Saturday, 15 April 2017

Snippy Bitch

We spent a good chunk of the past week in Vancouver, and it was wonderful. Two months ago Dan came home from work and said he had to be in Vancouver for a week for a conference, and I unceremoniously told him that, "Hell no, you aren't leaving the city limits without us. I'm not parenting solo for a week! Haha, bless your little heart for thinking you could get away that easily."

So we came too.

It was so nice to get away, and it was relaxing. I conquered my phobia of driving in that big metropolis and now I feel super human, I took the girls to IKEA, we hit up a huge mall, and I got to visit a most favourite friend, which visit would have been better if a certain four year old wasn't being such a rotten pain in the a$$.

Ah kids, they are the loose pin on the grenade.

Alexi's neighbourhood is nice and central, so we went for a really awesome walk (okay, it would have been a spectacular walk if not for the presence of a certain four year old) to get breakfast at a bagel shop and then down to Whole Foods so I could stock up on supplies for the drive home, since it was SNOWING on the Coquihalla highway and there have been one too many stories this winter of people being stranded for hours and hours and hours.

As we were walking I told Alexi that I am in danger of turning into a right Snippy Bitch. Lately it seems like the only thing I do is criticise or rant. I promise there are some seriously wonderful things about living back in Canada.

Honest, there are.

But today isn't going to be one of those days I tell you about them!

I've got my Snippy Bitch glasses on, and Ima gonna rant good. So settle in tight, that's right, like that.

Last week my friend called me up and wondered if I wanted to go to a fundraiser dinner for our local hospital. Her dad's firm had sponsored a table, and he was wondering if I'd like to go as well. Free food? I'M IN.

I got as dressed up as my sluggish postpartum body and uncooperative closet would allow, and we headed out for a night of FREE FOOD and NO DISHES and NO KIDS and important fund raising for our local hospital.  We sat at our table, my friend's dad brought us a big ol' bottle of red to enjoy, and life was looking good for the next four hours.

Then other people started to arrive at our table...

And by other people, I mean the staff that work at the firm that sponsored the table. Now to understand my rant you have to understand that I work in the same industry as my friend's dad and all the people at our table, so the judgment passed is valid. Okay? OKAY. My judginess is totally valid!

We are starting to see a new wave of fresh blood enter the industry, and that fresh blood is that delightfully 'misunderstood' generation called the millennials. They are arriving at our office doors in droves; their parents are now officially sick of them and want them to support themselves after university so what choice do we have to hire them? Because when we crane our necks around the crowd they form we can't see any other options. These pampered pooches are it.

Sigh.

My friend's dad asked one of his EMPLOYEES if she'd made the considerable drive home after work, then turned around and came back for the dinner? Friendly conversation starter, but he erred in thinking she lived in Logan Lake.

"It's actually Lac Le Jeune John (not his real name), and yeah I did. You think I pack party clothes to work?"

SO SNOTTY.

I was floored. Who was this rude minion who was about to enjoy a $100 a plate meal, who just talked to her EMPLOYER like he was the dirt beneath her shoe?

It only got worse from there.

A junior member of the firm arrived. A person who is hoping that at the end of her year of trial and error, she will be hired to sit at the big kids' table and not in a cubicle. Being impressive is sort of the only thing she has to do for a year. Was she impressive? No. She was the same age as the other firm members (so mid-to-late 20s), and she was really chummy with them. This is a problem, because at the end of the year, if she's successful, she will be these minions' boss and they are not going to take direction from someone who has spent a whole year just wanting to be their bud. They were all trying to get each other drunk, for goodness sake! Drunk. AT A FUNDRAISER SPONSORED BY YOUR EMPLOYER. This wasn't the office Christmas party, it was a fundraiser!

Then the speeches started, and this particular fundraiser was specifically aimed at raising enough money to bring in a very important piece of cardiac equipment because currently if anyone in Kamloops has a heart attack they are shipped two hours down the road to Kelowna, and if Kelowna doesn't have a bed for them they have to wait for a bed to open up in Vancouver. Which is four hours away. Basically, people are dying because our hospital doesn't have this piece of equipment.

One of the speakers was a heart surgeon who told us that every year he volunteers for one month in rural India, which has more functioning hospitals then our local hospital. He was passionate in his outrage that in this day and age, in our part of the world, our hospital is in such poor condition. He was an educated man, he has spent his life heavy lifting heart surgery and medicine so other people can see and understand the troubles we face, and guess how much attention he captured at our table?

None.

No one had the time or energy to listen to him.

Getting drunk was so much for more fun! Whee!

I could see my friend's dad was baffled, and since I don't work with any of them I decided to step on some toes. In a very passive aggressive way. Switzerland taught me...not so well.

"It is really pathetic," I loudly said to my friend, "When a doctor who is concerned about saving the lives of the people in this room, and their loved ones, can't get 20 minutes of attention. How immature to not be able to pay attention to someone outside of your orbit."

That got their attention.

And they got right defensive.

Too bad I have no fucks left to give for what anyone thinks about me. I could not care less. Whisper about me, that's fine. My response was, "Nope, looks like people still can't listen. Juvenile."

Apart from my friend's dad, who laughed, I didn't make a lot of friends. Which is fine, I wasn't there to make friends. I was there to eat FREE FOOD, and also to learn about how we can improve our hospital.

But in...fairness(?)...to the millennials, I looked around the room and the lack of courtesy and respect was seen at every age group. Because while most people weren't chatting to each other while someone was speaking, the majority of people were on their phones. I was disgusted.

Twenty GD minutes is all he spoke for, and he was passionate about his subject, and no one could pay attention. He was sandwiched between two speakers, so in total, for the entire night, we might have had to listen and pay attention for 45 minutes to an hour, tops.

Is that too much to ask? Are our attention spans so low that we can't pay attention for an hour? We have to giggle with our friends or scan the sports scores or check Facebook?

People, what the fuck is happening to us as a species? Our minds, the tool that separates us from other species on the planet, are completely addicted to the little dopamine packs we carry around in our pockets. We are collectively addicted to our phones, and it's at a great detriment to society. What does that say about the road we're driving down when can't listen  to people before us, because the itch to check our phones causes us to almost immediately check out.

I wanted to stand up and scream, "Look at you all! Look at you! Show some courtesy! Pay attention! Grab a fucking ATTENTION SPAN!"

Snippy Bitch out.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Hey Neighbour

One night, after we'd first moved to our new house, we got home late from a dinner at my sister's place, and as we drove into the driveway we noticed something really odd: a lumpy bag that had been tossed by our front door.

Everyone we knew had been at my sister's house for dinner, and it wasn't possible we'd forgotten anything that would have been driven up and discarded by our front door before we could make it home.

We. Were. Suspicious.

"What...is that?" I hissed at Dan.

"I have no freaking clue," he muttered. "It looks like a bag with a dead animal in it."

And it did. It was a freakishly shaped bag that in the glow of the moonlight (which was the only light we had to go on after we cut the engine) looked like the shape of a feline corpse.

COSMO?!

"Are our neighbours freaks?!" I exclaimed.

We got out of the car, and I put Lil inside (Cosmo greeted us).

Up close the bag was a white plastic shopping bag, and it was dirt brown on the inside and still we couldn't make out its contents.

Dan grabbed his hockey stick and from a distance we started poking and slapping this strange bag. What the fuck was it?! Not a lot of resistance was met with, and we decided if it was a dead animal or something of that nature surely our hockey stick prodding would have made that immediately obvious.

Carefully we crept towards it.

"Don't touch it!" Dan chivalrously ordered. "You're pregnant!" He gave it one last vicious slam of the hockey stick before crouching down.

I stood back while he carefully opened the bag.

"It's..."

"What?! What?! Are we living in a neighbourhood of freaks?!"

"It's..."

"Yeah?!"

"Dirty carrots."

Huh?

Turns out our neighbour had a bountiful carrot harvest, and she dropped a whole bag at our front door with a lovely little handwritten note: "Welcome to the neighbourhood, here are some carrots fresh from my garden. Gale."

Oh my god.

WE were the freaks. It was US.

Imagine Gale looked out her window and saw Dan beating her carrots with his hockey stick? Imagine?! We were so used to neighbours leaving passive aggressive notes that, if acted out, were the equivalent of pulling on someone's hair while hissing in their ear, we had forgotten that some people are actually friendly.

What had become of us?! Switzerland hardened us! Our time in our rental had hardened us!

The next day we thanked Gale for the carrots, and she invited us in for a tea. We had a lovely chat where Dan and I were on our best behaviour, and a lovely and neighbourly relationship with Gale has developed. I'm proud of this relationship, because she's the only neighbour we have who is friendly and neighbourly. No one else around us gives a crap.

We still haven't told Gale that we beat her carrots to death with a hockey stick because we're still hoping that she thinks we're nice and normal, too. 

Monday, 3 April 2017

4x4 Lives

There's a radio commercial airing in my town right now that says, "You don't have to spend a lot to look like you're worth a lot." 

I throw-up a little every time I hear it.

One of the biggest things that has been bothering me for awhile is that we are a bunch of ordinary people living in an Instagram world. Polished smiles, Italian leather clad pigeon toes, and sparsely furnished, vintage, Scandi-inspired, hipster homes reign supreme, but how are we to keep up?

When I first joined Instagram, I loved it for its photo editing capabilities. I was tickled to death when I could print a 4x4 picture to put on my fridge, and I was even more amazed when I realised my friends also had Instagram pages. Sharing snapshots of our day was a really cool way to keep in touch. Then Instagram became...too much. As soon as I started to notice people staging their breakfast, their homes, and their kids, I felt weary. Instagram has become another vehicle driving people towards bleak ennui as they realise their normal lives are not bright enough, stylish enough, or 'original' enough.

Make no mistake, I'm still an Instagram user, but I have become the worst sort of user: the acerbic character who scrolls strange Instagram pages to roll my eyes, pass judgment, and wonder how society is turning into such an affected and twee bunch of narcissists who want to be both on the stage and in the audience of their lives. 

I have judged the worst offenders to be the 20-something gym rats, the lifestyle 'influencers' (oh yes, my friends, there is a whole subculture of Instagram/YouTube users whose only job is to influence you to buy product, and they have actually given themselves the job description of "professional influencer") and the 'stage moms'.

The stage moms bother me the most, because Instagram has become the beauty pageant stage of the new millennium. But the kids aren't caked in make-up, wearing tulle, and performing like circus animals, it's not that bad, right? Yeah, you're right. The little girl wearing leather pants, pristine Adidas kicks, a leopard print jacket, and eating a drip-free ice cream cone, on display for her 230,000 followers, is living a way more authentic childhood. 

My bad.

What is really bothering me, and I mean really bothering me, is that this Instagram movement is now in my town, and parents in my community are also turning their kids into lifestyle chattel. 

We've always had the hockey parents, here in Canada, who give birth to their sacred son and immediately know their offspring is so talented he's destined for the NHL. So their 8 year old is at hockey practice before school, at tournaments all weekend long, and knocking door to door on their free nights to try and sell you boxes of steak (I'm not even kidding about that one. What happened to chocolate bars?!) to fund raise for...something. These parents have always been insufferable, but they were a small bubble that didn't burst over too many lives.

But the Instagram mom? And her Instagram kids? 

They are, increasingly, everywhere. 

Now, I'm going to pause to address the cries of 'hypocrite' that will likely be thrown at me. If you've read the blog for awhile, you will know that I have very firm ideas on how my kids dress. Essentially, that the clothes are a decent enough quality to wash well and be passed down, and that they aren't a walking placard for Disney, macho masculinity, or submissive femaleness. One might assume that because I care about the clothes my kids wear, by default aren't I the very parent I'm enraged about?

I can see the confusion, but my answer is no. And for one simple reason: I do not style my children. I do not want other people to notice and decide that my kids are "cute" or "stylish". I do not pick out Lillian's clothes and dress her in the morning. She has a closet of dresses and a drawer of pants and shirts that I have bought with my above concerns in mind, and whatever she puts on is up to her. My children are their own people, they are not highlight reels of my life I want others to watch.

Here's my other disclaimer: I don't live in a low-income part of town. We live in a part of town where the majority of people appear to have average to above-average income levels. This is important, because the desire to have kids look a certain way seems to me to be the preoccupation of a group of people who want to reputationally seem 'above average'.

I first noticed this alarming trend of "Instagram in real life" when Lillian decided she wanted to take ballet class. Two Christmases ago I was trying to bore her to bed, so I turned on the Nutcracker. I assumed she'd lose interest and trail off to bed on her own so that I wouldn't have to haul my pregnant ass off the couch and deal with her. 

I was wrong. 

She watched the entire ballet, transfixed. She was hooked. 

We waited it out to see if it was a fad, but she persistently danced and pranced and twirled and whirled her way through the months until Dan and I decided to put her in a class. Every Saturday morning I go to the studio with her, and sit in the waiting room while she and her fellow dancers stomp and crash and rattle the ceiling above my head. They are so graceful. It was about a month into dance when Lil asked me, as we were driving home, why she wasn't allowed to also wear a tutu to dance. 

"Because the newsletter said your costume is pink tights, pink shoes, a body suit, and no tutu."

"But [x] and [x] and [x] and [x] all wear tutus."

What?

So I paid attention the next week, and yes these kids were all in enormous tutus despite the uniform requirements. "Doesn't anyone read anymore?!" I wondered. But then I really started to pay attention. One mom styles her daughter's hair into a 'messy' bun at least five times every Saturday morning until it is 'perfectly' messy. Then she puts some new hair piece in, and takes her kid's pictures and immediately uploads it to Instagram. Quite a few of the kids have multiple ballet outfits complete with leg warmers, little cardis, hair ribbons, and tutus. They all get their pictures taken multiple times before every class. That's when it struck me: these people don't care if their daughter *is* a ballerina, they just want her to *look* like a ballerina.

Then I started seeing it everywhere.

Toddlers wearing leather harem pants, slouchy beanies, and Ray Bans. Kids eating only organic snacks out of their tiny bento boxes. Moms referring to themselves, amongst their peers, as "mommies" who love having special "mommy moments" with their kids. Who climb into their 'family car' the Lexus or Audi or, if they must drive a mini-van, the Honda Odyssey. They are living curated 4x4 lives out in the panorama of ordinary life, and their kids have become their major lifestyle token. 

Don't get dirty! No juice boxes, we don't eat sugar! Organic!These are the buzzwords (hashtags) humming around my local playgrounds. 

But what does it mean to the kid when their parent is in such tight control of their image? Their parents are the controlling image? How do they build a narrative for their own life if their parents will only allow what will aesthetically fit into a 4x4 frame? How do they grow into their own people, within such a box?

And to the parents, why does it matter so much? Why is it important for your kid to be styled to match the house and the car and manicure and the golf-course you need in your life? Children cannot be the new status symbol. It's too much pressure. 

Our lives already are worth a lot. We don't need them to look like they're worth a lot.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Real Grownups

Dan and I just got a freezer.

A deep freeze.

An ice chest.

A big square box thingy that sits in our utility room.

We didn't buy the freezer ourselves, rather my in-laws showed up a couple of weeks ago with a big box in the back of their van and announced they had a surprise for us. We discovered that real grownups, aka our parents, would get very shifty and eye-twitchy whenever we announced that we didn't have plans for a freezer.

Fiscally irresponsible was their main point of concern.

Didn't we know we could take advantage of sales, and FREEZE the extras?

Didn't we know we could double our baking recipes, and FREEZE the extras?

Didn't we know we could make freezer meals, and then..err..FREEZE them so weekday dinners would be sorted?

We did know all this, and still thought 'meh'. The freezer that came with our fridge seemed huge compared to the shoebox freezer we used to have in Switzerland. What was the big deal?

Well, apparently our lack of adulting finally got to my in-laws and they showed up with a freezer. We set it all up and stared at it for a couple of weeks. Then I went to the grocery store and was strangely given a free flat of perfectly good strawberries. What to do with all these strawberries?

GASP. The freezer!

So I bagged them all, put them in the freezer, and the next day I checked on them.

Guys...they were frozen.

Neat!

(PS fake grownups are so tired from taking care of their real kids, this post sounded good in their head and then they typed it out...)

Sunday, 5 March 2017

I'm Not a Maid. I Just Play One in Real Life.

I am so sick of tidying up after my family I could scream!

And I did, right before I jumped on the Internet to jot down the title to this blog post, which made me laugh when I thought of it.

Babies are messy. Four year olds are messy. Swiss husbands claim they are not messy, but then why am I cleaning up 45,784 copies of financial magazines (that he insists must be saved) that are always just lying all over the house, and breeding in our mailbox? Why?! WHY?

I told Dan that I quit, but I don't think he took me seriously since he tossed his magazine to one side, yawned, and asked if I was going to make coffee could I pour him a cup.

This is a problem.

No one seems to fear me.

Must investigate how to be more fearsome, but first I have a whole stack of magazines I need to take to recycling...


Saturday, 11 February 2017

A Birth Story v2 (aka the Shredding of my Pelvic Floor)

When I talked to my doctor about my 20 week ultrasound scan, she told me that I had a "big baby" in there. This wasn't a surprise, since I was already getting questions about when I was due. Most people assumed it was in the next couple of months, and tried to hide their shock when I said I had twenty more weeks to go.

I felt self-conscious, to put it mildly.

One of the things about the type of arthritis I have is that it leads to "small" babies, which actually just means that it makes it really hard to accurately pin point how far along I am at the dating scan. When I went for my dating scan with Lulu Bird I was certain I was 9 weeks pregnant, but the tech said I was only *just* seven weeks along.

With LB, if you've been reading for awhile, you might remember that she was born 3.5 weeks early. After her birth, my amazing doctor and I talked about it and she said that she felt the dating scan was likely off, which isn't uncommon with my arthritis but makes pre-natal care tricky.

So with Lulu Bird, I was positive in that not-medically-trained kind of way that I was farther along than I was, but the dating scan had to be used as the reference point. However, my doctor started sending me for more regular ultrasounds at 35 weeks because she wanted to get an idea of how fast Lulu Bird was growing; she had to use the dating scan as the reference point, but she didn't want my baby girl staying in there for longer than was safe because she was measuring quite a bit larger than my official gestational stage.

I was stretched out to maximum capacity, and every morning when I stepped out of the shower I'd look at my road map of a stomach and wonder how much further my skin could stretch. Surely no more, I'd weep. Surely no more.

At 37 weeks and six days I went for another ultrasound, and Lulu Bird was breech. I knew something had happened the night before, because my (enormous, huge, gigantic) belly had violently swayed from side to side and it had taken my breath away. My doctor called me that night at about 8 p.m. and asked me to be ready to go to the hospital bright and early the next morning for another ultrasound, because if Lulu Bird was still breech she was considering a c-section since the baby was estimated to be about 10 lbs at that point.

That morning (at exactly 38 weeks) as I was getting ready, I lay on the bed to read LB a story and again my stomach rocked back and forth and caught my breath. When I went for the ultrasound, my doctor cheered that the baby was head down again but also let me know that I wasn't leaving the hospital. Because Lulu Bird was measuring so large, and because she had clearly not descended into the birth canal (considering she was doing acrobatics in there) my doctor had two concerns: (1) that the cord would knot if she flipped herself again; and (2) given the explosion of my waters with LB, the fear that my waters would dramatically rupture again and the baby would rapidly drop onto the cord. I was perfectly content to stay in hospital and let the induction begin.

So the doctors did their thing and inserted, essentially, a medicated tampon to start softening my cervix, and thus began the longest fucking day of my life.

The medicine did its thing, and Dan and I started walking laps around the hospital to speed everything up. If the baby was born before midnight, she'd be born on my sister's birthday and I felt that was an achievable goal. Ha! We went down to the kiosk to stock up on snacks and reading material (because Dan seriously thought he'd have time to read. Lunatic!) and while in there I doubled over and told Dan to hurry up. He didn't listen to me.

"Dan, for god's sake pick a book and pay for it."

"Yeah, hun, but there's three that I want to read. So....just..."

Then I hissed, "If you don't pick your fucking book RIGHT NOW I will tip this shelf!"

Then he looked at my crumpled and hunched frame and realized, oh yeah! We're here because my wife has to push out a baby bigger than our cat.

We got back up to my room where I twisted and turned in pain for hours, while my cervix decided to become one of those flowers that only opens up once every decade. Even worse, my baby girl still hadn't started descending into the birth canal. She did not want to be evicted.

At about ten o'clock my waters broke. It had now been over ten hours since the induction began, and I think I was only at 3 centimeters. The nurse removed the medicated tampon and told me that things would really start happening now.

Spoiler: they didn't.

In a cruel flashback to LB's birth, my waters hadn't broken. It was the second, false, water sack. AGAIN. So after two hours of no leaking of fluids, and the doctors being completely unable to examine me because my cervix was so sore, I got my blessed epidural, they manually broke my waters, and hooked me up to something else to get labour kick started.

Then in just seven short hours it was time to push.

With the baby still essentially hanging out at the tippy top of my uterus.

Neat!

After an hour of pushing, Lulu Bird's heart rate started to get scary and I was given one last push to get her out or I was getting an emergency c-section. I managed it, with the help of forceps, and out she came.

All 23 inches of her.

When the nurse measured her, she actually called her colleague to double check her measurement. Then when they measured Lulu Bird's head they shouted the measurement in disbelief.

"Is that big?" I asked in confusion.

And my delivery doctor, who was busily working away stitching my shredded nether regions back to together, looked at me as he calmly said, "I sure wouldn't want that coming out of me."

Everyone in the delivery room was so kind and congratulated us and told me how I rocked for pushing her out from her high position. I felt like a super star. A really beat-up and incontinent super star who had no idea who she was or where she was.

It was a roller coaster.

Lulu Bird came in at a healthy 8 lbs 6 oz, and my doctor and I talked and she thought that I probably was actually 40 weeks along. As I cradled the longest baby in the world, I felt relieved to know that I hadn't been crazy to insist I was farther along than I was.

I would have laughed, but then I would have peed my pants.

Because giving birth to the longest baby in the world means my poor pelvic floor is no longer made of sturdy oak, but more like rotting pine. Why doesn't anyone talk about this?! Why doesn't anyone mention that at any point there are thousands of women out there praying that no one says anything too funny in public, because they will laugh unexpectedly and piss their pants at the same time and have to retreat back home in horror that this is reality.

No jumping on the super fun trampoline they bought their kid.

No casual jogs, if they ever felt like going for a casual jog.

Pelvic floor strength is just something you don't think about, until you do. And then you wail in despair as you kegel like you're training for the kegel Olympics.

TMI?

NBD. Someone has to say it. 

Saturday, 21 January 2017

On Raising a Daughter: We March

He said "grab them by the pussy", and he was still voted in.

Victims came forward with tears in their eyes and the memory of his hands on their bodies, and they were called liars. Opportunists. They still voted him in.

"You think this is the first misogynist in Washington?" They still voted him in.

He denounced differences, and they still voted him in.

I am afraid. I'm not going to pretend that I think I won't be affected by the fucking lunacy happening south of the border.

He stands there with his daughter, by all appearances his prized crown jewel, and I look at her holding her daughter's hand I think, "What the fuck?" Because I am not one of the few who can articulate in times of frustration. I will never be the clear rallying cry, because I would be the person at the microphone yelling, "What the fucking, fuckity, fuck? Like, what the serious fuck? Is this fucking real life? Fucking fuck! FUCK."

But there are clearer voices out there who have articulated why his election is a catastrophe. And no, that's not hyperbole. His election was a catastrophe. I understand the frustration of the people who look at their towns, their dying and dehydrated towns, and feel the powerlessness of their choices. Their only power is to try and vote in B instead of A. That's their only choice, they believe, to bring life back into their home.

And it breaks my heart, because for those few there are the many who grew stronger from his hate. The comments so vile towards other humans that it sickens me. Who are you? Who? Who are these venomous mercenaries who desire nothing more than to let someone know how MEANINGLESS they are. What a CUNT they are. How they desire HARM to come to the families and loved ones of people who disagree with them.

Who are they?

He is one of them.

A skin so thin you can see through him in a bright light.

And so we must continue to be a bright light.

I watch Louisa crawling over a foot stool, and then circling back to do it again and again and again and again. She is strong and determined at only eight months old.

She is the future.

Her sister, who dances and laughs and tells jokes and is starting to be afraid of the dark.

So I turn on the lights for her. Every light until she feels safe.

I will light the house for her.

I will be her lighthouse.

Her future matters. A woman's place matters.

So this little post is my linked arms with the feminists in Washington today who march for women, for immigrants, for clean water, for the marginalized. I send my donations, my cheers, and my tears.

A woman's place is everywhere, and we can see in the dark.

Feminists are marching.

They are watching.

We will be a bright light on this fallacy, because normalizing the malevolence is the same thing as turning out the light and hoping you'll stay safe in your darkened corner of the world.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Where to Start?

It's January 1st, and Lulu Bird is napping, LB is helping her dad shovel the driveway, and I'm crippled on the couch courtesy of trying to become My Best Self in the dying hours of 2016.

'Why wait until a New Year?!' I enthusiastically wondered, 'Let's start today! Now! This very minute.'

Then I tried planking, which was a huge mistake because my abs have about the same strength as a slice of Wonderbread that's been soaking in a bowl of milk all night. 

MUSH, is what I'm saying. THEY'RE TOTALLY MUSHY.

So today my lower back is all, 'Peace out. You were asking way too much of me last night.'

So I lie here, perfect blogging opportunity, and wondering which topic to blog about? The experience of birth in Canada vs Switzerland? My alarming realisation that parents are actually STYLING their children? Not getting them dressed, I mean straight up styling them. Or how Kanye West and Kim Kardashian had some totally shitty luck after they tried to take down Taylor Swift? Like, whoa. Is Taylor Swift actually The Great and Powerful Oz? I think she might be. 

Since I will likely discuss all the above topics (except for Swift and K2--one line pretty much sums that up), how about we talk about my house some more? Because I can rap about these four walls for days. Or dayz.

One of the things that I have learned since being back is that in North America we don't just believe a choice is right for us, we pick a side. ABOUT EVERYTHING. Including to live in a residential suburb, or slum it out with the rats to live a cramped, but authentic, city existence. Quite frankly, the (disastrous) American election results weren't that shocking. Were they heartbreaking? Yes. Shocking? No. North American society is divisive across the board about everything. To me, returning, our society seems unneighbourly, unfriendly, and has a desperate need for the grandiose.

And this penchant for the grandiose comes down to something as 'simple' as a person carrying their handwoven Guatemalan wicker basket to the organic grocery store to buy nutrients for their body, to the architectural monstrosities that Ma and Pa Ingalls have built to house their family of 4; 5 if you count the dog, which everyone does.

When we were house hunting, our motherly realtor wanted us to buy something new because new is easy. It's fresh, stress-free, and low-maintenance. The vein that throbbed from her forehead every time I rejected a new house is proof enough for me that she found me challenging. And that's okay. We can still greatly admire, like, and respect people we find challenging. What really got to me, as we toured these new homes, is how many empty rooms there were. The rooms weren't empty because people were already moved out; they were empty because people could not fucking afford to furnish them, or it served no purpose. 

I can't tell you home many houses had at least one room that was always bare of all furnishings except for maybe a 1990's green love seat pushed under the window. You know, in case you wanted to zen out, fold yourself up like a pretzel, and read under the shadow of your neighbour's mansion.

The only thing going up in Kamloops these days are really stylish McMansions that are all windows, steeples, and garages. They posses very little character, very little warmth, and have very few people living in them. But these houses are *it*. We have to hold the City accountable, because the City approves the zoning applications that create these subdivisions; they approve the statutory building schemes that stipulate minimum square footage and three car garages that all people who build must conform too; they approve houses that are so close together, a fat kid would get stuck in the gap. The reason why they approve these developments void of backyards and parks is really obvious (tax dollars), but what's not so obvious to me is why people still want to build and live there. Why do you want to live in something so big?

Do you know how much cleaning that requires?

I mean, ack!

I'm not going to be an asshole and judge people for wanting to build and live in something so...same, (do-do-do, nothing assholey about that line) but my time in Switzerland definitely proved to me a family can live comfortably in something more modest. When we bought our house, Helen almost blew a gasket when she realised we were going to buy a house knowing our kids would share a bedroom. We have four bedrooms, but two are upstairs, and two are on the bottom level of the split. When the girls are old enough to despise the slimy green sludge left in their parents' wake, they will retreat to the basement I'm sure. But until then they can share a bedroom. What's wrong with sharing a bedroom? Why is every kid assumed to need their own room these days? Why are we so special we must all have our own space? Isn't that the point of family? To annoy each other so much that you can't wait until the day you break free? Am I really doing my job if I make their lives too comfortable? I mean seriously. 

But the desire to be something is a throbbing need on the surface of most North American's consciousness, and sometimes the only way to be something is to show people what you have. And nothing is easier to see than a big ass house and a Lexus. 

Oh and please, you people who live smugly downtown among your herb gardens and compost, don't think I don't see you too. Grandiosity isn't just restricted to rattling around in your empty mansion, it can also be found in the teeny tiny homes selling for $750,000 on Dominion Street. The righteous belief that because you can walk to buy the organic nutrients for your body, to your yoga studio, to your kids' French immersion school, and to your job, you have more self-awareness than the people on the hill. Your wartime bungalow and "shop local" philosophies are your tiny footprint of superiority. 

But you know what you have in common with the McMansion dwellers?

Despite living in homes that touch each other, neither of you have neighbours.

And that's the real tragedy of it all.