Exhibit A: Dog. Mellow dog with light.
The light is a flattened sphere of plastic, inside of which is an LED bulb that cycles through a few colours when it’s turned on. It is not habitually turned on while in the house. This is for evening and pre-dawn walks, when it’s useful to be able to find one’s dog in a good-sized off-leash dog park.
Question: Why is Indie’s light on? Clearly she can’t manage it. It’s so stiff I have to use both hands and press like crazy with two thumbs to turn it on. This is simply not happening by accident. An idle knock into a piece of furniture would not do it. Even if she rolled on it, or scratched it, that thing wouldn’t turn on.
Exhibit B: Two dogs. Mellow dogs, on bench. Mellow, un-lit dogs.
and a closer look…
Chomp. Click. We have RED.
And blue. Mystery solved.
Well, all except for the “why is my small dog so weird?“, which will likely remain unsolved.
I’ve had a few dramatic spikes in traffic lately about which WordPress’s stats page is telling me absolutely nothing… well, apart from the fact that they exist. Pfft. I suddenly get 200+ hits in an hour, I want to know where they’re originating!
Those of you who use trackers: which do you like? What’s good (and bad) about them?
A week and a bit ago, I resolved to take the children out every day. And I have! 100% success. Even on Monday when those “winds out of the north, with gusts to 60 km/hr” just about knocked poor Rory and Grace off their wee feet.
Really. We were walking north — right into the wind, ugh — and a gust came along that made them stagger back a pace or two. I think if they hadn’t been holding on to the stroller, they might have been blown right onto their little backsides. Of course, I’ll admit that had I realized the part about the “gusts to 60 km/h”, I would have skipped the walk.
But so far, 100%!!
And yes, it’s improving my mood. In part because fresh air and sunshine raises your spirits, as does exercise, but also the strictly pragmatic consideration that an outing makes the day go faster. There are all sorts of ways getting outside is a good idea.
Today? We will not be going out today. Currently, it’s -1C out there. It is raining. Quite heavily. The rain is COLD. In fact, it’s not exactly rain. It’s not exactly ice-rain, either. Something in between. Maybe icy slush? Falling from the sky? Yes, that’s it. Largish plops of icy slush, smacking into your face ten times a minute. Like being smacked with icy-cold, soggy wet elastic bands, all around your face (and hands, if you were so foolish as to not be wearing mittens). Absolutely standard March weather, of course, but, ugh.
I know all this because I’ve just been out in it, from 6:30 – 7:15, walking my dogs. Because I am a conscientious and self-sacrificing dog owner. And maybe a bit besotted with the hairy stinkers. They loved it. They love anything. Because, for a dog, every day is a good day!!!! (You want a laugh? Follow that link.)
Thus, I know from personal experience, it is sufficiently rotten out there that I can declare today an indoor day without any worries about being a slacker, or weaselling out of a commitment.
So today? Today, in keeping with a different resolution on that same list, we will do crafts. I’m thinking some of these would be just the thing for this craptastic weather day! Aren’t they cute and bright and pretty?
I hauled out my primary paints and mixed up the requisite colours. Isn’t that cute? (Okay, so there’s no indigo in there. CLOSE ENOUGH.)
Of course, there’s no way that Daniel or Poppy can paint in straight lines, and it’s dubious whether any of the others can paint between the lines… Still. It’ll be bright and pretty and fun in here!
Pretty much the exact opposite of what it is outside.
This is from the Moosewood Cookbook, where it is called “North Indian Stuffed Eggplant”. I’ve had the cookbook for years, it no longer has a cover, and have no idea which Moosewood Cookbook it was, except that it was in easel format when I bought it. I don’t think it was any of these… (Hey, and look! Cornell has the definitive Moosewood collection. Heh.)
2 medium eggplants
4 cups cubed potatoes
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 t ground cumin
1 T ground coriander
1 t turmeric
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 T minced fresh ginger root
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 cup green peas or corn niblets
2 T lemon juice
sesame seeds (optional)
Leaving stems on, slice eggplants in half lengthwise. Place cut side down on baking sheet, and bake at 375F till tender (~30 – 45 minutes).
Meantime, boil potatoes till tender, drain. In large bowl, mash potatoes with cream cheese.
While potatoes are cooking, sauté onions and dried spices for 1 minutes, then add ginger and garlic and continue to cook till onions are translucent. Add carrots, cook 5 minutes. Add peppers and peas/corn, cook only till hot through. Stir in lemon juice.
Add vegetable mixture to potato mixture.
When eggplants are done, remove from over (but leave oven on — the eggplants will be going back in there in a few minutes!) Gently turn the halves over and mash the pulp, being careful not to break the skin. Push some of the pulp aside to make a hollow. Mound a quarter of the filling in each eggplant half. Garnish with sesame seeds, if you like, then cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 – 20 minutes.
Monday: Vegetable stew with carrot biscuits
Tuesday: Potato-stuffed eggplant
Wednesday: Veggie-stuffed burritos
Thursday: Cuban Rice and Beans
Friday: Stuffed cabbage, apricot pilaf
What do you call that circular toy, a round piece of rigid plastic tubing that you set to spinning around your hips and try to keep up there by just the right timing of hip-swaying?
Yes, that’s what I’d call it, too.
mangles pronounces it slightly differently. She spots the kid-sized one in the back porch as I go out there to retrieve some spring toys so that we may play outside in the (freakishly) warm weather. (Twenty-seven degrees! In MARCH! For five days now! Though the record-breaking hot spell is broken now: today’s high is 17, and for the rest of the week we’re back to more seasonal 0 – 10C temps. But has it been WONDERFUL? Aaaaahhhh…)
Jazz spots the thing in the back porch as I’m lifting the back of buckets and shovels, sifters and tractors.
“Oh! A hoo-er hoop! Mary, there is a hoo-er hoop!”
Snort. I’ve heard lots of weird mispronunciations in my time, but they usually make intuitive sense. I had a (much younger) cousin who used that exact same pronunciation for “squirrel”. Made for entertaining streetcar rides through Toronto, I’ll tell you, and excited two-year-old bouncing on the seat beside me and pointing out the window. “Look, Mary, look! A whore!!!”
You get quick in those situations. Before everyone on the car can be horrified that ‘my’ two-year-old not only knows the word, but can use it properly, I would leap in and ostentatiously point past the young woman on the sidewalk to the tree behind her head. “Yes, Jeremy. There is a squirrel. Squir-rel.”
“Hooo-er.” Yeah. See, all you people on the streetcar, he really is talking about the rodent! But ‘squirrel’ to ‘hoo-er’ isn’t so much of a stretch. Those initial esses are hard to pronounce, and so are ells and ‘qu’s. And there is an ‘r’ in there. Somewhere. So it’s weird, but you can see it. Sorta. But ‘hoo-er’ from ‘hula’??
Nope. How she gets ‘er’ from ‘la’ is beyond me. However, I don’t really want her bellowing that across the playground. Let’s send some other children home with a shiny new word which will sound much, much worse at home than if their earnest mommies had the visual to explain the joke.
“That’s hula, sweetie. Hooo – lllla.”
Her blue eyes fix on mine earnestly, little pink lips form the word carefully, carefully.
“Try this, lovie. La, la, la.”
“La, la, la.”
So far, so good. “Hoo, hoo, hoo.”
“Hoo, hoo, hoo.”
Okay, it’s clear she’s just not capable. She’s really trying, but it’s just not going to come out right. Goodness only knows how her mind/lips/tongue turn a ‘la’ into an ‘er’, but that’s what they do, and there’s no changing it today. But, just for the entertainment:
“Hula, hula, hula!”
“Whore, whore, whooore!”
We don’t take the hoop to the park.
I had to share this with you. Little Rory, whose dad is a very sweet and charming and totally geeky genius. (Really. The man is smart beyond smart.) Little Rory, who is destined for genius geekiness himself, I’m sure. May as well start them young!
I consider myself a happy person. I’m an optimist. My glass is half-full, I’m more likely to laugh when something startles me than scowl. I’m a quiet person, mind you. You’re not going to hear me roaring exuberantly around, tossing belly laughs hither and yon. I’m not jolly. But I am, quietly, happy.
Happiness is an interesting subject. Moreover, happiness does ebb and flow. Mine ebbs in the winter. I’m quite sure that, like many of us in the sun-starved northern latitudes, I suffer mildly from the fading of the light. Do I have full-blown SAD? No. But I do use a therapy light every morning, and it does help.
February and March are my lowest-energy months. Everything’s a little harder in March. I don’t feel sad. My life is absolutely worth living. I take pleasure in things each day. But I’m weary. Weary and very impatient for spring, for the end of snow, slush, grit, snow boots, snow pants, snow suits, hats, scarves, mittens, neckwarmers, and scarves, longing for the beginning of warmth, for the return of sunshine and long daylight hours.
Weary and impatient people do not make good caregivers. Now, I don’t take my weariness out on the children, I’m not snapping at them six times an hour, I’m not … but that takes restraint these days, restraint which takes effort, and only adds to my weariness.
I’m not getting a whole lot of fun out of my job these days. That’s not the kids’ fault. It’s all me. I know that.
One of the things that lifts my spirits is to read self-help books. They’re just so full of cheery potential! Even if I never adopt a single one of a book’s suggestions, I just love the potential in each of these books. Recently I bought myself a copy of “The Happiness Project“, the recounting of the author, Gretchen Rubin’s year-long account of her quest to increase her own level of happiness. There I found the idea of coming up with Happiness Resolutions.
Oh, now this resonated with me. I am a total list-and-chart girl. I’ve made charts to organize my thoughts, make decisions, plan projects, and pack for holidays all my life. A chart for resolutions is TOTALLY my thing. I make lists these days because I have no memory. None. Lists for memory, charts for organization. Love it. I can do this! I am excited to do this!!!
Rubin asks four questions to help you determine what your happiness objectives could be. It was her thirds question, “Is there any way in which you don’t feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change jobs, cities, family situation, or other circumstances? Are you living up to your expectations for yourself? Does your life reflect your values?” that really hit home for me.
The middle question about changing things, that didn’t resonate. I like my home, I like my job, I like my family situation. But… “Am I living up to my expectations? Does my life reflect my values?” The best I could say was, “Well. Kinda-sorta.”
Not at home. I’m doing fine with husband and children. I’m doing fine with friends. I am treating myself well, too.
But at work?
There, I was undoubtedly falling short of the mark. Short of my own standards. You all know me well enough to know that I don’t encourage people to have unrealistic standards and goals. I think it’s good mothering to be a bit of a slacker, to indulge in a little benign neglect. I don’t hold myself (or anyone else) to an impossible parenting standard.
Here’s the hard truth: My standards are reasonable, and I am not meeting them.
Oof. It’s hard to look at yourself that clearly.
The children are being lovingly cared for. They are not at risk, they are not being neglected. But I know I am doing the bare minimum these days. I know I am not doing my best. I know it.
So I made for myself a list of seven Work Resolutions. Do I believe these will increase my personal happiness? Yes. If I am performing to my own standard of professionalism, I will be happier. Moreover, if I’m happier myself, I will be better with the children. It’s a virtuous circle.
My professional resolutions are:
1. Get outdoors every day. If someone needs a morning nap, the rest of us can play in the back yard. If it’s raining, my stroller has a rain shield. It’s just not that cold any more. There is no excuse but inertia, and I know that if I get out, I feel happier. Pretty much instantaneously. So. Go outside? Why wouldn’t I? (See? I can do something that is really totally about me, and it’s also good for the children! Again: why wouldn’t I? I think “why wouldn’t I?” will be my mantra for overcoming winter-induced inertia. Why wouldn’t I?)
2. Fifteen minutes of story-time before naps every day. They like hearing them, I like reading. It segues them neatly to naptime. It’s good for their language development. Why wouldn’t I?
3. Crafts, twice a week. I like doing crafts. Most of the children enjoy them, and all the parents do. It’s a way to engage with the children, foster fine motor control, make something pretty. Why wouldn’t I?
4. Sing for 15 minutes after nap/before snow suits every day. I love singing. They love singing. WHY WOULDN’T I???
5. Avoid ‘no’. I am not afraid to give the children a clear and unapologetic ‘no’ as required. But too often, caregivers (and parents!) fall into the knee-jerk no trap. There is no good reason to say no … but we do, anyway. Why? I picked up a terrific quote by Samuel Johnson (via Gretchen Rubin): “All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.” There is a time and place for firmness, even for severity. But it should never be unthinking or habitual.
6. Keep a smile on my face, and in my voice. I’ve said it before, and Ms. Rubin cites the studies too: We often feel the way we act. We tend to think it’s the reverse, that we act the way we feel, but in fact, if we act a certain way, the feelings will follow. So. Smile. And keep that smile not just on my face, but in my voice. I can say the same thing in forbidding or stern tones, or I can say it with a smile. Why wouldn’t I smile?
7. Hug each of the children once an hour. I’ve heard it said we need four hugs a day for survival. I work with little people who would, if I let them, hug me four times a minute. Why wouldn’t I? (Well, because I’d never get anything else done, and could quite feasibly end up peeing on the living room floor. But once an hour, each, seems entirely doable. Which could give me, over the course of my workday, an average of 42 hugs per day. I think I’d be meeting the quota for survival…) In truth, it sounds entirely delightful! Why wouldn’t I?
I’ve made myself a chart. Because I’m starting mid-month, it goes through the end of April. Each day I’ll evaluate how I did on each of the seven items, and will award myself with either a check (yes! did it!) or an ‘x’, (missed the mark today). Since lists and charts are motivating for me, I know that I’ll be striving for a column of check marks in every category. I know it.
Inertia is a killer. It sucks a lot of the joy from living. As I composed this list and thought about it, my response of “why wouldn’t I?” got more and more insistent, until it now seems to me that to not do any of these things is sheerest perversity.
So yes, winter robs me of energy … but each of these things is so easy, and will bring me happiness, while at the same time improve my work environment, give me job satisfaction and make the kids happier (and thus easier to be around).
Why wouldn’t I?
Why wouldn’t I?
How about you? Anyone care to join me? What would your list be? I’ve had a week or two to think about my list. You want to prepare a list to start April first, and join me? My list is about my job. Your list may be about something different.
Who doesn’t want to be happier? Why wouldn’t you?
I had a tooth out a week ago. I knew it had the potential to be a bit ugly. There were two abscesses under there, part of it had broken off, the root was dead. It was a mess.
Now (and call me crazy, but I don’t think this will come as a surprise) I’m not a fan of dental work. What I am — or have been, to date — is stoic. I don’t like it, but it’s got to be done. So I plonk my butt down in the chair and let them do their thing. I find my focal point, do my Lamaze breathing, and relax as best as I can. I am not a no-anaesthesia lunatic, either. I happily take what they give me. And yet, at some point during every single piece of dental work I’ve ever had done, the doctor will hit that magical spot and KA-ZINGA!!! Pain, pain, pain.
Let me be clear: I am not a pain weenie. In fact, I think I have a fairly high pain threshold. I take pain-killers rarely and reluctantly. I had three babies, no drugs. When I had my wisdom teeth out (my one completely pain-free dental procedure, during which I had some lovely, lovely intravenous meds, including Valium) I took precisely one Tylenol 3 after the surgery, and then regular Tylenols for a couple of days. After that, I didn’t need ‘em. So, yup. I can cope with pain.
But the pain of dental work. It doesn’t rise and fall like labour pain. There is no wave to ride, no pattern to anticipate. With dental work, when you’re supposedly anaesthetized, you feel nothing, nothing, nothi–WHAM!!! How do you ride that? When you’re blindsided? When you go from zero to a hundred in a millisecond? You don’t.
And still I was stoic. My eyes would widen, I’d clutch the arms of the chair. How I managed never to bite a dentist, I do not know. The dentist would pause and look at me.
And we would proceed, me waiting in fear for the next KA-ZINGA moment, and praying that the dentist would be done before it happened. So, stoic.
Not this time. No more stoic. Instead, I went for brutal honesty. I sat down with her before it started. I explained how I’d never had pain-free dental work. I explained that you can’t cope with pain that comes out of nowhere. I explained that I was
And she listened. Kindly and supportively. And then she drugged me to the eyeballs. And she topped me up whenever she saw a hint of a flinch.
I. felt. NOTHING.
It was a long and rather gruelling procedure. But it was pain free. I love my dentist.
Long, gruelling, and arduous. But pain free. So yeah, it took TWO HOURS to get that stupid thing to let go of my jaw, but let go it eventually did. Two hours of stretching the bone. (Yeah. You read that right. Stretching. Who knew bone could stretch?) Two hours of wriggling it gradually free.
Two hours of listening to my stream-of-consciousness dentist talk herself through the procedure. Mostly I don’t mind her talk. It’s informative. It tells me what’s happening. I don’t mind hearing. (Her voice-over, that is. Not the drill. Ugh.) I like hearing. What I don’t want, is to see. During dental work, I keep my eyes closed, or focussed on something waaaaay up on the ceiling. I have no interest whatsoever in seeing any of her shiny implements heading into my face.
Mostly I don’t mind her talk, because it gives me some sense of the passage of time, some sense of progress.
“There’s nothing attached but the wall. Nothing at all.”
“The broken piece is so loose. So loose! It should come out pretty quickly… yes, yes. There we go.”
“Now for that wall. I’ll need the [dental terminology for shiny gripper thingy I refuse to look at]. Thank you.”
“I’ve just about got the front cusp out. It’s coming, coming…” (Yes, she did have to slice it up into bits to get it out. That’s okay. I had enough freezing in me she could probably have snipped off an ear and I’d not have noticed.)
“It’s starting to move. There. I can feel it giving just a bit.”
“A little more stretching. Little more, little more.”
But, as she worked, and worked, and worked away, I started to hear things I’d just as soon not.
“Oh, that’s not good. Oh, not good, not good.” [Followed by worried little tsk-tsk noises.] You know what? I didn’t need to hear that. “Not good?” How not good, exactly? How bad is “not good”? Are we talking, “I need the next size gripper-thingy” not good, or do we mean “I think we’re going to have to remove her jaw to get this one out” not good? Do I need to hear some horrifyingly non-specific NOT GOOD from the woman working on the gaping wound inside my head? No, I do not.
“That tooth is so brittle. I don’t want it to break off before we get it out.”
“So stubborn! It doesn’t want to let go.”
“Oh. Not good. Not good, not good.”
“We’ll try a little more. I don’t want to have to cut into the jaw.” (That may not be her exact words, but was she beginning to mutter about maybe having to hack that tooth right out of my jawbone? YES SHE WAS.)
My dentist, however, is a veeeery patient and persistent woman. For lo, after two hours of stretching, and pulling, and stretching and pulling … it came out. Seconds before it released, there was an ominous “crack”, but the tip of that final, so-stubborn root which had indeed just snapped right off was sucked out with the rest of the tooth. No need for her to go digging down into the wound to fish it out. (May I hear a rousing HALLELUJAH, LORD! ???)
So yeah. Long, gruelling, arduous. But pain free. And once it was over, I figured that was the worst of it. [Cue sinister music. Or bitter laughter. Whichever.]
When the anaesthesia wore off, I was grateful for the Tylenol 3s my wonderful husband picked up from the drug store on his way home. The next day, I moved to over-the-counter extra-strength Tylenol. And the next day. And the next. And the next. I couldn’t eat. Chewing made the pain much worse. Days and days of nothing but soup, yogurt and mashed bananas may be great for the waistline, but they’re boring. And I was hungry. Hungry but afraid to eat.
How long was it going to keep hurting, anyway?
Early Friday afternoon, I called her office to ask, only to get a machine telling me they were closed for the weekend. I hung up before the recording ended.
After a weekend spent chomping Tylenol, I went back in on Monday.
“Why is it still hurting? Is that normal?”
Well, it can be, I was told, but why didn’t she just have a look?
Yes, why don’t you do that little thing?
And she looked.
“You have a dry socket”. Dry socket? Really? I thought those things were excruciating. I wasn’t comfortable, that’s for damned sure, but excruciating? No. And while I think my pain tolerance is decent, it’s not that good. Apparently, no, it’s not always excruciating. Can be, but not always.
Gee. Guess I was lucky…
“Why didn’t you call my cell phone?” she asked. “My cell phone number is on the recording on the weekends.” Oops. Guess I shouldn’t have hung up on the recording, huh?
She rinsed it, disinfected it, and packed it with ‘fibres’. “It should stop hurting within 48 hours,” she told me. I smiled, and stood up, paid up, headed across the street to the bank and other errands. My tooth? Or rather, Empty Socket formerly Known as Tooth?
It stopped hurting
And the sun came out, and the birds started singing, and Mary skipped off to the bank in a state of complete and utter euphoria.
That was 36 hours ago. I have not had any pain since. I’ve started to eat again, carefully. (Now I’m afraid of dislodging that packing. That packing is My Friend.)
And tomorrow? I am going to send some flowers to my dentist.