Saturday, May 23, 2009

Oh, um, yeah ... come on in!

[Doorbell rings]

[Mad dash from bathroom, in robe, fearing doorbell will enrage Munchkin, who is just easing into the tail end of a tantrum, at 10pm]

"Oh, um, yeah ... HI! Come on in, yes yes yes, it's great to see you, I'm so glad you could come over! Oh this? No, it's nothing, I just got out of the shower, of course come in come in. Let me just ... ah [pulls down robe, to better cover rear end] errr, I mean [now pulls robe up, to better cover top half]. Wow, can I get you a beer? Wine? God, I need something ... no really, come in. Okay. Pynchon? Yeah, he's just upstairs with Munchkin. She woke up and had a total fit--oh no, you didn't wake her! It's just ... I was going into the shower and then he went upstairs. Geez. Never mind. He'll be down in a minute. Do you mind? If I just go upstairs and put something on?"

[Dashes up back staircase, trying not to flash houseguests during the getaway. Grabs clean clothes out of laundry basket, but not before grabbing camera out of home office to take a quick and humiliating snap, with a view to turning this awful moment into a possibly entertaining, 'thank god it was her and not me' blog post.]

[Can you believe this photo is actually more flattering than the real deal? You can't really see the 3/4 " mascara smear under each of my eyes. Ouch.]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Victoria Day Weekend in Photos

Three days of weekend is a lot of fun to pack in!

To the farmer's market! On the bus! With a friend!

Visiting the next door neighbours! Who have, omigod, omigod, PINK chairs!

A concert in the Queen's namesake park, again accessed by a bus ride! ("Mom, let's be conductors, and conduct with our feet! Like this! Wave your feet, Mom!")

A stroll across the park's many pedestrian bridges, and, miracle! Canoeists who wave!

Helping with the gardening, by setting up a camp of tiny Doras and Barbies and teeny-weeny knick-knackery in an imaginary jungle on the front steps:

Dining al fresco is a favorite summer treat, especially if the meal is beans and 'butter toast' and cheese:

Food tastes better when you're supervising this the landscapers (well, Daddy and Mommy):

Finally, one patch of yard is all done. Um, except, goddammit, for this friggin' dandelion ... hold on a sec ... ah!

How was your holiday, Canadians? Or, Americans, how do you plan to spend your upcoming long weekend?

By the way, this is my 300th post. Wow. Hooray for me, and thank you to you for, at a minimum, reading, and, in many cases, becoming my friends. Come on over and I'll crack you open a beer and you can watch me massacre dandelions, from the comfy perch of my porch. Cheers!

Monday, May 18, 2009


Pynchon and I were digging up our front yard this afternoon, each in our respective patch, hunched over and flinging clods of dirt toward the wheelbarrow when I thought ... hey, it was exactly one year ago that we moved in here!

So I mentioned that to him and we both stood there for a minute.


It's an anniversary I want to celebrate, even though we didn't want to move, didn't choose to move, were in a terrible rush and under a lot of stress. It turned out okay, even though moving and renovating at the same time suck. And this house is growing on me. Certainly, the dandelions seem to find it a very healthful environment in which to develop, if I am to judge by their numbers (about 700 rudely uprooted by me so far). Munchkin, too, has grown in weedlike fashion since last spring, my little dandelion girl. She loves it here, and has memorized our address, designated the three tall cedars as "Mommy tree, girl tree .... and Daddy tree." She

Last year, surveying what 30 years of neglect can do to a yard on a 55' x 110' lot, we threw our hands over our eyes and muttered next year, next year, another massive chore to add to our list. But next year became this year and another massive chore became, actually, kind of fun.

We're putting down roots here, and the gardening or agricultural metaphor seems apt as I mentally overlay our yard with the combined 10 year vision that Pynchon and I are developing for the space, indoors and out. I begin to see why people feel this need to write about gardening: the connection to the earth is primal, and the metaphorical richness of planting, tending, weeding, and worrying for plants, the susceptibility to larger master of rain and sun, the hard fate of soil type, the possibility of emendation ... well. The applicability to questions of family life are all too clear.

Still, I'm not going to write that story, I think. Today I'll just look around and marvel at what a year can do, how a house became home, how happy I am to be here, clucking at my weeds and clutching at my lower back while Munchkin nurtures the earth worms. That's more than enough for now, I think. A year. We made it; we're making it.

Friday, May 08, 2009


Did I ever tell you I was flagged as gifted in elementary school? I was thinking about that again this morning as my mystery rash and I sat in the waiting room at the Family Health Centre, reading a several months old McLeans article on cutbacks to gifted education programs.

Tested early and often, my IQ scores varied between the 130s and 150s. Whatever. I was reading aloud to my sister by the time I turned four, and reading fluently in French by the time I hit kindergarten. Everything was soooo easy: language, math, memorization of facts, abstract reasoning. God, I loved our spelling tests--that's 'dictée' in French. I loved tests of all kinds because it seemed like that was what being smart was good for. The only academic challenge I ever remember facing finally bonked me on the head in grade 13 calculus. Where I eventually got the second highest grade in my class. That was the first time I ever had to try.

Being gifted didn't seem to be much of a blessing in the 70s and 80s. Basically, the strategy in my school board seemed to be to 'skip' us ahead grades, but in my case they seemed to always talk about it (all my classmates and I knew about it) but then not to do it, for fear it would stunt me socially. Um yeah, the constant rumours of skipping didn't help, either. Neither did the 'enrichment' activities of having me grade everyone's tests. Nor did me always being bored and arrogant in class. Or always having people bug me to copy my homework. Or being teased by teachers for using words they didn't understand ('ethereal' in a ghost story assignment. Grade 7. I am never ever going to forget the humiliation of that.)

I understand that educational enrichment for gifted kids is a low priority for boards faced with a huge explosion in students manifesting behavioural problems, learning disabilities, and physical, emotional, and cognitive impairments. Nevertheless, I'm angry that the gifted kids are left to fend for themselves. When you're a little kid, smarter than pretty much everybody but learning that it's a good idea not to show it, when you live in a shit-hole tiny town where the library doesn't have a copy of Jane Eyre, where there's no bookstore, where the main extracurricular activities are figure skating, hockey, and Brownies, you kind of fester and stew until you get to leave at 18 or 19.

That's a real shame.

I wonder why it is that I'm still bitter about it. Still bitter that my first enrichment classes came in grade five and consisted of a once-every-eight-days trip to home ec, to sew Cabbage Patch Dolls. Still bitter that my one and only real enrichment class, in grade 7, where I built a radio receiver and an electrical generator and marvelled at logic puzzles that weren't easy to do, was cancelled after one semester. Maybe I wouldn't have alienated myself from everyone so badly if I'd had a productive outlet for my smarts. If my smarts had been productively acknowledged or nurtured. I know I felt ripped off and bored at school, and was kind of an eye-rolling wiseass because of it. Not productive, and I'm not proud of it, but I was cheesed off to be surrounded by dummies all the time and to be told to take up knitting to fill all those dull-as-erasers hours of work-time when everyone else struggled with assignments I finished in a snap. I knit two sweaters over the course of grade four. In class.

Now, of course, I'm a university professor. I have a job that requires me to be the smartest person in rooms full of smart people. I have a peer group that shares a similar past, a similar mindset. My talents were not irredeemably squandered in my youth. It all turned out okay in the end, I guess.

But I'm still mad. And I worry for Munchkin, who is already distinguishing herself in preschool, smarter than a lot of her peers, making her teachers gasp. I guess what makes me so angry is that when you single a kid out in that way--make her the freak--but then don't take pains or make an effort to prize that special quality, or direct it somewhere useful, all you do, well, is make that kid a freak and we all know how well peer groups of 30 little kids deal with freaks.


Your opinions on this issue are welcome. I would like to know what you think of the idea of giftedness (yes, I've read the Stuff White People Like sendup of this) or my sense of entitlement or the education system generally.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

April showers

... bring May flowers. And Munchkin was yelping "It's MAY, it's MAY" when I picked her up from preschool on Friday. The flowers are out, all around us: hyachinths, grape hyacinths, tulips, daffodils, and forget-me-nots. The crocuses are already done, and even the tulip trees are sheeding some of their petals.

This year, we are tackling the yard. 55 feet by 50 feet of gone-to-scrub space that needs, first of all, to be cleared. Auntie Soo-see offered the services of her 13 year old son, who earned the nickname 'axe-terminator' at the cottage last year for his knack for completely uprooting treest. For 30 bucks, some root beer, and a cheeseburger pizza, he was mine for the day.

The 'axe-ecutioner' got to work while Munchkin slept:

Me, I used my pogo-stick-style weeding tool to uproot upwards of 300 dandelions. After a certain point, the yard starts to look less like it's being aerated, and more like it's being excavated. It feels good to work outside, to get my hands dirty, to feel like progress is being made. Neighbours ambled into the yard to chat, to marvel, to discuss plans. It was fun.

Munchkin was fantastically excited to see all the hustle and bustle when she woke up from her nap, and gladly took up her shovel, too, helping me dig up past-their-prime tulip bulbs, throwing tennis ball 'easter eggs' into the wild carrot patch, gleefully flinging dirt around.

Auntie Soo-see taught her the finer points of supervision, captured in this photo I like to call "union rules" (one to axe, two to watch):

A truly lovely family day, with fresh air and exercise. The yard looks only a very little bit better, but we had a great time. A great weekend.

And this: really? I'm dying from the cute .