Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Hello 2014!

In a situation whose irony is not lost on either of us, yesterday we had to rush Cosmo to Bern's emergency animal clinic where he remains under observation. So far the vet seems hopeful he's going to be okay, and I refuse to believe anything else. He must be okay. But dudes, seriously. As Dan called me yesterday with the vet's prognosis, the pragmatic part of me couldn't help but ask with trepidation, "What's the bill going to be?"

"Yeah," Dan replied, "We probably won't be going on that ski holiday we wanted to. But he's family, you know."

"I know," I replied. "He's more than that."

So to close out a year that wasn't great, our poor cat isn't well, and our family morale-building holiday we wanted to take in February likely won't come to fruition as those funds will be channeled elsewhere.

Oh, and did I mention I have such a sore throat that it feels like I have two golf balls in my neck.

Ah, life. To say that Dan and I are happy to be closing the door on this year, would be an understatment. It may seem sort of superstitious but at midnight we plan on opening all our doors and windows to let the new year in, and the old one out. I am also currently, and vigioursly, cleaning my house to rid the nooks and crannies of any 2013 debris.

Tomorrow is a fresh start.

Filled with the endless potential to eat Crayola markers and not be caught.

However, all that said, none of the above is anything to complain about--it's rotten, not disasterous--and I am lucky that I didn't lose anyone near and dear to me this year; that I have a daughter who brings me so much happiness I can't even fathom she wasn't always here; a husband who makes me laugh and whom I love so much; a family who despite being half way around the world, I have such a close bond with that it seems sometimes like they're in my living room.

We have dear friends, we are warm, and we have champagne to pop at midnight.

We are very fortunate, so I suppose the only thing I really hope for in 2014 is just a smidge more day-to-day good luck.

Happy New Year, everyone.

I hope it's a good one, for you.

 

Saturday, 28 December 2013

A Christmas Miracle

Would now be a good time to tell you all that we lost the cat on Christmas eve?

But don't worry, we found him again!

He wasn't 'lost-lost' more like 'temporarily misplaced'. 

So here's how the story unfolds: we got LB the Ikea play kitchen for Christmas (as you see in the previous post), which we were very excited to give to her. At the music classes we go to, there is one of these play kitchens in the waiting area and she's always in there like a dirty shirt, wrestling her way between the big kids so that she too can stand at the sink and bang a pot against it. There's also a Fisher Price play kitchen at our playgroup, which she is equally enamoured with. Me? Not so much. 

Let's be frank: hulking toys of plastic are ugly as fuck and I didn't want that in my house.

I originally had plans to pimp LB's play kitchen by painting it, but in the end it did seem like a suicide mission so close to Christmas. One drawback to living in an apartment is there isn't a garage or basement where you can spread out and do something crafty without running the risk of tiny feet or hands smearing themselves through the fresh paint. 

I will save this project for a future date. I will! This is my solemn vow!

So anyhow, on Christmas Eve we attended a dinner and didn't get home until 11:30. When we first arrived at the dinner the champagne was flowing, I was thirsty, and rather than get some water I instead drank two very full flutes of champers. Oops. LB was sweet as could be, but was so excited to be in a space she'd never been before that she was into everything, and nothing was kid friendly which made it all the more exciting for her. 

Not so much for Dan and I.

Chasing her around was exhausting.

I was starting to come down from my champagne buzz and really just wanted to lie on the couch and fall asleep. So I drank some red wine instead to try and pick back up. Again, why didn't I chug water?! One does not combat alcohol drowsiness with more alcohol.

Essentially by the time we got home I was exhausted, but firmly refused to go to bed. Earlier that week I'd told Dan that it was very, very important to me that we assemble LB's Santa gift so that it was set-up and waiting under the tree for when she woke up. We would not spend Christmas day doing this. Dan agreed, since my foot was firmly down on this matter. These are the moments parenting memories are made of, right?! So we got home, put our sleeping girl into her crib, and Dan went downstairs to our storage locker to get the boxes so we could assemble the kitchen.

I put National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation on the television, and at midnight we started to piece her kitchen together.

All was merry and bright.

Then at 12:30 I was over it and wanted to speed the process up. So as Dan assembled one part of the kitchen, I'd skip ahead in the manual and get the next step ready.

I was being helpful, dammit!

Except, I wasn't. Because as Dan used a lot of blunt force to screw two screws into a door hinge he kept grunting, "Are you sure these are the right screws?"

"Yes I'm sure! God! You think I can't read something as basic as an Ikea manual?!"

"Well they aren't going in that easily."

"Not my fault they made the holes too small. I CAN READ AN INSTRUCTION MANUAL, DAN."

Nope, I couldn't. Wrong screws.

I was a totally useless cast member in a production that I had spearheaded, so instead I basically lay on the couch and tried to stay awake for moral support, then every so often would get up to toss the cardboard on our deck. 

Finally, at 2 a.m. the kitchen was together and we just had to fill it with the pots and pans and wooden vegetables. It was at this point we realised that Cosmo hadn't once traipsed through Dan's efforts and sent small bits of hardware rolling everywhere.

"He must have got onto the deck when you put the first set of boxes out there," Dan reasoned.

He wasn't.

"He's probably sleeping on the chair in [LB's] room," I reasoned.

He wasn't.

"He's probably stuck in the shoe cupboard again," we both decided.

He wasn't.

"The towel cupboard, again?" 

Nope.

"Stuck in a kitchen cabinet, again?"

Not a single one.

WHERE WAS HE?

I got out the treat bag and gently shook it into every nook and cranny of the apartment, and apart from having a very excited Poppy trailing at my feet, there was no Cosmo. He clearly escaped earlier when Dan came in with the kitchen boxes. So I crept into the hallway of our building and gently rattled the treat bag as I walked up and down the stairs softly calling his name. No Cosmo. By now it was 2:30 in the morning and I was tired and a bit panicked that Cosmo might be lost.

Dan was rejoicing that his wish for Cosmo's permanent freedom might be coming true. A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE.

I was not impressed with his lack of concern.

I decided that someone must have let him out of the building, so I bundled up, grabbed the treat bag again, and quietly made my way back to the lobby. As I turned the key to go outside, the flash of the glass door on the light reflected on two eyes that belonged to a feline body that was positively flattened underneath LB's stroller. 

COSMO.

I shut the door and went over to the stroller and moved it, and the poor little guy was hiding under there, trembling, looking as scared as I'd ever seen him. He basically spent nearly three hours in the wilds of our building, and he was clearly scarred from it. I mean, he wouldn't even budge for the rattling of the treat bag. I picked him up and clambered back to our apartment, where Dan seemed less than excited that I'd found him.

I set Cosmo on the ground and he puffed up like a cotton ball, pranced around for a second, before collapsing on his cat bed in sheer gratitude that he was home. We hoped his new found appreciation for the apartment would stay with him, but alas our theory that he has a memory of a goldfish has been confirmed because not less than twelve hours after his ordeal, he was again crying for freedom.

Which Dan really wanted to make happen.

Oh Christmas, you really do bring out the best in us.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

The Eleven Days of Christmas: Not A Creature Was Stirring

Except for us, still awake at 2 am assembling LB's very special Santa gift.



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Her very own play kitchen, complete with wooden fruits, vegetables, and breads that she can 'cut' herself (they are all magnetically pieced together), along with some pots and pans to make a grand noise with.

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope yours is special or you find some way to make it so.


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Eleven Days of Christmas: Day Ten

So this is coming a day late, but it was too dark last night to take a picture of...my nails.

Yes, that's right! Day ten is devoted to my fingernails!

Nope, not running out of ideas at all.

Anyhow, last night as I watched a Christmas movie I decided to give myself a Christmas manicure in the obvious colour choice: red.

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Red!

I go through phases of painting my nails, and generally these phases are only in the winter months because I like the dark colours. It actually makes me cringe a little to see someone over the age of ten with turquoise finger nails, and make no mistake: I've definitely tried it, too. I keep thinking that maybe I'll change my mind, but I haven't. 

In keeping with a red theme, we've been trying to read this book to LB but she won't sit still long enough for us to finish it.

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A classic!

We get to the part where the Grinch steals the roast beast and then she's outta there.

I, too, bought a roast beast yesterday and we will be roasting up a turkey for our dinner tomorrow night. I managed to find one that cost an 'acceptable' 50 CHF, but it's still fairly small. My mom told me she spent $80 on a fresh bird that is big enough to feed twenty-five people.

Sob.

I am definitely feeling homesick this Christmas Eve.

However, I'll be back later today with Day Eleven! 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Eleven Days of Christmas: Day Nine

On Friday it was all about the music and today it's all about the movies.

It's that time of year when I get to pour myself a steaming mug of Moroccan mint tea, get cozy, and watch loads of really bad, made-for-tv, Christmas movies. Oh I love them so!

They are so bad!

The plots stink, the acting is overzealous, Santa is always helping someone in New York or Arizona find their Christmas spirit that was presumably lost under some stray garbage or behind a cactus, and the inevitable romantic warm-and-fuzzy ending always makes me roll my eyes and groan, "Are they kidding me?! I wasn't born yesterday, they have only known each other for five days!"

(I'm not a believer in love at first sight. Too uptight.)

Some of the worst shows I've seen this year have the following plots:

(1) Melissa Joan Hart (WHY DOES SHE USE THIS AS HER STAGE NAME) kidnaps Mario Lopez and spirits him away to her family's cabin where she holds him hostage and makes him pretend to be her boyfriend because she's too embarrassed to be single for yet another Christmas. Yes, she does manage to get him to pretend to be her boyfriend despite the fact he has free will, can tell everyone what she's done, and can get the hell out of there. Then they really fall in love at the end. Who wrote this shit?!

(2) Santa takes time out of his busy schedule because he realises that eighteen years ago, a nine year old wished for true love AND HASN'T FOUND IT YET. Santa decides her current boyfriend is no good, but his best friend is a good fit, and the entire two hour movie revolves around Santa performing feats of magic to make sure this girl and the best friend remain stranded in an idyllic town that Christmas threw-up on, while the boyfriend is a mere hour away up the mountain unable to get to the girlfriend because crazy things like bears standing next to his car and falling snow prevent him from getting to her. However, tricky Santa makes sure his high school girlfriend manages to ring his doorbell. The movie ends with the girlfriend and best friend realising they love each other, the boyfriend and his high school girlfriend realising they still love each other, and all four of them meet up in the town square and look around at each other and giggle foolishly. Hehehe, we all spent the past two days being adulterers. MERRY CHRISTMAS.

(3) A psychiatrist falling in love with A PATIENT who thinks he's Santa, and her nurse friends conspire to get them together. Of course they do get together once he realises he's not Santa. I mean holy shit. Awful.

Every night I torture myself with one of these movies, Dan sort of watches while he's on the iPad, and then at the end we groan about how awful it was. Then we do it all over again the next day.

Of course, I also like to watch the regular Christmas DVD standbys too: Home Alone, Love Actually, While You Were Sleeping, White Christmas, Meet Me In St. Louis, The Family Man, A Christmas Story, and Bridget Jones's Diary. These are my Christmas standbys. I also will watch A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, and It's a Wonderful Life if they're on tv.

Also, lately there's been a lot of buzz about You've Got Mail since it's been out for fifteen years, and I didn't realise this but for a lot of people this is one of their go-to Christmas movies. In fact, I really didn't realise this but a lot of people LOVE this movie. Am I all alone in thinking it's total shiz? I mean dudes, HE PUT HER OUT OF BUSINESS. A business that was started by her mother! And then they get together? Say wha? I remember watching that movie in the theatre in high school with a friend, and at the end I harrumphed that I was pissed she got together with him and my friend thought it was lovely. So I was all, "It wasn't just business, it was personal! Only rich dudes try to tell people it's just business.That was her livelihood! She wasn't a millionaire, come on! How was she supposed to support herself? As if I believe she'd become a world famous reviewer of children's literature. It's awful!"

The following Christmas someone gave me the DVD as a gift.

They clearly didn't know me at all.

But, apparently, I'm alone in my disdain of the movie because loads of people are obsessed with it and adore Kathleen Kelly's "La-la-la life's a daisy" approach to the closing of a business started by her deceased mother.

I must be cold-hearted because I really don't get it.

Do you love it? Why? Please shed some light on this for me!

Otherwise, tell me, what's your favourite Christmas movies?

PS: Dan and I also like watching The Long Kiss Goodnight at Christmas, too. Geena Davis is bad ass and Samuel L. Jackson is a frigging fortune cookie with his one-liners. You gotta love 80's action movies: they really didn't take themselves too seriously.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Eleven Days of Christmas: Day Eight


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(I totally knit this sweater! Hellz yeah!)

She may look angelic here (and let's be honest, she does) but looks can be deceiving. She is developing a very...dramatic personality and we're not going to pretend otherwise: it's straight up exhausting, yo!

Tonight when Dan and I realised it was still twenty minutes to her bedtime the following exchange occurred:

Caitie: 'Twenty minutes?! Do you think we could get away with it?'

Then Dan grinned, 'We totally could.'

'I'll get her toothbrush, you pick the story,' I cried as I raced down the hall.

Then we hurriedly brushed her teeth, gave her the cliff notes version of Oliver Jeffers' 'Stuck', zipped her into her sleep sack, kissed her brow, wished her a good sleep, and freaking hightailed it out of there.

Thought I'd share this since most parenting books fail to mention the 'Bend time in your favour and rush bedtime' days that inevitably happen. 

God help us when she learns to tell time....



Friday, 20 December 2013

The Eleven Days of Christmas: Day Seven

So...we're totally just going to pretend that I blogged on Day Six, right? That I didn't forget, then remember at ten o'clock at night when I was already snuggled up under a blanket with no intention of turning on my computer.

Okay, good.

Glad we're on the same page.

So onto day seven, and today is going to be all about the music.

The music, man. Can you dig it? Can you feel it? Alright.

Since it's Friday, and for many of you it's going to be a night to celebrate since you might now be off work for TWO. WHOLE. WEEKS. I think we can all agree that there's good chance you might be doing a happy dance. In our house, LB and I get our happy dance on everyday. Yep, we have dance parties everyday.

Most days it's just me dancing by myself while LB looks at me like I'm nuts, but I'm okay with that. I love to dance, and there's no harm in her seeing me act like a huge goofball.

I wouldn't say I have particularly inspired taste in music, because generally I just listen to whatever comes on the radio. In fact, I'm not afraid to admit that Dan is downright frightened for our daughter's future musical palate because he's concerned he's not around enough to influence her. When she was first born, he'd race home at night and put on a hour of tunes that he deemed 'good music' to try and erase all that Beyonce she and I listened to for the previous eight hours. But today my friends, we need to have a moment of silence for Dan's efforts because I'm afraid they might have been for nought. You see, lately every time Katy Perry's "Roar" comes on the radio, LB starts dipping her little knees and dancing.

She loves the song.

Loves. It.

I'm certain he shed a tear.

So without further ado, here is a collection of the current songs in heavy rotation for our afternoon dance parties.


It should be noted, whenever we dance to this song I tell her she never has to dance alone.
I'll always dance with her.

Generally I think Lana Del Rey should only sing at funerals, but I'll be damned if this remix isn't catchy.

When we need to slow it down.

Because it's great for stomping your feet!

Straight up obsessed with this one. 
It's great for teaching LB to move to the beat.

\Probably shouldn't let her listen to this one...

And of course:


She really loves this one.


Happy dancing, folks!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Eleven Days of Christmas: Day Five

 
He's a pain in the ass, but damn can he be cute sometimes.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Are We Being Too Cerebral About Santa?

**I blogged TWICE today**

It's that time of year again when parents (and non-parents alike) start to hotly debate whether or not to introduce the idea of Santa Claus to their children. I never even realised this was a debate until about seven years ago or so, I stumbled across a blog where the writer very seriously stated that she and her husband were very uncomfortable with lying to their son about Santa. They had vowed they would never tell their child a lie, and Santa was a lie, hence their son would be told there is no such thing.

Full disclaimer: I totally rolled my eyes after reading her blog.

Full disclaimer: I still want to roll my eyes every time this conversation comes up.

People: chill out.

It's just fun.

I know it's completely up to the individual family if they do Santa or not and that some families don't introduce him for reasons of religious belief, because he simply doesn't jive with why they celebrate December 25th. I also understand that certain families don't celebrate December 25th at all, in any form, hence Santa is not a story they need to tell. I find these reasons easier to swallow, so it's when people try to reason away why they won't do Santa that I just feel exhausted for them.

God it must be dull to be so prosaic all the time.

This year I've spoken to three different moms who won't be telling their kids about Santa, and I find it interesting because all three of them grew up believing in Santa. Their main concern is that they don't want to jeopardise their kids' trust in them when the child grows up to learn that Santa Claus isn't real. I find this to be an interesting concern, because when I asked them if they were traumatised from learning the truth, none of them were.

So if they were unscathed, why do they assume their kids would be any different?

I honestly think those people who were traumatised to learn of Santa's non-existence are the exception to the rule, and as parents you have to suss out what category your kid will fall into. But generally speaking, kids are smart and resilient and at a certain point they figure it out, all on their own. Can you believe it?! It's like they have a brain or something! Zoinks!

Because who doesn't remember asking, "Is Santa really real?"

To me, that's the question where you establish the trust relationship with your kid. If your response is, "Yes! Absolutely! He's totally real, 150%!", then yeah: you lied to your kid. But if you ask them what they think, that's where you get to gage if they want to keep believing for a little longer or if they're over it.

"Do you think Santa's real?"

"No."

Ask them why they don't believe, they will give you the sound reasons behind their decision, then tell them they get to be in the club now about people who know that the nice story of Santa is just a story, but it sure is fun to pretend. Because it is.

If your kid is upset because their friend Lazerbeam just told them Santa wasn't real, then it's a pretty good indication they still want to believe and it's a prime moment to teach them that all over the world lots of people believe lots of different things. Your friend Lazerbeam doesn't believe in Santa, and that's cool. Do you believe? You do. That's cool too.

(Also, don't forget there's the age your kid definitely stops believing--about seven--and the age they tell their parents. Who wants to risk not getting a Santa gift?!)

Childhood is a small window of time in a long life, and in my opinion our kids have years and years ahead of them to be sensible and grown-up and logical. The gift of a little magical anticipation on Christmas Eve isn't going to destroy them in the long run (it isn't! Be serious! Do you hear yourself?!), and in my opinion it's quite sad to be so grown-up that we forget how fun and magical it is to be a kid.

Also, the idea of what Santa Claus is born from (the act of selfless gift giving) is an important one to remember this time of year. It's a hard reality that not every family is so fortunate that they can debate whether or not to tell their kid about Santa Claus. Some families can't afford the tale. So remember to be generous to those in your communities who have less, because it's no secret that even adults need to believe around this time of year, too.

The Eleven Days of Christmas: Day Four

Last week at LB's playgroup, we had a festive little Christmas party complete with snacks, games, and a visit from Santa himself. The only criteria for the Santa gift was that parents were asked to respect a price limit of 20 CHF or less, which is totally appropriate. I distinctly recall going to a Christmas party for either my mom or dad's work, and watching Santa pull from his sack a big-ass remote control car for one kid, while I got a colouring book and crayons.

Why did Santa love me less?!

The only thing about Switzerland is it was honestly hard to find a toy for under 20 CHF that was age appropriate for LB.

I know you don't believe me, but I speak the truth!

She's at this in between stage where she's too old for some of the baby toys (toys like rattles, or those other ones specifically designed for babies to handle and explore all the different crinkly bits) but is still far too young for some other toys like wooden puzzles, or toys with small pieces, or bath crayons for the tub, etc.

In the end I decided to get her a very wee baby-doll that came 3 CHF under the gift limit, and has a head that smells like baby powder.
 
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Meet baby Robin.
 
Baby Robin is not a hit.
 
I had thought LB was ready for her own baby doll because there's a busted up baby doll at playgroup that she is in love with. This poor doll has one eye that doesn't blink anymore, there's a huge bald spot on her head where her artificial auburn hair has been yanked out, and this doll's naked body is totally scribbled on in blue crayon.
 
Also, its head doesn't smell like baby powder at all! It's not nearly as good as Baby Robin, but LB prefers her more.
 
Kids: they're totally confusing and weird.
 
If Santa had really wanted to win LB over that day, he should have just given her a balloon.
  
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This green one she stole off another kid was all she really needed to make merry.

Monday, 16 December 2013

The Eleven Days of Christmas: Day Three

This Christmas season I have been celebrating advent by baking a new cookie every week. We started the first Sunday of advent with some of my pillow-soft gingersnaps, which leads me to believe I need to rename the cookie because they definitely don't 'snap'. Maybe I will call them "Ginger Pillows" or "Those Soft Cookies That Taste Like Ginger". At any rate, they are supposed to 'snap' but I take them out of the oven before they can get too hard, because nothing kills my buzz faster than a crunchy cookie.

Blech.

Next up was my lemon poppy seed cookies, which are also soft. I am quite proud of these cookies because I think (in my not-so-humble-opinion) I have made them BETTER than the original recipe. Essentially, they are supposed to be drizzled with a lemon glaze once they are completely cooled but I thought that if I drizzled them with the glaze when they first came out of the oven, the hot cookie would absorb the tarty drizzle which would keep them even softer. I was right, and these beauties are decadent. They're almost like little cakes, rather than cookies.

Full disclosure: I made three batches of these in one week, because we loved them so much. Also one batch is quite small, so really it's almost like it was one regular sized batch.

Yes....

The other cookie we've made are some classic sugar cookies, which we decorated yesterday. In keeping with my abhorrence of hard cookies, I cut these on the thicker side and bake them for the minimum time called for.

 
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My favourite shapes!
 
Decorating cookies is a pain in the ass. It really is. Sure it's sort of fun, for maybe two cookies, then I find it boring and tedious. Dan is the opposite of me, and he likes the careful attention to detail so we found a good balance for our decorating day: Dan carefully piped designs onto his cookies, and I went to town with sprinkles for mine.
 
However, I'd like to add that my application of sprinkles could absolutely be classified as post-modern in the baking world. I'm sure of it. I even know a professional baker who'd bake (wink, wink) me up on this. So you shouldn't assume I was utterly lazy. No, I prefer to think that my sprinkle cookies are the Pollocks of the cookie world.
  
 
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A sampling of Dan's beautifully piped cookies.
 
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My sprinkly-sprinkle cookies!
(the bear with the covered rump is my favourite)
 
I think, though, that baking these cookies for advent was really just a good excuse for me to use my new timer. It's shaped like a cupcake and I bought it at a fancy store for 50% off. Clearly it had to come home with me.
 
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Also, LB wasn't that into decorating these cookies. She was interested in squashing her hand into the sprinkles, and trying to convince Cosmo she's the boss.
 
She also tries to convince me of this, too.
 
It's the cutest when kids think they're right.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Eleven Days of Christmas: Day Two

Today was a magical day in Bern: it was one of only two Sundays A YEAR when all stores other than those in the Bahnhof are open for shopping. Yes, I know I've covered this before, but it's worth repeating that on Sundays the city of Bern is a spendthrift's worst nightmare: nothing is open. Oh sure you can go to the cafes and drink your European sized cup of java, but aside from that there's not much to do other than walk up and down deserted sidewalks, stare at fountains, or maybe sit in a park somewhere with a picnic basket full of olives, salami, crusty bread, cheese, wine, and enjoy time with family and friends.

How dreadful.

I'm used to it now, and now find it more than appalling that back home stores not only don't close for Sundays but are insisting on staying open on holidays. Blasphemy!

Today we didn't go to Bern for shopping Sunday; I probably will go next week though, in a mad sprint to try and buy Dan's Christmas gifts without having a sixteen month old cramping my shopping style, which includes examining everything for a ridiculously long time. Who wouldn't want to shop with someone like me? I'M DECISIVE. In opposite land.

Instead we went for a long walk.

I repeat: a LLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG walk. And I should clarify the length wasn't due to ground covered, but rather because of the time spent waiting on tiny little legs belonging to a small lady who, at every rock, discarded tissue, trotting pup, or grazing horse, stopped, pointed, and loudly asked: "WHAT'S THAT?!"

"It's garbage, darling. No, don't pick it up. Don't pick...AHH."

"What's that?! MOOOOO."

"That's a dog, chickpea. Dog's say 'woof'."

"MOOOO."

So even though we were only ten minutes away from our apartment, it took us nearly two hours to make the round trip.

 
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I can't even handle how cute they look.
 
Specifically we went up the road to visit the horses. This is a very regular visit that LB and I make, and there's two different places we can go to check out the horses. Lately we've been preferring to visit this farm, because the horses are right on the side of the walking trail, whereas the other place they are farther away in the field.
 
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Sorry mom, I'm trying to figure out my shadow right now.
 
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The view behind her.
 
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Us.
 
(NB: I will make a comment here that this is the first time in over a year I have been able to crouch. Let's all raise our glass of eggnog and say three cheers to specialists who actually seem to specialise! And who obviously didn't graduate at the bottom of their medical class! Pip, pip!)
 
And don't worry, Internet, it's not like we made her walk the whole way:  we also made her run through the mud while we jogged beside her blowing a military whistle in her ear.
 
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But generally speaking we just carried her when she got tired.
 
She liked the view.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Eleven Days of Christmas! (Part 1)

Hey, remember that catchy song 'The Eleven Days of Christmas'?!  Okay, I don't either. But I didn't have my act together yesterday, so you guys are going to get The Eleven Days of Christmas.

For the next eleven days I am going to blog every. single. day.

Sometimes, maybe even TWICE A DAY.

And just so we're clear, Instagram pictures count as blogging.

Also, if it was a boring day I reserve the right to throw up anything even if it's not in chronological order.

Alright, let's do this!

***

(ahhheeemm...hack..cough...clearing out the pipes...trying to get the pitch...)

On the eleventh day of Christmas our family,
decorated the Christmas tree.
 

photo photo (2) photo (1)
 
Poppy was quiet and Cosmo nearly broke a glass,
he continues to be a pain in the ass.
 
 
 
LB was really delighted with the tree,
And only one ornament was broken at the hands of our little banshee.
 
In order to distract her from the Douglas Fir,
We thought it best to allow her to stir.
 
(the cookie dough)
 
The Eleven Days of Christmas
 
 
 And finally, as today Jack Frost had his major break through,
we rounded out the night with delicious fondue.
 
 
photo (4)
 
 
***
 
P.S. Also reserve the right to not rhyme every post.
 
I'm out of practice...that shit is hard.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Lost In Thought

Do you guys ever visit the website Humans of New York? It's a website devoted to, uh, the...humans of New York. I log on about once a month to check out what poignant images and captions Brandon has discovered on his travels through the streets of New York, and I am consistently blown away by how freaking deep some people are.

From what I understand, Brandon approaches random strangers asks them a couple of questions and takes their picture. Then on the website he juxtaposes the image with their stories. I say I'm blown away by this because these people are going about their day when *bam* they're approached by a dude who asks a rather innocent question that has the potential for a reply loaded with meaning.

My latest favourite is this conversation exchange, juxtaposed with a guy looking sideways at the camera:

"I've been examining my values lately, and determining whether or not I like the feelings that result from those values."
"What's an example of one of your values?"
"I'm very competitive."
"And what's a feeling that results from being competitive?"
"Jealousy."
"How does competitiveness result in jealousy?"
"When you have a competitive mindset, you tend to view the world in terms of winners and losers. So you resent other people getting recognition, because you somehow believe that less recognitions is available to you. I'm learning that this is a false mindset. There's not a fixed amount of success and recognition in the world. So another person's accomplishments don't diminish the accomplishments available to you."

***

Umm...excuse me while I pick my jaw off the ground. Dude was just casually THINKING THAT? Like, mulling it over the same way I mull over what scent I'm putting in my bath that night?

Lavender or honey?

Long bath or short?

Hot or warm?

Dry myself off totally or just throw on my jammies while I'm still sort of damp?

I mean Internet, that conversation is the sort of brilliance littered throughout the pages of HONY and it's why I love it so much and I'm so in awe of the people who are featured: they are funny, deep, sad, elated, and candid.

Last night after doing my monthly perusal, I tested myself to see what I would say if a random person approached me and asked what advice I'd have for a large group of people. The first thing that popped into my head was this:

"If you've never tried it you must take a slice of cheddar cheese, spread it with mustard, and lay a pickle slice on top. It's the best."

Yeah....I might not be the deepest person you'll ever meet.

(P.S. You seriously should try that combo. My babysitter introduced it to my when I was five years old and it's been my go-to snack every since.)

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Remember When I Used To Blog? Me Neither.

Oh blogging.

I remember you well. I used to have things to say. I observed shit, you know. Nothing escaped me. NOTHING. But now...oh, but now. These days a thought will cross my mind and I'll think, "Hey I should blog about that!" Then I stare at my computer, contemplate devoting precious free-time (courtesy of nap-time) to formulating coherent sentences, then think screw it and lie on the couch and read.

So why am blogging now? I have nothing to say at the moment. Seriously, nothing. However, I have a burst of energy and plenty of free-time because it's 12:30 a.m. and I made a very poor decision at 9:30 p.m. involving my advent tea calendar, a strong cup of Darjeeling tea, and a decadent spoonful of Nutella. What the fuck was I thinking? Not about the spoonful of Nutella--naturally--but rather that cup of Darjeeling tea. I couldn't resist it, though. My advent tea calendar is the best thing ever, and so far I've enjoyed three wonderful days of different surprise teas. However, they are admittedly supposed to be enjoyed in the morning...not a half hour before bedtime.

Le sigh.

So I'm rattling about the house like a ghost of Christmas past, irritated that I can't fall asleep, but enjoying the warm glow of the twinkle lights that hang in our windows and fill the living room with a soft amber radiance. In case you can't tell, that means we have decorated the apartment for Christmas.

We did this on Sunday, which upon reflection was a jam-packed day. In the morning we bundled up our LB in all her winter gear and braved the frigid cold (it was -1...I realise...I'm the wimpiest) and went up to our village's Christmas market. We looked at the craft booths, chugged some mulled wine that was extra warm--read, naughty--courtesy of that shot of schnapps, ate some churros, and bought LB a massive helium balloon that was shaped like a horse. She loved it.

Remember when life was so simple that an inflated piece of plastic was the stuff dreams were made of?

After LB napped we busted out our two bins of Christmas decorations and set about making our place feel cheery while we sipped hot chocolate that was spiked with Bailey's. 'Tis the season!

(To find any way to put booze in anything.)

LB wasn't that into the Christmas decorating, and instead every time we set something out she went and grabbed it and tried to put it back in the bin. Toddlers, man: they are hardwired for organisation.

"I will take it out, then put it back in again. Out, but then back in. Out...BUT THEN BACK IN SERIOUSLY DON'T EVEN TRY TO STOP ME THIS MUST GO BACK IN THE BOX."

Dan is hoping that she continues to feel this keenly about putting things away for years to come. He insists it's her Swiss genes shining through. He's blaming the screaming on her Canadian genes, though. Because oh yeah...she is still a screamer.

This is not looking like a phase, but rather....I THINK THIS IS HOW SHE IS.

Hold me.

On Monday we went to Ikea with a friend, and LB was babbling away in her highchair while she ate her tomato pasta and some of my Swedish meatballs. However, I was chatting with my friend and LB decided she wasn't getting the attention that was required for this fascinating tale she was telling me about Babble-on (GET IT) so she just let one rip. One loud, ear shattering, piercing, PAY ATTENTION TO ME RIGHT NOW DAMN YOU ALL, scream. My friend (who has a two year old) stopped mid-sentence, looked at me, and said, "You're screwed. That's a big personality in a little body." Then she laughed and laughed in a "glad it's you and not me" kind of way.

We know.

Oh, we know.

Yet, and pardon me while I get quite mother-ish and cliché, she's a wonder. I know I probably should be trying to figure out how to curb the screaming, but it's just fascinating for me to watch her turning into a little person and realise that right now, this day, today, if she screams everyone will stop and pay attention to her. Which is all she wants.

Also, and this has nothing to do with anything, she calls me Mimi and it's the cutest. She is of course saying 'Mommy' but she draws it out like, "Mmii-mmii." She also says: Daddy, What's that?, Uppy (when she wants up), and she can moo like a cow and do the "EE-I-EE-I-O" course to Old MacDonald Had A Farm.

Yes, it's fair to say we are quite smitten and firmly believe she is the most amazing baby on the planet, ever, in the history of babies.

Which is just as it should be.

However, all that said, she is also the most exhausting person around, which is why I'm so annoyed (yet also amazed) at the power of that cup of Darjeeling, because most days I feel like you could drip caffeine through a central line and I wouldn't be 100% awake.

Yet here I am...AT 12:46 A.M. WIDE AWAKE.

Take note, anyone who needs to be awake: Darjeeling tea will get the job done.

Effectively.


 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

On Raising A Daughter, Part V: Not Sure Where I Stand on the Princess Thing

If you've been following along, I've been doing a series of posts about things I think that Dan and I need to keep in mind as we parent our sweet LB through girlhood, the teenage years, and eventually into womanhood. For the record, I haven't compiled a list of every stereotypical issue that might be encountered, but rather I'm just writing a post here and there when an idea pops into my head. I've already done one post establishing why I think it's important to do this series of posts, another on how LB doesn't need to follow societal norms re: marriage and last name, one on how I hope she isn't so insecure that she is threatened by, therefore unkind towards, other girls/women by default of them being girls/women, and the last one on hoping to install in her a sense that her definition of beauty is hers alone and it's enough.

Nothing earth shattering, but all still ideas that I feel are important.

The next topic that has entered my radar is the princess debate. I could also encompass the pink debate into this topic, too, but maybe I'll leave that one for another entry. But in speaking with other moms and watching articles pop up here and there, the princess culture that saturates girlhood is something I'm interested in and to simplify things a bit I've boiled the debate into two camps, which are: (1) "Eh, who cares. Don't over think it."; and (2) "You ignoramus! You gullible fool who is easily ensnared by society's gender trappings. YOU MUST CARE ABOUT THE PRINCESSES otherwise you are setting your daughter up for a lifetime of romantic folly and gender entrapment. Do the world a favour and get spayed!"

Recently I've been reading Born Weird a novel by Andrew Kauffman, who's Canadian (woot-woot!) and the book centres on a group of fictional siblings who have all been "blursed" (blessing which is a curse = blurse) by their grandmother with attributes that should be beneficial but are actually damning: one sister is never lost, one always has hope, another forgives instantly, etc.. I found this amusing because I think my blurse might be that I can always--without fail--see other people's point of view. Sometimes I just don't want to, but I can see it, I try to understand it even if it frustrates me beyond measure, then I get really annoyed when speaking with someone who could care less about someone else's point of view if it doesn't jive with their own. When sitting in the audience watching the princess debate, I can see the point that both speakers are making, but it doesn't help me personally wade through the issue on my own.

I have a giant book of fables that is old, old, old, and there are 365 fables within the book so that parents can read their child one every night before bed. These are fairly original fables (think Brothers Grimm styling) in that some are violent, horrible fates befall the wicked, but also some are quite sweet. I've been weeding through them as I read to LB, but one thing I have noticed without fail is that in every single story the women are always described as beautiful.

And that's it.

The men in these stories have attributes like being handsome, clever, brave, or cunning, and they are princes, kings, farmers, blacksmiths, etc. The women are beautiful, they have no occupation other than sweet princess or wicked queen (also, why is the queen always wicked?) and they serve only as a figure for the men to rescue. This is where the princess debate begins for me: the damsel in distress.

The woman who can't save herself.

Who is only beautiful.

Who is passively waiting for her 'prince'.

Her true love.

These very, very, very old stories are the princess-lore foundation upon which Disney has built its commercialised kingdom, and this is where my objection lies: none of these 'princess' traits of beauty, helplessness, and pining for love are what I want LB to preternaturally and subconsciously build her female identity on, and as a result I can understand why many parents want to shun the Disney princesses altogether.  However, in the world of make-believe I also firmly believe that putting on the character of 'princess' can be quite harmless in and of itself as long as the child's imagination isn't stunted by what someone else has told them a princess should be. (See? Both sides.)

What about Elizabeth, our favourite paper bag princess? Not joking, it is one of LB's favourite stories. She constantly wants me to read it to her, and it's a good story. Clever Elizabeth outsmarts the dragon to rescue her prince, and then in very PG language tells Ronald to bugger off when he accuses her of not looking like a princess. The final page shows her gleefully skipping alone into the sunset.

It's a strong story and it's a strong character who happens to be a clever princess.

I also acknowledge that the stories of the paper bag princesses of the world are not told as often as those of the Disney princesses: Ariel gives up her voice so Prince Eric can see her, Belle has a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome in Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella requires a man to get her out of the attic. So, yes, this is where the water gets murky for me because what the Disney princesses represent is also present in so many other areas of society, too. In one of our local department stores I was browsing the sale racks of their kids' clothes hoping to score something for LB to grow into for next summer, and I was horrified at the messages on the t-shirts. They were written in English, and most of them went along the lines of 'Mummy's shopping partner' and 'Daddy's angel' and 'Pretty princess'. Honestly it's repulsive because in a nutshell these messages are the fairly standard expectations of femaleness that we're literally supposed cloak our daughters in: women shop, we're sweet for the men in our lives, and we're pretty.

And that's the Disney princesses in a nutshell: they are sweet, beautiful, and pretty helpless.

Yes I know this is where I'm supposed to point to Merida, the wild-haired redhead who competes in the archery competition for her own hand in marriage, but the message gets lost when you look at the competitors: there's not a single stereotypical 'prince charming' in there; they are all exaggerated freak shows. Then the story carries on to her having a quarrel with her mother and turning her into a bear.

It's a start but it's not great, honestly.

I don't want to limit LB's imagination for play and I also don't want a subconscious message that's dazzlingly packaged to influence her, either.

I guess my plan at this point is to muddle through it, without being too strong-armed. Will we let LB watch a Disney princess movie? Yes, most likely. I'm not leaning towards the 'create a limited exposure bubble' tactic on this issue. I'm leaning towards the idea that I'll watch the movies with her and make a comment here or there about how the story seems a bit silly and maybe ask her to imagine what she would have done.

Honestly, not sure.

Anyone have their own thoughts on the princess debate?

 

Monday, 11 November 2013

I Gave Birth To A Kleptomaniac

Before I started taking LB to various playgroups and music classes, I wasn't really familiar with the fact that children have a very strong THIS IS MINE YOU DIRTBAG, BACK OFF possessiveness about anything they can get their paws on.

Yo, that baby over there is playing with a toy I didn't even know existed until right this very second. IT'S MINE AND I WILL FIGHT TO THE DEATH FOR IT.  ROOOOOAAAAARRRR.

It was all a little alarming, to be honest.

But now I'm used to it, though Dan isn't. Dan doesn't, in fact, spend time with any children except for LB, so when we were out and about this weekend LB was toddling around with some bread and another child decided they wanted it and ripped it from her hands. LB was basically all *shrug*, "If you want my saliva soaked bread, go for it. I've got fresh stuff back at the table. I'm going to climb now." She does enough stealing from other kids that maybe this was a circle-of-life moment and she knew she'd get something later on. Or maybe the bread really sucked and she was glad to be rid of it. Who knows. She wasn't bothered though, is what I'm saying.

Dan was.

He leaned over and said, "That little bastard just stole [LB's] bread! What a prick, I'm going to get it back!"

Then I had to gently remind him that the 'little prick' he was referring to was a human that had been on the plant for maybe sixteen months, tops, and we too have a child who not only steals from other kids...but also from stores.

Yes, that's right, our blue-eyed babe likes to steal and does so with the cutest smile on her face.

So here's the deal: I was shopping at Coop the other day and parked LB so I could get my fruit and vegetables. Later on she started to fuss a bit in a her stroller and it looked like she was a bit hung-up in her Mucki sack (which is a big down-filled baby-sleeping bag that attaches to strollers so kids can stay snuggled up and toasty warm while their parental slaves push them hither and yon through all sorts of shit weather). I unzipped the Mucki sack to get her legs straightened out when behold: it was full of oranges.

I mean absolutely loaded with clementine oranges. About ten in total, all rolling around the bottom of her Mucki sack.

Oh, the horror.

I flushed pink.

It doesn't end there.

Last Wednesday I got home to discover that she was sitting on hair barrettes she'd pulled off a shelf without me realising, and today it was winter gloves.

WINTER GLOVES.

So not only has she stolen these items and hidden them into the deepest reaches of her Mucki sack, but when I take them from her she looks at me with a fierce look on her darling face that clearly says: WOMAN, THESE ARE MINE. Step. Back.

So in case you're wondering, this afternoon I have to try and slink back into a store and replace the gloves my baby stole whilst hoping something else doesn't catch her eye. Like, say, that gold chain necklace from H&M she tried to make away with on Friday.

Help.
 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Getting My Groove Back

For those of you who tune in regularly, I took a bit of an unintentional hiatus from blogging because quite frankly, I couldn't be bothered. Our LB is a walking a machine and has been since this post. She took her first independent steps the day after I hit publish on that, was a bit cautious for about the following week, then realised how fast she could go and hasn't looked back since.

It's been amazing; my heart feels blown open every time she looks at me with such evident pride on her face that SHE. IS. WALKING., meanwhile I've essentially been running to keep up with her. And, as those who are part of my inner circle know, I haven't been able to run for a long time. I can barely walk some days.

So these past few weeks have been joyous, but physically very hard for me.

This year has been hard. There's been amazing moments, yes, and of course there's always LB and Dan, but when I look back 2013 isn't going to be a year I want to remember. Actually, come to think of it, I rarely look back--too busy looking forward, which isn't necessarily better--but I definitely will not be looking back on 2013, and I realise it's not even over.

I posted here ages ago that my arthritis flared up about six weeks or so after LB was born, and it's been in a state of flare ever since. Arthritis is a tricky thing to talk about with people because it's generally assumed to be something that only effects people once they're in their golden years and their joints have had years of wear and tear. Yes, of course, that is one form of arthritis. There's the other forms though that are auto-immune, meaning your body is attacking your joints and sometimes tendons, and I have one of those forms. I say it's tricky to talk to people about because unless you've experienced it, you can't quite comprehend what it means to be in constant, debilitating pain. Yes you can imagine it can be hard, but you just don't get it. And I hope everyone reading never has to get it, because it fucking sucks. And that's been my past thirteen months.

You know that line in one of Taylor Swift's songs that goes, "We're happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time." Well, I've been tired, sore, angry and anxious at the same time. For a whole year.

The past few months got to the point where my jaw was locked shut every morning, I dreaded the first half hour of the day because I could hardly walk, and I was not able to keep up with LB.

I have cried a lot this year, but I cried a lot these past months.

A lot.

Out of frustration, anger, exhaustion, and fear. What if this is my life forever?

For reasons I won't get into on a non-private weblog, I have been led to believe I didn't have a lot of treatment options. Turns out I just didn't have a good doctor. In fact, it's possible I've had the worst doctor. I have felt like I've been cheated out of enjoying my baby's first year of life because I was so immobile for most of this past year. This doctor saw me MINIMUM twice a month for the past thirteen months, he saw me limp into his office every time, and he could have done something about it and he fucking didn't. He just kept telling me I didn't have a lot of options.

That I basically had none.

And, for the personal reasons that I don't want to share (maddening as it is, I know) I believed him. It honestly seemed plausible.

On the day before I was to fly out with LB to Canada for my grandma's birthday, my doctor basically alluded to the fact that I was the only patient he had that was my age and with this arthritis and he stopped just short of saying he didn't know what to do.

I was in tears that afternoon, but as I was leaving the next day I had no recourse to take.

The day after I got back from Canada we went to Bern's emergency clinic so that they could try and take some of the fluid out of my knees, and Internet, I swear, the Universe finally threw me a bone. It solved a problem that was only admitted the day before my trip. The doctor who treated me that first day back in Switzerland not only had the same kind of arthritis I do, but assured me that actually I have a hell of a lot more treatment options than I'd been led to believe I had and he thought I was being jerked around.

He recommended me to his doctor and I've had to tell myself that maybe that year of pain was worth it, because this guy I saw this week is good. He's the kind of good that not everybody can see. The kind of good that comes with a long waiting list that I got to bypass. This new doctor didn't criticise my old doctor, nor did he even want to know who he was, but he made it very plain to me that even with my secret-personal-not-talking-about-reasons, I have treatment options.

And I can be pain free.

And the other doctor was a fucking tit on a bull, that's how useless he is.

Today, a mere two days after seeing him, I am *almost* pain free. I haven't started treatment yet, but he's given me something to take away the inflammation until I do. I woke up yesterday and my jaw wasn't locked.

I wasn't sore.

I wasn't exhausted.

I wasn't angry.

I wasn't anxious.

I haven't felt like joking around in awhile, I haven't felt like finding the humour, and I sure as hell haven't felt like writing on this blog. I did it out of some weird sense of obligation, but I abandoned that earlier this month while I was waiting to see the new guy (who was on extended holidays) and was so sore I basically cried every day.

I wasn't about to blog.

But it's amazing what one day of being nearly pain-free can do for a person's outlook.

I feel great, and am looking forward to continuing this momentum so I can end the year on a positive note, and maybe with a few pithy social observations thrown onto here for good measure.

Thanks for sticking around, and I'll be back soon.

xx

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Regularly Scheduled Programming

Should be back to blogging tomorrow.

That is if I don't hear a knock at my door and find Publisher's Clearance House sweepstakes division standing there with balloons and a huge cheque.

Then I'll just post arrogant pictures of myself in places like Chanel, the Maldives, and maybe a fancy car dealership.

Otherwise, yeah...tomorrow.

Me, the blog, maybe a picture of my gutter-dive of a living room.

Ciao for now!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Dear Life, You're Nobel

She wanted to crawl across the bus floor but it was puddled with dirty water that people shook from their jackets and umbrellas as they ducked into the bus to avoid the torrential downpour outside. After wrestling my twisting girl back into her buggy and comforting her with a book and a cracker I sat heavily down in my seat, feeling damp and exhausted, and opened my Twitter feed where the first alert was a notification that Canadian short story write, Alice Munro, had just won the Nobel Prize for literature.

I let out a squeak of joy then immediately opened up my Facebook to post the news.

About a half hour later my friend sent me an excited text message, also telling me the good news. I replied with excessive exclamation points, telling her that I felt like it was my grandma who just won.

That's how excited I am about Alice Munro's win.

***

When I went to university I decided to study English Literature just because I liked to read. I had no plans beyond this--no idea what purpose this education would serve--I just wanted to read books and discuss them with people who also liked to read. I think I've made it abundantly clear that I am no book snob; I will read pretty much anything I can get my hands on (okay, except for Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, but those deserve their own blog post about why I don't think the pages are worthy for wiping your ass with...but anyhow...), but while in university it became abundantly clear to me that I am a die-hard devotee of Canadian Literature. I absolutely love it and we have some truly remarkable writers sprinkled across our landscape. Furthermore, it's women writers that I gravitated to.

Margaret Atwood is a no brainer, L. M. Montgomery, Margaret Laurence, Miriam Towes, Carol Shields, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Donna Morrissey, Elizabeth Hay, Amy McKay. The list could seriously go on and on, and of course, there's Alice Munro.

The first time I read a collection of short stories I was ten years old, lying on the pull-out couch at my Nan and Bup's ranch, avoiding the afternoon desert heat that was wilting the landscape around me. I was killing time until evening when I was hoping to harass my aunt into taking me riding, and I picked up a new book I'd bought before we left to visit my grandparents by my favourite author at the time, L. M. Montgomery. As I started into the book I was totally confused about why there wasn't a cohesive plot, why none of the characters repeated into the next 'chapter', and why each chapter seemed to take place in a wildly different setting. It wasn't until the fourth or fifth 'chapter' that I clued in this book was a bunch of small stories.

I wasn't impressed.

I wanted a novel!

Did this stay with me? I don't know, but while in university a professor assigned a few Alice Munro stories for required reading and I remember stubbornly starting the story with the belief I would hate it. How much could take place over ten pages? Rubbish. What a waste of time.

Except, it wasn't.

A lot can take place over ten pages, apparently, and that is Munro's true gift.

Everyone knows that daily life can meander in a common and banal way, so why would we want to read about it? Except under Munro's authorship we do want to read about it. Her stories don't have that bawdy humour you'll find in a Dorothy Parker short, they aren't fluffed up with a Capote quill, and they aren't a fucking slug through the mud like anything of Faulkner's. Reading an Alice Munro story is like floating down a gentle river; you go where the quiet current takes you until all of a sudden you're surprised when you've reached land: you've docked at a surprising, poignant, conclusion.

Her stories are beautiful, and if you haven't read any I encourage you to do so.

My friend claims that the collection The Lives of Girls and Women changed her life, and I can also attest to its beauty. Dear Life is her latest, and possibly final, collection and the final three stories--which Munro attests aren't stories but memories--are delicious.

I am proud she's Canadian and that her prolific career has been recognised.

Go, read, you won't be disappointed.
 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Foto Friday

Anyone remember how, ages ago, I said I was going to do a photo feature every Friday as incentive to start using my real camera again?

And then I never did it?

Well, I'm going to try. It's that time of year where I always feel artistically inspired, and I've been making an effort to pack my camera with me while LB and I are out and about.

***


At her favourite park

Back story to this photo:

She's in this in between stage right now where she has the balance to walk, but hasn't yet taken any independent steps (she's a quick walker when clutching my fingers). I don't know if this means she's feeling frustrated because she can't go where she wants as quickly as she wants, but these past few weeks our LB has been a ball of emotional fury. So much so that I'm trembling at the notion of 'the terrible twos'. Because I feel like we're already there.

Our baby has wants and needs, and needs to let us know what she wants.

It's all very cool, surprising, and exhausting.

What this means is I have been using every chance possible to get her outside so that she has ample time and space to explore as fast and as far as she wants to. A favourite place for her is a local park because there's a Kita group that often lunches there, and she likes to try and steal the other kids' snacks, watch them play, and explore the equipment herself.

Here she is clutching onto a bouncy giraffe, watching the three year olds run circles around her, wondering when it's her turn to do the same.

Soon, sweet girl, I think it will be very soon.

 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Where My Stiches At?! **

As I previously mentioned, the reason LB and I were in Canada was to surprise my Nan for her 80th birthday. The whole family gathered to celebrate, pets included. One of the dogs there was my aunt and uncle's red Australian border collie, named Carmen.

Carmen looked sort of like this, freaky eyes and all:

Image via Google images
 
When my aunt and uncle arrived late on the Friday night--after a long drive from Alberta to British Columbia--Carmen hopped out of their truck and looked up at my uncle, her freaky eyes clearing saying, "Okay, I'm ready to work."
 
My uncle sort of ignored Carmen and moved around to do the obligatory hugs, but Carmen was not to be ignored.
 
"Excuse me, Sir, I'm ready to work now. Work. I'm ready to work. Hello. I'm ready to work. It's been a long day, but I'm ready to work."
 
Then my uncle said something along the lines of, "Bloody dog, go lie down next to the fire with the other dogs and relax."
 
This did not compute with Carmen. In fact, I'm almost positive I could see her face take on a look of disgust as she looked over to the fire and saw the other bloated, domestic, hounds lolling around just waiting for some clumsy fool to drop a Cheeto. She was not impressed. She was a herding dog of proud lineage! She worked cattle for a living! She was not some domestic disabled who shook a paw for its meal! Clearly she was not used to being asked to do something as idle as relaxing, especially when there was a pastoral flock of sheep on the other side of the fence who had the audacity to simply be grazing and not moving from corner to corner of the pasture.
 
"Excuse me, Sir, the sheep. Over there. I can make them move. Do you want them farther away from the fence? I can do that. I can. Just give me the whistle, and I'll have those woolly beasts tightly circled and in the pen in no time."
 
"Carmen! For god's sake! Lie down!"
 
Poor Carmen, she was just flummoxed as to why she wasn't being given a job to do and at one point her neuroses got so bad that she started trying to herd the grandchildren. So on Saturday night, after a couple of cinnamon shots of fireball and a bellies full of lobster, we were all gathered around the fire laughing and joking when Carmen reached her breaking point and couldn't take it anymore.
 
"This is bullshit!" she clearly cried, "Total bullshit! You sloths! I refuse to do nothing, any longer! I'm going to herd those GD sheep RIGHT NOW."
 
And she was off, while the rest of us--in varying degrees of sobriety--wondered what the freakin' commotion was all about. I'm pretty sure she had those sheep rounded up before we even put our drinks down. When she was returned to the fire she look appropriately mollified for having acted of her own accord, but also...slightly satisfied.
 
That's when it hit me: HOLYSHITI'MJUSTLIKETHATFREAKIN'NEUROTICDOG.
 
Internet, after having watched Carmen's little brain whir-whir-whir all weekend long, anxious that she was just doing nothing, I realised: I am just like a red Australian border collie! I don't know how to effing relax!
 
It's true: I don't!
 
I can maybe lie quietly for an hour, tops, but that's it. My mind never shuts off! Poor Dan bears the brunt of this for on quiet evenings my little mouse voice will quite often break the silence with one of these two dreaded sentences:
  1. "Hey, we should totally discuss..."; or
  2. "Let's make a list about...."
I am always, always, always thinking about something. Anything. Everything.
 
I really like to ponder, okay?
 
But when I saw Carmen, totally nutters Carmen who would rather be working steers than eating Cheetos, I realised I need to learn to chill the f-ck out. Pronto. I needed a hobby.
 
So I decided to take up knitting. My Nan taught me to knit years ago, and at the time I vigorously knit a scarf for Dan and then never did anything about it ever again. So while in Canada I went to a couple of local knitting shops in town and picked the brains of the people working there, looked up a pattern for a hat and gloves, bought my supplies, and became A Very Determined Knitter.
 
When we landed back in Switzerland last week I thought I'd use my copious waking hours courtesy of jet-lag to bang out these two projects. Well, it was a little...frustrating to say the least. First of all I am nothing if not an overachiever. For a person who hasn't knit in a decade, I decided that the project I would start with was a cable-knit toque and fingerless mittens.
 
Knit on four needles instead of two.
 
Hahahahaha!!
 
Failure.
 
Total, utter failure.
 
I taught myself to knit in the round (no big deal, don't be intimidated by my vocab, Internet, whatevs) by watching a lot of YouTube, then I found myself a more realistic pattern. A fisherman's toque.
 
And guess what?
 
I totes finished it last night.
 
'Sup stich?
Bad-ass.
 
Here's a shot where it's easier to see:
 
Victory!
 
So, not a big deal, but I'm sort of addicted to knitting now. It's really fun, though I'm not sure if it's cured my overactive brain. The other night I was practicing knitting in my head before I went to sleep.
 
Yeah.
 
Plus I want to make LB a sweater now, and also enter some sort of fall fair and submit a knitting sample AND WIN FIRST PRIZE.
 
What can I say? Once an overachiever, always an overachiever.
 
Though, unlike Carmen, I'm not above a good Cheeto.
 
Just sayin'.
 

Saturday, 28 September 2013

On Raising A Daughter Part IV: You're Already Beautiful

I was sitting in the corner of the living room listening to the same ol' spiel I'd been hearing ever since both my sisters hit their growth spurts and grew up, up, up and away, while I...did not.

"Oh you should see them now. They could be models, in fact [x] did get approached by a modelling agency. They are both so tall and gorgeous and fashionable. I mean truly fashionable." And then, as if all of sudden remembering that mossy fungus in the corner was actually a person, me, the other sister, this person tried to save face with the following line: "And our Caitie is so smart."

Thanks a fucking lot.

***

Maybe this is where I'm supposed to insert some 'roar-roar-roar' prose about what a tough cookie I was and how I never looked in the mirror and rejected my reflection, but that would be a lie. Because I believed I was ugly. I was fat. I was less-than. That what I looked like on the outside had a degree more of worth than what was going on between my ears.

When family members ask you when you're going to lose weight, it's pretty hard not to go home that night and not feel like total, utter shit while looking in the mirror and wondering what fault they see in you that you didn't see before. 

When people ask you if 'you're really going to eat that?' or 'do you think you should be eating that?', it's sort of hard not to pause for a second and wonder why they care so much. Heart health? Nope. Waist health.

When you get stuck between two people--in countless photos--who are four inches taller than you and have a completely different physique, it can be hard not to see yourself as the short, dumpy one.

And please, this isn't meant to inspire any, "You're beautiful!' comments. Ugh. Spare me. I'm not fishing for compliments. I'm simply stating that I am an average person and therefore I know that I am not the only girl who spent time alone and lost in worry and tears, fretting that what I looked like from the outside didn't hold up against someone else's measuring stick of attractive.

I never once asked myself if I was enough for myself.

Not once.

And I reject this for my daughter.

***

Women's worth being tied up in how they look is epidemic, and I am categorically sick and tired of seeing smart, talented, loving, amazing, women spiral in personal tornadoes of hell because they don't feel beautiful. Thin. Special. That they are only 'enough' if they are able to be squeeze their legs into a certain size.

It's for this reason that I reject those ridiculous Dove beauty commercials. You know the ones: where they talk down to the consumer to remind her: "Hey look! The model is just photo shopped to look that way! You're the really beautiful one!" At first bite it's palatable, but when you start to chew it that's when you come up against the gristle because even though the commercial is telling us no one is as beautiful as the magazine cover--including the model--they are still reminding us about beauty.

That it's still important.

They are still selling something, Internet, and what they're selling is a product that's supposed to make you realize you are beautiful. So yes, basically, you still aren't enough on your own.

You still need something.

***

All over Facebook women are re-posting tips and recipes for 'getting fit' and 'eating healthy' and 'being active'. It's numbing. It's really and truly mind-numbing. It's not an exaggeration to say that this is what--based on wall posts alone--most of my FB friends are concerned with. No one is linking posts to truly excellent books they've read; musicians who've inspired them; charities they're passionate about; clubs they're interested in.

Fitness and health. 

Health and fitness.

An unhealthy obsession with being healthy.

This is the new language of thin.

Of beauty.

It just sounds more empowering than it really is.

***

The day I found out I was having a girl, I went home and lay on the couch for a solid hour and realised that I need to be better for her. I need to be the example I want for my daughter, because up to that point I was not a role-model I would want for her.

At that point, I was not enough for her.

***

LB is already beautiful.

I am already beautiful.

You are already beautiful.

Each in our own wonderful, weird, way.

It would be impossible to pretend physical beauty doesn't exist. To ignore it. I can't just tell her: being beautiful isn't important, just be smart! I can't do this because people who are never, ever told they're beautiful inevitably feel ugly.

God it's a black hole, isn't it?

But we can be intelligent about beauty. We can be savvy. We can be aware. We can look at a magazine and think, "Yeah, I don't look like that but I am still utterly fab." Lying on the couch that day I realised that if I want my daughter to be strong enough to not feel the pressure of a woman only being 'enough' if she meets a certain standard of beauty, I will need to teach her how to feel secure with herself.

I will need to teach her how to pay herself her own compliments so that if--as happened to her mother--a guy walks up to her and says, "You might be hot if you showed some cleavage," she can rally and tell this spineless prick he can "fuck-off and die" without then spending thirty minutes in the toilet having a quiet sob and feeling quite awful about herself.

His definition of beauty isn't hers.

Hers is hers and it's enough.

***

How am I going to do this?

Leading by example.

Firstly, I have already vowed that I will never criticise myself in front of LB or measure myself against anyone else, and thus far (thirteen months into this parenting gig) I am succeeding. I have also vowed that I will not be involved in mindless chatter about weight loss: wanting to lose ten pounds is vanity, and I will not sit around and listen to smart women worry about something so stupid. Wanting to lose fifty pounds because you have a health situation on your hands is a totally different discussion.

I am not going feed her society's new obsession with thin--thinly veiled as health--by preaching over and over again that it's important for our bodies to be fit and healthy. I'll just do it. I don't need her to become preoccupied by something that doesn't actually need to occupy as much grey matter as people are devoting to it.

I will show her that Mom likes clothes, has fun with clothes, but that style is different from materialism. Also, that it's totally cool to compliment people on their style, because it makes people feel all warm and fuzzy inside when someone tells them they're rockin'. Learning how to pay yourself your own compliment doesn't mean you are void of wanting a little affection from others.

We're human.

I want her to have an unshakable knowledge that she is interesting and original and exceptional, and the only way to do this is to talk to her. To engage her. To get her brain whirring on topics that are bigger than where our place is in the the line-up from fat to thin, because what I want to curate in LB is an inherent knowledge that the most interesting people in the world are the people who are creating beauty, not trying to follow it.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest of them all? is a heavy question, and vanity is a fragile thing. 

I don't want her to break that easily.