Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Post-Plague Diaries

I went out to get some groceries tonight since Matt's leaving for Asia early on Saturday and the kids don't have piano/guitar on Monday afternoon, which is when I usually get groceries for the week. I also went to the public library. This means I did my Monday errands on Thursday. I can't figure out if this puts me ahead or behind.

Eve came and hung out with me and the librarian while I was shelving books in the school library. She found a Roald Dahl book that she hadn't read yet and the librarian checked it out for her even though she already has her two books checked out for the week. She then danced around the library singing "I'm so happy, I have so many books", confirming that she is indeed my child. On the way home someone on the radio referred to someone (from Liberia) as Liberian and she sighed dramatically and said "I can't STAND when they don't speak properly - is it so hard to say LIBRARIAN?" And you must never, ever tell her that I told you about that, but it fits with my general conviction about blogging about my kids, which is that I MIGHT write something here that they would be embarrassed about if they read it tomorrow, but I will never post anything that they would be embarrassed about if they read it in ten years.

I got stuck in the public library parking lot. I waited until everyone went around me and then backed up very slowly until I could go forward again. Our neighbour's lawn is stacked with snow higher than I thought snow could be stacked. The friend who drove us home from school had to drop us off at the end of our street because anything that's not a four wheel drive can't make it through the sidestreet mess. Go home winter, you're drunk.

Have you ever heard of Capgras Syndrome? It's a neurological condition that makes you think your family and/or friends have been replaced by impostor look-alikes. I read a book about it that was pretty bad, and there was a Scrubs episode about it that was pretty good. Lately I've been wondering if there's a similar syndrome that applies to toothbrushes instead of people. And that's all I want to say about that.

While I was driving home from the grocery store I was listening to a program on CBC about families who have to discuss taking a driver's license away from an elderly relative who can no longer drive. Some people tried to argue that most people know when they're not driving well any more, but most agreed that when people are in the early stages of Alzheimer's or dementia, they're under the impression that they're still driving well when it's obvious to everyone else that they're not. Whereas I am almost constantly terrified while I'm driving that I'm going to do something catastrophic, and when I have to park between two vehicles (rather than beside at least one empty spot) I'm nearly paralyzed with fear. Therefore, I have made a mental note that if I ever start feeling like I'm rocking the driving thing, I should definitely start to worry.

That should work, right?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Last Good Day

Every year we have trouble getting down to Winterlude. It begins right around Eve's birthday, and by the time we're done planning and executing the party and family celebrations and remember about Winterlude, it often seems like too big a hassle to get ourselves downtown. If anyone's wondering, yes I do realize this makes us lame and loserish - I comfort myself with the fact that we have never claimed to be otherwise.

So this year, my lovely husband used some of the air miles that Air Canada keeps throwing at him in the hopes that he'll, I don't know, not quit travelling an insane amount for the sake of his marriage, to book us into a downtown hotel last week-end so we could partake of Winterlude festivities (the draw for me and him) and then retreat quickly and easily to hotel facilities (the draw for the kids). 

There's something so decadently luxurious about staying in a hotel in your own city. The view is familiar, and yet not:

We went out and walked on the canal - usually Matt and Angus skate, but this year we realized that Angus not playing hockey meant we had failed to keep his skates current and they were too small.

We probably had slightly less fun than this kid:

We took every cheesy photo opportunity available:

We admired skillfully-carved ice sculptures and took much less skillful photographs:

(Refer back to cheesy photo op comment)

Eve's chosen place of worship:

Religious experience:

Kids were supposed to bounce in these and imitate water droplet motion or something. Half of them were broken when we walked by the second time. 

(Cheesy photo op #3, otherwise known as "pretend you like each other or we'll beat you".)

My cold-hating husband's favourite place:

Seriously. We had to drag him away from the heater.

Eve and a fuzzy white stilt-walking person. Personified icicle? I dunno, they looked cool.

Me utterly failing to get a good photo even at a place where it should have been really easy to get a good photo.

This was cool. We said we should come back at night when they were lit up, but we knew we weren't going to. 

Then Matt once again demonstrated his superior skills at getting a family photo, until a group of strangers took pity on us and got one with Eve actually in it.

Then we went out for dinner, went swimming in the hotel pool, and repaired to our respective rooms to watch hideously expensive movies - Hotel Transylvania for them and Silver Linings Playbook for us, the prospect of which had been my chief reason for excitement at the entire plan (lame, loserish, whatever, I'm comfortable). I really liked the movie. I liked the story, I liked the characters, I liked Bradley Whatshisface who I don't usually care for, I liked Jennifer Lawrence who was fine in The Hunger Games but didn't really show off a lot of acting chops in my opinion (I actually preferred her in Saturday Night Live), and I loved Robert DeNiro.

Then we laid down in possibly the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in.

It was a deeply satisfying and indulgent family day. Which was nice, because at some point during that night, the influenza virus stole into my lungs and burned my life down, and at the moment I don't ever feel like I'm going to get it back.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Plague Diaries

I woke up early this morning. I could feel that my fever was back up. I thought about sitting up to take some Tylenol, but I knew this would aggravate the flaming girdle of cough-strained muscle that has been my torso for the past forty-eight hours. And I thought, why not let the fever do its noble and intended work of burning off the sickness? So I lay perfectly still, trying not to swallow or breathe in a way that would provoke the knife shards in my throat to further lacerating activity, and imagined the fever sweeping through my body in a cleansing, scouring fury.

Some time later I rose triumphant from my bed, feeling rested and restored and that my decision had been amply justified. Then I realized that, in addition to feeling stronger and faster than I had in some time, I was also apparently now a man. And that I may have inadvertently confused the healing fire of a fever with a radioactive spider bite. And that I wasn't, perhaps, upon further reflection, awake at all.

My husband came in to check on me. I asked him if I could shoot webs now. He said probably not. I asked him to check if my toes were steaming.

He made me take some Tylenol.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Party. With Facial Hair.

I know blogging about your kid's birthday party is a little lame, but I'm uninspired and dispirited and, in truth, I was pleasantly surprised at how well our old-fashioned crafts-and-games no-laser-tag-or-swimming-or-skating-or-movies-or-clowns-or-what-have-you party went off (not that I am AT ALL opposed to the gimmicky parties - we had just run out of appealing gimmicks). For starters, Eve made up her list of invitees and it only had eight kids on it, rather than the normal sixteen-to-twenty. I asked her what the deal was (was she fighting with some girls? Had they done something?) and she said "well, I'm older now, and I don't need...well, I still want a PARTY, but I don't need to have everyone I know at it". After I stopped gaping cluelessly, I agreed vehemently that this was indeed the case. Later on, my mother said that Eve told HER that she had figured out that when there were tons of people at a party, they were all loud and crazy and it really prevented the focus from being on her. Either way, I figured it was a win.

Eve said she wanted to have a moustache party. Because, you know, she (along with every other tween in the western world) loves the moustaches. And she had enough of a moustache haul from Christmas that we figured we could put together a pretty good party. 

So we baked some moustache cookies: 

and a moustache cake:

at the last minute, we remembered to do some stuff with balloons:

Ahem: some of the balloon stuff we did was more appropriate than some of the other stuff.

We gave everyone fake moustaches to wear:

Some were already wearing them.

 They did.... um, whatever this is. 

When I was at the dollar store for picture frames, I saw these animal masks and grabbed them on an impulse, even though I knew they were for younger kids. Turns out, when you say they can put moustaches on them, animal masks are really cool.

Then we made moustaches on sticks: 

A few weeks ago, I stumbled on this fabulous website, which made us able to turn this picture:

into this picture: 

and this picture:

into this picture: 

and this picture:

 well, you get the idea.

Then we played "pin the moustache on the cowboy" which I kept assuring all the mother sounded porny but wasn't, but truthfully....(it was particularly disturbing when Eve said he was her boyfriend and started calling him Roger)

Then we played this hilarious game I keep forgetting to thank Susan for telling me about, where you put a small prize under a metal bowl, place it in a room, and have a blindfolded kid take a wooden spoon and tap all over the place looking for it, while everyone else screams out 'hot' and 'cold' and laughs themselves silly. 

Then we had cake.

In between everything, when I was cleaning up or preparing for the next activity, they would have sudden intermittent dance parties to Eve's party playlist:

...with occasional waltzing

The kids - even the ones I was afraid would be too cool for it all - got right into it and were great. The parents were highly complimentary. Eve said it was the best party ever and I was the best mom for doing it all. She said no one else would ever get to have a party that great. I (going for the self-deprecating note) said probably some kids would. She said "well maybe Angus, because he has THE SAME MOM". It was the first time we'd had her party here in three years. And afterwards? I was so tired I felt like I'd gone six rounds with Tyson and run a marathon. But my kid was happy, and hardly any moustaches were harmed. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Love You Mama

This is what my newly-minted two-hands old daughter says to me every time she jumps out of the van at school, leaves the house to play next door, or just goes upstairs without me. She hugs me, or kisses me on the cheek if I'm baking or cooking or working at the computer and she doesn't want to disturb me. Then she calls out "Love you, mama" as she skips away. Every time.

"Love you too, babe/sweetie" is usually what I say. Once when she said "Love you, Daddy" as she was going upstairs, he didn't respond quickly enough because he was reading the paper, and when she pressed him he called out distractedly, "See ya", and after soundly mocking and scolding him she now demands the same response from him every time. But I just say "Love you too", or, occasionally, "Love you more", if I have the time and energy for a protracted "nuh-uh, I love YOU more" battle, which we have now enshrined in this bracelet (which I gave to her):

 and this mug (which she made for me):

(Isn't it cute how we've given material form to our competitive affection? Now sometimes we just yell "It's on the bracelet, chump!" or "It's on the mug, loser!" at each other in a heartwarming shorthand.)

Anyway. It adds up to several I love you mamas a day, sometimes a dozen or more. And sometimes I muse about whether we say it too much. I think about people I've heard saying it makes them nauseous how some families can't stop drivelling on about how much they love each other. I wonder if there's a chance that we're chafing the words smooth, wearing off their meaning.

Then I think of the years that are coming. She's two hands now. Double digits. Tough days could be coming. Days when she doesn't see things the way I do, when she rails at me and flails against me in the course of forging her own path. Unkind words could fly between us.

When I think ahead to these days, I imagine that the all the I love yous we trade now are being laid against our bodies as a kind of armour. When the railing and flailing and unkind words start flying, maybe we'll both have that shield, forged from so many loving words, as protection against lasting damage.

It's worth a shot, anyway.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book lists and being a little SAD

The charmingly-named Bunnyslippers asked if I would link to past year-end book review posts. Who are you, Bunnyslippers? I feel like I should know you. In any case, yes, yes I WILL link to past year-end book review posts.

Huh. There aren't as many as I thought.

Books read in 2010 post here.

Books read in 2011 first post here, second post here, third post here. (Last year was the first year I started dividing them into two-star, three-star and four-or-five-star posts).

So, it's February. Honestly, I think January wasn't the worst one ever. Which is mostly good, and a tiny bit bad, because since I wasn't absolutely mired in despair I was frustrated with myself for not doing more, but I didn't really fell well enough to do more, but I felt well enough to be pissed at myself for not doing more... yeah, it was a whole idiotic cycle. I joined Weight Watchers Online because my doctor said Weight Watchers is a worthwhile program but the thought of going to meetings made me want to kill myself with hot dogs sharpened into stakes. It does seem like a really sensible program, and I think the fact that it makes you aware of what you eat is great, because it's really easy to lose track, but I hate that it's made it all about numbers again. At the end of January I was briefly depressed that I hadn't lost very much weight, and then I stopped and slapped myself around and said, dude - you lost weight. In January. Quit being a putz. So then the day before my weigh-day I find myself either trying to shave points to maximize the likelihood that I'll get a lower weight the next morning, or downing half a wheel of brie out of spite. Yeah, no food issues here.

My husband is doing it with me, which opens up a whole other can of worms. It's nice to think it would be a mutually supportive thing, but honestly, all I want to do it stir heavy cream into all his food. Men lose weight faster anyway, and he's generally pretty thin, and that's NOT THE POINT, his father had a heart attack at sixty and he does need to be making healthy choices, but all I see when he eats a doughnut is him thinking "well, we'll do this together, but you're the only one who really needs to", and then I have to forcibly restrain myself from dripping turkey gravy into his mouth while he's asleep. I promise, I'm working on it.

I've hit a bit of a roadblock in CPAP usage. I usually wake up in the night and look at the clock and take off the mask if it's five a.m. or later, because then I know I've worn it for five or six hours. But for the past week or so I've woken up at three a.m. or so and realized I've already taken off the mask without realizing it. And getting up still feels like pulling myself out of quicksand, with weights on my ankles and carrying a basket of wet towels.

Then there's the fact that now it's February, and I think, yay! January's over! I will feel instantly better! Yes, NOW! No? Okay, NOW. Wait for it, wait for, now? And then I remember that this always happens in February, because somehow my serotonin and dopamine levels don't respond to flipping a calendar page. Stupid neurochemicals.

Anyway. My husband reminds me periodically, and kindly, that January is to be survived, not conquered, and gives me permission to go to bed early and read or watch movies on my ipad. I started rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and after Eve watched part of one episode with me when she couldn't sleep one night she started watching it on her own. Except she was just flipping through Netflix and watching random episodes, which may or may not have resulted in me becoming unreasonably irate and hollering "you're watching Buffy ALL WRONG", but in any case she's watching it in order now.

Yeah. Whiny Wednesdays for the win.

Monday, February 4, 2013

In Which we pretend to be Wholesome and Winter-loving

Yesterday we had plans to go tubing with two other families at Le Domaine de L'Ange Gardien in Quebec. We'd never been before. Eve was nervous, legitimately, that she would get hurt or be too scared to go on anything. I was nervous - the physical timidity and awkwardness she has comes straight from me, after all - about looking stupid, or hurting my neck or back, or Eve not having a good time. Matt was nervous that he was going to be too cold. Angus, if he was nervous, was probably only nervous about the rest of us embarrassing him in some fashion (did I tell you about when I was driving him to school on a really cold day, and we were stopped at a red light right in front of his bus stop, and there were two girls he knew waiting for the bus in the freezing cold, so I said we should offer them a ride, and he said no it would be weird, but I rolled down the window and asked them anyway, and they refused, and he was mortified? It was awesome).  So anyway, we were collectively a bit of a nervous group heading out.

(I know, she hides it well. I'd show you the next picture, which Angus photo-bombed, but I just looked at it and frankly it's a little scarring to be that intimate with your son's nostrils, however momentarily, so I'm not going to)

It fucking rocked.

It was perfect. It was all perfect. The setting is perfect - eight snowy runs, flanked by trees. The weather was perfect - cold enough that the conditions were great, not cold enough to cause any discomfort, just a few perfectly spaced picturesque flakes drifting in the air. The activity is perfect - it's like sliding down a hill on your couch! Eve was perfect - we got to the top of the hill and the other families immediately roped us into a train and we were sliding down the hill before she had time to get scared. She said some of the highest runs were a little scary, but scary in the good way. She had a blast and I was incredibly proud of her for stomping on her fear. Also, the good part of me worrying about her being scared is that it pretty much overrides my opportunity to be scared - I can't very well say go on and try it and I'll be waiting in the lodge when you're done, can I? Plus, her amusement at the fact that, no matter how I started out, I always ended up going down the hill backwards distracted her pretty effectively.

They have a tow rope that pulls you up the hill, which is great for the kids who then don't fall and whine and block the hill for the adults, who mostly walk up the hill because, well, we were buying lunch and the kitchen makes french fries. At one point, we got to the bottom of the hill and were talking to some people and then Matt said 'Where's Eve?' and we looked and she was halfway up the hill, waving at us as if she'd heard him.

And it's all so small and self-contained that you can let the kids go without worrying about them. At one point we sent them off on a horse-drawn wagon ride and didn't see them for a good twenty minutes. Collette assured me that the guy brings all the kids back eight out of ten times.

When we were climbing up the hill one time, there was a little girl who hadn't taken the tow, and she seemed stuck. I asked her if she wanted me to take her tube for her and held out my hand, which she took with her hand instead, so I shrugged and started walking up with her. From behind me I heard Eve say "duh, Mom, she doesn't understand you. We're in Quebec, remember?" Which seems patently unfair, because when I spoke French to the woman at the admission counter Eve said in a pained voice that she was sure everyone there spoke English and when I spoke French it made her kind of sad. Sigh.

It was such a good day. We're short these days on things we can do as a family where no one is just enduring the experience for the sake of 'family time'. I might be able to watch those commercials that urge you to 'embrace winter' without wanting to put my foot through the tv - for the next couple of days at least. And I agree that it seems stupid to include sliding down a snowy hill on a rubber ring under the column of 'doing things that scare me'. But I'm including it anyway.