper. I know, from reading it in my own damn archives, that I agonized about leaving her, for wanting to leave her, for wanting time to myself for even 20 minutes of sweet blessed alone time. I felt guilt-ridden and preemptively regretful: this time is never coming back, I fretted, gnashing my teeth and wringing my hands.

But here's the thing: Looking back, I don't really feel that I missed anything. I actually do not have any regrets about my daily 90 minute respite, date nights with Pynchon, going back to work when she was 6 months old. We did not inaugurate a pattern of dis-attachment that I rue to the present day. No. Actually, we grow closer every day. So all the tooth gnashing, the fretting, the hand-writing? That was wasted emotional energy. To be perfectly frank, I don't even remember what I was so freaked out about--I'm just reading it here.

In all honesty, I am full to overflowing with memories of Munchkin's life: how could I not be? What possible reason could I possibly have for preemptive regret at frittering away the experience of her early years if my heart and my mind and my blog and my photo albums are so so very full?

This morning, when I called her down to breakfast, Munchkin cried and cried because she wanted "Mommy to come plaaaaayyyy ponies with meeeee!" and I felt, of course, guilty. Because she's not going to be three forever, you know! Soon she'll be out of ponies and into whatever tween crap they play on the Family Channel--not Treehouse--and what then? I'll never get this chance to play ponies with her ever again, WAHHHH!

That's when it hit me: you can't store up time with your kid. You can't, that is, stop time by gorging on moments until you burst. And that's okay.

We've probably all always really known this, deep down. Memory is fickle and incomplete: baby has hardly been home a week before we see a photo from Day One and have the sudden shock of realizing "I don't even remember that happening." But we do not lack for memories, nevertheless. And when that newborn disappears and you start counting his age first in months and then seasons and finally years, rather than in hours and days and weeks, you will have, instead of that newborn, a baby! then a toddler! then a preschooler! who is yet even more lovable and loved that the child of those moments that have slipped passed you.

I love and cherish the memory of my newborn, of my 6 month old having her first taste of mashed banana, my 14 month old doing her first Frankenstein walk on the checkerboard floor of our old kitchen, my two year old in her first splash pool. But I don't need more of that--I still have so much more to come.

My memories are full and rich. My daily life is full of moments and durations and glimpses of love and time and experience. It's okay if I skip a pony session at 8am one Friday morning in November 2009. I played ponies at 6:45 am, actually, and many many times before that and surely many more times to come, most of which I don't and won't remember. But that's okay too.

I guess my epiphany is this: manage your time in its natural daily rhythms, its gives and takes, its us-time and its me-time, without always a wary eye on the potential for future regrets. Because keeping our eye on Gone! Forever! means you're too worried to actually just be, in the moment, or out of it, as needed.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Great Flu Scare of Aught-Nine

As I joined the 769 people in front of me on the track encircling the arena at the Rec Centre, watching the Zamboni do slow circles while our even slower circle of the would-be-vaccinted, I thought: I'm going to tell her this story someday.

I'll talk about the Great Flu of 2009, that flu that created so much panic: panic about whether the disease would be a mass killer; panic about whether the vaccine produced with such haste would be sufficient, whether it would be safe; panic about whether we could ever come in out of the rainy lineups and get The Shot before we got The Flu.

Was there a big lineup? Yeah, there was.

But not as bad as other days, from what I hear. And there was--can you believe it?--a rolling coffee cart:

I wound my way around the arena for 90 minutes to score a numbered wristband: 770. That was at 3:00. The Info People told me I could leave and come back later. Maybe try around 4:30 or 5, they suggested.

I called Pynchon, and he arranged to leave work early, just after four, to pick up Munchkin from daycare and meet me at the Centre. He would just drop her off, because parking was nearly impossible. We live so close to the centre that we could easily call him to come get us afterward, and he could be there in 5 minutes. A three-year-old shouldn't have to walk home after a flu shot, I think.

Munchkin hopped out of the car and into my arms. "Yay! I looooooove flu shots!" she shouted. Her last needle was at her 18 mos checkup, so she obviously didn't remember needles.

With our blue band, we marched right through three different checkpoints--public health employee! cop! paramedic!--and then right into the lineup for the nurse. In front of us, the same two 50-something women with emphysema who were directly in front of me earlier in the day. Only they had just stayed in the same line, from 1:30 until 5. All around me I saw toddlers and babies and nursing moms that I had seen at 1:30. Poor buggers. Munchkin had a ball eating a little bag of treats and mugging for the crowd. I have to say, the whole scene wa very organized: everyone knew what to do, the line was controlled, directions were clear, people were helpful.

And then the fire alarm went off.

People actually started laughing. The siren wailed and buzzed, but after about 30 seconds, a public health nurse got on the portable PA system (!) and told us to just wait for a minute. Then a minute later? It turns out one of those desperate or bored kids had pulled the alarm. Well, that's one way to try to get out of getting your flu. Nice try, but the flow of people was hardly interrupted at all.

The nurse very calmly showed me how to restrain Munchkin and everyone was all smiles. Munchkin watched the needle enter her arm, passively. The inject was half-done before she started to cry, not from fear but from pain: "Owwww, Mom! That hurts," she wailed, surprised and dismayed.

And then it was done. I lavished her with praise, and thanked the nurse. I had doudou and I had a little piece of compensatory chocolate and I even had a does of cherry-flavored Tylenol for her. I picked up her immunization record in the sit-and-wait area. She announced she didn't want to leave.

But then we went to "Old MacDonald's Restaurant" and there were My Little Ponies in her Happy Meal: a reward for a trial survived:

So it's done. I am relieved. Pynchon's not immunized yet; I'm not immunized yet. That's fine. It was the three year old I was worried about. And now I know I have done what it is possible for me to do.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

WW: Stop and Smell the (November) Flowers

Kids. They have a good sense of what's really important:

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Hand-me-down pick-me-ups

"What an adorable sweater," my mom remarked as Munchkin barreled around my sister's living room, chasing the dog. "You get her such adorable clothes!"

"That's a hand-me-down from [friend]'s daughter ... and, actually, the pants are from [cousin]!" I answered.

"You don't have to say that," my mom snapped back, chiding me for seeming to demur from the compliment, or for oversharing about money.

But I love hand me downs, and I talk about the multilayered geneology of Munchkin's clothes whenever anyone gives me half a chance. Because hand-me-downs, you see, mean that someone cares about my daughter, about me and Pynchon, about our family. Nothing on earth makes me feel more secure that my family is part of a bigger family of friends and relatives, a community of parents and children supporting one another, than watching yet another giant shopping bag / Rubbermaid tub / cardboard box drop onto the floor of the vestibule or into the trunk of my car.

When you bring me your daughter's clothes, I benefit from the care you took in selecting and buying and laundering and saving them. What's more, I have a window into your family life, your preference for track pants and zip-sweaters, or for tights and embroidered dresses. There is a trust and an intimacy in the exchange of these items. When Munchkin wears these clothes, you and your daughter are in my thoughts, our families linked.

I'm sharing the joy with Munchkin: look at this beautiful ruffle skirt! Did you know that this beautiful skirt used to belong to Naomie until she got too big, and now she is going to share it with you? Her eyes light up. "I'm a lucky girl, Mom!" She will march around telling people which friend used to wear that beautiful sweater, but then she'll tell you just as proudly that her mom bought her this other sweater "because she loves me."

Hand-me-downs for children seem an anachronism in our disposable and cheap Wal-Mart culture: can't everyone afford new clothes, now? Maybe. But it's not about money. Participating in this give-and-take informal economy of children's clothes has been one of the most meaningful set of social connections that parenthood has offered me. Receiving and giving out clothes in turn has bonded me more intimately with family members, old friends, and new friends. Skirts and hoodies and splash pants and snowsuits pull us all closer to one another, a tacit lesson learned that raising a kid benefits from looking beyond your own front porch.

As my attic fills in its turn with Rubbermaid tubs full of clothes that Munchkin has outgrown, I eagerly look for friends to share them with--not because I lack the room to store them, but because I want to see those little outfits again, in a new context, under a different smiling baby face. By sharing out Munchkin's clothes--and her high chair, and her crib, and her Bumbo chair--I feel a part of so many more babyhoods than I would otherwise have any right to lay claim to. My friend J just brought her 12 week old baby for a visit, and as she picked through the 3-6 month bucket, I sniffed the crown of that little wee girl's head for all it was worth, casting side glances at clothes I hadn't seen for three years, reliving again those days when my big girl wore sleepers and overalls.

We're not having any more kids. I guess I could start selling the big-money items on Craigslist or wherever, but I don't want to. I want to send bits of my intimate family life into the families of the people I care about. So it is that I'm going to mail away my Medela Pump-n-Style to Amy, just as soon as I sort out her address. I hope she'll find use of it, but really, the gift is more for myself, a tangible link to her soon-to-arrive little boy, a link in the chain of a friendship begun in the lobby bar at the W in Chicago. A smile and a hug sent through the mail.

Happy almost-baby, Amy! May the hand-me-downs you give and receive weave you into the warmth of families, supporting one another.

Something old, something new: someone loved

(The theme for this week is, apparently, maudlin memorializing in the midst of mundanity. I'm trying to get it out of my system. Sorry.)

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Wheels on the Bus

The wheels on the bus go round and round, and like the wheel of life, their inexorable turning is both circular, and forward-driven. The wheel spins round and round and round on its axel even as the bus and everyone in move into ... well, the bus depot.

I took the bus home tonight. It was raining, and I had a stack of exams. I was giddy with the freedom of it.

The bus and I go way back. When I lived in Toronto, commutes to York took an hour and twenty minutes there, and often two hours back. In Guelph, all the buses seemed to have been built in 1957, and they all gathered , at the same time, in the town square. All of them. Not such a big city, Guelph! Edmonton buses demonstrated the idiosyncracies of winter light in the Northern latitudes: one December day, sitting in the very back row of the bus, a blaze of midday sun through the windshield hit me right in the eyes.

I've never owned a car until we moved to Small City. I was enthralled by driverdom then: we didn't have to drive often or far, but let's just say that if I never have to get a week's worth of groceries home on the bus in the sleet in a hiking backpack? I will be happy. Vroom-vroom forever! Goodbye bus!

But having a car and a kid is something else again. Driving is a lot less about free will and a lot more about monster shopping runs and complicated dropoff / pickup routines from daycare.

And so it is that today I get on the bus--the smelly, crowded, steamy-with-rain bus--and I felt light and free. Believe me, it wasn't very often I felt light and free fighting for a spot on the York Express at Downsview station in -30 weather at 8am. No.

So it's the same old bus. But a whole different bus too, you know? And the wheels go round and round.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Happy Halloween!

If you were wondering where the lions are, they were at my house last night:

Munchkin was the picture of adorable (as you can see) and it was Pynchon's year to tour her up to the end of the block and back, after which she stood in our own front door, hollering at the top of her lungs with excitement whenever she saw another kid coming. She ate a ton of candy, and then, bathed and full of milk and sugar, she conked out cold while we entertained some friends who live on a farm and thus don't get their own Halloween.

They told us that our street is right off a movie set, blowing yellow leaves rattling down a narrow street in between the feet of decorated toddlers and school kids, parents bringing up the rear with flashlights and greetings. Tall trees make a canopy of bare branches that rustle in the wind. Jack-o-lanterns glow from all the wide porches. It's pretty nice, for sure, and we feel a little more settled this year, for sure, our second kick at the pumpkin here.


I remember last year being really stressed about all the sugar sugar sugar! But this year I have realized that Halloween candy has so much redeeming value as a learning material: you can sort it into piles by colour, by type, by bulk. You can count it. You can learn to divide piles into equal shares for little girls and their My Little Ponies. Or you can make up hilarious songs about it: