Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

On Magpies and Things We Thought We Didn’t Want to Do: Stuff I wrote other places this week

IMG_0352[1]Just in case you’re not feeling full from yesterday’s photo-filled post on shallots and butter, here’s more stuff I’ve written other places this week: Over at VillageQ, I write about the challenges and rewards of forcing kids to do stuff that they think they won’t like that you know they will:

I’m not just talking about run-of-the-mill things like eating and sleeping and going to the bathroom, although of course most children at some point or another will swear up and down that they under no circumstances want or need to eat or sleep or poop even though you can tell — say, by the subtle hint of the series of massive meltdowns punctuated by alternate fits of giggling and sobbing and poking of siblings — that they desperately need to. I’m talking about things like going for hikes out in nature. Or going to see a really cool exhibit at the art gallery. These are both, coincidentally, things that I forced my children to do this past weekend. Things that they both swore up and down they would rather die than do. “You’re making me waste my weekend!” Rowan snarled at the prospect of a beautiful country hike with our good friends and four dogs. “I’m not going inside! I’ll just wait in the lobby the whole time!” Isaac whined in the parking lot at the art gallery.

At Today’s Parent, I write about Isaac’s propensity to — shall we say — “borrow” shiny things, like my new meat thermometer:

I wouldn’t say outright that Isaac steals shiny things. But he does borrow them, squirreling them away in several different hiding places. Yesterday, as I ransacked the house for the meat thermometre (perfect bait for my son with its shiny silver cord and pokey bit to stick into the meat, so much like a sword), I found one of my rings in his closet. Under his bed, I found, not one but two, pairs of shiny silver fingernail clippers. He takes fancy spiral paperclips from my desk drawers. A month or so ago, I found my engraved silver business card holder, a gift from a good friend when I started freelancing, tucked behind Isaac’s bookshelf. I put it in my pocket, and pulled it out when he got home from school. “Isaac,” I said, “guess where I found this?” And he looked at me and a grin spread slowly across his face and he began to giggle and then we laughed and laughed and laughed.

Have a great weekend! Go force your kids to do things!

Drifting childhood




This is, almost literally, the flotsam of last night’s kid baths. This is what I get to look at, circa 11:13 PM as I sit on the toilet before heading off to bed, except that I delay sleep a few minutes more to find my camera and document the Pokémon figurines lined up on the side of the tub. To document what may be some of the last vestiges of pure childhood.

We’re in what all the parenting books and magazines call the Golden Age: when your kids sleep through the night and no longer need you to accompany them to the bathroom, but they still want to talk to you. They still want to read you every joke from their Big Book of Jokes and Laffs. They still tell you everything — consequential or not — that happens at school, converse freely with their friends in front of you, make up silly songs in the back seat of the car. This is the age when they still sit in the back seat of the car, climb in automatically. It’s just occurring to them that they won’t always sit there.

This is the age where they are still completely happy to carry stuffed animals and security blankets through airports, where their pajamas still have trucks and space aliens on them (actually, that’s only Isaac now — already, Rowan has the logos of sports teams emblazoned across his sleepwear). There’s very little that they declare themselves “too old” for, but it also never occurs to me to, say, pack up a Tupperware container of Cheerios for a car ride.

One day soon, my nine-year-old will take showers instead of baths, will no longer wage sincere imaginary battles between Pokémon figures in the tub and then line them up before saying goodnight. One day, he’ll floss his own teeth. Or maybe he won’t. One day soon, he’ll lock the door to the bathroom.


Hey! So, British Columbia has become the first province to allow three parents on a child’s birth certificate. And since, I’ve been mulling a bit over what that might have meant have the option available when my kids were born. At the time, I don’t know that we would have chosen it. I think it might’ve seemed a bit scary to all of us: for me and Rachel to hand over what seemed like equal power to Rob, who had no intention of taking on any major parenting role; for Rob to have that responsibility, on paper or in real life.

But now, knowing what I know, I think I might see things a bit differently. I think I get know that parenting isn’t some kind of zero-sum game, where everyone has to have the exact same amount of involvement. I think about how families might just benefit from some form of legal recognition to the varying adults who might be parents. Here’s my take on it over at Today’s Parent.

And, segueing nicely into a discussion of what it means to be “equally involved,” here’s why I never clean up the barf at our house but am always on hand for vaccinations. Or, why I am the muffin mom while Rachel is the mitten mom.

Bedtime rant

Why must you lock me in the basement each night?

Why must you lock me in the basement each night?

* * *

Fewer things in the world cause me more resentment than the fact that I have to get ready for bed EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.

Like, every night. It’s the same thing every night: pajamas, flossing, brushing, face washing and moisturizing, finding the cats and locking them in the basement (we have to, otherwise they like to come in at 5 AM and poke at my face with their pokey little paws). I hate all of it, especially in winter, with the cold air on my bare skin as I change from my thousand layers of daytime clothing to pajamas. Perhaps it would help if I remembered to put my pajamas on the radiator, but then that would be just one more thing to do. I hate it when my clothes lie in a big heap on my dresser, but I also hate putting them away each night, hate having to decide whether something is clean enough to be worn again or whether it merits being thrown into the laundry. I hate hangers and navigating the creaky doors of my wardrobe. I hate the fact of the cold water in the pipes and that each day I waste countless litres waiting for the hot water to arrive so I can wash my face. And even with warm water, I hate actually getting my face wet, the inevitable drips down my neck to my collarbone.

I hate all these STEPS to the routine when all I want to do is be safely and cozily ensconced under a duvet, my phone on airplane mode, kids’ lunches tidily made for the morning. I hate the time it takes , how it never takes the 10 minutes it should, tasks always bleeding out into other tasks so that, inevitably, 45 minutes after I begin the hellish process I’m still not asleep or at the very least binge-watching Breaking Bad in bed.

Every night.

It’s amazing to me that I resent so one of the most basic tasks of daily life. The energy alone I spend seething about a few minutes before bedtime probably pushes me over the edge of my own fatigue. And yet, there I am, gritting my teeth, doing very little to make the best of a bad situation except just getting through it every night. I don’t think there’s anything I can cut out: I’m too superstitious to give up daily flossing, and if I don’t wash my face I feel like bugs are crawling on it. Sometimes I try to trick myself into a better bedtime by dealing with my teeth immediately after dinner — one less step in the whole production and with the added bonus that I’m less likely to mindlessly graze through the kitchen before bed. Sometimes, I change into pajamas when the kids change into pajamas, and that makes it slightly better, too. Even so, though, there’s still the stupid face washing and the stupid cats. Stupid. Pipes.

The hatred isn’t rational. I get that. It’s not rational to be put so out of joint, to get so absolutely irked, by the mere task of cleaning one’s own face. Daily. The resentment wells up from some deep, guttural pit in my insides, one that is ruled by my inner toddler. I worked hard all day. Inevitably, I’ve met a whole bunch of other people’s needs not to mention my own, and I’m just done. And yet, that’s not good enough — not until it’s all done. So I do it.

But I hate it. Hate it all. Until I sleep.

Maybe I didn’t write this post


Hey! No, don’t worry, no original content here today. But I wanted to alert you to stuff I’ve written other places. Today, over at Today’s Parent, I’m talking about denial — you know, the kind of parental denial that has you willfully ignoring your kids’ illnesses. Not to mention your own:

This isn’t a new pattern. Back in the fall, Rachel and I remained blissfully unconcerned for good week about a rash on Isaac’s face—even when it began to spread. At one point, I joked out loud that maybe he had leprosy. Actually? It was impetigo, diagnosed casually by a physician friend of ours with kids in the same class. There was that memorable winter a few years ago where the kids were fine but Rachel and I dragged ourselves to the doctor only after weeks of illness to find out that I had a massive double ear infection while she actually had pneumonia. We just thought that we were run down, that we’d get better on our own, and who really had time, anyway, for the hassle of getting to the doctor? We were busy parents, after all, with stuff to do. In any case, we were still (barely) functional.

And over at VillageQ, I talk about a not-so-hidden perk of being in a same-sex union, one that involves subterfuge and sneakiness:

And that benefit is this: you can pretend to be your spouse.

I don’t just mean for fun at parties. Anyone can do that. I mean, you can impersonate your spouse — and vice versa — in situations where it is mutually convenient for you. [...] You know you’ve done it. In our house, it’s usually me impersonating Rachel, who breaks out in hives if she has to talk to the bank to deal with anything remotely financial. So, I call up the bank and say I’m her. Security questions? No problem. Of course I know her date and year of birth. Her mother’s maiden name? Check. Social Insurance Number (that’s the Canadian equivalent for Social Security number for you Yanks)? Memorized. Employee number? I’ve got it in my files. Every so often, I like to tell her that I could easily move all of our assets to some kind of offshore account and she’d be left with nothing and she just laughs, because, well, half of almost nothing isn’t very much anyway.

Please to enjoy! And next week, I promise the three of you that are still reading this an actual blog post, right here.


In which I come clean about my poor hygiene

Hey! If you’re not going to finish that muffin, hand it over — I’m sure that I can fob it off one of my kids. Or mush it up and sprinkle it over top of some oatmeal. In this week’s post for Today’s Parent, I reveal how I am cultivating a household of immunity warriors by throwing cast-off soup back into the pot. Grab a glass — oh, any glass; do you really care who drank out of it last? You do? Weird — out of the sink and fill it with water, and click on over to learn how you, too, can become bionic and get over your germophobia:

We all do that, don’t we? (Say yes.) I mean, for those of us who are lucky enough to have both children and enough food to spare, there’s a certain amount of figuring out what to do with, say, that second bowl of oatmeal that Isaac swore up and down he really wanted but then barely touched, or the half-piece of French toast Rowan left on his plate, or the half–chicken kebab from the souvlaki dinner. I try to serve small portions, with the idea that the kids can have more if they’re still hungry, but the fact of the matter is that in our house, a lot of my children’s leftovers are — for want of a better term — upcycled. The oatmeal goes back in the pot, as does the soup. The rice gets scraped back into the container (or, sometimes into the soup). Rachel eats Rowan’s rejected yogurt from lunch in her lunch the next day. And so on.

Tell me I’m not the only one who does this.

The simple solution

Rubiks cube

So, the book arrived! I am now, once more, the proud owner of a copy of James Nourse’s The Simple Solution to the Rubik’s Cube. For the second time in my lifetime, I’m once again on the way to cube mastery.

This time around, there’s an extra bonus. This morning, as Rowan was wandering through his morning routine, I held up an unsolved cube. “I bet I can solve this thing before you get dressed and make your bed,” I said. And he was off. (For the record, I won, although to be entirely fair he was distracted by the cat near the end.)

I have also gained pretty much entirely undeserved idolatry from Rowan’s classmates for my cube-solving prowess. That’s the subject of my post this week at Today’s Parent:

[since the book arrived] it’s been a Rubik’s Cube fest around here. I haven’t entirely memorized the solution again, but I’m getting there. These things take more time when you’re in your 40s.

Apparently, my timing is perfect: the fifth- and sixth-graders are totally into the cube. They’re having cube-solving competitions at recess, just like we did back in the day. A friend of mine has already borrowed my copy of The Simple Solution and photocopied it, ostensibly for her own sixth-grader. But apparently he hasn’t had a chance to look at it much, because his dad — an anesthesiologist — is hogging the book.

“My friends say that you can solve the Rubik’s cube in, like, two minutes,” Rowan tells me. This is patently false, but I have to admit I like the idea of having some notoriety in his cohort.

Hockey mom

Because no good deed goes unpunished, I won tickets to a varsity hockey game last Friday night. I took Rowan with me, and you can read about how it all went down at my post this week on Today’s Parent.

“Will you even know what you’re watching?” Rachel asked me, in what I thought was an unnecessary show of nonconfidence.

I rolled my eyes. “A bunch of guys with sticks want to get the puck into the other guys’ net. And vice versa. What else is there to know?”

She just sighed. …

I will give varsity hockey this much: those guys can skate. Like, really skate. What I admittedly didn’t understand about the game (“Um, how many periods in a hockey game? Asking for a friend,” I telegraphed out onto Facebook) was eclipsed by the beauty of watching so many bodies move so effortlessly across the ice, weaving through each other, backwards and forwards, and only occasionally colliding. Whereupon, of course, they punched each other, kind of like my own children do. Guys, I wanted to tell them, it’s only a game.

My 2014 resolution

My nemesis

My nemesis


Here’s something I bet you didn’t know about me: I have over-clean ears.

My ears are too clean.  You could eat off that shit. I actually didn’t know that about myself either until yesterday, when the doctor at the walk-in clinic told me so.

“Do you use Q-tips?” she asked, cluck-clucking as she peered into my pristine ear canals. If, that is, one’s ear canals can be both pristine and infected, which mine are. Yup. Both of them, along with my sinuses, which means that inclining my head even slightly downward causes all the ball bearings rattling around my skull to slam mercilessly into all the nerves that also reside there. It’s fun. Fun enough to have me brave the walk-in clinic two days before New Year’s, and now contemplate quitting my Q-tip habit.

Because, yes, I do use Q-tips. I love Q-tips. I would take Q-tips to a desert island. I love them even though I know they are bad for me.  I love them even though I am well aware of the  recommendation that one should put nothing larger in one’s ear than one’s elbow. There’s just something about the feeling of a Q-tip in your ear. You know what I’m talking about — that scratchy cotton, the way it absorbs any last little bit of moisture, the way Q-tips scratch the itches deep inside. It’s a vicious cycle: I suffer from chronic ear infections, which means that my ears often feel itchy, which means that I reach for the Q-tips, which, apparently, introduce all kinds of new bacteria into my ears — and, by extension, my sinuses — while at the same time denuding them of any of the protective benefits of earwax, and so it goes.


Anyway, I had all kinds of half-formed New Year’s resolutions floating around, but nothing really meaty to resolve. And now, I think I have my answer: in 2014, I will kick my Q-tip habit. It’s going to be hard, especially since nothing else in my life can currently be described as “over-clean.” You heard it here first (ha ha): in 2014, I aspire to have only acceptably clean ears.

Wish me luck. And send me things to do with my hands.

Would you like some genocide with your bedtime story?


Didn’t think so.

You know you haven’t blogged in a while when WordPress makes you  login again,  a sort of subtle dig that says,  I’m sorry, but it’s been so long we don’t remember you.  After November’s flurry of  daily blogging,  I seem to have fallen right off the wagon. Or climbed back on the  non-blogging  wagon, or however that metaphor is supposed to work  (and maybe, of course, it just doesn’t).

I have no particular excuse for not blogging, other than that I just haven’t felt like it and haven’t pushed myself to do it, for better or for worse. I have, for the record,  meditated every single day but one in December, so there’s that.  But enough navelgazing about blogging. We will see what happens in January.  In the meantime, just to prove that I do write things some of the time, somewhere, here is this week’s post at Today’s Parent, on Isaac’s penchant for “The Sad Books”:

Isaac … watches me carefully when I read “the sad books.” … He can hear the catch in my throat at the sadness in their simple words. He likes to be on the lookout for my tears, which fascinate and thrill him. “Are you crying, Mama? Why?”

He asks that question — “Why?” — a lot when we read the sad books: Why did the Nazis take away Mr. Marks? Why is that girl hiding in the basement? Why can’t she come out? Why did they want to kill Jewish people? Why did they send Shin-chi and his sister away? Why did they give them English names? Why couldn’t they stay with their parents? Why did the government do that?

In the Holocaust books, children and families like Isaac and our family are the persecuted. In the books about residential schools, we are part of the group that persecutes. Answering the questions, explaining the nuances of these relationships, what it means to be a certain “race” or from a certain cultural background or religion, trying to impress upon him the seriousness of the situation without also giving him nightmares or broaching subjects — mass graves, sexual abuse, the devastating effects on future generations — that seem too adult for him: all this is incredibly tricky ground, even when I have all my wits about me. But at the end of the day, cuddled up in bed, it’s even more difficult. Would you like some genocide with your bedtime stories? No, not really.