Tag Archives: summertime

Sixty-Seven — Low Pressure

Our west coast world is cool and damp and smells of wet leaves and fur. When it doesn’t rain for months and months we forget we live in a rain forest and we get used to the smell of sunny summer. Sun smells like heat, of course, but more than that it’s the smell of everything and everyone, all the open windows letting out fabric softener, shampoo, coffee, toast. We are aware of each other when it’s hot. It’s harder to hide in your house-cave — although it would be more practical.

I’ve been going for a morning walk every day this week, before the kids get up. Rather, before the kids are allowed out of their room, since if I tried to do anything before they got up I would have to be out at 5:45. It’s light at 6:25 or whenever I make it out of the house but there aren’t any people around; some people wait at bus stops and plenty of cars are swooshing by, but mostly I just walk quietly past peoples’ closed doors. One morning I could hear a shower running and it struck me how intimate a sound that is. The water I’m listening to is hitting a naked body. Showers have a unique sound; not like rain or a running tap. The distance the water travels, the thickness of the drops, whether they cascade past or drip all over a person before they hit the shower floor; all of these make a difference to what you hear when you hear a shower.

It makes me feel fond of people, to hear a shower through an open bathroom window, and feeling fond of people is such a nice way to start the day.

Sixty-Five — Things I Saw

I take a two block walk to Safeway to buy milk. I pass a screaming infant in black stroller, hungry, freaking out, its minders chatting about frequency of screams, intent. I remember walking with baby Arlo, having to stop in the uptown park to feed him on a dirty, bird-pooped bench surrounded by old, leering men because he wouldn’t stop being hysterical and the need for him to stop being hysterical overrode my own need to not nurse my baby on a dirty, bird-pooped bench. My reward: he slept the rest of the walk home.

An old couple on a bench, slouching against each other, their feet touching.

Three young boys on bicycles, whipping wind behind them as they tear up the path around the park.

Teenage girls doing soccer drills, stepping like show horses around cones, passing the ball. Their pony-tails swish just like actual pony’s tails.

The air smells like barbecued things, lavender, cigarette and marijuana smoke. It’s the still, warm air of a summer evening before the sun goes down.

Two men do synchronized lunge-squats across the field, drop to their fists and do push-ups, then alternate squats–one up, one down, so they resemble those pop-up toys the kids used to play with.

A man and his dog, one of them bored, the other thrilled. A man and his gangly middle-school son. The son has a basketball, the man is distracted. A car pulls up and parks, the driver talks on the phone, blows smoke out his window, the engine is still running, the stereo is playing.

An SUV the size of a tank drives by, the small driver has big sunglasses and holds an iPhone aloft.

A different baby is taken out of its stroller, its screams muffled against an adult’s shoulder.

Milk, limes, cross the street again, around the park again, there are boys playing basketball, girls lying on the grass, knees bent, talking and texting, and then I’m home.


My family is away tonight. SA has taken the kids to camp in a field in Aldergrove for the annual Perseid Meteor Shower Star Party.

This is the third year they’ve gone. Last year both kids went but the year before only Arlo went and Eli refused to sleep because his brother wasn’t home. Better they both go, that they all might have questionable sleep. I will definitely sleep beyond awesomely.

That sounds selfish because it is. I can try to justify it six ways to Sunday (father/son bonding time! astronomy isn’t my bag! I have a headache!) and all those ways are true but at the core of it is this truth:

I am in a pig’s muddy glory spending the night and morning by myself.

The night is one thing. They left at 6 pm and I have eaten disgusting canned chili for dinner while watching Orange is the New Black. Then I washed all the dishes, put on some PJ Harvey and had a long, uninterrupted telephone conversation. Now I am having a beer, even though it is 9:33, aka my usual bedtime, and listening to all the PJ Harvey again because it’s that good.

(It’s been twenty years since Rid of Me came out. I was nineteen years old. Coincidentally? I got a text message this evening from the guy I was dating in 1994 and he’s in town so we’re going to have breakfast tomorrow. Don’t worry, it’s not a rom-com sort of breakfast where I realize the mistake I made not marrying him. It’s more just to see what a 47 year old ex boyfriend looks like and maybe eat some bacon.)

Anyway, it’s been a damn fine evening by my current standards. I could have done other things, gone places, called people and met up with them. I didn’t want to. I could have written great works of fiction and non. I did not. I’m cool with it.

The best part will be the morning. That’s when I will wake up at my leisure, come downstairs to find everything exactly as I left it the night before, and drink my coffee without first helping someone pour milk on their cereal. It seems like a little thing, but over years it swells to a big thing. A big, dumb thing that you don’t understand but you still acknowledge is in the room, infringing on your space. Tomorrow my space will be my own, for just a little while.

Sixty-Three — Method & Madness

Aaaaand the sunny days just keeeeep on coming here on the West Coast. /radioDJvoice. I heard a radio commercial this morning for a certain online travel agency, the thrust of which commercial was: “We’ve got great specials on getaways! Get the summer you deserve!” Hey did you by any chance make your ad somewhere outside of BC? Or do you think people want to go to tornado country on vacation? Because here, it’s been the most amazing summer ever and why the hell should I pay to go somewhere else? I pay enough to live here!

Ba—-dump. I’m here all month. The veal is nasty but try the linguine.

Skippadeedoodah! Summertime!

Skippadeedoodah! Summertime!

Today we went to the beach. Arlo can now do somersaults under the water. Eli practised floating. It was a good time. Then we left and because it is Thursday, we needed to get some groceries on our way home. Milk, apples, bananas, something for dinner. I saw a Thrifty Foods by the side of the road and stopped in.

The parking lot was underground (yay!) but also had all the outflow (?) from the building’s air conditioning blowing into it (boo) so it was hot like a furnace. We walked up the stairs and found the bank machine and then the grocery store.

The kids claimed not to be hungry or thirsty, and yet they acted like horrible brats the whole time I was shopping. Just horrible. The horrible that only their minder is annoyed by; nothing anyone else would have noticed. They bickered and punched each other while I picked out apples. They tattled on each other in horrible whiny voices while I debated buns or loaf. I asked them nicely to cut it out. They looked at me seriously like they’d heard me and then proceeded to keep horribleing it up.

Not the look I'm going for, son.

Not the look I’m going for, son.

If the groceries had been unnecessary, I would have left them right there and marched the kids back down to the hot car in the hotter parking lot but I really needed that pineapple and that hummus. Not to mention the milk & apples that make up 2/4 of the kids’ Food We Eat and Enjoy list. SO I SOLDIERED ON. I spoke sternly to them, which netted me more “oh yes, of course Mother, so sorry” looks. Surprisingly! they continued to be bratty.

I decided to ignore them, which worked for Arlo, who whispered to Eli, “Cut it out, now she’s mad,” (so stern voice = amused but no voice = mad? Good to know!) and they stopped for a minute but then resumed and by the time I got to the checkout I was ignoring them so hard it was like they were someone else’s children. Who them? The ones in green? Oh yeah, they’re mine I guess.

In SA's old glasses, your five year old can look like a hipster/old man!

In SA’s old glasses, your five year old can look like a hipster/old man!

The checkout girl was in her early 20s. Behind me and my Horribles in her line was a woman with two younger children, one of whom was wailing because he had to stop sucking the lid of the orange juice bottle long enough for the check out girl to scan it and now that aisle has been renamed The Birth Control Aisle.

When we got home and I had put the groceries away, I engaged the children in some role-playing.



“Imagine you had to do something you didn’t want to do,” I said to Arlo. “Imagine you had to take SPANISH lessons and you didn’t want to.”

“But I WOULD–”

“IMAGINE,” I snarled.

“Ok?” he said.

“And you didn’t want to go but you went anyway because I said you had to and then, while you were sitting in the class, trying to learn Spanish, I sat behind you with my mouth right at your ear, like this…” I got up and stood by his ear to demonstrate. He flinched.

“And then when the teacher talked,” I said, “I started talking, saying ‘hey have you learned any Spanish yet? Did you hear what she said? Are there tacos in this class? HAHAHAHAH I HATE TACOS BUT OH WELL I WILL EAT SOME do you know any Spanish yet? One time I learned Spanish and it was hard. Is this hard? Are you having fun? WELL ARE YOU?'”

Arlo had his hands over his ears at this point.

I walked back to my chair at the table.

“So,” I said, “do you think it would HARDER or EASIER to learn Spanish if I was there behind you talking and being annoying?”

“Harder,” he said.

“And that,” I said, “is what it’s like going grocery shopping with you two.”


“I don’t want to take you shopping, I know you don’t like it, but you like to eat, right?”


“If you like to eat, you have to buy groceries.”


Who me? Yes. I like to eat quite a bit.

Who me? Yes. I like to eat quite a bit.

I foster no illusions that it will change the way they behave the next time I take them grocery shopping. But it was SUPER FUN for me and made me feel better, and that’s nearly as good.

And can I just mention, sadly, that I don’t miss their babyhoods at all but I do miss being able to strap them the hell down in a cart or stroller so I can look at the ingredients list in peace. Amen. And cheers.

From the craft beer festival we went to in June.

From the craft beer festival we went to in June.

Fifty-Nine — The Banishing of Ghost Pee and Other Useless Things

Overnight was cold and blustery and this morning both kids slept until 7 am. There is something about a grey day that makes you sleep, or at least feel like sleeping. None of that bright sunlight assaulting your eyes I guess.

They went to play with Neighbour Friend at 9 am and I puttered around the house. I found a box upstairs that has been sitting in the same spot for so long I wasn’t even seeing it any more, except to move it away from the cupboard door, and back again, as needed.

I brought the box downstairs to be examined (and now I DO notice the space upstairs where it used to be). It was an old paper box full of Things to Be Given Away. The nursing bra that was still in really good shape (I don’t know..is that gross? I wouldn’t personally buy a bra at Value Village but I think people should have the opportunity) and an old black taper candle, still wrapped in plastic that I decided I didn’t want and a white pillar candle and holder that I decided I did want, after I looked at it again. Several puzzles, none of which had all their pieces. One puzzle which did have all its pieces. A pair of snow boots, size 9.

I sat down on the floor and sorted the puzzles. I found myself at the same crossroad I’d apparently reached the last time I tried to get rid of this stuff. The puzzles are incomplete, so I don’t want to give them away to charity. But they’re still puzzles, so I don’t want to throw them in the garbage. But they’re incomplete. But they’re puzzles!

Five years later, here we are.

Yes. I threw them out. Except for the complete one, which I put in a plastic bag and sealed with an elastic band so that it will still be complete by the time it makes it through the sorting process at the donation plant factory warehouse place.

Candle, snow boots, nursing bra: in a giveaway bag.
Garbage: to the garbage.
Box: flattened and put in recycling.
Bookshelf: examined for books the children have hoarded but plan never to read.
Books: put in giveaway bag, under nursing bra, so’s not to be pulled out by curious children and replaced on the shelf.

Satisfied, I prepared to stand up. There’s that smell again, I thought. The pee smell.

Now, in a house with two small children and a cat, it could be anything that smells like pee. It would be more accurate, in fact, to ask “what DOESN’T smell like pee.” However, this particular pee smell has been haunting us for a few days. We suspected the couch but it was not the couch. The other day I even sniffed the carpet but the carpet did not smell of pee (hoorah!) It (the smell) almost seemed to be coming in through the window on the breeze. How was this possible? we wondered. Are raccoons arcing their legs and aiming their pee at our window? Maybe.

Ghost pee. Ooooooohhhhhh.

Turns out the pee smell was coming from the blue bathmat we were using as a buffer between our giant bookshelf and the wood floor. Turns out the cat has been peeing on it. Probably for some time, I realized as I took a big sniff of the bathmat and then was in a coma for three hours.

Where the pee was.

Where the pee was.

To get the soiled blue bathmat out from under the bookshelf, of course, I had to move the bookshelf. To move the bookshelf I had to first remove all the books and DVDs and VHS tapes and my squirrel snowglobe and a bunch of Lego and you get the idea. Then I had to unbolt the bookshelf from the wall.

At some point, Eli came in the house and said, “Oooooh! RenoVAtions!” That kind of made it worthwhile.

Then: washing of the floor with Murphy’s Oil Soap, the re-bolting of the bookshelf and the reapplication of four hundred books.

The middle third of our bookshelf.

The middle third of our bookshelf.

Ah well, it’s good to dust every once in a while.

At noon-thirty the kids came running in STARVING HUNGRY for lunch so I fed them.

“This day is odd,” Eli said as he ate his fourteenth bowl of cereal.

“How so?” I asked.

“Whenever you move the couch or other stuff, like the bookshelf…it makes the day odd.”


I don’t know. Seemed like a pretty normal day to me.

Fifty-Seven — Things to Do?

Our stretch of warm, sunny weather is drawing to a close. This week, I feel disjointed. Summer is far from over but it feels like something is turning.

I think it’s my own fault. After swimming lessons ended I thought it would be nice to have a couple of weeks without plans. What was I thinking? You have to have plans with children. Or they eat you.

Okay, they don’t eat you.

But they are old now, these children. They no longer are amused by going to the Sand Park (read: baseball diamond across the street) to play the game where they run away from me and back. They have expectations. They have friends, though none is currently available, except the neighbour, back from vacation. Evvvvery day they play with the neighbour, who is fine, really. In small doses. The doses we are having are larger than recommended.

Yet, I make no plans. Every morning, fresh with sleep and cool air, I expect something exciting to do will occur to me. It doesn’t.

I shower and that is generally satisfying.

We listen to some music and that is fun.

I create an errand and we run it.

I’m the mom and I’m borrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrred. This isn’t how it’s supposed to go. THEY are supposed to be bored and I am supposed to tell them to make a comic strip or climb a tree or clean the house. We’ve been to all the parks, except the really far away parks. We’ve been to the mall, and Costco, and the beach. What else is there? There’s a Teddy Bear Museum in Abbotsford? I feel far from resourceful. Resourceless?

Furthermore, I’m nervous that I’m bored. In a month and a half, they will both be in school and THEN WHAT. People say, “Oh how wonderful it will be” and I agree with them because I do, I actually agree with them, but also, I can’t just stare at the Internet for six hours a day. What will I do? *

Further furthermore, I’m afraid that my nerves about being bored mean that I need to be institutionalized and / or I have lost my identity and when the children are at school I will be a shadow of a human, lurking around corners and hissing.

Success! I just out-ridiculoused myself and now I’m no longer bored OR nervous.

Onward, Thursday. Everything’s better in August.(tm)

* it’s likely there will be more on this topic at a later date.

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.)

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.