Monthly Archives: July 2013

Fifty-Six — Cheap Sunglasses

I usually buy a new pair of cheap ($20 or less) sunglasses every summer. This is because I don’t take very good care of sunglasses; they get thrown in my bag or on top of my head or on the passenger seat of the car and the next thing you know, the arm is broken or they’re scratched.

Only recently, in the middle of Vancouver’s Sunniest Summer Ever (today is like day 33 without rain or something ridiculous like that) did I realize that I am halfway through a second year with my current sunglasses! They have served me well; they are kind of amber-tinted and very comfortable. But they are starting to lose the plastic coating on the bridge over my nose and I keep getting little flecks of brown plastic in my eyes and thinking they’re bugs.

Brown & Flecky.

Brown & Flecky.

Mildly irritating but not cause to go sunglass-shopping, per se. However yesterday we were at Winners to buy a birthday present for one of Eli’s friends and we passed the display of sunglasses, some of which were on clearance! so I tried a few pairs on.

Eli liked the bright pink ones, the cop ones, and the tortoiseshell ones. Arlo liked the black ones. The black ones were four dollars cheaper so I picked them and only when I got home realized they have five pink sparkly rhinestones on each side and a little pink heart at the end of one arm. All blinged out, that’s me. Betsey Johnson sunglasses, only $14.

Sparkle pony.

Sparkle pony.

It occurred to me that I have this easy, easy life where I just walk into Winners and buy sunglasses. I have $14 to spare and I don’t wear prescription glasses every day. Some people wear glasses all the time (I bet a lot of you readers do) and can’t just waltz in and try on sunglasses, willy-nilly. The only thing that cramps my style, sunglass-wise, is that I have a large head and sometimes the glasses squeeze my head like a ripe orange. But usually not.

I do appreciate it. It’s a blessing to be able to buy a pair of cheap sunglasses every year. (And yeah, I suppose I could buy an expensive pair and just take care of them, but what if I didn’t? Then I’d have a scratched up pair of expensive glasses, and that would be way more sad because BETRAYAL OF SELF and also WASTE OF MONEY.)


I’ve been exploring mindfulness, thanks to the excellent website Raptitude and a particular post of his that explained how to stop worrying what people think of you. He (Raptitude’s David) refers to a book on mindfulness and meditation called “Wherever You Go, There You Are,” by Jon Kabat-Zinn which I immediately sought out at the library, despite the title which reminds me of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, which in turn reminds me that I used to be a person who cared so much what people thought of me that I sat through that whole movie. (I might have fallen asleep at some point.)

It’s an entrancing book. At first I had trouble jumping in but now I’ve made space for it in my day and I carry it around with me and one of the things Kabat-Zinn says is to resist the urge to talk about and analyze and brag about your mindfulness practise so I will not!

I have come to realize that writing is a manifestation of mindfulness for me, at least the writing I do in the morning, and in the past two months, the writing I do here. I expect nothing of either space other than that I should be able to occupy it until I am finished.

It’s why I keep coming back, I guess.

Eli found this balloon on the street today and brought it home. It's a fundamentally true balloon.

Eli found this balloon on the street today and brought it home. It’s a fundamentally true balloon.

Fifty-Four — Habits

Bring Back the Words: Do you have a habit that wouldn’t make sense to most people?”

Do I have a habit that wouldn’t make sense to most people? I flatter myself that I am fairly average, while still being completely exceptional, so I suspect not. Let’s go through the habits I can think of and you tell me if they make sense or not.

— I eat chips while I read, in bed, before going to sleep. Some people I’ve met think this habit is horrible and disgusting and it is if you think about all those chip crumbs in your bed and the greasy fingers turning pages. Awful! But to me it is nearly always* necessary.
* unless I am already so full I can’t move or I have no chips.

— It’s a rare evening when I manage to drag my tired and chip-encrusted ass out of bed after I’m done snacking but before I turn out the light so I can brush my teeth before I go to sleep, and that’s another disgusting (non?) habit. It also makes my morning breath The Worst Ever Except for Your Dog’s and yet.

Aside: Maybe this should instead be a study of ‘Do I have a habit that is so disgusting it will make people run screaming from my internet website?’ Maybe.

— Nine squares of toilet paper. No more, no less.

— I need a NEW KNIFE to spread my peanut butter. Not the other knife that probably has peanut butter on it but might have mustard on it. Can you imagine something worse than peanut butter mixed with mustard?

— I have a habit of having brilliant ideas about my future and not following through.

— I have a habit of making too many plans for one day and nothing for the rest of the week/month.

— I have a habit of buying pens and notebooks like the revolution is coming and there will be no pens or notebooks and people who can write things in notebooks with pens will get extra cheese and hugs.

— I have a habit of furrowing my brow.

— I don’t ever want to eat the last of anything in the fridge or freezer. Is this a self-preservation method, or politeness? I don’t know but that quarter cup of ice cream is going to stay there until it either turns to solid freezer burn or SA eats it.

— I write every morning in what used to be a spiral bound notebook but is now a binder because that’s just more practical/cost-efficient. Three pages, longhand, journal-ish stuff (sample: I am so sleepy I wish I had coffee oh I do have coffee I love coffee) to start my day. My right wrist is suffering from limited mobility due to all the longhand writing but if I skip so much as a day I start to lose my little mind. At 18 months straight, I guess this is a habit.

Hey it all makes sense to me, probably because if I don’t make sense to me where does that leave me? SENSELESS. Except the tooth-brushing-before-bed thing. I really should make that a habit.

Also the more I type “habit” the more I think of rabbits. Rabbits are so great.

Fifty-Three — Swimming, More, Again

Today was the last day of swimming lessons. Eli has been too concerned with his friend in the class with him (whose name, actually, is NOT “Sith” but we thought it was and we kind of thought that was a badass name) to fret much about doing what the instructor says. She actually came over to me on Wednesday, in an exact repeat of the last set of swimming lessons, and said “If he can show me he can put his whole head in the water, he’ll pass the level!” No submerge? NO PASS. Nothing had changed by 12:25 today, in large part because the more you tell Eli to do something the less he will consider doing it. The Eli Principle, I call it, though it is by no means unique to Eli. *ahem* Pot/kettle, etc.

Arlo, though, made an astounding breakthrough last weekend. On Sunday we went swimming recreationally, as a family, and SA was playing with the kids, making faces at them under water and making them duck down to see. Arlo did it a few times and something clicked. You could practically hear the click. Suddenly he was ducking and bobbing and trying to swim under the rope and showing me how he could sit on the bottom of the pool. Um. OK?

Compare: last Friday, when asked to put his head in the water, he dipped his chin in the water and then freaked out because he got some water on his lip too.
On Monday he was doing rocket kicks and propelling himself under water.
Today he spent fifteen minutes jumping off the edge of the pool, practising his cannonballs with his friend.

I was thinking about it this morning, how once you’ve learned to swim you don’t unlearn it, like learning to walk or talk. Brain injuries excepted. He will no more go back to being a flailing weirdo freak about water (exception: shower water) than he will go back to crawling as a mode of transportation. There he was, one moment a non-swimmer, the next a swimmer. These things happen so quickly after so much time. And so, a moment to mourn and celebrate that he’s one step closer to adulthood, one step farther from me.

And now: a glass of wine because one of my kids finally passed a swimming level.

Fifty-Two — Complicated

Arlo came running in the house, letting the screen door slam behind him.

“Can I watch TV, or is it too early. I’m just asking,” he said. The words came out in one breath. He fell onto the couch and stared at the ceiling.
“It’s too early,” I said. “What happened outside?”

He heaved a sigh.

“Well, Neighbour Friend is acting weird again. He’s doing that thing where he runs away from me and hides. He knows I hate that.”
“Right,” I said.
“We were just sitting there, and playing video games and then he just got up and ran off. I don’t know where he went. It was like he wanted to get away from us.”
“Where’s Eli?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Is he sitting on the stairs, waiting for Neighbour Friend to come back?” Because that’s where he usually sits.
“Yeah I guess so.”

A great quiet followed.

I think of Arlo as an introverted kid. He’s friendly, polite, and slow to warm to strangers. He will retreat to his corner of the room if he’s uncomfortable, he has a good sense of his own limits. He doesn’t like tag, water fights, or being run away from.

But Neighbour Friend is his own category. He gets overstimulated, can’t stand it, and takes off. Usually to somewhere he knows my kids can’t follow. They love him so, they’ll eat him up, you see. They worship him. Eli more so. Arlo did two years ago but now he’s wiser. He knows the love is not always reciprocated.

“You know, when I go to parties,” I said to Arlo, “I often decide to go home and then I just leave.”
“Without saying goodbye?” he asked.
“Kind of,” I said. “I say goodbye if people are paying attention but if they’re not, I just go.”
He looked at me quizzically. “Why?”
I thought about it. I’ve thought about this a lot.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I think because sometimes goodbyes take a long time. People don’t want to let you leave, they want to keep chatting, they want to make plans for next time. Sometimes it all just takes too long, and when I decide I want to go, I want to go.”
Arlo nodded.
“Maybe that’s what Neighbour Friend is like,” I said. “Maybe he just needs to go, right away. You know he’ll be back.”
More nodding.

Twenty minutes later, Eli came in, slamming the door behind him.
After another fifteen, Neighbour Friend came in too, and all was well for one more day.


My day started with a fast. Fasting is such bullshit!

It was so I could have an abdominal ultrasound at 9 am. Three months ago I had endured three months of nausea and finally went to a doctor about it. He referred me for an ultrasound. The nausea has since mostly resolved itself but I figured pictures of my insides are always good, so I kept the appointment.

Fasting! People do it! Right now it is Ramadan, even, and Muslims fast every day between sun-up and sundown. I might reach a higher plane if I did that or I might just kill everyone I know. Once again I am positively reminded of my former former boss, a Muslim, who not only fasted during Ramadan but was an Imam (preacher-type) at his mosque so performed two services per day PLUS had three kids PLUS worked full time AND never once ate me alive. He could have. He didn’t. To Former Former Boss! Cheers.

The dumbest thing is thinking about cheating on the fast. At 9 am someone is going to take a picture of my stomach with a camera. He will SEE if there’s anything in it. If I put water in it, so much as a drop, he will shake his head and cluck his tongue and make me come back in three more months! And yet, I’m standing in my kitchen this morning, empty-handed, thinking, “I could just have a sip of coffee?”

I was hungry, sure, but not overwhelmingly so. It was more that my routine was disrupted. If I’m not drinking coffee and eating cereal, what the HELL am I doing? EXISTENTIAL CRISIS! So I washed dishes.

My day ended with wine on my patio. Some neighbour was making a clapping noise and their baby was chortling. It was a good way to end.

Fifty — Happy Baby Day

Is it a coincidence that the Royal Baby was born today, the day of my fiftieth post? I DOUBT IT. When I got up this morning, twitter was all a-flutter about the baby being born, which is so funny because later it turned out the baby was born at 4ish UK time which is morning here which means while we were all a-fluttering, Kate was already lying in her nice hospital bed, all cleaned up, clutching her giant baby boy to her bosom.

I’m not much of a monarchist but I like a nice baby story. Does that sentence make me sound sixty years old? So be it. The alternative is a bad baby story, and no one likes those. So even though I wasn’t keeping track of how many cms dilated Kate was, I was happy to hear she did it, just like I am always happy when someone who wants a baby manages to carry and deliver (or be delivered of…) one. I’d be just as happy for any other woman whose new baby I heard about on twitter.

I mean sure, next there’s meconium and screaming and toddlers and preschoolers and toilet training. And — god, can you imagine — all the opinions of the commonwealth, now in realtime. (Reddit AMA with the Duchess! Halp! halp!) But first, tonight, there’s sweet baby smell and sinking back against the fluffy pillows, and being happy you did it. And there’s Nicole’s post, which includes adorable newborn baby photos of her kids, a great photo of Prince Charles, and a link to William’s birth story that is just so damn carefully written compared to Modern Journalism. It’s only from 1982, (Shut up yes I know that’s 30 years ago) but it sounds like it could have been written in the 1960s.

So: The Royal Meconium? Best or worst punk rock band name ever? Yeah. That’s what I thought.


Things we did yesterday:

1 Arlo did his Saturday morning karate class at the community centre
2 then we dropped kids at my parents’ place for the afternoon
3 SA and I took the bus downtown
4 we went to the Alibi Room for lunch and beer
5 and ate brunch instead because there was no lunch yet, even though it was 1 pm, you crazy hip young people
6 got a stomach ache because beer at lunchtime is not usually how I roll (though it was delicious beer)(and brunch)
7 walked through Gastown and enjoyed the fine flora and fauna, including cruise ship tourists (so! shiny!)
8 took pictures and felt self-conscious about it and then noticed a guy sitting at a cafe table, taking a picture of the next cafe table through the slats of the chair and felt less self-conscious
9 walked up to the butt-end of Pacific Centre so SA could use the bathroom
10 walked through Holt Renfrew and then tried to get out of Holt Renfrew
11 had to be directed out of Holt Renfrew
12 into the mall! Which is very like a mall but much more fleh, where fleh means fancy and rich
13 then out of the mall onto Granville Street
14 there was a hip hop break-dancing demonstration on the street
15 those boys were young! and very good at break dancing. And sweaty!
16 we kept walking up Granville and then up to Chapters
17 though it felt kind of stupid to be in Chapters when there’s one at Metrotown
18 nevertheless. I needed to look at books.
19 ran into the dad of one of Arlo’s friends, working in the Indigo Kids section
20 asked him if there were any locking journals for sale (there were not)
21 looked at the biography section, the blank book section, the new fiction section
22 looked for deals, didn’t find any
23 got a peppermint tea from Starbucks because my stomach still hurt
24 considered using the bathroom but decided against it because SO MANY PEOPLE WERE IN LINE
25 took the escalator to the top of the store and then back down again
26 met up with SA again and we walked back to the butt end of Pacific Centre to use the same bathroom he used before
27 bought six doughnuts from Tim Hortons to share with the kids and my parents for dessert
28 tried to remember where the bus stop was, but couldn’t, so walked all the way back to where the bus starts
29 waited for the bus
30 saw a young woman on a fancy old-style bicycle, talking on her cell phone by holding it against her ear with her shoulder, wearing no helmet, crossing Burrard Street in a very wobbly fashion, as you would if you were riding a bike with your head glued to your shoulder
31 restrained myself from shouting rude things at her
32 rode the bus back to my parents’ house and walked up the very steep hill from the bus stop and nearly expired
33 found the children drinking ginger ale in the back yard, covered in dirt and the remnants of face paint
34 entertained them until dinner time; no small feat, as they were tired and grumpy and hungry
35 ate delicious barbecued meats and oven baked potatoes and home grown lettuce
36 lingered over wine while the children entertained us with their revue show “The Idiot Children”. They called it that. Eli came in the room with his t-shirt on over his legs like pants and no shirt and said, “Greetings fellow grownups. We are the IDIOT CHILDREN.”
37 were somewhat irritated by the second act of The Idiot Children until we realized that Arlo had lost the second tooth on the top of his mouth so had a legitimate reason to be sucking on his shirt and interrupting our conversation with his “urgent” voice
38 noticed it was quite late, well past our usual departure time and encroaching on bedtime. Despite our better judgement, gave the children doughnuts for dessert
39 packed up our stuff and came home
40 fought back a jigger of road rage and kept my eyes forward while driving when a douchecanoe in a thumping bass car passed me on the right just as I was about to change lanes because I was two blocks from home
41 ignored Arlo asking me “what’s a douchecanoe?”
42 put the children to bed. Once again, Arlo decided not to leave his tooth for the tooth fairy.* That makes four teeth the tf has not been allowed to claim
43 poured a snifter of wine
44 watched an episode of Homeland on Netflix
45 ate a few chips
46 locked the door
47 read my book
48 went to sleep.

* 49 this morning we learned that he actually *did* put his tooth under his pillow but didn’t tell us, as an experiment. He wanted to see if it was Eli who would take his tooth, or the tooth fairy.**

** Apparently there is a tooth fairy and s/he is a thief because the tooth is gone, no one in this house took it, and there was no money left.

Forty-Eight — Brothers Bear Arms

One of the books I’m reading is Quiet: The Power of Introverts. It’s a “speed read” so I only have a week to read it. Can I do it? Well, will everyone leave me alone, please? THANK YOU.


My children love me so much. They want to sit on me and tickle me and, inexplicably, dangle from my neck. “Please don’t dangle from my neck,” I say, “I am happy to hug you, but — arghhhh.” Why? Why do you want to destroy me? I FEED YOU.

Eli has been going through a phase, I think he is almost done it now, where every sentence starts with “Mommy?”

There is a sock in my drawer! And I have other socks. And Mommy?
I don’t mind if my socks match or don’t match, it’s OK with me because who cares! Right? And Mommy?
I’m hungry. Mommy?
I’m going to get a snack now.

Are you super irritated just reading that? Are you?

Are you?

Well? Are you?


After the first I don’t know how many weeks I realized I didn’t have to answer every Mommy? because he would just keep talking. He just needed the two second beat — it could be silent, filled with my voice, or filled with raspberry jam.

Perhaps that’s why he’s moving out of the phase. I gritted my teeth and ignored the impulse to answer him.

I think if my kids could pee on me to mark their territory, they would. That’s what summer vacation is like. A constant dodging of metaphorical, territorial peeing.

“You had her all year!” Arlo says with his actions, not his words, “NOW SHE’S MINE.”

So it goes. Siblings.

We are arguing about gravel! It is a productive discussion!

We are arguing about gravel! It is a productive discussion!

(Not every day. Some days — some moments within some days, even — are not like that.)

This morning, for example, they got up and were horrible to each other for the first hour and my heart sank because the days are sort of long when it’s hot and sunny and everyone is horrible. But then they went outside and raced some snails and that took, like, forty-five minutes, and by the end of it, they’d forgotten to be horrible.

Eli described Arlo as “his mean brother” at the park when they were playing a game with the park attendant girl, but that’s par for the course. During a discussion about the meaning of “trust” last night we determined that Arlo could trust Eli to save his life but not to lend him a nickel. I guess that’s pretty good for age 5 and 7. I hope so.



Forty-Seven — Swimming, Revisited

Indoor Pool Swimming Lessons, Fall and Winter Edition:

— Get your rain boots and coats and hats on, children, we’re going to the pool for lessons! Yes, it is dark outside and it feels like bedtime, but that’s just because it’s 5:00 pm in November. In the pool it will be warm and you will learn to swim.

— It’s important to learn to swim. Even in the winter. Stop crying. It is not that cold outside. It’s just wet! You will be wet in the pool anyway, right?

— The pool is in a building the size of several airplane hangars strapped together. It is hot and clammy in the change rooms and steamy in the pool area. The pool area is dark. Can’t they afford lights? It costs $20 for a family to go for a swim here.

— There are fifteen swimming classes going on in the teaching pool, all the lengths lanes are open, there are old folks in the hot tub, and diving lessons at the other end of the building. It looks like a cave and sounds like a canyon. I think there are things dripping from the ceiling. The ceiling seems very far away.

— Oh, the pool is COLD! Well, the air is warm. Go on now. Learn to swim.

— Here comes my twenty-five minutes to read a book! But there is nowhere to sit that isn’t damp because there have been lessons here for the past three hours straight. Damp damp damp dampness in my butt. I am sweating and damp and clammy.

— Why would your instructor dunk you in the pool and traumatize you for the next six weeks? How terrible.

— It’s 22 minutes past the hour; I must put away my book and grab the towels and meet the children at the edge of the teaching pool; run, run, run to get a change room, there are only ten rooms for sixty kids, what do you MEAN no running on the pool deck, RUN RUN RUN COME ON!

— Yes, those people *are* fighting over who was in line first. Yes, they *are* adults. Well.

— Peeling wet suits off children; trying to dry them while they aim the hand-held shower head at each others’ feet; getting the towels wet; working up a sweat because I am fully clothed in what is basically a sauna; listening to the children in other rooms scream and get screamed at.


— (or, the other half of the time, not getting a change room, deciding *not* to wait 20 minutes in line, so getting dressed in the disabled peoples’ stall in the bathroom. Insert row of ‘don’t touch that, don’t put that there, get off the toilet, etc.’ here.)

— We are going home for dinner as soon as you’re dressed. Yes. I know you’re hungry. So get dressed.

— Holy crap it’s COLD outside. And still raining. We forgot your umbrella. Let’s go back and find it.

— No, I won’t buy you vending machine food. No vending machine food. No vending machine food. Come ON.

— Wash all the things because they were all dropped on the change room/bathroom floor, which was wet and covered in hair and god knows what else.

— Fail Preschool Level 1 and Preschool Level 1, respectively.

Outdoor Pool Swimming lessons, July Edition:

— You’re already wearing your swim trunks because it’s hot. What a lovely day. Let’s get in the car and go to the pool for swimming lessons!

— Arlo: Are we late? I don’t want to be late. I hope we’re not late. Me: We’re not late. Arlo: Oh good.

— Take off your t-shirt and shoes. Put on your goggles. Bye, have a good class.

— What a lovely, shady tree. I will sit under it and read a book.

— This pool is small, so they don’t cram as many kids in. About twenty kids, four teachers.

— The breeze blows back my hair. Some sun flits through the tree branches. All around me is the sound of children playing in the park, children splashing in the pool, instructors instructing. “Let me see your ‘scissors.’ Where do we put our ears?”

— I hear Eli’s voice above the others in his class. “I want to go FIRST and be the FISHIE IN THE MIDDLE.”

— Class is over already! The children are dry before they leave the pool deck. We move a few feet into the sun and put down a blanket, eat a picnic lunch, then the children go play in the playground.

— Do I care if they pass the level? I do not.

— (A little. I care a little. But not nearly as much because I haven’t gone to as much trouble! It’s all about me.)

Outdoor swimming lessons in the summer: Recommended.