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Archive for April, 2008

fun meme

I stole this from pluckymama, because it seemed fun.

i am: alive, which is more impressive than it initially sounds
i think: far too much
i know: a lot of useless stuff
i want: to go back to Israel
i have: everything I need
i wish: for my children will grow up and be happy
i hate: feeling like I haven’t done enough with my life
i miss: the intensity of grad school
i fear: something happening to my family
i feel: tired
i hear: my boy practicing on his new fiddle
i smell: nothing, because allergies have stuffed up my nose
i crave: coca cola
i search: online for more useless information, every day
i wonder: what the future holds
i regret: not having more of a career
i love: my family
i ache: always
i care: that my children become good and caring people
i always: sleep too much
i am not: a bad mother
i believe: converting to Judaism was one of the smartest things I ever did
i dance: to make my kids laugh
i sing: whenever I want, even though I can’t carry a tune
i cry: a lot more than I did before I had kids
i don’t always: take the easy way out
i fight: with Maya more than I want, which is not at all
i write: all the time
i win: at Scrabble when J is really tired.
i lose: my keys, bank card, my sunglasses, my jack-knife, my VISA card …
i never: do as much as I should
i confuse: need with want
i listen: to public radio, almost exclusively, on my ipod
i can usually be found: in front of the computer
i am scared: of failing
i need:a job
i am happy about: how many good friends I have

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Teachers

My kids went back to school today, despite Maya’s current professed desire to end her schooling at grade 6. It prompted this reminiscence: 

When I went to university, I admit I started off quite confidently. I had graduated high school at the very top of my class, walking away with a handful of awards for the highest mark in various classes. I decided to do a combined English/History degree. 

My first essay was in English, on Great Expectations. I got a B. It was a bit of a shock.

Obviously, I wasn’t the only kid used to acing everything who received a cold wake-up call when starting university, and in fact, there were those whose shock was significantly larger. One of those was my cousin, who was taking some of the same courses I was. Her English essay was utterly dismantled and the professor wrote that at good start for her would be to learn how to write an essay. This was her first inkling that her high school education had failed her on a basic level, and my first inkling that I owed a great debt to someone I thought I hated.

I remember sitting in the hallway in our residence after that essay, teaching my cousin the mechanics of writing an essay. Thesis statement, topic sentences – she hadn’t a clue. I had a clue because of Mrs. MacDonald, who I had for grades nine and eleven English. Mrs. MacDonald didn’t just say, “Here’s a topic, go write an essay.” Oh no, she made us do outlines and come up with a thesis statement and put topic sentences on cue cards and do rough drafts, and hand each stage in to her to be marked. I hated that. I thought she was so very anal retentive and annoying and fussy. Now I think the woman was a saint, dragging all those ungrateful students through the mechanics of writing a proper essay. By the time I realized the debt I owed her, she was gone from the school and I never got to thank her. It’s too bad, because I don’t think she got thanked too often.

I also wish I could go back and thank Mr. Shepard, my fourth grade teacher. He made made stay after school shortly after the year had begun and said he noticed I sucked my thumb when I was concentrating and was being teased, and offered to help me stop. We made a deal. Every time he caught me sucking my thumb, he’d tell me to do ten push-ups or sit-ups, his standard punishment for small transgressions like talking to a neighbour when you should be working. He never embarrassed me by saying why I had to do this and the equation of thumb = physical exercise quickly broke me of the habit.

There was Mr. Penton, who taught me that history wasn’t about boring dead people after all, triggering a life-long obsession with the subject. He was followed by a woman who was not only a favourite teacher, but one of my favourite people, Professor Catherine Brown. When I entered her first year history class, I thought they stuck the decrepit old lady with the first years, so the first lesson she taught me was not to judge someone by her looks, as she was sharp as a tack. I switched to a full History major thanks to her and she guided my university career after that. I loved her.

University was where I met most of the teachers who had a profound effect on me. There was Gary Watson, who treated me like an adult and and equal, and Bronwen Wallace, a brilliant writer, who taught me to appreciate poetry and Lionel Lumb, who made me feel like I was good enough to do anything I wanted to. 

It was good to have all those people build me up before I went and had children to tear me back down again. Oh, kidding. Sometimes they are nice to me. Not as often as the dog is, but still.

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I feel like I should post something, but don’t have anything interesting to write about. And I’m on my laptop, which makes showing you pretty pictures harder.

I’ve been spending this week slowly cleaning up my front garden, clearing away old leaves to discover what interesting plant is growing underneath. I frequently forget what I’ve planted, so I’m constantly being surprised by unexpected growing things.

I get tired easily, but I’ve given up on the back yard, so I have less to do.

I successfully took the kids swimming yesterday, in a very nice warm pool. Swimming was initially problematic for me, thanks to the colostomy. That makes for strange bulges in bathing suits, because I have a bag glued to my abdomen. Fortunately, swim shorts are in, so I bought a pair and wear it over my bathing suit. They don’t match at all, but it hides the bulges successfully.

I confess, used to think mildly negative thoughts about people who took their stuff and went into change rooms to change in locker rooms. How prudish, I thought. We all have bulges and floppy boobs. But we don’t all have colostomy bags and huge angry red scars running half way up our bellies and now I go into the change room to change, so as not to scare the other people there. And mentally apologize to all those of whom I thought ill.

In case you think I’m exaggerating, I’ll mention that as a family, we tend to be a fairly unconcerned about nakedness, but now when I walk out of my bathroom to get dressed, should a child be in my room, I get to hear, “Ugh!” before they make a run for it. The other day, I was still towelling off and as Maya hightailed it out of my room, I heard her say, “Note to self: never use that towel.”

My kids are not allowed to watch TV after school on a week day, but a few moments ago, Asher came up to tattle on his sister. I told him he could go down and tell her I was ordering her to turn it off. He disappeared and has not returned, so I fear he too has been caught in the seductive orbit of Hannah Montana. I must go rescue them both …

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When I was a teenager, a close family friend (so close we called her Aunty) used to keep her own children in line by threatening inappropriate public behaviour. She would, for example, happily lie down on her back in the grocery store with all her limbs in the air like a dead dog if someone misbehaved. With role models such as this, it is a wonder I am not more awful to my children.

I once pretended I was going to take Maya somewhere wearing my PJs (“What? It’s just like a shirt and pants.”) When Maya first admitted that the word ‘blood’ made her stomach flip, I confess to leading the other two in a rousing rendition of a song that goes like this:

Picture a cowboy all dressed in red
Fell off his sadde, bashed in his head
There was blood on the saddle, blood on the ground
And a great big puddle of blood on the ground!
Next verse, same as the first, just a little bit louder and a little bit worse!
(repeat until throat is sore from screaming)

Yes, both those examples involve Maya, as well as most of the others. She’s just the most phobic and gullible (although, she is finally developing a wicked sense of cruelty herself).

Anyway, I can’t be blamed, really, for my initial reaction of utter delight when I stumbled upon this old blog post, entitled, “Zach Efron has FOUR Nipples.” My eldest has both a horror of all things medically unusual and several posters of Zach up on her walls. How perfect is that?

I’m thinking of saving the incriminating information until the day High School Musical 3 is released. Maybe I can save myself 2 hours of teenybopper torture.

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I have been writing posts from my laptop, which don’t have my photos on it, so they’ve been rather visually-boring. Here’s a little more interesting post (visually, anyway).

Here’s Boo learning to ride a 2-wheeler. At 5 years old, she is accomplishing this task a good year ahead of her siblings. She can add this to the reading earlier, swimming earlier and surfing the web earlier. The only thing I can think of that she did later was walking.

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The snow has finally completely melted from my garden and suddenly there are tulips and crocuses. Last year, a dastardly bunny ate them all, but this year they seem to be surviving.

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We had our Passover seder here this year – catered, thanks to some very generous people. I sat like a queen and did no work, which is certainly not normal for Passover. Wait – I did make my favourite dessert, which is extremely easy, and got the kids colouring eggs. We had lots of hard boiled eggs for the seder and they are just so boring, all sitting there whitely. Since there is nothing inherently Christian about making eggs pretty colours, I have the kids colour eggs for Passover.

Since we didn’t have enough at first, J went and bought more, so I boiled them in two batches, then coloured them in two batches also. I failed to take pictures this year, but this is what last year’s looked like:

All pretty. We passed them around at the seder and my brother, who has been known to be obnoxious at times, said to me, “Are they supposed to be raw?” Oh, ha ha.

He wasn’t kidding, though. I looked around him to the family friend sitting on his other side and saw her holding a dripping egg over her plate. I had somehow mixed up the cooked and the uncooked in the second batch and about a third of the pretty eggs were raw. Good thing she had a sense of humor. I blamed it on the coma. Every time I screw up or do something weird, I just say, “Coma brain.” I don’t know how long I can use that excuse, though.

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Passover means my children are home all week. Today, my in-laws kindly took them to a museum, since Camp Mom is closed this year. The moment they walked in the door, they were so bored they were just going to die. Maya soothed herself with TV but Asher wasn’t into it, so I set him up with a cool but simple experiment. You take a cookie sheet and pour in enough milk to cover the bottom. Then you pour a few drops of different-coloured food colouring in each corner. Then arm the kid with the dishwashing liquid and have him pour a drop here and there and see what happens. It is way cool. It amused Asher and Boo long enough for me to write this, and take a picture. The camera refused to focus properly, but you get the idea.

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I just got a comment on an old post, in which I had some photos of my soapstone carvings. It caused me to go look at the post once again and I saw that pluckymama had recommended, in the comments, a TV series to follow up on my Six Feet Under binge. I told her I would check it out, but instead got well enough to stop watching endling DVDs on my laptop and never did.

So then I ended up in the hospital. When I was first getting better, I found television overwhelming. I did not have the hand strength to hold a book or magazine and, worried that I would get bored as I managed to stay awake longer (initially, when I wasn’t being medically fussed with or in therapy, I slept), they’d drag in a TV for me. The first time, I watched part of an entertainment program but found it too hard to concentrate after a few minutes and had them turn it off. The second time, they put on Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of my very favourite movies. I think I made it half an hour that time. Even knowing the plot, watching required too much concentration.

But gradually, my concentration improved. At the same time, so did my hand strength and just about the time I was capable of holding open a People magazine, I had the brain power to read it.

J started bringing in DVDs to watch. I requested a season of Will and Grace a friend owns. He showed up with a series I’d never heard of that his receptionist had borrowed from someone else to give to me, as she swore I’d love it. Hand over the Will and Grace, I insisted.

When I was almost finished that, my former rabbi and current friend popped in for a visit and spotted the DVDs on my table. “Oh,” he said, “Firefly! I loved that series.” Well, if the rabbi says it’s good …

So I watched it, one DVD after another, really only stopping long enough to be polite to visitors, and be dragged off to physiotherapy, until I’d finished the whole thing. Then I went back and watched all the episodes with commentary. I love Firefly. My only regret in getting sucked into this thing is that stupid FOX cancelled it after only 11 episodes.

Basically, this is just a big, long apology to pluckymama for not listening to her earlier.

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It is spectacular gardening weather, as it was yesterday and the day before, and I am lying up in bed with the laptop propped on my lap and the dog using my legs for his pillow. I am too tired to garden. The other day, I gamely set to pulling some weeds that have already raised their ugly heads and I managed 3 before I ran out of steam. It’s a wee bit frustrating, but I just remind myself that it is less than 2 months since I woke up and they told me I’d need 3 months of rehab after I got out of the ICU, and then I’m just happy to be lying in my own room enjoying the nice breeze and yelling at my kids out the open window and stop worrying about the weeds, too much.

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I did worry about my dumb dog, though, who refuses to leave my side even if it means not really getting enough exercise. I took him for his check-up and shots and mentioned his lethargy to the vet. She firmly established herself in my good books by telling me that Jasper is clearly a very intelligent dog, as doodles tend to be, and he’s probably just a little freaked by my disappearance and reappearance and he’s going to stick close until he feels assured enough that I’m not going to disappear again. At least he made it easy to get him completely dematted and brushed out. He’s once again my fluffy puppy.

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Sam-I-Am

So, we’re just kind of hanging out here tonight, being lazy about bedtimes because the kids don’t have school tomorrow. J and I were just chatting and Boo showed up with Green Eggs and Ham. “I’m going to read this for bedtime stories, okay?” Okay, we said, and continued our chat. She settled between us and started ‘reading’ the book.  She barrelled through the pages and it sounded right, but given that she was reading words like, ‘would’ and ‘box’ without hesitation, I figured she was going by memory, hence my quotations around the word ‘reading.’

Then she suddenly slowed down and said, “Ttrr-ah-n. I can’t get this one.” (It was ‘train’.) Which is when we realized the little freak was reading the book. She still is. She’s on that long, long page near the end where Sam reiterates every place he won’t eat. It is way past her bedtime, but she won’t quit. Last time I tuned in, she was still sounding out words like ‘hop’ and ‘pop’ and now she’s tearing through, “I would not, could not in a box. I will not, will not with a fox.”

I remember how proud the other two where in grade one when they began the reading program and brought home books that had 3-word sentences on each page, like, “Sam sees Pam. Pam sees Sam. ‘Hi Pam,’ says Sam. ‘Hi Sam,’ says Pam.” Boo is going to be bored silly. I assume they’ll just let her leap to the more difficult books.

I used to feel guilty when Asher had trouble identifying letters and even colours, because he just didn’t get the attention his older sister had received. I told myself that he wasn’t interested in that sort of thing and Maya had been, so it really wasn’t just parental neglect, but the guilt niggled. It didn’t help when his grade one teacher told us his reading problems stemmed from lack of parental attention. Subsequent extensive testing revealed a learning disability and ADD, but guilt is a tough thing to completely shake.

But Boo has certainly help us shake of those last vestiges, because the neglect we displayed with Asher doesn’t hold a candle to the neglect Boo experiences and she continues to teach herself to read with no input from us.

I do so like green eggs and ham! Thank you! Thank you Sam-I-Am!

 

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