“She gave me soap!” Her blue eyes, though dimmed with age, still manage to flare in indignation. “Does she think I’m dirty? Does she think I don’t wash?!?”
My elderly neighbour, Mrs. L., is in full battle-cry against her sister-in-law. Again. Being a well-brought-up woman, I don’t argue with my elders. I don’t know the sister-in-law, despite all the tales of offense and infamy I’ve heard. What Mrs. L. tells me won’t hurt this woman, since the much-scorned SIL lives in a different city.
The offense is clear, however: The scorned sister-in-law gave Mrs L soap for her birthday!!!!
I like Mrs L, I really do. She’s a feisty old thing, determined to live her life till the last breath as an independent woman. She still drives her car — only in brightest daylight, as her vision fades, and it won’t be long before he license is taken away, I’m sure. She lives in her own home. She has supportive family, who see that her fridge is properly stocked and that she gets to doctor’s appointments. And she has attentive neighbours, myself among them, who note whether she’s walking her little dog every day, and that her mail is not accumulating worrisomely.
But she’s also a cranky old biddy, only too willing to take offense, to see offense where there is none, to be OUTRAGED by something as simple as a gift of soap.
I listen and nod, listen and nod, until Mrs. L runs out of steam and totters back into her kitchen. Then I breathe a sigh of relief, shake off her negativity and willful self-absorption, and move on to my day.
I never argue with Mrs. L. She’s old, and, despite her brave front, she’s frail. The days that she can continue to live on her own are numbered. Though she’s in denial, I suspect much of her rage stems from this awareness. (Even if it doesn’t, even if she’s just a cantankerous old biddy, she’s old.) I am kind.
A frail, cranky old lady who, despite herself, sees the writing on the wall, is one thing.
I am less patient with the gazillions of healthy young things who do this sort of thing day after day. Today I came across this post.
I’ve been pregnant, three times. I meet a dozen or two pregnant women each year; on average, one of my clients becomes pregnant each year. When I taught prenatal classes, I saw hundreds of pregnant women in a year.
This sort of article wearies me. The woman who wrote it doesn’t like to be asked when she’s due, and doesn’t enjoy the ‘wow’ comment. Okay. So she doesn’t. But you know what? Lots of women do. What’s the poor hapless bystander to do? You say ‘wow’ to one woman, she’s offended. You don’t say it to the next, she’s disappointed.
When people make complaints of the sort this author makes, they are assuming that all people feel as they do. Therefore, what they need, is what everyone wants, what pleases them is what everyone should be doing. And that just ain’t so. Since all pregnant women don’t respond in the exact same way to their pregnancy and to comments on their pregnant body, then what she’s asking of people is that they be able to read her mind. Which is hardly fair or rational. This exasperates me.
I could have stopped here. There would have been a certain amount of undeniable satisfaction in writing an acerbic, biting, sarcastic post on the self-inflated precious snowflakeness in our society, the incessant demand that everyone UNDERSTAND me, and react EXACTLY how I want and need. How dare you step on my delicate toes?
But you know what? Once that moment of exasperation had passed, compassion arose, and I just couldn’t be so unkind. Because what this woman is really expressing is insecurity. She’s not being fair or rational, but her distress is genuine, and I feel compassion for her.
And I am here to say to the author of this post, and to all of you who empathized with it, “Oh, honey. The problem is not with those people, even if some of them are tactless. You’re pregnant? Congratulations! And I will tell you now, even though I haven’t seen you in the flesh, you’re gorgeous.”
How do I know that, sight unseen? Because pregnant women are. Gorgeous. Yes, you are. Each and every one of you. Despite how tired you feel, how bloated you feel. Despite the bags that may or may not be under your eyes. Despite varicose veins and linea nigra and flatulence and stretch marks and the aches and pains and general weariness… You.Are.Beautiful.
Know why? Because you are a miracle on legs, you are. And that baby inside you? Is another miracle.
Those people who want to know when you’re due? It’s because they want to celebrate with you! Or perhaps to commiserate, and on a day where you’re feeling nothing more than “will I ever, EVER get my body back?”, a little commiseration is always welcome. Isn’t it?
Those people who look at your belly and go, “Wow!”? They are thinking, “Wow. Isn’t it amazing what the female body can do?” Or they’re thinking, “Wow. I’m so glad that’s not me any more!” Or maybe, “Wow. I can hardly wait till I get to do that!” Or, “Wow! Who knew a tiny woman could stretch so far!!” Some of them may even be thinking, “Wow. Why, why, why won’t my body let me do that?”
What they are not thinking is “Good lord, what a whale!” Do you hear me? They.Are.Not.
If you take offense or cringe in shame, when you hear that ‘wow’… Do you know who’s thinking that ‘whale’ comment?
Nobody else. Just you.
When you are pregnant, you gain weight. You do. It’s a fact. A biological necessity. 25 – 40 pounds is perfectly, deliciously, healthy. You are not “fat”. In fact, this is the one time in your life when gaining 25 – 40 pounds is the right thing to do. (If you gain more than that, you are not ‘ugly’, but you are making it harder on yourself. Pregnancy will be harder. Labour will likely be harder. Chasing your wee one after s/he is born will be harder. So, for your own sake and comfort, please keep the gain to healthy limits. But ugly? You’re Not.) And shame? It’s so unwarranted as to be ridiculous. Truly, it is.
Okay, we could all wish some of them would be a little more tactful. Sure. But I will tell you with 100% sincerity, no one who says ‘Wow!’ when they see a pregnant tummy is thinking ‘Ew!’. (Okay, maybe 0.0001% of them do. You can pay as much attention to those people as you do to people who think the world is flat. They are the lunatic fringe and should impact your self-esteem as much as the flat-earthers impact your travel plans.) So, please believe me: people are excited, not repelled. Pregnancy may not bring out the tact in everyone, but it does bring out the joy. People love babies. People love pregnant woman.
If you feel shame — seriously: shame?!? — when someone comments on your size, the problem lies not with the commenter, but with you. Because you don’t believe, in your heart of hearts, that your growing, blossoming, lush body is beautiful.
I’m here to tell you, it is.
When I taught prenatal classes, I would often hear women complain that they didn’t feel ‘feminine’ any more. And I would tell them, “Can you think of a single time in your life when you are more womanly? What man on the planet can do what you’re doing now?” You may not look like the pencil-thin 14-year-old models in Vogue, but you are as female as they get, sister!
All of it. All the aches and pains and lumps and farts and burps… and … beautiful skin and thick hair, blossoming breasts and lush, luxurient curves. You are beautiful. Utterly beautiful.
If you believed that yourself, if you really, really believed that, then every time someone asked, “When are you due?”, you’d be thrilled to tell them. And every time someone looked at your voluptuous belly and said, “Wow!”, you’d caress it with your mother’s hands, and you’d say, “Yeah. Isn’t it great?!”
Because it is. It’s great. It’s a miracle. It’s beautiful.
Daisy is a seriously cute baby.
Now, all the children in my care are gorgeous, of course. They all share the requisite round cheeks and big eyes. Some have curls, some have adorable baby-fine wisps. Most have dimple instead of knuckles — and if that doesn’t make you go “aw” every time you see it, you have a hard, cracked lump of coal for a soul. They have round knees and bellies, and the best collection of laughs you’d ever want to hear.
In addition to all that, however, Daisy is tiny. She’s 16 months old, but is in the 10th percentile for height. TEENY! (She is perfectly healthy, she’s just small. Her parents are not big people. Neither are her grandparents. She comes of petite stock, and will be a tiny woman, likely.)
So she does get a significant amount of cute factor from her sheer teeniness. People see her, think she’s 10 or 11 months old, and just LOOK what she can DO! They are amazed. (You see? ‘Tiny’ can be an advantage.)
She’s also got a quirky, mischievous, gregarious little personality. She’s friendly, she’s an imp. So there’s that.
But what gets her the cute award this week is that she has begun to say the names of her peers. But it’s not that she’s saying them, it’s how.
Liam comes out as a short, sharp burst of “Lee!” Never just once. A rat-a-tat of them. “Lee! Lee! Lee-lee-lee-lee Lee!” Makes me chuckle almost every time. She raps his name.
Zoe, however, gets an entirely different treatment. No rapping for Zoe. No. Zoe gets a long, lyrical sweep of a song. “Zooooooooooooooooo-ee!” Sometimes that first syllable is so elongated that I fear she’ll run out of breath before she gets to “ee!”, but she always manages it.
While she sings the name, her mouth is a perfect O, of course. So are her eyes. “OOOO”, says the mouth. OOO go the lips. OOO are the eyes.
Adorable, I tell you. Drowns me in cuteness every time.
Zoe’s dad saw it for the first time Wednesday evening. Saw it multiple times, because Daisy likes to say that name. Dad laughed, every time. Of course he did. Because it’s so damned cute! “I don’t think that will ever get old,” he says. Thursday morning, he drops her off, Daisy does it again. He laughs again. “Yup! Still funny!”
It is. Funny and adorable beyond words.
Congratulations, Daisy. YOU win Cute of the Week.
A wedding story… In pictures, mostly.
My eldest child, my older daughter, was married last month. Isn’t she lovely? This is at the house, getting ready. A good 90% of everything was hand-made, hand-crafted, DIY. Her dress and headpiece were purchased. (Dress from Mod Cloth; fascinator, I don’t know.) But guess who did her own flowers??
Groom-to-be sneaks a kiss. Aaawww…
Maid of honour, best man and groom arrive with more wedding stuff. It was cloudy and threatening rain in the morning, but by the time the wedding happened (mid-afternoon), the sun had come out. Also, whereas it had been a sticky 38C earlier in the week, it was a lovely 24 on the day. Perfect!
The processional. The maid of honour, ring bearer and flower girl have all arrived. Now it’s just my baby, all grown up and on her way to her new life. I love this picture. A short walk, but possibly the most important one of her life!
The signing of the register. There were some legal loops here, because of course Dad isn’t really licensed to perform wedding in Missouri. So they were married at the court house the day before; the ceremony was for family, friends and celebration! To make it more official-like, Dad brought his Marriage Registry from Ontario.
Guess what? The Signing of the Register is not part of weddings in Missouri. Certainly nobody here but the Canadians knew what the heck was going on. Here, the bride is saying to the bemused among the guests, “It’s a Canadian thing!”
It’s also a darned good photo op, which even the bemused quickly realized. (The bride, groom, maid of honour and best man all sign.)
The whole fan-dambly. That’s me on the left, in the flowered dress, the brother, groom and bride, sister, and my wonderful husband.
Happy Wedding, Happy Marriage!
It was a great day.
I was browsing about on Pinterest, as one does when one
has a few spare minutes nothing better to do is putting off stripping and waxing the kitchen floor. Because stripping and waxing a kitchen floor is something that can best be done at 10 p.m. OBVIOUSLY!! But it is not 10 p.m. yet. So, right now the best use of my time, the very best, is looking at pictures of Statement Walls.
Statement walls have been around forever, of course. I didn’t just discover them. Neither did you. People were doing statement walls 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago, but they called them ‘accent walls’, or ‘the rogue’s gallery’, or “our holiday souvenirs”, or “all my favourite stuff, arranged prettily”.
Still, they’re fun. Here’s a nice peaceful one for a bedroom:
Or this one for a kitchen. (Actually, though this is cool, what I really I covet are the penny-tiled countertops I’ve seen. Too bad we don’t have pennies in Canada any more! Also, for some reason I find this kitchen bleak. But the wall is interesting.)
You know how it is. You see these things, and you think, “Hey! I could do that! I could be all cool and slick and organized and design-y!” You don’t? It just makes you feel hopelessly inadequate? Oh, dear. I’m so sorry. I hope I haven’t made you feel bad. See, for me, this stuff energizes me! Thrills me to the core! Inspires vast outpourings of wannabe creative juices! Because, really! I have walls, right? And I have pictures! I could do shit like this!
I could! I just know it! And then I, too, could live in a slick, clever, designer-y home that just screams “SOPHISTICATED, INTELLIGENT, WITH-IT WOMAN LIVES HERE!” (The observation that sophisticated people do not pepper their writing with BLOCK CAPS and exclamation points!!! is well taken. I will try to rein it in, and thus up my sophistication quotient.)
Pallets are cheap. The fact that I have no idea where to get pallets, that they’re probably full of nasty preservatives and absolutely Ground Zero for splinters doesn’t ruffle my consciousness. Because that wall in that bathroom is cool!
And pennies? Pennies can be had for, well, pennies!! Well. Not no more, here in Canada. Okay. So no pennies. But oh, my happily creating little mind says, how about buttons? Buttons would be just perfect for a craft room! I bet I could make a wall of buttons in a craft room!! No, I don’t actually have a craft room, but just think what a bright, fun, playful statement a wall of buttons would make!!
You can see why Pinterest is such a
bad bad fun fun place for me!
So I start looking around my small house. Surely there’s potential somewhere. I wander through my home with an eye to a spot to Make My Statement.
I find rooms that have essentially no walls. (How does the ceiling stay up with all those doors and windows?) I find rooms that are too small, too damp (ew, is that mold in the bathroom?), too full of other stuff, walls that are hidden behind shelves and closet rails.
All I need is one wall. Just one. Should it be so difficult to find?
I wander into the dining room. There it is! My long, clear, un-doored, un-windowed, un-obstructed, potential Statement Wall. Right on the main floor! Only there’s a lot of stuff to be taken down first. Stuff. Oh, the stuff. So much stuff. Daycares, I tell you. They clutter your home, people. It’s outrageous.
I mean, just look at it:
A calendar and weather cards. An alphabet, stretching as far as the eye can see…
Number cards, art work, Hippos preparing to Go Berserk…
Red yarn for hanging art work, graphs and charts and plans for the day and week. The alphabet even sneaks round the corner and onto the next wall!
How on earth can I make any kind of statement with all that STUFF?
Could it be?
There is a certain theme here. A playful motif. A whimsical consistency. Internal integrity. I look at the clutter that is my dining room wall. I look at the stuff. ALL THAT STUFF!
And, with a sudden blinding flash of clarity and insight I realize I am looking at a Statement Wall. An inadvertent statement wall, but a Statement Wall nonetheless. I am so happy. I have succeeded without even trying. I am a Design Idiot Savant. It’s very clear. The Statement this wall is making?
“This is a Daycare, dummy.”
Pinterest would be so proud.
Liam sneezed on the floor today.
“Meh,” I hear you say. “He’s a toddler. They get colds. They don’t cover. So he sneezed on the floor.”
And you know? Normally that would be my reaction, too. I’d wipe it up with a tissue or a baby wipe and think nothing more of it. But this month? Oh my, oh my. This month…
As you know, we have two newbies here at Mary’s house. When I interviewed with the parents, I warned them, as I usually do: “When a child starts group care, whether that’s daycare at a year old, or grade 1 at six years old, they will get, on average, about one cold a month for the first year.” I think it was my aunt the chemist who gave me that figure, years ago, and it’s proven over the years to be about right. Certainly for the first six months.
It’s a nuisance, but nothing more. Since maternity leaves in Canada are a year long, you’re not looking at poor wee, 6-week-old babies with stuffed noses. These guys can manage sippy cups, they don’t suffocate in snot while trying to suck a bottle (or a breast). I certainly don’t make parents keep a child with a cold home, unless there’s a fever along with it, which would indicate something worse than a garden-variety snotfest, anyway.
But this month.
First there was a cold. Of course there was. One cold a month, no biggie. Entirely to be expected. Except … except this was The Cold that Ate Ottawa. This thing was virulent. There are 4 children in my daycare now, each with two parents, two with siblings. Every single child got this cold. Every single mother got this cold. All but two dads got this cold, and those who escaped were travelling for work at the time it swept through.
I got this cold.
I hardly ever catch anything from the tots any more. When you work 19 years with these small, adorable, cuddly little vermin-ridden petri dishes, you develop a killer immune system. If the children experienced the same symptoms I did, it went as follows: 2 or 3 days of a sniffly nose, but otherwise feeling fine. Day four: not feeling so fine. Tired. Lethargic. Energy bursts followed by absolutely none.
Day five: you think you were snuffly in day three? HA! I was blowing my nose, I am sure and without exaggeration, 4 times a minute for two days. Also: cough. Particularly bad in the evening, but pretty much a 24-hour a day thing.
Day six: add to snotzapalooza, a headache.
Day 8 – 10: lose your voice. Now, this wasn’t so bad, since there was no sore throat accompanying it. But no volume, either. Lose your voice, headaches recede, nose-blowing only once every two minutes. Oh, and that cough? Every single inhalation in the evening of day 8 makes you want to cough. Gadz. (But given the nadir of the whole thing, at about day 7, we’ll call this an improvement.)
It was a solid two weeks before I felt well again. It was almost three before I could sing again. (I sing a lot. Really a lot. I honestly hadn’t realized how much I sing in a day until those days when I’d open my mouth and have nothing but air emerge. Or a frog’s croak. Or a witch’s cackle. Or all of the above. If I ever mocked a 12-year-old boy for the crackling voice, I hereby apologize. Lord, what a damnable NUISANCE it is. And also, I couldn’t sing, dammit!)
So. There was this cold. Which I worked through, of course. I’d caught it from the kids, and they ALL had it. I didn’t need to worry about infecting them now, did I?
And then there was the bowel excitement. Two of them got that. Lots and lots of loose, watery not-really-poop-but-should-be.
THEN we got hand, foot and mouth virus. (Which is not, I reminded my husband multiple times, hoof-and-mouth disease. Different virus, but mostly? Toddlers don’t have hooves, dear, remember? It only sounds like they do, some days…) One of them got a case so mild we only realized after the fact she’d been stricken (and now we know how it got in to the daycare!), to poor little Gwen, who had a high fewer, who slept about 4 hours a night for four night, and who had the blisters everywhere, including not just her hands, feet, and inside of her mouth, but the back of her throat, so badly she was afraid to swallow water. For a week the poor child subsisted on nothing but Jumbo Freezies.
By now, I was about ready to hang out the PLAGUE sign on my door.
I upped my sanitary precautions. Now, instead of disinfecting the toys on a casual, one-category-of-toys per week schedule, I was disinfecting them ALL. Every.Single.Day.
ALL OF THE TOYS. EVERY DAY.
Think about that, for a moment.
It’s not really difficult, really, but it’s a damned nuisance. Every day. Several times a day, really, because ALL THE TOYS can’t be disinfected all at once. They are done in shifts. Eesh.
The ones that weren’t readily disinfectable, I put in bags in the back porch. I don’t know when they’ll be allowed back in. In April, after 6 months of an Ottawa deep-freeze to kill the rotten little fuc– er, bugs? (Probably. And I hope they SUFFER as they die.)
I am now wearing surgical gloves for all diaper changes, not just the poopy ones.
I have a spray bottle with 2 tablespoons bleach in a half-litre of water, with which I spritz down the table before we eat, the floor after I do a diaper change, and anything else that moves or threatens to move. (Not the children, though lord only knows they could probably use a good spritz right on their snotty wee faces.)
I am washing my hands a gajillion times a day.
So. Liam sneezes on the floor. After he’s done, I see a sparkling array of large (LARGE) droplet circles of sputum/mucous/saliva/gawdknowswhat glistening on the hardwood. I make an exclamation of disgust, drawing my son’s attention. My son, who is on his way to his studies at university. His bio-pharmacology studies.
The son starts describing “Spill Containment Protocols”, as practiced in a Level One Bio-Safety lab. (I am beginning to wonder if we’re not up to Level Two, at least, but I defer to his lab expertise, of which he has a few years.)
And you know what?
I don’t laugh. I don’t take it as teasing.
At the end of this Month of Ick?
Want to know what it is? Here. Just slip on these surgical gloves, grab this bottle of spray bleach-and-water, and take this roll of paper towels. I’l show you.
I love garlic. Pungent and nutty and rich and savoury. Mmm, mmm, mmm. I love it in salads, in stir-fries, in dressings. I love it minced, raw. Sauteed. Roasted.
In fact, roasted garlic is something I discovered relatively recently. A pizza recipe I discovered has you roasting some cloves, then mashing them with a bit of Dijon mustard, and smearing the resultant paste on the naked dough, before adding the sauce and fixings. Oh, my! Yummy.
So when I came across not one, but two recipes for roasted garlic soup? Well, now! A garlic-loving, happy-in-the-kitchen woman just has to try them both! We had one batch last week, from a favourite website of mine, and we tried the second this week.
I like ‘em both. The second one is a sweet and creamy-rich vegetable soup with lovely earthy underpinning of garlic. The first is primarily garlic, rich and creamy. So, what will I do?
Combine, of course! The next time I make this — I tell you, vampires will stay miles away from our home for the next whatever — I will use Alanna’s recipe as my base. Because, really? Four heads are better than two!! I loved the sweetness that the carrots provided, though, so I’m going to toss a couple in as well. I’m not sure if I’ll double the onions, as per the second recipe, though obviously they added sweetness as well. That’ll be for next week’s batch!!
Heehee. I love cooking.
And for the curious? Did the tots eat these soups? They did indeed! Some liked it and went for seconds, some merely tasted it, but they all ingested some. And next time it appears, some of the former dubious will be a little more enthusiastic. We draw them into adult eating in baby steps, but they get there!