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Archive for May, 2007

of a fucked-up planet.

I live in the burbs. You know – house after similar house, each with a two-car garage and square of lawn out front. J was fearful as we moved into this neighbourhood and I eyed the chunk of grass and started mulling over all the more interesting things that could take it’s place. He feared we’d be tossed out for disobeying the unwritten rules of suburbia (and written ones, for that matter, because this place actually has a bylaw against putting up a clothes line. How stupid is that? But they failed to take into consideration the possibility of a clothesline umbrella, so that is what I now have).

As I mentioned before, our perfect, chemically-supported lawn lasted mere months under our lack of care, making way for my perennial garden to begin. It makes it easy for people to find our house. “Just look for the garden instead of the lawn,” I tell people. It’s the only one

Every other house has a lawn and little flower plot or two against the house or around the tree. Some don’t even have that – just the grass right up to the concrete under the window. It is ugly and barren and I can’t figure out why these people, many who don’t even have children, bother to live in the burbs at all. If you aren’t using your outside space, what is the point?

Since Jasper has arrived, I have noticed a significant difference in the lawns on our block. Some are perfect squares of uniform grass blades. Others are filled with weeds and cut short to hide the fact. Many are fighting constant battles with the Japanese beetle grub. They reseed and resod every year. Two lawns just a few houses down are most interesting because they butt right up against each other with no visible dividing line between them. But one is just all crabgrass cut very short and the other is pristine Kentucky bluegrass with nary a weed in sight. There is a perfect line right down the middle between the two. On one side it is all weed and the other, none. The no-weed guy must pour tons of chemicals into that lawn to keep those weeds from encroaching on his side. It is a very weird sight.

Since our back yard isn’t fenced in, we walk Jasper so he can pee, and I noticed not long ago that some of the lawns along our route were showing tell-tale dog-pee spots – a small circle of dead grass with the grass growing longer and greener around it. Dog pee is basically fertilizer, but it is so concentrated that it burns the grass it comes in direct contact with while making the grass that only gets a bit very happy.

I wondered if it only took a single pee by my dog to produce such damage, so I started keeping and eye on his pee spots and varying where we walked to reduce the possibility of damage. Which is when I realized that different lawns react very differently to the pee.

Weedy, neglected lawns show little or no damage. There’s a beautiful lawn down the street with long dark grass and when you get close to it, you can see that it is actually about two-thirds grass and one-third clover (which is what is recommended for a healthy, chemical-free lawn). It doesn’t burns either. The lawns that burn the worst are the perfect ones, without a weed in sight. I think that those lawns are only perfect because their owners are using gallons of fertilizer and herbicides to get them to look that way. Then the dog comes along and adds just a little bit more fertilizer onto the highly-fertilized lawn and causes an immediate overdose – wham! overdosed, dead grass.

It’s …. it’s … wrong. What kind of idiot cannot see that a lawn that needs constant chemical support to stay alive isn’t healthy? It has no defenses whatsoever. And it is ugly to boot. Why are there still people who think this is a good idea?

I know it is a small thing, but I have no doubt that the perfect-lawn people are also the sort that only buy perfect-looking fruit in the grocery store and I’ll even go so far as to say that I don’t think the fact that these same households hardly put out any recycling, just a huge garbage bag, is an coincidence. The guy closest to us also washes his outside steps and driveway with the hose -just pours perfectly good water onto his driveway to wash away dirt, and it takes everything in me to not yell to him that it is a driveway and is outside and stop wasting so much water!

But instead I just sit there, quietly weeding my garden, and I make sure to avoid letting Jasper near his lawn and stay nice and quiet, because I wouldn’t want to be thrown out of the burbs, would I?

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Thirteen Things about just making it up
I’ve been feeling crappy this week, as I think my last post subtly hinted at. The constant anxiety is getting me down, so I’ve decided that this week’s Thursday Thirteen will be thirteen achievements of which I’m proud, in chronological order:

1. When I was a kid, there was a big charity fundraiser called ‘Meters for Millions.’ To raise money, people pledged you per kilometer and you tried to walk all 50 kilometers in one day. The more you walked, the more you raised. The first year I did it (I think I was 10), I made it 17 km before I quit. The next year, I made it the whole way. It took all day. My friend, my brother and I walked for hours and hours, changing socks and hardly stopping once we realized that stopping caused our legs to stiffen and our feet to swell. Making it to the finish line in the dusk felt great.

2. I started writing a journal at the age of 16, and I’m still at it. I have my entire life written down. I don’t know what good it does me (besides keeping me honest about myself), but it still feels like an accomplishment.

3. When I was 18 and home alone one evening, I stayed up late watching movies and a drunken idiot tried to break into the house. Fortunately, we had an alarm system that he triggered, so the cops did arrive. But before they did so, he had managed to open a window of our basement rec room and was calling me names as he tried to make his way past the wires of the security system. Instead of feeling fear and cowering in the bathroom, which is would I would have expected of myself, I got very angry. I found my brother’s hunting knife (he didn’t hunt, just collected) and stood under the window with it telling the guy to get the fuck out of my house. The cops arrived and grabbed him before there was any real stand-off, but I was still empowered by my lack of fear.

4. In my undergraduate, I became the Chair of the History Undergraduate council. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but at Queen’s, they took these councils very seriously. I reorganized it to great kudos from the professors, and wallowed in praise all year. My success even earned me a place on a panel to select a new Department Chair, the only student invited. It went a long way to making me a lot less shy and giving me confidence in my own leadership and management abilities. I wish I used those abilities more right now.

5. I completely my Masters in History in 1 year (the only one in my year to do so), including a thesis.

6. I wrote a second Master’s thesis in Journalism.

7. Two of my three children were born without any pain meds at all, and with the last birth, I didn’t even consider asking for them. I actually think that pain meds have a reasonable place in childbirth when used judiciously. But I didn’t really need them and I’m proud of myself for making it through the pain without them.

8. I am a trained doula. Helping a couple have a better birth experience always feels like an enormous achievement.

9. I’m not a trained lactation consultant (although I’d like to be), but I have gone to great lengths to help women breastfeed. (I once got up at 6:30 am, threw the infant Boo in the car, drove two hours to another city, spent the day in the hospital with a friend who had just given birth and was having trouble breastfeeding, and then drove two hours back that night. I was wiped, but she nursed him until he was 2, so it was obviously worth it.) Knowing I’ve helped women successfully breastfeed also feels like an enormous achievement.

8. I had a column in the newspaper for the summer, which I loved. Then the section got a new editor and that was the end of that, but it sure was fun while it lasted. I rambled on like I do here, only they paid me. Dream job.

10. Last spring, I went from a shaky ability to read modern Hebrew (which has vowel symbols to make it easier) to reading the stylized Hebrew of the Torah in a few weeks, so I could read a portion at a service in Jerusalem. I didn’t learn to chant it, but given the brief period of time I had to learn it, I was still hugely proud of myself. I stood at the Southern Wall of the Second Temple and read Torah. How cool is that?

11. My kids’ school has a service where the lifeguards at the adjacent community centre will come pick up your kids if you have them registered in swimming lessons after school. Then you just have to come get them afterward. Last year, near the end of the session, as I was getting them dressed to go, the lifeguard that usually got the kids over and ready for lessons came up to me and said, “I just want to tell you that you have the nicest, most well-behaved children I have ever met. I don’t know what you are doing right, but keep doing it.” I’ve gotten comments like that before, from store clerks and the like. Of course, my children can be horribly rotten and there are times that all I get from store clerks are evil glares, but the fact that sometimes they can behave beautifully, so beautifully that people comment on it, warms my maternal heart.

12. Having never gone in front of a TV camera before, I began producing and hosting a cable TV show with 4 days notice. I’m still at it, and I’ve gotten better, and so has the show.

13. I managed to marry a man I not only still love, but like as well. I raised children I both love and like. I have a nice house and a garden I’m very proud of, and a dog who mostly doesn’t jump up on people.

Well, I’m not sure if this made me feel any better about myself, or just like a big braggart, but I wrote it, so now I’m posting it. It is what it is.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens:

1. Pass the Chocolate

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

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I have a few half-written posts here, but I haven’t really had the time to sit down and do anything with them. I am wiped. I think I’ll blame the rain, but it could also be this cold that has last 2 weeks and given me laryngitis for one of them. I sound like an old lady. I feel like an old lady.

Fibromyalgia sucks.

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I hate Mother’s Day.

When I was a kid, my parents encouraged us to ignore Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as the Hallmark holidays they are and we happily went along. I was all ready to continue that tradition in my own home, but school messed me up.

I wasn’t surprised when Maya arrived home from junior kindergarten with a palm print on a face cloth and a card with a heart and “I lov yuo” scrawled on it. After all, they have to keep finding ways to amuse the little kids and this seems to be a pretty obvious one. But she is in grade 5 now, and they are still at it. She still doesn’t have her times tables memorized. Would it be harsh of me to suggest to her teacher that a great mother’s day gift would be to work a little harder on that?

Worse, because they are in a trilingual school, we get gifts in three languages, as all the teachers have used it as an excuse to goof off. And as they get older, the gifts get more elaborate, so they arrive home and announce things like they need a 5×7 photo of the whole family for tomorrow, but can’t tell me why. Then have a fit when I tell them I don’t have one and can’t get one.

But that isn’t what I really hate about Mother’s Day. What I really hate is that it winds my children into a frenzy, particularly Maya. She takes this stuff really, really seriously. School gifts aren’t enough for her. The worst was a couple of years ago when J was away for work. She wanted to go get me a gift, but it had to be a secret. A family friend kindly promised to take her. Then the kind family friend got pneumonia.

You’d have thought it was a personal betrayal. Every day after school, Maya would demand to know if S. was better. Upon being informed that she was still bedridden, Maya would throw a fit and be nasty to everyone, including me. It was nuts. My kid was so utterly desperate to provide me with the most wonderful Mother’s Day ever that she made it the most miserable Mother’s Day ever.

What I’d really like for Mother’s Day, if I had my choice, would be a few hours of utter peace and quiet. I’d like everyone to go away, including the dog, and leave me to some guilt-free gardening. I love my children and I love spending time with them. But J has been gone for weeks now (even when he was here between trips, he was in meetings every night to make up for being gone) and both Asher and I have been sick all week.

Asher is sicker. He had a raging fever for days, and threw up now and then. I’m afraid I have to take back his best-sick-child-ever award, because instead of lying there quietly and undemanding as he usually does, he whined constantly. When I told him he couldn’t eat anything for the rest of the day after vomiting twice, to give his stomach a chance to recover, he started in with, “Ooooh, I’m sooo hungry! I’m starving. I’m so so so hungry! I can’t stand it! I don’t even remember what food tastes like.” And he moaned, really dramatic and annoying moaning. He sounded exactly like Jasper did after we got him snipped.

On my worst day, I tucked him into bed beside me and figured we could both snooze. But not five minutes went by that he didn’t poke me to report that now his nose hurt on the left side, or the birds singing were bothering him, or he couldn’t sleep, or he needed more water, or medicine, or to tell me the medicine wasn’t working yet, still not working, still not working, still not working …

So I could really do with some time away from all other human beings. I doubt I’ll get it, but the truth is that even thought I’d like it, I don’t expect it. Mother’s Day isn’t really about pampering mom. It’s about being mom, in that we do what makes our kids happy – proclaim burnt toast and rubbery eggs delicious and not complain about crumbs on the duvet or mention the disaster of a kitchen, pronounce pansies to be our favourite flowers ever and plant them right away even though we hate them, hang the ugliest picture frame ever with the fuzzy photo the teacher took of them in a place of honour.

It’s about making our kids happy, so of course I’ll do it. I just hope they don’t spot me glancing longingly at my garden now and then.

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Thirteen Things about just making it up
I’ve been inspired by Shauna over at Pass the Chocolate to make my own Thursday Thirteen list. I was going to list thirteen things I like about my husband, on the occasion of his return from Israel, but he up and left again for another trip, so I bumped him. He’s been gone and the children have been sick, which means I’ve been around them a lot, so I’m going with 13 things I never thought I’d say to the kids before I had them:

1. “Please stop licking the pavement.”
2. “Not letting you sit on my lap to steer the car does not make me a bad mommy” (said to the 4-year-old)
3. “Take your finger out of your brother’s nose right now.”
4. “Where did your diaper go?”
5. “I’ll only come out of the bathroom if you promise to stop crying right now.”
6. “No, we can’t trade him for that other baby, even if you think that one is cuter.”
7. “Because I’m your mother and I said so.”
8. “Wait, did you forget to put on underwear again?” (Upon arriving at a classmate’s birthday party with Boo in a lovely skirt.)
9. “No, bugs don’t taste good. And no, it isn’t okay that it was already dead.”
10. “It just looks like I’m eating chocolate. It is actually a really spicy candy and you know how much you hate spice.”
11. “I’ll give you a piece if you promise not to tell your brother and sister.”
12. “I know Daddy said you could but he was wrong, because we don’t eat marshmallows right before dinner.”
13. “I’ll give you the rest of my coke if you leave me alone until I finish writing this.” (Guess how many minutes ago that one came out of my mouth.)
Links to other Thursday Thirteens:

1. Pass the Chocolate

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

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I was inspired by Michelle’s (at Big Blueberry Eyes) wee belly to answer this question from Mommy Talk:

How much weight did you gain (w/picture if you are you brave enough!)
What did you like MOST about pregnancy?
What did you like the LEAST?

I gained 50 lbs with Maya. I was miserable and swore I would never make such a huge mistake again. So I only gained 60 lbs with Asher. It dropped easily off after Maya, so I wasn’t as panicked the next time and, of course, it didn’t go away quite so easily the next time. That is why, when I gained a mere 55 lbs with Boo, I also got to my all-time heaviest. And have had the hardest time losing that weight. I don’t think I can call it pregnancy weight any more. Now I’m just fat. Interestingly, Asher was the heaviest, Boo was in the middle and Maya was the lightest.

What did I like about pregnancy? Having a baby. Loved the baby. I didn’t even mind labour, since it got me out of the state of pregnancy and into the state of mommyhood. Other than that, I liked the movement. I liked knowing the baby before everyone else did. Having been pregnant, I for ever after found it weird to hear people say things like, “When the baby gets here,” because for me, the baby already was here. Right in there – I knew what got her moving and got her sleeping, where her feet were, etc.

What I didn’t like – the long wait to meet the baby, stressing over whether the baby was okay whenever it stopped moving, the outrageous tailbone pain and back pain, not being able to curve my spine forward at all, my belly resting on my thighs, wildly restless legs, being unable to take a deep breath, being unable to sleep for longer than 2 hours at a time, cervical head-butts, peeing every two hours, wicked ‘morning sickness’ that got worse at the day went on, skin tags popping up all over, people who told me they knew the baby was going to be a boy because it was so active when I already had decided I was having a girl (and I was right), crying over absolutely nothing, pre-term contractions …

Okay, so I didn’t much like pregnancy. A couple of friends of mine told me once that in the same way some people are ‘mean drunks’ I was a mean pregnant. And they were right.

Nevertheless, I managed to find a photo of a very pregnant me (8 months with Boo – still another month of growing!) managing to smile. This is half a photo. The other half is my equally pregnant SIL. We wer due within a week of each other, but I decided not to just toss up a photo of her huge self without warning.

me-8-months-pregnant.jpg

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Today I read in the Globe and Mail a profile of the Itzbeen Baby Care Timer by Rebecca Eckler. I think she liked it, although it was a little hard to tell, perhaps because I was so horrified that I couldn’t believe she was suggesting it is a good idea.

Check this thing out – it is a monitor you carry around with you everywhere with you and input the last time your baby nursed (and what side), had a diaper change and how long ago she woke up.

When Maya was born, the nurses at the hospital made us write that stuff down. We had to record every diaper change and what was produced, as well as when she last ate, for how long and which boob. When we went home after two days, we continued that routine for about half a day. I abandoned it in the middle of the night when, moments after I finished nursing her, I had already forgotten which breast I had used last and I had no idea how long she had eaten, given the off-the-breast-on-the-breast fight it was with her at first.

Next feeding, I put her on the heaviest boob. And we realized pretty quickly that the easiest way to know whether she needed a diaper change was to check her diaper. Wet? Poopy? Change it. Dry? Leave it.

The marketing for this horrible device claims that it is a lifesaver for the sleep-deprived parents. No long do you have to remember these important details. The machine will do it for you. The machine will tell you when to nurse your baby and you will no longer have to rely on your puny little brain.

The machine is stupid. Toss it out and develop a little parental instinct, people.

It reminds me of a conversation we had with doctor at Maya’s first appointment. We asked her if we should get an old-fashioned thermometer, digital, or one of those fancy ear ones. “It doesn’t matter,” the doctor (and mom of 3) said. “The only thing the thermometer is good for is that while you look for it, it gives you a few minutes to decide what you are going to do about the kid’s illness. You’ll know whether she is sick or not.” And she was right. We do have a thermometer, but I have found there are times when one of my babies had a fairly high temp, but was bopping around quite happily and I wasn’t worried. A lower temp plus a fussy or lethargic baby had me much more concerned. Mother’s intuition turned out to work far better than the machine that went ping.

The fancy-ass baby monitors now available are also pissing me off. Scroll down and you’ll see that there’s one that promises to not only let you see and hear your baby as the kid is sleeping in her crib, but it’ll tell you the temperature of the room, play lullabies and even has a two-way radio so you can freak the kid out by talking to her over the monitor. If only it had little robot arms to spoon out cereal, you’d never have to be in the same room again!

At the bottom of this page is a ‘respiratory’ baby monitor. It is a pad you stick under the baby’s sheet that is supposed to monitor his breathing. Unless your child is at risk for SIDS, this is the ultimate in paranoia.

I admit that like many other parents, I was worried the baby would stop breathing every time I had an infant. The first evening Maya was home, I placed her soundly-sleeping tiny body in the hand-made cradle my father had lovingly built for his first grandchild and lay down on the bed to sleep. She was right at the end of the bed, which I realized very quickly was far, far too far away. I soon gave up and got her. I placed a receiving blanket between our pillows, put Maya on it, lay my hand on her side and, with my own personal ‘respiratory monitor’ – my hand – in place, fell asleep instantly.

I’m not saying every parent should sleep with their babies. I wasn’t always sleeping with mine, either. But when I wasn’t, I did was parents throughout history have done. I checked up now and then and told myself not to be insane the rest of the time.

Here’s a wee picture of the final stupid thing I am going to complain about tonight. I stumbled across this while in search of a link to the other stupid stuff.

aastupid.jpg

The creators of this ‘baby no bumps’ actually expect you to put this silly-looking thing on your kid all day long – and funnier yet, they expect the kid to let it stay there – to avoid little precious getting a single boo boo.

The web page says it is created by a parent (grandparent, actually), but given how hard it was too keep any hat on my kids’ little heads, no matter how tightly I tied, I suspect a marketing scheme.

My kids have a scar or two I wish they didn’t – Boo in particular had not a single bruise-free moment for about 6 months after she began walking (although many of those were fat lips; perhaps they should add a face cage?). But at least she has friends, which is more than I expect the child in the picture can say.

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