Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pardon my ungraceful re-entrance

I'm a little surprised to find that no one's stopped by to leave me a "Lazy-Ass Blogger" Award. It's been days, how has the internet survived without me? In my defense...ah, fuck it, no one really cares. School's over and I've descended to a disgraceful level of slothfulness in matters of housework, hygiene, homeowork and -- what's an aitchey word for something to do with blogging? H...H...hell if I know. A family friend from Halifax and her daughter arrived just as school was let out for summer. The friend stayed with my parents and the daughter scampered over here as fast as her little legs could carry her because she somehow discerned that in the permissive parent races I was waaaaay above her conscientious mother. She has a black and white television at home and has to go to a friend's apartment on Sunday to play on the computer because THEY DON'T HAVE ONE (suffering jesus my kids are spoiled). She left this morning, a drooling, dribbling, dead-eyed shell after days of unrestrained movie-viewing and Webkinz and Club Penguin debauchery. (On a slightly related note, I had a brief impulse to throttle Eve when she made some comment about her 'whole life sucking' because she had to wait a few days to get a pedicure, and then a brief unflattering moment of self-realization a few hours later when the power was out for a couple of hours and then came back on and my laptop had crashed and the tv had no sound and the PS3 wouldn't cough up the movie, and in the midst of all of these incredibly trivial totally-irrelevant-to-actual-life inconveniences I thought 'holy turkey-balls this SUCKS' -- whiny narcissist, meet same. Fantastic).

Angus is playing baseball. Ask him what he's doing for the summer? Playing baseball. Really. He practices from eight to eleven in the morning, and six to eight-thirty at night, every day. He doesn't really like to eat much before playing baseball, which is tricky but not insurmountable when he's playing two games a week in the spring. When he's playing pretty much non-stop? Well, it's a bit of a problem. I asked him if he seriously expects me to just kinda not let him eat all summer, except around nine o'clock at night when he gets home, and he just gave me this look, like 'work it out, woman'. I resorted to what's quickly become the go-to summertime empty threat -- do what I say or no baseball. He more or less plays along, as if we aren't both fully cognizant of the fact that his coaches would be over here in an instant to hogtie me and hide me in the nearest bog if I messed with their precious A-team. Humph.

While we're on the subject of my kids making me sustain one cerebro-vascular incident after another, on Friday night Eve and Lily were out in the sandbox and I was making dinner in the kitchen, listening to them through the screen door. Shirley adopted Lily from China when she was about one. They were in town partly to attend a reunion of families who adopted children at the same time. Eve knows Lily was adopted. Apparently I neglected, though, to cover some of the finer points of adoption and how we talk about it, particularly to children who have actually BEEN adopted. Was it better or worse than the time when, after my mother described the spa to her, she walked in with my Mom to get her pedicure, looked around and loudly declared "you were wrong, Grandma, they're not ALL Chinese!"? You be the judge.

Eve and Lily: innocuous childish chatter

Lily: "My Mom (blah blah blah)

Eve: "Well technically she's not your Mom.:

OH. MY. EFFING. GOD. I narrowly avoid slicing off my thumb with a butcher knife. I blink experimentally to make sure I haven't actually gone blind with shame and horror. I dash to the screen door. I take a deep breath so I don't rupture my larynx.

Me: (really really trying to be calm) "Eve?"

Eve: "What?"

Me: "Shirley ABSOLUTELY IS Lily's Mom".

Eve: (looking totally perplexed) "But I thought you said she was adopted."

Me: (noticing that Lily is plastering the canoe with sand, looking completely unperturbed, awakening a faint hope that she hasn't been irreparably scarred and Shirley isn't going to take out a full-page newspaper ad about this epic parenting fail) "Yes. Shirley adopted her. That means she's HER MOM."

Eve: (watching me with a wary kind of forebearance, the way you might watch a squirrel to figure out if it's about to leap at you and sink its rabies-lathered teeth into your cheek) "Oh...kay."

I retreat, feeling like I still haven't really addressed the situation effectively, but not wanting to harp on it while Lily'a still there. As I go back to making dinner, I hear Lily say "well, she didn't actually give birth to me, so technically you're right", and her tone is pure "I don't know what your Mom's PROBLEM is", and Eve says "yeah, like, I guess your parents probably just couldn't handle a kid", and Lily says "yeah, it was China, and they were probably really poor", and Eve says, "so, were ya just wanderin' around when she found you?" "Nah, I was in an orphanage". "Oh! Like in Madeline?"

I had gin for supper.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Young Girl and the Sea

I'm speaking of this girl. We talk a lot in the mommy-blogging world about parenting choices, parental judgement, parents judging other parents...Abby Sunderland has been a lightning rod for these issues. I've been thinking a lot about this, every time another article or editorial appears, especially in the hours when she was out of contact before she was found safe. I purposely didn't google what other bloggers were saying, because I wanted to try to figure out what I really think, whether or not it's a popular opinion.

A lot of people have expressed the opinion that Abby's parents are crazy, neglectful or some combination of the two to let their daughter attempt this. I don't remember the same kind of rhetoric or publicity when Abby's brother Zac sailed around the world alone in 13 months when he was 16 -- I'm not sure that there really wasn't any, but I don't remember it.

Would I let my sixteen-year-old sail around the world alone? My gut-level reaction is 'not a chance'. But I don't have a sixteen-year-old. Abby Sunderland has been sailing large boats for years. Her interviews make it clear that she is strong-minded and independent. In a couple more years, she could have made the decision to do this on her own. We all know that some eighteen-year-olds are nowhere near mature enough to undertake something like this, while some fifteen-year-olds could probably do it. Is it possible that her own parents are a better judge of her fitness for something like this than the strangers who have suggested they should be 'whipped like mules' for allowing it?

An editorial in my local paper compared Abby's situation to that of Jessica Dubroff, a seven-year-old who tried to fly a plane across the U.S. and crashed and died in the process. I really don't think this is a fair comparison, because...well, jesus, she was SEVEN. The same editorial (entitled 'Bad Parents') says we all want our children to achieve but someone has to know 'the difference between having adventures and sending out children out to risk their lives'. Well guess what? Everyone risks their lives just by leaving the house every morning. Cripes, people risk their lives by NOT leaving the house in the morning. When I make the decision to start allowing my kids more independence by letting them walk home from school alone or go to the park with a friend, I'm running the risk that something terrible will happen and everyone, including me, will think that I should have been protecting my child. So much of how an event is viewed depends on a totally arbitrary outcome. Yes, there are levels of risk, and young people exhibit varying degrees of adventurousness. Letting your child sail around the world alone is a few steps up from letting her walk to Grandma's (and even that, it must be admitted, went horribly wrong that one time). The fact remains that simply being alive is a fatal condition, and we can't protect our kids from everything.

I don't know Abby Sunderland's parents. I think some of their comments about Abby being 'in God's hands', and God controlling the waves etc. are a little naive. But I don't believe that they thought they were sending their daughter out to risk her life unreasonably. I believe that they were terrified when their daughter was missing and relieved and jubilant when she was found safe -- which corroborated her father's claim that the safety features of her vessel and her own knowledge and competence would mitigate the risk.

I've talked before about trying to be non-judgemental, and how difficult it is. I know it's hard not to speak up when it looks like parents are being careless and risking their children's health or safety. It's also easy to be immmoderate and somewhat ill-considered without considering the nuances of the situation when you don't have to put anything behind your comments.

So what do you think? Is it refreshing that, in a culture that could be said to infantilize young people to an alarming degree, these parents allow their child this degree of self-determination? Or are they cuckoo Christians who deserve all the lambasting they get? Or something in the middle? (I thought I should talk about something other than my birthday for a change. I went for a 5k walk this morning. My feet don't hurt any more than they did when I was 39).

Friday, June 18, 2010

Funny, Not Funny

Not funny? Laptop playing coy. Stuck in terminal startup repair. And yes, I am a stupid douchebag who didn't back some stuff up and I deserve everything I get. But come ON, it's my birthday month and SO NOT FAIR. Also, I'm tired and everything hurts. My elbow hurts. My knee hurts. My neck hurts. My back and feet and eyebrows hurt. My vagina hurts. Apparently now that I'm forty I can party like a twenty year old, but only if I'm prepared to feel like a sixty year old for a few days after. And the school barbecue was last night. I hate the fucking school barbecue. Eve loves the fucking school barbecue. Naturally -- what's not to love about standing in an enormous line for substandard food, standing in more enormous lines for some ridiculous inflatable things, some of which have height requirements which aren't announced until the too-short kids get to the very end of the fucking enormous line and make me have to get a little snippy with a volunteer in a yellow shirt and his little megaphone, which is not fair, because you really shouldn't be snippy with volunteers, except he really was annoying with his little megaphone and his bellowing about snow cones and tug of wars when dude, you set up these bloody primary-coloured inflatables and guess what? snow cones and tug of wars (tugs of war?) sort of lose their allure. And then when we were finally done with the stupid inflatables the barbecue was ending and there was no more face painting or snow cones and Eve was pissed. Unfortunately, not pissed enough to last until next year and convince her that we shouldn't go. Whatever, I did it for the school. And the children.

Funny? This. You just know he would never get snippy with a yellow-shirted megaphone-abusing volunteer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Four. Oh?

It's my actual honest-to-goodness fortieth birthday today. But I'm going to save any philosophizing or musing or stock-taking or life-examining for later. I'm still rocking my birthday month, and the living is groovy. Pam the perfectly perfect party playmate took me for lunch and a pedicure today, and if I was any more relaxed I'd be ooze. I'm even too lazy to get my camera and show you the pictures of our smashingly Shrek-coloured toes (yeah, O.P.I, they of the wonderful reputedly-carcinogen-free and horribly-bad-punningly-named nail polish has a line out that goes with the new Shrek movie. Because nothing makes you want to run out and have your toes painted like a...Shrek movie? Whatever, shut up, my toes are awesome).

I know there are more important things going on in the world. I know there are more weightier issues to blog about (and no, I'm not referring to my forty-year-old ass). But I'm reminded of the time some of my high school friends had a party for my friend Sheila's birthday -- seventeenth, eighteenth, something like that. We were in someone's basement being giddy and frivolous and between movies about good-looking young people learning to salsa dance and dry-humping in dark corners, the news came on and there was something about the atrocity of the week and my friend Anne Marie said somewhat lugubriously "and here we are, drinking pop and eating chips". There was a loaded silence and then Sheila said "Shut up, it's my party". Go Sheila

So we had a party on Saturday, which sort of bothered my mathematical stickler of a husband because I wasn't technically forty yet, but next Saturday we have a piano recital and a couple of baseball playoff games. I tried not to get too excited about the party, because you know when you get really excited about A Big Party and then it's just a party? You know, a bunch of people can't come at the last minute, or things just don't come together right, or the conversation doesn't really gel, and then it's over and it just wasn't that great?

This was NOT that party.

It's not that anything momentous happened (althought I did play the piano out loud in public, because it was my fortieth birthday party and I thought I should attempt something unusual and a little scary, and this was the only thing I could think of that involved keeping my clothes on). It was just a good number of my favourite people in one of my favourite places, and there were purple martinis and silly jokes and immoderate laughter and I wore my purple dress and my hair went right and I felt hot. Examination of the photographic record shows that I was nothing approaching hot, but it was a good illusion and it was fun while it lasted. Also, I learned the important lesson that if you want to feel good about yourself, maybe don't keep posing beside your six-foot-tall statuesque blonde friend all night. Our neighbours came over, confirming my former conviction that we can never ever move. Although when I had to go over to my neighbours' house the next morning asking if my shoes were there, Paul didn't look like he loved me that much right then. Not because of my shoes, but because of the third of a bottle of scotch that went into him before I walked them home and kept drinking margaritas on the porch with his wife until 4 a.m.

It's funny how a night of food and drink, fairly superficial conversation, the odd in-depth discussion, and torturing Collette's husband with loud eighties music can sort of instill the sense that if these good people think you don't suck then you haven't actually screwed up everything for the last forty years. It's a little thing, but it's a nice thing. And only one or two glasses had to give their lives for this precious realization.

I'm sure I'll be back to my cranky cynical self soon enough. Right now? I just love you guys.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Stay Funny, My Friends

Funny? You want funny? Yesterday I stood in the pouring rain to watch my son run one hundred metres. You know how long it takes to run one hundred metres? Not long -- less than a minute. You know how long I stood there WAITING for him to run one hundred metres? Ninety-seven minutes. He's in grade four. He's a boy. They ran two heats of grade six girls. They ran two heats of grade six boys. They ran two heats of grade five girls. They ran two heats of grade five boys. We got the cameras ready -- we figured, a couple heats of grade four girls and we're golden. They inexplicably sent down a bunch of really SHORT boys, who turned out to be in grade THREE. They ran EVERYBODY ELSE that was there and looked like they might be in the mood to run one hundred metres. THEN they ran the grade four boys. I didn't think this was that funny, but Angus was fairly amused.

Last week-end Angus had a baseball tournament at a diamond that's right beside a water park, so I said I would take Eve over to the water park for part of the game. I grabbed a beach towel out of the linen closet before we left, not paying attention to what was on it.

Elmo was on it.

Eve was not impressed. She is SEVEN now, MUCH too old to be parading around wrapped in ELMO. I tried to convince her that she could wear it ironically -- I think it was a little too soon, we'll try that when she's fourteen. Finally I said "Look, all that really matters is that it gets you dry.". She said "WRONG. All that really matters is that it's popular!" Ah, love it when we really nail those values.

Also, Eve's had a bit of cold for the last few days. She doesn't feel bad, but she's very hoarse. We keep making her do Marge Simpson impersonations for our amusement. Seriously. She sounds just like this.

For something funny that doesn't involve mocking myself or my kids, there's this. It's been out for a while, but as far as I'm concerned, it's timeless. In a twentieth-century sort of way.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Variety is the Spice of Life. Except when it Blows Donkey Chunks.

I was a happy third wheel on a date with my friends Janet and Dave tonight. First they said they were taking me out for Indian food because it's my birthday month and Janet said she was too lazy to buy a card (to which I say, if any of my other friends want to substitute beef vindaloo and yellow dal for some overpriced Hallmark slogan, have at it!), then we saw Splice. Overall I thought it was really good -- smart, well-written, affecting and effective. Janet and Dave didn't like it nearly as much. Janet and I often don't like the same movies, although we have a large slice of overlap. Dave asked her how this one was on a scale of one to Passchendaele (the 'war movie with a locket') which she loved, and continues to profess her love for in the face of much mockery, and really, you have to respect that.

I'm fine agreeing to disagree about movies. Different people like different stuff. It's what makes the world go around, right? Except then people go around liking stuff like having women covered up head to toe because a glimpse of ankle or elbow or (DEAR GOD FORBID) nursing breast might strike some poor helpless man BLIND with lust or fear or disgust or well, who can really tell the difference at this point? Wouldn't it save a LOT of fabric if we just blindfolded all the men instead of wrapping all the women in curtains?

And then, as my good friend Tracy unleashed her wrath on yesterday (and thanks, because I needed that aneurysm right before bed, it helped me sleep better), this sublime example of manly manliness Rabbi Shmuley holds forth on the notion that women should make sure breastfeeding and childbirthing don't spoil the allure of their various assorted woman parts for their men. How could I have been so self-centered, focusing on the bleeding nipples and the pain of engorgement, the sixty-two hours of labour, the c-section pain and then the stitching up of my feminine bits -- I was making it all about ME. I should have been thinking of my poor husband and the fact that seeing my vagina and breasts delivering a whole NEW PERSON and PRODUCING SUSTENANCE SOLELY FROM MY OWN BODY might have made it less of a mindless midway of fun and frolic for HIM! Would it help if I told him I could dispense cotton candy from my nipples too?

To quote the good Rabbi: "This is not to say that breast-feeding should not be practiced. It is instead to say that it should always remain subordinate to the romantic and passionate needs of a marriage." Okay, I agree that once you have kids you need to pay attention to your marriage. When we took our marriage course, there was one really good speaker who said "You give your kids everything... except your marriage". Fine. Could not this Rabbi person have thought of a way to phrase that that makes him sound like a little less of an asshole?

It makes me tired. It makes me really tired. Because you know when someone has his head this far up his ass (I hope he realizes that the fact that he defecates might make his butt-hole less of a wonderland for his wife and never forces her to witness that) there's no pulling it out, no matter how long we talk. You know you could sit there till doomsday arguing persuasively about objectifying women and men having to take some responsibility for their own feelings (I mean really -- if they're such delicate little flowers maybe they shouldn't be out running companies and drilling oil wells -- something disastrous could happen -- oh wait...)

Anyway -- if you're easily offended, don't see Splice. It'll put you off sex with human-animal-abominations-of-nature forever. I'm going to bed. If I remind my husband that I breastfed our kids with these puppies five years ago maybe he won't ask to play with them and I can get some sleep.

Monday, June 7, 2010

In your dreams

I used to have very elaborate, vivid dreams on a regular basis. They were mostly quite entertaining, except for the ones that made me feel like I was going to die or wake up with various organs in the wrong place. I often knew I was dreaming, and the only time this would be bothersome was when I was trying to wake myself up and instead ended up surfacing through several layers of dream, like continuously changing tv channels -- I'd keep closing my eyes and opening them and seeing some damned fifties living room arm chair and lamp or battle arena instead of my bedroom. I would write these down and let my husband read them and he would say they could be made into Batman movies. I can still remember some of them very clearly, without reading the written accounts. There's one image of a burned, blind man weeping on a long stone staircase with his face in his hands that I can't shake. Also, standing humiliated on a public street while a policeman cites me for improper grooming, even though I explained that I spent hours on my hair -- that one still stings.

Since I had the kids, I don't seem to have or remember those types of dreams. What I wake up with are remnants -- words, phrases, scraps of music, feelings that aren't connected to anything that happened the day before. After humming the same six notes in the shower over and over sometimes I have to go turn on some other music to chase them away. Often I have to look up definitions of words that are floating indelibly in my mind -- once it was trocar (' A sharp-pointed surgical instrument, used with a cannula to puncture a body cavity for fluid aspiration'.) More recently, hemolytic converter (hemolytic has something to do with the destruction of red blood cells, and it's not usually used in conjunction with the word converter -- maybe I was trying to invent one?)

I find this sort of fascinating. I know, I know, it's really just junk that my subconscious is throwing into the garbage disposal of my dreams. But I like to think that maybe my dreaming self is different from my waking self. Maybe she's physician or research scientist material. Maybe she gazes unflinchingly into the mysteries of the human body, wielding her trocar fearlessly.

I've never been a big one for dream interpretation -- I've read some of the Freudian stuff and it seemed laughable. Sometimes the underlying meaning won't allow me not to see it, though. When I had stopped going to church and was struggling with the whole crisis of faith thing, I kept having one of those dreams where I realize I've been going to school for a term but missed one entire class, which means a zero on my record, which if you know anything about me you understand is a REALLY BAD THING. After I had the dream several times, I finally figured out what the class was. It was religion. Very subtle, subconscious.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Librarians Go GaGa

This is the kind of librarian I want to be when I grow up.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Best Birthday Month Kick-off EVER

I'm turning 40 on June 15th. Do I feel that this is an occasion for stock-taking, soul-searching, and various other compound terms that start with the letter 's'? Do I feel that it is a cause for mourning my youth, regretting the things I haven't done and other general mid-life crisis-type hand-wringing? Do I worry that life has passed me by and that maybe forty isn't, in fact, the new thirty, that the best years are behind me and I've wasted too much time being anxious and neurotic and shy?

Hell no. What I feel is that this month I am going to party my forty-year-old ASS OFF!

My friend Anne Marie obligingly flew in from Halifax on Monday in order to be poised to help me start celebrating on June 1st. Okay, there was this tiresome little matter of the exams she had to do first, the ones the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada insist on if she wants to proceed with the actual business of practicing medicine, but that was incidental.

You know that friend? The one that you meet early in life and share innumerable trials and humiliations and absurdities with, the one with whom you were loud and shrieky and giggly with until your Dad looked at the two of you and shook his head and said "poor Canada", the one who watched porn with you and declared that she was never ever having sex ever, the one who you can be totally honest with, the one who you turn out the light and crawl into bed with and keep talking until you both fall asleep mid-sentence? You get one, two, MAYBE three of them in a lifetime if you're really, really lucky? This is one of those friends. And it was a mid-week oasis of escape, silliness, wandering, saturated fats and mojitos. I crashed with her at her hotel Tuesday night so we could go swimming (by which I mean standing in the pool waving our arms around and wracking our brains for every conceivable bit of gossip about both our families and all our mutual acquaintances), have dinner (by which I mean ordering so much food in the hotel restaurant that the really sweet but scarily thin teen-aged waiter goggled comically at us while trying to fit all the plates on the table), and watch the news (by which I mean drinking pre-mixed strawberry daiquiris and doing Google research on the sexual orientation of our favourite sexy CNN reporter (oh shut up, my friend Elaine thinks Spencer from iCarly is hot). And talk a lot. And laugh until my face felt dangerously blood-congested while discussing America's Funniest Home Videos and all the morons who send in videos of themselves trying to dive off a collapsing diving board or being pecked half to death by deranged ostriches or being otherwise grievously injured, and how they probably have to use the prize money for reconstructive surgery.

Wednesday we wandered around the market, basking in the foliage, thus:

And also thus:

I bought a couple of plants from a thin, leather-tanned, gray-haired woman who was smoking a cigarette which she graciously held out of the way as she took my money. I asked her what the orange flowers were. She said "ah, something in the daisy family, I think. Maybe miniature strawflowers. I don't know, but this one's three dollars and this one's four. She charges more for this one because she grows them herself, or something. It's not my booth, I'm watching it for a friend. Some lady this morning was giving me grief about the price, I said, what do I know, that's the price. She said can't you make a deal, I said they're already on sale, if you don't like it go somewhere else. So she did! Then she came back to show me the cheaper ones! I said what do I care, there's a phone number on the side of that box of plants if you want to take it down. And she did! And I said, what the fuck do I know, I don't need this grief, take your flowers and fuck off. Thank you dear, have a lovely day." As we walked away I said to Anne Marie 'you know, you just don't get that kind of experience at the nursery at Canadian Tire.'

We went into Lost Marbles and asked the Decision Maker if Anne Marie had passed her exams:

It said 'definitely'. Yippee.

We went into a store that had a gong you could bang if you paid a dollar that would be donated to charity. So, like, duh. It was the most amazing sound -- low and deep, like music that was singing to the earth through your bones (that might have been the second-hand incense, now that I think of it).

We went into another store and admired these angry finger-puppets:

I didn't buy any, though. Wouldn't you be scared knowing one of those suckers was somewhere in your house?

We found an amazing Indian buffet for lunch, and we ate on the patio. It's sort of a weird feeling to fill your plate with food and then leave the restaurant: 'thanks for the curry, Dude, I'm off!'

Wednesday night we came back to hang out with my husband and kids (we all did one year of University together before she took off for B.C., and my husband has this tiresome habit of insisting she's HIS friend TOO, and the kids love her, because she buys them presents and lets Eve read to her for hours on end and professes to ENJOY it). Today we watched some daytime tv and had lunch with Pam before I drove Anne Marie to the airport so she could go home to her husband and kids and get on with the business of healing people (like THAT's more important than me).

It was perfect.

Also, on the theme of friends and things that make me happy, three of my kick-ass blog friends (blfrogiends) have given me awards, which I am now going to stack up like birthday presents because it pleases me. Thank-you, Pamela, Tracy, and Mom of the Perpetually Grounded.

Without all of you, I might be susceptible to some of that frightened-of-forty age-angst bullshit. As it is, I figure if these badass mothers think I'm okay, I must be doing something right. (Yeah, it's a little cheesy, SO WHAT? I'm TURNING FORTY, and I'll be cheesy if I GODDAMNED WELL FEEL LIKE IT, so PIPE DOWN and DEAL WITH IT, OKAY?) Mm. It's gonna be a good decade.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Two-word Wednesday: Let's Be Cryptic!

Backyard Yahtzee

In Cognito (ha)

Seared tuna

Paper playground

Trixie, smile!