August 22, 2014

I Am Not A Raving Narcissist, I Just Act Like One

This is a picture of my grandmother's hollyhocks, because we're talking about friends and stuff, and that's girly, so here's a picture of flowers or something. Also I think they're pretty, and I like the green shutters. The end.
On Wednesday I ran into the mother of two of Norah's kindergarten classmates, and she asked me how our trip to Manitoulin went.

I was so confused. So utterly, unbearably confused. And embarrassed, because you know what happened inside my head as soon as she asked me, right? C'mon, you know exactly what happened:

She reads The Mrs! She found out about me somehow, probably by googling me because I'm so interesting and SHE THINKS I'M OKAY AND NOT AS WEIRD AS I SEEM AND WANTS TO BE MY FRIEND.

This is not why Robin knows I went to Manitoulin.

This is why she knows: I ran into her at the grocery store before we left and Lucy told her. I know, I was physically present at the time. Unfortunately, it appears that my higher brain functions were not, which is how I found myself thinking wildly vain thoughts while looking quizzically at her and asking how she knew.

Bless that gentle woman's heart. She reminded me - very sweetly - and then proceeded to continue conversing with me.

Writing is easier than conversing. When I write, I'm only interrupting myself to tell stupid jokes. I'm thinking and talking about MEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! and don't have to stop and command myself to BE SILENT AND REALLY LISTEN to the other person, because there is no other person.

Other people are hard. Even without (probably especially without) the benefit of reading all this nonsense about me, Robin might still want me to know the names of her kids who I've seen approximately three hundred times by now, ask her how she's doing (for real), and remember that she talked to me a week ago. She might even want to be my friend.

I like friends. I'm not very good at them, but I really, really like them and want to be one to lots of people, even if it means being silent more, leaving my house more, and not-sounding-like-an-ass more.

It's the being silent thing that I have trouble with. When I meet silence that's not of the "the kids aren't awake yet" or "I have a good book to read and am ignoring the entire world" variety, I need to fill it up. I gabble. I get kind of flail-y. And it ends up being all about me - again - when really all I want to do, socially inappropriate as it may seem, is ask Robin what she's worried about, or what her days are like, or what she used to be like as a teenager.

Actually, that's probably why I get flail-y. My subconscious tries to take over my mouth to ask the inappropriate questions and then shut up and listen, already, and the rest of my body throws itself into the battle and all hell breaks loose and I sound (and look) like a raving narcissist.

The next time I see you - any of you, even those of you I haven't met yet (or avoided meeting at a certain wedding three years ago because I was too embarrassed, ahem), can you just tell me to shut up and be silent for a minute already? And then proceed to tell me things about you that are important to you, whatever those things happen to be?

August 20, 2014

How To Explain A Whole Island?

I've spent the last two days* trying to think of a way to explain Manitoulin Island to you.

I'm not really sure that I can. In fact, I'm fairly certain that I can't. But I'm going to try really, really hard.


First, a warning: My parents grew up there. I grew up going there. I have the rosiest of memories, and can really only think of two bad(ish)** things that happened to me in 35 years of going to the Island. So what I'm about to describe in no way resembles reality.


The Island is about a five hour drive from us - five hours of slowly moving back through time, until you reach approximately 1962. That's where you stop, before JFK was assassinated, before the FLQ, before all sorts of initials, actually. It's the largest freshwater island in the world (so I've been told. I haven't bothered to ask Wikipedia, who surely knows better than me), and it's the most astonishing mix of farm land, bare limestone slabs, and cedar trees so thick that you can't possibly push through them without losing a(nother) eye. It's full of it's own lakes, some of which have their own islands.

I realized something on the trip home Monday, and if you've never read any L.M. Montgomery this won't make any sense to you...but nothing about me has ever screamed sense, so here goes: when Rilla Blythe or Jane Stuart or Patricia Gardiner**** talk about how special the Island is, and how the people of the Island collectively have a character that seems all intertwined with the character of the Island itself, I've always unconsciously imagined Manitoulin (not Prince Edward) and agreed.

I've never been there without my parents. I'm not sure I'd know where I was without them - every house and barn and field and pond has either a story, a relative, or a nickname. It's to the point now where I've heard the stories, relatives' names, and nicknames so many times that I think I could take over and orient myself in the landscape, but when I try it all slips away.

When I run into people here in the real world who come from the Island, or who've been there, I get inordinately excited and start babbling like a fool (stop acting surprised), but when we get to the part of the conversation where they say they're from the so-and-so family in Gore Bay or wherever I realize that - while my parents could immediately connect the dots - I'm hopelessly lost.

I'm thirty-five. My parents are sixty-two. If I don't do something to write those stories down, or - better - follow them around with my phone and get the real, honest-to-goodness verbal accounts, cadence and all - I'm going to be hopelessly lost forever. Woe, etc.

In so many ways, my perception of the Island last weekend and every other time I've thought about it or been back as an adult is coloured through and through by by my own happy memories of childhood visits, my parents, and their stories, and - like everything else in life - trying to recapture that exact feeling is silly and impossible.

I think where I'm going with this is that this trip was particularly meaningful to me, because it's the first time I've been there with my kids, and as we all know, travelling with kids - no matter how idyllic the destination - is about the furthest thing from the halcyon golden memories of past visits as one can possibly get.

(The potty breaks alone...)

And here's the thing: Manitoulin (experienced) stands up to Manitoulin (remembered, even idealized). I have experiential proof that it does. Because it rained, Lucy got sick, the kids had very little sleep, and I slept in a tent, on a couch, and in a tent again - a tent built for two very small people, mind you, and occupied by one large and two small bodies - and still had a perfect time.

That's the Island.

*A few minutes here or there, mostly thinking "I should write about Manitoulin" before lying back down again because tired.

**I broke the branch off my Grandpa's apple tree*** by swinging on it after he told me not to, and I ripped a leaf that my brother found and thought was cool. Both times my Grandpa said my name like he was a little disappointed in me, and both times his disappointment was The Worst Thing That Ever Happened To Me.

***The apple tree that now produces so many apples that they multiply overnight even after you pick them. You're welcome, Grandpa.

****But not Valancy Stirling - she's from Muskoka, and I'm from Muskoka, and my ironic, sarcastic little soul still gets a ridiculous thrill from all the sincerity and whole-heartedness of it. Also, these footnotes are getting ludicrous.

August 15, 2014

You Don't Need It, But I'll Give It To You Anyway

Proof that I'm not completely all there:

1. I don't have a house cleaner anymore. 
We are so hip-deep in renovations and uncertainty about the total funding of said renovations that to pay someone else to clean when I have perfectly good hands and at least thirteen seconds every other week or so of free time between kids and clients in which to clean the entire house is silly.

That sounds like complaining. It's not - in fact, my house feels cleaner because I was physically present when the cleaning was being done, so it's a win for everyone*. Right? Right.

As God is my witness, I'll have a house cleaner again!
2. I'm leaving today for Manitoulin Island.
With all the kids but not the husband.

3. Norah and Oscar and I are sleeping in a tent in the back yard of my grandmother's house.

*Also because the house actually is cleaner. Discuss.

August 13, 2014

So Many Questions

1. Why does he keep buying Lucky Charms?

2. No, seriously. Why does he keep buying Lucky Charms?!

August 11, 2014

I suppose the time has come to bring up the barfing (see what I did there?)

Where were we?

Oh, right. The leak. Well, look. We called our insurance company on Tuesday, March 11th - the same day we had our dear Sarah over for dinner, which she ended up mostly preparing because I was busy showing the insurance guy around. I'm a great hostess like that, which means when I say "you have an open invitation to our house", you should hear "because someone needs to cook around here."

A week later, our house looked like this:

"Well, when I say 'house' it was only a hole in the ground covered by a sheet of tarpaulin, but it was a house to us"
Second verse, same as the first
As the recovery contractor's team was wheeling in their giant de-humidifiers, pulling down drywall, and discovering knob-and-tube wiring (heh, heh) cleverly hidden* in every wall of the house, as the electricians moved in and started cutting holes in the drywall of any of the rooms the recovery team hadn't touched, as my kitchen became useless (owing to the orange tarp bisecting the room right at the stove), and as all of the power except the feed to one or two outlets was turned off (for the next six weeks), my children started barfing.

And lest you shy delicately away from imagining just what it was like, I will re-enact it faithfully for you:

Sandi: No, don't--


[whole family moves to a hotel room]

This hotel room, singular



So innocent. So full of barf.

The coolest thing about the hotel room was that the tv was on a swivel, so Seth and I could "put the kids to bed" and still have some time to ourselves. The worst thing about the room was that it was all one room, so while Seth and I were "having some time to ourselves" (read: watching International House Hunters Modern Family), Lucy was doing this:

In case you can't tell from this well-lit and expertly-focused photograph, this is my darling cherub peeking around the tv for the seven-hundred-and-thirty-ninth time after being put back to bed for the seven-hundred-and-thirty-eighth time.

We lived in that hotel room for a week; a week that should have been longer but wasn't because insurance companies are The Worst.

Needless to say, we ate mucho mucho hot dogs, and very little work of the non-barf-cleaning variety was done.

This picture is a lie

*No, really: hidden. As in, on purpose.