Monthly Archives: October 2013

Ninety-Three — Grateful

Yesterday I took the boys to a Rock And Gem Show in nearby Port Moody. They went bananas for all the pretty rocks and gems. Eli scored a teeeny tiny emerald and Arlo convinced me to lend him enough money to buy a very hardcore necklace with a sword and skull pendant.

“What kind of gem is this?” he asked the woman whose booth it was.
“Oh that’s just glass, honey,” she said, “but the sword is real pewter.”

We came home with cloth “grab bags” full of polished and unpolished stones for two dollars each and the joy of the grab bag came back to me with a whoomp, like a strong gust of wind. I used to buy grab bags for two dollars at Shopper’s Drug Mart when I was a kid. They were paper bags with random cosmetics in them and it was so exciting to pull the staples out of the top of the bag, unfold it, and see the surprise.

This morning, Arlo informed me he wanted to go to the beach with a hammer and safety glasses so he could look for gold. What could I say — the sun was shining and it was a warm day. We grabbed our hammer and an old pair of sunglasses of mine and drove across the bridge to the beach at Port Royal in Queensborough. I had never been there but had heard it was a Best Kept Secret of the City so a quick google found me all the information I needed.

The kids smashed rocks and splashed around in the Fraser River. A big dog — husky, malamute? — came down to the beach and dug himself a hole almost his own size. He smelled something good down there. Every time his minder tried to fill in the hole with sand, he gave her a dirty look and recommenced digging. His fat, white paws were a flurry.

He never did find what he was looking for. #sadbono

Clusters of ducks swam by, using the river current to their advantage, looking like they were swimming on fast forward.

A flock of geese flew overhead. It was blindingly sunny and warm. My sinuses felt clear. I felt rested, finally, after days of feeling tired.

Today I’m grateful for space and time. Time to make space: ridding our house of bags of old clothes, overdue library books, overflowing compost. Time to make food that is delicious and time to wash up after myself so there is more space on the kitchen counter and I don’t feel like I’m drowning in pots and pans. Time to make space on my bookshelf for five new library books, to dig out all the many blue spiral bound notebooks I’ve been collecting and take them upstairs so that when I look at the shelf, I only see the story revisions I’m working on right now. Space to find time to work. Time to stretch and put the spaces back between my vertebrae so I feel long and loose, not hunched and achy.

Time and space, sunshine and clear sinuses. I don’t ask for much.

Ninety-Two — The Day He Had Popcorn Chicken

Today is a Pro D day. No school for anybody. I arranged to have the day off. We stayed in our pyjamas, played some Minecraft (the kids) and wrote in our journals (me) and drank coffee (me again) and then we played Angry Birds the Physical Game where you make towers and then launch plastic birds via catapult. We listened to music and looked at books. We made a card for Arlo’s friend whose birthday party was today, and then we got ready and left the house. At TEN FIFTEEN AM. Sigh. So awesome.

The amount of time we have hasn’t changed. There are still 24 hours in a day, but something about the way the days are configured makes it feel like less. There are days when it feels like I’m hurrying all the time, days when the hours fly by. There hasn’t been a day in a long time where I looked at the clock and said, “Oh, is it ONLY X:OO?” Lately, it’s always later than I think, which leads to that sinking feeling, that “Where is it all going?” panic.

It’s all connected — seasons changing, fog rolling in, general malaise.

This week I was sick, too, so I spent three days feeling awful, two days working and feeling less awful, all those days feeling like I’d never get caught up on MY TIME MY TIME. I was sick enough that I couldn’t even make a convincing argument for doing anything. I just wanted to sit around, go to bed early, sleep longer. I still do, actually. My sinuses feel weird. I’m suspicious.

This morning, we dropped Arlo at the birthday party at a lazer tag place and then Eli and I went on to Superstore to buy Halloween candy and a few groceries. I offered to buy Eli lunch at the mall and he chose his favourite food court food: KFC popcorn chicken and fries. I had amazing fried rice and stir-fried vegetables and ginger pork. So salty. Salty enough that my eyes started to itch. Fast food, huh? Salty.

We did some walking around the mall, as I am on my annual fruitless quest for a jacket. We went into a store and the sales girl said, “Is there something in particular you are looking for?” Ordinarily I would say no thank you but the way she asked, it sounded like she really wanted to know, and since there is something in particular I am looking for, I said, “I want a jacket, but not a cropped denim jacket. And not a moto jacket. And not a parka. And I don’t need a fur-lined hood, even if it’s fake fur. And no belts. And no quilting.”

(She was very sorry she had asked. She will likely be revising her question to the standard, “Let me know if I can help you find something today.”)

Eli is super helpful as a shopper’s assistant because he knows I hate fake pockets. He went through all the jackets and tested them out.

“FAKE POCKETS,” he announced whenever he found some. “HOW LAME IS THAT.”

He got a few laughs and I could browse unmolested. Wins all over.

I realized as we walked that I hadn’t hung out with Eli at the mall (or anywhere, really) in a very long time. We used to go all the time, on the days he wasn’t in preschool, or on sick days. Just walking around like all the other people who need a place to walk around inside. Standing in the toy aisle, looking at toys. It’s been months since I hung out in a toy aisle.

(The toys haven’t changed much.)

As we made our way back to the car to go pick up Arlo, I noticed Eli still had the paper bag the popcorn chicken had been in.

“Should we look for a garbage can?” I asked.

“No, I’m keeping it,” he said. “It’s my precious memory of the day I had popcorn chicken.”

(awwww, right? Awww.)

More to the point, it was evidence to show his brother.

“What? You had POPCORN CHICKEN?” Arlo sputtered.


“Well…I guess I did get to play lazer tag and eat pizza and cheezies and cake.”

I didn’t have to say a word. They are self-parenting. It feels like I’ve done enough work for now. I plan to drink tea and lounge on the couch resting my eyes and sinuses for the rest of the day.

Ninety-One — Variety

It started with food; my kids are picky eaters and we are constantly changing the way we ‘do’ dinner to try to unlock their magic eating powers. I tried the ‘here is an assortment of fine foods, please enjoy any/all of them!’ approach for a while and they ate peanut butter sandwiches or the closest thing to that on the table, so now I am trying the ‘eat a bite before you get anything else’ approach and they are eating a bite and THEN eating peanut butter sandwiches so I declare the Hunger Games OVER because peanut butter.

Wait! Except Eli. Eli refuses to eat anything but the things he wants to eat. So on butter chicken night, he ate nothing for dinner. And on omelette night, he ate apple. On the bright side, he is eating a MUCH more robust breakfast these days because by 7 am he is sta-r-fuck-ving.

I know. It doesn’t scan, but I needed to put the word fuck in there because fuck. It is hard to make your children embrace variety. They fear what they don’t know. It’s a self-preservation thing.

In some respects, it’s not so hard. Music, for example. Since they were wee/born/fetal, they have enjoyed all the music I have to offer, all the music SA has to offer, all the music off the radio, some kids’ stuff, etc. In the car I stab at the radio buttons madly to find a song I don’t hate and then I leave it there for a while. Arlo loves SONIC HITS NOW which plays, well, all the hits, and Eli likes SONIC HITS NOW too but also ROCK AND ROLL and sometimes THE CBC / THE NEWS. Sometimes I override them, because I am driving and I get to choose.

They pick their own clothes. They pick their friends. They pick their own books at the library. I don’t like all of it, and they don’t like all the things I like, but variety. I am starting to think that the key to life is variety; understanding it, embracing it. Seeing, or even better, assuming that all the people you meet have different ideas of what is THE BEST EVER and it’s okay. It’s even great! It’s okay to not love Star Wars (that’s me) or not like Joni Mitchell (both kids) or hate sauces in general (Eli) or not be fond of carrots, because it’s a big world and just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean you get to tell other people to like it or not.

Sometimes social media acts like that kid who tells you what’s cool, what t-shirt you should be wearing, how you’re never going to have friends because you don’t like Lego Star Wars or you don’t like it the right way. If you only hang out there, you can forget what you actually think. Sometimes I get so wrapped up reading what other people have written on the Internet, I don’t get around to writing my own stuff.

Twitter is a wonderful thing sometimes; it is full of people who might get you, people you get. It is funny and sympathetic and sometimes exactly what you need. At the beginning, after a year of Twitter I thought it was cutting into my productivity. I was right! But the solution in these modern times is not to quit The Internet. The solution is to moderate one’s own intake. The solution is variety.

Luckily there are books and notebooks and real-life conversations with people. There is always something to clean or throw away in this house. There is always meal preparation and the fitting of my tongue with a steel sleeve so that when I have to bite it during dinnertime while the kids pick pick pick at their delicious food I don’t bleed all over my plate. There is always something else I could be doing, other than following a trail of links to the bottom of an internet pile-on. The world is big and wonderful and full of things.


Ninety — Library Books Are Not Wikis, Actually

I took a book to work today, a library book, that I might read while eating my lunch. Don’t worry, I was going to be meticulous and not get food on the book. I’ve been reading and eating a long time. I only smear chip grease in books I own. Anyway, I grabbed one of the many library books I have in a pile on my shelf right now: The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje. Last year I heard him read at the Writers Festival from this book and I have been meaning to read it for an entire year so here we are, possibly to the day one year later, and I’m opening the book.

One page in, I see some words neatly printed in pencil in the book’s margin. The printed, book text reads (about our hero, who is a little boy on a big ship sailing across the ocean):

He ate several sandwiches, and after that he made his way down to his cabin, undressed, and slipped into the narrow bunk.

and next to it, there is an arrow drawn in pencil and a question:

Without steward guidance?

On the next page, our amateur editor adds a question mark to the phrase “two-stroke” (referring to an engine) and a page later, there is a tiny Boys’ written next to the typewritten phrase ..a small Boy’s Own Adventure.

I was only at page seven and in full bemused/rant mode.

I saw reference today to a study or article that said reading even six minutes a day is relaxing. WELL I’LL TELL YOU WHEN IT’S NOT. WHEN SOMEBODY TAKES IT UPON HIMSELF TO EDIT A LIBRARY BOOK.

Seriously, neat pencil printer, what is your problem? You can’t edit this book. It’s done. Also, who the hell do you think you are, editing Michael Ondaatje? Also, to whom are you addressing the questions? (and to whom am I addressing my questions? And how futile is all of this?) The other readers? Because you know, the library doesn’t send copies of books back to the authors when queries are pencilled in the margins. Those books just go back on the shelves for OTHER PATRONS to read and enjoy. Michael Ondaatje will NEVER HEAR your questions unless you send him an e-mail or a paper letter. THERE’S an idea! Write the man a letter with NOTES for his NOVEL. I bet he doesn’t have a critique group he can really trust to be honest with him. Dear Michael: Re: The Cat’s Table. See attached.

For fuck’s sake. Fucks’ sake? NO I KNOW WHAT I MEAN MOTHERFUCKER.

I think the best part is that on one page, there is a pencilled-in sentence that’s been rubbed out. Maybe another library patron erased it, but I like to think the Mad Editor did it him/herself. “Oh, sorry Michael Ondaatje. That note was off-side. I’ve removed it.”

People. Seriously.

Eighty-Nine — Help Yourself


I took this photo on Sunday in the covered area next to the playground of my own elementary school. We used to play there for recess and lunch when it rained.

The murals weren’t there when I went to school. One wall has a sports-themed mural, one a fantasy-theme with dragons and serpents, and this one had undersea creatures and the tiny, Sharpie’d cry for help.

I would have done such a thing when I was in elementary school. Grade six or seven. Hand to forehead, I will not make it through this year. Help me.

The other day Arlo told me he thought he’d be an author when he grew up. I couldn’t decide whether to be fiercely proud or jealous of his surety. (When I was seven I was going to be a veterinarian when I grew up.) I pictured a long race to publication; the fifty year old woman against her twenty year old son. The sting I’ll feel when he’s on a top thirty under thirty list and I’m still slogging away at a third draft of something old and tired. Maybe I’ll write that story instead of living it.

Eighty-Eight — In Which We Go With the Flow

We did things this weekend WITH the pack instead of against it.

Review: Superstore at mid-day on Thanksgiving weekend


Pros: All staple groceries were in their usual place, amply stocked.

Cons: Parking lot full of people driving like they are in a car-driving video game. Everyone trying to park as close to the door as possible. Store full of same people now driving carts full of turkeys and potatoes, dragging screaming kids behind them. Carts abandoned in middle of aisles while owners wander off looking for cranberry sauce.

Additional comments: Was kind of like cutting out a piece of my soul and feeding it to someone I hate.

Review: Playing with Saint Aardvark’s new phone


Pros: Shiny display. Nice camera. Functions well as a phone. Kept us entertained in the car for fifteen minutes while we waited to go pick up the kids from a birthday party (see next review)

Cons: An array of ringtones that all sound like they were taken from an episode of Survivor. “Rain stick banging on the empty coconut shell.” “By the ocean, in the rain.” “Good morning tropical birds.” (not real titles)

Review: Crash Crawlys Indoor Adventure Playcentre Extravaganza


Pros (for children): There are no rules except you have to wear socks. It is fine to scream as much as you want. Scream until your voice disappears. Please do. Children go here to enact their deepest primal desires (except for pooping outside) and the sound(s) and smell(s) of Crash Crawlys reflect(s) this.

Pros (for adults): Children do not require your attention for the length of stay, until they get hungry.

Cons (for adults): It is fine to scream as much as you want. Scream until your voice disappears. Please do. Children go here to enact their deepest primal desires (except for pooping outside) and the sound(s) and smell(s) of Crash Crawlys reflect(s) this.

Cons (for children): At some point, you will have to leave.

Additional Comments:

A. There is also a ball cannon, which is at the top of a climbing structure. It is a large funnel into which children can load small plastic balls and then, by pressing a button, or pulling a lever, exert pressure so that the great hissing noise of anticipated ball blast becomes the horrible, loud explosion of the ball blasting itself, a POP! that startles all the parents and minders in the building. One gets used to a certain level of shriekery, you see, but the random “hisssssss POP!” will get you every time because even if you think you are expecting it, you are not.

B. After forty five minutes in Crash Crawlys, the noise starts to seem normal, which is unfortunate, as it is not normal at all.

Review: The Applebarn (a u-pick apple farm AND ATTRACTION in Abbotsford)


Pros: 40 minutes from our house. U-pick apples. The smell of country. Fresh air. Pumpkin patch is free to roam; pumpkins are fairly priced. Small store sells lots and lots of apple cider, which is delicious.

Cons: Everyone East of a certain unknown line in the lower mainland also went there because it was a holiday and sunny and the heart of Autumn Motif Season. Narrow country roads crowded with SUVS looking for parking. Lineup to enter ATTRACTION. Fees to use ATTRACTION attractions (zip line, pumpkin cannon, pony rides, bouncy cushion, bouncy castle, hayrides) U-Pick apples actually at a different location just down the road from ATTRACTION.

Additional Comments: Pumpkin cannon sounds just like ball cannon at Crash Crawlys. Recommend against going to both Applebarn and Crash Crawlys in the same weekend.

Eighty-Seven — The Other Side

Starting work hit like a hammer to the shoulderblades. The night before I was all excited like when you go on vacation and you pack your bag and then unpack it and repack it forty times and check where your passport is and keep moving it to different pockets in your bag and then freaking out because you check the first pocket and it’s not there! (WHY WOULD YOU MOVE IT? To stay one step ahead of pickpockets, I guess.)

I even slept crappily because that’s a thing I do now, I sleep crappily if there’s any stress in my life, especially if it’s the night before my period starts, so yay, now it’s 5:30 AM and I’m going to work for the first time in six years and I’m bleeding and I’m so tired. So tired. Send iron.

I am tired.

I am tired.

I went. Three days in a row. It was challenging, and good, and will be much harder than my last position, which is also good because at least I feel like I’m earning the money not stealing it.

Going out of the house for a few days and doing other stuff has made me appreciate my home and family even more. Magic. I walk in the house and I don’t even want to check my e-mail. I take off my shoes and roll around on the couch with my big, stinky kids.

He obliged me by for once keeping his tongue in his mouth.

He obliged me by for once keeping his tongue in his mouth.

Speaking of kids, they have reacted predictably; with aggression, random outbursts of tears, exhaustion, and in one child’s case, a throat-clearing tic that makes us feel all wall-climby. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. The first night we tried reasoning with him and telling him that really there was nothing in his throat that needed clearing and maybe he could dial it back a bit. He stared at us like we were the craziest ones yet. Then I googled “seven year old clearing throat” and discovered that it’s a thing people do when they’re anxious, and THEN I felt kind of like an asshole for saying anything. Over the weekend as we’ve all chilled back into our normal household routine, the throat-clearing has subsided. Kids are weird.

Hoist your pumpkins high, boys!

Hoist your pumpkins high, boys!

Speaking of assholes, this evening I had the following conversation with Eli:

E: Mommy do you know what the B WORD is?
Me: Baloney?
E: No, the BAD B word.
Me: Buh..buh..oh. Does it rhyme with witch?
E: Yeah.
Me: Yeah I know it. Do you know what it means?
E: No.
Me: It means two things. A female dog is called a bitch…
E: Huh
Me: ..and when someone is acting mean, sometimes people call them a bitch. Usually women. It’s really not a nice word.
E: Sometimes you act mean.
Me: Yes, it’s true.
E: Should I call you a bitch?
Me: No, you should not. It’s not nice. It would be like if I called you an asshole.
E: (gasp) You said the A WORD!
Me: Yes I did.

Now we all know where we stand.


Eighty-Six — A List

Oh I started a post today. I started one yesterday too. But. In honour of my friend Els who came up with a great writing prompt idea, here is a list of ten moments from today.

1. Hearing the kids awake at six AM (possibly earlier but I had earplugs in) and talking to each other in normal tones of voice in their bedroom while I did stretches on the carpet beside my bed. They were awake so early because the second best thing to Christmas? Is when your dad is putting a shortcut to the new Minecraft game on the shared computer and as soon as he goes to work you can play it. Squee.

2. Sitting on the carpet at kindergarten, Eli’s head on my knee, while I read “Lost and Found” by Oliver Jeffers to a few kids as part of literacy week at the school. When the boy and the penguin hug at the end, well, aww.

3. The absolute bright blue of the sky with red, yellow, and orange trees against it as I walked home.

4. Buying 6 kilos of coffee at Costco and having the checkout woman only say “Mmmm, smells good,” as she rang up my purchase.

5. Going to Burnaby Lake park to run as my reward for going to Costco.

6. I didn’t see a bear, despite signs saying there had been bear sightings. I did see a huge pile of poop that could only have belonged to a wild animal.

7. Moving from the shady parts of the trail to the sunny, having no idea where I was or where I was going. Just following the path.

8. Doing my post-run stretches on the top level of the viewing tower overlooking Burnaby Lake, the occasional frog croak the only sound. Looking up at what at home would be the ceiling, but today was the sky, all blue with just a few fluffy white clouds.

9. Eli trying to rub my feet by scratching at them with his fingers. “Is this the spot? Is this it?”

10. Accompanying them as the boys leaped, galloped, skipped the two blocks to Arlo’s karate class. Walking is so dull. Anyone can do it.

Eighty-Five — Ten Minutes

I have a spooky relationship with time. For example, in my fledgling meditation practise, I sit with my eyes closed for ten minutes. (This is a workable amount of time for me, so I picked it.) I try to focus, breathe, clear the mind, etc, this part is not interesting. What is interesting is that when I open my eyes, exactly ten minutes has passed. Close eyes at 6:27? Open eyes at 6:37. Recently I started trying to add a few minutes to the practise time and I can totally do this too. If I say to myself that I will open my eyes again at thirteen minutes, thirteen minutes is what passes.

Is this a marketable skill? Not sure.

Lately I find it helpful to do things in ten minute intervals. The thing about having SIX HOURS OF FREE TIME is that it’s like when you walk out of jail into a WalMart. Or some more poetic simile. Like finding a lake of cold, clean water at the edge of a desert. Without the limits of a small person saying pay attention to me or I will riot, I have only my own limits. Resetting those limits has been a job, I tell you. If I check twitter, an hour goes by. If I start washing dishes, before you know it I’ve reorganized the frying pans and an hour has gone by. We’re down to four hours, people. You see how this goes. Things that should take an hour: eating lunch. Going for a run. Yoga practise plus shower. Things that should not: replying to one e-mail. Tweeting. Catching up on peoples’ lives on facebook.

I like to make myself delicious lunches and sometimes that means half an hour of preparation and half an hour to eat. That’s an hour well-spent. Yesterday I had tomato soup — homemade, leftover from the other night — with a red chili chopped up in it and stale tortilla chips sprinkled over top and then cheese on top of the tortilla chips. It was so delicious. It only took ten minutes to make but forty five minutes to eat because it was both hot and spicy. I burned my tongue and wept and blew my nose and felt quite cleansed and like a new person by the time the bowl was empty.

I set the stove timer for ten minutes and washed all the dishes I could find. When the time was up, I set it again and spent ten minutes online ordering hot lunch for the kids for the next four months. When that time was up, I wrote for ten minutes. When that time was up I had tea. Only forty minutes had passed and so much had been accomplished.

Why I can meditate for ten minutes exactly but not wash dishes for ten minutes exactly is a mystery I will try to solve another day.

Eighty-Four — A Small Vacation Before the Work Starts

This is how it happens: at first you pledge to write every day and then you do. Then you give yourself weekends off, because that just seems reasonable. Then you take the occasional weekday too, because the kids are sick or you’re on holiday. Or both. Often both.

You begin to write less than you don’t write.

Then the pendulum swings back. Or you find it, give a big push, grunt and pull a muscle in your shoulder to get that bad boy swinging again, because I need to get to 100 posts. I pledged it! I will not break my pledge!


Since my last blog post I accepted a part time job that starts relatively immediately. It was supposed to start today but there was some paperwork missing so I am waiting to hear when it starts. I will work two days a week and a third day every other week. It is pretty much the most perfect schedule I could hope for. I’ll be working for my old employer, for whom I have not worked in six years, but in a different department, which means I am fulfilling my obligation of returning to work after taking a maternity leave pay top-up. The pay is great, the work is..

..the work is not great. It is fine. It is administrative assistant work. I can do it. It’s not hard. But it’s not great.

It’s not a calling or anything.

But I have to do something, and of all the somethings I’m qualified to do, within the constraints of my old employer to whom I owe either time or money, this is the best thing.

No really, I am happy. Though with happiness due to change in status quo comes stress. They are two sides of the same bagel. They come in the door holding hands and smiling.

Saint Aardvark is modifying his schedule to help take the kids to school and back. My mother will help out one of the days. I am hiring a babysitter type person to look after the third day. I have new corduroy pants. I already try to get up early, although as the days grow shorter, darker and rainier, this is harder. Pitter pat, pitter pat, the rain falls on the roof and the duvet is warm and I can still hear the phantom cat purring. It is hard to get out of bed at six o’clock. BUT I WILL DO IT. Soon.

Right now I am having some tea, listening to Radio Paradise, and smelling the banana chocolate chip muffins I just took out of the oven. In half an hour I will fetch the children from school. I hope they’re happier than they were when they went in this morning.

Correction: Eli is as happy as a songbird full of fresh bugs. He loves school. He loves soccer. He loves his friends. He loves playdates. He loves recess. I ran into his teacher at the grocery store the other day and she described him as “such a happy little guy” which was quite a head-scratcher for me but then I realized he is. He is happy. Everything is in place for him.

The other child, the previously happiest child ever, is suffering beneath the weight of the world this week. He stays up late reading and the mornings are hard. This morning he slept in until eight o’clock and then insisted he was not going to school because it was too dark and cold and wet and he was too tired. He sounded like an adult. And no, a mental health day is not the worst thing in the world when you’re seven, but also, soon I will lose 50% of my time my time and I really am selfish. I am. He had two sick days — actual sick days — last week and that threw my whole tentative new schedule into a spin.

In the immortal words of my old first year professor, Allan, a man who had lips like a Muppet and a pocket full of change that he jingled while he lectured, life is flux. (Not fucked as Sarah and I used to write it in our notes where we should have been, well, note-taking.) Flux. Life is flux and we can ride the waves smiling.