Monday, September 1, 2014

Mondays on the Margins: In Which I Embark on a Quest Which I May or May Not Complete

A few weeks ago, I came across a Buzzfeed Quiz about Newbery Medal books with a tagline: Were you a well-read child? Naturally, this pissed me off a little (I just typed "got my knickers in a bit of a twist" and then erased it, for some reason. I wonder why that is. It's a perfectly serviceable expression, and yet I felt disinclined to use it. Curious) since there seems to be a bit of a fallacious assumption going on there: one could surely have been a well-read child (I was) without having necessarily read a great number of Newbery Medal-winning books (I hadn't, as it turns out). But doing the quiz (I can't resist quizzes where I get to check off books, even ones that irritate me - the quizzes, I mean, not the books) reminded me of a few books that I had always meant to read and had somehow never gotten around to, and introduced me to a few others that looked interesting and worth a look. So I decided then and there that I would read and blog about all the Newbery Medal Award winners.
Photo by University of Illinois Library

Then I remembered that I'm a touch lazy and somewhat disorganized and prone to procrastination.

So since then, I have read five or six Newbery Award books that I hadn't before, reread two, requested a whole bunch from the library, and written nothing at all.

I have, however, had an interesting discussion with a friend on Goodreads who goes by the name Killer Rabbit, about our opinion of the success of the committee in choosing winners.

The John Newbery Medal is "awarded annually by the American Library Association for the most distinguished American children's book published the previous year." It is named for an eighteenth-century English bookseller and its stated purpose was: "To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children's reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field."

In the Terms and Definitions, I found this: 2. A “contribution to American literature for children” shall be a book for which children are an intended potential audience. The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, and books for this entire age range are to be considered. And this is where Killer Rabbit and I (DAMN I need a cooler name on Goodreads), and several other people I have seen commenting on Newbery books, agree that sometimes it seems that the Newbery Medal Award committee might have their heads somewhat up their collective ass, and that the committee would do much better to have some members who are actually children on it. 

So how do I evaluate the books? On whether I like them? On whether I think they are, in fact, distinguished contributions to children's literature? On whether I think I would have liked them when I was a child? SO MANY MORE things to think about while not blogging. Clearly I just need to plunge in. So I will. I will just write whatever semi-coherent thoughts I can muster up about whatever Newbery medal book is closest to hand and mind. 

Soon. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Camping - Food Edition (after which I will stop milking one measly camping trip for blog posts)

I was prepared to rough it in the bush food-wise - Collette told me "just forget trying to eat healthy - it's easiest if you just buy crap." I went to Loblaws and crowded my cart with club pack boxes of every processed snack available, and filled in the spaces with chips and cookies. I only bought meat that had enough nitrates in it to last three weeks without refrigeration. I bought CHEEZ FREAKING WHIZ.

I had not reckoned on my husband, "Hibachi Man". We had a Coleman stove, but I don't think he used it at all. He used a little Hibachi and the grate over the campfire. He also brought actual meat. He made hamburgers.

He made steak and potatoes. And lit candles. 

He made french toast and bacon. 

He warmed up cinnamon buns in a cast iron pan over the fire. 


Then there was the parade of giant hunks of meat, courtesy of Mark and Dan and Auspit.
This is pork.




This is beef. 

...wrapped in bacon. 



It was four days of torture and deprivation, obviously.

Since my husband spent much of his youth practically camping professionally, I left the set-up and procedures pretty much entirely to him - I just put stuff where he told me to. I probably should have paid some attention to the fact that he hasn't actually camped for twenty years or so, and double-checked with him that ALL of the food had been put in the van before we bedded down on the first night.

Instead, I woke up to strange sounds outside the tent. Since I have marked tendencies to over-imaginative hysteria and I DON'T CAMP, I naturally thought "AXE MURDERER", not "FORAGING WILDLIFE", and whacked Matt frantically so he could.... I dunno, get out of the tent and distract the psychopath while Eve and I ran away? Since he was in his compact sleeping bag and he's a little less, um, compact than in the past, he kind of flopped off his air mattress still IN the sleeping bag, opened the tent flap, yelled something, then wriggled out of the sleeping bag and got out of the tent. After a moment, I realized two things: 1) I didn't hear anything that sounded like an axe thunking into a person, and 2) I had to pee. I crawled out of the tent to see Matt standing a little ways away, trying to figure out how to wrestle our cooler lid out of the grip of two raccoons, who didn't look in the least inclined to give way. I looked down and said "did they take my shoe too?" and he said "no, I threw it at them". The raccoons eventually wandered away, Matt gave me my shoe back, and I went to the outhouse while he put ALL the food in the van.

A couple of nights later while we were at the drive-in, another family had their kitchen tent ransacked and plundered for a number of bread products, which made Matt feel better. After we got back from the movie, he lit a small fire for us after the kids went to bed. We were sitting there talking, and then he got up to adjust the firewood, so I clicked on the flashlight for him. Then I heard a rustling sound off to the left, in the wooded lot behind out campsite. I turned the flashlight beam to the left, and - okay, I didn't get a picture, so you have to imagine this one dark, and just the heads, stacked one on top of the other.

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"Do you have any Grey Poupon?"
Photo by Auberon_
They stared at me for a second, then very subtly pulled their heads back behind the tree trunk. You could almost hear them whispering "I don't think she saw us."

We came home with part of the beef roast (score!), forty-two granola bars and a couple of good stories.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Things To Do While Camping When It's Too Cold To Swim

Go on the Dunes walk.


Pose with your friends on top of a sand dune.

Embrace your friend warmly on top of a sand dune.


No wait, that's not it... 

Okay, try to throw your friend OFF the sand dune.

...then drop him. 

....and run away.

Climb a tree. On a dune. 


Do bunny ears. On yourself. Because YOLO.

Sit your ass down because Collette says to sit your ass down until someone takes your picture. Possibly related: climbing up sand dunes is really freaking hard work.

Realize that you have no idea where the path is and begin to feel like a pack of exiled Egyptians with no manna in sight. 

Find your way back to the parking lot with no small measure of relief and empty a good part of the dunes out of your shoes. 


Go to the movies!

Photo bomb your daughter. 

...repeatedly. 

Build sand castles. 

Spend time with a book and some popcorn. 

..by a campfire. 

Play games. 

(Not me. Trying to learn cribbage invariably makes me wonder why everyone doesn't just read more). 

Snuggle a dog. For companionship AND warmth.

Have a tomahawk-throwing contest, because what could go wrong? (Angus started kicking dirt around first, saying "I need a mound".)

Have a nap. 

Play volleyball without a net. 

Collapse in hilarity watching the "how many teenagers does it take to set up a volleyball net" game.

Collapse in further hilarity upon realizing that, instead of volleyball, the teenagers are going to try to play badminton.

...in very high winds. 

....which is really, really hard. 


Swim anyway. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wordless Throwback Thursday: Milking It

Someone emailed us this picture from outside the big stadium at this year's Little League World Series.


Whoa.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Camping Report

So last week, we went camping. Car camping, which camping purists would dispute as real camping, and there were comfort stations (which Eve said was a really prissy term for a stone building with a toilet) and showers, BUT we slept in a tent instead of spending the day and then driving to a hotel, like this time and the time before. Of course, since this was the first time we booked a site (and were actually going to use it - we booked one last year, but something came up), we cursed the forecast, and I fully expected that our friends would yank us from our vehicle and sacrifice us to the weather gods the minute we got there. The weather wasn't great, but it threatened rain more than it rained, and we had a great time anyway.

Things I Didn't Hate That I Totally Thought I Would Hate:

1) Sleeping in a tent. The last time I slept in a tent was twenty or so years ago, on a canoe trip with Matt's lab group - he didn't actually come because he was writing his thesis. I was on a pitifully thin piece of foam in Matt's stupid compact sleeping bag that I could barely fit my boobs in, sunburned and sore from paddling all day, so it was basically seven or eight hours of misery. People have been telling me for years that the air mattresses they have now are more comfortable than you'd expect. I would nod and smile and think "you're tripping, but that's okay, I'll never have to find out for sure." Well, guess what? These air mattresses, at least, are WAY more comfortable than I expected (not sponsored). I love that you don't have to foot-pump them, I love that they blow up fast, and when I got into the tent and crawled onto it, it didn't make me feel like a whale flopping onto a waterbed, which is how I'd kind of envisioned it. We also had Roots sleeping bags, I don't know why, Matt went to Canadian Tire for everything last year and must have been drawn in by the fetching ochre shade of all the boxes. Anyway, they were really comfortable too. I didn't sleep all that well anyway, because I generally don't when I'm away from home, but even when I was lying awake I was perfectly comfortable and content, listening to the waves crashing all the way from the beach.

2) Using an outhouse. We were slightly far from the comfort station, so in the middle of the night or when you were hanging at someone's site, the outhouse was much closer. I had thought beforehand that I would walk any distance at any time of the day or night to avoid the outhouse, but enh - I'm lazy.

3) Not shaving anything for three and a half days. It might have actually been too cold for body hair to grow.

4) Not showering before bed. I'm neurotic. I'm a creature of habit. I get hot a lot. I thought it would be really uncomfortable to either hike to the comfort station before bed or go to bed without showering. We set up a basin on the end of our picnic table and I'd just wash my face and splash freezing cold water over a few other parts before bed, and it was all good. I know it's stupid, but this was huge for me.

Things I Kind of Did Hate:

1) Washing dishes in cold water. Matt did most all of the cooking, and I would try to help with the dishes, but only if he'd heat up water. All that slimy stuff in a tub of cold water? Barf.

2) Not being able to find things. We had to keep all the food in the van (more on this later) and our clothes too because our tent was only big enough for the beds and my CPAP and a watermelon, and Matt had packed the van and kept reorganizing things, so every time I was looking for chairs or towels or a can opener or ham,  I was digging through the van yelling at Matt "which cooler?" or "which bag?"

Things I Hated That I Didn't Think I Would Hate:

1) Getting drunk in the dark. I figured I would get over most of my bedtime concerns by just drinking excessively every night. But then, the first night especially, I realized that it would be dark, and it would be hard enough to get around and find stuff WITHOUT being additionally incapacitated. I did get over this somewhat by the time we left.

Things I Loved that I Always Love:

1) The campfire. There are very few times when I can just sit still without reading or folding laundry or straightening stuff or fiddling around on a computer. If I'm staring at water or fire, I'm good. Surrounded by people I like, trading silly stories, funny one-liners and idle thoughts? Even better. I even ate a toasted marshmallow, which I don't usually like, and it was really good.



2) The beach. Even in the cold.



3) The drive-in. We go every year (on Carload Thursday) and we were afraid it might be rained out this time, but the weather was perfect for it - no bugs. We wrapped up in sleeping bags and watched Guardians of the Galaxy which kicked tons of ass. Bonus - our plentiful nutritionally valueless camping snacks were within arm's reach in the back of the van (as long as Matt was there to tell us what they were beside or under).

The bus is the ticket booth!
4) Hanging with these clowns. It's always a kick.


I WENT CAMPING, you guys! This gets me out of trying new stuff for at least half a decade, right?


Monday, August 4, 2014

Better Living Through Pharmaceuticals. NOT.

So last Tuesday Eve and I were looking after a baby.


And a dog. 


At the same time. 

It was really hard. 


Then the baby went home, and I cleaned up the kitchen and finished an assignment, which made me feel like I was the MAN, all getting shit DONE. Eve's friend came over to see the dog. I was getting a headache. I took some Advil. I went down to do some laundry. I was having trouble moving around and I started not being able to move any of my limbs without moaning in pain. I thought this was probably not good. Matt came home and took the girls over to Eve's friend's house and then left for baseball with Angus. 

I huddled in my chair watching The Mindy Project on Netflix, which meant I was alternately moaning in pain and laughing hysterically. I started to feel worse, so I moved to the bed. Just to illustrate how very very wretched I was feeling, I stopped watching The Mindy Project just after.... wait, I don't want to do spoilers....just after SOMEBODY and SOMEBODY did SOMETHING, and then there was a big long hiatus for the show which would have had tv viewers going INSANE, and I had the power to watched the next episode RIGHT THEN, but I was too sick. 

I realized that the last time I felt like this was when I'd try to go off Pristiq cold turkey, which was, admittedly, idiotic. But this time I had weaned down very gradually on the advice of my doctor, and I felt every bit as bad as the last time. I dragged myself out of bed and took a pill, then I lay there waiting for the boys to get home and trying to remember the funniest lines from The Mindy Project to tell my husband. 
My husband is a kind and patient man, but when it comes to me being sick, he really only has two speeds: 'I kind of think you're exaggerating, but I'll humour you', and 'Let's go to the hospital, because if you die in this bed I'll have to buy a new one to sleep in'. When he came home, not only did he not laugh at Mindy's line about the fiesta wrap, but he didn't think there was a bug in my ear OR that my head was actually glowing like Gwyneth Paltrow's in Iron Man 3. This was annoying, but not as annoying as an hour later, when he figured out how to change the battery in the thermometer, took my temperature and suddenly decided we should go to the hospital immediately if not sooner. Since air and light and being upright were all incredibly painful things to me at that moment, I was less than impressed by this plan. I suggested he call my sister, the pharmacist, or one of the three-to-five doctors and nurses on his side of the family, so they could tell him that I was right. He said he didn't want to scare anyone. Since I am the very model of sweet reason, especially when I'm sick, I totally said "I appreciate your consideration for their feelings, but I would really like to get an opinion with some medical knowledge behind it". I absolute did NOT say "YOU USELESS TWAT, WHY DO YOU ALWAYS CARE MORE ABOUT EVERYONE ELSE THAN ME, YOUR WIFE AND THE MOTHER OF YOUR CHILDREN?" and then wing the thermometer at him. 

He called my sister.

We ran down the list of symptoms and my sister agreed that they did not sound awesome. She said that it would take a few hours for the Pristiq to get back into my system, and that I should go to the hospital if it felt like I was going into shock from the pain or I was losing consciousness. I told her I was also having my period (not because I thought it was relevant, just for extra sympathy), and she said comfortingly "yeah, but at least that means you're not pregnant", which was a really good point.

Photo by epSos.de
We hung up and I took some codeine and told Matt not to let the kids come in and see me because I was scary. He put a cold cloth on my head that veritably sizzled. Eve came home a while later and came into my room (you had ONE JOB, dude, ONE). She said they watched a movie called Billy Something. I said "oh, the dancing one? I love that movie." She said "no......" and I realized she'd said Billy Madison, not Billy Elliot, which made me think maybe I SHOULD go to the hospital, because confusing Adam Sandler with Jamie Bell is not the act of a well woman. She left and I did a little more labour breathing. Matt came in and I said I couldn't tell if I was falling asleep or losing consciousness, and told him about Mindy instagramming her boob. I realized I no longer felt like an elephant was standing on my rib cage, which seemed like a positive development.

Then I woke up and it was Wednesday. Eve brought me ice water and a crumpet. 

For all the time I spend on the internet, I really should have devoted a little less time to cat videos and that guy with two dicks and a little more to researching what drugs I take before taking them.