It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Love is lovelier

…the second time around. It really is.

And the honeymoon is…different.

Because, hey, all jokes to the contrary, the honeymoon is not all about the hotel room. Cetainly not when you’ve been living together almost ten years already. A little of the wonder of a three-day romp has worn off. Not that it isn’t fun and all, but we can do that any time. Okay, so with kids barging around the house it’s often more a three-minute romp, but a romp is a romp, and we’ve had years of romping already. (And, lord willing, ahead…)

So. Sex we can do any day. Unlike all the other exciting things we did.

Like daily phone calls home to Emma, who was staying home alone for the three and a half days. Well, technically? Technically her brother (he’s 18) was home too, but what with the night shift and the computer, the boy’s essentially invisible these days.

Like chatting with the contractor. Who was fixing my leaky front porch. Which was leaking because of wet rot (on my side), and dry rot (on my neighbour’s side), a poorly-applied flashing (my side), and CARPENTER ANTS!!! EVERYWHERE!!!

And chatting with Emma. “Mom? Mom, do we have any Raid? And where is it? Because they’ve discovered a nest of ants, and they’re EVERYWHERE!!!”

… chatting with my neighbour (Hiya, Frank!). “And then they hit the main nest. They were EVERYWHERE!!! BILLIONS of them up there. I’ll be having nightmares about that for a week.”

To which I could only offer my heartfelt sympathy and the consolation that thank GOD our house is brick, and we don’t need to worry about the whole thing coming down around us. And the further consolation that thank GOD I wasn’t there to see it. Which Frank didn’t find all that comforting…

…Or, upon finding out that the quaint horse-drawn carriages they had everywhere in the city cost EiGHTY DOLLARS for half-an-hour, deciding all the Romance in the World wasn’t worth eighty dollars for half-an-hour.

…speaking French. For which I needed Emma, but had only myself and M. Gosselin’s long, long, long-ago French classes. Fractured grammar, limited vocabulary, and no recollection of gender whatsoever (none of these being M. G’s fault) meant that lots of creativity was required.

“Excuse-moi. Cette mot: ‘framboiserie’? C’est-ce que ces?” She taps the menu and gazes enquiringly at the slim, dark waiter. (They were all slim and dark. You don’t get to be a waiter in Old Quebec if you’re not slim and dark. Or maybe they just don’t make fat blond Frenchmen.)

“Framboiserie? It mean…raspberries.”

“Je sais. Framboise est ‘raspberry’, oui, mais, ‘framboiserie‘?” She stretches out the adjectival-sort-of-bit at the end of the word with huge question mark in her voice.

“It mean… raspberry.”

Okay. We’re stuck. “You say Po-TAH-to, I say po-TAY-to.” Framboise is raspberry. I knew that. But ‘framboiserie’ suggests “raspberry-ish”, or something. Try as we might, we can’t narrow the gap. “Bah. Je n’ai pas les mots. Je prends le gateau du fromage, s’il vous plait.”* So. I had the gateau du fromage. Sans les framboises. It was delish.

(In fact, given the huge population of tourists, virtually every person we came in contact with spoke much better English than I do French. To my chagrin. This exchange was a rare exception to that rule.)

… you take time out on a second honeymoon. You get pooped out with all the strolling and touristing and the hotel-rooming? (I didn’t say we didn’t do any of that – just that it’s not the whole point and sole activity.) Not a problem! You sit on a park bench and pull out the books which you had with you. (OF COURSE you did. Because it’s your SECOND honeymoon.) And you have a companionable and restful half-hour, reading, idly exchanging tidbits from your books or commenting on the scenery at intervals. Lovely.

… and while sitting on the bench, you realize, with an uprush of love and gratitude, just how much you love how thick his hair is, and the grey at the temples, and way his eyes crinkle at the corner when he smiles, and how well, how perfectly well, you fit together – physically, emotionally, conversationally.

… you appreciate the break more. No kids! No jobs! No routine! No pets! No leaky porches! NO CARPENTER ANTS!!!

… you experience the wonder of spending every penny you have (well, that you have with you because you budgetted for it) ON YOURSELF. On nothing but what YOU want. Not the kids. Not back-to-school. Not “my toes hurt in these shoes so you can’t have that blouse, mom.” Just ME, ME, ME. Wow. (Except for the gifts for the kids. Of course. But I’m a MOM. Buying stuff for my kids brings me pleasure, so it’s almost like buying stuff for myself, right? And because I can’t stop myself. It’s what mothers do.)

… you can laugh at yourselves because even in a strange city hours from home, you manage to find yourself at a Second Cup having a chiller at the same time you do every Saturday. Even though it wasn’t a Saturday. Because that’s what you DO on your days off together.

… you take huge satisfaction, complete with little bubble-ups of utter joy, in just being together. No matter where. Just the two of you, happy because the other one is there. And, with a first marriage each, the experience of friendships that have come (and gone), and almost a decade of cohabitation behind you, you do NOT take that for granted.

At all.

It is lovelier.

*Bah. I don’t have the words. I’ll have the cheesecake, please.
** Without raspberries.

August 31, 2007 Posted by | Canada, holidays, my kids | 8 Comments

Excessive? Who’s excessive?

I was invited to guest blog over at Nataly’s blog on Tuesday. I was supposed to post a link then, too, but was rather otherwise occupied — and I forgot! Oops.

So, today, two days late, here’s your link to “Are you An Excessive Mom?”

They said they wanted ‘edgy’. I don’t know if I’ve achieved it – I don’t often ‘do’ edgy… You tell me!

August 30, 2007 Posted by | controversy, daycare, parents, the dark side | 2 Comments

Watch Out!

Free Online Dating


August 30, 2007 Posted by | memes and quizzes, Mischief, random and odd | 11 Comments

Healthy Insanity…

keeps you sane.

1. At lunch time, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on and point a hair dryer at passing cars. See if they slow down.

2. Page yourself over the intercom. Don’t disguise your voice.

3. Put your garbage can on your desk and label it “In”.

5. Put decaf in the coffee maker for 3 weeks. Once everyone has gotten over their caffeine addictions, switch to espresso.

6. In the memo field of all your checks, write “For Smuggling Diamonds”.

7. As often as possible, skip rather than walk.

8. Specify that your drive-through order is “to go”.

9. When the money comes out of the ATM, scream “I Won! I Won!”

10. When leaving the zoo, start running towards the parking lot yelling, “Run for your lives! They’re loose!”

11. Tell your children over dinner, “Due to the economy, we are going to have to let one of you go.”

12. And The Final Way To Keep A Healthy Level Of Insanity …

Come up with a few of these on your own. We’ll call it therapy!

August 28, 2007 Posted by | memes and quizzes | 11 Comments

Teens and Money

I’ve written a short piece on the subject over here. Check it out!

August 26, 2007 Posted by | my kids, parenting | Leave a comment

Baby Buoy

My son is now eighteen. He towers over me, his voice is deep, he needs to shave (least a couple of times a week). He has a job, he has a girlfriend. In short, he looks like a man. At eighteen, he thinks of himself as an adult, of course, and the laws of the land support him in that delusion. At 18, he has a ways to go just yet, really. But he’s on his way!

However, there was a time…

Cast your minds back with me. Back, back, back… Back to, oh, 1991 or ’92. Adam was just a baby. (So were some of you, I know. Which is why you come to me for Words of Wisdom.)

The four of us – me, the kids’ dad, Haley and Adam – we on holiday. We were in North Carolina, as it happens, on the beach. Frolicking in the waves.

It was early October. There were a smattering of people on the beach, most of them locals, in sweaters and jeans, looking askance at the lunatics in the water. We in the water dismissed them. “Pfft. Wusses. The water’s fine, once you get used to it!” (Which is what ALL Canadians say about water. We can’t help ourselves.) And then – hey! Didn’t another family – and then another – join us in the waves. HA. Think we’re nuts? We’re just trend-setters.

Course, when we got chatting, it turned out, that out there, frolicking in the “we’re used to it now” water? We were all Canadians.

Haley, who was about kindergarten age, was splashing around a few feet away. Her dad was in a chair, reading, further up the beach. I sat in the shallows, with baby Adam on my lap, laughing as the waves lapped over our toes. Then our ankles. Then our knees. Okay, so the tide was coming in, but slowly.

And wee Adam was having Such Fun!! He’d smack the waves as they broke over his pudgy knees, squealing in delight when the drops sprayed his face. Fun, fun, fun.

And then, our of nowhere, a HUGE wave rolled in and RIGHT OVER us. Right over.

It knocked me over backward, and lifted me up off the sand. All it would have taken, of course, was for me to have put down an arm, rolled over, and stood up. It wasn’t really that huge. The water wouldn’t have been much over my knees. Haley only giggled and ran, racing the wave to the sand – and won.

But I couldn’t DO that. I had my BABY on my lap. MY BABY!! The unthinking, irrational Mama Bear instinct kicked in, instantaneously. There was NO WAY ON EARTH I was going to – could possibly manage to – LET GO OF MY BABY.

No. I grabbed him by the waist and thrust him UP, out of the water, so he could breathe. Could I breathe? No, I could not. But that was NOT THE POINT.

MY BABY! was the point.

It must have looked weird from the beach: a baby, protruding from the waves, his fat little tummy facing the sky, held up by two rigid arms. And nothing else but ocean.

Then the wave receded, my butt hit the ground again, and I could sit up. And – gasp! – breathe. The whole thing lasted probably 5 seconds. Adam thought it was the greatest game yet.

I love my Inner Mama Bear.

Have you met yours yet? Do tell!

August 24, 2007 Posted by | holidays, my kids, parenting | 10 Comments

This and that

1. I’ve been writing again. If you want to pop over and see (it’s only 400 words long!), you can find it here. You can even leave a comment over there, if the subject interests you! Oh, and give me some stars. (And, surprise! It’s not about sex. For once.)

2. The following is an IM chat between Emma and a friend. (No, I wasn’t reading over her shoulder. She told me about it. Which is why the spelling, punctuation, and grammar are sound…)

Zach: What’re you doing?
Emma: Painting!
Zack: What?
Emma: The dining room.
Zach: How much are you getting paid?
Emma: I’m not.
Zach: Oh, is it one of those “Family Responsibility” things?
Zach: Wow…

(It gives me great satisfaction to know that my daughter’s friends also come from families who expect teen participation, not for money, not for bribes, but because it’s part of being in a family. YOU GO, Zach’s parents!!)

3. Darcy came to the door yesterday with his dad, because he wanted to visit Mary, and then was completely tongue-tied with delight, and barely managed to squeeze out a quiet word or two. But his smile? Delectable. The boy is beyond sweet.

4. I had to open a new tin of paint on the very last wall, and an hour later, there was a VERY visible line – across the top third of one wall. UGH. SO, the ‘very last wall’ became the SECOND LAST wall, because the whole damned thing had to have another coat put on. And if this means that I will have to give the WHOLE DAMNED ROOM another coat, I will be seriously pissed off annoyed.

5. I am thrilled and delighted, however, that in another hour I will be able to move the china cabinet and the piano back to their proper places, and move the HUGE MOUND OF STUFF that is currently filling my dining table, cluttering the room, and oppressing me no end – back into the cabinet. The thought of having the dining room Back To Normal is very motivating…

6. I am also thrilled and delighted that tomorrow my eldest is coming to visit for three days. I miss her! AND, she’s all excited about the painting, so maybe she can help with the living room!!!! If I don’t have it done by 4:30 tomorrow afternoon, when her bus comes in.

7. I will reward myself for all my hard work later this afternoon, when I go downtown to meet my sweetie and we will have a chiller. Mmmmmm….

August 22, 2007 Posted by | Darcy, holidays, my kids, parenting | 8 Comments

What I did on my HOLIDAY


Oh, my LORD, I am productive this week! You would be amazed, astounded, and just generally impressed right out of your SOCKS if you were here to see it. And it’s only TUESDAY. Who knows what I can accomplish in TWO WHOLE WEEKS?

If I don’t kill myself first.

Don’t worry. I will indeed be taking a break. There is ‘vacation’ in my holiday time, never fear. You’ll hear more about that next week.

But this week? Emma and I have primed the hand-printed stairwell. Twice. (Emma volunteered. I didn’t even have to ask. Yes, she IS fourteen. Isn’t she the most amazing teenager in the world? And we CHAT, and LAUGH, and just generally HAVE FUN while we WORK TOGETHER. I just love this child!) We have primed the dining room wall – the mural is gone. That took three coats. The whole rest of the dining room is primed. Which involved emptying the ENORMOUS china cabinet and moving it away from the wall, where it’s sat for three years.

Dustballs really DO breed. And they turn nasty in their old age. But we killed them anyway. HA.

And this afternoon, after I meet a girlfriend for coffee (see? see? Relaxation and social time!!), I will prevail upon her (and her CAR) to accompany me to the hardware store for ONE MORE can of primer, and – this is where it gets REALLY exciting – THREE CANS OF PAINT!! Two of a creamy yellow for front hall and dining room; one of misty green for living room.

And next week, the PORCH GUY comes. (I hope, I hope, I hope.) And the week after the sofa cleaning guys come. It’s just so exciting.

I tell ya. The fun never stops. You won’t RECOGNIZE this place when we’re through with it.

And now? Now I’m going into the basement to DECLUTTER!! While Emma primes another wall!!

August 21, 2007 Posted by | holidays, my kids | 5 Comments

Mind out of the Gutter, people!

I’m on holiday this week. YAY. The front hall, stairwell, and upper landing, as well as one wall in the dining room are primed – 2 coats – and ready for painting. Next, the rest of the dining room and the living room. In the meantime, for your entertainment, I thought I’d share with you something I received from my SIL. (Hey there, Arlene!!)

A little boy brought this picture home from kindergarten.
Of course.

What else could it possibly be?
(I love the joke. The artwork and handwriting certainly look authentic. Buuuttt…. He does spell suspiciously well for a mere 5-year-old…)


August 20, 2007 Posted by | crafts, Mischief, random and odd | 11 Comments

Anatomy of a Successful Party

Here you see George helping Mary make sangria. When it was all done, George informs me:
“My mummy and daddy don’t drink alcohol.”

I am surprised. “They don’t?” And I’m thinking back through previous parties, trying to recall whether they’d imbibed. I thought they had…

“No, they don’t.” But the boy is bright, and very calmly, 110% convinced, and his parents are NOT the type to hide it if they did. So. Maybe they don’t.

“What about when you go to Patty’s?” (The neighbourhood pub, where they frequently have dinner.) “Doesn’t daddy have a pint?”

“No, he has a Creemore.”

“Creemore is alcohol, love.”

He looks at me. Shame I’m so stupid, really. “No it’s not. It’s beer.”

“Beer is alcohol, George.”

He takes this well. “Oh. Then my mummy and daddy drink alcohol, because they both drink a lot of beer.”

Bwah-ha. I can hardly wait to tell his (moderate, cautious, very quiet) mother this one!


I scampered through the post-lunch tidy-up; I raced out during naps to buy fruit for the sangria (Emma was home; I have parental permission to do this); I tidied like a madwoman; I showered, changed, made dip for the veggie platter, cut up vegetables and arranged them artistically (on a plug-UGLY orange tray – who GAVE us that thing???), and, as per the above, made sangria with George. By the time the children had woken from their naps, I was ready to put on make-up.

Yes. At three-thirty in the afternoon. You think I bother with make-up routinely? When my daytime audience is all under three feet tall?

But all five tots are all awake, and I want to put on make-up before the parents arrive. It is possible! I have all the basics – eye-liner, mascara, lip-liner, lipstick, and eye shadow – in my purse. WITH a mirror. I don’t need to vanish into the bathroom, I can do it right here in the living room, if I can keep the kids busy. While not looking at them. Or touching them. Hmmm…

Mary is a Multi-Tasker Extraordinaire. We shall play a game of Sleeping Bunnies! Because you can SING and APPLY EYE-LINER at the SAME TIME. Yes, you can. You should try it some time.

“Sleeping bunnies, ’till it’s nearly noon.” The children lie on the floor, faces hidden in their arms. I line my left eye.
“Come let us wake them with a merry tune.” Right eye.
“Oh. So. Still.” Pause. The tots twitch in anticipation. I spread out that line while I put the liner away, whip out the mascara. Right upper lashes.
“Are they i-i-i-i-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-lll?” Right lower lashes.
Drop wand into my lap and clap.
“WAKE UP, LITTLE BUNNIES!!! Hop, little bunnies, hop, hop, hop! (x2) Hop, little bunnies, hop little bunnies, Hop…and…. STOP.”

And they all lie down again. It takes a couple more verses to get both eyes done, and then I haul out the lip stuff. This is trickier – but you CAN sing while colouring your lips. Your enunciation is a little off, but heck, their enunciation is a little less than crisp and clear. We are halfway through the fourth verse, and Mary’s lips are just about perfect, when the first parent – the one who never wears make-up – walks through the door.

I wonder what it looks like to her, Mary peering into small compact mirror while applying lipstick to (perfectly!) lined lips, while her child hops like a bunny around the living room. I wonder, but I don’t ask. I merely rescue the curried chicken mango salad she’s brought. (Um, yum. You didn’t think I was bad-mouthing this wonderful woman, did you? So what, she never wears make-up and is possibly questioning my qualifications to care for her child at this very moment? She brings curried chicken mango salad to my parties!)

I have a great bunch of parents this year. Sangria at Mary’s, originally intended to be a quiet, hour-long event before dinner, expanded to three hours, and eventually included the aforesaid curried chicken mango salad (I now have the recipe!!), nachos, a vegetable platter (I did that), lovely teeny whole-wheat oatmeal dinner rolls, a huge bag of kettle chips, and a tray of samosas and hot sauce. Yummm…

Oh, and biiig pitcher of sangria. Topped up twice. Not much left now but the wine-marinated fruit, which Emma has discovered she loves. (Emma was allowed to have a glass of sangria. The girl is taller and heavier than me. One won’t send her tumbling into a drunken future begging for booze on the streets. When Emma went for a second glass, though, I caught her at it. Moderation, my dear! And then I had to drink it. So sad.)


We also had a kiddie version of sangria for the tots and the woman percolating a tot. (See the little juice boxes?) It was yummy, too: pomegranate juice, club soda, and as much fruit as was in the sangria. (Lemon and orange, sliced very thin, raspberries, and cherries.) It didn’t have the three tablespoons added sugar nor the litre of Spanish red, but it was tart and tasty, as a good sangria should be. (Because if you’re making sangria, the wine should be Spanish, no? Seems only reasonable.)

Turns out that carbonated stuff should be kept OUT of juice boxes. Those things leaked everywhere, all the time. They could just be sitting on the table, then they’d quietly burp a few drops up through the straw. Very weird. (I think it speaks well of my nutritional standards that it took eleven or twelve years of daycare to find this out…)

Heard at the party:

“So when you said to me, ‘When someone aggresses against you, it’s appropriate to be angry, to have your self-esteem say ‘I don’t deserve that’.’ I listened, and I thought to myself, ‘You know? She’s absolutely right!’ ”

Mmmm… strokes for Mary!

Said at the party (by me):

“You dealt with that absolutely perfectly, Jenna. Good for you!”

[“That” being her child’s attempt to bite her.]

Another couple exchanges meaningful glances and points at each other. “Hey, hon. Are you taking notes?”

Jenna preens a bit.

Heard at the party:

“So my grandmother was just a teeny little thing, but she was a spitfire. She met a friend when she, granny, was out shopping with her either-year-old son, my father, in Suva, Fiji, where they lived. The friend’s four-year-old was having a lay-on-the-floor and kick-and-scream tantrum.

‘Oh, Mavis!’ cried the friend. ‘I don’t know what to dooooo!’

So my grandmother reached down and grabbed the child by his ear, and marched him right out of the store. The friend was clucking along behind her, ‘Oh, Mave! Don’t hurt him! You’re hurting him! Oh, Mave!’

My gran deposited him on the street outside the store, and turned to her friend. ‘There!’ she said. ‘THAT’S what you do! YOU’RE bigger than him!’ ”

Heh. I’ve heard it before, but I do love this story. And it led to a lovely conversation about the parent’s right to be angry, about how parental authority is held in suspicion in our culture, about how it can be abused, but that to exercise it appropriately is part of the job description of parenthood. Great stuff.

The kinda wimpy parents left first (because their child was behaving horribly – whining and trying to bite and throwing things and screeching “MINE!!!” whenever another child played with a toy, any toy, ugh) (evidencing what happens in the absence of parental authority); the pregnant family left next, because mummy, bless her 7-month belly, was tired. And then I was left with my two favourite families, who I will invite back – SOON – for a social evening, just for fun. As in, to make friends, not just be nice to clients. And we will talk about jobs and the weather and travel and friendship and relationships and words and aspirations and histories and our homes and our future plans and what we love and what we loathe, and our gardens and our hobbies, and…

And NOT our children.

Yes, it was a Good Evening.

August 17, 2007 Posted by | commemoration, daycare, George, parenting, parents, power struggle | 11 Comments