On and On, Around and Around

I almost wrote this blog post on my phone, using the free wi-fi available at the ball park, while Eli practiced baseball and Arlo practiced hockey with a tennis ball (ALL THE SPORTS AT ONCE PLEASE) but people talked to me so I listened to them and then it would have been awkward to pull out the phone again. Plus I have fat, fat thumbs that do not do well with today’s smart phones; my old phone had a little punchy-in keyboard and that was great but the touch screen, I am not used to it. It is not used to me. I watch teenagers text on public transit and their thumbs move like hummingbirds and their mistakes autocorrect — or don’t — and they don’t even stop to read over what they’re writing, they just hit send and apologize later.

On Saturday night SA and I went to see the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra perform Mozart’s Requiem and on our way home on the skytrain we met up with a few hundred people who had been to see Def Leppard. A lot of them were very young. A significant number were older than me. I know from my high school facebook friends that many people my age also attended the Def Leppard show. Armageddonit.

The Symphony was splendid. I sat listening, thinking of better words to use than awesome. Fantastic. A delight. An older woman sat next to me. She was there with friends, but they had seats together and she was visiting from out of town so she bought a ticket on her own. She was from Montreal and she had never seen the Requiem performed. At the end she stood and applauded and shouted Bravo! and then leaned down to ask me what I’d thought. Wonderful, I said. It was. A symphony is one of those things that you take for granted until you are staring at it, bathing in it, wondering how on earth anyone ever thought of Music Composition or Symphony Orchestras. Seriously. It could be so, so horrible, but it isn’t, it’s amazing.

Three days earlier I saw Neko Case perform at the Vogue theatre and she was sublime. Her voice is like warm honey. Sometimes it turns and there is a knife blade, but before you can really process that you heard a knife blade, she’s back to honey. She has magnificient, red hair and she wore tights with skeleton bones printed on them. If I could switch places with her, Freaky Friday style, I totally would.

*closes eyes* *opens eyes*

Nope, still me.

Yesterday it was ALL THE CELEBRATIONS for Eli’s birthday, which is today. Today he is seven. But yesterday he was six and 90/100ths and we had a birthday party at the movie theatre. Three friends fell ill over the weekend with a mysterious feverish virus, and in retrospect that’s probably a good thing because six boys in a movie theatre was enough and nine might have killed me. The party was not Pokemon themed, although I did put Pokemon cards in the loot bags; there is a store at a mall that sells ‘grab bags’ — 20 cards for two dollars, and one of them might be rare. Eli also received a lot of Pokemon cards as gifts, and the sharp intakes of breath around the table when he opened the blah blah blah blah something or other E.X FULL ART! was something to behold. How to shut up a room of 6-7 year olds: put a giant shiny card in front of them. Magic.

Eli also received some money as a gift and when asked what he would do with the money he replied, I will buy more Pokemon. When asked what he would do if everyone he knew stopped playing with Pokemon, he shrugged in his inimitable way, and replied, I will put them away and wait until they’re popular again.

Smart for seven. Maybe too smart. Age of reason: achieved.

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(then-ish)

“One nice picture. Come on.”

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(now-ish)

Bee Firmly Fixed in Bonnet

It started out OK, this day, but the list of things — stupid things — that were irritating me just collected and collected like a layer of dust until it was impossible to see the road ahead of me, so dusty was my windshield.

How Dusty My Windshield: Collected Stories.

A list, in no particular order, of the stupid things that somehow were impossibly irritating today:

— The smell of flatulence in a certain area of the office and before you suggest it was me, it wasn’t. I even, at one point, considered that I MIGHT be farting, that maybe my sphincter is LOOSE and farts are escaping my person without me noticing? And then I thought no, that is ridiculous, you would also then be pooping in your own shoes, surely, it is merely that someone in this office, or possibly everyone, needs to eat less junk food and get outside for a walk.

— This dude on the skytrain this morning had a baseball cap that said something stupid. I know. I don’t even remember what it was but it pissed me off.

— Whenever I take an escalator I think about a tweet I saw once; this person said “one thing that really bugs me is when people stand rather than walk on an escalator.” Now I do not give a shit what you do on the escalator as long as you keep right if you’re standing and walk left if you’re walking. But what the hell is wrong with standing on an escalator? It’s a MOVING STAIRCASE. If you want to WALK, take the STAIRS. I think about this tweet almost every time I take an escalator. I imagine that people who walk on the escalator are judging me, and then I get mad about them judging me.

Guess what, they are not judging me. Also can we take a real minute to appreciate my hypocricy, in taking someone’s stupid annoyed statement and making my own annoyed statement about how annoying it is.

Thanks.

— Also transit related: when people line up for the bus and then slowly shift forward in the line, even though the bus has not yet arrived. Holy shit. I am about to start swinging a baseball bat at the bus stop, people. If the bus is not at the stop, you don’t need to keep moving. Just stay put. Why are you moving? Do you think moving will make the bus come sooner? It will not come sooner. It’s the same as people in cars who are at stop lights and they can SEE that the cross-light is nowhere near ready to change but they still inch up, up, up, until their dumb car noses are in the intersection and for what? Two seconds of lead time? You don’t even GET that lead time in the bus line up because you get on right after the person in front of you and right before the person behind you. So I stand still. The person in front of me can inch, I will not inch. Today the person behind me was nearly licking my earlobes, so close to me was she, because when the person in front of me moved up an inch, the person behind me did too. I WILL NOT MOVE.

— The lady in front of me in the bus line up was wearing tights of the panty-hose variety, not the footless tights that are like exercise pants variety, and I could see the dimples in her butt cheeks and I did not want to see that.

— There was this kid on the bus who wanted to hold a bouquet of dandelions and his mom said no, your hands are too dirty and he was whining like whoa about this so I had to put on my headphones. YOUR HANDS ARE TOO DIRTY TO HOLD DANDELIONS THE MOST PRISTINE FLOWER IN ALL THE LAND AND ALSO RARE, WHAT? Sorry little dude, I feel you, but your voice is like a knife on a wine glass.

— This stupid computer program at work that makes me do extra clicking and is full of bugs and no one cares. It’s like an addled co-worker that you have to check up on all the time, to make sure it’s not breaking or losing things. Which is pretty much the OPPOSITE of a good computer program, can I just say.

— My music player was on shuffle and it kept playing PJ Harvey and the Pixies, as though it knew I needed to be pushed into a dark, cranky space and then forced to explode my way out. So I turned it off.

I left the headphones on, though, because of the dandelion kid & etc.

Yeah I think that about covers it.

If you have any irrational irritations feel free to share. No irritation too small, that’s my motto. Even the tiniest chafe can make a blister. Etc.

OKAY

I was on my feet all day. There had been a power outage overnight and all the computers were buggered. The printer drivers were uninstalled. People were panicking. The magic machine that works with a computer that still runs windows 2000 (!!) did not come back all right from its spontaneous reboot, unsurprisingly. It was kind of like a computer stroke. And now that machine slurs a bit on the left hand side, as it were.

I don’t fix the computers at work, don’t get me wrong. But I sure do use them.

There was also a lot of: people and talking and being in charge and being okay with that but by the end of the day starting to be kind of sick of it. Someone else be in charge, please.

Sidenote: I was thinking today about the special value that I bring to the workplace because I’m a parent: initiative. There are step-up people at work who are not parents, and there are hang-back people at work who are parents, to be sure, but speaking for me only I can say that I am definitely more step-up than hang-back since having kids. I spent six years in charge of children. Who’s going to clean that vomit? I am! Who’s going to make a plan for the day/week/month? *half-hearted-hoorah* I am! Who has to just hold her nose and do the thing because there are no other adults around and children can’t do this particular thing. I am! Why not. This translates well to an office environment. Well, this particular office environment.

Of course we all draw the line at washing peoples’ dishes, you know that staple workplace sign “Your mother doesn’t work here: clean up your own dishes!” we have one of those at work. But if something not dishes or pest-control needs doing, I’ll do it. Even if I hate it. Because it’s probably better than vomit.

Then I hopped the train, then bus, then home, got the car, got the kids, bought them Wendy’s for dinner (best mom ever!) made them cry because no time to play Plants Vs. Zombies 2 (worst mom ever!) hustled us all off to baseball at 6*, sat on the field for 90 minutes while Arlo alternately did his homework, ran laps around the field, and hassled me about playing Plants Vs. Zombies 2, came home and hustled them into pyjamas, made Eli cry again because I refused to sleep with him (??) and Arlo started referring to himself as a bad kid because he keeps asking me the same thing over and over so I had to explain he’s not a bad kid, he just makes bad decisions sometimes, as do we all, and he said, with a cocked brow, well, I AM bad sometimes…and I realized he wants to be a little bit bad, so that’s fine I guess I can call him bad. Not a problem. My blond boy with blue eyes who resembles a 70s Wayne Gretsky right now. You so bad.

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Go to bed, bad kid, I said, and now it’s 8:20 and I have some wine and my feet hurt from standing all day, and my butt hurts from sitting on the fake turf field for 90 minutes and you could be forgiven for thinking I’m never happy. Ah but I am.

I said to Arlo when he told me he was a bad kid, what we are doesn’t define who we are. Sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m sad, sometimes I’m mean, sometimes I’m irritating. Sometimes you’re bad, but that doesn’t make you a bad person. The only thing I can say with certainty about you is you’re human.

All of us mostly happy, a little bit mean, totally imperfect. Everything is okay.

* Working full time with kids in daycare and doing an organized sport that demands two evenings a week is as challenging as I thought it would be.

PS: Go Yankees.

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Go Team!

Interest in organized sports waxes and wanes at our house. Luckily no one is serious about being a hockey player. Arlo thinks he might grow up to play in the NBA. Eli claims his favourite sport is golf. This may well be true. It’s hard to tell with Eli.

Back in the winter, Arlo asked to play spring soccer. It should be noted that spring soccer is different from regular season soccer, in that our west coast regular season is from September to March. Six weeks to get you used to being on an field, another six where you freeze your ass off in the rain & snow, six more to build fortitude. We WILL make it to March. We WILL get the medal.

Both kids played soccer in kindergarten. Both kids opted not to play again in grade one. But lots of Arlo’s classmates play soccer at lunchtime so he expressed an interest. Spring soccer is less intense, in that there are no games, only a weekly practice/scrimmage. My hope is he’ll refresh his actual soccer skills (different from the schoolyard gravel pit skills I suspect) and decide if he wants to do regular season in September. This past year he played basketball from September to March and boy did I like that. Uh, he did too. But basketball is a very parent-friendly sport. One hour, once a week, played inside. They run a lot and jump and learn skills. And then you get on with your weekend. No thawing your frozen fingers and toes by the fireplace. No practices on weekday evenings to be worked around dinner and two working parents’ schedules. None of that. Basketball. ALL THE WAY WITH BASKETBALL.

Last year Eli said he wanted to play baseball. Baseball season had already started, that’s how he knew he wanted to play; his friends were playing, and he kept seeing people playing baseball and it looked like the best thing ever. The grass is always greener. Because it had already started I didn’t want to sign him up, besides, soccer had just ended. So we put it off to this year. This year he is a Rookie in Little League. There are two games per week and one practice. They’ve scheduled extra practices for this week and we’ve attended two in two days. Well, I didn’t. I stayed home. Thank god, because yesterday it was gale-force-windy and then started raining, and today there was hail and more rain. So we’re back to thawing fingers and toes by the fire. The uniform is adorable, though. Little baseball cap. Little jersey. Eli is number 8.

People take their baseball seriously. There is an opening ceremony. There are organizers. I think I have a volunteer job but I’ll have to have someone remind me what it is. Field prepper, I think? The next few months with two evenings a week eaten up by sportsball, one of those evenings with two children doing different sportsball in two different locations at the same time, well, it’ll make or break me, I’m thinking.

And then everyone gets signed up for more basketball. NBA or bust.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

This week has been brought to you by:

— Moisturizer. Because my cuticles and nails are incredibly dry and jagged and horrible.

— Halls cough drops, without which I would not have slept on Monday and Tuesday nights. Damned throat tickle. ALTHOUGH I could do without the inspiration printed on the cough drop wrappers, in English and French. ALLEZ Y yourself, cough drop.

— The drugs called “montelukast sodium” and “albuterol” which help Eli go from coughing all the time to not coughing all the time, instead of to bronchitis/pneumonia/whoknowswhat. I love these drugs.

— Zadie Smith’s book N-W.

— Outkast’s song “Hey Ya” which I remembered and listened to several times this week.

— Seriously, Zadie Smith forever. Interesting, to me, that I brought this book home from the library last year and stared blankly at it for three weeks and then returned it. As though one’s emotional life, if taxing, can sap the ability to understand and appreciate good literature. Here is a bit I read on the train this morning that made me memorize the page number so I could find it again later:

“Felix spotted a wayward shiver in her eyelid, a struggle between the pretence of lightness and the reality of weight. He knew all about that struggle.”

There are some books you read to escape into, and you barely read the words on the page, just skim for the gist, like shoving chips in your mouth so the salt will take hold of you faster. Books you read to pass the time. Books you read to lull you to sleep. There are some books you read because they are good for you, the kale of the book world, and when finished you say, well, that was HEARTY. And then there are books where the flavours meld perfectly with one another, where the nutritional value is balanced with the combination of sweet/salty/spicy in your mouth, where you slowly open them to read — carefully — each word because each word is worth it. This is one of those books.

— The prospect of the four day weekend (easters Friday and Monday the glorious, sleeping-in brackets to this normal weekend.)

— Various pale ales.

Onward, Easter-ocity!

Treats!

In the eternal battle of Sugar Vs. Salt I come down on the salty side every time. Give me chips, mixed nuts, crackers coated with mysterious “seasoning,” popcorn. Put salt on my dark chocolate. Make it so.

There are two historical exceptions to my preferences. The first is after a nap. I rarely nap, for various reasons, but when I do, I wake up craving sugar. This is probably because I am thirsty. I read somewhere that when you’re dehydrated, you crave sugar. Instead of a cookie, have a glass of water. OK.

Because I don’t have a problem overindulging in sugar, as in, I will not eat a whole box of cookies in one sitting, I don’t worry about the cookie. I just eat the cookie. And then I need some water (not milk, nope) to wash it down and lo and behold I feel better.

The other exception was during both of my pregnancies. More so the first, I think, although I’d have to search my own blog archives and not right now, thanks. I wanted sugar when pregnant, I thought, because I had given up alcohol and alcohol is made of sugar. Also, alcohol gives you a little buzz and so does sugar. Also pregnant people are prone to dehydration.

Everyone! Go drink some water right now!

I have a third exception now. The third exception is that at work, I want sugar. It can be a reward for boring work (one gummy bear after each successful file transfer!), a way to spike up the general energy level of the day, something for my tongue to work on while I’m data entering or waiting for my computer to reboot for the fourteenth time. Today when I discovered there was no chocolate in my desk I was appalled. I ate the sour gummies, but where I would once have had one sour gummy and then moved on, I found my left hand reaching for the package as my right hand moved the mouse around, like ‘oh just totally working here, not thinking about candy at all’, and then I ate a second, a third, then a fourth. I was..consuming candy like someone who had a PROBLEM with candy.

It doesn’t help that there is a 7-11 downstairs and around the corner from the office and you can get a little container of assorted used-to-be-penny-candy-now-costs-two-dollars for two dollars. Those marshmallow strawberries! Cola bottles! SOUR SOOTHERS.

You would think that the portion of my life being a stay-at-home-parent to small children who love candy would have been the portion of my life during which I had to suddenly discipline my candy intake but no. I have made it through several Halloween/Christmas/Valentine/Easter cycles without giving a good goddamn about all the candy in the house. It is the artificial environment of the modern office, combined with the proximity of the junk food, combined with the endorphin-less work I am doing (sometimes I find a file I’ve been looking for for a long time and I get a jolt of excitement that makes me mistrust my own integrity) that makes us all want something sweet. It’s not just me. I saw my co-worker’s drawer today and it was practically a corner store.

It doesn’t take long for the brain to associate the rush of sugar with a reward. About half a doughnut. We reward ourselves and each other with sugar all the time. Office people bring doughnuts to work and share them around. I’ve done it. We bake for each other. We share our chocolate. We never offer around celery. We’re all trying to say — to each other, to ourselves — ‘you’re doing great, considering the circumstances. For someone whose gifts are nearly totally unused 7.5 hours a day, you’re making do remarkably well. Because no one ever praises another human for making-do, accept this Twizzler as a token of my appreciation. Then you will feel a little jolt of happiness and you will like me, and this job, and making-do, that much more. It’s not that bad, you will say. Sometimes it even feels good. That’s not the making-do! That’s the Twizzler! You could do a job that made you feel good just by you having done it, and then you wouldn’t need the Twizzler. But this is not that job.’

That makes the workplace sound more depressing and hopeless than I intend. It really is a good place, for what it is. And for what it isn’t, there’s compensation. And with compensation I can buy more SOUR SOOTHERS.

Plus, the water is free.
(We should all drink more water)

Saturday

Efficiency is everything on weekends. I know the last post had a link about how to have a proper day off and that’s nice but right now we need to get shit done on weekends. If we get our shit done, we can relax.

Right now, 3:30 pm, is the relaxing time because we already: got groceries, bought sports equipment for the children, did laundry, made more granola for the week, tidied the kitchen, took down the garbage, showered and etc. The kids of course know not much of this other than we make them do stuff to feel part of the efficiency wheel. I don’t want them to feel left out.

This morning they were dragging their feet when we wanted to Get Going and after asking nicely several times, I said look, do you think I would PREFER to be going to a giant used sports equipment sale on a Saturday morning? That is NOT what I would prefer. I am doing it because YOU want to play baseball and soccer and so you need four thousand items and that is why I am MAKING you brush your teeth at 9 am on a Saturday, so we can get the groceries before the crowds arrive, and get the sporting goods, and get HOME in time for your friend to come over, which I ALSO arranged for you, so the LEAST you can do is cooperate.

They brushed their teeth.

I came downstairs with mad eyebrows and SA said, are they being assholes? and I said no, I am, but I feel pretty good about it.

Because by 12 pm we were home and had lunch and all the sporting goods we need (seriously; a jock strap? A helmet? I doubt very much anyone aged 7 … well, maybe. There are wunderkinds of all kinds I know) and could get ready to play the rest of the day away. I even made brownies. I even let them have some of the brownies. I’m not heartless.

My body is also, I think, trying to be efficient, by compressing what used to be five days of bleeding per month into one and one half days of bleeding. Though I am certain my hormones do not read this blog I still wish to say it: Body, this plan is flawed.

Now I must go eat some iron.

I Am The Taco

Some weeks are productive and you squeeze out every last minute like a delicious lime over your taco and some weeks are more like you are the taco: easily broken, vaguely tasty, sort of cold, soaking in lime juice, about to be eaten. It’s raining and I have a cold and the train is too full and people breathe too much and I want to embrace humanity but I don’t.

Related to my last post about days off, here is a great article about how to do it properly:

How to Take a Day Off . Ahh. Are we all relaxed now?

Related to nothing much at all, except that squirrels! are great! here is today’s XKCD cartoon, which you probably already saw because everyone but me reads it on the regular. However, when directed, I do greatly enjoy it. I just forget.

Today at daycare Eli gave away all his Pokemon cards — except two — and then regretted it.

We were driving behind a vehicle a few weeks ago and it advertised YOUNIQUE PRODUCTS (collective groan) and I kept forgetting to look it up on the Internet, but then I did. It’s makeup. Direct marketing makeup. Younique.

It’s you, only ‘niqu-er! No?

What else? That’s it. This taco is done. Here is a photo from Ye Olden Tymes, aka February.

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To Do: Day Off Edition

1. Sleep in. If you’re me, sleep in two hours because you went to bed two hours later than usual, with a net gain of 0 hours. Still, it feels good to get up AFTER the sun for once. Not that the sun is out. It’s raining. Because SPRING!

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If you’re the kids, claim all week that on the day off you will sleep in. Then get up 20 minutes later than usual. Technically, yes, sleeping in. Practically speaking, no.

2. Have a leisurely breakfast eaten in courses: the yogurt course. The hashbrown course. The strawberry smoothie course. The cereal course. The other yogurt course. Actually that’s just Arlo, whose body might possibly be planning to grow a foot in the next two weeks.

3. Take a long shower with no rushing.

4. Wear a comfortable bra. No pinchy or binding bras on a day off.

5. Consider wearing tights all day but decide on weekend jeans. Because it’s the weekend! At work we wear jeans on our non-client-related days but the jeans still need to be, you know, nice-ish jeans. Not faded, comfortable jeans. Those are weekend jeans now.

6. Pin back the sides of my lengthening hair and end up with bangs? Apparently?

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7. Take two hours to leave the house because I keep getting distracted by the Internet, which doesn’t exist at work and which I’m too tired to catch up on after work. Looking at the Internet is like watching TV after being without one for twenty years. *Stare*. There is so much internet.

8. Go out for a brief errand and buy the on-sale chips. I have lots of chips but these are the best and they’re on sale. Feel very laying-in-stock-like-an-adult about this.

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9. Treat the children to lunch at a fast food restaurant and watch cricket on the television while they consume, respectively, a Shamrock Shake, and a Cadbury’s Easter Creme Egg McFlurry (BARF).

10. Listen to the sound of cars swooshing over rain-soaked streets. Putter. Colour. Do laundry.

11. Listen to Arlo and his friend, who have not played together in a coon’s age, work together on a Perler Bead design for a solid hour, while they discuss life, the universe, basketball, life’s ambitions, their favourite pop songs, what it was like in Waikiki (where the friend went for some of Spring Break), and other issues relevant to the 8-9 year old set. Delight in their sedate, cooperative friendship.

12. Hear Uptown Funk on the radio three times. Do not mind one bit.

13. Have no plan for dinner and have lots of time to ponder and get creative with what I’ve got around the house.

14. Have some gin.

15. Enjoy that I am having gin instead of smelling the wet feet and jackets of strangers on public transit. Pine fresh gin, it’s what’s for .. nearly-dinner.

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16. Wish the Internet a Happy Friday.

Just Like the Fantasies

When I was considering full time employment and fretting about the children having to leave the house at 7:35 instead of 8:40, coming home at 5 instead of 3 pm, I consoled myself by thinking about how nice it would be to walk the ten minutes home with them, downhill, as it happens, chatting about our days and regrouping before hitting the house for dinner/video games/wrestling etc.

We’ve been blessed with extraordinary dry, sunny weather since January; only a few terrible rainy days, so the walking-down-the-hill part has come true. But the conversations often veer more towards Pokemon, whether I can go to ebay with my credit card and buy them (OK, Eli) rare Pokemon, how tired our legs are, how we wish we had gum or snacks or licorice in my purse (also Eli) –in other words the kind of grousing that happens when children are tired, hungry and out of their routine.

I get it. I sympathize. I often sit on the bus before I get off at their daycare, and think Well, I could just stay on the bus and go home and leave them at daycare until 6. Technically. But I don’t. I pick them up.

The last two days Arlo has asked me very complex questions. Yesterday it was about tax. Today it was about wages. These conversations carry us all the way home. Trying to explain adult life to a child is this heart-rending event, where I want to explain it just right so he’ll have the Right Idea about things, but in terms he can understand, while still imparting my values.

YES I overthink everything always. Yes.

Today, he mentioned vacations. “I only get so many days,” I explained. “People only get so many days for vacation. It’s a trade-off. We work, make money, get vacation days, have money to pay for vacations…”

“Well,” he said. “You could work at Subway!”
“But I wouldn’t make as much money.”
“Why not.”
“Because Subway pays .. not very much money.”
“Why?”
“Because it’s not a very hard job. And you don’t need to know anything special to work there.”
“You have to know how to make change. That’s hard.”
“Yeah…”

Eli interrupted to mention how much he would like to take more vacations. I started following that train of thought but Arlo said, “Anyway, go on. How much money do YOU make? And what are YOUR qualifications?”

Indeed. How did I end up where I am? Luck; some good, some bad.

We ended the conversation when we arrived home. I told him that I started out working for minimum wage in the cheese shop, slicing meats and cheeses.
“Where you cut your finger almost off!*” said Eli.
“I’ll probably do that someday,” Arlo said.
“Oh yeah?” I’m not arguing. The child is … inattentive.
“Well most people do, injure themselves somehow, at some point.”
“True.”
“Like a broken arm, or a gushing wound!” crowed Eli.
“Yes like those,” I said.

And then we shut the door behind us, and started in on dinner, video games, and wrestling.

*meat slicer, meet pointer finger, 1994? she said, tentatively?