Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Not with a bang

It's the last day of NaBloPoMo. I feel like I should be posting something Grand. Insightful. Auspicious.

Ain't Gonna Happen.

I will, however, endeavour to cease my overuse of capital letters.

Damn, I wish I hadn't already done the gratitude post. Oh well, you know what they say, if wishes were horses the world would be three feet deep in horse crap.

Okay, I'm checking the daily prompt.

"What did you learn from doing NaBloPoMo?" Oh for -- seriously? Fine.

I learned that I don't do NaBloPoMo to grow my blog or improve my writing or get closer to writing a book. I do NaBloPoMo because, despite what T.S. Eliot might have written, November is the cruellest month. November is like fifty pounds of grayness and enervation pressing down on my head. Unlike January, when I feel like crap but at least there is usually a happy family Christmas behind me, in November I feel like crap with the added pressures of preparing said happy family Christmas, even when I feel more like reindeer vomit than sparkly snowflakes.

I don't have a lot of outside-imposed structure to my days while the kids are in school. Once they get home it all hits the fan, especially when Matt's away, but otherwise there can be a lot of time to brood. Brooding time is not a good thing. When I have to post every day I have to think about posting every day, which means I'm thinking about something other than how tired and headachey and leaden and worthless I feel - or, if I'm blogging about how I feel, at least I'm distracting myself with trying to make it entertaining to my readers.

And it helps.

Not as much as Tom Cavanagh on Royal Pains, but it helps.

See you in December.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What kind of mother lets her kid get purple hair?

Remember Eve's Halloween costume?

The makeup was temporary. The purple streaks in her hair were not.

I know, it's not that surprising. I let my son get freak hair for hockey playoffs. It's the kind of thing that I generally waffle on briefly, agree to, and then worry about. Not the thing itself necessarily, but what it says about my parenting. Am I too permissive? Am I setting a dangerous precedent? Am I letting my desire to be cool supplant my need to set boundaries?

I don't think so. First of all, even though having unusual colours in one's hair is sometimes associated with other unsavoury behaviours, it's basically an arbitrary association. My kids know that I expect them to do their homework, treat other people with respect, eat mostly healthy food and fetch me chocolate whenever I snap my fingers - purple streaks and red fauxhawks don't change that.

I don't automatically agree to everything they ask for. I consider why they're asking and what the cost is. Dying their hair cost more than a regular haircut. However, Eve, unlike me at her age, actually has a sense of style, and I enjoy giving her the opportunity to explore it. I had gotten her a couple of blonde highlights for a fun surprise a few months before and she was thrilled. After she had them for a while, she tentatively asked if it was possible to dye hair other colours, and I suspected what she was hinting at. I knew that Angus would enjoy the experience of doing something fun and unusual for playoffs with his hockey teammates, and I knew Eve would be in transports of ecstasy if I let her dye her hair purple. I don't spoil my kids and I don't give them a lot of things with no occasion, but sometimes I do like doing something nice for them for no other reason than to make them happy. They were both extremely and exuberantly grateful.

I did have one or two other parents tell me they would never let their kids do something similar, but they were in the minority and they weren't disapproving or mean about it. My parents thought it was fantastic, which is a pretty good indication that we're not dealing with anything too alternative or cutting-edge.

How will I handle this type of thing as they grow older? When it might affect how employers view them? I'm not sure. When I see teen-agers with piercings or shocking hairstyles, I try not to let it predispose me to judging them negatively - I wait to see what their speech and behaviour says about them. I would hope people would do the same for my children, but I realize that might be a bit naive. For now, most of the people they say already know them and like them, and the few strangers who have commented have been positive.

Then I read an article - in the Globe and Mail, I think - about how to dissuade young girls from dressing too revealingly. Among the suggestions were helping them to find other ways to express themselves creatively, such as -- wait for it -- an unusual hairstyle.

What do you know - when I wasn't even looking for it, nationally syndicated validation landed right on my computer screen.

What kind of mother lets this happen?

A good one, I hope.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mondays on the Margins: Book Review - Easy to Like by Edward Riche

The synopsis from House of Anansi:

"A bitingly hilarious satire of the making of wine, television, and taste from one of Canada's most accomplished comic writers.

From award-winning author Edward Riche comes an immensely readable and sharp novel about "C"-list screenwriter and wannabe vintner Elliot Johnson. With his life growing more ruinous by the day -- his writing career is on the rocks, his struggling vineyard is being investigated by the feds, and his son, a former child star, is in prison -- Elliot decides to do what any self-respecting wine lover would do: escape to France.

Alas, fate has other things in store. Stranded in Canada by an expired passport, he is strongly encouraged to remain there due to his bit part in a growing Hollywood scandal. Deciding that Toronto may just be the perfectly engineered city in which to lay low, Elliot kills time by bluffing his way to the top of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

A brilliant work of searing satire, Easy to Like showcases one of our most original authors at his comic best."

I'll be honest: this isn't my favourite kind of book. I tend to think satire works best in shorter pieces (think Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal), and can be hard to sustain - and sustain interest in - over an entire novel. But this book was saved by the fact that Riche writes real characters, not merely types on which to hang his biting social commentary.

Elliot Jonson is a snob. He doesn't want to make wine or write scripts that are "easy to like". Unfortunately, this means his winery is bankrupt and he can't sell any scripts. He's not obnoxious about any of it - I was actually quite touched by his quixotic yearning after the unattainable grape needed to recreate the ideal Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The rhapsodic musings on wine are almost incomprehensible to the uninitiated, but they read like a kind of poetry that is nonetheless pleasing.

Elliot's assistant at the CBC, Hazel Osler, is also a solid character - intelligent, perceptive and passionate. This is necessary to keep the whirl of buffoons, ridiculous programming and policy talk from degenerating into an indistinguishable morass. The send-up of the inner workings of the CBC will be entertaining to any Canadian, with Elliot and Hazel's relationship as a nice real-world counterpoint.

I enjoyed this book, although not quite as much as I enjoy following Edward Riche on Twitter:

EdwardLRiche Edward L. Riche
Unfortunate earworms hazard of having a 14 year daughter. I keep telling myself "I've got the moves like Jagger". This is not true.
21 Nov.

In unrelated news, anyone know how to do Twitter screenshots?

Memorable Quotes:

-"'We smell some dried cherry or cranberries, violets, and leather in the best examples, but it is hard to nail it down.' It was a maddening aspect of wine tasting, this search for taste and smell equivalencies. There wasn't a risk of sounding pretentious; there was a certainty."

-"'The Italians, to their great credit' - Elliot thought how much he would like to be, at that moment, in Italy - 'appreciate bitterness in food and wine.'"

-"'Not even going to take a meeting?' 'No, they are not.' 'Did they give a reason?' 'They don't think Brokeback meets Passion of the Christ has an audience. They don't buy the whole gay Jesus thing.' 'come off it, it's so obvious. In the new draft Judas betrays him because he's insanely jealous of this thing Jesus has with Mary Magdelene-'"

-"Châteauneuf du Pape began with Grenache - to which could be added Syrah, for a shiny pepper pelt and the durability of reinforced concrete; Mourvèdre for the funk of blood; and Cinsault, for volatility and polish. Counoise gave a fermented essence that Elliot called 'raspberry kimchi' and it brought to the wine what Mick Taylor had to the Stones. Vaccarèse was a spice: a pinch did the trick. Terret Noir added crisp acidity. Muscardin's role was an utter and essential mytery."

-"Some bald guy hosted the newscast. (You would never see that in the States.)"

-"With his years in the screen trade, Elliot now believed that the best film actors did nothing other than be utterly convinced by their own lies. The best performances came from actors who merely thought they were, at the moment, the character they were playing. They were dissociative psychopaths. They weren't method actors; rather, they were method humans."

-"Connie missed a critical factor in her analysis of his problem. Sure, Elliot wasn't being truthful with himself; sure, he wasn't facing the facts. But he was also self-aware. His was self-conscious self-deception. It was how one coped."

-"It appeared his predecessor was a tyrant; Elliot's comparative disengagement would be welcome. Probably, over time and in spite of himself, Elliot would become a better exemplar of the dickhead they expected. By their nature, most bosses were bullies and assholes."

-"'There is something unsuprising about California wine,' Marshall said. 'Do you think it's because it's grown by graduates of agricucltural colleges rather than by farmers?' Was there anything more humbling, more poisonously and profoundly humbling, than hearing oneself in an idiot?"

I received a copy of this book from House of Anansi for review purposes. Opinions are my own.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Charmingly Offbeat or Some Creepy Shit?

First of all, thanks and praise to Honest Betsy, who likes my post titles and gave me this (which has nothing to do with the post title, which is meant to be attached to the rest of what the post is about - crap, I sense I'm in danger of having my award revoked):

Get it? Because the word titler has 'tit' in it? Also, we're both breastfeeding advocates - and what says 'breastfeeding advocate' like cleavage in an animal-print bra?

Second of all, it was American Thanksgiving recently, and there were two Charlie Brown Thanksgiving specials on, which I PVRed, because hey, Charlie Brown. Tonight Eve asked if the three of us could have supper on TV trays (actually she asked if we could have lunch on lunch little tables, but if I said that none of you would know what the hell I was talking about, so I paraphrased) and watch Happiness is a Warm Blanket. I happily agreed because we usually let them watch tv while eating on Sunday, I like it when there's something

At least, I always have loved Charlie Brown. I loved him when I was a kid. I loved him when I was a teen-ager. I loved him when I was a childless adult. I loved him when I was an adult with little children. And now that I'm an adult with older children.... well, I still kind of love it, but I notice things I didn't really used to notice. Granted, I think we can all agree that the totality of Charles M. Schulz's oeuvre demonstrates that he was not exactly a happy and well-adjusted man.
Happiness is a Warm Blanket is a lesser-viewed program (if you haven't seen it, it's about an impending visit from Lucy and Linus's grandmother, who, Lucy reports, has vowed to break him of his blanket habit or 'cut it into a million little pieces'. Lucy decides she will 'help' him break the habit before the grandmother gets there. I haven't watched any of the other ones through these newly critical eyes, but to name just a few of the things that make viewing this with my kids slightly fraught:

1. Lucy is a real bitch. Well, okay, I guess I always knew that, but good LORD she's a bitch. She keeps saying she's going to "break (Linus) of this stupid habit". In our house, stupid is a word that is NOT to be used lightly, and while she's not actually calling Linus stupid, the implication is clear.

2. That Violet chick is a real bitch too. The weird thing is, her only function seems to BE bitchiness. Lucy at least gets a few good one-liners in, but all Violet does is walk up to Charlie Brown and say something bitchy about how loserish he is, or walk up to PigPen and say something bitchy about how dirty he is or walk up to Linus and etc. etc.

3. The Charlie Brown crowd is weirdly obsessive about boy-girl relationships. Lucy always draped over Schroeder's piano. Sally always chasing Linus calling him Sweet Baboo. Peppermint Patty lusting after Charlie Brown - what the hell? Is it because there are no parents around and they're trying to recreate some kind of nuclear family model?

4. Schroeder clearly needs some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder meds. All he ever does is play the piano - it's not natural. Oh wait - maybe he has a Tiger Mom.

5. What kind of mother lets a grandmother threaten her kid like that? Oh right, the kind that ISN'T EVER THERE.

I just did a little more research, and the script for this show was actually written by Schulz's son and someone else after Schulz's death. Still, a lot of these issues are in all of the shows, and the comic strips as well.

I'm not saying this means I'll stop watching Charlie Brown, or not let my kids watch it. In some ways it's a refreshing change from some of the early-childhood-educator-approved treacle that's made these days. It's just funny how you see things differently at different stages of your life.

But man, Charlie Brown was a frigging saint for not bitch-slapping Lucy.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Time to Light the Lights

This morning my husband left for China at some ungodly hour. At a somewhat more civilized hour, I took Angus to hockey practice. I shuttled him into the dressing room, then went to sit in the rink. Then I realized that two teams were practicing and since it was a practice no one would be wearing jerseys with names or numbers on them and it was going to be really hard to figure out which team was Angus's and which kid was Angus on the team.

I was wrong. It wasn't hard. It was impossible. I sat for half the practice on one half of the arena, thought I was watching the wrong team, switched to the other half and picked out who I thought was Angus to watch and felt proud because he was smoking his partner in the drill where they had to skate around the pylon and get the puck. Turns out I was in the right half of the arena to begin with. Don't think I saw Angus do a single thing. Oh well.

Came home. Baked some cheddar cheese scones with fresh rosemary. Sounds delicious, doesn't it? They're not - they suck ass. Don't use the cheddar cheese scones recipe on Epicurious. If I'd made them before practice we could have used them as pucks.

Then we went to see The Muppets with the kids' friends and their Dad who is also solo parenting this week-end (he said to Eve 'this is weird, I've never been on a date with your Mom before'. Then he looked at her face and said 'I just creeped you out a little bit, didn't I?' She agreed most emphatically that he had creeped her out a little bit.

The movie is flat-out motherfucking awesome (and no, I do not believe that would be as effective without the adjective 'motherfucking'). It was like watching something with the bottomless capacity for wonder and joy of a child and yet having all the capacity for smart-assed ironic self-referential recognition of an adult. Although when Kermit said to Piggy "maybe you don't need the whole world to love you - maybe you just need one person" and then they sang The Rainbow Connection, I welled up with an absolute lack of irony (oh - should I have marked that as a spoiler?). Eve loved it even though before we left for the movie she recalled somewhat uneasily that she had been frightened by some muppets at some point. Angus liked it even though I had to strong-arm him into coming (there was no one to stay home with him and I was GOING, goddammit).

On balance, I'm calling it a good day.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mental cavities

Last night over dinner my husband was telling the kids about a program he'd watched the night before on the local cable station. It was a couple of psychologists talking to parents about how to keep an eye on their teenagers for warning signs of depression or anxiety, and how to approach the subject of professional help. There was stuff about keeping the lines of communication open and explaining that everyone needs help sometimes and being honest about it. One of the psychologists said, "here is an example of what not to do: a family came in to see me a few weeks ago; a mother and father and a very angry teenaged boy. I introduced myself to the boy and asked him why he was so angry, and he said 'You're NOT a DENTIST'."

We all laughed. Then Matt said another thing the psychologists said was to not let your kid get away with just saying 'good' or 'fine' when you ask him how his day was. We both looked pointedly at Angus, who had just five minutes before said 'good' when we asked him how his day was. He looked panicked and then said "uh, I walked down the hallway, then I put my jacket in my locker, then I said hi to Noah and went in my classroom....".

We speculated on how weird it was going to be the next time we told one of them they had a dentist appointment. Eve walked over to the calendar and pretended to read "'fake dentist appointment' - what the heck?"

My computer is wonky today so this is all you get. It was funnier before I typed it out. I hate when that happens.

Angus is currently sitting on the piano stool trying to spin it around to the point where the seat falls off. Do you think that means he needs professional help?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Slow and Steady

It's been a good week. I got my passport renewed with much less drama than I anticipated, went for a great walk, worked in the library, made a kick-ass butternut squash soup, left dinner for my Cuba-returning parents and hosted a fabulous book club meeting. So naturally I woke up this morning feeling like a heavy, worthless sack of expired potential. So then I got up and ate a bunch of chocolate cookies instead of going to the gym because I'm a giant self-defeating stupidhead.

So let's talk about the book, because the book is not a giant self-defeating stupidhead. The book makes me happy, even though some of it is sad, and even though I'm a giant self-defeating stupidhead. Should I stop using the phrase giant self-defeating stupidhead? I'll think about it.

The book is called Come, Thou Tortoise. The author is Jessica Grant, who was apparently a New Face of Fiction. That doesn't make me bitter, even though I've never been a New Face of Anything, except maybe Giant Self-Defeating Stupidheadedness (sorry). I bought this book last winter, started reading it when I got to Algonquin early for my exam on an icy day, and almost missed my exam because I was so entranced with the book.

Audrey Flowers, aka Oddly, is one of the most charming characters I have ever encountered. She is the most unreliable of narrators, and certainly she is lacking a certain something, or maybe she has an extra certain something, or something. She doesn't put question marks at the end of her questions, which you might think would be annoying, but it isn't - it is enchanting. She also isn't averse to dropping the odd f-bomb, which as you all know is quite important to me, and if it takes this book out of the running for a few delicate flowers, well so be it.

Oddly has to fly back to Newfoundland from Oregon, where she lives with her tortoise Winnifred (who is a winning presence in her own right) because her father is in a coma (comma). She ends up, in short order, locked in a bathroom with a stolen gun negotiating with an air marshall through the door crack - and this is just in the first five pages. She goes home and is sad, wobbly, energetically misguided and very, very odd while navigating the grieving process and visiting her Uncle Thoby who lived with her and her father for many years. There is a white mouse, there are quirky and entertaining neighbourhood characters, there is a very persistent Christmas light vendor (who happens to be Jewish) who is intent on recalling some potentially dangerous defective Christmas lights. It all hangs together with the same wonderful, slightly skewed, no-question-marks rhythm, the Newfondland scenes interspersed with commentary from Winnifred's point of view as she languishes back in Oregon in the apartment of Oddly's friend Linda and her boyfriend, the very minor Shakespearean actor Chuck.

"Wordplay and hijinks" - I just got that from the back of the book. That says it pretty well. There are also some shenanigans - some are ever-so-slightly madcap.

I put this on the book club list even though I am usually hesitant to put books I love on, because I know it's not certain that everyone will love them and I don't want to have their flaws pointed out because SHUT UP, I just LOVE IT, okay? In this case it turned out to be a good thing because apart from a few minor quibbles everyone else loved it too, and also I had a few things cleared up for me that, despite reading the book twice, I totally didn't get.

Get this book. And don't be slow about it. Ha. Get it? Slow? Because it has a tortoise in it?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wednesday Waffling

Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows how I stand on cursing. Or they should - there's a small chance that they think I'm against cursing and just have really poor impulse control, and, well, I guess that wouldn't be the craziest thing to presume, but.... wait, I'm getting off track.

There are people who seem to think that cursing is one of the worst things you can do - up there with stealing and burning down orphanages and nun-beating. There are people on Goodreads who lament getting into a book and starting to enjoy it and then encountering 'the f word' on page forty-eight and having to stop reading, and wishing they hadn't wasted all that time getting engaged with something they couldn't possibly finish because.... what? Reading the word 'hell' or 'shit' would keep them from sleeping, or cause them to go out and rob a convenience store? I'm genuinely interested in what their line of reasoning is. Okay, you disagree with the use of 'foul' language. That would really keep you from finishing a book that you've been enjoying so far? I'm not saying you're wrong and I'm right, I just... don't get it.

The thing that people who don't swear don't seem to get about those of us who do is that we're not being all that transgressive, because we don't actually think we're doing anything wrong. Swearing isn't against the law. There are certain words that, for whatever reason, our society has deemed 'dirty' or 'unseemly', and for this reason they draw attention to themselves. When I use them, I want attention drawn to something - either in a negative way, i.e. whatever I'm talking about has made me angry, or in a humorous way, i.e. using a 'curse' is supposed to make whatever I'm talking about more funny. I tend to veer more towards using curse words humorously, or if I'm angry about a situation, because directing them at an actual person seems too hostile. This is the first part of my waffly feelings about swearing.

The second part is about when I'm walking into the community centre with my kids on our way to the library and the kids from the attached school are standing at the door smoking and swearing every second word. This does kind of bother me. It doesn't surprise me, of course, but it bothers me. When I swear, I am always mindful of my audience. This will likely come in time for the teen-agers, of course, but I like what my friend Collette told her son - that she knows he will swear when he's with his friends and has no objection to that, but that he should be aware that if adults hear him swearing it will be considered disrespectful and they may assume certain things about him that aren't true.

However, not swearing sometimes seems to me to be a way of drawing attention to yourself just as much as swearing would. One of my friends on Facebook is friends with a woman who is vocally religious and quite self-righteous, and at one point she made a joke and then speculated that she would now be considered a 'smart behind'.

Really? REALLY? I'm too lazy to look up the reference, but I believe it was an Andrew Greeley book, where the main character is in the seminary but home for the summer and trying to teach a girl he used to date how to water ski. He says something like "try to get the, uh, lower part of your body straighter" and she rages "it's not a sin to say 'ass' you stupid prude!"


I won't go out of my way to swear around you if it's something that bothers you. But it's not like second-hand smoke - it won't actually make you sick. It won't even cause you to swear. I strive constantly for greater purity of thought and deed. But I'm quite happy making judicious use of dirty words.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In which I make with the 'tude (but not the bad one)

The lovely and talented Beck graciously invited me to be part of her anti-Oprah Christmas list post (and by 'invited' I actually mean 'didn't block me when I ambushed her in her Twitter timeline in mid-discussion of the post saying "please please please can I do the book part please please?" This is one nice, nice lady folks.)

I was going to save my thank-you post for a day when I was really stuck, and today I'm actually not stuck. There's a book I need to review that I forgot to do yesterday that I could do today. I already know what I'm doing for Wednesday Waffling tomorrow. But after reading your comments on yesterday's atrocity, I am so overcome with gratitude that I have to do my thank-you post today.

Everyone knows it's not easy posting every day - that's why we need a wacky, hard-to-say phrase like nablopomo, because if you're posting every day many things become wacky and hard to say. You start to forget if you've already written about your kid being afraid of sock fluff or the woman in the schoolyard who always shares too much or how you've always suspected that insects are trying to communicate with you (purely hypothetical). You start to plumb the very depths of your idea well and suddenly you realize why even your very favourite columnist throws out a dud every now and then.

But what about the readers? WHAT ABOUT THE POOR READERS? They who have been accustomed to your lazy, comfortable, twice-or-thrice a week output are suddenly bombarded with a new post (such as it is) EVERY DAMNED DAY. There is no end to the onslaught of inanity. I figured I would be lucky to not have zero comments on every second or third post. This was one of my chief concerns the first year I did nablopomo - "but if I don't leave the damned thing there for three or four days, NO ONE will see it, so what's the point? If a post falls in the forest..."

But damn, you guys are awesome. No matter what drivel I put out there, you have my back. Half the time someone says something that encapsulates perfectly what I was actually trying to say in the post (okay, in that case it's a balanced mix of gratitude and envy, but whatever).

So a huge heaping helping of hugs and kisses to everyone who has read and/or commented (no, that makes no sense, it can't be read OR commented, who would comment without even reading? Oh wait, maybe THAT's how you're doing it - no, then the comments would make no sense, and they mostly make sense, so...). If anyone wants to be on my Christmas card list (with the added bonus of obnoxiously cute pictures of my kids) email me your address and I'll put you at the very top.

Okay, enough with the sweetness. I promise to return to my regularly-scheduled acerbity tomorrow. Blog bless us, every one.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Value Meals

I just saw another article advising people about what they should order at restaurants to get the best value for their money. I've been told by people who work at restaurants never to order pasta, because pasta has the biggest mark-up. This kind of advice always makes me scratch my head (shut UP, I do NOT have lice). Granted, I'm not the cheapest person I know, but even the cheap people I go out to eat with don't tend to scan a menu and pick out what to order based solely on how they can best stick it to the restaurant in the value department.

When I go out to eat, the VALUE for me is in someone else cooking my food, serving it to me, and cleaning up afterwards. And I LIKE pasta. If I feel like having pasta, am I really going to not have it just because the restaurant might make too much money on my order? It would be different if I ate out at restaurants a lot, but I don't. So when I do, I'm generally going to order what I feel like eating, not what I think is expensive enough for the restaurant to buy and prepare that I'm not getting hosed. Besides, if I really feel like I got ripped off I can always steal the candleholder or something.

Yes, clearly I'm really stretching trying to get a whole post out of this. Oh, while we're on the subject, I also hate those articles that tell you how to eat healthy at fast food restaurants. Um, yeah, we all know - eat the side salad or suck on a napkin. I'm not trying to eat healthy today, THAT'S WHY I'M AT BURGER KING.

cartoon from here

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Scenes

I was surfing the NaBloPoMo blogroll this morning, as I have most days this month. The first blog post I read was about the blogger's one-year-old and it was cute, but she closes comments and requests emails instead because "it will mean more to both of us".

(sound of loud annoying buzzer like the kind that means you guessed WRONG on a game show)

I LIKE leaving comments. I don't leave one unless I feel it's meaningful. I rarely get one that I don't consider meaningful (assuming it's from a real person). Also, when I click on 'email me' on a blog, I get this email form that doesn't work, so I have to click over to my email and type the address in. In other words, she would have had me as a reader and now she does not.

The second blog was a cool book blog - instead of full reviews each post was just general musing about whatever part of the book the blogger was at. But a few posts down was a post saying he was doing NaBloPoMo but was still on the fence about it and didn't really see the point, plus he was so sick he probably wouldn't be able to keep doing it.

(sound of loud annoying buzzer etc.)

Fortunately, then I found this blog (cute and relatable) and this blog (funny, cool and a little dirty), so I didn't feel like the entire blogroll was filled with whiny fence-sitting pretentious gits.

Angus had a 6 a.m. hockey practice this morning. Angus's new bed in his bedroom is a loft bed with a ladder. He slept in the basement the entire time Matt was away because Eve was sick and he wanted no part of it (even though he demanded updates on her condition every hour). At the end of the week-end we made him move back into his room. Matt is now of the opinion that Angus should sleep in the basement whenever he has a 6 a.m. hockey game or practice because "do you have any idea how impossible it is to drag a 120-pound half-asleep kid down that ladder at 5 a.m.?" Matt then did a hilarious impression of himself jumping up and down, saying "Angus, get up" at the top of every jump. Apparently teddy bears were thrown and it was a whole big bad scene.

Speaking of bad scenes, Matt and I went to get passport photos taken this afternoon. The whole not smiling thing is really bad for me - I need the smile to tighten up my first chin or the second one becomes really obvious. Sigh.

Speaking of even more bad scenes, me and my double chin are going to see Twilight tonight. Stay tuned for much mocking and hilarity.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

So Glad You Asked

Can I post about World Trivia Night tonight, Finola asks? Why yes, Finola, yes I can. Do you mind if I smother you in kisses for the suggestion? No? Just a firm handshake then? Sorry - I moved furniture in Eve's room all afternoon and then had to ingest a hefty dose of robaxa-something-or-other containing codeine.

Lynn, aka Turtlehead, posted something on her blog two years ago almost to the day, something about buying Pringles for trivia night and did anyone want to join her? I commented on her blog that I would be right over, thinking that she meant trivia night at her house or a local bar and also thinking I was just being silly commenting on a blog post, not actually inviting myself to her trivia night. As it turned out, she was talking about World Trivia Night, which takes place in the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park every year, and her team had a vacancy. Since I was experiencing a fortuitous convergence of two fairly rare circumstances, i.e. my husband was in the country and I was actually not feeling too ugly/socially backward/hermitish to venture out of the house to join people I had never met before, I swallowed hard and said yes, thank you very much, see you tomorrow night.

My husband, who is usually all for me being less weird and hermitish, took a fair bit of convincing that I was not going to be found dead in an alley, which if you've ever met Lynn is quite amusing (although she can be deadly serious about her trivia). I also met Julie that night, which did great things for both my ability to divest myself of various Spiderman accessories, my love of dancing to eighties music and my ever-lessening fear of Montreal. Plus she can really rock a version of Voulez-vous consisting entirely of the words Voulez-vous and some incredible hip action.

It's a crazy scene inside the pavilion. There are more than 170 teams of 10, set up in rows of tables. Some of the teams keep their tables depressingly bare except for paper and pencils. Our team does trivia as trivia is meant to be done - under layers and layers of salt, sugar, saturated fat and cocoa butter, unbesmirched by anything that smacks of vegetableness. Peter, Lynn's friend who really anchors the team, runs on a steady fuel of chocolate Cheerios and always bemoans the fact that he's not bulimic at least once during the night. In the car name category, we were totally stumped on a Pontiac model that was also the name of Utah salt flats and a Speedway; we were about to submit Sunfire even though we knew it was wrong, and he coughed up Bonneville with milliseconds to spare.

I never cover myself with glory, although I do consume empty calories very efficiently. If there's a book question no one else knows I might come in useful, but other than that.... it's weird, too, because it's not like my head is crammed with IMPORTANT stuff. You'd think I'd be a veritable compendium of Persian diamond names, French military victories, Latin flower nomenclature and Bristol Palin's baby's name (okay, that one I actually did know, but we second-guessed ourselves and got it wrong). But I'm not. I'm the worst at sports. And geography. Guess what? There was a SPORTS GEOGRAPHY category. Awesome - could I get a liver and dijon mustard milkshake with that? (Liver and dijon mustard both make me gag, if that wasn't clear).

Two years ago we got 85 out of 100 (the questions come in 10 groups of 10). Last year we got 87. This year we got 84 - Lynn was not pleased. She threatened to start bringing healthy snacks unless we all promise to shape up. This from the woman who COULD have brought us up to 85 if she hadn't been too TIRED to watch Captain America the night before, thus learning which fictional element comprises his shield (Vibranium - isn't that a stupid fictional element name? I think it's stupid). That's okay - I'm in it for the pop rocks high and the pleasure of hearing Stuntman Stu cheerfully mispronounce a good forty percent of the answers.

Previous WTN posts here and here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Getting Down on Friday

I have finished my last assignment for my course. I have started on the mountain of laundry in the basement. I have debated whether or not to boot Eve and her friend off of the computer, decided not to mess with contentment, and been vindicated when they raced upstairs to her room to play some make-believe game involving teleporting and recorder playing a few minutes later.

It's World Trivia Night tonight - my third with the inimitable Turtlehead (my first without Julie - boo to no Julie). Of course I don't feel like going right now because, well, I never feel like going anywhere if we're being brutally honest, unless 'anywhere' includes up to my bedroom with a book. Once I get there it will totally rock. Especially if I can cough up an answer that has something to do with something other than my knowledge of bad tv shows and their actors (we all know that's not going to happen, but it's a nice thought.

So in the spirit of getting a lazy-ass post up before I forget and leave the house and don't come back until some insanely late hour like, ten-thirty p.m., enjoy this (totally not safe for kids or work. Unless you work someplace really, really cool, in which case, maybe grab me an application). Sent to me by my awesome friend Patti's awesome friend Helen.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I went to see Mamma Mia last night. It was enjoyable, although I realized that I have a very marked preference for a certain kind of musical, which this was not. I realize that musicals in general require a willing suspension of disbelief, but for me this only extends to people acting like they're in a play, and then every once in a while they all spontaneously break into song and dance. My willing suspension of disbelief does NOT extend to people singing dialogue to each other, such as "let's go oh-oh-oh-over to the kitchen and may-ay-ake scrambled eggs", or a person singing to one other person. Not only does it make me practically writhe with embarrassment for the person singing, it makes me feel desperately sorry for the poor sap who has to stand there being sung to and gestured at. Sure, it's all well and good to be the character emoting musically. What if you're standing there having to look eager and receptive, unable to scratch your nose or crack your knee until the song is over?

Also, the song "Our last summer". I hadn't heard it since I was ten or so, which was a good thing. I don't care how badly you need a rhyme for "Paris restaurants", or how Swedish you are, you do NOT get a free pass to pronounce croissants 'crow-iss-awnts'. You just don't.

Other than that it was great. Pam and I picked up Julie's friend Denise on the way down, which made the ride there almost as much fun as the actual play. Fortunately, Denise's sense of humour fit in nicely with Pam's and mine, which I was pretty sure it would since she was Julie's friend, but I could envision a scene in which the poor woman would have been lunging for the door handle in heavy traffic. Pam's laryngitis-induced horror-movie croak and the fact that she was driving her husband's vehicle, whose brakes are apparently MUCH, MUCH more sensitive than her car's, only added to the fun. What's a touch of whiplash between friends, after all? I think I feel a song coming on....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Angus post just to even things out

Angus has grown up exhibiting a lot of my anxiety-related traits. He sometimes obsesses over things. He needs to know what's happening next. He's not comfortable with uncertainty. Now since he's - unlike me - a boy, and - very unlike me - athletic, playing sports has helped with a lot of this. He's come extremely far in terms of confidence and self-esteem, which is nice. But he's still asked me every day this week if he's sleeping over at his friend Noah's on Thursday night and if I've talked to Noah's mother and learned any additional details of which he should be apprised immediately, if not sooner.

Today I got an email from his English teacher that the Scholastic order had come in and, though he said he pre-ordered the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, she didn't have a form for him.

I stared, aghast, at the computer screen. I remembered him attacking me with the form and demanding that we order the book two months ago so that he could get it on the first day it came out. I had visions of him melting down in the middle of the classroom. I emailed the teacher back that we had absolutely ordered the book and to let me know if she didn't have one for him so I could go to Indigo and pick one up.

Then I wondered if I should go before I picked him up from school, or if we could go after I picked him up. Then I thought, wait. I know I haven't been feeling totally right this week - Eve was sick and we were shut in last week and, well, it's November. I need to call someone and run this by them so I know if I'm overreacting.

No one was home.

So I called the school and got them to tell Angus to call home.

He was not upset in the least. I told him we could go to Indigo and get a copy and he said "we already ordered it, why would we buy another one? Just wait until they figure it out."

Angus is a hundred percent fine. I, on the other hand, am in dire need of something which clearly I have not yet been prescribed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Eve's Ear OR Telling it Backwards for Suspense over Sense

On Friday last week when both the kids were home from school, Eve wandered down from her room and over to the kitchen table where I was working on an assignment, or blogging, or surfing aimlessly, as she often does. I stopped and hugged her, as I often do, and then she leaned on the table looking at the computer, which presented her left profile to me. So I flipped her ear around to look at the back of her earlobe, which I often do (this makes sense later, I promise). And I saw a small opening in the back of her earlobe, and shining through this opening was a swath of silver metal.

And that's how I discovered my daughter is a cyborg.


Just kidding.

Eve's ears have always sort of been her Achilles yeah. When she was a baby, she had wax buildup behind them that had to be scraped out occasionally. When she was three, she had a small bump on her right ear that kept getting infected. We took her to the doctor and found out that it was an extra sinus that had to be operated on in order to close it (I almost linked to 'extra sinus', but the definition has some really gross stuff - it's a little hole, and it can cause problems, let's leave it at that. If you're one of those people that just HAS to know, you can Google it, but then don't blame me).

But then there was a blissful period of inner-and-outer ear health. No ear infections. No stitches. We were lulled into heedlessness.

We got her ears pierced.

It wasn't something I was anxious to do, but when the three other little girls who were all born at roughly the same time and who we hang out with were all going to get it done, I said Eve could get it done too. She didn't want to, so I said fine. Then, about a year later, she said "I think I'm brave enough to get my ears pierced now". I don't know that she put it exactly like that just to suck me in, but sucked in I was - she was being brave! We must go to the mall RIGHT NOW so she can be brave and reap the gratifying results of bravery!

The brief golden Age of Earrings:

Her ears don't like being pierced.

It was okay for a few months, then it wasn't. There was pus, and blood, and various other unmentionable things. We took them out and let them grow over. And then a few months later? We did it again. Because we are morons.

We wanted to problem solve. We wanted to know where we had gone wrong and fix it. We tried hideously expensive earrings, and those worked for a while (with the added awesomeness of having Eve pipe up with "I can't wear cheap stuff - I need gold or platinum" to complete strangers. We cleaned and disinfected nightly, sometimes hourly. We rotated and cleaned and disinfected some more. We finally settled on surgical wire earrings, and for a longer period than ever, things seemed resolved.

Until they weren't. Eve came upstairs crying because her ear wouldn't stop bleeding, and we realized we hadn't checked her ears for a few weeks, and the left one was a swollen, encysted mess out of which we then spent the next hour trying to extract her earring (there was a priceless moment when Matt looked over me and tried to mouth "I think it's bent inside her earlobe" and Eve said "I can see you - we're IN FRONT OF THE MIRROR"). Anyway, the earring finally came out, we mopped up the blood and declared ourselves finished with earrings for all time.

Until I flipped her ear around on Friday afternoon and realized we weren't quite finished with the earrings.

I thought to myself "okay, try not to freak out because that will just freak her out". So I said "HOLY SHIT, there's a chunk of METAL in your EAR!"

She freaked out. Angus came running upstairs. It was a whole big thing. I told her I would use my tweezers. I carefully sterilized the tweezers and washed my hands. Then I threw the tweezers across the room and, while she was looking at them sailing away I grabbed the hunk of metal with my fingernails and pried it out of her ear.

It was an earring back. A whole, big, butterfly earring back that my kid's earlobe ATE. It now has pride of place on the edge of the kitchen counter where we all walk by, look at it and shake our heads in disbelief.

I think we're done with earrings forever now. But obviously you just never know.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I'm Shameless

I know two Eve posts in a row is probably violating some unwritten Statute of Blogging about exploiting your kids for cheap laughs more than once every half dozen posts. I just don't care. I was all set to be broody and slightly self-pitying today after my week being shut-in with a sick kid and then a week-end of recovery, which was nice but didn't do much to help me rejoin the world without feeling weird and wondering if everybody was looking at me strangely. Instead, Pam dragged me (i.e. didn't throw me out after I jumped into her car) down to Westboro to wander around looking at Fair Trade Christmas ornaments and twinkly elephant-strewn wall hangings and bowls made out of colourful newsprint, and buy discounted Playmobil at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's, and venture into Mountain Equipment Co-op trying to look much more outdoorsy and athletic then we actually are, and lose my Works virginity (I had the Beverly Hills Lawsuit - I don't think I need to eat for the rest of the week now).

Then I had to get groceries (see part about shut-in week and recovery week-end - we've been eating out of cans for the last five days). So clearly I don't have time to muster up a blog post of any substance.

When I take my laptop up to my bedroom, it has to be plugged in in a socket that's between the chair of my arm and the wall, in a very tiny space. Once Eve was in my room as I was bent over trying to contort my arm in the proper configuration to plug it in and she said "why don't you just let me do it?" So now I just call her to do it, which she loves. Yesterday she was stealing my computer to watch netflix in bed, so she had to unplug it. She got down on the floor and wormed her way into the space, with just her little monkey-and-cupcake-printed pajama-clad butt sticking out. Then I heard "Hmmmm. I think I see your problem, ma'am. The plug is STILL IN THE WALL. I'll see what I can do!" Naturally, I made the only rejoinder possible - I tickled her butt. Then I heard "It's NOT APPROPRIATE for you to tickle my butt, ma'am!"

Funny or a little creepy? You decide!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eve is about to steal my computer.... I'm going to write down some funny stuff she said today in case I don't get it back before midnight.

"Hey, I can crawl really fast! .....OKAY, that hurt."

"Sorry. I'm a little rusty. I haven't juggled for like two hours."

"Remember when Daddy and Angus were putting on cold bathing suits in a hotel room and they made up that 'cold on the weenie' song?"

"Can we put on makeup? Because I already did."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

In sickness and self-righteousness

My husband and I are about as far apart on the spectrum of believing our kids when they say or think they are sick as you can get. My instinct is always to believe them without question, keep them home from school, tuck them in bed and worry that they're suffering from bubonic plague or the like. His instinct is to declare that they're - maybe not faking, but certainly exaggerating, or just psyching themselves out, because Angus in particular has a very nervous stomach - and send them to school or make them play baseball or hockey and hope for the best.

The general perversity of things being what they are, both of us turn out to be wrong at least half the time. I still maintain that my way is better, because would you rather feel like a bit of an ass when you keep the kid home and within two hours s/he is running circles around you, pulling down the curtains, demanding video game time and a tenth cookie, or LOOK like a giant ass when your kid barfs in the middle of the classroom/cruise ship dining room/bowling alley/birthday cake?

Eve's been home from school for most of the week with my stomach bug, and I kept her home one last day yesterday because she was still pale and tired, but she hadn't thrown up for 48 hours so I said she could still go to her friend's house after school because the friend (and her mother) were desperate for her to come over and I was pretty sure she was no longer shedding virus (you're welcome Clara). Angus was supposed to go to an Ottawa 67s hockey game for a friend's party last night, and he stayed home from school because he was achy and wanted to go back to bed, which he did, which is not normal for him, but he thought he'd be able to go to the party and I was okay with that because I didn't want the friend to be disappointed and again, no vomit was forthcoming - I thought maybe he just needed a day of rest.

So of course, twenty minutes before they're both supposed to leave, they both get all weepy and think they feel nauseous and things head rapidly down hill. I was utterly unable to decide what the right course of action was, and if I had still been solo parenting all three of us might have remained frozen in this miserable tableau for the next five to seven hours. Fortunately, Matt got home from the airport just in time to pronounce them neurotic and ridiculous, stomp on their objections, harass them into the truck and drop them off at their various destinations. Eve had a great time at Marianna's, Angus had a great time at the hockey game (at which he consumed two pieces of pizza, two Pepsis and two pieces of cake), and Matt and I caught up on a huge backlog of Modern Family.

Sometimes it's good to be wrong.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Two Minutes

I was in my kitchen this morning when the clock clicked over to 11:00. I didn't know where to look for the two minutes of silence, so I watched my microwave clock. For two minutes.

It always feels longer than I expect, standing there doing nothing for two minutes. I tried not to let my mind wander, but I kept thinking about stupid stuff. I wanted to take out the garbage. I wanted to wipe the counters. I wanted to get set up on the table to start the assignment I should have started two days ago. I forced myself to be quiet and still for two minutes.

I thought about what it would be like not just to be annoyed about having to be still. About what it would be like to also be hungry, or thirsty, cold or hot, unwashed and weighed down with pounds and pounds of heavy equipment. I thought about what it would be like if I had to be quiet as if my life depended on it.

I can't find the exact quote, but I thought I'd heard something about war being equal parts boredom and terror. Fortunately for those of us who haven't had to go to war, we're much more conversant with boredom.

Remembrance Day. It's the other Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Random shit

Eve's home from school again, barfy-but-not-quite-barfing. It's okay - obviously I wasn't going to be allowed to step foot out of the house today, because my hair is AWESOME. And the number of people I see in a day is inversely proportional to how bad my hair will be, and my hair mysteriously knows AHEAD OF TIME. My hair is an asshole.

I spent hours in an Etsy wormhole last night favouriting hand-made ecologically-sound non-toxic wooden toys between which to choose for my nephew, while at the same time wondering exactly to what degree my brother-in-law and his wife would shun me if I sent him a gigantic Nerf machine gun.

I just finished reading this book, which should be easily dismissable as the foul product of a horrifyingly diseased mind, but somehow isn't. Somehow there's enough compassion, melancholy, intelligence and social commentary shaded into the loving descriptions of bodily disease and decay to rescue it - although I have a few qualms about it being labeled teen fiction, and I have no idea who I'd recommend it to.

That commercial about banana-scented shaving lotion for carrots? It's fucking weird.

I don't like artichokes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday Waffling:

I've decided that since I'm committed to posting every day this month, I should tackle a few posts I keep approaching and then backing away from, for various reasons. One reason is that I've been too mentally lazy to try to marshal my thoughts into a coherent post. The other reason is that these are issues about which, no matter how much I go over them, I can't come to a firm resolution.

Today I'm going to talk about my problem regarding religious people. This is separate from my problem about organized religion - I have more concrete reasons there, many of which are articulated brilliantly in God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens.

I read an essay once by a woman who was proudly, defiantly against all religion. She said something about not being sure that faith could move mountains, but it could certainly knock down buildings. I tend to think of religious faith as something like fire: used properly, fire can warm, fuel and cook - activities that sustain life. Used improperly, fire can raze and destroy. And you can't blame the fire - it's the people that decide how to use it. So religious faith in the hands of good people should be a positive thing. So religious people. On paper, I have no problem with them. I even admire them. But in real life? I'd like to be more precise, but the truth is, they tend to give me the heebie-jeebies. If I'm conversing with someone or interacting with someone on social media, and I suddenly realize they're religious, it generates an immediate knee-jerk negative response. Of course, there's a sliding scale of mentions or remarks, the mildest being "we can meet you after church" or "please pray for us at this difficult time" (barely an eyelash flicker) to "all praise belongs to Him" or "Don't thank me, it was all God", (squirmy discomfort, tingly elbows), to "we prayed on it" or "God told me to" (uncontrollable eye-roll, mild nausea).

Why is this? I do recognize that, in a large measure, it's not them, it's me. Why do I care if they feel free enough to refer to something important to them in casual conversation? Why does it make me cringe and debate lessening or cutting off all contact with them?

I don't really know.

I guess I sort of believe that faith should be a private thing, and that if you're secure in your faith, you shouldn't need to keep talking about it. I know this doesn't dovetail with the idea that, with some religions, a big part of the deal is proselytizing and converting other people. But since this is a part of religion I REALLY don't agree with, my feeling is that you have every right to follow the tenets of your faith as long as they don't hurt anyone else, but I don't need you peppering me with references to it. It sort of reminds me of Tom Cruise jumping on the couch yipping about Katie Holmes - if you really feel it, you don't need to be public about it.

Also, I find it sort of annoying when someone gets complimented or praised and says "oh, don't thank me, all the credit belongs to God" (I do have a facebook friend that does this very thing.) The corollary of this is "well, what can we do, it's all in God's hands". It's true that we can't control everything. But it seems silly and unfair to me to discount all human agency. If you worked hard for something and were successful, what kind of sense does it make to say all the praise should go to some amorphous being? Do you think you would have gotten the same result if you'd just sat at home and watched Oprah? I don't like the sense that people are just puppets with the shadowy Man in the Sky moving their little arms and legs around. I also don't like the implication that nothing we do has any effect if God decides to make things go a different way - why do anything, then?

As I feared, I don't feel like I'm getting my feeling across with any precision or coherence. I know I have friends who believe in God and I have no problem with that. And I don't want them to feel like they have to hide it from me either - that's not what I'm saying.

I was raised Catholic. I went to church faithfully the whole time I lived at home. I sang in the choir and was the organist for two years. We had a priest I really liked. He had wild reddish hair down to his shoulders and a skewed sense of humour. When he came to my school he was great with the kids. But he wasn't very good with adults and he acted very strangely sometimes. Once we got home after Saturday night mass and my mother realized she'd forgotten her purse. She called the rectory and my Dad went to pick up the purse, but the priest would only open the door a big enough crack to shove it out, then slammed the door. My father, who thinks organized religion is a total crock, was angry - he didn't see why that kind of behaviour should be allowable just because it was a priest. Shortly after I left home for University, the priest was arrested for abusing altar boys. I was upset about this, but sometimes I don't think I realized just how upset. I stopped going to church regularly (more due to courseload and heavy drinking than any philosophical decision), and the times when I tried to go to mass with my Mom on Christmas or Easter, I felt physically repulsed when I entered a church.

I don't usually do the 'what do YOU think' thing at the end of my posts, but I really struggle with this, and if anyone has any thoughts I'd really like to hear them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Absence makes the heart do too much online shopping

I may have mentioned (repeatedly, in a shameless attempt at garnering sympathy) that my husband travels a lot. When the kids were little and we had no family around, it was really hard. I wouldn't sleep well, the kids wouldn't sleep well, every day seemed fifty-seven hours long, and by the time he came home I was at the end of all my physical and emotional resources. As they've gotten older it's become much, much easier.

We've established some good routines that work for us when we're a three-person family. Routines for getting homework done, piano practiced, children bathed and everyone in bed at a reasonable time. In some ways it's easier when there's only one parent - we're on my schedule and everyone knows what they're doing when. We sometimes have supper on tv tables. We usually gather in my room to read at around eight. Often, this morphs into a group sleepover, with Angus and Eve occupying the other side of my bed, or a mattress on the floor, or the enormous chair and ottoman pulled together. It's a nice bonding experience, and it's nice for them to have something to look forward to when Daddy goes away, although I have mentioned to them that it might be kinder not to yell YAY when my husband announces another trip.

Some routines that have started to form when my husband is away are less productive and beneficial. Like the one where I suddenly feel the need to visit online auction sites and look for funky jewelry, or cute clothes for Eve, or baseball accessories for Angus. This is something I like to call 'retaliatory shopping'. This is not something I ever do when he's home - and it's not because he would disapprove. It just doesn't occur to me. Fortunately, I'm still restrained enough not to spend too much on them, but it's sort of a pattern that Matt returns home and then one or two or three packages show up in the mailbox with beaded watches or purple tulle skirts or funky striped asymmetrical-hem dresses or a Boston Red Sox lightswitch plate.

The other thing that sometimes happened, and this one is less harmless, is that I become unable to talk on the phone with my husband without instantly morphing into a venom-spewing harridan. And not just when I'm having a bad day. Strangely, it's sometimes inversely proportionate to how bad things are. Once Eve got an ear infection that lasted four days, and then the stomach flu. I was able to relate this to my husband with perfect calm. On the other hand, often he calls when Angus has just brought home a perfect math test and Eve has just said something witty and adorable, and between picking up the phone and bringing it to my ear, I inexplicably lose. my. shit.

Me: Hello?

Him: Hi, it's me. How's it going?

Me: Why do you care? It's not like you'll be any help if it's going crappy.


Me: Hello?

Him: It's me. Just checking on things.

Me: I've always hated how you chew gum. And you shouldn't wear red, it's so not your colour.


Me: Hello?

Him: Um, I have a situation.

Me: You are the unpurged bowels of a dozen earthworms. How many days late? You suck.

Yeah. Not constructive. I think we can all agree it's not the best way to foster strong marital ties.

I really am working on this. I know it's not his fault that he has to travel. I know it's not always fun for him (although you should understand that often it really is - nice hotels, nice restaurants, sushi off of naked women - okay, it might have just been sushi on plates, but he REALLY LIKES sushi, so,  still...).  It keeps us fed, sheltered, pays for the hockey equipment and piano lessons, lets me stay home with the kids - and friends? we get a shit-ton of Air Miles. I know this, rationally. Then again, if he wanted rational, one might ask what the hell he was doing marrying ME.

I think a large part of the problem is that, even when things are going well, it's hard being the only one on - the only cook, cleaner, driver, clothes-washer, band-aid applier, math-problem-helper and plumber. No matter how hard we try to anticipate what needs to be put in place before he leaves, invariably we end up realizing that Angus's hockey stick is locked in Matt's truck at the airport ten minutes before we have to leave for the game, or that the off-gassing toilet plunger that he put in the garage isn't accessible when we are suddenly in DESPERATE NEED of a toilet plunger. For the most part, I manage to squish down the panic-inducing knowledge that we're always potentially seconds away from this kind of thing and that I have no back-up, so that I don't walk around weeping and trembling the whole time he's away; my theory is that, when the phone rings, these squished-down feelings squirm out of captivity and shout desperately for freedom. Unfortunately, the squished-down feelings also have Tourette's Syndrome, so that while I'm trying to say 'Everything is fine', they're trying to call out plaintively 'I'm feeling insecure and panicky!' but instead they inexplicably scream 'DIE MOTHERFUCKER!'

Once when the kids were still small, he was supposed to be home on Thursday night, but called at midnight to tell me he was stuck in Toronto until the next day. I said "okay. It's fine. See you tomorrow." Later he thanked me for being so reasonable. I said "actually I was cursing you six ways from Sunday in my head, but I was half-asleep and suddenly I was paranoid that the plane might crash and people might find out that the last words I said to you were mean". He smiled serenely and said "I don't really care".

Finally I just told him to email me and now we usually communicate that way, because I don't feel myself morphing into Super-Mega-Wonder-Quadruple-Bitch while reaching for the keys the same way I do reaching for the phone, and even if I do I can always edit before hitting send. I briefly considered the possibility that it was the phone that was evil, but other than the telemarketers, the theory doesn't really hold up. But everyone who reads my blog knows I'm nicer in writing - right?

I'm working on it. We've had one phone conversation since he left two days ago. I was nice. It wasn't THAT hard.

Now, I wonder if they have any cute black sparkly sweaters on Ebay in size 10/12?

Monday, November 7, 2011

It was a good plan...

So after all my high-minded words about 'spending some quality time with my kids' and 'keeping the family connected', Matt left this afternoon and I proceeded to leave the kids with my Dad and go out for dinner for my friend Janet's birthday this evening. Did I cook something wholesome and homemade for the kids before I left? I did not. I got them McDonald's. They seem distinctly untraumatized. But who knows if I've doomed some unspecified future liquor store to knocking over?

In honour of my friend Janet, who I love not IN SPITE OF but BECAUSE she pronounces words and names in a delightfully quirky manner, I will tell a story she told my husband and me ABOUT HERSELF (another reason to love her) fairly soon after we had all met:

In the story, she was going out for dinner with her boyfriend (now her husband) Dave and some of his friends who she was meeting for the first time. They went to a Thai restaurant. Janet ordered the pad thai. After the waitress went away, while they were engaging in small talk, one of Dave's friends asked Janet what she had ordered.

Janet: "uh...what's it called... oh yeah - I ordered the poon tang."

Dead silence at the table.

Janet: "What's wrong? Don't you guys LIKE poon tang?"

See? See? Lovable.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Post-traumatic sickness disorder

Sitting here trying not to let the absolute joy at the fact that I feel not the slightest inclination to hurl be overwhelmed by the whiny realization that I missed a gorgeous sunny fall week-end and we didn't finish rearranging Eve's room AGAIN and the house is a disaster and Matt's leaving tomorrow AGAIN, and...

Yeah. How about we don't go there? I realized that the reason my head is all whoosh-y and I keep almost falling down the stairs is not just that I haven't really eaten for three days, but that I haven't taken my antidepressant for three days, when one day of withdrawal is generally a quite noticeable problem. (wait, you all knew that I require medicating to be this sunny and cheerful all the time, right? I'm sure you did - if not, well, surprise, you're welcome, no and screw you - that should cover all the possible responses).

I miss my kids. Not just from the last three days of not wanting to infect them, but from the last month of craziness - I feel like we're all a tiny bit unconnected. We don't fight or yell or anything, because they're great kids at good ages, but Angus is at that age where he tends to want to hermit out a bit in the basement, and I need to reign that in a tiny bit, and Eve has forgotten or lost a couple of things this week and she's been disproportionately self-lacerating about it. So while Matt's away this week I will be re-instituting the 'everyone in Mommy's room reading a book at eight o'clock' and 'everyone eating together at the dinner table' rules. And instead of putting off having them sleep with me until later in the week when I can afford to lose the sleep, I am just going to let them sleep with me every night. I've had enough interrupted bed time in the last few days.

When I was growing up, my Dad got home at 4:45 every day and my Mom got home at 5:30. All our activities took place comfortably after the dinner hour. It seemed easier to get four people together at a table. In this family, the Dad sometimes has to go out for dinner after work and is frequently not on the continent. Eve has dance at an hour that means we have to eat early and dash on Tuesdays. If I have an assignment spread out all over the kitchen table I sometimes let the kids eat on tv tables. I never stop trying to reassert the four-people-at-the-dinner-table model, but it's harder. I do talk to my kids about how important I think it is and how studies have been done that show how families that eat dinner together tend to produce children that are more successful later in life. I'm not sure how he got this particular image, but now Angus's delightful shorthand for it is 'yeah, yeah, I know, you don't want us to grow up and start knocking over liquor stores'.

I guess that captures the point pretty well.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Delirious ravings

To all my blog/facebook/twitter friends -- sincere apologies for the oversharing. Not that I'm about to stop, you understand, but I am sorry.

I'm really wondering if I should allow myself to type this, but I THINK that after roughly 54 hours of extreme bodily misery, I might be about to do something crazy like digest food. When I stand up I actually feel like my feet send roots into the floor, by sheer virtue of the room not pitching about like a ship in a storm. I would be wholly content, if not for the fear that I've doomed other members of my family to the same fate.

There are people who have cancer or other chronic illnesses who feel like this a large amount of the time. Who watch sickness and fatigue swallow up huge chunks of their lives. I know how hard it is on the kids when I'm sick, and how horrible and helpless I feel when I have to let someone else take care of them, and I can't even imagine what it must be like to have that be the new reality rather than an aberration of a few days.

I'm torn between trying to follow up two days of no food with a clean, healthy start and swearing that no excess sugar or fat will pass my lips henceforth, and seeing how much of a cow I can devour at one sitting.

I sent in a wildly substandard assignment for my course on Friday. Since I've gotten 100% on the first six (actually I think one was 95% - the shame!), I'm not going to sweat it. I'm also not doing a whole lot of 'improving my writing' or 'growing my blog', two little catch-phrases that gave me a bit of an unpleasant start when I saw them on a NaBloPoMo badge. I didn't hold out a whole lot of hope for either of those things - I was going along the lines of Just Do It.

And look - I did.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Knowing Me Knowing You November 2011

The Nablopomo newsletter asked if we were exhausted from three days of writing - I've actually been really enjoying the writing, I'm exhausted because yesterday I woke up with a burgeoning migraine and then threw up all afternoon and evening and part of the night and woke up this morning still queasy. So naturally I'm getting my post done before I do my assignment that's due before midnight that actually affects whether I pass my course. Priorities, people.

As usual, Shan the Fairy Blogmother comes through with Knowing Me Knowing You just when I'm really, really desperate.

1. What keeps you up late at night?

When I'm not upchucking, you mean? Books. Good books, bad books, heaping towering teetering stacks of books. If I try to read a book at three in the afternoon I fall asleep. I start reading at nine or ten and I can sail through until 2 a.m. easy. Often I start reading a book and can't go to sleep until I finish it. I think it's verging on pathological.

2. Do you collect anything?

Books. Good books, bad books, heaping.... wait, I already said that. I've been trying to achieve zero growth, meaning if a book comes in a book goes out. I use the library a lot so that we have space at home for furniture and appliances and people and moving around, but I've been trying to collect some of the books I've read and loved since realizing that I don't own a lot of them.

3. Are you addicted to Angry Birds?

Nope. I SUCK at video games. Like, lamentably, laughably, humiliatingly, my kids can't even believe how bad I am kind of suckage. Especially driving ones. It's kind of surprising my kids will get in a car with me after seeing my dismal performance at Mario Kart. Except one golden time when I was sitting on the couch with Angus and he passed me his ipod touch and I made some brilliant, idiot-savant type move on Angry Birds and hit the TNT. He suspected for a split second that I'd just been holding out on him, and then ten seconds later he realized it really was just a fluke.

4. What's your idea of a perfect evening?

Watching Doctor Who with my husband. World Trivia Night. A walk on a crisp, cold fall night. Book club. Eight o'clock reading time in my room with the kids. Not throwing up.

5. Are you looking forward to winter?

I honestly don't know. Some things, I guess. I have trouble in winter because I have really bad feet which translates to a lot of lower back pain, and when I can't just wear sandals or running shoes everywhere it affects my mobility, so that part sucks. But the kids like the snow, and I like making soup and chili and I hate the heat, so I guess so.

Shan, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sound and Fury Signifying DUMBNESS: Dominance by Will Lavender

I recently came across a member on Goodreads who is kind of pissing me off. She writes these sprawling, grandiloquent, scathing reviews in which she assumes and attributes wildly speculative motives and qualities to authors, indicates that anyone who likes a book she doesn't is a brainless sheep-like patsy, and generally tries to be as unpleasant as possible. And god help anyone who has the temerity to disagree with her. I haven't engaged her, because I'm pretty sure it's what she wants, and I try to stop going back, but the sweet rotting lure of such flagrant bitchiness is strong.

I try to be balanced in my reviews. I tend to review books that I like, while just giving low ratings to books I don't and then moving along. I know what it takes for me to put my writing out there, and how fragile a writer's self-esteem can be.

But sometimes I feel like I've been duped by a book. Like it reeled me in on a false promise of depth and wonder and played me for a fool ON PURPOSE. And that, friends, pisses. me. off.

I don't usually reprint the synopsis, but in this case I need to be really sure you see it:


Fifteen years earlier. Jasper College is buzzing with the news that famed literature professor Richard Aldiss will be teaching a special night class called Unraveling a Literary Mystery—from a video feed in his prison cell. In 1982, Aldiss was convicted of the murders of two female grad students; the women were killed with axe blows and their bodies decorated with the novels of notoriously reclusive author Paul Fallows. Even the most obsessive Fallows scholars have never seen him. He is like a ghost. Aldiss entreats the students of his night class to solve the Fallows riddle once and for all. The author’s two published novels, The Coil and The Golden Silence, are considered maps to finding Fallows’s true identity. And the only way in is to master them through a game called the Procedure. You may not know when the game has begun, but when you receive an invitation to play, it is an invitation to join the elite ranks of Fallows scholars. Failure, in these circles, is a fate worse than death. Soon, members of the night class will be invited to play along . . .

Present day. Harvard professor Alex Shipley made her name as a member of Aldiss’s night class. She not only exposed the truth of Paul Fallows’s identity, but in the process uncovered information that acquitted Aldiss of the heinous 1982 crimes. But when one of her fellow night class alums is murdered— the body chopped up with an axe and surrounded by Fallows novels—can she use what she knows about Fallows and the Procedure to stop a killer before each of her former classmates is picked off, one by one?

Elite scholars. A mysterious, J.D. Salinger-like author. A literary game played by geniuses. Hell yeah, sign me up.

When you read a book and start realizing it's so much less than it was promised to be, do you find that small, unremarkable details start to drive you batshit? Or is it just me? Because once I figured out that this book was a whole lot of telling rather than showing, every second description and adjective choice seemed monumentally mediocre and grating. Even the heroine's name - Alexandra Shipley, but everyone calls her Alex. Alex Shipley - try saying it aloud or even just in your mind. You either have to pronounce both names distinctly - Alex. Shipley - which trips you up every time you read it, or you read/say it as Alec Shipley. I would never have named a child this, and I would never use it for a literary character either. At one point, Alex Shipley (agh) visits Richard Aldiss, the tortured genius, so we're told but never really shown:

"He had wine ready, an immaculate dinner of stewed hare and exotic vegetables on china that spread across a stark white tablecloth." An immaculate dinner? Immaculate? Immaculate is clean white linen or a room with nothing out of place. A dinner involves sauce and juice and piles of things. A dinner can be extravagant or luscious or meticulously-prepared, but not immaculate. And stewed hare? Am I wrong, or is 'stewed' just not a glamorous image? I would have gone with braised veal shanks or maybe a crown roast of something. Stewed hare just makes me think of a wet rabbit.

At another point, Alex is questioning one of the other characters: "The man tumbled away again, followed the air with his eyes." WTF?????? Presumably we're meant to understand that the person's attention was wandering - instead I have an image of someone suddenly performing a somersault in the middle of a conversation. Don't even get me started on "followed the air with his eyes." Followed.... the AIR? The air is EVERYWHERE!!!!! This is pure slapstick, folks.

Yes, this is nitpicking. I wouldn't have started doing it if everything else wasn't so lamentably lacking. The 'Procedure', which is supposed to be some grand, eloquent game, merely consists of students acting out scenes from a book, and in THIS book they only do it once or twice, and most of them seem to suck at it. The night class consists of Aldiss uttering a couple of inscrutable sentences, having a few neurological fits which cut the sessions short or cancel them entirely, and then suddenly Alex and another student from the class are in Iowa following a lead found in the margin of some library book and we're told the class is about to end after the next session.

It's hollow. It's a hollow chocolate bunny. No, it's worse than a hollow chocolate bunny -- at least then the thin shell is made of CHOCOLATE.

Then there's the problem that I sometimes encounter that results from the fact that I read books quite quickly. I'm willing to make certain allowances based on the fact that not everyone reads this quickly, but a lot of people do, and if you're an editor I kind of think you should catch this sort of thing:

page 11 - "His mouth was frozen in a cruel smile."

page 19 - "Alex froze."

page 43 - "She froze."

page 66 - "no other students walked across the frozen quads." (dispensation here for the fact that it's winter, so the literal use of the word applies)

page 75 - "Alex froze."

page 262 - "Alex tried to scream. Tried to stand up, to do something -- but her body was frozen."

page 297 - "Alex froze."

page 303 - "Everything froze."

page 346 - "He froze."

page 353 - "Her blood ran cold." Well it would have to, wouldn't it?

At the risk of assuming too much about the author (because you know I hate when people do that), I'm going to venture a guess that, while writing this book, he should have worn thicker socks.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Disgrace to my Gender

I'd like to say that this is one of those hip, ultra-modern, no-stereotyped-gender-roles type households. I'd like to, but I can't. We don't try to mimic an episode of Leave it to Beaver or anything - my husband helps with housework, Eve loves math and plays baseball, Angus has been known to scrapbook, and I can drink my husband under the table. BUT I do the vast majority of the cooking and day-to-day tidying. I do my best not to sully my lily white hands by carrying out the garbage, I'm helpless with anything involving plumbing, and bad things happen when I get hold of an allen key, so I don't put together a lot of furniture. I'm a stay-at-home MOM, for frick's sake. And while my husband isn't a neanderthal or a 'I earn the money, you take care of everything else' jackass, he likes his sports and he can be utterly defeated by the vagaries of a washing machine.

Along these lines, I haven't taken a lot of responsibility for vehicle maintenance. Matt would just take whichever thing needed servicing, drop it off and then take the shuttle to work. At some point, he would pick me up and we would go get the other vehicle and tag-team drive them home.

When we bought the minivan last summer, I said that I should start taking it in, and he said he would be glad to hand over that responsibility. However, the first time it had to go in, I was in the middle of a medication switch and I didn't really feel like myself, so to spare me the added anxiety he took it in yet again. Today was my maiden voyage into the big bad world of Car Servicing.

I was determined not to be a stereotypical woman who is clueless and giggly and doesn't know anything about cars and gets taken advantage of. I'm not sure how I thought I would escape this, though, since, regarding internal combustion engines and the like, I AM clueless. And I do tend to giggle when I get nervous. Fortunately, there was little opportunity for any advantage being taken, since all I needed was an oil change which is still covered under our extended warranty. Furthermore, the guy at the desk could not have been nicer (at least one of us dodged the stereotype), so even if there was a problem I might not have left with a new everything-under-the-hood. But yeah, it was bad. I approached the desk and within ten seconds we'd established that I'd parked in the wrong place, and when he asked me if we'd bought the vehicle at this location I had to say "Uh, I think so.... I wasn't actually....there." He said "Oh dear." Then he said "Oh, I didn't mean to say that." I could have said, look, we discussed it at length and we already knew which one we were getting, and the salesman was someone we knew from our son's school, it's not like I waved good-bye to my husband and said have a nice day dear and why don't you pick up a new car on the way home.... but there didn't seem to be much point.

Oh well. The oil got changed, Pam and I went to Costco while we waited (so I guess maybe it did cost me more than it should have after all) and all my husband has to know is that I successfully navigated my first oil change. It's not like he reads my blog. I don't think. Plus, I have a bunch of muffins the size of my head to console myself with. I'm calling it a win.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Gimme a NA! Gimme a BLO! Gimme a PO! Gimme a MO!

Yeah, I could just quietly post every day in November without trumpeting that I'm doing NaBloPoMo and demanding that everybody marvel and praise, but that's just not how I roll, OKAY? Besides, if I don't constantly remind myself I might forget.


You know, when my kids were little and Angus always wanted to be a superhero and Eve always wanted to be a princess or a fairy, I used to be kind of annoyed. Because Angus was a superhero every day and Eve was a princess or a fairy every day, and it was BORING. I thought at the very least ANGUS could be a princess and EVE could be a Power Ranger, but no, for Halloween they'd wear a costume that had been worn dozens of times already. And I was annoyed by that.

My stupidity knows NO BOUNDS.

You don't even want to know how much these cost.

I always try to convince the kids that we should make costumes out of stuff we have at home, because it's much more fun and creative than just buying something. One year we pulled together a pretty cool Indiana Jones costume for Angus because he had this great corduroy blazer, and my husband had the fedora. We made a map for his pocket and all we had to buy was the whip. Every other year it's been store-bought all the way. Sometimes we would even have two or three different costumes, one for the school dance, one for our friends' annual Halloween party and one for trick-or-treating. Because, you know, I'm a sucker. At least this year they wore the same costume for everything.

Because I spent so much on their costumes, I was determined that mine would be cheap and easy. And not slutty, because I'm old and married and the party is all about
consuming carbs and getting silly drunk, because I'm old and married and the party is all about not angling to have drunken pirates leering down my Wonder Woman cleavage. Any more.

So my kids come home and see the shirt on the table and seem to have NO IDEA what it is. They get it eventually, but when Matt comes home and says "Cool - a chalkboard", I say "THANK-YOU - our kids are dumb!" Then when we get to the dance, my friend's husband says "Oh, neat -- but you know, they have Smart Boards now". I say "What the hell is a smart board?" And he says "you know, those things they have where you can move the letters around. You're so nineteen-nineties right now!"

Jesus Christ. A blackboard is now a retro costume? I felt like an eighty-year-old. No wonder the poor kids didn't know what I was. My friend's husband added that if some kid started feeling me up trying to move the letters, at least I'd know why. My friend, who's a teacher, wondered briefly if she should make a smart board costume for Monday at school, and then concluded that this would be likely to get her kicked out of the college of teachers, so I made her a chalk board shirt instead. Everyone knew what it was.

I always find the dance kind of excruciating. It seems like it should be fine - it's only two hours, Eve has a blast dancing her little butt off, Angus roams the halls with his friends eating junk food and theoretically I should just stand there talking to the parents I know. But somehow there are always large chunks of time when everyone I know has wandered off and I'm standing there like an idiot - Matt is usually just back from Australia or Japan or wherever-the-fuck, and I take pity on him and don't make him come and then feel incredibly bitter about it. So this year I volunteered, which means you man a table for 45 minutes, selling food or drinks or glow bracelets or telling people where the coat check is or where they need to go for their volunteer slot. And it worked - the time flew by, and then it was almost the end of the dance.

Last night was the first year Angus went out alone with two friends. Eve and I went with a friend and her daughter, and we came across the boys a couple of times - they studiously ignored us, of course, but it was confirmation that they were alive and not carrying eggs or toilet paper. I wasn't as anxious about it as I thought I might be.

Tune in next year - I'm thinking of going as a dial phone.