Monthly Archives: July 2013

Forty-Six — My Relationship with (some) Books is Complicated

All of a sudden, my library books were all done and gone and I had only the same books on the bedside table that I’ve kept there for years. What is it with the books I own, is it that they sit too long and I put other things on top of them, prioritize around them, neglect them and then when they are all that’s left, realize I hate them for the way I’ve treated them?

On this table I have three parenting books, four novels, and one book of poetry. I keep the poetry there because I love it and I might need to look at it at a moment’s notice. That’s how it is with poetry. It’s Lorna Crozier’s Everything Arrives at the Light and it’s been in my possession for almost twenty years and I love it dearly. I have read it many times.

I have read the parenting books too; How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk (BRILLIANT) and Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier Family (DITTO) and More Speaking of Sex (FABULOUS).

But the novels. I just can’t seem to do it. Songdogs. The Book of Negroes. The Cellist of Sarajevo. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. All these books, acclaimed and loved, acquired on purpose. I bought two, borrowed one and was given the fourth. And I want to read them! But I don’t want to read them, or I would have read them by now. I have read the first few pages of each and then I put them down and reach for the latest library book and if, like the other night, I realize I have no library book, I read one of the parenting books again, or just go to sleep.

It’s not that they’re all depressing. I read depressing books all the time. It’s not a problem.

More and more, I find myself not re-reading old favourite books, not revisiting anything I’ve got on the shelf. I go to the library, I read new (or new to me) stuff, I take it back. Is it a switch to the culture of temporary? Resistance to what I “should” be reading? Am I a library addict? (I feel certain there are friends of mine who would scoff at such a label.) That is, in part, why I started writing down all the books I read this year, as well as a few paragraphs about each one. I didn’t want to forget, or let the books just slip out of my brain when I am done with them and they go back to the library.

These books sitting next to me while I sleep, waiting quietly for me to pick them up and love them, they exert too much pressure. Tonight I will put them away and if I don’t go looking for them within a year, I will give them away. Resentful books can’t exist in a happy home.

Forty-Five — Lost in the Cul De Sac

I don’t know, you guys. My brain is all jiggy from watching movies. Our camping weekend wore me out so much I had to watch The Hunger Games last night, but not the whole thing because I was tired. We finished watching it tonight and then started Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. One of those movies was good and the other, not so good.

I wouldn’t still be up this late, but I slept until 8:00 this morning for the first time since I think the last time I had the flu. It was disorienting. I spent most of the day being confused and feeling crappy and the rest feeling better but really awake. So I’m awake, it’s 10:18 pm and listening to SA talk to his friend on the phone. His friend is from Florida! And flew to Seattle and drove to see us. That is a long way. He is lost in the cul de sac, as happens. So I guess, thank you Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, for keeping me up long enough to meet Andy.

Forty-Four — EveryMom

We spent the weekend camping with a bunch of people, some of whom I knew and some of whom I didn’t, all of whom were totally awesome. Little kids frolicking on a mossy forest carpet, adults drinking their weight in assorted alcoholic beverages, walks and brisk air and sunshine and tent sleeping and campfire smell. O! Campfire smell, I have missed you. Perhaps I will have an opinion to share about camping with the kids, something we only did once before, three years ago, and which obviously scarred us. But at the moment I am too tired and can only relate two anecdotes.

1. Yesterday I was walking, alone, up the very steep hill from the beach to the campsite. A man and his teenage daughter and their big shaggy dog were walking ahead of me. The dog kept turning around to look at me and smile and pant at me. The man was getting annoyed because it is a steep hill and come on dog, just walk. They were walking so slowly that I passed them, and then the dog sniffed me and smiled and the man said, “There, you saw her, are you happy?” to the dog and I smiled at them and thought, “gosh I am such a special person that even DOGS have to smile at me,” and then I heard the man tell his daughter that he thought the dog thought I was her MOM. Not the dog’s mom. The girl’s mom. In other words, the dog thought I looked like its owner, who is the mother of a teenager.

2. Today I was at Safeway, alone, replenishing our food supply because we ate all our food when we went camping. Weird, huh? Anyway, this dude was pushing a toddler in a stroller and as I passed him the toddler got all excited and said something toddlery. I ignored him because I don’t talk to strange toddlers and then I heard the man say, “Yes, she DOES look like Mommy but she’s not really Mommy.”

First of all, suddenly my “you look familiar” face has gone from “that girl from the cheese shop? Maybe?” to “Mom” and how do I feel about that, I wonder? And second, he made it sound like I was purposely impersonating the kid’s mother. “She’s not REALLY MOMMY. Don’t be fooled.” Hey, I’m just buying bread and apples, man! I don’t want to be anyone else’s mommy! I sure as hell don’t want to look like EveryMom, unless I can make money from it. Can I?

Is it too late to do commercials for laundry soap or yogurt? I guess then I’d have to eat yogurt. DEALBREAKER.


Whoops, I missed a day and I’m about to miss another one. Don’t panic. Here are some pictures to sustain you.

Three tiny heads in the lake.

Three tiny heads in the lake.

We went to the lake yesterday and it was cold outside but warm in the water, so that’s good enough for my crew.

This is how we encourage early literacy.

This is how we encourage early literacy.

It is easy to read one story to one child but add another child and you end up with butts.

Oh what a feeling. Balloons on the ceiling.

Oh what a feeling. Balloons on the ceiling.

Have a happy Friday and a swell weekend, see you Sunday night!

Forty-Two — PEEING

In the first house I shared with roommates, there was a window through which we could see the bathroom of the people next door. Their bathroom window had no curtain so when the man who lived there went to the loo, we could see the top half of his torso and because we were young and a bit obnoxious, we would holler “peeing!” when we saw him so that anyone else in our house who felt inclined could gather ’round and laugh hysterically.


Today I took the Skytrain and the Seabus (and I just realized how .. plain-spoken, or perhaps child-like are the names of our local modes of transportation. They are exactly what they sound like: a train that travels in the sky and a boat that acts like a bus by making short trips back and forth on the sea) with a friend and our collected four children and the main concern of all was: where can we pee. Is there a bathroom on the Skytrain? (no, there is not) Is there one on the Seabus? (nope) But there’s one in the terminal (yes) and one in the Lonsdale Quay market (yes) and there’s one in this restaurant (yes) and everything will be fine. Don’t worry if you have to pee now, there will be a place to pee later.*

Honestly, children, with a tiny bit of planning ahead, you should never have to pee so badly that it stresses you out. Could this be my most important piece of advice? We will have to wait and see.

* unless you are right downtown Vancouver, because there is no bathroom in the Waterfront Station and the promised bathroom at Harbour Centre across the street is closed for renovations, so Arlo had to pee at the Tim Hortons around the corner and that meant I had to buy an iced coffee that tasted like iced-coffee-flavour but on the bright side, Eli found a long-stemmed red rose on the sidewalk. True love, dropped.


I was outside this evening in our common outdoor area (we call it “the courtyard”). Eli and I were looking for ladybugs to bring home to eat the aphids on our rosebush. Yes, we have a rosebush. For the first four years we lived here, it provided one rose per year, then for two years it made two roses, and this year we’ve had three and there are four more buds! It’s exciting. Especially because I am not a gardener and know next to nothing about plants (aphids bad. Ladybugs good! That’s the sum of it.) so it’s very like magic. Seven years in this house, seven roses. The rosebush has some kind of spell on it.

Well, what it has on it is aphids and I sort of know they shouldn’t be there so we went looking for ladybugs. Didn’t find any. Found a woman and her ten month old baby girl, though. Neighbours I’ve never met. Then another woman with another baby girl came out of her house. They mentioned a third neighbour with a baby girl. I’m excited about this, too, because the place we live has a preponderance of boys. So many boys, ranging in age from 3 – 9. One girl (until this recent influx) among seven boys. Nothing wrong with boys! Or girls, either! I like there to be some of each. The circle of life.

It was so fun to be next to these two women talking about their babies. One baby is ten months, the other is four months, so it’s all naps and fussiness and milestones and teething. The moms are on maternity leave and are nearly finishing each other’s sentences because they are so grateful to have found each other, someone who understands. A fellow soldier. “Oh the naps will get better,” says the ten month old’s mother to the four month old’s mother. And then disappear entirely! I prevent myself from saying. Yay me, I am not that old lady who tells you to enjoy every moment JUST YET.

Meanwhile Eli, not used to not being the youngest person in the room, is running around, wearing only boxer shorts and four hundred temporary tattoos, waving a can of sunscreen, yelling, “I’ve got sunscreen and I’m not afraid to use it!”

We all laughed, some of us more nervously than others. Don’t worry, I also didn’t say. You’ll get it someday.

The Big Four-Oh

Hi, this is my fortieth post. I want you to know that I just spent two minutes staring at the letters “for” and wanting to type “tiest” at the end. Fortiest. It’s the FORTIEST!

Today I got the day off because Saint Aardvark is having a vacation, and it’s coming from inside the house! How splendid. After a week of summer vacation and two birthday celebrations for Arlo and a heat wave and some other stuff, it sure was nice to have a day off with no small children grappling at my flesh or talking to me.

First, I slept in until 7. Well, first I woke up at 5 but I managed to suffocate myself back to sleep until 7. By suffocate I mean put a pillow on my head just hard enough to shut out the world but not hard enough to actually suffocate. Obvs.

Then, I had a blueberry banana smoothie and some coffee and wrote in my morning journal out on the porch.

The kids and SA left for a trip uptown to the library and park. I ate some cereal.

Deciding to pack as much stuff into one day as possible, I decided to go for a run. I nearly expired from the heat. It is not that hot and it was only 9:30 and I don’t run that far — roughly 5 km — but I got really overheated anyway. I stood stock still under the cold spray of the shower when I got home, and it was so good I might have cried. The run was also good. I get a bit squirrely if I don’t get my exercise for a week.

I visited a friend for 11 am. We caught up on our lives and our children’s lives and she made us salads from her garden’s lettuce and topped them with hard boiled eggs and Swiss cheese. Then we went out to a nearby coffee shop to have a writing date. This friend and I get together periodically and the math goes: one hour of talking to fifteen minutes of writing, but the fifteen minutes makes us feel incredibly proficient and good about ourselves, so it counts for twice as long. I declare it.

I had an Earl Grey tea and she had an iced tea that was the colour of Hawaiian Punch.

At 2:30 I drove myself home in the car. It was hot like an oven so I drove fast to cool off. When I walked in the house, Eli shouted, “You’re HOME!” and ran over to hug me. “I am going to have some apple juice!” he announced. I believe these two statements are unrelated but you never know.

The rest of the afternoon was lazy and ended with barbecued chicken and corn on the cob (the children still don’t like corn on the cob, in case you’re keeping track. Apparently it’s “too sweet with a weird taste” [that’s Arlo; Eli won’t try it {sigh}]) and leftover birthday party cupcakes for dessert.

Now I hear bagpipes through my living room window — they practise in the Justice Institute across the street — and SA has gone to a mountain with his telescope to look at the night sky. I’m having wine, the cat is next to me on the couch, and now you know: the rest of the story.

Thirty-Nine — Life is Good

I am thirty-nine years old. 39. It’s kind of cool to be here, teetering on the edge of a decade that starts with a four. I’m not overfond of the number four but I’d rather not be dead so here’s to picking your battles!

You’re as old as you feel. If pressed, I might say that I *feel* thirty-two. I think this is because I had a child at thirty-two and my life is on pause. I mean, not really. I am living my life. Here I am right now in this moment. Hi.



Part of me feels like my old life got suspended in amber when Arlo was born and this seven years of my new life is just a fork, a path I took, and maybe when it ends I’ll go back to being thirty-two. So let’s see, that would be when he’s eighteen, in eleven years, when I am hey fifty!

Oh, I see. That would be the mid-life crisis: when I come back to being not-a-parent, or, a parent still but not of small children, and I’m not thirty-two at all, I’m fifty.

Ha ha! Surprise! The path back to your old life is CLOSED. Overgrowth, snakes, you know how it is. You can’t go back.

(But wait, childless people have mid-life crises too.)

Of course I know all this, but there is a difference between what the head knows and what the soul wants. The soul sometimes wishes she could pick up where she left off at thirty-two. But the head knows a) that’s a fool’s errand and b) the soul and the head are way better off now. All smart and more accepting and empathic and relaxed about stuff.

Where are we going in these woods? Where does this fork lead? I don’t know. But I have bear spray and common sense and some trail mix and overall, it’s a nice walk.

Thirty-Eight — Monkey Bars

As part of Ginger’s Bring Back the Words series of prompts, I am posting a moment of peace from my week.

I was going to do this prompt days ago but guess what, there has been little in the way of peace this week. Lots of noise, fighting, adjusting, deep breathing, and some sleeping, but little that I would call peace, until today.

This afternoon the kids and I walked up to the elementary school to play in the playground. It’s a really nice playground, with big trees that provide some shade, and several different levels of playground equipment. We played there before it was Arlo’s school, when my heart leapt to my mouth when he was a toddler climbing the so-many-feet-tall green playground structure. And we have spent many, many hours there since he started school, during which hours I have watched him jump to the ground from that same green structure.

Today, both kids were all about the monkey bars. Arlo has a graceful way about him on monkey bars, a rhythm. He has the same rhythm when he walks, which looks more like skipping or dancing. He uses his whole body, head to toe, to propel himself from one bar to the next. He learned to do the bars halfway through his kindergarten year and has incredible upper body strength. I am awestruck every time.

As a younger sibling, Eli has learned the monkey bars a year earlier than his brother did. He moves from bar to bar with a more jerky movement, his lower body stays stiff while he swings. And he can’t reach the higher bars because his arms just aren’t quite long enough, but he tries and tries, dropping to the ground, laughing, getting up and trying again.

The two of them on separate sets of bars, swinging without speaking, all concentration and the slap of bare hands against metal. I could watch them forever.


I ran into a high school friend today. I recognized her because she and I are facebook friends, and because when you look at someone for five years, you get pretty familiar with her face. She had her three year old with her, I had my two with me. We chatted very briefly about things — I know most of what’s going on with her because, again, we are facebook friends — and then moved on.

Later I got a message from her, telling me it was great to see me!!!!! and she hoped I would have a great summer!!!! and I scanned the message and then debated replying and then replied, to be polite, and then I looked at it again and realized that the first sentence ended in five exclamation marks and the second ended with four.

I want to know, now, how people go from one exclamation mark to five. If one exclamation mark is intended to indicate a level of excitement slightly greater than you would get from simply ending the sentence, then surely two would be enough to indicate that you are excited beyond that first flush of excitement. And if two says you are beyond excited, does three say you are over the moon with delight? And then, four. Four exclamation marks, to me, says you are making a joke about how many exclamation marks you are using.

But five. You went all the way to five exclamation marks. Just because we ran into each other at the mall.

I’m not being as snarky as you might think, here. I honestly want to know a) how she decided to go to five exclamation marks and b) why she stopped there. Once you’re at five, why not six? Eight? Nine? Nine is my favourite number, I would pick nine.

This is what a sentence looks like with nine exclamation marks at the end!!!!!!!!!

There is no way to ask the question that doesn’t result in a de-friending, and I don’t want to de-friend, so I won’t ask, but I will continue to wonder.