Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hey Look! We're all grown up now!

No more hand-me-down couches, no more unfinished pine futon with no arms. I am pleased to announce that we now have a real couch in our living room. I love it!

our first real couch

It has ARMS! And it's COMFORTABLE! I may never come back to the computer again...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

winter grump

I am very grumpy. I had planned a fun day today, starting with a very nearby playgroup thingie and ending with a nice walk around town with my camera and the stroller. I've been hibernating for weeks, in some kind of silent protest against the winter that just won't quit, and haven't shot any pictures in forever. But it's REALLY f-in' cold today! Even colder than it's been for the last week!

You know, Wiarton Willie predicted an early spring, and here are nearly FOUR weeks after his prediction and STILL it is unequivocally WINTER.

Fantasies of Cuba aren't even enough to keep me humming today...

Although the origins of Wiarton's groundhog festivities did make me chuckle, so I'll share it here, thanks to the omniscient wikipedia:

The story of Wiarton Willie dates back to 1956. A Wiarton resident named Mac McKenzie wanted to showcase his childhood home to his many friends, so he sent out invitations for a "Groundhog Day" gathering. One of these invitations fell into the hands of a Toronto Star reporter. The reporter travelled to Wiarton looking for the Groundhog Day event. None of the townspeople knew about a festival, but one suggested he check at the Arlington Hotel, the local watering hole. There the reporter found McKenzie and his friends partying and was invited to join them. The next day, the reporter lamented to McKenzie that he needed some kind of story to take back to justify his expenses. So McKenzie grabbed his wife's fur hat, which had a large button on the front, went out to the parking lot, dug a burrow in the snow and pronounced a prognostication (which no one remembers). The picture of Mac and the hat ran in the February 3, 1956 edition of the Toronto Star. A year later, about 50 people arrived for the festival. Half were reporters from various media, including the CBC and Canadian Press. Seizing on the opportunity, McKenzie invented a festival that has been added to over the years.

Wiarton Willie himself is a more recent addition to the festivities. In the early years, prognostication was provided by the "mythical" trio of groundhogs Grundoon, Muldoon and Sand Dune. Willie appeared on the scene in the 1980s. Wiarton Willie's predictive powers are attributed (by his followers) to his situation on the 45th parallel, exactly halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. He is claimed locally to be accurate in his prognostications around 90 per cent of the time, although scientific studies show groundhog predictions to have a success rate of more like 37 per cent.

Death and ensuing scandal

The original Wiarton Willie lived to the advanced age of 22, and was found dead only two days before Groundhog Day in 1999. The organizers were unable to find a replacement, and instead marked Groundhog Day by revealing "Willie" in a coffin. He had been dressed in a tuxedo, had coins over his eyes, and a carrot between his paws. A scandal ensued when it transpired that the real Willie had in fact decomposed, and the body in the coffin was that of an older, stuffed groundhog. The Associated Press was obliged to issue a retraction on its wires.

(Imagine my bad mood if I had to spend today racing to get my house on the market! Thank goodness we didn't get that house... seriously, we are mostly feeling giddy with relief. That said, I have absolutely no regrets about trying for it, and it was a great learning experience...)

snowy bike
For Den: This was the last picture I took outside... like a month ago?

Monday, February 25, 2008

done deal

Well, we didn't get it.

And we're ok with that. Out of the five offers, three (one of them was ours) were too close to choose between. So they asked all three of us to improve our offers if possible to help them choose.

The last few hours we have been thinking that we'd be a little bit relieved if they didn't accept our offer, relieved that the decision would have been taken from our control and that it would mean so much less upheaval and worry about selling our house. Also, I discovered today that the adorable k-6 school that's pretty much across the street and down some steps is likely to be closed in a few years and consolidated with another school, still walking distance but not nearly so close.

In the end, we decided not to improve our offer. It's one thing to contemplate an enormous mortgage, but it's quite another to contemplate the possibility of an enormous mortgage coupled with a manageable mortgage. I guess we just bottled out, but I'm really ok with that. And truthfully, I'm not sure we could do a house that nice justice. I mean, we don't own an iron or hairbrush and we hate shopping.

Still... I think I might cry, just a little bit.

Did we make a mistake?


Um, no, we didn't make a mistake. It sold for $10k more than we offered, and we were never ever going to go that high. Que sera sera.

live blogging the house offer

There are five offers on the table, including ours. We probably won't hear until 9 or later, but rest assured, I will blog it as soon as I've heard, probably even before I call my parents, who are now on their way to Florida, the lucky bastards.

In the meantime, you could take advantage of Imagekind's sale on framing (25% off until tomorrow) and buy one of my photos, or some of their new greetings cards. To the folks who have already bought stuff, thank you SO much and don't worry, this doesn't apply to you... Thanks to you we've raised more than $50 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Until we hear...

(OMG I don't know how I'm going to eat dinner...)

Friday, February 22, 2008

house update

We registered our offer on Wednesday, hoping that would scare people off. We have spent the week preparing to drop conditions if we find ourselves in a multiple-offer situation. Financing condition, mostly taken care of. Home insurance, no problem. Condition of sale of our house? Well, that one's scary but we could get some bridge financing if we have to (please no!) and we love the house that much that we're willing to try. We weren't sure what to do about a home inspection, whether to pay for one and risk losing the money for nothing, or potentially drop the condition without one.

When we found out this morning that someone else had a home inspection done yesterday, presumably to gear up for a bidding war, we scheduled one at the last minute for this afternoon. It just so happened that our chosen home inspector just *happened* to have had a cancellation so he checked out the house and everything is better than normal -- except for the furnace, which basically needs to be replaced. To put it in perspective, however, the inspector said that the kitchen window cost more than a new furnace will. The shingles are high-end shingles, the basement has no moisture despite the thaw and heavy rains last weekend and melting today, the electrical work is great -- everything checks out.

Now our agent has also been informed that at least three other offers are coming. So now we have to spend the weekend figuring out our highest price. I never realized that bidding wars don't really happen. We get one shot to make our very best offer, then they pick the best one and that's it. No negotiations, no back-and-forth, no let's-see-if-this-is-enough. And it's likely to go well over asking. What a mind-fuck! I can't believe we love this house and its neighbourhood so much we're putting ourselves through this.

Oh! And just in case you were wondering, they're reviewing offers after 7 pm on Monday. Ugh!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I think I'd rather be Redhot...

Apparently Sawyer would call me Whitesnake. (I can't believe the limited hair colour options... surely he'd have a blast with redheads?)

What's your Lost nickname?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

déja vu

Edited below for more marketing.

Back before the speech thing and the house thing, I spent several evenings quite nauseous and my stomach felt grumbly. I knew there was absolutely no way I was pregnant, and it didn't feel like pregnant nausea anyways. It felt like stress nausea, just like it felt when I was on strike in 2002 right after I quit smoking and just before my panic and anxiety hit an all-time high.

I couldn't help but wonder today, as I made phone call after phone call to mortgage brokers and stagers and our realtor, bank and local mental health agency, etc. etc., and crunched number after number (in between urgent trips to the bathroom with a sick Swee'pea in tow), if we aren't gluttons for punishment. Because our lives were plenty stressful enough just living a two-year-old, both of us starting new jobs, and dealing with the drama that seems to arise every single frickin' day from our mentally ill family member (who, I may add, is STILL in transitory housing as she has been since she showed up on our porch), drama that reached a denouement this weekend, the same weekend when we voluntarily chose to bring a heck of a lot more stress into our lives over the next few months.

I called Sugar D at his work to discuss this very question and we both agreed that it's scary and we've had moments of wondering if it's all a big mistake, but we have also both decided reasonably quickly and painlessly that oh well, we gotta try.

I have a very bad habit on this blog of writing all the boring details of my life and none of the interesting ones. My favourite bloggers put such craft and thought into every single post that sometimes I feel very inadequate.

Oh -- and I suppose this time is as good as any to share with you that Imagekind is now selling greeting cards. It's a brand new service and there are still kinks to be worked out, but now you don't have to spend a lot of money framing a print if you like my work, you can just buy a card or a box of cards. At the moment if you buy a box of cards, you can only buy them with one image, but I have requested that they let people choose a variety of images so hopefully they'll make that available soon. As with their prints, Imagekind's printing and paper quality for the cards is stellar. I promise not to turn this into a nasty marketing blog, but every once in a while I gotta share. I've also been adding more pictures here and there.

Edited to add: I just got an email from Imagekind with their latest promotion: 25% off framing until Feb. 26. Just enter the promo code OSCARS2008. Maybe I should buy some framed pieces for the possibility of a someday-maybe show?

Poll: Do you want to know about these promotions from Imagekind? Or should I just shut the hell up?

Monday, February 18, 2008

OK, fine!

Since so many people told me on my last post to do a damn budget, fine. Today I downloaded Quicken, imported all our bank transactions for the last 13 months, and spent an hour or less categorizing the transactions of the last three months. It took a while to figure out the budgeting thing but it looks like we really can afford that house (except with less wine, fewer parking tickets and library fines and tows -- oh? I didn't tell you about the towing? Well, apparently if you park on the street [we now have use of two cars but a driveway that can only just fit one -- part of the motivation for checking out other houses] and don't drive your car for more than 48 hours, my fine city considers it abandoned and tows it. If you happen to experience two blizzards in the time that you don't drive it because your husband's out of town, the two feet of snow on top of it and four feet surrounding it are kind of a giveaway -- and slightly less take-out and dining out -- the transaction analysis showed that a certain restaurant was among the top named payees, although keep in mind that the mortgage payments and childcare cheques were not named). We also checked out a house for private sale this morning, which only solidified my love for Saturday's house, then went for a second viewing at my True Love. It didn't disappoint.

So, just like that, we're going to put in an offer. They're holding off offers for another week, so it's likely to go to a bidding war, but it also gives us a chance to get all our ducks in a row so that we may be able to remove some conditions. This week we're going to focus on either getting our house on the market by the weekend (ack!) or almost on the market to make our offer that much stronger.

I'm terrified: terrified that we won't get it and terrified that we will. (I remember feeling this exact way, except way way WAY more intensely, when I was in labour: terrified that he wouldn't survive and terrified that he would.) But it seems telling to me that I've spent the last 48 hours mentally moving our belongings into the built-in cabinetry and placing our art on the walls, AND Sugar D hasn't once resisted. He's usually so change averse that he would start out saying no for two days before he'd come around to the idea of moving. But he's as enthusiastic as I've ever seen him about a major life change (which, of course, to outsiders looks more like grim resignation, but I know better).

It's so strange that only six months ago (was it really six whole months ago?!?) I was mourning the possibility of leaving our home. I was devastated to leave all my native plants behind and risk someone else not liking them and removing them. It seems, however, that going through the emotional process of moving even if we didn't actually go through the physical process, changed something inside me permanently. When I found out we wouldn't have to move to Toronto after all, I didn't go around kissing my native plants hello again, although I did enjoy resituating ourselves in our newly red dining room. Mostly though, I've spent the last several months contemplating major renovations, things like additions that would require us to move many of those native plants or destroy them entirely, and I wasn't really bothered one way or the other.

The thing is we are not fixer-upper people. We are not handy in the slightest. And now that we have a young child we'd really rather not going through all the disruption of renovating our only bathroom, or, for that matter, our kitchen, both of which need renovation badly. And I think I've mentioned I'm not that in love with our local school and Swee'pea isn't THAT far off school age. Academics aside, it has no green space at all surrounding it, and the school by the new house (fingers crossed!) has a fairly large amount of green space around it. It's a stone's throw from the house, down and across the street a bit, down a path between the houses and down a set of steps into the grounds. On top of that, the house is GORGEOUS! Even Bea can vouch for that.

It's so bizarre that a week ago I was only just beginning to consider moving. In fact it was exactly a week ago that I asked my coworker how she came to move, and she told me that one day she was home from work when her then two-year-old son was sick, and she started playing around on mls. One of the houses caught her fancy and since they couldn't go anywhere fun for kids on account of his illness, she took a drive with him to check it out. They liked it but decided to look around some more and eventually ended up buying that first house she'd loved. Last Tuesday, I was home with a sick Swee'pea and playing around on the mls, saw a house that looked nice and decided to take a drive-by. I had to check out a map to find out how to get there and as I drove around and Swee'pea fell asleep in his car seat, I thought, I could live in this neighbourhood, I so totally could.

With lots of luck, maybe we will.

(not THE house... it's Sugar D's dad's place in Cape Town from last January)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

me? house hunting?

Before the whole speech therapy thing came up, I made an appointment to see a house this morning. I've been thinking I want a bigger house, and we've also been considering building an addition instead of just a simple (ha) kitchen and bathroom reno. I also want a second bathroom.

And, um, oops - I've gone an fallen in love with a house in a serious way.

My wish list includes:
separate family room as well as living room
nice big kitchen, preferably open to family room
second bathroom on main floor
ensuite would be lovely
walking distance to downtown
good school

This house has:
gorgeous kitchen open-ish concept
no separate family room
but very large living room with built in shelves and window bench
absolutely nothing for us to do, not even painting
three bathrooms, including one in the unfinished basement
but the only tub is downstairs and it's much smaller than our leaking clawfoot
walking distance to downtown but up and down a huge hill

I could go on and on but mostly it's the bright open concept, enormous kitchen with gorgeous cabinetry, nice yard with two-tier deck, and its quiet, mature neighbourhood that get me. It's in a part of town I've never lived and I don't know if anything is within a 3-10 minute walk. Not too sure about the school but the local k-6 has a nice profile that highlights the work it does in the arts.

It was only supposed to be an exploratory, research-oriented viewing but I've gone and fallen in love with a house that has a bigger price tag than I'm comfortable with... the truth is we don't do a budget so I don't actually know what we can afford.

The major reason I'm bloggging this right now is because I've exhausted Sugar D's ear and he wants to spend Swee'pea's nap working on my website, and none of my family is near their phones. The nerve!

Help! What do we do?

Friday, February 15, 2008

mama angst

Thank you everyone for your supportive comments yesterday. I had a hunch that I was still numb, that I hadn’t really absorbed the news of Swee’pea having speech problems, and sure enough, I was right. I spoke to my mom late in the afternoon, and didn’t think we’d had a particularly significant conversation, just a lot of well that’s great that it’s been identifiedand he can get help and you know so-and-so's son had to have speech therapy and yes Swee’pea is still brilliant and adorable and wonderful. What with the dinner and bath rush and Survivor and Lost, I didn’t reflect too much afterwards either. But as soon as I laid down in bed last night I started to cry.

I thought about the parts of the evaluation where the daycare had indicated minor concerns but which really underlined the impact of Swee’pea’s speech problems: that he does have 50 words at least but a lot of them sound the same to the untrained (i.e. non-maternal) ear, that he does use the possessive A LOT at home – everything is “mine” – but it just must not be clear to his teachers. I knew his pronunciation wasn’t great, but I had thought people who spent any amount of time with him were able to figure out the idiosyncratic speech that turns snowman cake into "mama dee," that he was able to make himself understood. I feel so sad for my little boy spending his whole day at a place where people may only understand about half of what he expresses, and I think it’s a testament to his sweet nature that he’s not having constant frustrated outbursts.

I thought about how my mom pointed out that I always translate for Swee’pea when we’re with other people. I knew I was doing it, but I didn’t think it was *really* necessary, just a little helping hand. This morning I noticed he looked to me when his dad didn’t quite clue in that “dada ma ba do?” meant “daddy’s taking my car to work?” as opposed to “mama nanaDO ba do” which meant “mama’s taking Janna and Jules’s car to [my] school.”

I also must confess that a very small part of me, a part that is easily dismissed with a modicum of intellectual consideration, cried a little bit because Swee’pea is the first child of his generation in my family to need therapy. His cousins have all had brilliant verbal and speech skills. I cried a little bit at that discovery in myself, that I do actually have some expectation of the intelligence of my offspring, and I *know* he’s intelligent and his speech doesn’t have any bearing on the cognitive processes behind it and I know this must seem really shitty to the parents of children who have severe medical or developmental challenges, but a very small part of me grieved a little bit for the lost perfection of my most amazing little person. Of course, I *know* intellectually and always have that he’s not perfect, but having someone else in some authority tell me that feels sad.

And there is also the wondering. Have we, Swee’pea’s parents, done something to cause this challenge? Have we shirked some crucial parenting task? Is it because I blog too much? Is it because I’m too focused on my photography? Are we negligent?

And finally, a few recent and not-so-recent conversations replayed in my mind now in a different light.

* * *

The other day, I was talking to a coworker about my concerns about our local school. My friend’s son has behavioural challenges and the school has said they just can’t accommodate him, he simply can’t come to school. So the only other options seems to be homeschooling. And I can’t help but wonder if the school were in a richer area, if they would find a way to accommodate him with more resources. It makes me want to move to an area with a better school.

My coworker mentioned that because she is the parent of a boy who has always been clearly bright and extremely precocious, verbally, she’s never considered whether some schools have better capacity than others to accommodate children with special needs. I thought what a nice way to spend your child’s early years, if a touch insensitive, feeling absolutely confident that your child will not have special needs. For whatever reason, instinct, awareness, or just neurosis, that is not something that I have taken for granted even once in Swee’pea’s life.

* * *

The last time Swee’pea saw his Nana, now over a month ago, was at the hotel she had to stay in after she arrived on our doorstep in a police car. She kept saying her usual things to him, the things she has said to him for most of the last year: “I want to hear you TALK! Won’t you talk to me? I want to hear some words. Well you’re definitely making noises, but it’s not very clear, is it?” Etc. etc.

Her approach, too busy talking to hear or understand his efforts, has always peeved me but last time I got the sense that Swee’pea knew exactly what she was saying, that he’s not good enough as he is and she wants more more more from him, and he wasn’t terribly keen on it. Usually he was pretty happy to see her and have her read a story but that time he didn’t want to sit next to her, despite her loud exhortations.

I know there is more at play in this instance than Swee’pea’s speech challenges, but reviewing the conversation in light of the daycare’s evaluation and recommendation makes me aware that I will have to protect Swee’pea from his Nana’s negativity, her inability to inhabit the moment and enjoy what’s available right now, in future visits with Nana.

* * *

(I know this is a great opportunity for Swee’pea, and I’m really ok with it, but I’m just trying to tease out all the complexities of my response, my "mama angst" as another coworker called it. Intellectually, it's simple, a no-brainer. Emotionally, though...

I know this is a very minor challenge and I hope my response doesn’t disrespect the parents of children with more severe challenges.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

speak up

Yesterday when I arrived at Swee'pea's daycare, his teacher asked me if I could talk for a few minutes. I felt immediately nervous, wondering what Swee'pea had done wrong, or what I had done wrong. He'd been home sick the day before, had he taken a turn for the worse? She looked pretty serious although as moved to the little chairs, she said it was nothing serious.

I guess when the kids turn two, they do a little milestone evaluation. She pulled out a chart with red x's and checks and pluses and minuses on it. Bottom line is they're concerned about his speech. His comprehension is good and she knows all his labels are there, that he knows what he's saying but that his pronunciation is quite unclear, especially his c's and h's -- they're nonexistent. I have most certainly noticed this, as I've mentioned in my letters to him, and I do worry from time to time when I hear other kids his age speaking clearly. So although I'm concerned that the daycare's concerned, I'm mostly kind of glad that they've identified it. They have a speech therapist who comes in and works with kids in their own group at the centre, and it's no charge to us. Which sounds like a great solution to me. She told me to think about and discuss it with my husband, but there's not mucht to think about.

On the one hand, I'm not that worried. I'm pretty certain that this is a speech problem and not a developmental or cognitive problem. I also suspect that the earlier you intervene with speech difficulties, the easier it may be to solve. They had identified some behaviours as not present or not reliably present that he does all the time at home, so they don't concern me. But I do have a little niggling fear that perhaps this could be the tip of the iceberg, that perhaps there are some serious concerns.

I'm still a bit stunned though, because I really thought it was just a matter of time, that all kids develop at different rates and with different strengths. I find myself wondering if other kids there, Swee'pea's friends, have gotten 'bad' reports on their milestones. Is this being proactive and better for the kids or is it intolerance and damaging?

Monday, February 11, 2008

belated birthday pics

I thought about waiting for Wordless Wednesday but nah...

We got a treat in the mail last week. Thanks, Sage!


He didn't go to daycare on his actual birthday, but they had a little celebration for him the day after. He was MOST pleased with his sticker and crown.

When I asked him yesterday morning what his favourite thing about having Grandma and Grandpa over on Sunday was, he said it was the snowman cake (mama di!). I baked it -- same carrot cake recipe from last year) and Sugar D did most of the decorating. Yep, you can start calling me Beck any time now.

What Grandma and Grandpa gave him.

(on his actual birthday, this is was my view from the toilet... nobody told me I would forfeit all rights to privacy)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

to the camera operators of America's Best Dance Crew

(*If you're using IE, it will break when you try to come to my blog because of youtube. But I really want to share some of these videos, so I'll just take them down in a few days. As far as I can tell, IE sucks, so try out Firefox or Seamonkey if you can. If you're at work and they have rules about this stuff, well I'll see you in a few days I guess...) Please cut down on the fancy camera work. It distracts from the dancing and many times I missed stuff that I'm pretty sure was more interesting than your camera work. Seriously, we don't need a new camera angle every three to five seconds.

If you're reading this and you're not operating a camera for this show, and you like SYTYCD, you should seriously check it out if you haven't already. It airs on different dates in Canada than the US. Here's two reasons why to check it out:

(it takes 1 min 45 secs to get to the good stuff, and then it's only about 45 secs long, but take a look.)

This one also has a lot of extraneous stuff, but it's the only one I could find of the live audition performance of this crazy roller skating group from Kokomo, Indiana. There's good stuff just a minute or two in, then again at 8 mins in their battle.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Letter to Swee'pea: Two Years!

Dear Swee'pea:

Today you are TWO years old! Or, as your daddy pointed out this morning, twice as old as you were last year, and that only happens once in your life.

This month you have been an utter treat. You have been much more agreeable, and, not incidentally, so have I. I'm not sure which of us is the chicken and the egg here. You've also been sleeping better, since we moved the Big Bed into your room. You've become suddenly more attached to your stuffed animals, where before the Big Bed it was really only your "baby" leopard who comforted you. Now you have your teddy bear (Dada Bo) and the other teddy bear (Nana Dada Bo) and your elephant (dteedtee) and a new armadillo (deedeedodo) that your daddy brought back from Texas last night. You fall asleep in the Big Bed, often by yourself after a cuddle with me or your dad, and sleep at least until 3 a.m. Then, when you call for me in the middle of the night, I tell you to come to my bed and you pitter patter your bare feet across the pine floor, and come bustling importantly up to my side of the bed, your arms full of whatever stuffed animals you could fit into them (usually your leopard and your big teddy bear). It is the most adorable night waking we've yet had the pleasure to witness.


I have a feeling that your trips into our bed will continue for a long time. I remember when I was a kid, any time I woke up in the middle of the night I also sought company. First it was in my brother's bed, then, maybe when I was four or five, I started going into my parents' bed until I was 12 or so. We don't mind your joining us, and even if I did, I could hardly refuse you knowing that I never liked being alone in the middle of the night either.

Sometime in the last month my Christmas-slash-birthday gift arrived for you, a photobook I made of the story of your trip to South Africa last year and the celebration of your first birthday over there. When it arrived I showed it to you right away and you were interested until I turned the first page and you saw yourself in the pictures and heard your name in the story. You got so upset you didn't even want to look at the book, and you got even more upset when I tried to look at it by myself. I was fascinated by the intensity of your reaction. I think you just couldn't handle seeing yourself in the storybook. After a couple of hours, you started asking to look at the book, which you call the other book (nana bo) or the Ezra book (dada bo). Now you love it, especially the part about riding the big airplane and seeing the lion.

I don't think I'm imagining a burgeoning interest in the visual representation of things. You love to draw and have filled up two big pads of paper since Christmas. I know I'm biased but you seriously know how to hold a crayon and you have far more control than I would expect. You can draw single lines and circles and make dots. You love to get daddy and I to draw for you and your favourite subject matter are Christmas trees and snowmen. You also like it when we draw flowers and butterflies. Your daddy's a much better artist than I am and he can draw elephants and dogs and cats. I can draw stick people and Christmas trees. You know all your colours now, with 100 percent accuracy, and your marked preference for blue socks continues more passionately than ever.

Apparently your artist's eye also turns to sculpture. The other night you were eating lasagne and a piece of bread and you were sort of playing with your large-ish pieces of bread. You started to laugh, and when I asked what you were laughing at, you pointed at the bread you'd laid on your tray and said Christmas tree (mama dee)! like it was the most hilarious thing in the world. Followed by more howling laughter from you. It really did bear a resemblance to a Christmas tree, although I thought it looked more like a mushroom, personally. But you don't like mushrooms, you even pick them out of lasagne looking mildly insulted that they would dare sully your plate and you won't eat any more until I remove the offending item from your tray, so I'm not surprised you didn't see a mushroom.

Hey look! Your hair is getting long enough to curl a bit.

Last weekend the three of us built a sort of a snowman. Your daddy was all keen (as were you) but when we got into the backyard we discovered that I was the only one with experience. Because your daddy grew up in a place with no snow, he's more than a little handicapped in these endeavours. He made up for his lack of expertise with pure enthusiasm, however as did you, and now you have to say hello to the snowman every morning and bye bye every night and every time we get ready to leave the house you say, "bye bye snowman" (ba ba mama). You were very upset the other night because he melted quite a lot in the day and one of his stick arms fell out and he'd shrunken considerably, and you kept lamenting, "Uh oh! Uh oh!" all night. Luckily, though, it snowed again that night and all the next day so now he's bigger, if rather softly defined.


You have learned so much in the last month or so. You can open the fridge and take out whatever you want (which is actually not such a good thing if you see pasta and I'm trying to get you to eat something else). Last night, I told your daddy that I was thinking we'd just have tortellini because it was easy and you went straight into the fridge and pulled out the package of tortellini (dohhhhhh nini) and handed it to me. You love to help feed the cat, retrieving her empty bowl from the floor for filling and the catfood can from the fridge for emptying.

Right now you are playing with your 'big blender' (bee nono), which is not a blender at all but the kind of toy that you drop balls into and it makes a funny sound, a toy you stopped using in its intended way months ago. You are stirring in the 'blender' with the stick that accompanied the xylophone you got from your Great Granny in South Africa, the one that, upon hearing it was a xylophone when you first opened it, you put up to your ear and queried "hello?" (wowo?). This morning, every once in a while you bellow proudly, "Tortellini!!!" (Nnnnooo nnnnnooooo nnnnooooo nini!) from in front of your big blender, even though you didn't actually eat much tortellini last night. Maybe you just like the sound of the word.

You have learned how to pick out a dvd, remove it from its case, open the dvd player, put the disc in and close it, to watch it. We don't have many kids' dvds, especially not within your reach, but this month you have become enthralled with Baby Einstein's Baby Signs (bebe na) dvd. You repeat all the words back to the tv and even do some of the signs. We haven't been especially fond of the Baby Einstein phenomenon but since you have initiated this yourself, we'll go along.

Your peekaboo tactics have become more sophisticated. Sometimes you will hide spontaneously behind the stroller or a curtain and wait for me to start looking for you. You've also started using your hands. Sometimes you play old school with a towel or a blanket, and none of seems to tire of the game. My favourite moments are the ones when you give yourself away with giggles but you don't seem to realize it and when you appear and I exclaim, "Oh there you are!" you laugh the heartiest of laughs.


You have also just recently learned to say, "Yeah!" instead of saying uh huh and nodding. You've made us guffaw at least a few times, with this new word. Once in the bathtub, I triumphantly enticed a huge boogie out of your nose and you said, "Ohhhhh Yyyeeeeah!" Then last night I commented on the puffiness of your diaper as we undressed you for the bath. I said, "Wow, is your diaper really that puffy?" and you replied, "Ohhhhh Yyyyeeeeah!"

You made me laugh again the other night when I asked you a question, some kind of clarifying question like "Did you say truck? Where do you see a truck?" and you answered, "umm... ummm... ummm" just like I do when I've lost my train of thought.

You've had your first telephone conversations this month, and your very first one was with your grandpa (Baba!). Now you've become an expert, talking to Grandma (Mama) and dada when he was in Texas. I don't know what they say to you but you get a huge sheepish and pleased grin on your face and you say things like "Yeah!" and "Bye bye" and something that approximates I love you (dudu).

You have also started saying okay ("Otay!"). I had no idea such an unassuming and ubiquitous word could be such music to my ears. Now, when I ask you to put the pots back in the cupboard or your crayons in the box, you reply, "Otay!" and you actually make an effort to put them away. It's absolute heaven to save the big battles for mittens. Of course, I'm sure next month will see another flip-flop, but I think we really needed this agreeable and and fun and joyful month after the last one. We've had lots of giggles, just like I wished for when I was pregnant.

The last two years have gone by shockingly quickly. It's hard to believe you were ever small enough to fit in my belly, although we have the pictures on the wall to prove it was so. I love that you can tell me what you want and I don't have to fumble with endless rounds of trial error. Of course your language isn't perfect and neither is my comprehension but it's so much better than those fearful days of infant uncertainty.

Love Always and Forever,

Fourth is good

I came in fourth. I really want to be happy, because that is totally awesome but because they had the five finalists in round two, it feels a bit like a disappointing second last finish. And fourth placers don't get any blog bling. But really, fourth place in the Canadian Blog Awards is awesome!

Apparently folks with IE have been having trouble viewing my blog. I took down the Imagekind widget on the sidebar and the video I'd embedded in my Q&A post, and now it works in IE. I will probably try to put the widget back up sometime and see what happens. But in the meantime, it's nice to have you back. I'd noticed my stats had dropped and was wondering what I'd done to alienate so many readers.

And it feels weird and frivolous and pointless to blah blah blog about this stuff when Mad is waiting waiting waiting for an ultrasound and answers.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I did a bad thing

Now with karmic update!

I didn't shovel my sidewalk or driveway before leaving this morning. By the time I finished scraping off the car, my hand was cramped up and I decided to try to just ram through the snow in the driveway. It worked. But I feel guilty.

Sugar D is supposed to coming home today. So far his flight isn't delayed, but they're calling for more weather misery later, so I'm still cautiously pessimistic. I don't want to be hugely disappointed if he doesn't make it home today.

The final results of the Best Photo/Art Blog category of the Canadian Blog Awards are supposed to be posted tonight at 9. They've staggered the results, which I suppose is nice because it draws on the fun and suspense, but the suspense is seriously killing me. I'm just glad they posted a schedule a couple of days ago.

I changed my feed to full feed because it really is a lot more convenient to just read posts in the feed reader and click over if I want to comment. I just hope nobody steals it like last time.

I am a bad mother. My son is turning two tomorrow and I have done absolutely nothing to prepare. I'd been planning to have some folks over on the weekend but I couldn't really decide who so it's only my parents coming on Sunday. I guess I should get some gifts and ingredients for cake?

Edited to add: My car is stuck halfway into my driveway. How's that for karmic justice?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

You asked...

I asked for questions and you obliged.

Kyla asked: What is your favorite person/place/thing to photograph? What draws you in the most?

I try not to have favourites, per se, although I am most drawn to people in the street. I love Henri Cartier-Bresson (well, who doesn't?) and that sort of street photography. Mostly I just try to find images that would make interesting photos.

I try not to think about what kinds of images to look for. If I go out shooting with too much intention, I come back with nothing. I try to shoot instinctively because it's when I think, when I wonder why I want to shoot a particular scene or person that I trip over myself and stop pressing the shutter. It's much better to have actual images to look at with hindsight, to read meaning into, to see themes in or to reject outright than it is to imagine photos never taken. In the past I've worried that I'm most drawn to the Other in some postcolonial sense, but I try to trust in my compassion for other human beings and I hope that comes through in the images. I never let myself shoot (anymore) if I'm internally laughing at someone. Laughing at bad grammar in signs or ironic juxtapositions of things (without feelings) is fine though.

Oh - and favourite place? Definitely Langa Township in South Africa so far... I'm hoping that the next time we go, I can find some friends to take me to some other townships.

Ewe asked: How many shots do you generally take to get 'the shot' you're looking for? And how long do you work with a particular photo when you sit down to edit?

I don't know, sometimes I never get the shot I'm looking for. Sometimes I get it in one or five shots. Sometimes I think I got it and I get home and something went wrong and it's not what I expected. Sometimes I get compulsive and just keep pressing the shutter with the same composition and exposure over and over again hoping for some kind of insurance. This happens when I'm shooting Swee'pea a lot, and I've found it's a good practice because invariably there are 29 shots with his eyes half-closed or something and one good one. Sometimes I just get 30 or 40 boring pictures of a wave breaking or some such stupid thing.

As for time spent editing, I've never timed myself but it feels fast, like 10 or 15 minutes, especially if I have a clear idea in my head of what I want it to look like. It takes longer if I don't know what I want it to look like, I only know it's not working as it is. And sometimes it could take months. On the first edit, it's ok and I post it to flickr but it's not one of my favourites and something's missing. Then I learn a new technique somewhere and think maybe that will help that one image that I'm attached to but doesn't quite do it for me. So I post that one. Then weeks later I'll discover something new again and then finally I'm happier with it.

Mad asked: Do you have a birthmark?

No. Just many, many freckles from the sun.

asked: If you could live anywhere (no worries about safety, work, etc.) where would it be?

I'm pretty sure it would be Cape Town, except that I wouldn't want to be that far away from my family forever. And I wouldn't like its winter, which is like a UK winter with no central heating. So it would be ideal if we could spend like January to May there, then come back here for summer and fall. I hate winter. And I love the architecture in South Africa... houses built for warm climates are just so much more interesting than the houses here.

Jennifer asked: How did you and Sugar D meet?

This one's easy because I've already blogged about it... go read it, because I LOVE the story of how we met.

Christine asked: who do you like better, rolling stones or beatles and why?

Rolling Stones fer sher, although I have to clarify that I feel no attraction for Mick Jagger... the Beatles were just too clean. I like the rawness of RS I think. Plus "Beast of Burden" is one of my favourite songs, and sort of a theme song for me and Sugar D: despite all his protests he is totally my beast of burden. ;) Oh yeah!! And many of my fondest, foggiest memories involve Sympathy for the Devil on the Albion's juke box (my friends and I had a regular playlist that included Primus's Jerry was a Race Car Driver, Billy Idol's Hot in the City, and, um, other songs I can't recall at the moment).

Bon asked: since i think (from a post awhile back) that you are a bit of a fellow Bowie fan, my first question is...
a) which era/incarnation of Bowie would you most like to spend the evening with? (not necessarily romantically or anything)
my other less dweebie questions...
b) what's the loneliest period you've ever gone through, and what got you through it?

a) I do enjoy David Bowie but I'm not sure it's fair to call myself a real fan because I don't actually know that much about him. I just know I like his music. Really, it would be neat to spend an evening with him any time before he got that really bad plastic surgery.

b) I know I must have suffered loneliness in my life, but somehow I can't remember a lot of it, even less so what brought me through it. I remember feeling lonely when I subletted a bachelor apartment and realized that it would take days for anyone to discover me if I died. But I also thrived in the solitude, it was only the occasional morbid thought. Probably the worst loneliness was the winter I turned 16 (see Dani's question for a link to a post I wrote about that time). I hated my body and myself, and felt like no one understood me or felt as miserable as I did. Then spring came, I decided to lose weight, which made me happier for a while, my friend got her driving her license and things just got better.

Cloud asked: How did you first get into photography?

My third year at uni was a bad year, as I mentioned in this post. I ended up taking a year off school, which I kicked off with a minimym wage job at a local brake pad factory. I think I lasted about six weeks, my shortest ever stint at a crap job, before I got a part-time job at a futon shop. I'd had some fascination with the idea of photography for some time. I think it came from some movies, especially one about a woman healing from some psychological wounds in the US South (maybe South Carolina)... I can't remember its name. Anyways, the woman starts making pictures again in her old darkroom and I loved the black and white images of the big oaks draped with Spanish moss and loved the way the images appeared bathing in the gently moving developer under the red light. Mostly, I thought it would be cool to try to do that, so I bought my first camera with my first paycheque from that dirty, hot and dark brakepad factory. It was a fully manual, all-steel Yashica FX2 from the pawn shop. I spent the summer learning about exposure and metering and composition, then in the fall I decided to try to get a job at a camera shop. Within weeks of distributing my resume, I had a job at Black's (where I met Sugar D a year later). That fall I took the Photography I course at the university, and learned processing and darkroom techniques. I even made some good photos. My sister lent me her 30-year-old Pentax Spotmatic, which had a fabulous 50 mm lens and a more reliable light meter than the Yashica.

I got out of photography after I finished my degree and started working full-time in a government office (and after I met Sugar D). I started to spend less time doing it so I lost my eye and got discouraged and that was it, pretty much until a few months I started this blog. Now I know how important it is just to keep picking up the camera, and keep pressing the shutter, and to keep believing in my eye.

Dani asked: First, do you and Sugar D have one of those lists where if some hot celebrity decides they want to sleep with you, you're allowed to do so? (Beloved's is Nicole Kidman, mine includes - but is not limited to - David Bowie and Ewan McGregor.) If so, who is on your list, and who is on his?

We don't really have one of those lists, but it is fun to think about hot celebrities. My list would have had Heath Ledger on it, and Lenny Kravitz and... oh, Brad Pitt ... crap I can't think of any more. I'm quite certain Sugar D doesn't have a list (do you have a list Sugar D?) because he could never remember anyone's name. And in reality, I wouldn't really like it if Sugar D slept with a hot celebrity just because we'd agreed in theory before. I'm possessive that way.

Second, what would you of today say to you at your most challenging teenage stage? Or, more succinctly, what advice would grown-up Sin give to teenage Sin?

You know, I sort of already did this, when I wrote a letter to myself. Mostly I would tell myself that my mom didn't know what she was talking about when she said high school is the best time of your life, and it's ok to be miserable in high school. It doesn't mean you'll be miserable your whole life.

Janet asked: If you had an entire day to yourself, no work, no mothering, no chores or errands, what would be your favourite way to spend that day?

I want to say curled up engrossed in a great book and a box of Farmer's Market oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but as much as I love reading a great book, I tend to feel pretty sluggish after doing it all day. I think I'd really rather be wandering the streets of a city I don't live in making pictures?

Slouching Mom asked: Is life as a redhead really any different? Do you fit the redhead stereotype (quick to anger, vivacious, etc.)?

Well, I don't really have anything to compare to, so I don't know if life is different being a redhead (maybe just all those strangers commenting on it?). I'd say for me, yes I fit the redhead stereotype. I'm definitely quick to anger, although also pretty quick to cool down once I've exploded, and I'd love to think I'm vivacious.

And finally! Remember that flamer? He came back and clarified his question thus:

Answering with a question just mean you can't answer. I mean, there are loads of photos like this one. So my question is : Why one more ? I just want to know why you felt like doing one more ? It's a real question, not an attack. The matter is not what I would prefer, I didn't shot a homeless as you did.

I responded rather longwindedly, but I was kind of glad he asked because it really helped illustrate a point I didn't know I was trying to make. My response, unedited for honesty:

Actually, answering with a question meant I didn't understand your question and wanted some clarity. I wanted to treat it as a real question and not an attack (although I can't help but feel a little defensive because I'm human and want everyone to love me), but first I need to understand what you're asking.

I suppose I feel the need to shoot more homeless people for the same reason that anyone shoots a portrait. I don't mean to turn him into a trope, rather I want to show him as an individual human being. I think it's dangerous to lump homeless people together as a single "them," separate from "us." He's a person just like you and me and as worthy of having a portrait made as anyone else.

And really, why shouldn't I shoot just one more? Photography is a funny thing... different photographers will shoot the same scene in as many different ways as there are photographers shooting. If I held myself back from shooting "just one more" anything - bicycle, ladder on its side, canoe, crumbling brick wall, graffiti, whatever (and those are all things that keep cropping up in image after image of mine - I'd never shoot anything, and that would just be stupid. Although maybe that's why you haven't posted anything of your own?

I love shooting people, anyone, not just street people although their faces tell a lot more stories than others, but shooting people is much more challenging than shooting inanimate objects or scenes. Some people say they hide behind the camera but for me it feels like exposing myself. It's scary to ask for someone's picture, and I feel self-conscious shooting, but I make myself do it because I don't like not doing it.

And of course, there's the political angle. I believe it's wrong that there are people in this wealthy nation (or anywhere for that matter) without enough food to eat and no home and I know personally how easy it is to become homeless and hungry. It's too easy to deliberately ignore street people, and I want to challenge people to see them, to see this problem in our society and to take some measure of responsibility for their wellbeing. I remember once reading that you can tell a lot by how a person treats their dog, similarly you can tell a lot by the way a society treats their mentally ill. Maybe that's why you seem a bit threatened? Because you'd rather not think about street people as people like you and me?

Monday, February 04, 2008

new soloist!

Well, 24 hours into solo parenting and it’s going ok. Thank goodness for the new big bed routine, which allows me to cuddle Swee'pea for a while but leave him awake and he falls asleep on his own. I’m taking advantage of this Sugar D-free time to catch some chick flicks so yesterday I rented Down with Love. I knew there was a movie I wanted to see but I couldn’t remember at the store and I thought it had Renee Zellwigger in it so I looked it up on the store’s computer and Down with Love came up so I got it. As soon as I started playing it, I remembered what I actually wanted to rent: Love Actually. And now that I look Love Actually up on imdb I’m not sure I’m really that interested, and plus, I think I might have watched it on a plane ride or something?

Oh well… Down with Love was ok but I found the ending offensive. Ewan MacGregor was hot as always though. And the sixties outfits and interior design were really cute.

Any recommendations for what I should rent for tonight? Or should I just do some photoshop tutorials?

Last night I made a lasagne so that will keep us in easy yummy dinners for tonight and tomorrow night, then Sugar D’s back on Wednesday afternoon. I can do this.

Today I am sitting on an interview panel for my first time. I’m a little nervous. I wanted to look nice but discovered this morning it’s impossible to stay clean with a two-year-old and two inches of light powdery snow fluffed all over the car. Oh well… guess I’ll just be the person who demonstrates the comfortable atmosphere of my employer.

The best thing about this solo parenting gig is that now Sugar D owes me, so I’m trying to think about where I might want to go for a couple of days by myself, since I don't have to travel for my job. Maybe BlogHer in San Fran this summer? Or a photo workshop somewhere interesting? What do you think? A girls’ weekend somewhere?

If you're still interested, and if you can think of any, you're welcome to ask me questions…

Saturday, February 02, 2008

shameless self-promotion or public service announcement? You decide...

I know Mad said not to post on weekends so I won't post the answers to your questions (it helps that I haven't written them yet) but I'm here and wanted to mention that for anyone in the US who's thinking about buying my prints, Imagekind has a promotion until Feb. 7, 2008 for free ground shipping in the US. I feel a bit awkward about such a shameless plug, but shipping is expensive. I just paid $13 US in shipping on a single print, so it also feels a bit like a public service announcement.

Now I'm no expert, but their custom framing seems very reasonably priced.* The prices they're asking for both the print AND mattes and framing is not much more than I paid just for custom frames for some photos a couple of years ago. So I'm working my way through all my images at there choosing frames and mattes (mats?) and papers that I will think will best suit each image. I've already chosen my recommendations for this one:

Or maybe you want the naked back that I've grunged up a bit since the last time you saw him? (Be forewarned that you can see the the texture of shirt imprinted across his shoulders on larger views, including a print.)

The images are links to the page where you can buy them, or you can have a look through my gallery via the widget in my sidebar that Sugar D made for me (I love having my own personal web designer!).

And it's still for a good cause. I'm donating at least 50 percent of the proceeds to the Stephen Lewis Foundation. The other portion of any profits will go towards a new lens for me. Yay!

*In the interest of full disclosure, I get a 5 percent commission on frames and mattes if you buy one of my prints and use Imagekind for framing. Over at Imagekind, there's a button to purchase as the artist intended, which includes the paper, mat(te?)(s) and frame that I chose.