Monthly Archives: March 2013

I Wasn’t Really Sure What Was Going On

We are most of the way through Spring Break, or March Break as it is known in many parts of Canada because calling it “Spring” is far too cruel. It is definitely March. Can’t argue with a calendar.

On Monday it was sunny, although very cold and windy, so we went to the park and ran around to warm up. It was awfully nice to do this. I did wear just a hoodie and gloves and though I put the hood up from time to time, if I found a nice sheltered spot where the sun was shining, I did not lose feeling in any of my extremities. West Coast, Represent!

On Tuesday I had promised to take the children to the arcade at Metrotown, the Mall that is so legendary I spent twenty minutes talking about it to strangers at a party in Saskatoon, SK! For the record, I was asked about the mall when I said I was from BC. I did not start a conversation about Metrotown.

The arcade was wonderful; the kids each got a bonus 50 tickets from different machines and they cashed in their tickets for dumb little prizes that make them happy while I tweeted about it because what else am I going to do in the arcade? Then we went to Old Navy and bought cheap sweatshirts; Arlo’s in tomato red and Eli’s in neon mandarin orange. The cashier also gave them each a balloon on a stick, so that was us you saw, wandering through Metrotown glowing like balls of fruity sun.

By Tuesday afternoon I realized I was out of ideas and three days remained of Spring Break (don’t get me started on the idea of a two week Spring Break because I will still be ranting about it at this time next year) so I texted some friends to see what they were doing. The first friend who got back to me has two kids the same age as mine, both boys. The older one is Arlo’s oldest friend, dating way back to 2009 and the younger is now in preschool with Eli.

This friend–the mother, not the child–has a much higher threshold than I for chaos. That about sums it up. She also gets lots of coupons for places so if I stick with her I never pay full price, and she thinks nothing of going to a populated area in the middle of Spring Break, whereas I would, if left to my own devices, choose to sit in a dark closet weeping while the children beat on the door. She would prefer to go to a water park, that her children might have fun. Probably everything will be fine, she thinks. Usually it is. She is good for me, this friend.

True to form, “I have two for one coupons for WATERMANIA,” she said. “It’s awesome!”

I looked it up on the Internet and it looked very much like an indoor swimming pool in Richmond. We left our house in the torrential rain and somewhere over the Queensborough Bridge, the sun started shining. By the time we reached WATERMANIA, the sun was completely out and we looked ridiculous in our gumboots and slickers.

WATERMANIA may look, on the Internet, like an indoor swimming pool, but there are key differences: at random intervals, a wave machine is activated and then all the children are tossed about like, well, children in waves. There is also a climbing structure with a slide (in the pool), above which are buckets that are being filled with water and which periodically fill to tipping and then dump on you as you’re walking by, or struggling to stay upright because Where THE FUCK did all the waves come from.

So it’s Spring Break, there are fifty kids of varying ages in the pool, including two of mine who can’t swim, the friend’s kid who can and the other who can’t, and everyone is shrieking, because: mania. There are waves pounding the “shore” ie: me, and buckets dumping water on us and at various intervals these overhead shower things come on, and the water tastes salty, why does it taste salty? My friend informs me that they use a different chemical to purify the water, so the salt is that, instead of chlorine? OK, I will believe that for the length of my visit.

The great thing about minding small boys in swimming pools is THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME; half naked and wet-headed, running around waving pool noodles like light sabers and shouting BANZAIIIII. It’s incredibly hard to keep track of your own spawn and my head was a swivelling, bobble-headed, salt-encrusted ball of confusion. If I don’t see you, have you drowned? Oh there you are. Waves! Shrieking! Buckets of water! Splashing! More waves! Jesus, are we at war? There was a day camp there, a DAY CAMP, with fourteen children and three adult minders whose constitutions must be much stronger than mine.

Thankfully, after just over an hour Eli told me, “this was really fun at first but not any more” so I got him out and shortly thereafter the announcement was made to EVACUATE THE POOL (apparently standard operating procedure during Spring Break–the pool is chlorinated every day at 12:30) so we tripped back outside and blinked at the sunshine and ate Hickory Sticks from the vending machine (just as good as I remembered) and took a nice, relaxing drive home where I sat panting for a good half hour and then ate a giant salad full of meat and potatoes and fried cheese (and lettuce) because stress makes me hungry.

One day of Spring Break remains. Perhaps a trip to IKEA! Or that dark closet is sounding pretty good.

Good Days Come to Those Who Wait

It all came together today. You know how it does, when it’s Friday, and sunny and everyone in the house is healthy and going to school and you get two-point-five hours to yourself and even though you have two-point-five days’ worth of things you would like to do, you whittle it down and prioritize (sidenote: whenever I say or write ‘prioritize’ my mind also says ‘priorize’ because I used to work with someone who said that) and everything is just fine. Just fine.

First we took Arlo to school and he was between first and second bell (I think there’s a second bell…I’ve never heard it, but how else do you know if you’re late?) and then I took Eli to preschool and it was pyjama day so all the children were more adorable than usual.

OK, there has been one off-note to the day. I’m wearing this very confusing shirt. I rescued it from the discount bin at Superstore the other day. It’s comfortable and drapes well, is a good colour, 3/4 length sleeves. Big open neck. Just the kind of shirt I need and enjoy. But at the hem, there’s a seam that makes a sort of pocket but just on the right side of the shirt. And I’m wearing it and enjoying it, and then I see the pocket and it’s weird. Did the sewing machine make a mistake? Or am I supposed to look blousy? It kind of looks like a tumour pocket. Forgive me. It does. Here’s a picture:

Here. Another:

I’m not going to stop wearing it–from most angles I think it’s quite attractive–and I can’t take it back because it was final sale and $5, but it’s weird, right? Do any of you fashion-forward types know what I’m supposed to do with the tumour pocket? Did I miss a trend last season?

After preschool drop-off, I got groceries and chatted with the check-out lady about how nice it is here compared to her home country where it’s 33C and very humid. There was much singing along in the grocery aisles as the muzak played the best mix of Debbie Gibson/Lionel Ritchie/Chicago and of course Kokomo. What a terrible song! I haven’t heard it, like really HEARD it, in years, and it’s just awful.

Liquor store next, where the music mix was much more modern. Beer was acquired.

My final stop during preschool time was the library. My intention was to return my three books and then sit in a sunny corner of the study area and revise a short story I’m working on. I can’t revise unless I have a paper copy and pen and I don’t have a functioning printer so I

make a lot of excuses? Yes. And also

had to ask SA to print it for me, bring it home, sit down and read it, etc.

First I walked into the library and was accosted by the New Release shelves. Can anyone resist the New Release shelves? Librarians, how often do you have to restock them, because I almost always take at least one book right as soon as I walk in the door. And I feel bad because it leaves a hole on the shelf, which irritates my sense of symmetry but on the other hand, it’s a library and it’s the books’ jobs to appeal to me and then come home with me, right?

I got a novel called “Tell The Wolves I’m Home” by Carol Rifka Brunt. And “My Leaky Body: Tales from the Gurney” by Julie Devaney. A copy of Best American Short Stories 2009 because those collections are like boxes of delicious chocolates. And a book on running because yesterday I signed up to run a 5K fun run in May and I have no idea how to actually train for a real run with free t-shirts and everything.

Oh, right, I wasn’t going to take out any books today because I still have two from the other library, plus my book club book, plus three I got for Christmas and haven’t started plus two I bought before Christmas. Ha! HA HA!

I am weak in the presence of paper with words on it.

Finally got sat down in a sunny corner of the library, pulled out my short story and them rummaged unsuccessfully through my purse for a pen. A while ago I stocked my purse with pens the way they stock rivers with fish, but I guess I’ve been fishing too much and not restocking because I had NO PENS AT ALL WHAT?

Fine, I read over the story, which is good to a point and then bad at the end. I end stories the way I leave parties: abruptly and by sneaking out the door. Analysis forthcoming.

Picked up Eli and told him I’d bought lemons so he could make lemonade. He squeezed them carefully and mixed the juice with water and sugar and then took the seeds outside to plant in our dirt area* and hope for lemon trees to grow.

*not a garden, much as we all might wish for it to be so.

Birds are chirping and the sky is blue. A happy weekend to all of you.


I have a mole on my chin. One day, many (probably twenty) years ago, it grew one hair, which I plucked when it was long enough to pluck. A few months later, I noticed it was back and pulled it again. Eventually there were two hairs together, then four. A cluster! I remember the day I pulled one of the hairs out and was thrilled to realize it was silver. Silver chin hairs! I like silver hairs.

It has recently come to my attention that my chin hairs are growing at an increased rate of speed. It used to be months between pluckings and now it is weeks. Possibly I have plucked more than once in two weeks. I don’t know what this means and I don’t really want to know. I do enough late-night googling as it is.

When I get right up close and look at my chin hairs to pluck them–the lovely pressure and strain of the hair coming out of its follicle is so satisfying–I see other hairs on my face. A few of the other moles grow hairs as well. There is a place on my neck, just under the jawline, where a hair grows quite inobtrusively for [x amount of time] until one day it is long enough to curl up over my chin. Hi. I’m your neck hair. I am what stands between you and a career as a supermodel. What is it doing that whole time I don’t see it, I wonder. I have looked for it before and not found it. It’s only found when it’s exactly the right length to be found, at which point I dutifully yank it and marvel at its length. How does something get that long without me noticing.


When I came to parenting, I was not a physical nurturer. I cared about people, but not enough to go out of my way and sacrifice my own comfort for theirs. Dirty, sick, grouchy people, those are not my people. Sad, anguished, angry people, I am good with those. I will be your emotional rescue. I do not want to clean up your vomit. I would rather listen to you talk about your ex-whoever for a week than clean up your vomit.

The thing about parenting is: against the limits of your own comfort level, nurturing is how you pass the day. Like any skill, the more you do it, the better you get.

I remember the tragedy of the first snotty nose, the first shoulder barf, the first moaning, feverish face against mine, coughing in my nostrils, me thinking, “OH GOD I CAN’T MOVE AWAY BECAUSE SO PRECIOUS BUT I SO WANT TO MOVE AWAY DON’T COUGH ON ME SICK BABY.” They were all these walls I had to climb and get over, this “taking care of people” “whether you want to, or not” thing. Not to roll over and put a pillow on my head when I hear someone crying in the hallway, but to get out of bed and deal with it.

You do it every day and you don’t notice that you’re getting better at it until you are doing it without thinking. It gradually gets less hard, then easy, then subconscious.

After a nice, calm holiday season, we spent half of January ill with something or other, something else in February and the past week in the house with the ‘flu. Arlo (and later, Eli) was weak and feverish and coughing and I turned into robot mom: here’s a tissue, here’s medicine, here’s the TV remote, here’s a book, here’s more tissues. With little of the old panic or dread, I gave myself fully to caregiving, became The Mom Who Cares.

Every day. In the house. With sick children.

And I know that people do worse, do more, do more with worse. Other than the whole no-school thing, I didn’t even notice that a week had passed until the first morning we walked Arlo to school and the air felt like a beautiful salve against my skin. Being outside and walking down the street was such a gift and I realized that I hadn’t had that gift in so long.

Was this why my head had ached all week, why I had felt as though I might be getting sick but maybe not after all, why I was so tired, despite not doing anything. Because I hadn’t been..outside? Because no, I hadn’t done anything, except look after other people for a week, with the occasional break to stare at the Internet, waiting patiently for it to yield something wonderful or even just less annoying because everything was annoying and no, it wasn’t me, it was everyone and everything else. In the world. Everywhere.

I was surprised to realize I had forgotten about myself. In a way it’s good to know that I can step up and nurture if needed. In another way it’s scary that I could morph so quickly into someone for whom self-care becomes news. If I was a nurse I would be the chain-smoking, tequila-drinking kind. The pill-popping kind who is fine, fine, until she isn’t. What happened?


My chin hairs are invisible, until they are not. They appear, as if by magic, under my fingers as I write with my right hand or read things. They grow quietly and appear fully fledged when they are ready, a surprise, though not an unwelcome one.