December 15, 2014

December

Ah, December. Month of gentle snow, silent nights, mounting excitement, and Scrooged.

Month in which I am historically over-overwhelmed with client work (if you count two years as an appropriate sample size, WHICH I DO.) Month in which I've given up blogging (twice, although that last time was an accident).

Month in which this here turns four years old, with time off for good behaviour.

Month in which I've been known to brag about how wonderful and sweet my family is, how cozy and content we are, and how generally fabulous my life is.

Exhibit A
 Oh, brother.

Let's overcompensate on that last one in the other direction this year: It's the month in which I'm struggling with the fact that Christmas feels a little like yet another something on a long (almost endless) to-do list of somethings that include major construction (yes, still) and a layoff with its concomitant income gymnastics.

There's been a significant amount of non-Christmas-related stress this year. In fact, I imagine that in years to come, Seth and I will look back on 2014 as The Year of Character Building. From scratch. With nail guns.

You know, it sounds like I'm all greyed out and whatnot, but truthfully I'm not. I have a pretty deep-seated "it'll be fine" streak, along with a pretty loose definition of "it" and "fine".  I'm happy, even grateful for zee painful character building. I can even - if I concentrate really, really hard - get enthusiastic about advent, excited kiddos, and Scrooged.

I just don't want to right at this exact moment. Ask me again next week.


November 26, 2014

Hero Worship

So today I talked to my hero on the phone for the first time. It was heady, heady stuff.

Let me back up, because this post already sounds breathless and uncomfortably fan-girl-ish.*

As my professional (cough) alter-ego, I lurk around a nerdy corner of Reddit and try to answer some of the questions people pose about life (money), the universe (money) and everything (also money). I try not to give quick, pat answers. I try to think about where they're coming from, have compassion and patience, and generally be helpful if I can and silent if I can't.**

Some folks are...erm...less so.

But - and here's where I'll eventually meander back to where I started - some people are more so.

There's one user in particular that gives stellar advice - and when I say "stellar", I don't just mean that the advice itself is good, although, to be frank and not at all hyperbolic, it transcends goodness. I mean that the advice she gives is not only good, but also articulate, grammatically and factually correct, often funny, sometimes nerdy, and always unpretentious.

In short: she's who I want to be when I grow up in written form.

A few months ago one of my colleagues told me who she is in real life. A few weeks ago, she retweeted something of mine on Twitter and then messaged me and then we started emailing and then - today - we talked on the phone.

Guys.

Seriously. Guys.

Some of my excitement has to do with validation, of the "we spoke and she didn't laugh at my stupidity" variety, which - again - has nothing to do with my actual stupidity and everything to do with a slowly dying lack of confidence in my actual intelligence. (It was excruciating to even write the "i" word without making a very self-deprecating joke.)

Some of my excitement has to do with the sheer joy of talking shop with someone a few years further down the road of experience than I am.

Most of my excitement , though - and this is a surprise to me too - comes from the fact that she's a she, married, with two kids, and I'm a she, too! I'm married, too! I have some number of kids too!

Listen, I have a lot of male colleagues (most of whom I've never met) that I respect, that respect me, that I work well with, and that I just flat out enjoy talking to. But women in my particular corner of the industry are scarcer on the ground.

I don't know why it matters, but it does.

All of that to say: "hero" might be a little strong, but "someone I respect, want to emulate, and want to genuinely respect me while not holding back when she notices where I might be in need of improvement" seems a little wordy.


--

*NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT
**You wouldn't even recognize me, that's how mature and stuff I am.

November 20, 2014

Guys, it's the fourth snow day in a row

Monday: buses not cancelled. Driving home from Pennsylvania. Rain, and then snow for the eight and a half hours.
Let's not talk about it.

Tuesday: buses cancelled. Blowing snow, full-on winter with no "hey, it snowed" lead-in.
I foolishly wrestle the kids into their snow armour and walk out the front door because I can see the school from my front door, have been in a car or cabin with them (plus five other children that I love and five other adults that I also love) and Need to get them to school. Realize my mistake by the time I cross the road, bring them home at noon.

This, my friends, is what's waiting for you on the other side of the crosswalk. Everest for little people.

Wednesday: buses cancelled. Blue skies, warm(ish) sun.
I walk the kids to school because it's nice outside. Plus, I have work to do, Wednesday is my daycare day, and I've been looking forward to it - pining for it, even - since about eleven minutes after last Wednesday. Skies are less blue, sun is less warm(ish) on the walk home from school. One of Oscar's mitten seams isn't precisely lined up to the proper longitudinal degree, which means he moans (literally) All.The.Way.Home. It becomes a mournful duet when Lucy sees snow on her boot. Snow. On her boot.

Today: buses cancelled. Still dark outside. Snow everywhere.
I will wear pyjamas. The kids will wear pyjamas. They'll probably watch Frozen in a constant loop, because apparently that's a treat. I will work on my precious spreadsheets in another room and throw pretzels at them when they get hungry.

Tomorrow: IS A PA DAY.

-
-
-
-

I'm having some stress. It has nothing to do with snow days, but they are the frosty icing on the frosty, frosty cake.

Give me a couple of days and I'll be over it.

November 10, 2014

That post she wrote/is writing/might not write about church

 There are a million reasons why I don't want to write a post about why we don't go to church.

1. I'm a card-carrying member of the Ironic Generation and sincerity is hard.

2. It feels like I'm apologizing for not going to church, even though it's something I don't think bears apologizing for, or - worse - that I'm protesting too much, which must mean that I feel guilty, even though it's something I don't think bears feeling guilty about, or...you get the picture.

3. It's church. And twined up in with my reasons for not going are a whole bunch of things that are true about my relationship with Jesus Christ, which means:

               i)   more sincerity, GAH!
               ii)  sub-points (let's be honest, these are kind of awesome)
               iii) writing about things that are almost exclusively internally experienced, like that's easy
               iv) giving you reasons to reflect back on what you know about me and be surprised

4. A lot of the reasons I don't want to go to church sound a lot like reasons I think church is bad, or that I'm somehow smarter or better or more spiritually honest than all those people  that show up week in and week out, which makes it hard to write the truth about why I don't want to go without making it sound like the truth about why no-one should go, which I'm pretty sure isn't the truth.

5. See point 4.

6. It's a pretty big topic, which might be a pretty big understatement.

7. It's not possible that some of you will read this, think back to what you know of me, and snort "if that lady is a believer, I don't want to be one", it's impossible that some of you won't. For that I apologize. Apologies everywhere.

8. Writing this is so much easier than actually saying it to people, which feels like an enormous cop-out.

There are also a million reasons* why I want to write a post about why we don't go to church

1. I like explaining myself, and my penchant for navel-gazing in public is only surpassed by my penchant for (choose one: reading, eating, avoiding people I kind of recognize in the grocery store because I'm too embarrassed that I don't remember their name to say hello, and maybe they don't recognize me anyway, and then I'll have to remember why I recognize them, and maybe I don't really recognize them, but how likely is that, since this is the town I grew up in and it's only ever had 11,000 people in it?)

2. I've had the same conversation with three different people in one week - ONE WEEK - and feel like it's kind of a theme.

3. Writing it out will (maybe, but let's not hold our breaths) make me organize my thoughts.

4. I'm afraid that most of my Reasons For Not Going to Church are intellectual objections that have very little to do with Going to Church and very much to do with I Don't Want to Go, and I'm hoping those of you still reading will call bullshit on me, should bullshit ever appear. (<= look, there's some!)

---

Deep breaths, people:

I believe that Jesus Christ is God, that he really lived, he really was perfect, he really died, and that God really brought him back to life, that this sequence of events is what make it possible for broken people in a broken world to be reconciled to the kind of life God meant for them to have before they decided to break themselves, and that the kind of life that God means for us to have is right. Inexpressibly right, consistent with his revealed character, and just...right.

I don't believe that "going to church" in the way we've come to understand the term is a biblically-mandated activity. I believe that spending ourselves in knowing, caring for, and supporting people - all of them, every single one - is The Activity. I'm not very good at it.

I believe that knowing other people who believe and are satisfied with everything that Jesus Christ promises to be in us, and maturing with them (which means actually knowing them, having real relationships with them, and being vulnerable to them through ups and downs) is precious, and these relationships with these people is what Church (as in - the body of believers, the body of Christ, etc.) really means.

Incidentally (<= not incidentally at all), I believe that ^^this^^ is The Important Bit, and everything else that makes people divide themselves up into denominations is window dressing.

I believe that church organizations and structures are logical because anytime a bunch of human beings get together in groups they have to fight the tendency to argue over stupid things, so organizing those stupid things in advance (like: "where are we going to meet?" "what time, again?" "will there be food?" "do we all talk, or just one person?" etc.) makes it easier to focus on the important things...but that it also makes it easier to focus on the stupid things and get them confused with the important things.

I believe that it's easier to know other believers by attending church services with them, because that's where theyre statistically likely to show up, and it's easy to assume that because they walk through the door they're willing to talk about Jesus, but it's also easier to simply attend beside them without actually building a relationship with them - rather like that developmental stage where toddlers play beside each other but not with each other.

I believe attending church services makes it harder to actually know, have real relationships with, and be vulnerable to people who do not believe in the same things that I do. Those people tend not to show up very often, funnily enough, which means I have to have my eyes open for them ALL THE TIME. Of course, I could do that in addition to attending services, so this one's kind of bullshit.

I believe that the minutiae of modern church, the logistics that go into making a Sunday morning happen (what do we do with the kids? we need people to clean the building, who pays for the electricity?) take a lot of energy that fools me into thinking that I'm Getting Involved, while taking up time and resources that could be devoted to getting to know, having real relationships with, and being vulnerable (and of service) to people who don't believe the same things that I do.

I believe that the power of God is such that he can reveal the truth about himself to anyone, anywhere, and anytime, which - again - makes me question what the value of church really is.

I believe that singing about Jesus in a group of people is my favourite activity ever, and am suspicious that it's the real reason I even want to attend church services.

I'm uncomfortably aware that the hubris of walking into a church and asking if the members, leadership, and organization as a whole meet my criteria for worthiness is obvious. Glaringly, excruciatingly so.

I believe that I can grapple with all of this, come to a satisfactory answer, and go to church honestly. I believe that I could never have grappled with it and still go to church honestly. What I don't know is if I can grapple with all of it, never come to a satisfactory answer, and go to church honestly.

--

*Look, ladies, I never said I was good at math.

November 6, 2014

Turns Out I'm From 1953

I scoffed at the "reading in the bath" trope.

"Scoff, scoff," I would scoff scoffingly, "that's just a cliché that Avon used in 1953 to sell bubble bath."

I would point to the description of this image, which - I scoff you not - is MOTHER'S DAY-BUBBLEBATH.jpg, and which I nicked from a page called "Mother's Day Gift Ideas" and call my case closed:

You can't see the book, but it's there. I stand by my image choice.

And pictures like this


Make me want to throw that radio into the water and scoff maniacally.

My, how the tables have turned. (See also: the scoffer becomes the scoffee)

I've become someone who looks forward to her bath at the end of the day.

Her bath with a book. Her scorchingly hot bath with bubbles and orange-smelly stuff and a cold cloth for her forehead and an even colder gin & tonic for her hand and a book in her other hand and sometimes even a (cotton candy scented) candle.

Feels like this:


Looks like this:


---

P.S. I didn't wear a girdle, didn't blow dry my hair, didn't have a coffee, didn't buy new clothes, and still managed to pass my exam last week. Will wonders never cease?

October 29, 2014

I have an exam today which is why I've been ignoring you and thinking about REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS instead

Like so:

Hooray! Exams! I get to (completely) fill in little circles! I get to line up my calculator and pencils! Somebody's going to grade me!

---

Oh shit. Somebody's going to grade me. On something I've been doing in a professional capacity for almost a decade. What if - as I suspect - I'm just a giant fraud who knows nothing, and my results come back and everyone finds out and it turns out they knew it all along?

---

I should probably wear a girdle.

---

And blow dry my hair.

---

I know most of this stuff. I use at least seventy percent of it on a weekly basis. Focus on the stuff I  know and the rest will sort itself out.

---

WHICH IS WHY I'M GOING TO FAIL AND IT WILL BE IRONIC.

---

Do I have time to buy a new shirt?

---

Speaking of time, the exam time is listed in 24-hour time. I HAVE PREVIOUSLY DEMONSTRATED MY INABILITY TO GET 12-HOUR TIME RIGHT. This seems unfair.

---

Smarten up, chump. My body looks like this, therefore this is what my body should look like, remember? Girdles don't make me smarter.

---

But they make me feel smarter.

---

I wish we could have coffee in the exam, then I could look all confident and trendy holding my really tall coffee cup, and everyone will know how smart and cool I am.

---

Are tall coffee cups even cool anymore? Were they ever?

---

I get to miss the After-School, Before Dinner Hour of Horror, and write an exam today! EVERYTHING'S COMING UP SANDI!

October 20, 2014

Pictures of Me and Rene Descartes in a Bathroom Mirror

Over on the Facebook some time ago (about seven months in dog years, according to my calculations, because veterinary math), I wrote this:




It was sincere. I really did have a photo shoot - new professional portraity type things of myself are needed because:

A) I'm a professional now, apparently, and

B) This picture is very uncomfortable to look at. I think it's the teeth. And the soul-burning stare. And the teeth.

Look away or I will burn you.
Blergh.

So, dutifully feminine, I angst-ed over it. In the mirror.


See? Angst. I'm rounder than I used to be, therefore girdle:


See how excited I am by girdles? Also, what's behind me in the mirror? A Chinese dragon puppet? A haunted muppet? I honestly have no idea. And there's water on my shirt. Probably sweat from putting on the damned girdle.

After this, I Did Stuff to my hair and changed my clothes, like so:

My theory on selfies is that if I look sheepish, they're not vain.
I see no appreciable difference beyond "hey, wasn't she wearing a grey shirt before?"

Which is why I've adopted a brand new Body Philosphy. I cribbed it from my pal René Descartes: My body looks like this, therefore this is what my body should look like.

I'm all done with the irritating idea that bodies are supposed to look only one way - smooth in all the right places, or - failing that - at least sucked in if anyone can see me. It's stupid. I've honestly caught myself thinking that people will think I'm a bad mother if my stomach leaks over the top of my pants and bulges when I pick up my kids from school.

The horror.

Now, you and I both know that I'm still going to carry around an image of the perfect me in my treacherous brain, but I have a cunning plan: I'm going to catch myself. Every time I mentally photoshop the girl in the mirror, every time I tug my shirt down, every time I'm self-conscious about the way my pants fit or what my hair looks like, I'm just going to stop, possibly after a stern (inner) lecture complete with an (outer) over-the-glasses-glare.

I'm still going to keep wearing makeup (most days) and plucking my eyebrows, because this isn't Bastille Day, so settle down. I'm not uncomfortable with the opposing ideas of dressing my body up while loving it just the way it is.

Should I be?

I'm going to practice un-sucking-in my stomach while I wait for your insight.

(Also, I made myself a mug. And a compact mirror. And possibly a button.)


October 16, 2014

This Post Annoys Me So Much I Can't Even Think of a Title

These are the books my little reader is checking out of her school library: Princess Barbie Does Something With Other Princesses, Barbie Does Something Else But This Time She's a Merrmaid, Some Unicorn Becomes Friends with Barbie, and the perennial classic: The Book In Which Nothing Happens While Barbie Wears a Princess Dress.

I understand, I really do. If you're worried about getting kids interested in reading, of course the idea of using characters they're familiar with from toys and television to lure them into the world of books. Makes some kind of sense.

But then, it also makes sense that "instilling a love of reading" is only worthwhile if the reading in question is actually worth reading.

Unlike this pile of tepid, vacuous, vapid, and let's-not-forget-pandering tripe (no offense to the tripe):


It's nonsensical, but not in the charming or whimsical way that - oh, I dunno -  ANY OTHER BOOK EVER WRITTEN is.

This book, and each of the thousands of nearly-identical books for boys*and girls just plain Doesn't Make Sense.

I understand the school library's quandary: they get these books at ridiculously low prices. Real books cost real money. These books - as far as I know - only cost brain cells.

So rather than teaching a love of reading, what book publishers - and the Scholastic program in particular - are really doing is generously subsidizing the cost of library books by sending money to Mattel for licensing in order to interest kids in the incredibly worthwhile activity of Reading Random Words That Loosely Relate to Pictures of Products Sold by Mattel.

Sounds legit to me.

*I'm looking at you, Ninjago

--UPDATE: Dawn forced me to create a postcard to send to Scholastic. Blame her.--
Reading Commercials
Reading Commercials by TheMrsStuff
Get Postcard designs on zazzle.ca

October 13, 2014

Confessions of a Particular Size

Seth offered to let me sleep in today, which, in Mrs Parlance, means "I'll get up with the kids as quietly as possible and you stay in bed until whenever the spirit moves you to get up". I was all set to get up at five, so this threw me.

Not so much that I didn't stay in bed until 7:30, though. It's a hard knock life around here.

--

I saw Megan at our library the other day, and she is cheerfully blackmailing me to issue a retraction of my too-many-Danielle-Steel-novels comment from this post by threatening to publicize how many romance novels I've checked out. (Answer: all of them)

Part of that story is true. Well, part of part of it, anyway. Megan owes me some book recommendations.

--

I got me a cover for my I'm-going-to-be-blind-soon-so-I-might-as-well-buy-one Kindle. It is the best thing that's ever existed and gives me deeper joy than a material object legitimately should.

Behold:


--

I put a Goodreads badge over there (please imagine a picture of an arrow pointed to your right, because I am too pooped/generally lazy to insert one)*

Tell me what you're reading, please, and how good it is, and if I should also read it.

--

The kids and I were on Manitoulin Island again this past weekend. We got home yesterday afternoon and now my father-in-law is here for the week and then we (that's Seth and I, which I sincerely hope is a completely unnecessary clarification) are headed to Stratford for Saturday and Sunday. We will be gloriously child-free, and have mapped out our itinerary strictly by how many steps we'll need to take between restaurants.

--

There's a new addition to the very exclusive Pictures Of Herself She Loves club. I predict it will be very popular with the one (1) other member.


That's all I got, lovies. Have I told you lately that I love you? I do. Most sincerely.

*The irony of using 112 characters to explain has not escaped me, nor (I imagine) has it escaped you, dearly loved and very astute reader.**

**And also probably stunningly gorgeous.

October 6, 2014

Let There Be Drywall Dust

This week is crazy full, and every little thing will be covered in a dainty, delicate film of drywall dust.


Everyone, say it with me (that makes it true, you know): Dainty, Delicate, Drywall Dust.

I will be thankful for the dust, because it means we're that much closer to having a kitchen and an entranceway, a husband who doesn't have to renovate every weekend, and a clean(ish) house. 

I will be thankful, dammit.

That's all I got.


September 29, 2014

This post had a title but then I used it as the punchline instead


This ridiculous little person is headed to her first ever day of daycare today, and for the first time since March, I'll have an uninterrupted morning in which to Do Things.

And I'll get another one next week! Three whole morning hours to myself, to squeal over and roll around in like Scrooge McDuck does in his piles of money.

The problem, of course, is that there are so many Things to Do, and the longer I've hung around in this mind of mine, the more evident it's become that - when faced with a very long menu of possible Things to Do, each Thing urgent-ish in its own peculiar way - I become paralyzed with the kind of indecision normally restricted to the sight of a display case full of many and exotic varieties of doughnut.

My strategy with Things is to pick one or two well ahead of time and spend all of my free mental energy in the hours leading up to the time in which those Things are to be done reminding myself which Things I'm going to do. You laugh, but otherwise the free hours arrive and I greet them with dithering, followed swiftly by Checking My Phone, General Tidying, Getting a Snack, and Feeling Guilty For Not Accomplishing Anything.

This is not my strategy with doughnuts, in case you were wondering.

It's 6:18AM. I have three hours and twelve minutes to decide. I feel like MacGyver in front of a bomb with a stick of gum.*


*Which, incidentally, I was going to use as the title of this post, but couldn't for obvious reasons.

September 22, 2014

Family Circles and Traffic Patterns

We were in the (stomach flu) hotel for a week.

One week.

When we came home, our house, which - if you remember, looked like this we left:


had undergone a dramatic transformation in the hands of the insurance emergency team and our friendly neighbourhood electricians, and now looked like this:

Yeah. Ask me why we agreed to check out of the hotel - the hotel, remember, that had free breakfast, a pool, electricity, and drywall...even paint - again? To save the insurance company money, I think. I dunno. I was still in shock from all the barfing.

I'm sure you can imagine what life was like as a family of five in a house with one functioning living space that wasn't a bathroom and electricians and general construction folk in and out of the muddy April weather all day, every day. 

Days: spent at Mom and Dad's house


Nights: spent watching Community on Netflix and sleeping in the dining room.


Even after the lights came on and we got access to the rest of the house, that dining room is still functioning as the centre of our house, so - naturally - the children congregate in all of the narrowest spots and generally clog up all the thoroughfares. 

And, because it's so hard to imagine how three adorable cherubs could possibly be a nuisance in a situation like ours, I've drawn you a helpful diagram of the traffic patterns, in charming Family-Circle style, except with less charm, and even less skill:

I mostly just gibber in the corner

Hold the phone, I found an expertly shot and professional-quality video that perfectly demonstrates my point (if only I had one):

video


---

Also, yesterday's Facebook post was supposed to be me making fun of the fact that I was bragging about how awesome I am, and turned out to be just plain old bragging about how awesome I am. So, since I'm into bragging about how awesome I am, I forgot to mention that I stripped wallpaper in the dining room before I did all that other stuff. I've now filled my productivity quota until approximately March, and will feel free to nap on the couch and/or drink an entire bottle of wine every afternoon until then.

September 15, 2014

The Girl Who Read (not to be confused with the girl in the green scarf)

I used to bring home stacks of books from every conceivable section in the library, twelve high, and return them a week later to check out more. I honestly listed "reading" as my one and only hobby at least seven times. I used to joke that the book store I worked at paid me in books - one came home with me at least every other shift, not to mention the ones we were allowed to borrow for "product knowledge". I wrote down every book I read in a series of little black books, and from what I can tell, I've read more books than had conversations with real live people.

(I think it probably shows)

For a while, the reading petered out. I had other stuff to do, you know? An ever-increasing number of children who need food and water and attention and stuff, a job, then a business that involved the kind of reading you can't really lose yourself in on a rainy day with a really hot coffee, not to mention a husband who likes to talk and be responded to with interest and friends and family who inexplicably enjoy my company.

The logistics have posed a bit of a problem too: this house suffers from an acute lack of book shelves, so all my book friends have been packed up in boxes in the basement for four-and-a-half years, That time I wanted to re-read Jane Eyre to prove Leslie wrong turned into a Tomb Raider style treasure hunt, complete with complicated box shifting and the danger of imminent death by crushing.


Also: except in very rare circumstances, I don't buy books I haven't read and loved, and it's hard to browse the library shelves for something good to try when a) the library is very small with a distinct - though fading - preference for Danielle Steel and b) a very small person is either attached to your leg whining to play with the computers (!) or running up and down the aisles yelling (!!).

So it's been a wee quandary, but one that's been good for me. I'm a better human, Plus, there are a lot of words that I can spell and pronounce now, so there's that.*

Lately, though, The Girl Who Read is coming out of hibernation (assisted in equal parts by a subscription to Scribd and a reduction in the number of very small people in attendance at the library), and it turns out she's rather ravenous. I'm gorging myself on some of the dystopian YA that isn't news to anyone but me, I've finally started in on the Lois McMaster Bujold I've been told numerous times that I've been meaning to get around to. There's a lot of Simon Winchester queued up, some cooking memoirs, and a bunch of C.S. Lewis, Vonnegut, and Dickens books I've never managed to get my hands on.

It's nice to be back.


*I should probably tell you the "indict" story sometime. It's good.

September 8, 2014

What To Expect

Today this boy is headed off to school. Full time. 

I know.


I don't know what to expect, really. My mom (WHO IS NOT SIXTY-TWO BUT IN FACT SIXTY-ONE AS IS MY FATHER AND SHE WOULD LIKE YOU TO KNOW THAT THANK YOU VERY MUCH) told me not to feel guilty about feeling happy about having more kids in school than out.

I don't. (Well, I sorta do, but I'm fighting it valiantly, as one does.)

I already expect a shorter walk to and from school.


I already expect more reading.


And I already expect more alone time with Lucy.


Yesterday afternoon I took Lucy for a walk in the perfect September sunshine as a sort of preview of the next two school years. She tucked her vile and filthy bunny under her sweet little toddler armpit and wandered along beside me, mostly silent, but every once in a while piping up to point out a particularly lovely cloud, or motorcycle, or to ask me if Norah died*

As we walk, I feel the need to pass some gas. So I do. We're alone on our side of the street, it's a Sunday afternoon in a tourist town in the fall...why suffer in silence?

From me: [barely audible, completely genteel] thwarp

From Lucy, with glee, as loudly as her two-year-old-lungs can manage: "TOOT! MOMMY TOOT!"

So now I know what to expect.

---

*My mother (who is sixty-one, remember)** picked Norah up on Friday night for a sleepover, after Oscar and Lucy were already in bed. It took them until Saturday morning - let's say eleven-ish) to notice she was gone. Oscar asked if she had died.

**I'M SORRY, MOM. I CAN'T STOP MYSELF. IT'S A DISEASE.

September 2, 2014

Pool Noodle Propitiation


I walked down that long stretch of beach again, Oscar wailing in the background where I left the kids, past the pleasant man and his pleasant son, and laid the pool noodle down beside the beach chair. She was still way out in the water, not yelling anymore, but still visibly upset, even from this distance.

As I passed the pleasant man on my way back to gather up the kids and somehow wrangle the weeping children into the van, he said, "I'm sorry, I guess I should have asked you first."

"No," I said, "it's not that. I'm sorry. I don't know what else to do."

---

Sorry, sorry, sorry. Should have started at the beginning, I guess.

We went to the beach. There was another family there, with - you guessed it - pool noodles. My children, as they do, stood around and gawped at them. The woman gave one to Oscar.

Oscar, as he does, asked her why her tummy was so big. She did not take it well.

The beach visit ended.

---

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I've been thinking about this post all week, trying to be truthy and empathetic without putting this woman down. I don't know what I would have done if some kid crossed a whole beach to me and then asked me why my skin has spots on it (which would be my most embarrassing body issue thingumy). I'd be embarrassed. I'm not sure that I'd start yelling.

To be fair, she didn't yell at Oscar. She yelled at her husband at me. I know this, because he was two feet away from her mouth, but her voice was pitched loudly enough for the fish - and me, sitting twenty feet away and well out of range of The Question - to hear.

"Did you hear what that kid said to me? He asked me why my tummy was so big! I don't look bad, do I? Why would anyone say that to me?!" Etc.

At the time, I had So Many Answers, but they all boiled down to this:

It is, and he's four. 

Inadequate, eh? Sounds kind of hippy-dippy: "my son is four and innocent and full of curiosity and he wasn't making a value judgement, everything is beautiful, I refuse to legitimize your emotional discomfort, la-la-la."

But at the opposite end of the spectrum was this answer "I'm so sorry that my son asked you why your tummy was big. It was so wrong of him and I'm going to force him to apologize, because asking why someone is bigger than you/looks different than you is BAD."

I know that Oscar wasn't using his question to shame this woman because her body was bigger than any other woman's body he'd ever seen in real life, mostly because I know how short the passageway is between his brain and his mouth - there isn't enough time for him to add any extra meaning to the things he says.

What I don't know is how to explain that it doesn't matter what he meant, it's what she heard that's important.

Giving back the pool noodle was the only thing I could think of.

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.
Norah is six. Oscar is four. I AM THIRTY-FIVE AND HAVEN'T SLEPT IN A TENT FOR THIRTEEN YEARS.


*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--

Oscar: BLEARGHALLOVERTHEFLOOR!

[whole family moves to a hotel room]

This hotel room, singular

Norah: I feel sic--BLEARGHALLOVERTHECARPETATMIDNIGHT!

Lucy: BLEARGHJUSTBLEARGHBECAUSEHOWMUCHWORSECOULDITGET?!

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.

August 7, 2014

The Post That You Totally Missed Out On

...because I haven't written it.

...because it's going to be legendary. Or - at least - legendarily mortifying.

...because the diary I kept in my most awkward, dramatic years still exists, and I am going to show it to you.

(But it is buried deep in the bowels of my basement, under layers of Renovationally Displaced Stuff, so you will have to wait).

August 6, 2014

Budding Super Villain


This is Bumbossetti. She's a super-villian of the giant-gold-bar-stealing variety, and she was my first Lego set, some (cough) twenty-five (25) years ago. My brother's Lego men were all the boring characters in our stories.

Her instructions are very, very old. Some of her house is missing (no doubt pressed into the service of some dastardly plot or another), and she herself has been in a bag in a box (in another box) for quite some time.

Yesterday, she met her newest fellow Lego men victims for the very first time.




Maniacal laugh.

August 5, 2014

What To Eat When You Don't Have A Kitchen

First of all, the title is an outright lie. I do have a kitchen.

Behold, Great-Grandma Sarah's* hoosier:


Also behold: a laundry sink, an oven we got for free, an oven we paid for that isn't hooked up to the gas line anymore, the corner of an old table we found in the garage when we moved in, and - completely relevant to the story - Lucy's crazy hair and a bonus bottle of Manitoulin Island maple syrup. We may not have a proper kitchen, but we're not barbarians.

So, in reality, we do have a kitchen. What we don't have is most of the stuff that comes with a kitchen, like storage for things you use in a kitchen, owing to the surprising permanence of this "temporary" solution.

Back to the question: what do we eat? Rice and beans. These ones, with lime zest and cheddar cheese wrapped up in a tortilla. I admit, I haven't been at the top of my cooking game since March. The last awesome thing I made was...um...

I don't remember. My totally reliable and not unscientific at all statistical analysis tells me we've eaten takeout approximately three times more often than we used to and eat 51% fewer vegetables. Fatigue and overload have combined to make me not only an even more indifferent cook than I was before, but have made the comforts of junk food even more...erm...comforting.

So to answer your question, Katfish, yeah, pretty much ramen noodles.

Just imagine how exciting cooking (and eating) real food will be.

*Remind me to tell you the story of Great-Grandma Sarah someday. It's full of old-timey scandal and what-not.

August 4, 2014

In Which All (Or Possibly Some) Is Revealed

Okay, close your eyes and dream of my kitchen. Let your (imaginary) gaze wander over the black linoleum, the ludicrously deep cupboards, the sink - not in front of the window, who'd want that? - and the inexplicably high (island? island-ish?) counter.

Got it? Or, like normal people, do you not use up valuable memory space on some random internet stranger's long-ago mentioned kitchen and need a reminder?

Thought so. You know, I'm really starting to question our relationship.*


And since we're lolling around in the past anyway, perhaps I'll let you eavesdrop on the first conversation Seth and I ever had about this house, here in the middle of this ugly kitchen:

Seth: "Isn't it--"

Sandi: "We're not buying it."

In fact - if you can believe it - the kitchen wasn't the worst thing going for the house. This was:


But by the time we (inevitably - I can't resist his handsome face) moved in, the bathroom looked like this:


 And as for the kitchen, well...


Yeah.

So you'll understand me when I say that when the drip-drop of water leaking through our roof, through our cupboards (among many - MANY - other places) and onto our counter, turned out to be not quite as minor as we first thought, and resulted in this:



And, eventually, this:


You'll understand my excitement over the prospect of a new kitchen.

But, wait! There's more!

The side porch started to crumble. We found knob and tube wiring, like a cancer, entwined in every room and infecting every switch, plug, and outlet. The back room turned out to be sitting on dirt instead of, you know, a foundation. And - did I mention? - the roof leaked. 

I'm exhausted just typing it out. Stay tuned, this soap opera ain't nearly done.

*This is a lie. I questioned it long, looong ago, and have come to the inescapable conclusion that you're my people, you adorable weirdos.

August 1, 2014

Take It When You Can Get It

It's Friday, which means my cleaning lady is here [fans herself languidly, sneezes,  falls from chaise-longue, jumps up, tries to look dignified and important, fails], and I have a report due to a client that is breaking my brain.

For both reasons (and because I have it on my camera card, let's not kid ourselves), I'm leaving you with only this today:

Twenty seconds (exactly) of bliss in which my children are occupied in their various pursuits and not trying to A) grab something, or B) tell me that one of their siblings grabbed something.

video

July 31, 2014

This Isn't My First Time At The (Dyslexic) Rodeo



If you got this text, could I count on you to

1. Drop your daughter off at ten o'clock, and

2. Pick her up again around about two-ish?

Well - no surprise to the friends I went to camp with, who were regularly subjected to my mistaking 3 AM for 6 AM and waking everyone up for breakfast four and half hours early, or saying I'd pick them up at noon and showing up punctually at one - I can not be counted on to do the same.

I assumed that Norah was going to be picked up at ten, although I caught my mistake in enough time to arrive at at their house only a few minutes late. 

I was not so fortunate the second time around. Somehow - despite having read and re-read the text in order to check my ten-o'clock assumption - I still thought they were going to drop her off at two.

Instead, this:



Let this be a lesson to you: do not, under any circumstances, no matter how lucid I appear, assume that I will show up at the right time. Oh, don't worry. I'm still very punctual. I promise I'll show up at a right time. It just probably won't be the right time.