Monthly Archives: June 2013


Thirty-two is how many years old I was when I had Arlo, who turns seven on Monday.

Maybe it’s just that I’m a moody sort of person, but the moodiness of age 7 really suits me. It is self-conscious and insecure, sometimes, with a lot of introspection and ‘being alone in [my] room’ (much to Eli’s chagrin)(I mean fury). There’s a sweetness, still, and generally* not as much nastiness.

*except where his brother is concerned, where there’s always room for nastiness! Who’s got room for MORE NASTY? That’s what I thought, all you siblings.

Several times in the past few weeks, something Arlo has done has made me cry and realize that all the talking and talking and modelling appropriate behavior and talking and explaining and patience (and sometimes not patience) does pay off. SEVEN IS THE GOLDEN AGE, THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW.

One day this past week, after school, he was disappointed that a friend of his wanted to play with a different friend, not Arlo. He cried and cried and I went over and gave him a hug. After we got home, he went up to his bedroom and shut the door. A few minutes later, he brought me a card he had made. The card said, “You tried to cheer me up when I was sad. Thank you.”

Another day this week, he asked if I could make cupcakes for him to bring to school and celebrate his ‘summer birthday’ with his classmates. I agreed to do so and then we had a brief discussion about how many he would need, determining 23 including the teachers. “Oh, and we should maybe bring some fruit or something for [kid] because he can’t have cupcakes.” At first I was annoyed because who wants an extra thing to do? Then I realized that every day for a week, someone would have brought cupcakes to class to celebrate a summer birthday, and every day [kid] didn’t get to have one. And my kid noticed. The reaction of the teachers when we provided two Canada Day balloons to [kid] in lieu of a cupcake said it all. #heartburstexplosion

He’s not perfect. But he’s a damned fine human.


Maybe you thought I was joking yesterday when I said I would take pictures of my water bottle. Well, friends, I spent the whole day with the kids and their moodsand I need to go drink some medicinal wine on the couch. Yes, you really do get to see pictures of my water bottle! Lucky.

Last year I was at the dollar store with Eli, looking for something, probably a notebook or paper bags or a plastic shovel. From the corner of my eye, I saw metal water bottles for $2. “Joint venture between Threadless and Thermos,” the sticker said. I was intrigued. I picked one up and I was instantly in love. On one side it read:

"I'm a huge metal fan!"

“I’m a huge metal fan!”

and on the other:

"Me too!"

“Me too!”

And only two bucks! I would have paid at least five.

Thirty — Summer!

Prompt two for Bring Back the Words: “What is your quintessential summer supply list?”

Today was the last day of school for Arlo. Technically it was only 2 1/2 hours of school. We all stood around outside the school at 11:30 going ‘what do we do now? Do we go home? And? Then? What?’ It was raining, so that didn’t help.

Hopefully it all comes back to me.

Must haves for summer:

– Umbrella and rain boots (ba dump!)
– Internet connection
– Library card
– Lip balm
– Hat (ball-cap style)
– Spare hat (full straw style, in case it gets really hot)
– Sunglasses (must be new every season because I wreck sunglasses. Yes, if I bought a good pair I *might* take better care of them, but then again I might not and then I might end up wrecking expensive sunglasses)
– Sunscreen — whatever’s handy. 30 spf for my face all year ’round and whatever doesn’t smell like coconuts for the rest of my body.
– Children’s sunscreen — the spray-on kind, not too smelly, not too cold, not too sticky you get the idea.
– A big bag to put all the stuff in
– Purse in which to carry the stuff I don’t want the children to find (secret chocolate, my phone, etc)
– I suppose I should check the status of my bathing suits as I have a tendency to buy halves of two pieces when I see them for cheap and then end up with yellow bottoms and black and white tops. I know! Travesty!
– Sandals. I only wear one pair but I own three. Last year I was looking for the perfect sandals, despaired of ever finding them, bought two cheap pairs instead and THEN found the perfect ones. #lesson
– 400 five-dollar t-shirts, two of which start the summer white
– Bubbles for the children to blow
– Water bottle. Have you guys seen my new (late summer 2012) water bottle? I’ll take a picture of it for you tomorrow.
– Tea tree oil for all my itchy spots, not that we have mosquitoes here, I am just itchy a lot
– Heel file because my heels are made of coral. They’re so hard and mean they held up a gas station last week, just for free twizzlers. How embarrassing.
– Toenail polish, the brighter the better
– Deodorant! And hair oil goop stuff so my hair lies down a little bit each day. My hair needs its rest.
– Snacks! I like almonds and raisins and fruit; the children enjoy a fine assortment of crackers
– Tasty beer
– Often gin
– In a pinch, wine
– Music. Lately, the children have become obsessed with SONIC HITS the local HIT STATION that plays all THE HITS. They are starting to chafe my nards with this, actually. I turn the key in the car’s engine and the radio hasn’t even come on yet and Eli says “Is this SONIC HITS?” Are they paying you to listen? I don’t think so. Settle down, Beavis.

And the sanity must-haves:

– Regular showers
– Time to write in my journal in the morning, and a break mid-day, otherwise a full day with two children might just result in me stealing a skateboard and running for the border
– Exercise
– Sleep
– Several nights sitting on my porch until it’s dark, talking with Saint Aardvark
– Tiny vacations, even if they are just in my tiny brain.

Happy, happy summer! I hope!


I was reading NurtureShock last week, approximately six years behind everyone else, and something stuck out for me. The concept of praise.

I am a praiser and a praisee. I don’t think I’m a praise junkie exactly but there are things I do more for the praise and recognition than for the joy of them. (What kinds of things? Um, I can’t think of any offhand, but I’m sure there’s something.)

The research says –I am too lazy to cite here– that when we praise for ability instead of effort, what we get is children who only feel successful as long as they are praised, or until their ability ceases to exist. If we praise for effort, we get children who want to make an effort because the reward is the same; whatever that effort’s reward would have been anyway.

So “you’re so smart” is not as effective as “I like how you tried the question over and over until you found the answer.”

It makes sense. Even as an adult, what can you say to a compliment like “You’re so tall! I wish I was tall!” Yep. Tall. I had nothing to do with it.

Yesterday I opened up this comment page and found I had been comment-bombed by Allison. Allison, who is witty and compassionate and a true blue internet friend that I hope to meet someday. She went back and read something like fourteen posts and left comments on them, many of which had no previous comments at all, and it was this warm blanket of happiness around my shoulders when I saw it. “Oh someone is reading,” I thought, “someone IS reading. Someone is CARING. Someone likes what I say.”

Now, I said I would write 100 blog posts in 100 days and I missed one day I think so far but I never said I would stop if no one commented. I love comments, we all love comments, but I find it hard to find the time to comment on all the blogs I used to read / still read. I get it. It’s part of the give and take of blogging; we write for ourselves and others and we read to connect with those others and some days there just isn’t time to write and read and comment and make dinner.

As I work on effectively praising my children so they don’t give up when faced with algebra someday, I’m trying to also be more conscious of how I talk to myself, and how I rally my internal support system. without waiting for someone to tell me I’m great, they like me, they approve.

So: no comments! I want to keep going without your support!

(Just kidding. But no pressure. Not that you were feeling any, probably. It’s the end of June and we’re all tired. I know.)

(As you were)

(Happy Wednesday)

Twenty-Eight: Brains

Eli and I were driving to the store today, to look for maple leaf-shaped baking pans. Arlo’s 7th birthday is Canada Day and I thought I might make him a cake for the first time in 7 years but like all my ideas, this one is harder to execute than you might expect. Canada Day may as well not be happening at Michaels Craft Store and Winners/Homesense.

Eli said, “It sure is raining.”

I said, “Yup. But, it’s June. It always rains a lot in June. Remember last summer when we left for Ontario and it was raining? And then when we got there, it was SO HOT.”

“Yes, I remember,” Eli said.

I turned left at the corner.

“I have a picture of that day in my head,” Eli continued. “the day we arrived in Ontario.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. And it’s hot in the picture. And there was a car seat just for me in grandma and grandad’s car.”


“It’s too bad you can’t come in my brain and see the pictures too,” he said.

“It is too bad,” I said.

“The small part of my brain is showing the pictures to the big part of my brain.”

I laughed out loud, even though Eli doesn’t like it when you laugh out loud because he hasn’t figured out yet if you’re laughing with him or at him.

“I’m laughing because it’s a great picture in *my* brain now. Of your big brain and your little brain,” I explained.

“It is kind of funny,” he allowed.

This is one of my favourite pictures (in my brain) of our trip to Ontario last summer.

This is one of my favourite pictures (in my brain) of our trip to Ontario last summer.

Twenty-Seven — Why Are We Here?

Ginger is doing a weekly prompted bloggity thingeroo .. you can participate too, if you want! I am going to answer both prompts because the first one is a very short answer.

Prompt one: Why did you start blogging?
A: I started blogging because I wanted people to read my words.

Prompt two: What is the best decision you ever made?

So much waffling. What IS the best decision I ever made? Moving to this townhouse, to the city of New Westminster, which seemed like an OK decision at the time, actually turned out to be a great decision. Having children was a pretty good decision, but I’m not sure it was the best ever. Career-wise, there haven’t been many great decisions, other than quitting the job with the creepy boss.

I think the best decision I EVER made was to move out on my own when I was 19.

It was 1993 and I had just finished my second year of university. I lived in Burnaby and went to school at UBC, so my bus trip was an hour each way. I spent a lot of time on the bus, scribbling in my journal or listening to my big, yellow Walkman and staring out the window at Hastings, Granville, Broadway, 10th Ave.

I was starting to really resent my overprotective father. While I was in high school, I complained bitterly but never really rebelled against the house rules. But when I got to UBC and started meeting new people, people I hadn’t known for five or ten years already, people who listened to grunge and electronica and folk music instead of top 40, people who wore cut off jeans, tights, combat boots, people who dyed their hair and pierced their faces and had tattoos and wrote poetry and made films…well, I desperately wanted to be a part of it. That life. The life that started with me being able to stay out past 10 pm.

In June, 1993, I blew away all the treaty negotiations. I decided it would be a good idea to celebrate writing my last exam of the year by drinking a lot of vodka and grapefruit juice in Stanley Park with my friend. Obliteratedly drunk I arrived home well before curfew but that didn’t matter as much as the fact that I was dropped off by a strange man in a pickup truck who had rescued my friend and me from the railroad tracks below Gastown. Apparently we had been wandering on and off the tracks, my friend had a hammer, and the guy with the truck –Bill, I think?– took pity on us and drove us home.

Whooee! was I in trouble. And rightly so. I had to go to my brand new part-time job at the cheese shop the next day with a wicked hangover and that was nearly punishment enough. As part of the fallout from the “discussion” that ensued, I declared that I would move out of the house that summer and get my own place. Dad said, “No you can’t.” Having a bit more than a little of his stubborn blood in my own veins, that was all I needed to hear.

In mid-July, my friend Joanna and I moved into our two-bedroom suite in a house at Main and 22nd Street. A month later, Sarah joined us and we were an amazingly big-haired trio of roommates for a year, after which we went through roommates and new apartments for a few years before settling down with our significant others, to whom we are all now married.

When I moved out I didn’t have any real plan, other than I would work at my job selling cheese and pay my rent and tuition and for food and drinks. Jobs came and went, tuition got paid, albeit more slowly than it had when Dad was paying it, and it took me an extra couple of years to get the credits to graduate, but I did. Eventually.

I learned how to survive; how to cook, clean, give notice on an apartment, quit a job, look for a new one, accept the kindness of strangers, be good to my friends, manage money (eventually..this was a very steep learning curve), maintain the relationships I needed to maintain and release the rest.

What I experienced living on my own made me into the person I am today; someone who understands that ordinary people make mistakes and deserve forgiveness and second, third, fourth chances, myself included. Someone who isn’t scared of smelly people, who sees something interesting in every conversation. Someone who has at least seen how the other half lives and knows how close she came to that poverty line, how close she was to crossing it.

I was young and stupid and lucky. I could easily have ended up on the other side of that line. If my parents hadn’t forgiven me, mellowed, held their tongues, invited me for dinner every few weeks, helped me move. If my friends hadn’t lent me money or fed me booze when I needed it, if, to start with, I hadn’t been young and white and educated, with all the privilege that those afford a person.

God watches over drunks and idiots; double-plus if you are both?

The most important thing I learned was that the real world is indeed a dangerous, wonderful place, and that I could handle it.

And the place where I hold all those lessons; the practical ones like how to budget and the people ones like how to talk to people on the bus, is the place I will draw from when my kids are out in the world and I’m scared for them. The world is a dangerous, wonderful place, and they can handle it.

Twenty-Six — Keeping Track

Once upon a time, I gave each of my children a container of fish crackers and each was happy. I blogged about this in passing and a commenter said, “JUST YOU WAIT someday they will count the crackers to make sure they each have the same amount.” In general, harbingers of doom don’t do it for me, as I am not one to acknowledge someone’s rightness until well past the date the rightness occurred, so you telling me “JUST YOU WAIT” about anything basically makes me want to ignore you. Since becoming a parent, however, I have noticed that it’s sensible to file the warnings away. Odds are, someday I will need them, like the safety pins I keep in my wallet.

Lo, behold, I am remembering the warning now.

The past few weeks have been exciting because we had Grandma and Grandad staying with us. This was good on many levels; extra hands around the house so I could have a shower and grocery shop and not have to take a surly five year old with me, extra feet to walk the kid to school and back again. People to talk to and drink coffee with and drink beer with. People I like in my house! So good, on so many levels.

For Eli, it was good on an extra level: Treats. We went out for lunch. We went out for ice cream. We went to Costco and got fries after shopping. Two extra levels, I should say; the level where you get extra treats and then THEN! the level where you tell your older brother, who is at school all day, all about the extra treats you got.

This has awakened quite a rivalry between the children. Not something I think wouldn’t/doesn’t otherwise exist, but something that was dormant, like mould. Slugs? Shingles? Shingles. Now, even though Grandma and Grandad have gone home, Arlo still greets his brother after school with WHAT DID YOU DO TODAY? WHAT DID YOU GET? WHAT DID YOU GET ME?

Today was Fun Day (formerly known as Sports Day? No longer.) at Arlo’s school. He got to go to twelve different stations in the school, make a bead bracelet, eat a Freezie, hang out with his friends, and then had hot lunch which was pizza, lemonade and ice cream for dessert.

Today was Eli’s last day of preschool. I was volunteering at Arlo’s school so I couldn’t be at preschool for the final moments, when the door opens and the children sing “Goodbye my friends goodbye” with their mothers and fathers present and everyone sniffles. I couldn’t be there because I was helping make bead bracelets, a task which gets harder the closer you get to the hot lunch because no one can focus to save their goddamn life. ANYWAY I decided that for a treat I would take Eli to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal.

So: Arlo got a Freezie, pizza, lemonade, ice cream, a morning spent running around with his friends and an afternoon watching Ice Age. Eli got cheese pizza at school and a Happy Meal after.

As an aside, what did I get during this same time period? I got to stand for two hours without so much as a bathroom break or drink of water, helping small children thread beads onto yarn that frayed and refused to be threaded upon, and do you see me complaining?

Oh, you do? OK.

Anyway, I would call it even between the kids, but that didn’t stop Arlo from “It’s not fair”ing all over the place after school.

To help even the score, he went to his friend’s house after school and this friend has a rather enormous supply of junk food, so when we came to pick him up he was surrounded by empty cookie bags, chocolate smeared all over his face.

Eli says no fair because he got no cookies. Arlo says no fair, because he still has no toy and Eli got a toy with the Happy Meal.

It is a good thing they’re cute.

Tooth finally dropped out this morning.

Tooth finally dropped out this morning.


There are those days when your face feels like an avalanche. Bright smiles and happy eyes (smizing!) start the day and then, several hours later, you find yourself recounting the afternoon’s events to your partner and feeling rather like you might be taking down every tree and sweet meadow flower in your path. SNOW IS COMING DOWN ON YOU MOTHERFUCKERS.

“This morning,” I said to Saint Aardvark, “this morning they were great. They put on their rubber boots and raincoats and got their umbrellas and went out at 8 am to walk around the courtyard. I heard them, counting snails and marvelling at how green the trees were in the rain.”

Saint Aardvark smiled and nodded.

“It was so lovely, I was crafting sentimental blog posts in my head,” I added. “But now? Those posts are gone. My head is a pile of dead leaves, the posts are COMPOST. The WORMS are eating them.”

“Great things come from dead things,” said Saint Aardvark.

Onward, Friday; Fun Day, rain, last day of preschool, and all.

Twenty-Four — The Petting Farm


The Queen’s Park Petting Farm, near noon on a weekday. It is quiet and damp after a rainfall. Children frolic in the nearby waterpark, the ice cream stand is open, parents stand nearby with towels over their arms.

A lop-eared rabbit hears a noise. “Oh shit. Here they come. HIIIIDDDDDDE.”
The black rabbit, brown rabbit, and grey rabbit obediently cover themselves with hay.


Fifty screaming six year olds enter the petting farm. The gate slams behind them. Three sheep run as best they can for the “Animal Rest Area.”

“GOATS GOATS GOATS!” screams a boy with a bowl haircut.
“GOATS! I LOVE GOATS!” screams another boy.

They run at a goat, who bleats at them and runs to the Animal Rest Area.

“IT WENT IN THERE!” screams the boy.
“LET’S CHASE IT!” screams the other.

They are stymied by the fence. The goat looks on from the far side of the enclosure.


Five other girls run to the screaming girl, who has her face pressed up against the rabbit cage.


They turn and see the juvenile ducks being taken out of their enclosure by a park worker.
One girl pounds on the window. “Don’t do that!” says the park worker.
The girl stops but the shrieking–OH GOD THE SHRIEKING–continues and the last duckling refuses to go to the exit, instead walking back and forth close to the window, quacking constantly and adding to the cacophony.

The baby chickens in the adjacent enclosure look on nervously.

A group of boys sees the peacock enclosure and moves, like a large, cellular mass, towards it. The boys are making a low roaring noise. The peacock sits up straight.

“SQUAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWK!” says the peacock. The boys stop short. One of them turns to me, fear-stuttering, “Excuse me exx-exx-exxcuse me, WHAT IS THAT?”
“It’s a peacock,” I say. “I guess it wants you to go away.”
They do.

Arlo’s grade one class did a field trip to the petting farm a few weeks ago. He told me they participated in the young farmers program and saw a lot of goats. I had assumed this means you get a briefing on how to interact with animals? Like, for example, don’t yell at them? God, I hope so. I hope my son’s class was not running around yelling at goats. Next year, I promise I will volunteer for all the field trips so at least I will have some authority to yell at idiots not to yell at goats.


Look, I know–trust me on this, I know–you can’t stop six year olds talking about poop but could someone at least stop them from piling on the pooping goat and screaming at it? Can you imagine if someone did that to you, you little jerk? Yelled, “YOU’RE POOING IT’S GROSSSSSS!” every time you went to the bathroom?

The kids today were not toddlers, who at least usually have minders nearby to say “don’t chase the chickens” or “don’t eat that, it’s not a Glossette,” but kids older than my own five year old companion, kids who should either know better or if they don’t, have a teacher? or someone? to shut them the hell up? There’s a playground and a giant park where you can yell your brains out and be a jackass. This place is where a bunch of sad animals spend their last summer before they get slaughtered.

Probably. I don’t know. It can’t possibly be the place you take the animals you *like,* so what am I to think.


Heads ringing, Eli and I left the petting farm. Stuck a donation in the donation box, the screams of children and peacocks echoing behind us.


I feel like a zamboni is parked on my sinuses. They don’t hurt but they feel heavy; I can breathe but my nose feels dry and angry, and I can’t keep my eyes open. This morning I thought maybe it was the dropping barometric pressure. Forecast has been calling for rain and then moving the call for rain forward a day at a time for a week now. That sentence made little to no sense. Anyway, now it’s been a day and I think I might have the start of a cold.

I haven’t had a cold in so long! Like, since we had the flu in late February, I haven’t been sick. I feel like this is a record of some kind. I will have to turn the little shingle on my “74 days since the last cold virus” sign. OK yes, I had nausea from the end of January until early June*, but I haven’t had a cold in forever.

I’ll let you know how this all turns out, don’t worry. But now I have to go moan on the couch for a while.

* the nausea has mostly cleared up but I’m still going for the ultrasound in July because if you get an appointment for an ultrasound two months after you call, you go for it. I always welcome an opportunity to see inside my body.