Monday, December 6, 2010

A little story about consent

I may have mentioned before that I am unimpressed with Will's preschool teacher. She is preoccupied with the business of teaching - the planning and the rules - and doesn't seem to "like" the kids, or even take the time to get to know them. Most of the kids attend for two mornings a week, and yet there is a new unit every Monday, so there is no time for them to explore a topic in any depth. Dinosaur week there were toys, crafts and a couple of stories . . . nothing about meat eaters and plant eaters, or dinosaurs hatching from eggs. During transportation week the kids were practically fighting over the play centre with the big road map, but by the next week it was gone. She is obsessed with the kids sitting quietly and waiting at least three times in the 2 1/2 hours they are there, and she even bribes them with gummy bears in the circle room.

It was September when she first mentioned that she would be conducting a developmental screening test on the children, something she was unable to explain in detail even when asked to elaborate. The idea of this test made me very uncomfortable. I'm not a big fan of standardized tests under most circumstances, and definitely not in this preschool setting. I have no concerns about Will's development, and didn't want to risk a false positive score that would put her into the system. I didn't trust the teacher to administer any sort of test, especially to my child. When the consent form came home I clearly checked "I do not give consent" for my child to participate, signed the form and returned it to school.

Can you guess where this is going?

When my husband and I picked up Will from preschool a couple of weeks ago, Will started telling me about "going into the kitchen with the teacher and playing games." It didn't really occur to me what she was talking about until the teacher told me, "She did great. Twelve out of twelve." My eyes almost jumped out of my head, and fortunately my husband was there to ask what she was talking about. "The DISC preschool screen," she answered.

He chased after Will as I looked at the teacher. I hate confrontation, but there was no way that I was going to let this go. "But we did not give consent for Will to participate."

The teacher was stunned. "I was sure you had checked off consent!"

"No. We were not comfortable with the test and clearly signed that she did not have our consent to participate."

"Well, I never would have tested Will if I didn't have your consent. I mean, you can see the test and the information any time."

"I may have to look at it, now that she's already been tested."

I went home and wrote a letter to the board, outlining our reasons for refusing consent and our concern that our refusal to give consent was completely disregarded. Sure, it was a careless oversight, but a significant one.

And then I waited to hear from the teacher, assuming she would check her consent forms and realize she had violated our trust. No email. No phone call. Nothing.

I did receive an immediate reply from the president of the board. Apparently this test is standard practice in preschools across the region (that would have been something important to pass on to the parents) and apparently the teacher is specially trained to administer it (again, that would have been good to know). The president suggested that the teacher would be uncomfortable speaking with a parent about her concerns regarding a child without the test, which is bullshit. That's the teacher's job, and it is my expectation as a parent that she would approach me about any concerns she had with my daughter.

And the issue is still that of consent. No harm was done this time, but what if it was something more serious? What if I denied consent for a flu shot or a field trip and my consent was disregarded? How can I trust that my directions for my child will be respected?

Today I was duty parent for the first time since the incident. The teacher asked to speak with me privately at the end of the day. I went over my reasons for being upset, assuming she wanted to explain her position and listen to me explain mine. Instead she just offered to shred Will's test, "as if it had never happened." Of course I told her that was what I wanted. She said she "felt bad" and had learned "not to work from a master list next time" but there was no real apology.

I'm trying to look at the experience as a chance for me to practice being an advocate for my child. But looking to the years of formal education ahead of us, it really terrifies me. I know there will be more mediocre (at best) teachers and disappointed expectations. I'm trying to remember that even these experiences are important, and that there are excellent and creative teachers out there too. But oh, I can hear the siren song of the private school across town . . .

Monday, November 15, 2010

Random Monday

So today I was the snack parent at Will's preschool. Have I mentioned how much I dislike being the duty parent? Yes? Let me just add that I think I prefer "snack" to "juice" as it involves washing dishes and serving the snack instead of cleaning the bathrooms and running the bathroom routine. It did take me 20 minutes to wash all of the paint toys today, and even then they are not perfect, but I'm thinking the craft doesn't usually involve using different trucks in paint to show patterns, right?

* * * * * * * * * *

Nablopamo? Clearly, no.

* * * * * * * * * *

I have discovered the secret to all my parenting challenges: I (often) can't remain calm or neutral. She gets agitated; I get agitated. She gets testy; I respond in kind. I am perfectly capable of keeping some emotional distance much of the time during the day, but throw in a nap or bedtime or the need to get to a destination at a particular time? Not so much.

Now I just need to come up with a way to deal with my triggers before this baby comes and things get a million times more chaotic and testy. (Yes, sleep deprivation is one of my triggers.) 20 weeks, give or take, should be enough time to figure out a solution, right?

* * * * * * * * * *

My mind is preoccupied with tomorrow's agenda:

1) First dental appointment in 3 years. Yikes.

2) Anatomy ultrasound!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The best sandwich ever (with no pictures)

Step 1: If using a rotisserie chicken, shred breast meat and set aside. If using chicken fingers, cook those according to the directions.

Step 2: Make Lasha's amazing guacamole-type spread. Mash one avocado. Add the juice of half a lime (or so) and a clove of garlic, minced. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt and a half-teaspoon (or so) of sugar. Mix.

Step 3: Make some bacon. I use the pre-cooked kind that takes 30 seconds in the microwave.

Step 4: Gather additional ingredients. You will need large wraps (or bread), lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. Swiss, havarti and old cheddar all work well.

Step 5: Assemble the sandwich. Enjoy.

This is seriously the best. sandwich. ever. So good that I forgot to take a picture of even the finished product. Delicious.

Monday, November 8, 2010


One minute we're baking banana chocolate chip muffins and emptying the dishwasher together.

The next she's refusing to wipe the excess Penaten from her finger or put her underwear on so it doesn't get all over.

In another minute I'm wrestling her to get the damn underwear on and my only pair of maternity jeans has become covered in Penaten, a substance I have never been able to remove from any kind of fabric.

Now I'm sitting on the couch after wiping down my jeans with Goo Gone, polishing off my second muffin and pretending not to know she's at the top of the stairs.

Later, she'll be all sunshine and roses and I will still be balancing on a tightrope of nerves and frustration, unable to accept that for one of us, it's over and done, time to move on, what's the problem, Mommy?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How to eat your way through the weekend

(First, I need to tell you that I just tried to take my daughter up for her bath at 6:20 pm, as the only clocks in the house that adapted to the time change automatically were our iPhones. We are not, as you may know, a go to bed at 6:20 kind of family. So it was very frustrating to realize that there was at least another 45 minutes before I could reasonably begin the nighttime routine. Thank you Daylight Savings Time. And a real thank you to my husband who arrived home after his run in time to take Will with him for his stretching routine. Disaster averted.)

I actually had a lovely and mostly child-free weekend. My sister and I went to see "Wicked," my Christmas present to her last year. It was my second time seeing the show, and I left feeling certain that I would like to see it again.

Just as good as the theatre and the company, however, was the food. I love going out to restaurants, and my sister and I took advantage of our weekend out to enjoy some excellent fare.

Saturday Dinner: We head to a pre-show dinner at Mercatto. We split an arugula salad with walnuts and pears and some delicious risotto balls filled with mushrooms and cheese. My sister gets a pizza while I enjoy some mushroom-goat cheese ravioli in truffle oil. The best part? They sold wine by the 3oz glass, so I was even able to enjoy a tasting portion of riesling without guilt. Yay!

Saturday Late Night: My sister heats up some amazing butter tarts, which we enjoy after some havarti and crackers. While watching Tony Danza "teach."

Sunday Brunch: We drive over to Queen Street East to Table 17. We start with freshly baked muffins and coffee in cute little cups. (Note to management: leave a carafe of coffee on the table!) I enjoy Neapolitan Eggs (poached in a tomato sauce, something I have always wanted to try), while my sister tries out the Sloppy Giusseppe, basically fried eggs over a bolognese sauce. We ensure that we are completely sated by adding potato rostis on the side. We were quite pleased to not spend enough money to use my sister's groupon, as we have an excuse to return for dinner.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Crime Scene

Every few nights, my husband and I get to the top of the stairs on our way to bed and find this:

One night we left her there, thinking if that's where she really wants to sleep, why not? Of course she woke up terrified an hour later, so that doesn't work.

The worst part is the way it startles you, like a crime scene. Especially if she hasn't bothered to use a pillow or line up her friends. You suddenly see a leg, or some hair, and then a body sprawled across the hallway. Time to call forensics.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What are your plans for this evening?

I went to change the laundry last night, and found this:

Perhaps you need a closer look:

You still can't make it out? That's silly putty. All over my dark clothes.

I think the silly putty was a stocking stuffer. I do know that it has made a recent appearance in the house, and my husband and daughter think it's hilarious that I think it's cat vomit every time I come across the squashed putty. Which has been everywhere recently, so I probably shouldn't be surprised.

I guess it's lucky that it was concentrated in about three big clumps (including, of course, one of my favourite sweaters and a pair of preggo-comfy leggings) instead of stretching through the entire load.

Now I'm in possession of a spray bottle of "Goo Gone" and whatever shows are left on the DVR. It's gonna be a fun night.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

So. Yeah. Pregnant.

Despite the fact that I posted the picture from my first trimester ultrasound, I'm actually just about 18 weeks pregnant, a fact that floored my husband just last week ("But-- that's-- almost halfway!"). For a slightly compulsive worrier like myself, I only really start to relax when I'm well into the mid-thirties, and by then it's time to start worrying about labour.

So far, there have been a few differences from the first time. Much more nausea and general grossness in the first trimester, enough to get a prescription for diclectin. This medication worked amazingly well for my nausea and even better as a sleep aid. It was able to knock me out, and I didn't feel too wrecked in the morning after taking just one (two is another story). I'm planning to get the refill on my prescription for that reason alone, although I'm told it's the active ingredient in Unisom, so that should work just as well.

I'm definitely in maternity clothes much earlier than last time. I'm sure this wasn't helped by the fact that all I could eat for several weeks were cheese bagels, fries, the occasional other starchy food and full-sugar coke. Add a week of Hallowe'en candy and I'm surprised you can't already roll me down the street. But I'm over the candy now. And I drank an old bottle of coke tonight and it was disgusting. So consistent healthy eating is the plan for now on.

I did have some bleeding around week 6, which I never had at all with Will. I went in for an ultrasound right away and after a few minutes of silence (there was no sound on the machine at all, so I couldn't even listen for that reassuring whoosh whoosh, and the technician was quiet) she turned the monitor to me and showed me the flickering heartbeat. Even though I've heard the heartbeat on the doppler and even started feeling little swimming movements, when I saw that tiny flicker, that was the best moment ever.

Will is quite excited to be a big sister, so far. She has also become insanely clingy and already doesn't want anything to do with anyone but me (a fun time for her dad, let me tell you). I guess it's good that she's exhibiting this behaviour with so much time left before the baby actually arrives. I can gradually move back and let her dad move in without it being a complete shock.

Of course, it's always a shock, right? And chaos. But I'm ready (gulp). And so happy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Big Announcement Edition

Without a doubt, that is my husband's nose on this kid's face. Along with the sweetest little kissy face in perhaps the most detailed 13 week ultrasound ever.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On preschool: duty parent edition

There are some positive things about being a duty parent at my daughter's preschool. Well, maybe just one. I do enjoy watching Will interact with the other kids in a group setting. Especially before she decides to treat me like her mother and just goes about playtime in her own way. She asks another child to play. She waits for a turn at the paint easel. Apparently yesterday she and two other kids pretended that all the animals on the farm were pooping, but I didn't get to witness that one.

Most of the time, though? Duty days suck.

1) The cleaning. Dear lord. I seem to always be the "drink parent" and am therefore responsible for the bathrooms (in addition to actually bringing the drink for snack time). I clean the bathrooms first thing in the morning. I supervise the bathroom break and handwashing. I clean the bathrooms again during circle time. (Remember that my child's preschool runs for exactly 2 and a half hours. That's a lot of cleaning.)

2) The boredom. I supervise kids playing outside. I supervise kids playing in the playroom. Today I supervised kids playing in the gym. YAWN.

3) The opening activity. If I have to hear the days of the week song again my head may explode. Or maybe it will happen when I hear, "What is the weather, the weather, the weather? What is the weather, the weather today?"

4) The moment when my daughter realizes that her mother is actually there, and tries to use this to her advantage. Today Will seemed to get bent out of shape when I was playing catch with a couple of other kids in the gym. Her shoulders slumped over and she went to sit against the wall. When she finally decided to join us, the teacher announced that it was time to clean up. On the way to put away her ball - and already in a fragile emotional state - she dropped it and another kid helpfully picked it up and put it in the bin. Will burst into tears and wouldn't leave my side for the remaining five (phew!) minutes of the day.

5) The teacher. But that's another post entirely.

Actually, the opportunity to watch this teacher in action is maybe the most important part of being a duty parent. I mean, she's fine. Not what I was hoping for, but fine. Still, it's good to be able to observe her and make assessments on a regular basis, otherwise I would be very uncomfortable with the situation.

What on earth will I do when Will starts Junior Kindergarten?

Monday, November 1, 2010

And we'll start off the month with the obligatory Hallowe'en post

I haven't been writing as much as I would like, so I have decided to participate in Nablopomo again this year. Of course, the month always starts off easy, with November 1st being the day after Hallowe'en and all.
This year, Will decided to be a fairy.
She predictably chose a costume in purple, but her favourite part by far was the make up. Especially those little sticker decals that my friends and I used to get before our ears were pierced, convinced they looked like real stud earrings. Will just used them for glamourous fairy accessories. (Luckily she forgot all about her magical wand, as I had put it away somewhere last week and have no idea where it is, even now.)
I also purchased fairy wings in the same colours for Will's feline siblings. Oliver was a good sport for a minute or two. (Or as long as I lovingly held him in a vice grip in my arms.)
Pasha, however, was less than impressed.
So much for thinking I could get a picture of the three fairies together. Heh.

The week leading up to Hallowe'en was crazy busy, but fun. Will's preschool had a costume day, we went to two special craft classes and did some spooky holiday baking. Will insisted on wearing her old tiger costume (from two years ago!) to a couple of the events, as her best friend's tiger from the same year still fits. Will can get hers on, but it was lucky the make-up was enough to convince her to stick with the fairy for trick-or-treating.

Other than the inevitable post-candy bedtime meltdown, I'd say three-and-a-half is a great age for enjoying the spookiest celebration of the year.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In the house of sick, nobody sleeps. And things keep breaking.

I got back from San Francisco two weeks ago. (I had a lovely time. Thanks for asking.)

There was a reprieve of four days and then the sick set in. I was the first one felled. Killer sore throat I tried to ignore until I found myself, nauseous and dizzy, sitting under a tree at a local outdoor craft fair. Then I slept for 3 hours before eating a few bites of Thanksgiving dinner. The next day was a bit better, but by Monday I was only the least ill person in a house full of sickies, and it was terrible.

Will has gotten the worst of it. She was a mess for three days, then seemed to rally for a morning before getting worse again. She's missed two weeks worth of preschool and all activities and playdates since she can't get through a morning without a desperate coughing fit. The coughing fits strike in the night too. Every night, for the past 8 nights, accompanied by pitiful commentary: "Oh dear. What can I do? When will I stop coughing?" And now I can't stop coughing either.

In the midst of the sick we got our new toilet installed, and an attempt was made to install our new front door lock. (We've been without the use of the front door for an entire month now. I know.) Turns out the lock we ordered doesn't quite fit - although not as badly as the installer originally thought - but he at least fixed the door so we can open it from the inside for Hallowe'en.

To top that off the oven stopped working. Then started again. Then stopped. Then when I called the Sears repair service (it's a Kenmore wall oven that was put in with the "new" kitchen 20 years ago) and fiddled with the oven while trying to explain the problem, it started working again. I just hope it's either fine or some kind of a fuse, because at first glance it doesn't appear that they make wall ovens that small anymore.

Here's hoping nothing else breaks and these coughs finally resolve, or I may well lose my mind.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Last night

Bath time went well. As usual, I played the role of the "salon girl" giving Will her special treatments. A conditioning shampoo, body scrub, blow dry.

There was a minor struggle over brushing her hair, and the stories weren't quite finished by 8:30, my goal on these new school nights. But she was yawning, and seemed quite content with her little pile of books when I went downstairs a few minutes later.

An hour after that, when she appeared at the top of the stairs, crying that she needed me, I thought she had been asleep and had woken up suddenly. Then I got upstairs.

"My lipstick is broken and it's everywhere. My one lipstick is broken."

I could smell the orange on her hands but didn't see the chapstick anywhere. "Where is your lipstick?"

"In Mommy and Daddy's closet. I'll show you."

"Have you been in our closet this whole time?"

She took me to the closet and retrieved the broken chapstick. I sent her to the garbage with it before I exploded. There were open markers and colouring marks all over the carpet. Matchbox cars and puzzle pieces beside them on the floor. On the middle of our bed was a pile of discarded bandaid wrappings.

Then I looked more closely at my daughter: marker was coloured all over her legs and feet and arms and face. Each leg was then covered with four or five princess bandaids, with another one on each forearm. There was chapstick and mucus in her hair.

I could not believe she had gotten out of bed (not an unusual occurrence in and of itself) and had gone into our room to play. When there was preschool in the morning! When she knew that wasn't the right thing to do! And she already wasn't feeling too well!

I told her all of this (in a loud, stern voice) while I scrubbed her limbs and pulled off the bandaids, crumpling them up to throw away. It was the destruction of the bandaids that made her hysterical. I could hear myself saying things like "NOT. ACCEPTABLE." as I continued to scrub and search desperately for a brush for the mess of her hair.

Things finally calmed down and she apologized, then got worked up again because "everyone says sorry!" and she wanted me to "say sorry for yelling at me," all the while looking up at me with giant pitiful tears running down her face. So I did apologize for the yelling, but told her that I was not sorry for the things I said because what she had done was NOT. ACCEPTABLE. and we rehashed it again until she said, "I understand." (Although it took her some time to agree to not do it again because she was "too sad to say that." Right, kid.)

Despite the drama, she got up for preschool and is there at this very moment while I enjoy my coffee in peace. Until I have to go and get her in half an hour. Two hours alone was not nearly enough time to recuperate.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Look who's a preschooler!

She picked out her new striped sweater dress and two pony tails.

She had her owl backpack and her indoor shoes.

Of course, it helped that her mom was duty parent for the day, and got to hang out and help for the entire morning. The new teacher is fine. Not spectacular, but fine. It's going to be a good experience, learning to follow a specific routine and having to jostle for time at the play stations. And I'm happy with our decision to register for two days a week. That's just the right amount of time for my little preschooler.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

This afternoon, in the car

"Mom! Can I have the window down?"

"Get your foot inside the car! Keep it inside."

"I'll just put my hand out."

"No! Keep your hands inside!"


"Because it's unsafe."


"Because it is not safe."


"Because you could get hurt."



"Would my sticker fall off? What if I just put it on my other hand?"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Advice to my husband's uncle on how not to ambush me into joining an insurance pyramid scheme

1) Do not invite yourself over for lunch, saying how much you want to have a visit and see the house, insist that you bring your famous ginger chicken, and then sit down with a cup of coffee and say, "How about you, Lasha? Wouldn't you like to work with families to make their financial futures brighter?"

2) When I say "No" do not try to manipulate me into saying yes. Just because I am a teacher does not mean I have any interest in "educating people about the way money works." Just because I am a stay-at-home-mom does not mean I have the time or interest in selling insurance.

3) When I say "No" it is not "a confidence issue" or because I am unwilling to try new things. It is because I know myself and anything related to sales is not for me.

4) I understand that these are sales positions, even when you tell me they are not.

5) If you want to make a presentation to try to recruit me (which will never happen), use the presentation to give me information about the position and what it involves. Do not try to sell me financial planning and insurance products. I have a financial planner. As I have already told you. Several times.

6) Don't tell me that "making families financially independent" is in any way equivalent to doing god's work. Just don't.

7) Don't ask me if I know any "doctor's wives" who might be interested in the positions. (I don't. Not any doctor's husbands, either.)

8) Don't tell me that my refusal to agree to even try this out has everything to do with your failure to communicate, since "communication is defined as one's ability to convince someone to do what you want." And do not, under any circumstances, use my child as an example, suggesting that I communicate most effectively when I convince her to do something she doesn't want to do. Um, no.

9) I will not be making any referrals, but I would refuse, on principle, to use a form that asks for the names of the "huband, wife, last name."

10) If you want me to even consider something like this, do not ambush me. If you had told me you wanted to come over to discuss a role for me in this business, I would have told you I wasn't interested, but would probably have agreed to listen politely to your presentation. Even if I was interested (which I would never be), I would not agree to do it based on the way you tried to trick me.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Becoming a baby (again)

My daughter is obsessed with babies. Specifically, herself as a baby. I can't even count how many times a day I hear her say, "I'm just going to 'tend to be a baby, okay?"

And can I tell you? It is not okay. It may be one of the most annoying behaviours in the vast repertoire of irritating three-year-old behaviours.

For Will, being a baby involves walking with her limbs held out stiffly in front of her, in a slow lurch that looks like something between Frankenstein's monster and a robot. Even worse, she refuses to speak, and instead cocks her head to one side and grunts, something I could barely stand when she actually couldn't speak and cannot abide now. Sometimes she will speak in a language of incomplete words or phrases, and of course, she will point at what she wants.

I know this is all part of Will's exploration of how she fits in the world, no longer a baby but not really that big, in the scheme of things. But late last night, as we drove home from Buffalo, Will explained her understanding of babies and growing up.

She started talking about all the things she would do when she was a baby again. I tried to tell her that she wouldn't ever be a baby again, but she was insistent. Paraphrased, she said, First I was so little, and then I grew bigger. And I will get bigger and bigger. And then when I am so big, I will go down and down and little. And then I will be a baby again.

I was curious about what it would be like when she was a baby again, and she described it in much detail. First, she told me I would have to bring up the high chair from the basement (I might need some help carrying it up), and she hoped it had a tray - does it have a tray, Mama? - because babies need trays, they can't eat food off the table. She told me I would have to buy some "mouthy things" because babies like them, and she will like them (pacifiers) when she is a baby. She described the dress we just bought for a friend's newborn and said she wanted a dress like that one, and we would have to get some new sleepers from Walmart (?).

By the time we got home, she was telling me that although purple is her favourite colour now, it will not be her favourite colour when she is a baby. Then it will be pink. But she will also like red and gray, but not yellow. I think the colour categorization alone went on for twenty minutes.

I found this peak into her mind fascinating. Fragments of Alice in Wonderland (the only scene she's watched) mixed into her thoughts on growing up leading to something more familiar. The most familiar part being me. In her mind, even after she's grown up and back down, I will still be there to take care of her, when she is a baby again.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I know three-year-olds get hurt, but I'm not sure I can take it

There are some things about being a mother that I pride myself on. Keeping a book of Will's drawings, complete with the story she has told me about each picture. Finding interesting destinations and workshops and activities to explore with my daughter. Remaining calm and flexible in most situations, from a spilled bowl of cereal to a potty accident to a really badly scraped up elbow.

When it comes to the medical stuff, though, I am only able to be calm and reassuring for one reason: my husband is a family doctor. Anyone would be impressed with my savvy ability to comfort a screaming three year old, unconcerned with the blood smearing across my shirt. What they don't see is me frantically mouthing silent questions at my partner over her shoulder: "Did you SEE her elbow? Is she okay? Stitches? Do you think she needs STITCHES?"

In the middle of the night it might be more of a panicked whisper: "Does she feel too hot to you? What about her breathing? Can we give her that? Are you sure?"

(Although I find his medical opinions invaluable, that doesn't mean I don't question every one. And yes, he does find that endearing.)

These past couple of weeks have been particularly trying in terms of accidents. I had heard that a person gets all her best scars as a three-year-old, but my heart can't take much more of this.

Last weekend, everything was completely normal. Bath was over and Will was putting on her pajamas. All of a sudden she started screaming, "My eye! My eye! It hurts!"

I lifted her onto the bathroom counter and called my husband over to look. We both thought we saw an eyelash in the corner of her eye, and I'm pretty sure I saw it wiped on to her cheek. But the crying didn't stop.

Will just kept holding her eye and telling us that it hurt. She begged to know, "When will it stop hurting?" I was terrified.

My husband looked again. And again. He was sure there was nothing in there. I knew she wasn't making it up. But she'd been rubbing her eye and it was swollen from crying; it was too hard to know what was causing her discomfort. I was as close as I've ever been to taking her into the hospital, but I also didn't want her traumatized by someone digging around in her eye socket if it wasn't absolutely necessary.

When my husband went to the pharmacy for eye drops, she calmed down a little, let me read her some stories. After the drops, which went better than expected, Will just crashed. I was convinced that whatever had been in her eye was gone, but announced that if she woke up saying her eye hurt we were going to the ER.

She did wake up rubbing her eye, asking why it still hurt. I could not believe I had let her sleep all night with something in there. Then my husband gave her another shot of the drops and within a few minutes she was herself, perfectly fine.

Fast forward to Monday evening. We were out on our almost finished new deck, having dinner with my husband's cousin, who Will had taken to calling "Zimbabwe" (what she heard from his name and the "Baba" title for uncle). She had finished her dinner, so I asked her if she wanted to draw while the grown ups were talking.

I brought out her purple lap desk, filled it with markers and told her to sit on the step behind the picnic table, on the part of the deck leading to the side door. She sat down and then scooted herself backward, and again.

I yelled her name three times and then saw her fall backwards over the side of the deck, through the space where the iron pickets will go. As she fell I gasped and turned away, covering my eyes. I couldn't get to her, but I still cannot believe I looked away. Then I heard my husband say oh my god, the family doctor who is never phased by any accident, and he had Will in his arms before I could even reach her. And I saw him examining her as he comforted her, as I looked for the inevitable bump on the back of her head and saw only dirt on her legs. She had somehow turned in the air. Somehow landed on her hands and knees in a way that did not even break anything, barely even scraped her up. And my husband said quietly, there's cement down here. Did you know there was cement? I knew there was cement. And I almost threw up, right there, and again later when I imagined it over and over again.

Will is fine. She told us she fell "first on my hands, and then on my knees, and then on my feet, and then on my head." There's a scrape on her hair line and one on her knuckle, and that is all.

And I can't even think about it, can't stop thinking about it. How things can happen in an instant. How I should have been more careful. Knowing that I am careful, and even if I become more fearful, more cautious, things can still happen. And she is my heart.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Why I love my husband

When he asked me the whereabouts of his running clothes, at 7:15 this morning, and I realized they were in the hamper of clean clothes I had hastily shoved into our daughter's closet just before the cleaners arrived, and for the first time in almost forever we were waking up without the child in our bed and she was, in fact, still asleep in the room with the closet that held the running clothes . . .

He just went downstairs and had breakfast.

That is love.

(He's also taking me to the ballet tomorrow night, but forfeiting his run so the sleeping child could sleep later in her own bed trumps even such an amazing date night.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Something special

What are the highlights of a visit to Washington with a three year old?

1) Watching episodes of The Muppet Show in the car and then walking up the steps to the Lincoln Memorial, turning to read the giant etching of the Gettysburg Address and hearing your daughter exclaim, "It's Sam the American Eagle!"

2) Remembering how much fun it is to swim in a hotel pool. Somersaults! Handstands! Water wings! And that particular grown-up pleasure, the hot tub. (What's not so fun is forgetting your most flattering bathing suit in the hotel and paying them to fed-ex it to you in Canada.)

3) Pretending to be a giant panda eating bamboo. Not to mention seeing the phenomenon live a few feet away.

Will may have preferred playing on the zoo playground that was actually a giant pizza. Really! She had to push a giant mushroom across the dough in order to be able to climb onto (and slide down) the wedge of cheese.

4. Watching the oldest bug keepers in the history of the world trying to keep the children from standing too close to the tarantula at feeding time. ("She will shoot out her poisonous hairs when she's nervous! I've been hit and it itched for a week!") The best part may have been hearing the other keeper declare, as she counted up some green worm-like creatures, "I'm missing one!"

5. Wandering through the neanderthal section of the National History Museum and hearing Will announce, "I see something special!" in that singsong voice of the excited three-year-old. My sister and I looked over to see her holding the, um, iron private parts of a toddler neanderthal statue. "It's so, so special Mommy! What is it?"

I tried not to laugh. "You know what it is."

"You tell me!" She was still touching it.

"It's a penis."

"Whoo hoo! A penis!"

Will then almost danced from statue to statue looking for more special things. I'd call that a successful trip.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Late April

After the last two days of bright sun and freezing wind, today's mild temperatures gave us the perfect chance to visit Martindale Pond. There were some agitated geese, which I'm assuming may have been protecting eggs somewhere in the vicinity. We also saw some white moths (butterflies?), a bumblebee, a swan, and a huge fish that swam up to the surface, then over to the shore where it turned on its side and stopped moving. Oh dear. But the best part for me? Turtles! So many turtles, sunning themselves on logs and taking dips in the water. Very cool. Oh, and Will liked it too.

Eating some raisins.
Stand back, goose!
Among the daffodils


(The day has been marred by much after-dinner woe. There was screaming when she realized I had put bubbles in her bath, which I always do. Then there was screaming when I pulled the plug and told her she couldn't have a bath. I was told that "Girls always have baths with no bubbles!" when she finally calmed down. Then we fought over wearing an overnight pull-up, and since then I've been up and down the stairs five thousand times. Happy Spring!)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Do you know what stresses me out?

There may be nothing more ridiculous than taking the time to meticulously clean the cat litter area before meeting the potential cat nanny. Or stressing about not having enough time to clean the water fountain and clip the cats' claws before tomorrow. Not that I want to impress her, I just don't want her to think I mistreat my feline babies. (I try to clean the litter every other day, but I get distracted by my human child, okay?)

I'm sure cat nannies are always a little, um, eccentric, so I am looking forward to meeting this one. When she asked me how many times I wanted her to visit, I said maybe three times? Every other day that we're away? She said, oh no, she'll come every day, what she meant was how many times per day I wanted her to visit. Sadly, the poor cats will get more attention the week we're gone than they do when we are here.

I'll admit that the cat nanny stress is completely self-imposed, but do you know what stress I really don't need? I do not need my neighbour to ask if I mind if his 4 1/2 or 5 year old son joins Will and I for a walk around the block. Not when my 3 year old is carefully (and slowly) pushing her doll stroller while wearing flip flops (and a sparkly purple dress, white sunglasses and a pink rain hat) and the neighbour's little boy is zooming ahead on his bicycle with training wheels.

The boy was quite considerate. He did wait at every corner for Will and I to begin to catch up, but in the final stretch he pedalled ahead, and I only assume he made it home because I saw his bike on the lawn when we finally made it back. It was only around the block, but I did not like feeling responsible for this other person's child, and I felt terrible when he got so far ahead. And then I was stressed out when I did not go to his house to check on him. So please, I would rather wander the neighbourhood with only my daughter in my care.

And of course, we can't forget the intermittent stressor known as our crazy next door neighbour. We have decided to go ahead and replace our front porch and deck this summer, and we met with a landscape design company last week to discuss their proposal. During this meeting we learned that our neighbour had accosted them quite vigorously when they were in our yard taking some measurements. She told them they could not leave debris on her driveway like the workers who replaced our windows, and warned them against trespassing on her property. (Then she asked them to level out her backyard, so I guess they became friendly?)

Then earlier this week I had to do some damage control after she sent me a semi-hysterical email about us using her driveway as a "right of way" (which we are allowed to do). So when I rounded the corner of our street, trying to catch up with the neighbour's son on his bike, Will trailing behind with her stroller, and I saw my husband in conference with this neighbour on her driveway . . . Is it any wonder that I forgot about the giant black dog across the street and got the bejeezus scared out of me when he jumped against the fence barking like the world was on fire?

Just a bit stressful. That's all I'm saying.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

She found her own way into the water

I took Will to her first independent swimming class yesterday. She looked adorable in her little tankini and ponytail as she first cautiously, and then more confidently walked across the deck to her instructor and the other three-year-olds.
No, I did not even attempt to take a picture of the cuteness, mainly because I was already getting looks for wearing my street shoes on the deck, but the worker who was vaccuuming the pool was wearing hiking shoes, the deck was too gross to consider going barefoot, and I will remember next time.
The kids didn't even get to go into the water anyway, as a child in the previous group had actually vomited into the pool. That's just, ewwww. I mean, poor little kid, but also, how disgusting. Especially after realizing that that's what the lifeguard was actually skimming off the top of the water with her net. (Insert shudder here.)
Of course, because it is a city program, they tried to avoid holding a make-up class by saying there would be "dry lessons" instead. For the three-year-old set, this meant meeting the teacher, who told them not to run on the deck or eat or drink in the pool area, and then drawing a picture with markers for twenty minutes.
They were not directed to draw anything in particular, but Will came up with this:

She told me she drew a picture of herself swimming in the water (see all the water?) wearing her bathing suit. Very clever.

(I've started writing down Will's descriptions of her pictures and saving them in a book. I know I will want to look back on her collection of girls in beautiful polka-dot dresses with octopus legs, and I'm hoping we can turn it into a journal of sorts, where she can think back on her day.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On being a manager, or what to do when a staff member is doing her laundry at work

When I became head of the English department, the largest department in the high school where I taught, I was also put in charge of the smallest: Family Studies. These two women -- one in charge of fashion and parenting, the other in charge of food studies -- made up the most problematic, divisive, ridiculous excuse for a team I have ever encountered.

Taking on a leadership position, I had assumed that my responsibilities would lie in developing curriculum and guiding teachers to work together to make courses more consistent, especially in the way students were evaluated. Primarily in the English department, of course. Family Studies was presented to me as a self-contained unit that would basically require me to manage the budget and order supplies as needed.

Instead, Family Studies became the bane of my existence. One teacher would lie in wait for me, like a spider, watching for me to walk up the hallway and then spring out at me from her office door, accosting me with demands for ingredients and ink cartridges and a new oven. The other would stand in her classroom and wring her hands with anxiety: the broken sewing machines, the students who were safety hazards she wanted out of classes, the fact that her colleague could easily break the other washing machine doing her personal laundry.

Oh, yes. I had to deal with a teacher who would bring her personal laundry to school, who had broken a washing machine in the process, and who was refusing to stop doing her laundry in the one remaining machine.

But even my bizarre, albeit brief experience in management is nothing compared to the stories I hear from my husband and sister in their dealings with personnel. The following are my favourite quotes from disgruntled or confused employees.

1) After being fired: "So what am I supposed to do, just come in on Monday?" (This was followed up by a phone call to her former employer asking why her cheques had stopped coming.)

2) When asked to use the computer only for work: "But I don't have the Internet at home. When I am supposed to check my Facebook?" (This was followed by a repeated request to provide the employee with a laptop, with the explanation that she could then check her Facebook at home.)

3) When confronted with a sudden decrease in the quality of her work: "Well, I haven't had a vacation since Christmas! I need a break!" (This meeting took place in early February.)

4) When asked not to use her cell phone at work: "But this is the number I give out to people. What if someone needs to get a hold of me? Like my mother? Or a doctor's office?" (This employee was working at the front desk in a doctor's office, and her ringtone was that song "Watcha Say.")

5) When questioned about the lack of focus on work-related tasks: "We get the feeling that you want us to come into work at 9 o'clock, just work all day with a half-hour lunch break, and then go home at five." (Um, yeah. Isn't that what's called a job?)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Will is now the perfect age. When I ran out of toilet paper this morning, I asked her to go to the bathroom downstairs, open the top drawer of the brown cabinet and bring me a roll of toilet paper. She did. Invaluable.


The MIA tree man rang my doorbell twice yesterday morning (and I hid both times). The first time didn't bother me, but the second time made me feel just a little like I was being stalked. When the doorbell rang again this morning, I thought it was our cleaners and opened it immediately. He told me he had come by yesterday and "we must have been in the backyard because the door was wide open." It wasn't, because we were pretending not to be home, which means he probably drove by the house at least one additional time. He said he almost went around back (!) and that they couldn't come the other day because the chipper needed some work done . . . something, something the warranty. I told him we hired another company after he didn't show up and he immediately bounded away, calling back, "as long as the work gets done!"


My husband stayed at his parents' house last night and came home with his dad's famous biryani, with boneless, white meat chicken. Yum. His mum also sent some Easter chocolate for Will, who has yet to see that this includes a Lindt bunny. I've already finished the Reese's eggs . . .


The cleaners called us upstairs (we play in the basement while they are here) because there were two wild turkeys in our backyard. And there were. Real, live turkeys with gobblers and everything. Unfortunately, my camera blinked "change batteries" when I tried to get photographic evidence, and the next thing I knew they were flying. They looked much too large to get off the ground, but suddenly a bird caught their attention and they were up and away in a flurry of turkey wings.

Monday, April 5, 2010

And I had great-grandparents, too

I am on the back porch in the sunshine, fighting the glare on the screen in order to write this post outside. Like everyone else who has been cooped up all winter, I have been reveling in the heat and the light. It wasn't even a terrible winter, I know, but it was still grey and wet and yucky, and I am so ready for spring.

We have already discovered that Will can actually ride her tricycle this year (and loves it). Today she and I took one of her babies (Betty) for a walk in her stroller before lunch. We are mastering that scoop game of Hi-Li (my husband has been calling it hi-a-lai, so that took a while to find) left yesterday morning by the Easter bunny.

And I'm going to learn to run. (I think. No, really.)

I went for a run on Saturday morning with my sister. I was terrible, of course, but embarrassment did make me run much longer at a stretch than the minute or two I usually complete. It felt good to stretch my legs in the final (short) sprint my sister insisted we run at the end. Then yesterday I couldn't decide whether my quads or my lower back were going to give out first, and I wasn't sure I would ever try to run again.

But today my body feels much better, and I took a closer look at the Couch to 5k app on my iPhone and it looks . . . doable. (It also looks like there may be an updated app that allows for music while they tell me how long to run. That would be even better.)

The point is that I'm going to try it. I've always wanted to be able to run for twenty minutes without stopping (that's all!) but I've always thought it was just one of those things I couldn't do, like research my family tree.

(When I was a kid and people would talk about geneology, I used to think about how nice that would be to really know one's family history, but sadly, I didn't have any relatives before my grandparents. I know.)

Since that misconception has been put to rest, maybe I will discover that my body really is like everyone else's, and if I commit to a program, I too will be able to learn to run.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekend weirdness

A couple of weird things happened this weekend.

On Friday, a man came to the door offering his services in tree care, while a woman (his wife?) sat in the passenger seat of their car with her sunglasses on. He seemed to know what he was talking about (he knew that the tree in our front yard was a linden, something I only recently learned) and what needed to be done in terms of pruning. My husband called him back and then hired him to do the pruning Saturday at 4 pm.

Saturday morning around 10 am there was frantic banging at the front door. I opened the door to a huge truck with a chipper in front of the house, the same woman standing beside it wearing an orange safety vest and her sunglasses, and the tree man. "I've come to prune the linden!" he announced eagerly. I told him we were leaving and could he come back at the time we had arranged, 4 pm. "No problem!" he said.

We haven't seen or heard from him since.

Later on Saturday morning, I went with my sister to file her taxes. We walked into the most bizarre H&R Block I have ever seen. One of the receptionist's front teeth (just one) was covered in orange lipstick. The tax associates were dressed like they were at a casual barbecue; one overweight employee in an unkempt blue polo shirt left his desk to sit on the floor behind the reception desk. Music played out of a huge silver boom box (with tape deck) circa 1987, which also rested on the floor near an outlet in the corner of the room.

My sister's senior tax associate, who was very nice, looked like a dishevelled Kirsty Alley from her "Cheers" days. She had long, frizzy brown hair that poofed above her forehead and was then held back by a brown plastic headband. There were also several stray hairs jutting out under her chin. She was dressed a denim shirt with H&R Block embroidered on the pocket. With the exception of one pinky, she wore a ring with a stone on each of her fingers. She was very relieved when my sister didn't freak out at the news that she owed some tax money.

I also watched The Blind Side, hoping for a cheesy feel-good movie, but found it sadly lacking in cohesion and real impact. But that part of the weekend wasn't so weird.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Turning Three

In the past few days, I have chauffeured my daughter to a pre-birthday shopping trip and Chuckie Cheese adventure with the grandparents (and though I know for a fact that this Chuckie's is only a few years old, I swear that the games have been there since 1972), organized and hosted her birthday party for the family, and worn my own tiara to a Princesses on Ice extravaganza.

Will doesn't even turn three until Wednesday.

The birthday girl loved every moment, of course. We decorated the house with balloons and flowers; the favours were flower pots that included some seeds and a paint-it-yourself wooden flower; Will picked out a purple and white dress covered in butterflies. The only thing that didn't fit with the spring theme was the cake: Will has been asking for a snowman cake for weeks, so a snowman it was.

I'm getting pretty good at this cake-making thing, if I do say so myself. (Nobody needs to know about my meltdown during the second round of baking, right?)

My craft table was also a great success. Kids from almost-three to ten (well, thirty-three if you count my brother) decorated foam crowns with stickers and markers.

It was also my kind of celebration: lunch, conversation, gifts, cake . . .

. . . and everyone gone by 2 o'clock. Perfect.

When you are almost three, it is important to end the day with some dancing in the twirliest, sparkliest dress you can find, in preparation for a visit with some skating princesses.

I think Will would agree that this is a great way to celebrate a birthday, and it's not over yet.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

RIP Mr. Snowman

February 26th:

March 13th:


At least we got one good snowman out of the winter. Now on with spring!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Searching for another good fit

I continue to be delighted with our recent success in the potty department (as if it had anything to do with me. Ha!) I also continue to be amazed at the number of times a young child can actually pee in a two hour period. Four times? Five? How is that even possible?

Now that it seems that my daughter will actually qualify to go to preschool (daytime potty training is mandatory), I was heartbroken to discover that my preschool of choice for Will is no longer operational.

Last year I was so methodical, researching programs and attending open houses a year and a half in advance of Will's anticipated date of attendance. After realizing that Montessori was not for us, I was so happy to find my perfect fit: a play-focused curriculum with a flexible teacher whose philosophy matched my own. An opportunity for Will to interact with other children and the elderly residents of the home in which the school was located. My own confidence in this place as a positive introduction to "school" for my daughter.

Now I have to start over, with few options available outside of Montessori. And I'm particularly frustrated with the fact that almost none of the preschools even have websites. How am I supposed to evaluate whether a school's philosophy is in line with my own if I can't even read a summary of its principles and practices, before deciding whether to make an appointment?

It is promising that the one preschool I have found with a website does seem like it could be a good fit for Will. We have an appointment to tour the school and pick up an information package on Monday. It's during March Break though, so even if we like it I will have to meet the teacher before I can make an informed decision.

Ironically, I got a call today that Will has been accepted into the most competitive Montessori preschool in the city. (I put her on the waiting list last year before deciding that the program wasn't for us.) I guess someone else will get the spot they have been hoping for, while we keep searching.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Like magic, or why I should not stress over my child's milestones

How are things going? Fine? Good. Same old, same old around here. Except. Will seems to be suddenly potty trained. (On the pee side of things, anyway.)

How did this happen, you ask?

Thursday morning she woke up and said, "I want to try and use the potty, really fast!"

So she took off her pull up, sat on the potty and peed. She had the long-promised ice cream sandwich for breakfast and we were off for the day. Then she did it again, all by herself when I thought she was asleep for her nap.

"Mommy! Come and see the pees!" Gladly.

The next day she used the potty first thing in the morning again. With success. And every other time she needed to go. Dry pull-ups all day.

On Saturday, she tried to pee at gymnastics, went successfully at the brunch restaurant and then several times at her cousin's house.

Now she either tells me when she has to go or uses the potty on her own and then calls me over. I'm guessing we will soon be transitioning into full time underwear at home and then, well, everywhere. And I'm thinking the poop situation will work itself out. She puts her own pull-up on if she has to do that anyway.

How did this happen?

I knew, intellectually at least, that Will would start to use the potty when she was ready. But it was just taking so much longer than I expected. Everyone told me she would go when she was ready. People suggested that waiting for her to do it on her own would be better than trying to make her (and she couldn't be forced anyway).

Yeah. Those people were all right. And I didn't do anything. She just decided.

Maybe one day I'll have a chance to look into an anxious mother's eyes and tell them the same advice. And like me, she probably won't believe me.

But for now, I'm giddy with relief.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

You say potato, I hear rutabaga

A couple of weeks ago, I laughed as I read Holly's post about mispronunciations. Ever since, I've been remembering my favourite brushes with inaccurate language. Some of the funniest phrases I've encountered have actually been in writing. My top five include examples from both the spoken and written word.

1. My roommate in university used to refer to someone who was a little uncouth as "a country pumpkin" instead of "a country bumpkin."

2. During my first year teaching, one of my Grade 12 media students did a whole presentation on a print ad from the United Parcel Service, referring to it as "ups" the whole time, instead of "U.P.S." I could barely keep a straight face.

3. Every time I taught Elie Wiesel's Night to Grade 11 English students, inevitably one of them would write an essay referring to the way the Jews were used as "escape goats" by the Nazis.

4. While working at the C.N.E., my sister was proof reading a media release written by another summer student that included the line "now that we are in the mitts of the fair . . ." Her coworker dismissed the idea that it was supposed to be "in the midst," arguing that going through the fair was something like being deep inside mitts. What?

5. My favourite Grade 12 academic-level essay included - in the student's rough drafts and final polished essay - the phrase "self-of-steam." As in, one of the causes of Oedipus' downfall was his low self-of-steam. Oedipus had such low self-of-steam that he could not recognize his own fate. Or why he did not get a high grade in this assignment.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Some family history

Although he drinks Tim Hortons, my father accepts the Starbucks I insist on as we travel east to Belleville, then Kingston, to visit my godmother, who is dying.

We read to each other during the trip, something neither of our spouses will ever willingly do. First from my father's choice, The Shack, a book so overwritten I cannot disguise the sarcasm in my voice at the paragraphs dripping with adjectives and mixed metaphors. Of course I feel my choice is better, but the letters of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society are probably easier to follow by sight than by sound.

At the hospital, my godmother can't really sit up and she drifts in and out of conversation, but she knows who we are. Well. She knows my father and through him, remembers me. I am uncomfortable in this room, with this woman I don't really know, but my father talks and weaves a conversation, asking questions and, if necessary, answering them. Where is so-and-so living now? You remember, Jack's wife. That's right. Is she still in Belleville? He includes us both, my godmother and me, though neither of us say very much.

The oncology resident comes in with news that they want to begin some radiation treatments. They are thinking five should shrink the tumor, reduce her pain. He wants to know what she thinks? Should they go ahead and set that up?

My godmother is clearly in no position to make this decision. When the resident asks her again, anxious to get things arranged, it seems, my father lets him know that her son has the power of attorney, and should be contacted. When the doctor leaves, my father reminds her that it is her decision. It is up to her what is done, now.

When the nurse comes in, we retreat to the cafeteria for some mediocre coffee. My father answers my questions, filling in my gaps of knowledge about their relationship. I know he lived with my godparents and their children, became like another son to them, but I don't know the chronology.

I find out that he first boarded with them in Belleville after dropping out of school in Grade 11. (My father - the principal - dropping out of high school?) His dad offered to get him "a good job" in Belleville, away from his own family in Stoco, working at an A&W. His only day off was Wednesday, so his dad told him not to bother coming home. And then he had the accident where he dropped a vat of hot oil on his foot (I have heard this story), went on Worker's Comp for a while and convinced his dad to let him return home and to school.

He lived with my godparents again after high school, when he worked for the bank in Belleville. I know a story about the bank, too, when my father "worked the door" of a party for some of the bank's best clients. While reading in the lobby, he moved a curtain that was letting in the glare from a streetlight and inadvertently sent a signal to the police that there was trouble at the bank. The police stormed the bank, breaking up the not-so-legitimate social gathering.

He lived with them one more time during his early teaching career. During this period, my godmother discovered my godfather was having an affair. She convinced my father to drive her (and her mother) over to the woman's apartment building, where she was able to catch and confront her husband, in the moment. Although they ended up staying together, my godfather kicked my father (and his mother-in-law) out of the house.

He has a long history with this woman. I have come on this trip mostly to be with him, so he doesn't have to be here alone, so he has someone to tell these stories, share these memories.

Her dinner has arrived when we get back upstairs. My dad continues the conversation as he feeds her: some mashed potatoes, some tomato soup. A few peas? No? Some applesauce? I know some of your grandchildren are coming by on Saturday, so that will be a good visit. Have some more potatoes. That tomato soup looks good. How about this cranberry juice. Oh no, you don't care for that, do you? I will talk to the boys later, and I will come back to visit again.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mistaken identity

I can't stop laughing. Oh Meredith, they hold the Terry Fox Run in New York too, you know.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The rest of the story

So. The coffee.
Thursday arrived (last Thursday that is) and no coffee. No refund. No reply to my phone messages.
Then my husband called the Tassimo office Thursday evening, said everything I had been saying for weeks, and was offered coupons for free coffee and given the supervisor's extension and a promise that she would call at 8 am the next day.
And she did call! And she corrected the problem with the computer system! And she promised the coffee would arrive on Tuesday after the long weekend!
(Meanwhile I wrote an indignant blog post in my mind about how my husband was immediately taken more seriously than I had been over multiple phone calls, despite the fact that we said almost exactly the same thing to the same operator even. Sexism, I raged!)
Then Tuesday arrived, and the UPS truck pulled up. They gave me two boxes. One contained four packages of coffee (I had ordered 24). The other was a box of laundry detergent.
How does one even respond to that?
It's hardly worth mentioning that although they sent the rest of the shipment overnight it didn't arrive because they sent it to my old address. (Which I may have used 2 years ago to register my Tassimo machine, but definitely didn't use for this order. Not to mention the fact that the tiny Tuesday shipment made it to my house okay.)
Let's not mention any of that because this afternoon I finally received this:
The coffee was delicious. I am never ordering Tassimo from the Internet again. And that is the end of this story.

(Unless we decide to report them to the better business people, or their head office or someone. Then I will keep you posted.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tassimo sucks (now with update)

Guess what I'm doing? I'm waiting for someone - anyone - at the Canadian Tassimo office to get back to me. Which they probably won't. And I will be forced to call them again. Me, who is afraid of the phone. And confrontation. Which make phone confrontations probably one of my worst nightmares. But you be the judge:

Timeline of my interactions with Tassimo over the past several weeks, faxed to their office half an hour ago.

Jan 10 I place my order for t-discs online with Tassimo

Jan 11 I receive email confirmation of my order, including charge for 5-10 business day shipping.

Jan 13 The transaction appears on my credit card

Jan 14 The transaction is formally posted to my credit card

Jan 22 I call the Tassimo office to check on the status of my order (it has been 10 days). I am told that some of the coffee is on back order but that it should all arrive the next week.

Jan 28 I call the Tassimo office again as my coffee has not arrived. I am told they cannot send it out because my credit card was declined. I fax a copy of my credit card statement to the office to prove that, no, it was charged in full.

Jan 29 I do not hear from Tassimo.

Feb 1 I do not hear from Tassimo.

Feb 1 I call Tassimo to find out what is going on with my coffee and credit card statement. Person on the phone knows nothing, but says she will talk to a supervisor and get back to me. While I am waiting, I contact the main Tassimo complaint line and I am told they will get back to me within 24 hours.

Feb 2 I do not hear from either Tassimo office.

Feb 3 I call the main complaint line and I am told I must deal with the Canadian office directly. I call the Canadian office and they announce that the problem is solved! We're sending out your coffee! I ask why I wasn't contacted and they say it was just resolved. I ask to speak to a supervisor about the discount I will surely be receiving.

Around 4pm a supervisor calls to tell me they will send out the coffee Priority shipping via UPS and refund the cost of the shipping. She does not apologize.

Feb 4 My coffee does not arrive. My credit card is not refunded.

Feb 5 My coffee does not arrive. My credit card is not refunded.

Feb 8 My coffee does not arrive. My credit card is not refunded.

Feb 9 I call the Tassimo office and they tell me my coffee hasn't been sent out because my credit card was declined.

My head explodes.

Then I fax a copy of my statement and a copy of this timeline. I ask that a supervisor contact me with the solution by the end of the day. I am told the supervisors leave at 4:30. I tell the person he better get a move on then.

If you received this timeline, wouldn't you contact the customer immediately? And apologize? And send out boxes of free coffee to try to stop the customer from going out and buying a Keurig?

I'm calling back at four.


So. I called back at four and my contact person had information for me.

Not that he had bothered to call me with it.

Apparently, both the coffee and the refund will be in my hands on Thursday. I'm guessing it is just the refund of the shipping, since they do not seem to care about my business.

I've also sent a copy of my timeline to the main complaint line. Maybe someone there will think this is as appalling as I do?

Until Thursday, I'll be testing out the Keurig machine at my husband's office.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I have to record this, even if it is just one night

Something happened last night, something that hasn't happened since September 2007.

Will slept through the night. In her own bed. By herself.

She was about six months old when she stopped sleeping through the night, something she'd done since she was a couple of months old. We assumed it was a sleep regression, of course. And it was around that time that I (finally!) learned to breastfeed lying down, so Will would start out in her crib and invariably end up in our bed at some point in the night.

There was a brief period where we tried co-sleeping all night, but that didn't work for any of us. The middle of the night transition from crib to bed worked best. Then she got bigger, and started waking herself up in her crib, then kicking us all night in the bed. When she woke up in the night I tried to keep putting her back in the crib, but she took so long to fall asleep and I was too tired to do it over and over again.

I thought the move to a big (double) big-girl bed would give her the room she needed to get comfortable, but she continued to wake in the night. So around this time last year, the middle of the night transition became mine, as I stumbled into her room to comfort her, and always fell asleep. At least my back was no longer aching, bent over the crib (though it sometimes ached from clinging all night to tiny corner of her mattress). At least my husband could get the sleep he needed so he could work during the day (even if I could barely keep my eyes open).

Many nights, I didn't mind it. That is, if she didn't kick me all night or toss and turn. With my little girl snuggled up next to me, I often loved it.

Of course, it wasn't without a toll on me. In these two-plus years I have lost the ability to fall asleep effectively on my own. Nights that Will didn't wake until later in the night just left me half-awake and waiting, then groggy and grumpy the next morning. Last night I even opened her door at 3:30 am, confused and concerned, waking her up with the sound. In a whisper, I asked her if she wanted her door open or closed, and she told me to leave it open and then went back to sleep.

At just after eight I heard a familiar voice, not next to my ear, but coming from another room. "It's not dark out! The sun is out! Is it time to get up?"

It was nice to have a moment to myself, before walking down the hall to her room singing a song I haven't sung in almost two-and-a-half years.

"Good morning! Good morning! You slept the whole night through. Good morning! Good morning to you!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


In a strange turn of events, I am downstairs in the quiet of my house, freshly showered, enjoying a glass of wine.

Last night the child refused to go to bed. She did not accept her new (sweet) deal of reading or whatever quietly in her room, with the light on, until she is ready to fall asleep. Oh no. After bath and stories she decided to hit me, continuously, to see what I would do. What I did was put the gate up at the top of the stairs and ignore her. She waited it out, occasionally calling down: "Where are you guys?" or "Can I come downstairs now?" It was after 10:30 when my husband finally went up and directed her still half-awake body into her bed.

The news that my husband would be out tonight (and Thursday. and half of the evenings next week) was not welcome.

But after dinner she drew and played while I showered. Then we danced to the Glee soundtrack ("The loud ones, Mommy!") and I fed her some yogurt and raisin bread in an effort to stop her "I'm hungry" stalling technique. After bath and stories she hit me, again, and this time I shut her door. The door that she can easily open.

Instead she called for her Charlie and Sun (milk and water, named after favourite Hi-5 characters) and when I brought them in she was in her bed. She said goodnight, and has only called down once hoping for a second vitamin.

Kids are weird, but tonight I'm not complaining.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How I am being defeated by the potty

When Will, at 18 months exactly, started pointing to the toilet and asking to sit on it, I went out and immediately bought a potty that was more her size. I figured that it would all just sort of happen. She was a little bit interested, the potty was there and offered, and eventually she would just decide it was time.

She's almost 3 now. And while I know this isn't even slightly out of the range of normal for potty learning, 3 has always been my "scary age" (like Carrie and Miranda in Sex and the City). As in, surely she cannot be more than 3 years old and still in diapers. Or pull ups. No way.

What is most frustrating is that all the pieces are there.

She wants to wear underwear. She wears underwear whenever she can.

Whenever we put the underwear on, she talks through the process that goes along with it: "When I have to pee or poo I will say, 'Mommy! Daddy! Take me to the potty!' And then I will pee or poo on the potty."

When I notice she has to go, I announce that it's time to try to use the potty. (I learned not to ask if she wants or needs to go. Ha.) She invariably either gets upset or angry or just insists she does. not. need. to. use. the. potty. Period.

Then she pees in her underwear. Or demands a diaper. Or puts on her own pull-up and then goes.

Case in point: As I was typing this post, Will called me upstairs because she was done her poop. She had a dry pull-up all morning, and when I insisted that we "try" to use the potty before nap, she very matter-of-factly told me that she would tell me when she needed to pee or poo on the potty. Self-directed. Perfect. So I left her to sleep and she crouched in the corner and then called me upstairs.

We have the cutest potty books available. She even changes the name of the girl in "The Princess in the Potty" to her own when we read it.

She knows and is excited about all the things she will be able to do when she uses the potty: Preschool! Regular school! Gymnastics by myself! Ballet!

I also know this is probably going to work out the same way her language development has. At this time last year, she was still barely speaking, and never on demand. She rarely made animal sounds. Some of her friends were referring to themselves by name and speaking in full sentences. But although I was anxious, I wasn't worried. Does that make sense? I could see her observing, constantly, and I knew she had a clear understanding of her world. She was just waiting until she was confident that she could speak the way she wanted.

Of course, when she did start speaking for real it was in complete and compound sentences, and now she never stops talking. (Unless she's singing. Or sleeping.)

I feel like this potty thing will be exactly the same. Will is waiting until she knows she has it right. And when she finally believes in herself enough to act, there will be no turning back.

But believing that doesn't seem to make me any less likely to rage, you know when you have to go and yet you won't do it why? why? why? At least in my head.

Then I say out loud, as if it doesn't matter to me either way, "Just let me know when you have to use the potty, okay?"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How's your day going?

Nap time today has been thwarted by the late-arriving and extended visit of our cleaning service. Yes, I know I keep saying that this is the last month I will pay them to do a mediocre job basically wiping everything down for a ridiculous amount of money. But I abhor cleaning and am afraid that letting them go will mean the house will never approach real cleanliness ever again. And I have no idea how to go about getting a good cleaning person, as no one my husband or I know in this city is willing to share any contacts with us. So. There's that.

At the moment Will is lounging on the futon I pulled out in the basement watching the end of Annie. When it's over I think we will gather ourselves and take a trip to the grocery store. Who knows when this sweet child will hit the wall, and my reinforcement is not arriving until sometime after dinner. We had better get out of the house for a bit in between, is all I'm saying.

If you hear the sound of an almost 3-year-old singing "Tomorrow" or "It's a Hard Knock Life" you can look our way. If she happens to sing, "I don't need anything but you, Mama-Jo" than the loss of a nap may be all but forgotten.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I like cats

What can I say? I'm so happy that my daughter is developing a love of books so much like my own. But her ability to recite this entire story, especially the twenty-something cats by name and in order does freak me out a little bit.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ten years have come and gone so fast, I might as well be dreaming

I'm not sure if those are the right words from that Oprah theme (how many years ago now?), but when I saw this idea over at Jayesel I thought it would be interesting to look back on the past ten years for myself.

2000: I finish teacher's college with a month-long internship I set up in Kingston, mainly so I can move in with my then-boyfriend (now husband) for the summer. I teach Writer's Craft for the month (using some of my creative writing training), then work as a tour guide for the Haunted Walk and as a coordinator for the Labour Day picnic. In September, I start my first teaching job in the infamous Jane-Finch corridor of Toronto. I work with an incredible department head who believes in my teaching ability even before I prove it to myself, and I discover that I really enjoy being an English teacher. Who knew?

2001: I continue teaching high school, and add a night course in composition at a local community college. The subject matter is boring (although it solidifies my own understanding of grammar and rhetoric) but I love working with older students who are responsible for their own learning (or not). My boyfriend is accepted into medical school-- in Albany, New York. We take a road trip out to Eastern Canada, which includes one full day of Anne of Green Gables craziness in PEI and several camp-outs, the last of which ends with me in tears and a quick retreat to a nearby motel. Yeah. I'm not much of a camper. My boyfriend moves to Albany a few days before the 9/11 attacks, and over the next few months is centred out for "random" car searches at the border and strangers calling him a terrorist. It makes for some interesting trips into the U.S. Around Christmas that year my boyfriend finally tells his mother that we are dating and serious. Our cultural/religious differences have kept us a secret from his family for years. Nothing comes of this revelation.

2002: More teaching. A lot of questions about the future of our relationship, now that it has been admitted to, but still not acknowledged. We officially get engaged in July, on a beach in eastern Ontario. I meet my future in-laws (who had wanted an arranged marriage for their son) for the first time as girlfriend/fiancee. While listening to my future father-in-law's concerns, focusing on how I'd fit in with the extended family, I may have agreed to sleep on the floor at big family gatherings, something I have not had to follow though on (thank god). We begin the process of planning a wedding that represents us: European and South Asian heritages, Muslim and Catholic religious backgrounds, food? service? clothes? how would we ever bring all of this together?

2003: So. The wedding. I will not convert, so agree to a "temporary" marriage available in Shia Islam (that's another post entirely) for 99 years. Our July wedding includes the signing of that contract, followed by a ceremony we have put together ourselves. Worried about the legality of the contract and the stress of bringing our families and friends together, we elope in May. We are legally married on the shore of Lake Ontario by a Unitarian minister, witnessed by my sister and my husband's best friend. We move to Albany in July and I am faced with some of the 9/11 fallout: I can get a NY state teaching certificate, but no visa to teach high school. Through a different visa, I am able to teach part-time at a community college in Schenectady. We adopt our first cat Pasha.

2004: Not a great year. I spend a lot of time alone, not working enough but not motivated to do anything else. I watch the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. I become very attached to my cat and believe she prevented me from falling into a real depression.

2005: This is my husband's last year of medical school and we make the decision to move back to Canada for his residency. Our first choice is Toronto and he gets into the program at St. Joe's hospital. We rent the first floor of a beautiful old house in my favourite Toronto neighbourhood: Roncesvalles/High Park. I had (thankfully) only taken a leave-of-absence from my teaching job, so I go back to work at the same high school. I become the new head of the English department, but must also run the two-teacher Family Studies department. My first challenge involves one teacher's use of the department washing machine to do her own laundry. The drama here definitely merits a post of its own. We adopt our second cat, Oliver, who fits into the family easily as the pesky little brother.

2006: My husband decides to work for a month in Zimbabwe as an elective for his residency. As we finish booking the trip, I realize that this is my opportunity to do something I have always planned: travel to Europe. I spend weeks planning for the 5-week trip, researching and booking B&B rooms and activities I don't want to miss. Rick Steves is my constant companion. I fly into London in early July for my adventure: London, York, Stratford, Bath, Paris, Rome (via Nice), Florence, Venice, then a quick jaunt through Munich and Frankfurt to meet my Dad in Amsterdam and visit some relatives in the Dutch countryside. It is amazing. Oh, and I find out I'm pregnant while I'm in Paris. I don't tell my husband until I'm back in Canada, when he demands to know whether I got my period as we are turning into the parking lot at the Lone Star.

2007: My daughter is born on March 24 after a long labour and delivery. As we are adjusting to our new role as parents, my husband finishes his residency and we decide to move to a smaller community that is in real need of family doctors. In the fall, Will stops sleeping through the night (for what turns out to be forever) but we develop our own daytime routines: music class, mommy & me movies, swimming, library story time . . . I find myself enjoying this motherhood thing more than I had anticipated.

2008: We buy a beautiful old house in the neighbourhood I fell in love with when we first visited the city. I decide not to look for a new teaching job and stay home with Will for another year instead. As someone who had declared that I would be disappointed with myself if I didn't go back to work, this is a real change for me. We leave Will with my parents for a few days while we travel to Vancouver for a wedding. We all survive. I start this blog, and am happy to be doing some writing again.

2009: Will turns two (!) and goes from speaking occasional words and phrases to complete sentences, which has become non-stop talking and singing in the past couple of months. I embrace my role as her primary caregiver and constant companion (I am still a "half-way through the night" co-sleeper), but reject the notion that I'm any kind of a housekeeper, to my husband's chagrin. My husband and I travel twice without the child, taking a trip to Savannah and Charleston I have always imagined, and another to visit friends in Philadelphia. We also take a road trip with Will in tow, and she has not stopped asking when we are going back to visit her friend in New York City. We are learning that old houses need a lot of upgrades, and that just because a child is closing in on three does not mean she goes to sleep easily or sleeps through the night. But she will sleep better at some point in this next decade, right? Right?