Friday, July 25, 2014

Put THAT in your muffin tin and smoke it

Okay, so I've been super-lazy at blogging. And I just realized I haven't really read anything that I've had to sink any intellectual teeth into for weeks. And my last assignment was supposed to be three-to-five typed pages and I only turned in two-and-a-half (although she didn't specify spacing requirements, and I think she only said that for the slightly dumber people that probably aren't as concise. That's right, that's what I'm going with.) And it's July and I still have boxed-up Christmas decorations lining the wall in the basement because I was planning to reorganize my storage space before I put them away.

Cooking? Not really. Every few nights when Matt's not going out for baseball I make him barbecue whatever meat I have around, and then I serve it with different wrappings or sides for the rest of the week. I have shelled quite a few peas, if that counts. Oh shut up, I know it doesn't really count (yes, I do it while watching tv).

So what have I been DOING with my abundant spare time? Getting Eve to and from Drama Camp (more on that later), weeding my backyard for the any-minute-now-going-to-be-planted herbs and flowers, wandering the market and grazing the Indian buffet with the mom of the other Drama Camp attendee, interviewing the Acquisitions Supervisor for the Ottawa Public Library, playing badminton for the first time in twenty years (I sucked less than I feared I would), reading a bunch of really good fantasy and horror stories, going on food truck adventures and cottage-hopping.

My house is a disaster. I've sorted through some of the kids' old clothes and they're piled everywhere. The kitchen counter is piled with corn cobs and berries. Yesterday I was determined to get in some exercise, even though my right knee and my left arm are practically useless (patellar-femoral syndrome and gardening injury - I know, it's pathetic). So I decided to just grab some stuff at Shopper's Drug Mart while getting Angus's prescription instead of going to the grocery store before I worked out, because we already had produce. I made a quick list, trying to remember all the vitamins and medications and washing stuff we were out of. Then I added muffin cups.

Do you ever find that suddenly your grocery store stops carrying good old-fashioned normal muffin cups? Like, the only ones available are foil-lined or festooned with Disney characters and way too expensive for something that's just to make the muffin not stick to the tin and whose sole purpose is to get baked and then discarded and you find yourself going into a full-on Hulk rage in the baking supplies aisle because JESUS CHRIST WHY CAN'T I JUST FIND A NORMAL MUFFIN CUP WHY IS EVERYTHING SO GODDAMNED COMPLICATED????

No? Just me?

Anyway, I stuck it on the list, then I thought, why am I putting muffin cups on a drugstore list, the drugstore's not going to have muffin cups. They just have cake mixes and maybe some flour and  sugar and Bear Paws and Golden Oreos. Mmmmm, Golden Oreos..... focus. But what the heck, I left it on the list.

And look!


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So yeah. I'm still kind of a mess. But in the muffin cup department? TOTALLY on top of things. Try not to be jealous.

(Also, note the post title, which shows once again that I care not a fig for search engine optimization. NOT ONE FIG!)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sleepover of Awesome

I'm not sure how I feel today. If I evaluate how well I'm "doing summer", it comes out okay. I'm not hiding inside from the heat all the time; I've been to five baseball games and the beach. I've taken Eve shopping for groceries and clothes and had a blast doing it. It feels like we're more than two weeks in, which is good because it means we've packed a fair bit in. I did manage to dig up the weed-choked flower-and-herb beds in the back yard, but I haven't managed to top them up with soil and plant anything, so that makes me a little sad, although we're still in Schrodinger's trip territory - Angus's baseball team will win/will not win Provincials tomorrow and then we will travel/not travel to Calgary for Nationals (you heard that, right, Baseball Gods? WE MIGHT NOT WIN. No cockiness here. Outcome is uncertain). Which makes it hard to plan things like flower and herb beds that need daily watering.

I'm feeling a little unfocused. I'm phoning in my course work. I haven't blogged much. I'm reading the same amount, but little bits of a bunch of books instead of one long stretch of a single work, which I think is making me a little twitchy. Eve is in drama camp next week, so I should probably try to sit my ass down and read or write something for a couple of hours just to see if I still can.

Since we were too tired to plan a party or anything the last day of school, Eve invited two friends over for a sleepover the following Friday. Three girls doesn't always work that well, and I'm not someone who can pull off effortless parties, but these three mesh really well together, and a minimum of planning plus their effervescent personalities made the whole thing extremely amusing and entertaining.

First, some movie preparation: we went to Kernels and said "What's the biggest bag of popcorn you can legally sell us?" The girl said "Come back in twenty minutes". Added benefit:: once I was carrying this baby, she didn't want to go to Joshua Perets anymore, so I probably saved at least three times what it cost.


Preparatory lip-glossing, courtesy of Marianna's Mom.

Turns out bubbles are pretty much ageless in their appeal.




Is there any rule about three on a wand?


Eve enacts The Matrix with bubbles instead of bullets:




I know I'm easily amused, but is this not just pretty freaking cool?






Then they walked to Starbucks ALL BY THEMSELVES, and I was not worried, not a bit. Because who is going to tangle with a passel of badasses like this?


Then, the donning of the aprons. 


A few eggs may have been harmed in the filming of this segment of our evening.


They actually did all the mixing and measuring themselves, in between all the posing.


They did the icing themselves too - I'm sure you couldn't tell.


Then we turned Eve loose with an Icing Scribbler and a picture and voila - Dauntless Cake


Then they had supper, with fancy drinks.

And manicures, because they're all elegant and shit.


Fuzzy nail polish.


Then a movie - which I had seen on a list of "movies you should make your kids watch" and realized I had never watched myself. This resulted in the catchphrase for the rest of the party being "It's okay - it's the eighties."



Then air-mattress-blowing up, blanket-fluffing and tuck-ins. And an acceptably quiet level of hilarity until midnight or so (apparently Marianna is really bad at the Game of Life).


And the next morning. Still friends! And we have to get Marielle some unicorn pajamas. 



Friday, July 4, 2014

Summertime, and the Grocery Shopping is Funny

I always kind of liked grocery shopping with the kids when they were babies. They usually slept or looked around and I felt a sense of accomplishment at the end. Unless we got caught in the rain on the way back to the car. When they were toddlers it was even better. I'd plunk them in the front of the cart and they would make lion noises or eat a cookie or a cheese bun (yes, I always paid for it) and we would make silly comments about whatever we were buying and they would entertain the other shoppers.

But when you have little kids, it always feels like a treat to be allowed to run any kind of errand by yourself. You feel almost weightless - no solid little body to swing from car seat to grocery cart, no worrying about losing someone in the produce maze, no stopping little hands from dropping a watermelon on the bread. So when they started school, I would go grocery shopping when they were in class.

And now we've come full circle, where it's kind of a treat when they're around and decide to come to the grocery store with me. Eve's come a couple of times on week-ends - this usually results in me letting her buy whatever kind of cookies she wants, as well as some kind of frivolous cosmetic accessory.

She had no plans on Monday and we had a list of stuff for her mini-party today, so we headed to Loblaws. This, in part, is the script:

"LOOK AT THIS NAIL POLISH. It's, like, FUZZY!! Really? Are you sure? Thank-you thank-you thank-you!"
Photo by Tony Alter

"That guy had gigantic holes in his earlobes, and looking at them made me want to cry for all humanity."

"Let's get some Lucky Charms!" (Me: Get the small box). "'Hearts, stars and horseshoes! Clovers and blue moons! Pots of gold and rainbows, and me red balloons!' I watch too much television."

"I touch rotting fruit and it magically brings it back to life. I'm so magical. Everyone should invite me over to their house. If they have rotten fruit."

(Me: We need pickles and curry paste) "Why do we need pickles?" (Me: Because we're out of pickles) "Why do we need pickles?" (Me: WE NEED PICKLES). "Okay, fine, we'll get pickles. I want some nuts. (Me: We already have peanuts.) "I just want some nuts." (Me: WHAT KIND OF NUTS). "Um, like, cashews."
Oh thank goodness, whole grain!
Photo by Mike Mozart

"I'm going to go home and fuzzify my nails. While eating cashews. With.... my toes, I guess.

(Me: We missed the curry paste.) "I'll just hang out by the cupcake mix until you get back."

"I came here with Daddy, and he was very confused by the self checkout."


Then there's the soundtrack, which, since we got the Sirius satellite free trial, is all Billy Joel all the time. If she's in the front seat and something else is playing, she yells "You're not Billy Joel!" and switches it. Then, naturally, commentary.

Only the Good Die Young - "So wait, does he want to be bad? That's inspiring."

Pressure - I can HEAR the oldness in this song.

Don't Ask Me Why - "I like this one. Even though it makes no sense. She used to be an only child, now she speaks French? So what - foreign languages get you siblings?"

I'm not sure how I'm going to go back to grocery shopping alone.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mondays on the Margins: Various Assorted

A couple of months back, I got wind of NetGalley.com, a website through which publishers "provide digital review copies to professional readers, including booksellers, librarians, media, bloggers, reviewers and educators". I shouldn't visit that website, I thought. I'm drowning in books. Even though the review copy stream has slowed down since my original contacts at a few Canadian publishers have left, between library books, Kindle books (DAMN those daily deals, DAMN them!) and books I've bought, the stacks have grown, the queue is alarmingly long, and sometimes it makes me feel a little stressed. Not grateful and happy and excited, the way one SHOULD feel when blessed with this embarrassment of riches, but stressed. For no really good reason, because aside from a course or two, I'm free to read whatever the hell I want, but I definitely wasn't in need of a further source of books. Certainly not one where the requesting and delivering of said books is as easy as a mouse click.

So I definitely didn't go on NetGalley and create a profile and request sixty-six or so books and then feel all giggly and smug when the approvals started rolling in and my Kindle app filled up with YET MORE books. Free books. Books that haven't quite been published yet. 

It's true. I have a problem. 

Sometimes I get turned down, for one reason or another. I feel unreasonably annoyed by this.

One of the quirks and - sometimes - pleasures of my NetGalley shelf is that, when I click on a book to begin reading it, unless I research it on Goodreads first, I generally have no idea of what I'm about to plunge into. Unless it's an author I already know, there are so many books that I've usually lost all memory of the plot synopsis, and with some titles and covers it's really hard to tell what you're getting into. The first book where this really made me feel like I'd been (in the immortal words of one of my old professors) "led down the garden path and then clobbered with a birdfeeder", was The Quick by Lauren Owen. It starts off like a prim, proper, everything-in-its-place Victorian novel, then takes a whiplash left turn into.... well, it's also one of those books where you can't say much without giving everything away. It was a really interesting reading experience.


Recently, I read in a Book Riot article that The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey was a book that I should read immediately, before more was given away about it. I was giddy with the realization that I had the book from NetGalley RIGHT THAT MINUTE, and it was AWESOME, and I .... can't say a whole lot more about that one either. Except it's so much more than just a book of.... this genre, and I loved the nuanced characters, and the clear-eyed presentation of the human condition, and the perfect, poignant rendering of the child-teacher relationship in extreme circumstances, and if you like books of this genre you should definitely read it, except you don't know if you like books of this genre because I haven't told you which genre it is, because I don't want to give anything away. It's a dilemma. Use your best judgment.

The tagline for reviewing NetGalley books on Goodreads is always "review copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review". We'll see how they feel about that when I review Fields of Elysium, because oh, my god, oh, the badness is so bad with this one. It's the worst kind of adolescent wish-fulfillment Twilight rip-off, written by someone whose first language almost certainly isn't English, or reality. There are phrases like "she tossed her head back, burying her hands into her glossy hair in the sexiest way I'd ever seen a girl act. That picture was too much for my eyes. I looked away and bored my eyes into the waterfall." Also, "I had become a ghost, just drifting down the corridors, unnoticed by their Gucci bags and Prada shoes". Aw, their bags and shoes didn't notice you? Stupid unsentient accessories. The requisite situations where the heroine is hurt or put in danger so the hero (who acts like he hates her but of course loves her) can rescue her are cringe-worthy. At one point she blacks out and hits her head on a desk, and then laments the disfiguring scar that will ensure that no man wants her (grow some bangs, duh). The hero visits with some future-world healing ointment, and she piteously requests that he put it on for her because she doesn't have a mirror. That's right - she's too stupid to find her own forehead.

Eve came downstairs a while ago and said "there was this book at school called Jacob's New Dress. Can Jacob be a girl's name?" I said maybe, but maybe it was more about gender roles. We looked it up, and it is, which is cool. She said "like - he's a drag queen?" and I said, no, he just doesn't conform to normal gender stereotypes. She said she was a little surprised that there would be a kids' book about that, and I reminded her about my friend Amanda who has an eleven-year-old transgender daughter, which means that a book explaining gender fluidity to kids is, in my book (ha), a good thing. Then I said "of course, some parents probably won't WANT their kids reading about it", and Eve said "well, tough bananas. It's a thing."

So there.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Everything's Coming Up Penises!

 You know when a common theme just keeps popping up (snicker) in every area of your life? Sometimes I'm reading two books that ostensibly have nothing to do with each other, and the same German philosopher is mentioned. Sometimes everyone I meet in a day has something wrong with their foot. It's a funny kind of synchronicity that means nothing but always amuses and delights me anyway.

A couple of weeks ago, my personal zeitgeist went completely phallic.

First, it was book club. My friend Sharon, a freelance writer, volunteered that she was doing some work involving the San Francisco Healthy Penis Project, which is focused on raising awareness of syphilis and persuading gay and bisexual men to get tested. Along with lists of clinics and super-fun comic strip ads like these,



there were also people wandering the streets of the Castro (SF's gay district) wearing seven-foot-tall penis costumes.
































Apparently the campaign has also been used in other parts of California, and in Winnipeg here in Canada, where I assume the seven-foot-tall penises are wearing parkas, or a lot of mosquito repellent.

(Shut up, Pedro! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA).























Later in the week, it was beer-and-fifty-cent-wings night with our crew at Johnny Canucks. The topic of circumcision came up, and my friend said her husband was of the opinion that circumcision was a Catholic tradition as well as a Jewish one, because all the Catholic men of his age that he knew were circumcised. I said that I didn't think it had anything to do with Catholicism, but rather was the trend in hospitals and health care at that time. Being of curious mind, my friend did some research and emailed it out the next day. Since his inbox was filling up with "penis research", another friend graced us with the link to Double Dick Reddit Guy, so, you know, there went that afternoon.
Photo credit amy_buthod

Then Eve came home from school "totally traumatized" by the puberty unit in health class. She kept waving the penis diagram in my face and saying "WE HAVE TO NAME ALL THE PARTS!" She said they all felt really bad for Jonathan because he had to write the word 'penis' on the board. She regaled us with quotes from the antiquated video they were shown, where little Johnny asks his Uncle Pat what happens if his penis never gets any bigger, and hollered about fallopian tubes at random intervals. There was a quiz on the Friday, so every few hours we'd ask how her studying was going for the penis test. My mom and Marianna's grandmother tried the "why is it any different from talking about eyes, or elbows, or any other body part?" tactic, but I didn't even bother. Penises are funny. They just are.

So yeah, that week was a total ball (I kill me). On the week-end my husband came to bed and indicated some amorous intentions. I looked up from my book and saw that he had left the bedroom door open, and reminded him that Eve had just gone to bed one room away, and that she had probably had enough of penises for one seven-day period.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Blue Monday. And Tuesday. And all the other days.

So last week was tough. I was recovering from my second mysterious barfing plague in two weeks, my husband was in France, and Tuesday evening it started raining and didn't stop until Friday afternoon. It wasn't that there was so much to do - there were two baseball games and a school barbecue to deal with, but none of them actually ended up happening, because of illness (Angus's) or weather. It wasn't that I fed the kids leftover macaroni and bacon on Monday and ordered pizza on Tuesday and then made chicken souvlaki on Wednesday and made them eat it for the rest of the week.

Photo credit John Beales
It was that I was doing everything while dragging these shackles around. You know, the depression shackles, the ones that clank around behind you and make every step a huge effort, while hollering lie after lie. You're ugly. You're useless. Nobody loves you. Your kids wish they had a better mother. They also whisper a few things that are probably true. You will never be totally free of this.

Sometimes there's no way out but through, right? Even though I tried to open the curtains in my room and pulled the whole curtain rod down. Even though I spilled every container of juice I reached for.  By Friday I felt like I couldn't move. I had a long-overdue haircut booked for 12:30. I took the kids to school and took a shower and sat in a chair to read but I could hardly turn the pages. I fell asleep reading. Later I fell asleep under the hair dryer. But hair has to be cut, kids have to be fed, husbands eventually return from France, and I only have one book club end-of-year dinner a year (it's a hence-the-name thing).

I forced myself out of the house. I kept fake smiling until my smile felt less fake. One of my book club friends said, at one point, "she's strange. She works hard during the week, but then on Saturday she'll just sit in a chair and read all day and not interact with anyone!" I said "yeah, what a freak." and everyone laughed, and it was okay because suddenly I was basically okay with my book-freakiness again.

Just so this post isn't all about my pain, here is our book club list for the forthcoming year:




Crow Lake, Mary Lawson




The Beautiful Mystery, Louise Penny

And now I can see that last week was tough, because I'm in a different week. And today I had to water the flowers because it hasn't rained for a couple of days. And I feel a little lighter. And it's okay, because if I was totally free of those periodic shackles, my life would probably be way too easy. 



Monday, June 9, 2014

May I Have a Re-entry Permit?

A lot of things suck about being really sick and out of it for a few days. I staggered around with laundry a few times, because baseball, and Matt needed underwear to take to France, so the piles aren't as bad as they would normally be, but the back yard was supposed to be dug up and planted by now and instead it looks like Day of the Triffids meets The Lost World back there. Eve was left pretty much on her own with her giant project on Mesopotamia, although I did manage to slowly and laboriously reload a tape runner for her. The hanging baskets almost died.
Photo from Flickr by Sean O'Neill

But the worst, I find, is this creepy and unshakable sense of strangeness. Like you don't quite fit into the world any more. Like you've lost the knack of syncing your actions to the people around you, and you feel like everyone's staring if you go out, which you'd really rather not, because, weirdness.

Me, looking in the mirror: Is that really what I look like? Did I look like that before? I'm sure that wasn't there before. Was my nose always that length? Why does my mouth look so weird? Am I holding it weird? What if I...GAH, NO, THAT'S WORSE!

Eve's best friend came over twice in two weeks, (Eve went over there five times in the same time period) and both times I was locked in my room throwing up. Now composing an email to her parents assuring them that I am not a) an alcoholic or b) allergic to their child.

Also, I haven't been able to read for five days.

No wonder I don't feel like myself.