Monday, August 30, 2010

Flying Despite the Flies in the Ointment

All this happy exciting stuff is exhausting. Things are still great. Friday was a great visit with friends and then I spent the evening at one of my favourite places with some friends, while Angus's baseball team won the city championships. Saturday was an amazing end-of-season game at someone's beautiful backyard with a pool, a hot tub and a trampoline -- 15 boys and three girls, swimming or bouncing for eight hours straight. We've been really lucky with other team parents in baseball and hockey -- they're all really nice and either really like us or fake it well. Yesterday Matt left for Washington and I took the kids to my parents' house for dinner. My Mom gave them some rocket balloons and they had a hilarious time blowing them up and firing them off in the backyard -- I love when Angus decides he's going to be a goofy little boy again for a while. Plus we only almost caused one car accident by causing a deflated balloon to drop on someone's windshield while they were driving by, and they took it pretty well. Turns out rocket balloons are a little hard to aim.

Today I took Angus to the airport for his first 'unaccompanied minor' experience, flying to Thunder Bay to spend the week with my mother in law. We knew Matt was going to be out of town, so we had prepared rigorously beforehand -- we had his passport, two copies of his ticket, a letter signed by both of us saying it was okay for Angus to go out of town, etc. etc. My Dad offered to come with me but I thought I should be able to handle this on my own. We tried to think of everything.

We didn't think of everything.

We didn't think that, while sticking your kid on an airplane to have someone else meet him at the other end, it might be a good idea to have the phone number and address of that person on the other end. We didn't think that, if you didn't have this information, the nice airline people might not want to let your kid on the plane.

Add to this that my parents had switched vehicles with me so my Dad could go pick up my aunt downtown with all her crap that wouldn't fit in their car, so I was driving their car and he had my van, with my cellphone charger in it, and we were in what you might call a bit of a pickle.

The airline guy at the desk tried calling my husband's cell phone for me. He didn't pick up. So Angus and I picked up all our stuff and went to the pay phone. I called Matt again. He didn't pick up. I left a fairly terse message. Then I realized, with a degree of hubristic smugness, that I could just call Thunder Bay information. Which I did. Then I realized, with a degree of crestfallen consternation, that my mother in law's husband is a doctor with an unlisted number. Then I called my Mommy. She was at her house with Eve. I asked if she could go over to my house and check my phone, since my mother in law had called last night and hopefully her number would be on the phone. She said they would walk over and look for it. She did NOT say "how could you be so stupid?" or "What are you going to do if we can't find it?" for which she gets BIG Good Mother points. We still had lots of time, since we are the kind of people who get to the airport stupidly early (because yeah, shit like this is not an uncommon occurrence with us, no matter how much we try to think of everything). I called my husband again and he picked up, at which point everything was solved nicely, except for my poor mother who is even more exictable than I am running around Barrhaven trying to figure out how to find the caller I.D. list on my phone.

We checked in. We got smoothies. We sat in the chairs. A man came and took Angus away. I hugged him and said "Promise you won't forget me!" He said "No promises." I watched until the plane took off. I took a picture of the plane taking off since I'd completely forgotten to take a picture of him at the airport before he left. He is now safely esconced in my mother-in-law's house, being stuffed with ice cream and making plans for a bunch of golf and shopping. And at least the excitement of the big Phone Number and Address Scavenger hunt sort of overrode the anxiety of putting my ever-lovin' firsborn on an airplane all by himself. Sort of. It is nice to realize that I handled this without screaming or crying, and also to be aware that not having my Dad there was absolutely the right decision since it just would have made things worse. Also, at one point Angus said "well anyway, if I miss this plane they'll probably just put me on the next one" which is a major sign of growth for the kid who, when we broke down in Quebec on the first day of our road trip out east last year, kept saying "okay, tell me again that we're not going to die or anything".

I am not off to embark on what Eve calls "four sweet days of just Me and Mommy". Not quite sure how this is different from the rest of the summer, but I'm willing to see where it goes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just to Balance out the Bitching

My word for last week was 'fortuitous'. In the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, the primary definition of fortuitous is simply 'occurring by chance'; it's only the second definition that has the 'fortunate, lucky' connotation which much of us attach to the word. But that's okay because this is my blog and I say 'fortuitous' means 'happening by a lucky twist of fate that makes you feel all fresh and grapefruity'. Those who wish to challenge my definiton may line up on my right where you may bite me, one by one, in a calm and orderly fashion.

On Monday morning my Mom and I went downtown to the Market to do some fruit-buying, flower-looking, gelato-eating and general happy summer wandering. I parked at the place where you pay the machine for a ticket that goes on your dashboard. You can only park there for an hour, but since we're wandering in the vicinity anyway it's easy enough to feed the machine. As we pulled up, a man walked up, knocked on my window and handed me a ticket paid up for an hour, saying they'd decided to park underground instead. I don't think this has ever happened to me before, and I was appropriately gleeful and grateful. We walked around and bought a few things, then came back to unload and pay for another hour. Just as we got to the machine, there was another man there realizing that he could only park there for an hour and asking where there was a parking garage. I pointed it out, he thanked me and walked away, then walked back and handed me his ticket saying 'this is useless to me now'.

We parked. For TWO HOURS. DOWNTOWN. FOR FREE. Next time maybe I should just lurk buy the machine waiting until people have paid and then saying 'you know, it's kind of inconvenient how you can only park for an hour here, have you seen that incredibly secure and long-term parking garage just down the street?...

Then, Angus was supposed to go golfing with my Mom and Dad on Wednesday, the tee time was booked, and he was invited to go sleep in a tent in his best friend's back yard. I usually stick to honouring the prior committment, but he's missed a fair bit due to goddamned baseball this summer and I knew he really wanted to go on the sleepover. So I called my parents, and my Mom said she was getting a cold and really didn't want to go golfing anyway. Okay, it's not precisely 'lucky' that my Mom got sick, but I'm working a theme here so thbffft.

And yeah, this next one doesn't really have anything to do with chance, just my crappy memory giving me a nice surprise instead of a surprise of the sticky, rotting, spiny and rancid variety. I looked up the details for Eve's camp for the next week to see what I needed to dress her in and send her with and realized that...wait for it..... LUNCH WAS INCLUDED. Cue the appropriate soundtrack.

It's been a great summer. I kissed my daughter's tummy not half an hour ago. Two nights ago I was awake and grumpy at 2 a.m. and my husband was awake and jet-lagged, so we had a bath together. A nice, quiet, conversation-filled, candlelit, g-rated bath (well, we were naked, but g-rated other than that). I am a lucky, lucky woman.

What? Like I can't ever be properly thankful for my goddamned blessings? I will be grateful and sunshiny until you scream for mercy. Stop looking at me like that!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Paging Bibliomama

There was a key in my mailbox today, which is always very exciting because it means there's a package in one of the bigger boxes at the bottom. I thought it was some clothes that I'd ordered, so I was perplexed when the package was hard and cornery. Then I realized it was books and I was excited. Then I realized it was free books and I was elated. House of Anansi sent me copies of Annabel by Kathleen Winter and Far to Go by Alison Pick (which was already on my to-read list) to review -- beautiful fresh slippery smooth sensually intoxicating hardcover copies. When I'm done making out with them I will review them.

This reminded me that I when I started this blog I thought I would be writing about books a lot more. I just can't seem to find a style of reviewing that fits in with the flow that this blog has kind of developed on its own -- I mean the flow that I've subconsciously developed, because lord I hate it when authors say stuff like "well I didn't mean for that to happen but my character just DECIDED that she was going to go to the courthouse instead of the dry cleaners that day". Dude -- it's not cute. It doesn't really sound like your characters have come to life. It sounds more like when old ladies pretend their cats are talking to them, and they can't say their Rs properly.

What else bugs me when I'm reading? Hmm, well, how about when I'm reading a book in a series that isn't the first, and just when I'm realizing that I like it and looking forward to reading previous books the protagonist thinks something like "wow, this case really reminds me of my last case, in which I was kidnapped and tortured after realizing that Bob McHale the photographer was really a vicious serial killer because of the incident at the lake with his uncle when he was eleven.". Way to go buddy, there go those royalties.

Anyway, lately I've reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, even though I didn't like his other book much, because it's on my book club list for next year. It held my attention well enough, but it's very gothic and Romantic (in the sense of Romanticism) and I've never had a whole lot of patience for Romanticism, even when I was studying it in university. One of the reviews I read said something like 'it's like peeling away the layers of an onion that then inexplicably grow back' (something like a vampire's hymen, according to True Blood, I guess), and after a while you just feel like you've been peeling this onion for a long damned time. It's all star-crossed lovers and doomed love, with an intriguing literary mystery and then naturally for the ultimate gothic gross-out you have to have the lovers who discover they're actually brother and sister -- like YAK. Maybe it lost something in translation. I'm also reading The Jade Peony, which is really good, and keeps making me angry (about the treatment of the Japanese by the Canadians, about the treatment of girls in traditional Chinese and Japanese culture). I also read Shoot to Thrill, by two of my favourite authors, a mother daughter team who write under the name P.J. Tracy. It was a little disappointing -- not because it was bad, just because it was published four years after their last one and doesn't live up to the best entries in the series, which are sterling examples of really great mysteries -- satisfying plot, characters you want to have over for dinner, amazing dialogue. Also, do mysteries always have to have such cornball titles? They're all so cheesy and generic I have trouble remembering the titles of any of them even if I really like the book.

There was also this book, which was like a lightning bolt to the head. Some readers were put off by the coyness of the jacket copy (it says 'we don't want to tell you what happens', gives one enticing hint, then tells you to read it and pass it on without telling anyone else what happens either'), and normally I would probably find that annoying too -- let's face it, I'm irascible -- but in this case it really worked for me. The book is electrifying, the story rolls on inexorably like a massive boulder picking up speed and you're exhausted when you finish reading it.

There. We will return to our regularly scheduled drivel -- navel-gazing, narcissistic moaning, irritatingly cute things my kids say -- soon.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Knowing Me Knowing You and I Do Realize I Complain a Lot

Time for Knowing Me Knowing You August with the Fairy Blogmother, for which I am heartily grateful because my husband is back from China therefore the pressure is off therefore cue the total loss of my will to live. It's been a gray and rainy week-end which matches my gray and rainy mood, I read a gray and rainy book and sat in front of my computer and obsessively checked and rechecked my email and Facebook and kept not receiving the email or comment that would transform my day into a wonderland of colour and passion. I made resolutions to stop eating crap and followed them up by eating crap (washed down with a searing shot of irony). I have further resolved that the wallowing shall end precisely at midnight. Okay, the wallowing will end whenever I drag my ass out of bed in the morning. There will be mostly no wallowing tomorrow.

1. What is your favourite kind of pie?

Cherry. Or coconut cream. I don't know, I'm not that heavily invested in pie. Or pi, except in that one weird way.

2. What kind of wedding did you have. I am making the broad assumption here that you are married, if you're not.. what was the last wedding like that you went to.

Traditional, mostly. Pouffy white dress, church, hall, dancing, open bar, men polka-ing together, the best man wearing shorts (what, that's not traditional?). We invited everyone to a big barbecue bluegrass rehearsal party the night before and to my parents' house the day after, so it was kind of a three-day wedding. And for favours my Mom said I should pick something that represented me, so I said 'nuts?'. I painted little candleholders and put packages of pistachio nuts in them that said 'nuts to you from Matt and Allison'. My Mom said we couldn't do it but her friend Shirley's old German mother said it was cool so then she said we could. I know, I'm such a rebel.

3. Ever been too a 3D movie?

Somebody please stick a freaking fork in the 3D movie already. I hate the stupid glasses, I hate that the movie's all blurry if you don't wear the stupid glasses. A couple of them had a couple of cool parts, but Toy Story 3? Wouldn't have mattered one way or the other.

4. What is the worst movie ever made?

Don't know. I've heard it's some movie about a guy sitting in a room for three hours. The worst movie I've ever seen? I hated Austin Powers, but according to some people that's just because I'm uptight and elitist. Hmph.

5. Are you all set for back to school?

Not remotely, on any level. We're going shopping for school supplies tomorrow (right, because that should snap my cranky streak). I ordered a backpack from Eve from Land's End (will I never learn?) and it's too small. The thought of having to pack lunches again makes me want to crawl under a table, lie down and count all the little faces in the grain of my hardwood floors until next June. I don't even have the pleasure of bitching about not being able to send peanut butter sandwiches because my kids don't like peanut butter ANYWAY, and somehow that makes it all SO MUCH WORSE. It's enough to drive one to homeschooling. If it wasn't for the having to know all that stuff and be organized and prepared and be with my kids all day every day. Plus if they turned out dumb I'd have no one to blame but myself. That would suck.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Post that got More Untitleable the Longer I Typed

I saw something horrifying in the paper today. It was an ad for The Bay about Maidenform's new bra, 'Like Magic'. Apparently it (shudder) increases the bust by two sizes. I can't even bear to think about it.

Eve and Angus are having supper while I'm not really paying attention. Eve sort of chokes and coughs a bit. I ask her if she's okay and she doesn't answer so I ask again a bit louder. She says yes, but keeps coughing. Angus says "take a drink, Eve!". Eve says, in an extremely annoyed tone, "I just did and it made me choke!"

Email from Angus to my husband after his baseball game on Monday night:

hi dad,

so we played Orleans yesterday and we tied 7-7 but we should have won. What happend was there was a wild pitch so the runner on third scored. But the catcher threw the ball over the pitcher but the third baseman got it and threw it home. The pitcher blocked the plate and the runner slide beside it and the pitcher tagged him. But the umpire said that the pitcher didn't tag him so then we got the final out to end the game. That was the end

Angus,

p.s. it seems the umpires hate us this year.

This episode of Spongebob takes place in the Old West. Spongebob when you're not in the mood for it is annoying. Spongebob when you're not in the mood for it and all the characters are speaking in cowboy accents is excruciating.

Angus and I were driving home from baseball and he said "I miss Daddy. Even though he's only been gone for a week. But it feels like he's been gone for six days." I said, "uh...he has". Angus said "exactly!" ???????????????

Yeah, this post is dorky. Whaddya want from me? My husband's in freaking China. And the umpires hate us.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cue the Drama

A couple of weeks ago Eve was in drama camp. They spent the week doing improvisation games, movement exercises, making costumes and props and working on little plays to present to the parents at the end of the week. They were awesome. They were all based on Greek myths -- Echo and Narcissus, King Midas, The Labours of Hercules and one other one I can't remember, but it was awesome because they were all awesome. Eve was King Midas's daughter -- she ran in yelling "Daddy!", got turned into gold, stood like a statue for a bit, got turned back to life (I'm not sure that really happened in the myth) and ran around shouting "I'm alive! I'm alive!", being out-hammed only by the drama King himself, the boy who played Midas. Eve's friend Marielle was Echo, who loved the sound of her own voice too much for Hera's liking, so she was cursed to only be able to repeat the words of others, and then to fall in love with Narcissus, who was only in love with himself.

In the car ride on the way home, Eve said, among many many other things, "Echo was a great part for Marielle. She talks A LOT." I was stunned by the seeming complete lack of self-awareness for a moment, then I managed to say "oh really -- does that remind you of anyone else?" She thought for a moment, then said "well yeah, I talk a lot too. But that's just because I have an interesting life."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I Can't Go On, I'll Go On

I know, referencing Beckett in the summer probably violates some kind of blogging statute, and if it doesn't it should. I'm suffering from a surfeit of frivolity -- too much sun and sandboxing, too many dance parties. Zarah and the kids left yesterday morning and I spent the day being narcoleptic -- any time I stopped moving for five seconds I dozed off. We had all been preparing for my husband to go to China for a week, and he hugged Angus before he left in the morning because Angus was going for a birthday party sleepover. After Angus got picked up Eve announced that she wasn't feverish any more and she wanted to go somewhere because she was bored. Since I figured that napping at the wheel of a moving minivan probably wasn't the greatest way to cap off the week, I packed her off to my mother's (because somehow watching tv at Grandma's house is infinitely more fun than watching tv at home). Then I was driving home with blissful visions of a nap, then a scary movie and popcorn for dinner dancing in my head, when my daydream was rudely trampled by the realization that my husband hadn't actually left for China yet, he was only at work -- he wasn't leaving until morning. Not only was the scary movie off, I was probably going to have to cook dinner AND put out. Rats.

So then I fell asleep at five and woke up at nine and had to finish my assignment and email it in before midnight. And goddamned if it wasn't really freaking difficult! You know how the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Turns out when you keep on clicking the same fucking Library of Congress link it will continue to NOT show you the subject heading for dog training for which you are looking. Also, I could not find an encyclopedia article on truffle hunting to save my life -- my outrage was only compounded by the fact that every damned time I typed 'truffle' it came out 'truggle'. Finally I did the nearly-unthinkable -- used Wikipedia. I got perfect on my last two assignments. SO not getting perfect on this one.

Oh, and Eve has some kind of foot fungus. She found this quite upsetting until we assured her that it generally only happens to people who are very active -- you know, there's no 'couch potato foot'. She is now going around telling everybody either that her foot is athletic or that she has 'an athlete's foot'. All sporty types, might want to check to make sure you still have two.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: When is a Sandbox Not a Sandbox?


















..............When it's a volcano, a pool, a lake and a sandwich shop, of course.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

On Not Camping

This past long week-end, Eve and I did not go camping. By which I mean we went, sort of, not-camping. By which I mean the three other families we travelled to the east coast with last summer made reservations ages ago to go camping at Sandbanks Provincial Park for a week including the long week-end and asked us if we wanted to go to make it a WAWA reunion (our four last names). Whereupon I laughed until I fell over and bumped my elbow and said 'ow', then sat up and said 'oh, pardon me, you were serious?', then said 'yeah, sorry, I don't camp. If there's a nuclear holocaust that results in the complete destruction of civilization and we all have to take to the forest and forage for food and dig toilet pits and make paper out of tree bark and crap like that, then maybe I will consider camping, as a possible alternative to death. Maybe.'

But in keeping with our 'two single-parents in the same household' summer (see: goddamned baseball) I thought a girls' road trip was in order. So we did go to Sandbanks. During the day. At night we retreated, sunburned and sandy, to a hotel room in Belleville. I'm not saying this is the most genius idea in the history of ideas, but I'm pretty sure it comes close. Of course, I felt like somewhat less of a genius when I punched the address of the hotel into my GPS the first night and got there to find a big empty parking lot, but switching Front Street North to North Front Street fortunately remedied that.

So we showed up with a van full of haphazardly thrown-together clothing and a cooler full of nitrate-laden food because we were NOT going to buy more than one bag of ice (actually I didn't buy any ice -- I threw in some frozen juice boxes). Everybody generously let us use their dinner tents, coleman stoves and firepits, and let us park in their campsites even though it was illegal. Does this mean we stole camping? I like to think it does.



The kids had a blast. You know that law where pedophiles and dangerous people evaporate upon entering a provincial park, so you can let your kids run freely between campsites and bathrooms without fear? (shut up, it is so a law). They played tag and ran around waving sticks and collected bugs. Which was good, because it left us free to play bananagrams for hours at a time (I couldn't stop playing even though I sucked at it -- I was really good at telling other people whether their words were spelled correctly or not, which then helped them hand me my ass -- I'm just nice that way).

The beach the second day was scorching. Searing. Sizzling, torrid, tropical. There was actual damage of burning your feet walking across the sand to the water. Some obnoxious older people set up their chairs actually blocking the path from the parking lot to the beach because that was the only place left with chairs, and I was kind of jealous that I wasn't obnoxious enough to do it first. It was the kind of day where you feel you have well and truly Been to the Beach.



The nostalgia level was high. From when I was about five until when I left home, my sister and I spent many summers in provincial parks with my parents. Sleeping in the trailor with rain pounding on the metal rool. My little sister eating cold bakes potatoes in her bunk bed in the morning. My Dad playing the banjo around the campfire. Drifting off to sleep hearing my parents' muffled voices outside. The oh-so-ironically named 'comfort station'. At one point last week-end I was walking from one campsite to another (they were all a little ways apart), in the afternoon, and the air was the ideal temperature, and the light falling through the trees onto the road was so beautiful; it was the perfect distillation of all the best of those memories, with the bonus that I didn't have to stress about how I was going to sneak out and meet my junior ranger boyfriend later that night.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In Praise of Zarah: Or, How I Am an Asshole

Today I will tell you about my friend Zarah. Zarah is not only one of my best friends - she is quite possibly THE best friend. In the world. Ever. The best listener, the best conversationalist, the best constructive criticizer, the best comfort-giver and complimenter. We met in university. One could argue quite persuasively that had we not become friends in university, I would not have dated and married my husband, who lived in her student house, and I would not have my two splendid and incomparable children. We could stop there and I would already have reason for endless gratitude. But there's so much more.

Zarah has an incredible ability to say the precisely right thing at the precisely right time. I've been on and off antidepressants since right after grad school; I would sink into a crippling depression, take medication, feel better, then try to kick the antidepressants because somehow it seemed okay to take them as a temporary aid but not okay to need them for the rest of my life. I would tell her that I was off my antidepressants and she would say something like 'well, that's kind of moronic. If you had asthma and told me you left the house without your inhaler, would you expect me to say Way to go, good for you, why don't you go try to run up that hill now?' My sister, who's a pharmacist, said this should be copyrighted and used in medical school. When I would confide how I felt guilty and lazy all the time because my natural sleep cycle is something like 2 a.m. to 9 or 10 a.m., and getting up at seven or eight when I didn't have to was like torture, Zarah said 'so don't. Normal people don't get up at three or four a.m. if they don't have to.' I know, right? She's like a Delphic Oracle except the stuff she says is actually coherent and useful.

In the spirit of full disclosure and to assure you that I'm not making all of this up, I should admit that if you want her to say any of this helpful, topical, reassuring stuff, you have to make sure the tv is off. Because paratroopers could burst in through the windows and strafe the room with automatic gunfire and she would still be unwaveringly focussed on Private Practice. Also, the poor girl can't tell a joke to save her life. Seriously -- you know that knock knock joke about the interrupting cow?: "knock knock" "who's there" "interrupting cow" "interrupting cow wh--" "MOO!". This is how Zarah told is: "knock knock" "who's there?" "moo" "moo who" "interrupting cow. Wait, no, I was supposed to...let's start again.". There was talk of some kind of telethon at some point, but happily she seems to be managing quite well. Only, if she ever says to you, 'stop me if you've heard this one', just stop her. It's best for everyone.

Every summer Zarah and her two kids, Alex and Sophie, come for a week. It's a fantastic week. We take the kids to museums and cultural events for a couple of mornings or afternoons, and then we hang out in the back yard with the sandbox and the hose for them and margaritas for us (and when you ask them their favourite part of the week it's always digging the gigantic muddy hole). Traditionally the kids have spent a lot of time naked, but they're getting older now and we've assured them that it isn't actually a requirement. We put the kids to bed and watch old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or go for a walk (when Sophie was younger she would always catch us trying to sneak out and we'd have to put her in the stroller and take her with us.) It's totally enjoyable and relaxing in the way that having houseguests almost never is, because she doesn't care if my house is a mess (which it always is) or if I run out of milk (she offers to go out and get some) or if I sleep in (she takes all of the kids to the park while I shower).

Often they come in June and we celebrate my birthday. This year they're coming in August, and Zarah's birthday is in August. We mentioned that this year we would celebrate Zarah's birthday, which I think was on the first. Not only that, but we talked on the phone last night. Did I say happy birthday? Did I remember to email her a happy birthday message before I left for the long week-end? Did I say sorry I missed your birthday while we were on the phone?

I did not. But wait -- it gets worse. During the conversation, she actually SAID that her brother had just given her a pedicure gift certificate FOR HER BIRTHDAY. What did I say? I said 'oh, nice', or something equally idiotic. No penny dropped. No circuits fired. Total, complete, epic friend fail. I'm pretty sure I'd even slept the night before, so I don't even have the stupid-tired excuse. Evidently my brain just took the long week-end as a vacation from all social niceties and traditional obligations of friendship.

Needless to say, this is going to take a serious stockpile of chocolate and vodka in the way of sucking-uppage for our visit next week.

Happy birthday Zarah. Sorry I'm an asshole.