Friday, September 29, 2006

Banana - Orange You Glad I Said Banana?

This morning our bedroom was so cold my glasses fogged up when I put them on. But this beautiful quilt, which my very good friend made us for a wedding gift, kept us warm all night.

(I should mention that we never make our bed. This is something that we don't try at home; we let the professionals do it. So I had to take a picture since it'll last longer.) I'll call my friend Banana, because when she signs off emails sometimes her four-fingered typing goes awry and she types something that rhymes with Banana. Here is a detail of the quilt.

I realize it may not be to everyone's taste but it is SO our taste. I love brown. Here is proof of how much I love brown: my belly dance costume is brown, though because it's all velvet and beads, bronze is probably more accurate. And my wedding dress had bronze beading all over it too. I wore all amber jewellry at my wedding and Sugar Daddy gave me an amber ring when he proposed. Luckily, he loves earthy colours too. So we love this quilt.

Swee'pea and I had lunch with Banana today at a very yummy Greek restaurant. Banana is Intense, capital I, and a supermom. She just completed her BA after studying part-time, working full-time, mothering, singing in a choir, enjoying an active church life, getting fit, travelling, quilting, watching bad movies and tv, and more for the last several years. Needless to say she is pretty much a master of time management. Banana is a woman whose calendar is always jam packed so if you want to see her you pretty much have to take advantage of any openings that arise, and you usually have to make plans a pretty long time in advance. Since I very rarely schedule things and have a mostly wide-open calendar, this arrangement suits our friendship fairly well.

Sometimes it seems odd that we're friends because I am a total slacker. But then I remember that she is a slacker at housework too (just not anything else); not long ago she confessed to me that she only recently laid eyes on her dryer for the first time since they moved into their house three years ago. (She has a great husband who does all the laundry.) And while she takes type A to the max, I am secretly a bit type A myself. Our neuroses validate and normalize one another's.

We both eat grapefruits by first peeling the thick skin, then peeling the membranes from the segments. Many of our coworkers and friends mock this method -- until they try it. Seriously, if you have never eaten a grapefruit this way, you must try it. It's so much better than the conventional sliced in half with sugar and a serrated spoon. We also both eat a lot of rice and veg type leftovers for lunch and have strict requirements for the rice to sauce ratio. And we're both afraid of flying and share our prescriptions for lorazepam before international flights.

We also both share an obsession with efficiency. I drive myself nuts whenever I drive anywhere trying to figure out the perfect route to my destination. If I get stopped at a traffic light, I spend those minutes questioning my decision, regretting that I didn't take another route, and wondering how I can modify my route to make up the time. I am compulsively punctual. I thought having a baby would make me late for things, and I gave myself permission to be late, but somehow I am still precisely on time for about 95 per cent of dates. Banana is often late despite her best efforts, so I spend a lot of my time waiting for her. She hates to be kept waiting so I suppose these tendencies also suit our friendship just fine. But she has taken this obsession with efficiency to a new level: today she was telling me that she has also been walking on her lunch hours, but because no one else has been joining her, she reads while she walks. Reads. While. She. Walks. She defended herself by clarifying, "Well I look up for the intersections." Today she takes the cake.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

On Being a Mom

There is something so magical about watching Swee'pea fall asleep in the sling, at least one of his hands wrapped around at least one of my fingers, his eyes fluttering, adjusting his head slightly to get comfortable, until finally he settles into stillness. It's moments like these that make me feel like the first mother ever. Yet I take comfort in the fact that I'm not, that women have had babies for millennia and that there are elements that must be universal: the heart-stopping jolt of anxiety when our babies are sick, the overwhelming warmth of love that envelops us when we hold them sleeping or nursing.

I have been thinking about Metro Mama's post about women's work. I remember when Swee'pea was just a few days old and I was talking to my friend about the high craziness of the whole birth/motherhood thing. This was the woman who told me that childbirth hurts like hell but who I didn't really believe. I naively thought when I was pregnant that she just wasn't doing the right things. Maybe that's true and maybe my labour wouldn't have hurt so much if I hadn't been strapped to a bed the whole time because every time I sat or stood upright the baby's heartrate plummeted. (I have recently been musing about just how naive I was when I was pregnant. I believe those books that said that women don't have to feel pain giving birth. Maybe that's true for some but definitely not for all.) Anyways, I was talking to this friend and she asked, "So is Sugar Daddy a complete git around the baby?" And my answer was an absolute, unequivocal No. If anything he was more comfortable around Swee'pea in those early days than I was. I was too sore from the c-section and couldn't do anything more than nurse him. And even while I was nursing, Sugar Daddy took his role, as laid out by the lactation consultant, very seriously. He duly stroked Swee'pea's cheek and or legs to wake him if he fell asleep; he even took over the prescribed breast compressions when my hand cramped.

There were so many other c-sections in the hospital that day that I had to share a room with another woman. In fact, her c-section had been scheduled for that morning, but my emergency had bumped her back to 4 in the afternoon. The upside of the roommate situation was that it was actually a room for 4 patients so Sugar Daddy got his own bed instead of a folding cot. This roommate was up walking that night (!) and going to the bathroom and everything. For some reason her husband didn't stay at the hospital. He even worked while she was there. I imagine they figured they would save his time off for when she was home and didn't have nurses to help her. But I think this ended up being a mistake. For one thing, the nurses were helpful in the middle of the night when Swee'pea had hiccups and Sugar Daddy got nervous, but for the most part, we were solely responsible for Swee'pea once he was out of the nursery. So she ended up walking the corridors at night trying to settle her little one while I slept and Sugar Daddy held Swee'pea. Her milk was slow coming in and they had to supplement with a little feeding tube attached to her breast. I believe she needed more rest than she was getting for a good milk supply. But I'm coming to my real point. Her husband visited early in the morning before he went to work and at the end of his work day. Then he would go home to sleep uninterrupted so he could be fresh for work.

We were all really nervous handling our first newborns. But my roommate, Sugar Daddy and I just muddled through it. We didn't know how to settle these creatures but we figured it out by trial and error. But my roommate's husband didn't have the benefit of observing this trial and error. He just saw his wife handling their baby with confidence. And I believe he felt incompetent. I overheard her on the phone, talking to a friend, lamenting that her husband didn't really want to hold the baby or change his diaper because he was too nervous. "I keep telling him," she said, "I don't know what I'm doing either. I just keep trying. But he won't. He's too nervous." I often think of this woman. I didn't exchange details with her so I have no way of getting in touch her now but I wonder if her milk ever came in and if she was able to breastfeed, if her husband managed to get past his nerves.

I have another friend who says she's in charge of all things baby and she likes it that way. Her husband asks her before he does anything related to the baby. He sleeps in a separate room so that at least one of them is rested and he can cook dinner. This woman is so together I don't believe he even took any time off work. But he does the grocery shopping and other chores when he gets home at night. I really admire just how together this woman is, although that division of labour doesn't suit our family. I think it might be related to the fact that she is the one in their family who goes with the flow on most other topics.

In my family, Sugar Daddy mostly goes with the flow and I make many of the decisions. I find this role tiring, and often try to encourage Sugar Daddy to participate in decision-making. Obviously, his participation has increased with the arrival of Swee'pea. Here is something that really matters to him (bathroom tiles and long distance plans and mortgage payments don't really do it for him). But still, he almost always asks me what to dress Swee'pea in; and he forgets to change his diaper before putting him to sleep for the night; and I find myself reminding him to put him in pajamas and change his diaper as I'm leaving for my belly dance class.

Sugar Daddy has many wonderful qualities: foremost among them, he tolerates me and my neuroses, even loves me. He is a great dad and you can see that Swee'pea adores him. He cooks most meals, does all the cat care, and he puts out the garbage without me having to remind him. But there are many times when I have to tell myself that it really doesn't matter if he washes the mugs before the plates, if he folds pants differently, or if he puts Swee'pea's clothes on a different order. But I do wish he would stop asking me what to dress him in. Or where his clothes are.

Last night was my third belly dance class since I was 7 1/2 months pregnant. Swee'pea apparently was great and mostly slept while I was gone. This is a great improvement from the screaming that ensued when I went out for a couple of hours a few months ago. And I think it is definitely essential for Sugar Daddy to have time alone with Swee'pea, even if he is mostly asleep for it.

I gained nearly 50 pounds during my pregnancy. And I loved the ripe look. I lost nearly 35 of those pounds within the first three weeks post partum. Then I started putting the weight back on. I think it mostly happened in July when it was insanely hot and I was very unhappy, feeling sorry for myself that Swee'pea wasn't remotely close to sleeping through the night, or even in his crib. My unhappiness lifted when I started this blog, and when I accepted that he wasn't going to sleep in his crib so I may as well just make the best of it. Anyways, here I am, still 25 pounds heavier than I was before I got pregnant.

There is a wall of mirrors that we face in my belly dance class. I am still surprised when I see myself in it. The time of me dancing pregnant has faded in my memory so I don't expect to see a pregnant belly. But I also don't expect to see my pendulous breasts, whose momentum throws off my rhythm when I do a shoulder shimmy, or the larger belly and hips. Sometimes I start to feel disappointed in my body. But I've noticed something happening over the course of the class the last two weeks. By the end of the class, my body looks slimmer. Maybe it's because through the dance I lift my shoulders, chest and chin, and engage my abdomenal muscles. But maybe it's because the dance allows me take joy in my body and its movements, a different joy from the joy and surprise of providing sustenance for my son with it. And even though I'm desperately out of shape, even with the pendulous breasts and new ripples of flesh, I gotta say, I still got some moves. I am still capable of sensual undulations and hip circles, and playful shoulder twists and chest circles.

One school of thought holds that belly dance originated as a way of teaching girls how to be women and preparing their bodies for childbirth and labour. I certainly found shimmying helpful during my early contractions before they strapped me down (I don't mean that to sound resentful; I believe all the interventions were absolutely necessary in my case, especially the c-section, and you can read Swee'pea's birth story for more details if you like); and I was disappointed that I didn't get to do more belly dancing later in my labour. I think it most appropriate that this form of dance is also allowing to me to enjoy my body despite, or maybe because of, the changes motherhood has wrought on it. As Sugar Daddy said when I was pregnant, "Your life will never be the same again; it makes sense that your body won't either."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Surreal Store Incident

This afternoon we went to the local convenience store for bread and chocolate. I thought I might also like cookies but I couldn't. I stood in the cookie aisle trying to decide for a long time. While I stood there, a man went into the aisle across from me. We made eye contact, briefly, and in retrospect I can say there was something a bit odd about him, a bit shifty. As I watched out of the corner of my eye, he opened up his bomber jacket and I though, "Wow, he's going to shoplift. Or pull out a gun." I was a bit nervous while I waited to find out which. But no, he just picked up a can of spray deoderant, sprayed it liberally into each armpit, put the canister back on the shelf and walk away, leaving a cloud of deoderant in his wake.

When I went to the cash to pay for my purchases I asked if the clerk had noticed. He hadn't, so I guess this guy had some experience. Bizarre. I swear I don't make this shit up.

while I'm on the subject

In South Africa, middle class people have access to very cheap [black] labour. Obviously this isn't good for the labouring people but with a 40% (yes you read that right 4-0 per cent) unemployment rate, they can't raise the minimum wage without increasing unemployment. So most middle class people have a maid, for at least half a day a week, and the people I met usually also have a gardener come for a few hours a week or so. I believe that anyone with young kids often has a live-in nanny. Or at least Sugar Daddy grew up with a second mother, as he describes his first nanny. Anyways, I'm getting sidetracked.

What I wanted to post was an anecdote Sugar Daddy's aunt told us. Apparently there is a group of hard-core, racist Afrikaaners who are very unhappy with the way things have gone in the country over the last decade and a half. So they have set up a whites-only community somewhere in the desolate landscape that is getting up near Botswana (I can't remember the name of the region and I always sucked at geography). The government isn't doing anything about it, figuring if they want to keep themselves to themselves, go ahead. They wouldn't contribute anything to the populated areas of the rainbow nation anyways. But Sugar Daddy's aunt pointed out that because they won't allow blacks in (not that any would want to live there anyways) they have to do all their own labour, "And that just isn't South African at all." I had to laugh.

Cleaning Lady Angst

Sugar Daddy and I have been getting more and more bourgeois over the years. And it seems that the transition has been accelerating exponentially since we had Swee'pea.

Things that I have felt uncomfortable doing because they're so middle class, and I never imagined in any angst-ridden, angry adolescence or contrary university years that I would become like my parents:
  • buying a 15-year-old Jetta five years ago
  • (it got worse though when we discovered Swee'pea's infant car seat only just barely fit into it so we bought a Brand New Car in April)
  • renting a nice apartment with two bedrooms when we really we only needed one for us to sleep in
  • buying a house (although we did buy the ugliest one we could find in an "up and coming" neighbourhood)
  • discovering that the neighbourhood really is up and coming and the assessed value going up like $50,000 in one year
  • getting married
  • wanting to get married
  • getting pregnant
  • wanting to get pregnant
  • planning to get pregnant (after I was already married - how conformist can you get?)
  • getting central air installed when the baby's room is reaching temperatures of more than 30 degrees (of course, the heat wave broke the day we got it installed and we haven't had another hot day since).
The list goes on and on. The bottom line is that when I was 19 I was supposed to be a rebel for my whole life and I really struggled with the fact that I wanted some of thees middle class things.

But today we add another item to the list. We've hired a cleaning lady (is there a more PC term?) and she's coming today. But she does use only nontoxic, green cleaners... does that lessen the bourgeois reality of having someone else clean your house?

I'm really nervous. I wanted to rush around cleaning up so she doesn't judge us but I held back. We did, however, spend a few hours trying to tidy away some of the clutter so that she can actually clean. I'm still scared that she will judge us.

My mother had various cleaning ladies over the years and at least one of them quit because the house was just too messy. My mom says it was my toothpaste speckles on the mirror that sent her over the edge.

Now that Swee'pea is crawling around I am very aware that we've been intending to mop the kitchen floor for way too long. I won't say how long because I'm ashamed but trust me that it's probably been longer than you'd think. These days it's a good day if we can do a load of laundry, dishes and make dinner without a telephone. We're just not orgnaized or interested in cleaning enough to keep our house clean. Perhaps our slobbiness can be our claim to bohemia?

So we have a cleaning lady. I just pray that she doesn't walk out in disgust.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Baby Bibliophile Part II

Swee'pea is reaching for the Lonely Planet Guide to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. I think he is telling us he wants to go there in January and visit his grandpa and all the other loved ones who live there.

Dreams Part II

Last night I dreamed that I was buying cigarettes in Wendy's (yes apparently the fast food chain branched out to cigarettes) and the place was full of high school kids trying to be badasses. It was hard to get service it was so busy. I think I felt nervous and like I didn't belong; like I was in high school again. My mom was waiting outside in the car with Swee'pea.

I often dream that I'm smoking a cigarette only to remember that I'm breastfeeding and shouldn't, or that I'm pregnant and shouldn't. Or that just one cigarette won't hurt.

Shortly after Swee'pea was born I had many dreams of my Grandma Ruth who died when I was six months pregnant. One was particularly disturbing: my parents were driving us to some restaurant thing, up a twisty, steeply rising, mountain road. My grandma and I were in the backseat. At the restaurant (it was an opening or something), my grandma got cold but my parents were still busy chatting. They told her to go out to the car to warm up. When we got there, she had wrapped herself in a huge clear plastic bag, for warmth I guess, but was having trouble breathing. I can still see the plastic sucked against her mouth and nose, and her alarmed eyes. (The plastic is actually quite significant because my dad's whole career was spent developing plastic films, milk bags, and recycling programs.) My dad ripped off part of the plastic but she was still struggling for breath. I saw another place to cut it open so I did and she breathed deeply and loudly like you see in movies when someone is rescued from drowning or suffocating. Suddenly I was a kid again, and I told her, "Grandma, if you die because of some stupid mistake or accident like that I'll be really mad." And she hugged me.

Dreams Part I

Monday, September 25, 2006

Lawn Bowling and Native Plants

There is a lawn bowling club near us; we walk past it between parks along the river. This afternoon we went for a walk and went past the lawn bowling green. The wind was high and the clouds were moving fast. This morning's weather forecast called for rain this afternoon, and for rain on two or three other days later this week. There were large puddles in the gravel driveway and parking lot that surround the green. My point is it's been wet and they're calling for more wet. But there were big sprinklers watering the green! It looked like the heavens were about to open any minute and they're watering the green?!?

Recently I've been noticing new signs around Guelph like this one. I don't know very much about this issue but it is my vague understanding that the municipality has created a 50-year water plan and are proposing to build a pipeline from Lake Erie to meet the city's increasing water needs. I understand there will be another pipe that runs alongside it to take waste back to Lake Erie. People are up in arms because of the enormous economic and ecological impact such a pipeline would have. I intend to do more research about this issue but haven't yet. People are rising quickly to protest and the signs are multiplying. My husband joked that all the people who have been fighting Walmart for the last several years need a new cause now Walmart has made it in. (It's just a joke, not intended to offend anyone. We opposed Walmart too.)

I guess the main reason we need more water is because Guelph is developing like mad, especially in the south end, which is close to Highway 401 and therefore very attractive to commuters. Every time we go out of town, it takes longer and longer to get out of the city and there is less and less green space between it and the 401.

On one of those 50 degree days we had in July, a Very Kind Mum invited Swee'pea and I to hang out at her air-conditioned house deep in the south end. As I drove through her subdivision at 1 or 2 in the afternoon, I saw a woman watering her grass and the sidewalk -- on a day when it really did feel like I was in a sauna! First off, I absolutely don't condone watering lawns; well, I just don't see the point. My lawn is mostly full of weeds that stay green in droughts but even if it weren't. Lawns go brown in summer; who cares? BUT, if you are going to water your lawn (and some of my friends do and I'm still friends with them so I'm not that militant), DO IT IN THE EARLY MORNING OR EVENING, PEOPLE! Not at the peak of heat in the day when it's so hot I can guarantee no water is actually making it to the roots of your grass because it is evaporating so fast.

Wow, this has turned into a rant. I intended for it just to be a series of observations but I guess I'm a bit passionate about this. So... if you want to conserve water, which we all should if we want our children and their children to survive and thrive when we're gone, a great way to do it is to do away with your lawn and grow native plants. They're also beautiful and provide habitat for the creatures that live near you, including all the pretty butterflies and birds. Since I began gardening with native plants, my standards of beauty have changed. I have learned to identify invasive aliens and many native species and I find that some of the invasives I once thought pretty are no longer because I know they are destroying wild plant communities and threatening our forests. I still love lilacs -- after all they're pretty well-behaved and aren't much of a threat -- but I find more and more I love the native berrying shrubs that flower in the spring and early summer, the midsummer milkweeds and autumn asters.

It really annoys me when I watch a gardening program and the 'experts' talk like watering your garden is just a fact of life. I have seen many segments telling you how you can go on vacation and still have your garden survive. Mostly they involve planting in new absorbent materials so water is provided slowly. But it doesn't have to be this way. If you use native plants you only have to water them while they're young; once they're established, unless you have a crazy, unusual for your area drought, you don't have to water them again.

There are many great websites and books that can help you if you want to give it a try:
And there are no rules. Just try planting one native species and see if you like it.

Swee'pea with (red) Cardinal plant (lobelia cardinalis) and (pink) Joe Pye Weed (don't remember the latin).
I saw HBM's call to action to write about a passionate cause. I didn't do anything about it because I felt like a knob writing about this piddly little cause when compared to the real human causes others have written about, particularly HBM's piece about the disease her nephew is suffering from. I was paralysed by that piece. But my post today has come about organically, like my garden, and I realize that it is not a piddly little cause at all but is also a human cause. We are all 80 per cent water and our lives and children's lives depend on it.

Oh - and while I'm on my soapbox about green things, buy local produce.

My garden in July, L to R: (white) foxglove beardtongue (penstemon digitalis), puple coneflower (echinacea purpurea), (yellow) mexican hat (ratibida columnifera), (yellow) shrubby St. John's wort, (red) blanket flower (gaillarda or something like that), and (yellow) black-eyed susan (rudbeckia something).

I wanna be cinnamon gurl

When I started this blog, I wanted to be cinnamon girl, but various related subdomains were already taken. A few weeks ago I checked out the blogs with those names and they both had only one post - one back in 2001. Ugh. Anyways, I still want to be cinnamon gurl. And my husband wants to be sugar daddy with our son, swee'pea. Hardly original but I really like all the cute nick names other people have and I want to join in. Plus I have discovered another kate commenting on a blog I read so I think maybe I should make the change. But will it be confusing for people or just plain lame to do it now that I've been commenting for a month or two as kate? If anyone reads this, please comment with your thoughts. Are there technical considerations as well?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Al Purdy: Poet, Idol, Man

I've already posted about how this blogging thing is making me smarter; well it was more about making me want to write poems and make photos again. But I think it is making me smarter. I think this is partly because the Canadian mommy bloggers I've been reading lately are all not only ridiculously well educated but they still read good literature. I don't do this. It's chicklit all the way for me anymore. Maybe this is changing though.

When I was 19, I was offered the opportunity to write a review of Canadian poet Al Purdy reading in my very own town. This was promptly followed by an even better opportunity to see a tribute to him at the 1996 (I think) International Writers' Festival at Harbourfront. Then came something even better: an interview with the man himself in his own home.

The review was supposed to be published alongside the interview in IN2Print magazine, now defunct, which was a magazine for young artists. Sadly, by the time I interviewed him and wrote up the interview (like a year after the first event), the review wasn't published. The interview has since been republished in a high school anthology by Pearson Education. I thought I had lost the article for years but found some drafts when I went through my old filing cabinet just before Ezra was born.

Now I am going to publish it here, in all my 19-year-old glory. Well, ok I added a few comments, which are italicized in square brackets.

Warning: this is a long post.

I have read Al Purdy's poetry for four or five years now, nearly idolizing him, so when I heard he was reading at the Albion Hotel here in Guelph, I was nearly bouncing off the walls waiting for the big night. I already own two books signed by him, one my brother gave me after a book signing in Victoria, BC, the other picked up at a used book store, already signed, for a scandalous two dollars. But I planned to have my Collected Works signed personally by him (“To Kate With Love” would be nice). Shortly after discovering Al's imminent arrival in Guelph, I heard I would also be attending the tribute to him at the International Writers' Festival at Harbourfront on October 24, 1996 (?) with the Editor of In2Print magazine. I reopened my collections of his poetry after a bit of a hiatus in my excitement to hear him read.

My idolatry of Al began only recently, although I have always loved his poetry, and I'm not sure exactly why my feelings have exploded so suddenly; I only know that they have. I love his down-to-earth tone, spiced with incredible, piercing imagery, and the musicality of his words. But especially, I love the way he leaps across space and time, finding history in everything present. This is an idea very close to my heart, and I guess part of my enthusiasm for Al is that it's so liberating to read a piece that articulates my own personal philosophies. My admiration for Al grew even further when I began reading about his life for a presentation in my poetry class this semester. (Since then, my classmates have taken to referring to me as the Purdy Girl.) In my research, I learned how Al dropped out of high school in grade ten and hopped freight trains across Canada, working low-paying jobs, as well as for the Royal Canadian Air Force until he began earning his living entirely by his typewriter. Although I would love to be done with school, and cross Canada via free train rides, I think that in these economic times, it's not only an impractical aspiration but an impossible one [I have always been pragmatic]. So for all these reasons, I couldn't wait to see the flesh of the voice.

Unfortunately, when he first stepped on stage, I had a hard time identifying the boisterous voice I so admire with the [ok, I didn't want to say it then but I will now: he was downright old] man standing on stage, carrying a plastic bag of potential poetic treats, and looking a little out of his element standing on a stage that had just been rocking with the sounds of local trio, Us and Wilbur. They played until Al stepped onto the stage and said, “Ok, that's enough. I'm going to read now.” But once Al began reading, his voice was deep, like the youthful poet so evident in his poems. I was struck by the timelessness of poetry and was faced with the immediate importance of his words. Forgetting my initial difficulty, I realized that poetry denies age, while at the same time embodying all of history, and here it was, standing on stage with a microphone.

It was a very intimate, informal reading, with only about 50 to 100 people of all ages: like a grandfather opening his bag of tricks, and telling stories at a family gathering. He started with some older poems, from Wild Grape Wine (1968) and Poems for All the Annettes (1968), which was exciting for me because I got to hear poems that I had only read on paper. Then he pulled out his big black book, and began reading older poems that he's now revised, like “Transvestite” and “My Grandfather's Country,” and some new ones like “Lament for Bukowski.” Definitely, the highlight of the evening for me was his reading of “Necropsy of Love,” a poem I have loved since I first read it when I was 16. Actually there was an even bigger highlight for me during the intermission, when I timidly approached Al to sign my book. Much to my breathless, heart-pounding excitement, he signed, “For Kate Best Wishes Al Purdy.”

Al is a poet known for his sense of humour and self-mockery, and with his low-key, conversational way of reading, he kept us laughing, usually till the end of a poem, when he would zing us with a great line. For example in “About Being a Member of Our Armed Forces,” Al mocks his demotion after demotion, and his inability to scare even ducks, then closes with:

Not that the war was funny ...
too close to tears for tragedy
too far from the banana peel for laughter
and I didn't blame anyone for being there
that wars happened wasn't anybody's fault then
Now I think it is.

Another zinger closed his poem, “Lament for Bukowski” with (I'm not sure of the line breaks [because it was unpublished then]) “Bukowski in his coffin, reaching for his last beer, and just about making it,” which was absolutely arresting when Al read it.

Overall, Al's reading was an amazing evening that I don't think I'll ever forget, feeling the same way as... well, I can't think of any other situation that make an aspiring artist feel the way I felt that night.

Equally unforgettable, but in a more nostalgic way, was the Tribute to Al Purdy at the International Writers' Festival at Harbourfront. It was a wonderful evening. First, Al's writer friends read their prose pieces about Al and his accomplishments. Amid tales of Al's now famous wild grape wine, his indecipherable handwriting, bad pool playing, and reliving drunken incidents (such as Al supposedly having urinated on Margaret Atwood's car), Al's friends painted a portrait of Al the Man, while accolading Al the Poet. Margaret Atwood felt “we should name an escarpment after him” in order to do justice to both the man the poet. The last speaker, after Margaret Atwood, George Bowering, Patrick Lane, Dennis Lee and Janet Lunn, was Sam Solecki, the 'token academic' who addressed the problem of the Obituary Note in doing a tribute like this evening, and decided to do a mini-roast instead; I nearly busted a gut.

Once the audience had a clear portrait of Al in our minds he came on stage for an interview, gnawing a toothpick, and wearing the same brown blazer as at the reading in Guelph. The unpretentious, funny, gruff, sentimental, overpowering Al that his friends presented was apparent. As he sat down to begin the interview, his comment was, “Well I'm sure this will be an anti-climax,” and when asked if he had any comment on the testimonials, he replied, “Hell, no.”

We also learned about his passion for collecting signed books, and that he only stayed with the League of Poets until he got all his books signed. After frustrating the interviewer completely, Al stood behind the lecturn and spoke about poetry in general and its ability to allow readers to reach back across time through someone older -- exactly what I'd felt at his reading! As an encore, he recited, “Necropsy of Love” (Wow!) and to acknowledge the audience's applause, he gave us yet another zinger: “Thanks for bearing with me.”

The interview came several months after this when I visited my brother in Victoria. Some things that didn't get included in the published interview:

I asked my editor what kinds of questions I should ask or how I should prepare for the interview. She said, “Oh don't worry. Al will just start talking once you get there; you won't need to ask him anything.”

When I got there, Al made me a cup of loose leaf tea, which I'd never drank before and didn't quite know what to make of the floaty bits. We sat down in a sunny room on the second floor and he asked me, “So, what do you want to know?” I stammered and stuttered, totally unprepared, until he took pity on me and just started talking.

I felt quite privileged when Al shared with me a poem he was just working on, like he was sharing a secret with me. It was on a single sheet of paper, just off his typewriter. Especially because it was about his grief at losing three friends in a short space of time. It was a beautiful poem and was published in (arrgh... can't find that book; I think it's the one Al signed “With a fading memory of red,” when I couldn't make it to the Eden Mills Writers Festival he read at a year or two after the interview. I got my friend to get it signed) To Paris Never Again.

When I asked the editor how long the interview should be, she said just include whatever you think is important; no word limit. Well, it got cut and without any input from me. I wish they had come back and told me to cut out what I thought should be cut, but oh well. Now I will have to have a look through the transcription of the interview.

Al Purdy died in April, 2000. Until that time I had always called him my favourite living poet. His death put him in with stiffer competition but he remains my favourite.

PS - here is a radio clip of Purdy reading a poem about Margaret Atwood.

PPS - "Necropsy of Love" is reprinted at the bottom of this page. It still gives me chills.

PPPS - I didn't really grieve when I heard he had died but I am now, reliving the passion of my youth and searching the web for materials to support this. The most haunting: a radio clip of the very tribute I went to, including Al Purdy's speech and reading of Necropsy of Love at the end.

Big D's Birthday Party

Last night all three of us went to Big D's birthday party. I wasn't really looking forward to going because I've been really tired (due to Ezra's many nightwakings) and I thought it might just disrupt the semblance of a routine we have with Ezra. I should have known though. Ezra loves parties. And as long as there are new people around to charm, he will stay awake and happy until all hours. We were only planning to stay for an hour or two but we were enjoying ourselves so much we ended up staying until 11:30.

Big D's roommate B made Big D his very own special paper crown and he was crowned early in the evening and given his scepter/wand. We were all duly crowned as well for the occasion. After the fondue dinner, Big D decreed that there would be performances. And this is when it got cool... it was such a talented group of people. First I belly danced, but I learned that I'm not really cut out for improv. Then a woman tap danced, decked out with white gloves and top hat. B and a friend did a little skit and played violins. C gave Big D a tarot card reading. At this point, it was 11:30 so we missed the performances of a few people because although Ezra was happy and laughing and smiling still, I knew he was beyond tired and we should really get him to bed.

We also enjoyed giving Big D our birthday gift: a bottle of chateau-neuf-du-pape. This was a revelation for me because I have never spent more than $14 on a bottle of wine but Big D is a huge francophile and generally a fan of the finer things in life when he can afford them. He was very pleased and put it aside for a special occasion.

Of course it is always nice to show Ezra off. Especially when he's in top form and doesn't even approach a whimper or grump.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

You learn something new everyday

Today I learned it is a bad idea to try to belly dance while showering in a clawfoot tub (because of the small space and rounded bottom).

I also learned, while giving Ezra a much-needed bath, that my husband is a master impersonator of Donald Duck. (Apparently today was a day for bathing in my family.) If I had known that he was that good at Donald Duck's voice, I would have married him much sooner.

To the woman who wouldn't let anyone sit next to her at the Farmer's Market because her husband was going to sit there when he arrived eventually

I'm sorry but I think you're a tit. Unless your husband is imaginary and people were going to be sitting on his lap. Then I could understand. But he arrived in the flesh eventually. Why couldn't someone just sit there to eat their breakfast until your husband arrived? I'm sure anyone would be pleased to stand up for him when he got there.

Judging from the pruny lines around your mouth, you are either a smoker or a perennial bitch. From the way you looked at the people standing around you waiting for a place to sit, I think it's the latter.

I realize my 7 1/2-moth-old baby has been waking up between 5 and 10 times a night for the last few weeks when most other babies are sleeping through the whole night or at least only waking twice and my indignation may be just a tad disproportionate. But still... let someone sit their sorry ass down until your husband gets there.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Amazing Thing

Today Ezra did an amazing thing. We were out for a walk in the park with two other mums and babes and Ezra started to fuss a bit. I thought he might be a bit cool so I put a blanket on him. When I look at him next he has lifted the blanket so it covers his whole face. I said, "Where's Ezra? I can't see him anywhere..." and he quickly pulled the blanket down, whereupon I exclaimed, "Peekaboo!" He smiled and laughed. And did it again. Man, that kid is a genius. And just to make sure it wasn't a fluke, that he intended to instigate and star in this game of peekaboo, I gave him a blanket this evening. Not only did he play the game a few times but he grabbed my hands and I eventually figured out that he wanted me to hide. He loved it when I pulled the blanket down. Peekaboo!

film adaptations of books

Metro Mama mentioned film adaptatations from books that she loved (I think she loved both the films and the books) and asked for others. I couldn't think of any but I thought of a few film adaptations that I hated, and which caused me to rage at the screen. As a result I usually avoid reading the book first.

The Power of One - Loved, loved loved the book by Bryce Courtenay though I was 13 and haven't reread it since so it could be really cheesy. Hated the film because they added a romance that didn't happen in the book.

Circle of Friends - yeah, it's a book by - oh crap, can't remember her name and CBATG - that Irish woman, and not great litracha but I liked the story a lot. And I loved that the main girl told the guy to piss off when he cheated on her. But in the movie she took him back, totally negating the beauty of the original story: a fat girl who gets the hot guy but who maintains her dignity when he cheats on her and tells him to shove it.

Ok, so that's all I can think of now...

Aha! Maeve Binchy!

Favourite TV Characters of All Time

Inspired by the Life of Pie, I have decided to make my own list of favourite tv characters in a somewhat chronological order.

  1. Caitlyn from the original Degrassi series: my first exposure to a young person, pretty much the same age as I was, with a social conscience, a disability (epilepsy), and the ability to see underneath Joey Jeremiah's smartass hat.
  2. Bull from Night Court: cute, tall and only spoke when he had something worth saying. The perfect man?
  3. Lilith from Cheers and Frasier: my first exposure to an ice queen (outside of a Robert Palmer video) and to the concept of trying to make a baby more intelligent with flash cards and other stimulation.
  4. Frat Boys Drew and Kevin from Season 1 of Amazing Race. Favourite quote: "Swing, Fat Boy, Swing!" And I love the new image of frat boys they brought to the world: chubby, bald, funny and generally nice.
  5. Oswald and Danny from Season 2 of Amazing Race. I love that they started going to all the best hotels for information, and generally living it up once they thought they were going to be eliminated, and still made it through a couple more legs.
  6. Ed from Ed. Blue eyes, quirky, lawyer and bowling alley owner... irresistable.
  7. Abby from ER. I don't know how best to describe her but I like her a lot. No spoilers please - I haven't watched last night's season premiere yet but I imagine they won't let Abby become a mother.
  8. House from House. It's already been said on other lists so I don't need to add more.
  9. Yang from Grey's Anatomy. Also on many lists but I love Sandra Oh and that she's Canadian. No spoilers please - I also haven't watched last night's season premiere because I'm new to Grey's Anatomy and still have half of last season to get through.
Well I guess that's it. Not quite 10 but kind of more than 10. Not sure if reality show contestants can really count but given the number of reality shows I thought it only representative to include some.

Fondue Set

My friend, Big D (he's not actually big but when we met him, my then-roommate and I needed to distinguish him from Little D), phoned me this morning at 9 am (9 am!! This man has not phoned me in years, except for Tuesday to invite me to his birthday party this Saturday, and certainly never at 9 am. He still has a nightlife!).

Big D: So we're having a fondue tomorrow night for my party.

Me: Yeah?

Big D: [uncomfortably] And we're borrowing a fondue set from Leigh but I think I need another one. Can we borrow yours?

Me: Well, you could, except we don't have one.

Big D: [shock and horror] And you call yourself married?? How can you be married and not have a fondue set?

Me: [trying to jog my memory] I don't think I have one. I think I'd remember getting a fondue set.

Big D: Oh. You have totally rocked my world. I thought fer sher you would be our go-to person. You seem like such a fondue person.

Me: I know. But they're pretty easy to find these days I think. Fondue is the new... I don't know... black.

Big D: [hollow laugh] It's the new ass crack.


The reason he was so shocked was not only because I am the only married person he knows but because I am (or was anyways, I'm not sure I've been able to keep my membership up to date recently) a disco freak. I love disco music, love the fashions (except for polyester. I did once go through a polyester phase because the prints and colours are great but I soon discovered that it is the most impractical material ever made: it's cold and wet when it's cold and wet, hot and steamy when it's hot and steamy - oh, I guess that's why people like it [wink wink] - and inflammable [in the correct usage of the word; flammable is one of Dave's pet peeves and as his wife I must respect them]), and I think I love the attitude too, or what I imagine was the attitude since I was only 4 when the seventies went away.

Anyways, maybe we will have to get Big D his very own fondue set.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Greengrocer's Apostrophe Strikes Again

Ah, it's a beautiful autumn day and what a lovely display at the local independent grocery store.

Good thing this common error doesn't actually irritate me anymore... just makes me laugh that each watermelon quarter has its very own $1.99.

Ezra's Growing Up

Today Ezra had his first poop that smelled like a grownup poop and not the sweetish breastfed baby poop smell. I'm not sure I'm ready for this. Not the poops but the keen awareness of the swift passage of time.

Hand, Finger, Thumb

I love watching Ezra use his hands. I love the dimples cross the back of his hand like braille. I love the pudges between his knuckles. Mostly, I love the way he uses and studies them. I love watching him slowly turn his hands this way and that as he holds rattles and books to look at them. I love how soft and smooth they are, unweathered. When Ezra was first born, Dave was surprised at how wrinkled his hands were and how his life line and heart line were already all laid out. In some ways it makes me wish I were a palmist but in others I am happy not to have foreknowledge of his life.

When he's falling asleep or nursing, he always seems to want to stroke or hold things. His favourite thing is our fingers or thumbs. And he has a very tight grip so once he falls asleep it can be hard to extricate yourself from his grasp. In his sleep, he will usually keep grabbing until he finds something to hold onto. Sometimes it's a blanket or a shirt (his or mine), sometimes his other hand (and that is just the cutest thing to behold). Lately, when we're lying bed, he's taken to grabbing my nose and lips. This is not as enjoyable. Other times he will brush his fingers back and forth over something, usually a face, neck or chest, kind of like he's strumming a guitar. Sometimes he does it softly, like a caress, other times more like a scratch. This is not so nice because his fingernails are sharp, no matter how frequently I trim them. He even does this on his own head sometimes and just the other day he started slapping the side of his head when he was tired.

He's always done funny things with his hands in his sleep, as shown in these early photos.

Most frequently, he'll splay his hand out if we disturb him somehow, like he's saying a bit grumpily, "Talk to the hand, folks. I'm sleeping."

When he was born, his hands were bony with very long fingers, and his pinky bent in towards his other fingers at the top knuckle. He seems to have grown out of that bend. I love that his hands quickly filled out and are big and pudgy now.

I can't get enough of watching his hands. I'm so mesmerized that I think I want to get a professional photographer to capture the magic of his little hands, especially when they're holding my big, freckled ones, before the magic goes away. Is that a fetish?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

This Blogging Thing is Amazing

(Yes, I know this is my fifth post today. What can I say? I'm obsessed.)

I used to write poems. A long, long time ago. Some of them were even kind of good but I haven't written a poem in probably 7 years, even longer since I wrote a good one. A lot has happened since then, things that made me think, "I should want to write a poem about this," but I never did; I didn't even get wordseeds.

Around the time I stopped writing poems, I started making photographs. Some of those were quite good, I think, but I stopped when I started working full time, and I totally lost my eye so that when I did get around to picking up my camera, the results were disappointing to say the least. Except for South Africa. In South Africa the landscape and people are so stunning that it didn't matter that I'd lost my eye; that said, there were many disappointments when I got the 23 rolls of film developed.

BUT, since I started blogging, I have been thinking poems and seeing photos. I've even written a poem, but I haven't actually taken any photos, except for Ezra shots. Walking around downtown today I was totally wanting my SLR. It was amazing.

Maybe it's motherhood. Maybe it's not working. I don't know. All I know is that beauty -- no, a new appreciation for beauty -- has re-entered my life.

Strange Thing I Really Like

Lying in bed with Ezra, waiting for his afternoon nap to deepen enough for me to get up, looking at the leaves blow on the treetop across the street, and hearing a siren through the open window.

It's happened three times in the past two days. I don't know why I like it so much except that maybe it's the contrast between the action out there and the peace and warmth and stillness in here.

speaking of advertising

Through Cherryflava, I just found these scary vintage ads. Yikes.

google ads

I've been thinking about taking down the google ad up there. I read on some blog that having google ads is a sure sign of a blog that doesn't get many readers and that you should wait until you have traffic to put ads up. Whatever. I did have a pipe dream when I started this blog that maybe somehow I could find a way to just blog and not go back to work in January. But that was before I read any blogs and discovered that there a lot of really good blogs out there and that my pipe dream is really just a pipe dream.

But now I don't think I'm going to get rid of the ad. I've realized that, really, it's advertising just for me. When I wrote about kettles and our bad luck (or Dave's idiocy, depending on how you read it), the ad was for "Just Kettles." When I rant about native plants, native plant nurseries get advertised. These are things I'm interested in. It makes me laugh when I write about our decision not to sleep train Ezra and someone's sleep training method gets advertised up there, and when I write about a scary spider in our yard an ad comes up to "Kill Spiders." I'm starting to think God doesn't live in the radio; clearly, God lives in google ads.

The ad has even made me a few cents -- but that was when I clicked on the ad for South African property and it set off two weeks of obsessing how we could buy property in South Africa (we can't); I even chose the cutest fixer-upper in the colourful Bo Kaap neighbourhood of Cape Town. But we already have one unfixed-up fixer-upper and we live in it. The last thing we need is another one on the other side of the world.

There have been many ads that I've wanted to click on but I worry google will have me up for fraud. Is it really fraud if I'm genuinely interested in the ads?

I've just discovered some of the Canadian mommy bloggers and there's been some controversy about advertising and its effect on blogs, and popularity, and readership and stuff like that. But I think I'm missing a big chunk of the discussion and I haven't found whatever started it all off. I think it's fine to have ads. The only way that ad influences me is that it tells me when I may be going on just a bit too long about something, especially things like kettles and spiders.

P.S. When I went to my archive to get the spider link, the ad was "Armpit rash yeast?" Armpit rash yeast?!? I'm racking my brain trying to figure out when I wrote about armpit rash yeast or even when I had it but I haven't done either of those. Oh. It must be the wasp sting thing. Ok, maybe I will take the ad down. That's just nasty.

magic baby laughter

Ezra loves it when I sing Itsy-Bitsy Spider. I do it with the hand motions I saw my sister do when she sang it to her daughter. Whenever Ezra hears the song, he smiles a huge smile, which is further magnified when he sees my hands moving up, finger-thumb, finger-thumb. He has ever since I first did it when he was just a couple of months old.

Recently, he's started giggling when he gets tickled on his rib cage or back. Ezra laughing is like a drug for me and Dave. We keep doing whatever makes him laugh, but inevitably, the joke gets less funny to Ezra each time we do it. We keep going but eventually he just smiles silently at the joke so we stop. Sometimes I don't even know what makes him laugh; it's like he just has a funny thought. Like when we're trying to walk or rock him to sleep, often he starts giggling as he looks up at my or Dave's face. I can only imagine what he's thinking, probably something like, "man, they just keep walking... they think I'm really gonna fall asleep... ha ha ha."

The other day I figured out that I could combine Ezra's loves by tickling him after the rain comes down and washes the spider out. He loved it. He made great big belly laughs every time every time I did it, even starting to giggle just when my hands got to the top of the water spout, even before the rain came out. His giggles petered out a bit so I stopped.

Last night, I started singing Itsy-Bitsy Spider to Ezra and he started giggling again when my hands got to the top of the spout. Ahhh. I'm such a junkie. When he laughed, my irritation at Dave having to work late, my exhaustion, my stiffness, it all just melted away; a lot like taking a couple of tylenol 3s after a surgery I had years ago.

I was still getting my fix, although Ezra was winding down, when Dave walked in after a very long day. When Ezra saw him, he got a huge case of the wiggles and a great big sunny smile. Although he'd seemed perfectly happy, it was clear to me then that he had really missed his daddy for those few late hours. Magic.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

my autobiography in a 500-word sentence

The Mad Hatter and Bubandpie have both written fantastic 500-word third-person autobiographies in a single sentence and having mulled this one over for 24 hours, I just had to try it myself. What a challenge! Reading the others' and writing my own have taught me:
  • that I depend on periods (.) to give me a mental breather and without them I tend to rush to the end when I'm reading;
  • that I really had to puzzle about this one, even getting out of bed early in the morning to write it once I figured out where to start;
  • that using one sentence to go on and on with generates a sort of stream of consciousness that is pretty cool;
  • that the semi-colons felt like cheating but I had to use two.
So here it is:

Kate is the youngest of three children born to a nurse who, although she wanted to be a fashion designer, was told by her high school guidance counselor that she could only become a nurse, teacher or secretary so she chose nurse, and a chemist who worked his entire career for one huge, multinational chemical company, which moved the family twice, finally ending up living on a farm outside a tiny town whose claims to fame include having the town hall that was used for the assassination scene in the movie Dead Zone and other scenes in other movies, being Toronto without the t's (and a few million souls), neighbouring the Jungle Cat World, which was also called the Exotic Cat World and whose sign Kate's brother always dreamed of vandalizing to make the Erotic Cat World, a town that was also home to children who teased Kate, causing her to go home crying every day for the first three months but eventually (like ten years later) making her stronger and more appreciative of the real friends she met three years later who were all passionate about horses too and whose support helped Kate become a fairly accomplished rider until she stopped to go to university and sadly sold the horse she'd planned to have until he grew old, not to mention the support they all provided going through the hell-hole called high school, where they learned how to drink and smoke together, mostly in a fantastic cabin in the woods that one of Kate's friends built with her boyfriend, with their bare hands, a cabin that also welcomed Kate's first boyfriend, a tall skinny runner with the knobbliest knees she'd ever seen and a beak nose who moved to Pennsylvania to learn how to train racehorses, which caused many tears and later fights over the phone, a boy for whom, although he broke up with Kate before Christmas in her final year at high school, she carried a torch for years and so did both Kate's and the boy's mothers who would have loved to be their respective in-laws; Kate thought she wanted to be a vet but changed her mind after her first year at the U of Guelph, switching to study English because she couldn't imagine spending so many hours in science classes that mostly bored her, an academic career mostly focused on avoiding classes before noon, spending as little money on food as possible, drinking and playing pool until she got sick and stressed out and took a year off during which she bought her first SLR and explored photography, worked three or four part-time jobs, eventually getting on full-time at Black's where she hated the new manager ([edited to clarify the manager] was 22, lived with her dad, sold tupperware, wore sweatshirts with teddy bears and flowers, and owned her own minivan – at 22!!), realized that she really did want to finish her degree, and met her future husband three days before the end of her Black's career (but that really is another story altogether), a man who she thought at first was a sunny, outgoing surfer boy type who chats up girls in stores with his sexy South African accent but who she learned over the years was actually shy and gentle with a bit of a dark side, a man whose gentleness supported her as she worked towards wellness, finished her degree, and stuffed cheques into envelopes for three days, a temp job that led to more contracts and two years later a job writing (yay!) as a civil servant; their relationship was punctuated by a beautiful wedding ceremony on Kate's parents' farm, an amazing trip to South Africa to meet his family, a decision to bring someone else into this world and this family, promptly followed by the arrival of Ezra, a baby who smiles a lot, is wonderfully curious about everything, likes to sleep in his parents' arms or their bed, who appears easy-going but who is already a master at making sure his needs are met, and whose parents continually find themselves exclaiming, “He is just SO cute/amazing/beautiful [insert adjective here].”

Monday, September 18, 2006

images of bottles and breasts

A couple of weeks ago I read an article in Mothering magazine calling for a breastfeeding culture. Unfortunately the article isn't available online but there is a press release that gives the gist. The article spoke of how bottefeeding imagery has normative power and how ubiquitous those images are in advertising, baby gift wrap, on tv, and more. Although I found the article enlightening, I also found it problematic because I know women who couldn't breastfeed and still feel guilty and hurt about that. And I think we have enough maternal guilt to deal with just being a mother, never mind about how we feed our babies.

Then last night I was working my way through Grey's Anatomy Season 2 and there in episode 6 was a woman, the day after giving birth, feeding her newborn with a bottle. I think this is partly a difference between US and Canada. Seems to me that in Canada, on day 1 of a baby's life, the scene would have been a woman with a lactation consultant and a nuse trying to get that baby latched on. Or a baby just happily nursing. So I'm thinking the author of that article had a point.

I am not a militant breastfeeder. I do occasionally leave a room full of people to nurse my son, although it's more just to have a quiet moment with him and to reduce distractions than for any concern about what they might think. But I decided when he was born that I would never ever nurse him in a bathroom (except at Sears because the couches are comfortable and it's not near the toilets). I also decided I wasn't going to bother with a blanket over the shoulder thing either. So I think I may be just a bit political about breastfeeding. I have nursed him sitting at tables in restaurants, and often people didn't even notice. And I continue to believe that if someone feels uncomfortable around a nursing baby, it's their problem, not the mum's and not the baby's. Just look away... it's not that big a deal.

I remember a woman I know (we'll call her P) who breastfed but who was appalled that her friend, also a breastfeeding mother, whipped her boob out to feed her baby (this woman's words, not mine) in front of P's father and father-in-law. Who are old men and old-fashioned. Maybe that woman likes to shock people as P thought, but I also pointed out that it shouldn't matter whether other people in the room might be uncomfortable. It matters if mum and baby are comfortable. P went on, "they had to leave the room," as though this is a horrible thing. Well, I say make people leave the room if they're uncomfortable. Make people recognize that something makes them uncomfortable, and they might take a moment to wonder what's so uncomfortable about it. And maybe one or two people will change their thinking.

Maybe we do need to get out there in the public with our breastfeeding babies a bit more. And maybe some of us breastfeeding mothers need to question why we want to cover our nursing babes with a blanket. Yes, breasts are sexual. But they are also tools for nourishing and nurturing our children and I think maybe all of of us could do with some conscious reminders of that context. Maybe, as breastfeeding mothers, we should make ourselves a bit uncomfortable from time to time, because discomfort can make us question our assumptions and blind spots.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Baby Bibliophile

Note his two new teeth!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dinner Party Anecdote

I once had a roommate who had a very big heart. The summer before we lived together, she befriended a streetkid from Toronto, a wannabe punk, with a mohawk, worshipping Greenday, who we called Little D. He moved in with us in the fall, like a little brother. He was a sweet kid really, and for some reason he hero-worshipped us. This was quite something for a couple of geeks like us, and we like having him around.

Little D also attracted other streetkids. One, named Chris, later became a real badass. He had a little sister but his mother was couchsurfing and couldn't provide a roof for them. So he sometimes crashed at our place. Sometimes they slept in the parkade by the Eaton's Centre. When Chris came over, he almost always brought catfood for our kittens. He bought it with some of the money he got panhandling.

Jamie, who was younger, also came to hang out sometimes but he had a decent-sounding family and went home at night. I don't really know why he hung out with these kids, because he seemed to have a good head on his shoulders and his family sounded ok. Jamie got together with a young girl who had already had her daughter taken away from her by Children's Aid. I think she ended up pregnant by Jamie and didn't get to keep that child either.

Finally, there was J. He was addicted to crystal meth, and I hated him. He was always high and unpredictable and uncontrollable. One time he came over he spraypainted the word fuck on the kitchen wall with textured spray paint and we had to sand it off and repaint before we moved out. He said he worked as a prostitute in Toronto sometimes; I didn't know whether to believe him.

That winter my roommate and I watched Six Degrees of Separation and it really struck us. Especially at the end when Stockard Channing gets upset because her encounter with Will Smith has become just a dinner party anecdote.

Now those kids have become blog fodder. Today we went for a walk downtown and I noticed all the badass teenagers around (at least they want you to think they're badasses). They reminded me of those streetkids we knew who got us into so much trouble with our landlord.

My ex-roommate says she saw J a few weeks ago and he's cleaned up and working as a cook. I'm glad. I saw Chris a few years ago and his latest girlfriend was expecting a baby (his third) any day. He said she was crazy, and he was drunk, hiding from her. Chris went to jail for carrying a knife shortly after we knew him. He'd just turned 18 so he went to real jail and learned how to be a real criminal. I don't know what happened to Jamie. I've heard that Little D has been in and out of Queen Street Mental Health for schizophrenia. He was sometimes paranoid when we lived with him.

I'm glad I knew them. Well, ok, not really J but I liked the rest of them.

Your Mama Dresses You Funny

How to Achieve This Look:

Supplies: one way-too-small but way-too-cute-to-retire tie-dyed t-shirt; stripy pants.


1) Force mum to replace extra outfit in diaper bag when you have no clean laundry and you have grown out of most of his clothes anyways.
2) Have major blowout in the car on the way to the store, forcing mum to use wacky outfit.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Other People's Blogs

It's been a while since I've blogged about other blogs. I've moved on from the British blog obsession.

Yesterday when I searched for "attachment parenting" one of the blogs that came up was Under the Mad Hat. She is not an attachment parent but, as she says, she has an attachment child. Perhaps something like ours. She's a great writer and I like what I've read.

I was looking for a blog by someone like us, an accidental attachment parent that isn't all activist or judgmental but just trying to get by. I found Cranky Mama but haven't fully explored her blog so I'm still deciding on her.

And one I discovered a while ago through the British blogs is L'Eggs Up and Laughing in Australia. She is also a fantastic writer; a playwright apparently and you can see why. So far I've pretty much only seen beautiful posts from her.

I am starting to feel discouraged about my own blog, reading these other great blogs. Also because I am the only person visiting my blog. But I suppose this is appropriate and just forces me to keep sight of why I am blogging. Because I like it. And someday soon I will want to remember what I was thinking about when Ezra was a baby.

Stroller Rage

Kind of like road rage, more like pedestrian rage (when drivers don't notice you and turn left despite your walk signal, etc. etc.). I took my first walk by myself when Ezra was four weeks old, not coincidentally the first time I experienced stroller rage. Because of the c-section, I couldn't really walk any distance before then. It was the first week on my own and I was terrified he would wake up and start screaming and I would be outside in early March, unable to do anything for him. But I had to submit his birth form or whatever that is to the city. I had almost made it to my destination when some idiot honked. I jumped and glared at the driver and she gestured apologetically that she wasn't honking at me. I gestured back, angrily, indicating that she could have woken the SLEEPING BABY. She looked really apologetic then and my rage waned. Better still, Ezra miraculously didn't wake up.

I found this rage quite curious. I mean, I know that other people are not responsible for Ezra's sleep, comfort and safety. But I found it happening again and again. When someone turning right didn't notice the pedestrian with the stroller (me!) with the right of way. When some idiot squealed his tires trying to look cool. Or someone reving his engine at just the moment we walked past. I even found it happening in our own quiet bedroom when on a hot summer night the giddy sounds of drunken revellers came in through our open window and threatened Ezra's slumber. But mostly it happened when I was walking.

I'd feel personally insulted if a store we entered didn't have aisles wide enough to accommodate the stroller or if the door was really difficult to get through with the stroller (luckily I can steer it with one hand) or if there is an inconvenient step. The buttons for those in wheelchairs are wonderful, which a kindly person pointed out to me after holding the door open for me (I believe it was on that fateful first trip to the city hall). "Aha! Well that is convenient. Sorry, I'm a new driver."

I've always been a pedestrian with attitude, taking my right of way no matter who tries to intimidate me. But it changed with the precious cargo in the stroller next to me. Anyways I've noticed recently that I don't feel it as much anymore. Probably because Ezra doesn't really sleep in his stroller anymore so I don't worry about waking him up. And I'm starting to relax generally where he's concerned. I don't worry as much about him suddenly stopping breathing. I think I also trust myself more to see potential dangers. (I see them all the time: walking next to a railing above a drop I imagine him falling over; when his head approaches a sharp corner on furniture I imagine it splitting open; etc. etc. Who knew that motherhood would invoke such an imagination???)

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Dear cinnamon gurl:

We have received your comments from the Revlon website and wish to thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding Outrageous.

Outrageous Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner are sold separate[sic]. These products are still available. May we suggest you visit Walmart stores.

Thank you for your interest in Revlon products. We hope to continue serving your cosmetic needs.

Please do not reply to this e-mail. Replies sent to this email address cannot be answered. If you have additional comments about this issue, please click here:

If you have comments on a separate issue, please return to our corporate website:

Rachel Evans

Senior Consumer Services Representative
Revlon Consumer Information Center


My mistake for not shopping at Walmart. Until recently, Guelph was the only town in Canada with a population greater than 100,000 people that didn't have a Walmart. Alas, we lost and it is being built as we speak. At least I know where to get my conditioner now. Seious soul searching to follow.

Technorati Sucks

Can someone please tell me why joining Technorati is a good thing? As far as I can tell, Technorati sucks.

I find adding their tags a pain in the ass. Is there an easier way than copying the link from technorati and adding in your tag? Every time I post, I duly go to technorati and 'ping' them. (Who came up with that word anyways? I went to school with a boy named Ping.) And every time, it says it's been one more day than yesterday since my blog was updated. Now I'm up to 20 days since I last posted on my blog, according to technorati. Obviously this is wrong. Is it just because my blog has no readers that Technorati can't be bothered to actually check my blog for new content the way they say they will?

If anyone comes across this and can help, please comment.



Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I've been toying with the idea of joining the Waterloo-Wellington Wildflower Society. I'm not exactly sure what all they do but I know they have a plant sale at the Farmer's Market every spring and a garden tour every summer. I think they also have monthly meetings with guest speakers and perhaps occasional plant rescues when land with native plants is slated for development. This sounds mostly good to a plant geek like me.

But those people are passionate with a capital P about native plant gardening and, judging from the garden tour, they work hard. I'm passionate about the theory of native plant gardening but not so much about the gardening. I don't think I have what it takes to be a real gardener. I love learning about plants and deciding which ones to put where and I like planting new ones. But I'm not so keen on digging new beds, transplanting adult plants when they didn't work out as I planned, pulling the endless weeds in my garden, basically all the rehabilitation required to make my yard what I want it to be. That's way too much like hard work.

The fact is, I'm just a slacker at heart. I do the bare minimum to keep afloat. Even with the things I'm passionate about. Well, occasionally I go overboard (case in point: how often I've been posting) but it doesn't take long for the obsession to wane and I go back to the minimum.

Insects and Arachnids

Oh God. That spider isn't there anymore. I knew this would be more upsetting than discovering it in the first place. I hate to think where it's relocated to.

In other buggy news, my wasp sting has finally started to feel better. Yesterday the redness went from my armpit to my elbow but it's shrunk and lightened a bit and the itchiness has subsided too. Thank goodness. For three days I've only just been keeping myself from gnawing my arm off.

About Us

About Me:
  1. I don't own an iron. Never have.
  2. I don't know how to iron.
  3. Ariel Gore, in The Mother Trip, advises mothers to throw out their irons. So I'm one step ahead.
  4. When we got married, we registered for an iron, thinking maybe it was time we had one, but no one bought it. That's ok. We probably never would have used it.
  5. She also gives permission to loaf. Also one step ahead, although it's nice to be given permission.
  6. I get really annoyed when people go through the express lane with more than the specified number of items. Though I have occasionally snuck through.
  7. I have many double standards.
  8. I don't always get every speck of rice cereal off Ezra after he's eaten. That stuff is like cement.
  9. I'm hooked on bad reality tv.
  10. I wish they would have a belly dancer in the finals of So You Think You Can Dance.
  11. I tried to find episodes of the Turkish and Israeli versions of the show online to meet above wish. No luck.
About Ezra:
  1. He sneezes in twos. Just like his daddy.
  2. His right ear is bigger than his left and has been since birth.
  3. He spits up a lot. Always has.
  4. I think he has my eyebrows and he can already cock one. Cheeky monkey.
  5. He gives great hugs.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I remember when I was pregnant I didn't dream very much about the baby. Although I wanted to, I only had two dreams about the baby; one near the beginning of the pregnancy and one near the end, which I can't remember. Oh wait, there was also the one just after I found out I was pregnant. Somewhere around 15 or 20 weeks, I dreamed that I had the baby and it was a boy and although he was severely premature, he was already 8 pounds and didn't have to stay at the hospital at all. Unfortunately, I had no clothes for him. So my sister gave me Zoe's baby clothes, which were all pink. I didn't care about dressing him in pink though because he was clearly a miracle baby and I was just so pleased with him.

Towards the end of the pregnancy I had another dream but I can't remember now what happened in it. I do, however, remember one of Dave's dreams: the baby came out as an old man, which was slightly prophetic. Ezra definitely had that wizened, slightly atrophied look about him for the first few days. I remember when he was a few days old I witnessed/participated in my first diaper change (because of the c-section I couldn't get out of bed for a few days so Dave did all the early ones). I got a shock when I caught a glimpse of his bum; "He has an old man's bum," I laughed. When I told my mom about this surprise, she asked, "How do you know what an old man's bum looks like?" "From Sex and the City. There was an episode where Samantha gets together with a rich old man but she runs away when she sees his bum."

After he was born I often dreamed I was in labour again, and I dreamed a lot of my Grandma Ruth, who died when I was six months pregnant and for whom I still grieved, dying over and over again. These dreams often involved conversations with her as she was dying or when she came for visits from the afterlife. I think these dreams were necessary as I processed the fear from Ezra's birth.

In the evenings for the first two months or so, I would go to bed around 8 after Ezra nursed and Dave would stay up with Ezra. This way I could get a solid 2 or 3 hours of sleep. Dave would wake me when Ezra got hungry and I would struggle to consciousness, confused and disoriented. I could hear Ezra crying but I didn't understand why because I was dreaming I had just nursed him. I would even say to Dave, "But I just nursed him." And Dave would reply, "No, you've been dreaming."

When Ezra was around 4 months old, we started putting him in his crib in another room to sleep. But he was still waking a lot and he would often interrupt my dreams. I would nurse him back to sleep and the dream would stay wrapped around my head like a fog. I often found that during the next day, I would remember my dreams as he nursed.

Since we've given up on the crib and sleep with Ezra all the time, the dreams don't revisit me when I nurse. I think this is because when mum and baby sleep together, their sleep cycles synchronize (say that ten times fast). So now when he's in a light sleep about to wake up, so am I, and it's much less disruptive. I suspect this is partly why my mood has elevated so much.

tags: ,

Monday, September 11, 2006

shoulds against our gut

Dave doesn't read my blog, unless I ask him to. Sometimes we talk about what I've been blogging about. (That word, blogging, makes me giggle because it's just so unmelodic but so appropriate for the stuff I blather on about.) Anyways, the other night I told him that I'd been blogging about the doubts I have about our parenting approach. He was quite surprised to hear I have doubts; I guess because it feels so right to him. But I am the only woman in my baby group who's not sleep training her night-waking baby. The conversation made me realize that conventional 'wisdom' (if you can call it that) and so-called experts on parenting and baby sleep goes against our guts, our parental intuition. Sleep training (letting the baby cry himself to sleep) is really hard (I've heard) and you have to suppress all your maternal and paternal urges to comfort your child. I don't think it's an accident that parents want and need to respond to their babies' cries.

I keep replaying a conversation with some friends I had a few weeks ago. One woman is pregnant and when I mentioned that I was much happier since I gave up trying to get Ezra to sleep in his crib, asked incredulously, "but where does he sleep then?" When I told her, she said, "Oh I just really don't want my child to sleep with us at all." I replied, "Well, obviously you have to do what you're comfortable with but I will tell you that if you're breastfeeding, and your baby is going through a growth spurt eating every hour or two around the clock, it's just a lot easier to bring them into bed with you. But having said that, you have to do what you feel is right and don't do anything you're not comfortable with." Someone else at the table, who doesn't have children, shivered with revulsion as she said, "Oh no. There's no way I'd be having kids in the bed. That's a situation for Nanny 911."

So now I wonder, will we end up with a horrible kid who will never sleep on his own? Is taking the easier road (the one that feels right) now going to make us miserable in the future? My gut tells me no but many other voices are saying yes.

I remember when the public health nurse came to visit me shortly after Ezra was born, she said something that made me feel like I was doing a good job and meeting all his needs. I can't remember exactly what it was but I remember noticing that a lot of the people who helped us, nurses, lactation consultants, midwives, were really good at making me feel like I knew what I was doing, like I knew best. But most of the parenting books out there and the sleep experts suggest that parents don't know best and need to be taught the best ways of parenting their child from those books. Dave hasn't read any books about parenting and he trusts his gut completely.

Our decision not to sleep-train Ezra is a decision to go with our gut and do what feels right. I think that most other cultures in the world sleep with their babies and it's a relatively recent event, evolutionarily, to have babies sleeping independently. Having said that, I really don't want this to sound like a judgment on parents who choose the sleep training route. I think we are all victims of the shoulds and I don't want to add my voice to the shoulds. We just have to do what we think and/or feel is right and hope for the best.

tags: , ,

revlon cont'd

Dear Rachel,
I know you said not to reply but I'm going to try anyways because your website only allows comments up to 255 characters and my message was more terse than I'd like. Here is the message I would have preferred to send.

Why have you stopped making separate Outrageous moisturizing shampoo and conditioner for permed, colour-treated or dry hair? I can't find it anywhere. Only the new 2-in-1, which just doesn't cut it and the daily shampoo and conditioner, which also doesn't cut it.

I have thick, curly hair, which I can't brush or it just frizzes out (I did it once when I went out dancing and I could barely fit through the door. My hair went out past my shoulders and other dancers gave me dirty looks all night long because my hair was invading their personal space). I
use Outrageous shampoo and conditioner for dry hair, comb it with my fingers while the conditioner is in, and don't completely rinse out the conditioner. If I do this, I have nice ringlets. Otherwise I have very big frizz.

I have tried all kinds of different products over the years and always come back to Outrageous. I like the smell and I like what my hair looks like when I use it. Please bring it back or at least send me a bunch?


----- Original Message -----
From: <**>
Sent: Saturday, September 09, 2006
Subject: Your submission from Revlon Contact Us page has been received.
Ref #001701781B

The Revlon Consumer Information Center has received your comments from our website. Thank you for taking the time to contact us. Our response time to your inquiry may be several days. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Your reference number is 001701781B.

Please do not respond to this acknowledgement, but if you have a question concerning your email, please contact us at our toll free number 1-800-473-8566.