Posted by: rocketbride | January 3, 2014

we’re the mesopotamians

As my vacation winds down, I have begun to develop an anxiety that neatly echoes the feelings I had when set loose to get ready for Christmas. I’m not ready. I haven’t marked nearly enough. Despite sleeping a lot (possibly related to the anxiety itself), I don’t feel rested. The return of school brings with it issues I had comfortably postponed until the New Year, and it feels like a big wave is about to break over my head and drown me.

That being said, I should probably be marking, rather than complaining about it.

rocket

Yesterday we did the only outing I had planned for the break: a visit to the ROM to see the departing Mesopotamia exhibit. Unlike last year’s dinosaur binge, this was more about the parents than the kids, so we were pleasantly surprised with the amount of patience both Blake and Maggie displayed. Maggie fell in love with two duck-shaped weights, while Blake spread himself in front of every display case. My own favourite part was the story cylinders; in fact so many of the artefacts were based on shapes like the writing or the carving that I just wanted to touch everything by the time we were done. This worked out well, as travelling through museums with kids gives you lots of excuse to stop by the activity stations.

The only downside to the day was that I came home exhausted, too tired to do anything but crawl into bed as soon as the kids were taken care of. Today is shaping up to be another low-energy day, which means that the weekend will bear the brunt of my marking. Awesome.

Posted by: rocketbride | January 1, 2014

combustible head

here comes 2014!

here comes 2014!

Having a mellow New Year’s Day, now that my eldest is back from his dad’s with suspiciously few pairs of pants and the youngest is taking fussy to previously undreamt-of heights. I’m less hungover and more exhausted, spending as much time as possible sitting quietly and not even feeling guilty about it. Tomorrow I return to the marking grind (7 down! the horror!) but today is just for eating good food and letting 2013 drift away like a bad smell.

rocket

Speaking of bad smells, last night’s party was marked by the arrival of a seriously potent weed-smell, which caused Zub to race all over the house trying to find the source. A few of us tagged along, delighted in our new roles as smell detectives, and laughing every time we got to demand answers for the perennial question, ‘where is that smell coming from?’ Childishly delightful.

The party wasn’t all smells, though. Mason & I dressed up, which is a wonderful thing to do on New Year’s even if you’re going to be in a house all night. Stacy, of course, emerged dressed more finely than we could possibly imagine, and a small group of her fellow Lolitas came by the party to drink Hello Kitty wine and raise the dress standards even further. I had intended to wear my latest wedding dress, but couldn’t find it (goddamn it!!) so settled on my pink dress, striped stockings and big Persian-y necklace. It was good enough. I mean, I wasn’t wearing a crown, but it was good enough.

We had a pretty great time, all in. We dropped Maggie at my parents before dinner, and managed to get a table at the elusive Grand Electric for our first taste of their famous tacos. I was prepared not to like the place – if I wanted loud music and small spaces I’d take my food to the Dance Cave – but I did, of course. The fish taco was a revelation, so stunning that I couldn’t bring myself to order it again because I’m just not wired for that amount of sublimity. I’d just fall asleep under the table, clutching a picture of my kids or something.

So by the time we rolled into the Haus, we were already having a good night with our fancy clothes and our fancy taco memories. Spending hours chatting with Andrew, Death, Stacy & various other new faces was the perfect frenetic way to kiss off the old year and make warm fuzzy feelings about the potential for this coming year. At the very least, the static from all the smiling introverts rubbing together will keep me positively charged until I have to go back to work.

rocket

And just in case you haven’t heard the incredibly catchy new TMBG album, here’s the song that’s consuming our house:

Posted by: rocketbride | December 29, 2013

doomed!

As in days of old, I made a bad decision this morning: instead of going to run, I convinced myself that I would have plenty of time to make it up this afternoon, and I stayed in bed for all of 20 extra minutes before being roused by The Crankiest Toddler Ever. I usually don’t get the luxury of screwing up my morning so extravagantly: my days are so full of duties and events that I can’t reschedule the Sunday morning run any more than I can calmly drift back to sleep. But on this middle week, adrift in Winter Break, it seemed reasonable that I wouldn’t need the motivation of a group to get my runners splashing through the icy puddles.

Needless to say, I frittered the day away in reading, playing, chores, and at least an hour of marking that produced no more than three finished papers (doomed! I’m doomed!). There was no running, no trip to the gym to rescue the stupid promises I make to myself when I’m in my pj’s. It was one of those days that’s neither completely wasted nor very useful. Most of the Christmas litter is awaiting pick-up on the curb, and I took Maggie on a solo trip to the library, but still: those three solitary essays are laughing at me. I can’t wait until they’re joined by their poorly-written brethren and sistren. I also can’t wait until I crawl out of this weird end-of-the-year lethargy, which reminds me of my sedentary adolescence and renders me useless for most things.

Posted by: rocketbride | December 26, 2013

boxing day blowout

It’s been kind of a weird Christmas. Ever since I started dating Mason, and our families became one big complicated meatball of Christmas parties and other parents, I’ve accepted that Christmas will be packed, exhausting and full of thrilling little corners. This year hit several speed bumps, starting with the ice storm that began on Saturday night and effectively scuttled not just church the next morning but also our annual visit with Mason’s family. What’s worse is that everyone else in the family decided to go, while I listened to the OPP warnings on the radio and stayed home. The day wasn’t without its excitement: we lost a lot of big branches off our neighbour’s front maple tree, and we spent a good deal of the afternoon chopping brush and hauling it to the front of the lawn. Our house looked like a woodlot for a day, and we lost our phone wire for almost three days. The park behind us still looks like a hurricane went through it, and we’ve had no official clean up over the last five days. Maybe tomorrow, when the holidays end.

The next day we dropped off the kids at my parents so that Mason & I could do some shopping, but came home quicker than we’d planned when my parents texted us that Maggie was throwing up all over the place. She’s not given to sickness, so this is the first time I’ve seen her throw up, the poor miserable thing. She stayed sick for most of the day, but woke up fine in time for Christmas Eve.

We were supposed to see Mason’s sister that day, but she still didn’t have power from the storm, so we invited the family to our house, which meant that when I wasn’t holding a sick baby I was cleaning the house. Ultimately, only Mason’s parents came over, as his sister was scared off by Maggie’s sickness the day before. They visited, ate, and came to church with us to watch the kids in the impromptu pageant.

the grumpiest angel

the grumpiest angel


By the time we got home from the service, it was way too late for baths so we just put out the cookies and carrots for Santa, Blake wrote a note (he’s the official scribe for Christmas) and shoved the kids in bed. I usually sit up late making last-minute presents for the kids, but this year my heart wasn’t in it. I ended up crying on the couch, missing my grandmother and my aunt’s Christmas dinners for the first time in years.

The whole thing was hugely disappointing. It’s easy to idealize the Christmases of ones youth as effortlessly joyful, but I couldn’t help but ache for the kind of big family gathering that we used to take for granted. I had all my kids on Christmas morning, which was a blessing, but Mason & I were up half the night with Blake, who threw up semi-regularly between midnight and dawn, so we were all a bit peaked. After the presents were sorted (the boys went through theirs like machines, Maggie opened her doll and was content for the rest of the morning), Christmas Day was about tackling the mountain of pukey laundry and trying to prevent the wrapping and assorted garbage from overtaking the tidiness I had so recently wrested from the living room. My mom had us over for dinner (which Sage had to leave halfway through) and only three people outside my immediate family came over. Christmas felt like a bust.

Of course, it’s hard to judge on Boxing Day. This is the day when I lose Blake for a whole week, when I’m supposed to buckle down on the wall of marking I resentfully dragged home. (Current score – marking: 175, me: 0.) Not a good day on the best of years. Today, with Maggie eating and sleeping but not doing much on her own other than clinging to us in turns like an exhausted lamprey, it all seemed extra gloomy. Then again, I’ve been fairly seriously depressed since November, and although a lot of the anxiety and sense of impending doom has receded now that the gift season is done and I’m properly on vacation, it’s still hard to sort out the specific strands of doom from the general ones.

Tomorrow: a visit to the early years centre with Maggie, a run, and breaking the back of that goddamn marking. Oh yeah.
rocket

We did one thing of note last week, though. We went to see the Basement Review. Last year was a huge year, with Andy Kim, Ondaatje & Feist, but we didn’t have high expectations: we take what we’re given. (I still think my favourite year was the one hosted by Rich Terfry, featuring John K. Sampson. An aside: along with “And the Band Played ‘Waltzing Matilda’,” Maggie now refuses to go to sleep until Mason sings her “Bigfoot”.)

Then the first act was Margaret Atwood, backed by the Sadies, so. That.

The other acts varied in quality. aROARa came in to back Anne Waldman, who created one of my favourite moments of the night when she recited something about “unborn children turning” while she placed her hand on Arial’s pregnant belly. Arial kept singing and Whitey kept playing guitar, tho’ grinning like a pirate. My absolute favourite moment came at the very end, when Light Fires (a.k.a. Reg’s bitchy, athletic, glorious drag act) came on to close the night, and got us all dancing. I love Reg when he’s the soulful indy guy with the guitar, but I also love him when he’s high-kicking in a wig, or petting my hair. (Fun!)

Posted by: rocketbride | December 14, 2013

happy bowl-thday

I spent today alone with my two youngest kids, and I know, this is what my mom did all the time in her mid-twenties, but honestly. I need some sort of medal or cupcake or something. We don’t usually have Sage when Mason is away at his course, but we wanted to have him for Blake’s bowl-thday party. Maggie has been sick these past few days, descending into a snotty, feverish hell of thick coughing and listless snuggling. She’s on the upswing now, but on Friday morning she looked so red-eyed and lethargic that I almost left her in the bed with Mason. I ended up taking her to my parents’ in her footie pjs.

Mason, as you may have gathered from that last sentence, was also sick this week. But where Maggie had the bog-standard cold-and-fever combo, he got a stomach bug on Wednesday night and ended up home in bed for the last two days of the work week. Normally I don’t really keep myself separate from him when he’s sick, but with Maggie suffering my maternal instincts went into overdrive and I slept in the kids’ beds instead of our own. (Under normal circumstances, I might express regret at leaving him alone at night, but I was so afraid of getting sucked into whatever he was stewing in that I didn’t even sound apologetic about taking my teddy bear and sleeping under the Buzz Lightyear comforter.)

Today I had more than enough to keep me busy with the littles. As soon as I had started the laundry, and dressed them, we went to the supermarket to get baking supplies. Maggie refused to either get in the cart or walk on her own, so that was interesting. Fortunately the place was pretty underpopulated, so Sage could drive the cart with a minimum of casualties. Then we went over to Party City, so that I could buy stuff for loot bags. I had tried to get this done on Thursday night, but Blake had a freak out and decided he didn’t want to do loot bags this year. On the way home he realized that he changed his mind, so I promised to do it on my own, hence going the morning of the party.

The grocery store was a stroll in the park compared to taking two impulsive kids to a party supply store with no back up. It all ended up fine, but I did end up buying a few unplanned items, including some stuffies Maggie claimed for her own (which will go to the toy drive, sorry baby). There was one point when I heard music and turned the corner to see my kids playing kazoos. “Guess we’re buying those,” I sighed. Really, though, they were indistinguishable from the kazoos that litter our house, so I wasn’t too surprised.

I decided to have an early lunch as soon as we got home, a good idea that went south when Sage managed to spill chicken noodle soup on two different pairs of pants, leaving him with nothing to wear but his pajamas. Good thing it was early enough to get them into another wash. When it was finally time to change back into his washed pants, I noticed that his underwear and socks were in the bathroom.

“Sage, are you wearing underwear?”

Long pause. “No.”

“Well, go to the bathroom and put on your underwear and socks.”

Another long pause. “Meema, I can’t.”

“Why?”

“Because there’s poo on them.”

At this point, his underwear had been resting on the floor for at least a halfhour, with plenty of time for Maggie to get involved in their story. As we were needed at bowling, there was no time to fix the problem, so new underwear was procured and off we went. Lest you think I have the patience of Job, I should note that there was yelling, both after the second bowl of soup went down and when the fouled underwear was revealed. I am not always mother of the year.

In between spilling soup and abandoning underthings, we all baked birthday cupcakes, frosted them, and applied smarties to decorate. Both kids helped as much as they could, and the egg shell was mostly my fault. If only Blake’s temper had matched the amount of effort we put into his dessert. He was high-strung, kind of mean to Sage, and by the end of the party he was giving me the stink eye pretty much constantly. Then again, he may just have been suffering the effects of 2 hours of bowling, Top 40, pizza, pop, and sugary cupcakes. I know I was.

my little ten pin

my little ten pin


For me, the best part of the party was teasing one of my former students, who has a weekend job as a party hero. That, and doing the chicken dance, which I last heard performed by none other than the polka king himself at Oktoberfest. I surely do move in rarefied circles.

Posted by: rocketbride | December 8, 2013

the big one-oh

the tiniest blake

the tiniest blake


Today Blake turned 10 years old.

It’s a special date, not just because of the zero at the end, but because he was born on the 10th birthday of Morgan’s son. I was the second person of my peers to have a baby, and I managed to hit the exact date as if it were planned. I thought about this age gap after Blake was born. He was the first baby I outside my family that I knew well. I remembered visiting them in the hospital, and at her apartment as he grew up. I still have his little picture on my dresser. I often compared how tiny he was in my memory to the grotesque idea of a ten year old running around in his place.

Ten. Ugh. I’ll just keep this one as a baby forever, I think.

first valentine's day

first valentine’s day


What’s interesting about Blake in general is how much he has confounded my expectations, and how much he has taught me about parenting. Blake was sent to drive home the point that my plans were moot, my ideals so much ridiculous ephemera to be cast aside like teenage poetry. Until Maggie was born, I never loved anyone with the ferocity, the tenderness, the exasperation with which I love(d) him. He refused to sleep alone, didn’t sit or crawl or draw on time, but learned prodigiously and showed an early appetite for books that has yet to be satiated. He was spacey, goodnatured and kind for long spells, incredibly petty and rude if irritated. He refused to participate in holidays on any but his own exact terms. He was clumsy and hated to write. He was the apple of his grandpa’s eye. He was the kid to teach me that social acts were learned, not innate; that no amount of knowledge could create an extrovert. Today he ducked away from well-wishers, refusing to acknowledge birthday wishes. Like always, he was not my monkey. He refused to perform.

In other words, he was neither the Boy, nor me. He was himself.

kung fu blake

kung fu blake


And yet, now that he is older, I find more of myself in him. He was as clumsy at athletics as I, but didn’t give up the way I was allowed to, and he blossoms the way I am only beginning to now. He started piano lessons this fall, and he is picking up musical ability at an amazing rate for someone who has always struggled with hand-eye coordination and processing speed. The other day he asked me a question about how long I played piano; this is the kid whose lack of curiosity about his family is slightly deeper than his lack of curiosity about the world around him. He’s starting to read novels all the way through rather than in frenetic bursts, working through stories in order rather than skipping through pages like the super bouncy balls he loves. He makes lists and schedules for decorating the house for Hallowe’en and Christmas. He reads nursery rhymes to his sister.

Do I worry about him? All the time. I worry about things I can control, like leisure time and birthday presents. I worry about things I can’t control, like bad friends and mean teachers. I worry that he will be like his dad, unable to focus on anything long enough to find himself before he turns 30. I worry that he will be like me, unable to meet my own standards.

But mostly I’m just glad that he still hugs me in the morning, and at night when I see him to sleep. He refuses affection from just about everyone, but if we’re going through night-time prayers and I want to pray with my head on his chest he will wrap his skinny arms around me and make sure he kisses me on the lips before he lets me up to turn off the light. He’s not the infant who needed to be in the crook of my arm and he’s not the toddler who scratched bloody grooves in my cheeks with a smile on his face. But those reverberations are embedded somewhere in his personality, and my job is to love whichever one chooses to surface. He’s a complicated kid, but I love him. I can’t imagine a life without him; at least, not one I would like to live.

blake in a rare moment between making horrible faces at the camera. (c) loralayne photography 2013

blake in a rare moment between making horrible faces at the camera. (c) loralayne photography 2013

Posted by: rocketbride | December 3, 2013

busted

I’ve barely begun to shop for Christmas, and I’ve already had my secrets exposed.

When I went into the city on Saturday to visit Scherezade, I was really going to snag a limited edition beer that was released in the afternoon. Mason had told me about it, but since he was stuck in his course all day he was trying to be mature about missing it. I thought it would be an excellently unexpected gift.

But it was a hard slog. Maggie cried a lot, especially when we walked into Scherezade’s apartment, and Blake was visibly bored. Not only did we have to fight our way down in the cold along torn-up transit-less streets, but when we got there we had to split up. The line was small but slow moving, so I sent Scherezade in with the kids and a $10 bill, so that I wouldn’t worry about them freezing to death while I chased Mason’s Christmas present. It took about 40 minutes from arrival to purchase, and I walked into the restaurant relieved that I had at least got to my goal. I was also a little worried at how my high maintenance kids had fared with my childfree friend.

When I found them, Blake was eating chicken fingers and playing games on Scherezade’s phone. Maggie was drinking water from her own cup. Scherezade was trying one of the special collaborations. They were fine. Better than fine.

It was when I got home that disaster caught up with me. Mason likes to post in a local beer geek forum, and I thought I would check out what others had thought of the event. Was it just me who had trouble with the whole thing? Reading down, I discovered that Mason had seen a picture of me in line that was taken by the brewery and tweeted, so he was publicly resolving to fake surprise in a month.

that's me with the recognizable stroller. sigh.

that’s me with the recognizable stroller. sigh.


Goddamn, social media. Goddamn. Does anyone else get busted while doing their Christmas shopping?

I stewed for a day, wondering if I could keep up the charade. I thought about delightfully evil ways to mess with Mason, like telling him that I’d gone downtown to buy the special beer to give to his dad and brother in law, and watch him struggle to keep it together. Ultimately, I just told him that I knew. So we had our Christmas reveal a little early this year. Oh well.

Posted by: rocketbride | November 30, 2013

“old school” and “blog” are mutually exclusive

I can’t believe I’m going back to ye olde text file. This year I decided to just type directly into WordPress and thus publish faster. That…didn’t really work. And now my internet is out, so it’s back to a computer that’s just itself. Hard to believe that I learned most of what I know about computers in the days when you had to consciously connect to the internet, when they were all just themselves. I still have hard disks rattling away in the house, even though I don’t even have a computer that will accept them. Memories.

I’ve been in a weird mood today; but perhaps no weirder than usual. I saw a guy who looked like the Lawyer, but the young version I first met in res. The voice was wrong, and of course he didn’t have the crazy sense of humour (from what I could tell from afar); still, I was probably staring too much. Nothing less classy than a girl in her late thirties staring at a young guy. Beside, if there’s a younger Lawyer running around, there must be a younger, thinner, funner version of me somewhere, out late dancing and laughing. Perhaps she doesn’t have hard disks, but she’s out there, having too much to drink and falling asleep in couches in the chaste embrace of boys who would never kiss her if they were sober.

rocket

I spent most of the day with Scherezade, Blake & Maggie, trying to chase down a Christmas present in the downtown. It was insanely, impossibly difficult to get anywhere: not only was I shepherding Maggie Won’t Ride in the Stroller Because She Wants to Stop and Touch Everything, not only was it windy and freezing by turns, but the two main streetcar routes along my way were ripped up. Funtastic. We ended up cabbing it both ways, which was ultimately no more expensive than the four of us riding the Rocket but much more nerve-wracking with Maggie riding in my lap.

Fortunately, Scherezade is a trooper. I definitely couldn’t have handled the kids without her. She didn’t bat an eye at all the crap we had to wade through, and she even said it was “fun” when we parted. Whattagirl.

Posted by: rocketbride | November 27, 2013

dinosaur vs. our exes! dinosaur wins!

Last night was a bit of a treat: poor Sage was sick, so Mason got to come home early. Instead of sitting in my parents’ in my work clothes, I got to be home and have dinner with my sweeties. It wasn’t a terribly productive night (I still work late on Tuesdays and I had a parent conference after that, plus Maggie decided to be on my lap all evening, pinning me to the couch) but I enjoyed the respite for all that.

I really struggle with Tuesday nights. On one hand, working late two nights a week is pretty much the easiest way I can think of to make extra money that we badly need. On the other hand, it exacerbates the loneliness of Tuesday nights, when Blake goes to visit his dad and Mason goes to visit Sage. My dad is trying to help by bringing me over for dinner every week, but I’m left feeling useless as I sit around, uncomfortable in my work clothes and anxious about the housework I could be doing while I’m watching Maggie play with her Potatohead.

I really don’t know what the answer is, other than dinosaurs attacking our exes and freeing our schedules permanently. Don’t know how it would solve the money problems, though.

(When I proposed this idea to Mason, I followed it up with, “that would be ironic,” and giggling. As the two of us are English teachers, we find mis-identification of irony amusing. But then I realized that it might actually be ironic, as what could be less expected than a dinosaur attack?)

The good news is that many of my money troubles will be eased tomorrow, when I can stop racking up credit card debt. (I’m looking at you, new bathroom.) The bad news is that I didn’t win the lottery, so the austerity and extra hours will continue. I’m thinking of teaching summer school this year, a proposition that makes me want to scream and hide; I can’t imagine any place I like less than school in the summer. And yet, it beats a life of self-denial and worry, so it’s on the table. Also under consideration: free exercise programs, since I’ve already paid for a yearly gym membership; teaching a running course for the motivation and free-ness of same; reading free books from the library and NOT running up huge fines; using birthday money for the kids to buy clothes for them; and drastically cutting back on Blake’s birthday presents by including the party in my calculations for the first time.

I miss impulsive, spendy me. She was a lot more fun.

Posted by: rocketbride | November 26, 2013

sixty!

On Sunday we celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday. It was kind of a big deal: she wanted a party, but a low-pressure one, so she wouldn’t get too anxious about people showing up. (Sounds like nobody I know.) I got a lot of credit, as I wrote and sent out the invitations, but my main role was just helping to plan it and offering support. My mom may be insecure, but she knows a lot of people, and she’s of the generations that loves to get together in person, so that definitely worked in her favour.

We had all three kids for the party, so it’s just as well that I didn’t have a larger role. Most of my energy on the weekends when we have all the kids is spent transitioning them into and out of various activities. Dressing them for outside is particularly exhausting, and I usually start ten minutes before I want to leave. It’s the biggest problem of my insane overlapping custody schedules: not the confusion but the constant novelty. When I have only one kid, I get lonely. When I have all three I feel like I’m wading through mud.

Fortunately, parties at my parents are great for the too-many-kid problem. There are so few other kids and so many loving adults that I can release my responsibilities as soon as I clear the threshold. Amazing.

I had a good time today, moving between small pockets of people. My own birthdays have yet to generate this kind of excitement, so it was nice to bathe in the reflected glow. Also, I got her an excellent necklace, discounted because I threw a facial/jewelry houseparty earlier this month.

Sometimes I make my life out to be terribly hard, but it can’t be all that bad when I get to write sentences like that.

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