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.