Posted by: rocketbride | August 24, 2014

brothers and sisters, sisters and brothers

Last week my uncles were visiting from Seattle, which led to a confusing cluster of family parties. Luckily I had already gone to a party since I started my diet, so I knew that absolutely no one cared or even noticed if I ate appetizers. (I was certain that klaxons would blare, lights would swirl and dogs would bark if I managed to pass by an open bowl of chips without eating any…turns out that people only pay attention to the appetizers to make sure you’re not finishing the tray.) Luckily, my previous bête noire Diet Coke is essentially a freebie, so I can desperately clutch a can and seem sociable, while not going at the cheese and crackers.

This was also our chance to catch up with Baby Russell, who is now Toddler Russell, and has developed a number of delightful facial expressions. Also, he walks, so that’s fun. He’s not quite old enough to be interested in my kids, but I’m sure that by the time we cross paths next year he’ll be into whatever they do.

the kids

My estranged uncle showed up to the second party, which was interesting. We haven’t seen him since my grandmother’s death, when he got mad at everyone and cut off contact with the family. Since then I’ve heard snippets – hospital stays, medical problems, more arguments – and had to listen to my family badmouth his admittedly abrasive decisions. It’s extra sad because two of my uncles have died, leaving a normal-sized family, and the survivors need to do a better job of getting along with each other before death catches up with the rest.

all of the brothers and sister
not pictured: the grim spectre of mortality that haunts us all

Wow. That was grim, even for me.

Maybe I’m just sad because the Seattle uncles have left again, back to their wonderful city and beautiful house. I never miss them more than when they’ve just left.


The other thing we did this week, other than hang out with my nutty family and not eat chips, was take the younger two to Centre Island. This is the second time this year for Maggie, but it’s the first time for Sage since he was Maggie’s age. (As I recall, we bypassed the rides entirely and rented a side-by-side bike. Ah, the early days, when you could fake away from the amusement park in favour of shady trees and exploring pathways.)

This is probably the first time I’ve been to Centreville with two true siblings, who can go on rides together and pester for icecream in tandem and fight over control of the fire engine steering wheel. As much as I love watching Blake’s low-key interactions with Maggie, there’s something special about the light and heat of siblings close in age. We baked muffins on Wednesday, and the two of them bickered over turns and stirring and how to fill the papers, when I usually have to keep reminding Blake that we’re baking and he has to do something. And since I hardly ever have to experience it, it’s a treat rather than a drag.

the bees!

jet setter

pigs on the carousel!

The other good effect of siblingdom is that, because we had Sage to play with Maggie, we were able to watch Blake’s baseball games on Wednesday and Saturday. I’ve been avoiding the ball diamonds this year, as Maggie just can’t keep away from her BFF Grandpa, and he is occasionally needed to coach. Since the whole idea is to watch a little bit of Blake on the field, there’s no real point in going if I’m spending the game distracting her in the playground. With Sage around to play catch or just run in circles, I was free to watch Blake gloom through his at-bats.

(When did I become someone who cares about watching a baseball game? My inner 10-year-old is puking with shame.)

Posted by: rocketbride | August 24, 2014

spend a lazy saturday at our stall

What can we conclude from the fact that it has taken me a week to write up last Saturday’s shift at the Farmers Marker, one which included a surprise appearance by Amy Millan, the original Honey from the Tomb? I must be on a non-stop carnival of excitement, pushing each day to its limit in my relentless pursuit of good times. Or, I waste a lot of time somehow. I don’t know which is more likely.

It was pretty singular. In all respects, it was an ordinary morning at the market. Despite announcing it on Facebook a full day in advance, none of my friends were going to make it out. Maggie had already had her face painted and glittered. Two or even three people had bought meat. I was sucking on my customary veggie smoothie (2 points!) and thinking about jumping ship to our veggie-selling neighbour out of boredom when Mason nudged me.

“Look who it is,” he said, pointing toward a camera crew in front of Heather, the afore-mentioned veggie-selling neighbour.

“Yeah, I don’t know,” I replied, having eavesdropped on the conversation between the crew and Heather without really learning anything other than they were going to keep her business banner in the shot.

“It’s Amy.”

In front of our stall? In the gloom of the first cloudy Saturday all year? What?

But it was, and I watched surreptitiously as they did…something. Amy was wearing a bright dress and really high shoes, which made her look like an exotic bloom in our earth-toned granola market. I caught her eye once and waved, earning a confused smile before she went back to her business. This was the first time we’d met outside a concert, and context is everything. I decided not to bug her if she didn’t figure it out. I drank my smoothie too quickly, wondering if she would.

She did, of course. It was early for musicians, even if they also take care of a toddler every day. She came over to chat, asking if this is what I did when I wasn’t geeking out in audiences. I was reminded of a conversation Mason had years ago at a market with a vendor wearing a BSS shirt; when asked he said that he went to school with “some of them.” “Everyone I went to school with is either a farmer or in BSS,” he concluded. Seen in that light, it’s only natural Amy, Maggie, Jeff & I would meet again at a park, selling natural meat.

She was tired, and we only had a few minutes to talk before she went back to her thing, but when Maggie came back from her cookie run I took her over to see if Maggie would look at Amy this time. “I’ve been playing Old Perfume for her,” I said, “but she’s decided she doesn’t like Elevator Love Letter.” Then she asked if I’d heard the new song, which I hadn’t, and she chided me good-naturedly about the fact that 4 days had already passed. That’s what I’m like in the summer…I’ve been hermitted so deep since July started that I’m lucky I remember there’s an outside world.

Of course, now when I’m dressing my daughter to leave the cocoon, I can take with me the knowledge that my daughter and the daughter of my favourite singer* have the same sandals.

weekly market decoration

* Sorry you had to find out like this, Nick Cave.

Posted by: rocketbride | August 10, 2014

i’ve kissed a girl, not that it’s relevant

Now that I’m sliding grimly into early middle age, it’s probably redundant to say that my birthdays tend to be “quiet.” Some years I’m braver than others; this was not a brave year, and so I spent the day quietly, with as many of my family as were available. We started at the local farmer’s market, which we almost always miss thanks to the siren song of Toronto markets, thus making it a treat to stay closer to home and run into people we know from elsewhere. I avoided the baked treats and bought lots of fresh fruit, a pleasure particular to this season and one I can explore (relatively) guilt-free even on the diet. I also told Blake to buy me a sheep’s milk soap moulded to look like a sheep, which fulfilled his obligations for the day. Hey, the kid needs help with these things. He comes by it honestly.

When we were tired of sunshine and produce and happy people, we met up with the rest of my family (and my dad’s brother) at a local diner. We’ve eaten there for my birthday before, but the big attraction this time was that they will poach an egg for me. Since I’ve been poaching 1-3 eggs for everyone’s breakfast every day over the last few weeks, this is a big deal.

Blake was cranky while we were there, refusing to play along and imagine what his life would be like when he was 38. My mom was much more pliant, noting that she was still in nursing school with a bunch of 20 year olds. My dad came up blank until he remembered building a fence. My uncle was having surgeries. So…I have a lot to look forward to? I guess?

We are toilet training Maggie this month, so our meal was periodically interrupted for trips to the bathroom. She managed to successfully use the bathroom three times while we were there, which somewhat balances out all the times she peed on the sand when we were at the beach in the afternoon. (What is the protocol when your kid pees on the sand in a public beach? Is there a cleanup? Do you just kick sand over the spot? Do you stand guard and warn others away?)

As mentioned above, we spent the afternoon at the beach, where I was able to play with my new camera (thanks, Mason!!) to my heart’s content. We picked a spot in the shade which happened to be in the middle of a church picnic, and within the hour we had been adopted and ordered to fill our plates with chicken, corn and salad. We were the only white faces and it was such a blessing to be reminded of how generous and beautiful the world is, especially when Blake’s bike was stolen on Tuesday from a local park.

When we weren’t eating, Blake wallowed in the sand and Maggie ran around in the water without stopping while we ran behind her. My only regret is that I didn’t have much of a chance to swim deeper while I was splashing around with the little one. Even so, it was a heck of a birthday for a girl whose latest ambition is to first lose a tonne of weight and then get an elaborate knitting mermaid tattoo on her thigh.

how i spent my 38th birthday

how i spent my 38th birthday

Posted by: rocketbride | July 30, 2014

only three years?

Whenever I think about my age, I’m always surprised by how high the number is.

Whenever I think about my wedding anniversary, I’m always surprised by how low the number is.

Being married to Mason makes me so happy everyday that it’s easy to forget that we only made it official three short years ago. The minute I met him, I knew we were going to be friends. To be his wife is a blessing, wholly unlooked for on that first day. It feels like longer because I can’t remember what it was like to to not have him in my life. He is as much a part of me as my skin.

We spent a week apart while I toured the Midwest, following my geek to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house. It was a fantastic trip, and I saw things I’ll remember forever, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t draw a deep breath until I was home to him again.

Happy anniversary to my forever mate.

like this, but ripped

it’s official!

Posted by: rocketbride | July 24, 2014

battle of the bulge

About halfway through my trip, I took a break to upload some photos from my mom’s phone. Probably vacations aren’t the best time to take stock of your appearance, but those photos were not flattering, and I decided to take my doctor’s gentle suggestion to join Weight Watchers as soon as I got home.

Today was my first full day ON THE PROGRAM. After a humiliating readout of the foods I had eaten on my last day of vacation, I was determined to do better. Who knew that my breakfast was so calorie-dense? Or that I couldn’t afford to snack, even if I made healthy lunches and dinners?

The final straw was when I tried to go to a meeting. I walked in late, mistaken about the time, and met two charmless ladies who offered no support, no kind word of encouragement, just a grilling about my failure to print out the pass and the repeated suggestion that I probably wasn’t entitled to meetings, anyway. I was expecting to be brave in the face of a humiliating weigh in, to keep it grimly together while we discussed inanities like calorie reduced bread, and instead I got this bullshit.

On the way home I started to cry. It’s bad enough that I have to deal with the fact that I’m eating wrong after years of taking pride in my local, whole foods approach. It’s bad enough that all of the exercise I get in a week – the running, the weight training, the aquafit, the walking, the yoga – don’t help. It’s bad enough I have to brace myself for the look of hurt in my husband’s face when I tell him I can’t really eat all of the generous helping of what he has made from scratch. And the worst part of tonight was knowing that, despite still feeling hungry, I have nothing to look forward to but water.

I fucking hate this. But I am not giving up. I am going to another meeting in another place. I’m going to keep anal-retentively tracking my food. And I am going to be smaller when school starts again in September.

“As God is my witness, I’ll always be hungry again!” – the Simpsons

Posted by: rocketbride | July 17, 2014

lauraland, prologue

We finally made it to Missouri, and were given back an hour as a reward.

This was our longest day, and I hope the lowest point in personal relationships (nope! – ed.) This is the first road trip with my mom but not my dad since Rodin in Quebec City, and apparently our travelling styles have diverged. I’m used to setting the pace; stopping often for drinks, bathrooms, and sourcing cute local diners. In contrast, my mother’s vision for today was four wheels on the highway, her hands on the wheel. Repeated offers to share the driving were declined, leaving me to plan dinners that we didn’t have. Too bad we didn’t talk about this before we started to squabble about dinner, as in are we stopping for one?

It’s not really worth dwelling on, despite the silent stewing I did on the highway. I got a lot of knitting done, which might not have happened had we been chatting. And dinner, though late, was awesome: we ate in a small but tidy stone building off the highway, a proper barbecue joint specializing in fast, delicious food. The only unfortunate fallout was that, once I had tasted Sweetwater’s barbecue, I couldn’t bring myself to try it elsewhere.

(This is a classic example of selective memory. Later in the month I asked Scherezade if it was like this when we visited her in den Haag, and she reminded me of something I had entirely forgotten, that my mom spent that entire trip on edge because her bank card wouldn’t work and I was the only one who could access funds. Apparently I need a Mememto-style tattoo to prevent future uncomfortable trips from happening.)

Posted by: rocketbride | July 16, 2014

wonder women

Earlier this summer I finished Grant Morrison’s hymn to himself, Supergods. It was actually interesting in the parts that predate the author, and one of the things I learned about was Wonder Woman, created by a bondage-loving psychologist who dared to ask the question: what if an awesome lady fell in love with an unconscious dumb prettyboy? Unlike most of these stories, the answer is that it would be fantastic.

I bought a collection of her first appearances at the Beguiling, meticulously ordered and blessedly free of all but a tiny non-apology for all of the racist caricatures. Wonder Woman fights Nazi stereotypes, Mexican stereotypes, and Japanese stereotypes with equal vigour. And although I am in love with Wonder Woman from her star-spangled culottes to her bullet-deflecting bracelets, my heart belongs to her sidekick Etta Candy. (And I’m not alone.)

Etta is a fat, boy crazy co-ed who’s never too busy to come to Wonder Woman’s rescue. She leads a band of sassy, energetic co-eds who never question why WW would need them to hide in refrigerators or dive after emerging Nazi sailors or play band music in a parade against an evil milk corporation. She loves dudes, adventure and her girlfriends; she refuses to go anywhere without her box of candy; and she takes zero shit from WW about her weight.

And who among us hasn’t wrestled with the choice between swimming after villains and holding onto chocolate? Etta, God bless her, has the guts to say fuck it, why can’t I do both?

she’s so great!

Posted by: rocketbride | July 14, 2014


Mason & I took Maggie to Storytime today. I’m trying to do as much as I can to assuage my guilt before we leave for our Big Nerd Midwestern Roadtrip, which usually means enriching activities for Maggie, who’s more than happy to play with new toys.

We go to the same centre where I took Blake, and I can’t help but compare the two of them. Maybe the reflection is just because I didn’t space the babies the “normal” way, so instead of having the sound and the fury all at once I had eight years to catch my breath. Maybe it’s because I’m hyperalert to debunk the idea that there are inherent differences between genders. Maybe I just have too much time to think in the summer.

In any case, Blake was a very different child. What I later recognized as introversion appeared early on: when we would sit in circles and sing familiar songs, he often bailed to investigate dusty corners. The slower-than-average processing speed was quick to present as well: if an answer was required, like we needed a new part of the bus to celebrate, he would stare mutely at the leader until another kid (or I) jumped in. His difficulty in reading social cues showed up when he played around other kids; he would gaze lovingly at older boys and girls, even though they ignored him. I often wondered if I was wasting my time, taking him to these programs when he didn’t seem to get a lot out of it.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I had completely unrealistic expectations of his behaviour. With all of my attention focussed on my own escape act, I never noticed all the other kids making a break behind the couch, or if I did, I noticed only that their son or daughter didn’t do it as frequently as mine. I didn’t understand then that there were parents of kids like mine who had convinced themselves that they should stay home with their wandering, quiet offspring. I didn’t understand that the population in public was skewed in favour of quiet, polite kids, kids who would make their parents proud by participating appropriately when given the opportunity, while the others were discovering their backyards. This is what makes church hard for me sometimes: if we only bring the best kids out in public, every other kid starts to look abnormal by comparison, and what I think of as normal kid behaviour becomes hideously disruptive.

But if Blake was born to teach me a lesson about how to value the “difficult” kid, Maggie was born to tease me with a small amount of ideal behaviour mixed with a base of rambunctiousness. She sings and dances with the group, yes, but then she’s off to explore. She will sit and listen to a story for a few minutes before commandeering the props and telling her own story. She watches the leader and listens closely when a new element is added to a familiar routine, but once she’s learned it she’s gone.

Whenever I think about my kids, I’m always glad Blake was born first. Not because he softened me up or wore me down, but because he made me accept the idea that my kids would first be themselves, not some fantasy I had dreamed up. The love and respect and admiration I feel for him and his unique style makes me appreciate Maggie all the more: both for what she does that is like him and what she does that is more typical. Because Blake and Sage didn’t do a lot of imaginative play, I am delighted when Maggie wraps her spoon in a napkin and kisses it goodnight. And because Blake and Sage wanted to know and do everything, I know that Maggie will want the same, so I can plan what stores I can take her into, for how long before we need to go.

If she had been born first, I would have been more worried about his introversion rather than just seeing it as the baseline for my children’s personality. If she had been born first, she would have bossed him mercilessly, rather than give the benevolent indifference he bestows on his little sister. It all worked out pretty well.

reading on the couch

One of the things I love about summer vacation is the ability to immerse myself in multiple projects – housekeeping, sewing, exercise, potty training – and then throw it all away in a giddy rush when there’s something fun to do. Right now I’m in the project phase, knowing that, come Tuesday, I’ll be getting ready for a week’s furlough in the Midwest.


I only had three things to do today: go to church, mop the floor & work out with Nic. Once they were accomplished, I was able to watch soccer with Sage & Mason & a co-worker’s family. Just because I like to work out doesn’t mean that I can stay super enthusiastic throughout 2+ hours of soccer, but my afternoon was saved through the constant stream of random commentary coming from Sage. We were at a sports bar with multiple screens, and when he wasn’t cheering for soccer (2 seconds behind the action, often chanting, “oh yeah, I’m cool”) he was cheering on race cars (“go number 2!”) and the UFC matches being broadcast simultaneously (“yeah! punch that guy!”). There was another 6 year old at our table, and I was amused at how similarly the two of them acted: always looking for mischief, always reacting a few moments after everyone else. Sage is the master of the long, rambling, nonsensical monologue, and his talent is particularly hilarious played out against a sporting event. I hope he’ll be this naturally funny in another 4 years.

bonding over soccer

bonding over soccer

Posted by: rocketbride | July 12, 2014

It would have been worse if Sage had thrown up on…

1. Maggie. She would have been totally traumatized and may have added to the clean up.

2. The new yarn and yummy fabric I just bought. Washing yarn…ugh.

3. The brand new comic books we bought for a birthday party tomorrow.

4. A half-dozen fresh Gryfe’s bagels.

5. The Hip Hop Family Tree discography I just finished making for Mason, containing all 40 songs referenced in volume 1 over 4 CDs, and housed in a handmade cardboard sleeve decorated with colour prints of the comic, which took 4 trips to Staples and a gallon of mod podge to complete.

6. In the air vent, like in my sister-in-law’s car.

It’s probably for the best that he only hurled on the seat, the floor, a cloth bag containing a new (but now unreturnable) picture frame, two dolls, an old battered book of Ontario road maps, and a brand new sewing pattern for a Maggie dress. The pattern pieces were basically unscathed, although transcribing the info off the befouled envelope was fairly harrowing. The envelope is in a better place now, by which I mean my garbage can.

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