Thursday, December 31, 2009

My favourite things 2009 (Julie Andrews style)

Babies born quickly on white wintry mornings
Finally snoozing just as the sun's dawning
Extra large sweaters and stretch marks that zing
These are a few of my favourite things

Feeding the baby while stirring a meat stew
Unraveled loo rolls and chewing on soft shoes
Waiting for winter to turn into Spring
These are a few of my favourite things

Day trips to beaches and car entertainment
Keys left in door locks and and sleepless derangement
Babies that wriggle and giggle and sing
These are a few of my favourite things

When the dog barks
When the baby cries
When I'm feeling incredibly crap
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don't feel so bad
~
Brothers discovering friendships and clashes
Dog hair that stays on my nose and eye lashes
Friends who bring lattes and cookies and hugs
These are a few of my favorite things


Chatterbox toddlers who mix up their phrases
Tricking and treating for chocolatey faces
Taking a walk through the gold autumn leaves
These are a few of my favorite things


When the baby bites
When the garbage overflows
When I'm feeling bloody awful
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

~

WISHING YOU A HAPPY 2010!

~

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cold magic.

We bundled the kids up in their winter jackets and snow suits, and headed out in the moonlight.

"Where we going mama?" Matthew asked as I buckled him into his car seat.
"To the zoo sweetie! To see some special lights."
"Wights!"

Never mind that it was minus ten degrees and already past their bedtime. This is Calgary. This is what we do here.

The zoo was flooded with coloured lights shaped like monkeys dangling from trees, lions, dinosaurs, pink flamingos. Strings of green and white wrapped around trees, twinkling magically. The colours bounced off the snowy ground, spreading shades of blue and yellow and pink everywhere.



We shuffled along with crowds of people shivering and red-nosed. On the lookout for hot chocolate, too cold to stop and queue.

I cuddled Oliver close, imagining what impression an exhibit like this might have had on me as a child.


Matthew darted ahead of us from one place to the next, captivated by the lights, pointing out each animal, examining the shapes and colours.


Then back in the car he sobbed. "Mama my hands! Cold!" Because he'd refused to wear his gloves the entire time. But all was miraculously forgotten when a lollipop was handed to him. Now that's magic.




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Monday, December 28, 2009

Turkey curry and other holiday baggage.

If there's one thing I love about leftover turkey, it's leftover turkey curry. The sight of the onions, potatoes and meat turning yellow in the pan and the aroma of the spices literally makes me happy.


(What we ate for dinner last night)

As I was paying for my groceries yesterday, the cashier asked me,
"Do you like Indian food?"
I watched her pass my naan bread, papadums, curry paste, coconut milk and lime pickle over the scanner.
"Um. Yes, of course!" I said. Because, well, duh.
The young girl peered at me curiously.
"I'm English." I explained. My explanation was lost on her.

English people love Indian food. In fact, I think curry is the nation's most popular dish. Or it was when I lived there. Chicken Tikka Massala, to be more specific - a dish originally adapted to English tastes by adding tomato soup to a dry chicken dish, to make it more gravy-ish. The English like their gravies.

Image from spicesofindia.co.uk

The truth is, I could eat curry every single day. I even dream about visiting India, basically so that I could fill myself with delicious spicy food. I like the really hot stuff. The my mouth is filled with a thousand firecrackers and my head is about to explode kind of spicy.

And on the subject of leftovers, the copious chocolates and cookies still loitering around my house are not helping the extra holiday weight situation. So, I'm thinking very hard about purging all the sweet stuff in a couple of days (note how unspecific that is).

What are your favourite holiday leftovers?

Remember Bridget Jones' Mum's turkey curry buffet? Oh I'd so be there!

Image from recipezaar.com


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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Little less stuff, little more contemplation please.

Happy Holidays dear readers! Hope your celebrations have been filled with turkey and ham and chocolate and wine and cookies and sex and fun (oh yes I did just say cookies and sex and fun).

On Christmas morning a small miracle took place when we slept (almost uninterrupted) until 9 am. Because that hasn't happened in forever. I woke feeling so unusually refreshed I practically leaped out of bed to see what Santa had brought me.

The day began with the boys tearing into their presents and Matthew exclaiming wow! and woah! and wook mama! before swiftly moving onto the next one.

I cooked a large breakfast - toasted English muffins with bacon and eggs, and we drank coffee and watched the kids ripping paper off present after present. I watched the living room fill up with frantically discarded wrapping paper, ribbons and cardboard boxes. As Matthew moved from one gift to another, I wondered if he'd even remember the first toy he opened or if it was already forgotten.

By the end of the day, filled with goodies and sugary treats and turkey and stuffing, and after a few over-stimulated, sugar-induced meltdowns, the boys retreated to their favourite toy - a large cardboard box with holes carved for windows.


And as I took in all the new stuff swimming around our house, I felt like the excess of the day was a metaphor for the year. It's been a year of tearing through thing after thing, just getting through - moving onto the next moment, without really savouring the present.

Really, there's been a lot. The most jam packed year of my life.

A second son. Two big renovations. Losing someone very dear. Making new friends. Happy times. Coping and struggling. Loving being a family of four - contemplating being a family of five. Missing loved ones far away. Spending money on stuff for the house, the kids, ourselves.

So now I feel like it's time to stop for a while, to not simply move onto the next thing, but to take some time and let everything sink in for a while. I don't want to be the person that's always looking ahead to what's next, never content with what they have.

The first thing I need to cut? The food! Bloody hell. Because damn those tight fitting jeans - I knew it would happen - they're laughing at me from the wardrobe right now, mocking me for being so optimistic right before the holidays.

Bugger.
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Remember sleep?

I have a vague memory of a time, long ago, when there were weekend mornings of lying in bed past nine o'clock and just, like, sleeping. And nights that were free of interruption and filled only with the sounds of breathing and snoring and sheets being tugged (J is an outrageous sheet hog).

I'm pretty sure I spent about 28 years doing the consistent nightly sleeping thing. That's over 80% of my life. So why can I hardly remember it?

At around nine months we had finally convinced Oliver to sleep through the night - that was last month. It was like a break in the clouds. A gift I'd been saving up for. A long-awaited, long-deserved prize. It lasted a blissful four weeks. And then it ended abruptly.

Really, it was too good to last. Having two children close together inevitably leads to years of sleeplessness brought about by teething, colds, fevers and other random reasons to be awake in the middle of the night. But every night, I told myself tonight will be better. Being ever the optimist.

That's how last night, and the night before that started, with me confidently telling J I have a feeling tonight's going to be okay.

The night before last went like this.

11 p.m. To bed.
12 am. My lamp shade mysteriously falls off my bed side table.
1 am. I get up realizing the heat is still set to 22 degrees and it's sweltering.
3 am. Oliver wakes up.
4:30 am. Oliver wakes again.
5 am. Matthew wakes up wanting milk.
6 am. Matthew is still awake and wants more milk.
6:30 am. J gets up for work.
7 am. I get up to the call of the kids.

And after such a bad night, I was once again determined that last night would be better.

No.

11 pm. To bed.
12 am. Oliver wakes crying.
12:30 am. I attempt to bring him into bed with me. This results in him flailing like a wild fish and smacking me around like a tennis ball.
12:45 am. I almost settle Oliver, when there is a power surge, a flash of light, and beeping from various electronic devices, waking him from the brink of sleep.
1 am. Matthew is woken by Oliver. Dominoes.
1:15 am. I stand between the boys' rooms listening to the simultaneous yelling, pondering my options while imagining what it must be like to sleep.
1:30 am. J brings Matthew into our bed. I console Oliver.
1:45 am. By now we have read three books with Matthew, who's wide awake and giggling merrily.
2 am. Everyone is back in their beds.
2:30 am. Oliver is asleep but Matthew is talking. Loudly. I put a pillow over my head and just hope that by some miracle I'll make it through to morning.

So... guess what my prediction for tonight is? It's going to be awful. It's going to be terrible, hideous, monstrous. So bad that by tomorrow morning I will simply have to pour the coffee beans directly into my mouth and add boiling water from the kettle.




Image from www.cartoonstock.com

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Monday, December 21, 2009

'Tis the season for Spanx

Oliver was born almost one year ago. It's taken me almost all that time to shrink most of the way back to my old size. And all of that good work is about to be undone by Christmas.

Because every year around this time I abandon any semblance of good eating habits. The holiday becomes one giant unapologizing excuse to consume almost every high-calorie, sugary, fattening treat that crosses my path.

This past weekend was the start of it. There were multiple-course dinners. Appetizers of cheese and olives, cheese and broth fondues, seafood, roasts, desserts, cookies and wine.

Cheese will seriously be the death of me. I will one day be found floating face down in a giant fondue pot.

I suppose if you're not a food lover you might be able to resist some, if not all the holiday treats. Me? Not even a little bit. I love food and this is one time that I give in to the many temptations and indulge to my heart's delight.

Unfortunately the indulging is just a precursor to the extra pounds that will taunt me in January. And the cookie-induced poundage is not helped by the fact that two weeks ago, in some kind of crazed state of madness I purchased a pair of jeans that were slightly too small.

What the hell? I know. It's a heinous fashion crime, on a par with white socks and sandals. Jeans that don't quite fit are bad bad bad. But they were the old, old size! The size before all babies. And as I pulled on the jeans over my legs and bum and fastened the zipper, I almost shrieked with joy in the fitting room. In fact I think I may have shrieked a bit.

The problem is not the legs and bum - it's the tummy. The post-baby tummy. The stubborn, wobbly bastard area of skin that's laughing at me when I pull on my jeans. Everything else is shrinking back into place. But the stomach? Forget it. It shakes a little when it laughs at me like a bowl full of jelly.

Damn it.

So now, really, there's only two ways to combat the jelly belly: Hundreds of crunches every day. Or Spanx.

The crunches will have to wait until the new year when I'm full of good intentions. Right now 'tis the season for brie and Stilton and chocolate-covered blueberries and port, and nylon body compressors.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Last minute gifts for Christmas procrastinators (like me).

Eight days to Christmas. Last night as I did some (almost) final Christmas shopping, I noted the throngs of semi-panicky shoppers dashing from store to store with the frenzied look of those who leave things to the last minute.

Christmas sort of crept up on me this year. Wait, that makes me sound like I'm usually organized - let me rephrase that: Christmas creeps up on me every year. I'm totally the person scampering around in the days leading up to Christmas in a last ditch attempt to find everything on my list.

So, for those of you who, like me, are incapable of being organized enough to have already completed your holiday shopping, I've compiled a few ideas for you.

For book lovers: These new clothbound classics by Penguin are to die for and make stunning gifts.


For gadget people: The Kindle. I don't like it. But it's gadgety and new and someone you know probably will.

For babies and toddlers: As much as I love new toys, I chose a few oldies this year too. At a local store I found a spinning top and a kaleidoscope. Remember those? Simple and classic.



For kids: I bought this for my son for Christmas - Where The Wild Things Are. It's a classic. And now there are cool new soft toys to go with the book.

For game geeks: The New Rubik's cube. Except it's not a cube, it's a sphere. Looks impossible but attractive all the same.


For telly addicts: You just know you'll be singing along in the car. The Glee soundtrack.


For foodies: Not as expensive as a proper Le Creuset one, but this blue casserole pot from Ikea is delicious. Or, whatever is cooked in it will be.


Voila.


I was not compensated for mentioning any of the above products.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Minus 30 degrees: I live here.

When Dean Martin sung the lyrics "The weather outside is frightful...." I'd be willing to bet he was not talking about -30 degree weather. Because if he was, he might instead have sung "The weather outside is so painfully bad I want to wrap the wool of ten lambs around my body and roll around on hot coals for a day...". And that just doesn't have the same ring to it.

It's true though, -30 happens here. And you know what happens when the temperature plummets to levels so unfathomable that it's almost laughable in a crying kind of way?

Well, let's see...

• Your nose hairs freeze in the time it takes to walk fifteen feet from your house to your car.

• Your back door freezes shut because of the dog door and the crappy window that needs replacing and you have to kick the crap out of the damn thing to open it.

• You drive from one store to the next, even though they're only ten meters apart, and you don't care because it's too cold.

• You laugh out loud at the suggestion of leaving the house because the thought of it is on a par with going outside to the garden and making snow angels in your underwear.

• When you really have to go out, you bundle your toddler up in his winter coat, snow pants, snow boots, hat, scarf and mittens. Then you do the same for your baby. Then you struggle out the back door - which you must first kick the crap out of to open - all of you resembling the Michelin man - to the car. Then you wonder what the hell was worth going out for.

• You mention the weather while on the phone to your parents and they proceed to laugh and shake their heads at the idea that you moved to a place where temperatures reach such depths.

• You eat too many Christmas cookies and chocolates and general comfort foods because you're stuck indoors and subconsciously building up extra body fat in case of an emergency.

Get the picture?

So here's the thing. I was thinking about the first people to settle in Alberta. What they were thinking when they arrived here and decided to stay? Here's how I picture the scene.


What's the weather like by you?
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

My floor got a face-lift.

I need to start by selfishly asking for a favour. If you ever, I repeat EVER, read on this blog that I am thinking about renovating anything, anywhere even remotely near Christmas, could you please send me a virtual slap on the head? Because, you know, clearly I need to be reminded that only an insane person with two kids under the age of 3 would do something this daft.

The new floors only took a week to complete, but all the furniture moving, dust and rubble, staying away from the house, sleeping on mattresses on the floor, etc., made this week-long project feel more like a month.

And now, with all the complaining out of my system, it was worth it. And it was me, after all, who pushed for the floors, who argued my case and convinced J to do it. And also, now, I really, truly appreciate being able to stay at home whenever I want, with my food, my movies, my books, my blankets, my central heating.


The floors have transformed the house. The old gray carpet had endured years of abuse from dog hair, wine spills, food stains, muddy foot prints and crumbs.


The new floors are dark and shiny. They create a feeling of space in the house.


I didn't love my house when we bought it five years ago. I could see the potential, but it needed work. It was dated, boring, and hideously old-fashioned. Now, slowly, we're making it into a home we'll enjoy for years to come.
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Little copy cats.

"What's the teddy bear doing Matthew?"
"He in the spaceship. And there the moon."
"Yes. And you know what they're doing? They're having a picnic!"
"A pic-a-nic!"
"Yup."
"Oh no mama! Look! It's mess! It's mess!"
"Oh. Is it?"
"Yes mama! Ooooh noooo! What mess!"

Since Matthew started talking I've discovered certain things about myself through the things he says, or rather, repeats. Like the fact that I'm a bit of a neat freak. My verbal complaints about mess have evidently found their way into his brain and now he's repeating my silly habit.

Shi-oot.

When someone coughs or sneezes he asks "you okay?" with concern. I guess because, being an overly cautious mum, I ask the question of him, often.

He's even caught onto a little trick I devised to get the dog to go outside. A few times when he was in my way I'd say "Bongo! There's a cat outside! A cat!" very convincingly and the dog would belt out the dog door in search of the imaginary feline.

But Matthew caught on to my little trick, and began copying. "Go cat! Go cat!" he yells every day now, cackling to himself as the poor dog unquestioningly follows his command, then returns confused. No cat. And then again "Go cat! Go cat!".

Sometimes it's easy to forget that every word that leaves my mouth, every tone, every action, is being absorbed and saved by the little eyes and ears that are with me every day.

What have you learned about yourself through your kids?
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Uncool

I once posed for a fashion student friend under the arches of a bridge in Waterloo, London, in the freezing winter weather, wearing jeans, a bra and the corset she had designed and sewed. Unable to fasten the too-tight corset around my waist, we stopped a stranger to ask if he had a knife (thankfully he was not Jack the Ripper) in order to cut the corset open to fit me. As I stood for the shot and she snapped me on her semi-pro camera, passers by looked on curiously - it was the middle of a cold day under a bridge after all.

Back then, I seemed to know what was cool - more because of my hip friends than my own instincts. They mentored me in the ways of the hottest fashion, the newest music and the best bars and clubs.

Fast forward ten years and a different life later, I feel about as far from young and cool as I've ever felt. Far, far away from those young people with the cool stuff. (Notice I said "young people"? I've seriously had it.)

There are certain signs that have pointed toward this mysterious aging of late.

When I hear pop music on the radio I feel a sudden urge to reach into the car stereo and strangle the DJ. I hear myself saying, over and over, "What is this crap?". I even once heard myself say the dreaded words "Music these days is far worse than the stuff I grew up with." It's true though! I'd take The Cure and Semisonic over the new radio crap any day.

And the other day I made a snide remark about a girl walking down the street with a ridiculously short skirt. Then, straight away I remembered I once wore a skirt that short - a skirt my Dad claimed was actually a belt and promptly made me change out of. Which I did, then changed back into the belt-skirt when I was out of sight.

And then the other night me and J were eating at a restaurant when J nodded toward the next table. "What is that?" He asked, motioning toward the black bandage-y-thing on the young man's arm. "A bandage." I said plainly. "Oh." He said. "I thought it might be some kind of fashion statement or something."

And then I snorted and laughed so loud that wine almost flew from my nose and the couple next to us actually looked at me.

"Oh honey." I said. "We're getting old."
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Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Anniversary Sweetie

To J,

It feels as though there've been few moments to stop and think and breathe in the nine years we've been together, six married. Moving flats every six months in London. Getting married. Moving to Canada. Two babies. A dog. A lot.

And yet still we can talk about the banalest of every day things, and listen to each other's complaints, and laugh at what might otherwise drive a person to insanity.

Your first words to me, back in 2000 at university, were something to do with informing me I was mounting my presentation poster the wrong way up. And honestly? I thought to myself, arrogant. But hot. I never imagined I'd be spending my life with you, all the way over here on the other side of the world, with our own little family.

You make me happy.

And yes, we both suck for forgetting our anniversary this morning until I opened a card my Mum had sent in the mail. That's okay.

Love you.

p.s. I'm pregnant again. Just kidding. Ha.


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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sometimes, out of survival comes creativity.

Last week I had to stay out of the house all day, every day, for a week. And packing enough gear for an entire day with two not-potty-trained children is like packing for a backpacker heading out to Nepal for three months.

Each morning it took me three or four trips to the car as it heated up in the snow, to wedge bags, toys and various things in between strollers and bags of pea gravel (cold people know what this is for). For me, this is about fifty miles outside my comfort zone - my house, where all my comfort things are.

But during the week I became creative to cope with being away from the house.

~ Entertainment was found in unusual places. We looked at road maps, watched traffic lights change colour, pointed flashlights at the ceiling, studied shadows, counted cars, trucks, trains. My favourite form of entertainment was driving round and around the park to kill time. We drove very slowly and looked at the snow, the mountains in the distance and people in winter coats. Round and around and around while I sipped my drive-through coffee and enjoyed the silence with everyone fastened into their seats. Ha.

~ Last week was freezing cold - literally. One morning it was -20 degrees when we left the house. Getting from the car to a store / house / play centre was painfully slow with both kids in tow. So I created a running game. Every time I wanted out of the cold fast (because of the snow) I would tell my toddler it was time to run! Run! Run! And then we'd go for it - Matthew squealing with delight all the way.

~ I kept the car stocked with coats, hats, extra food, wipes, toys, books, paper and pens and spare plastic bags. The car was also cold enough to store some food and drink overnight. The only problem was the dire state of the interior by the end of the week - a veritable bomb site of cheerios, banana loaf crumbs and stale milk bottles.Nice.

~ We ate meals on the go. There were picnics in the car, snacks at restaurants and play centres, meals at Grandma's house, and of course - drive through. The front pocket of my diaper bag became designated for emergency treats. The mere rattle of a treat bag would stop the beginnings of a whine in its tracks.

~ The play pen saved my life on a number of occasions - it was used as a crib for naps, a place to contain Oliver at other peoples' houses, somewhere to change diapers and a place to put him among the rubble once we arrived home. Whoever invented that thing, I send you a virtual kiss.

~ Inevitably some things were left at home and items had to be improvised: Oliver wore Matthew's toddler-sized diaper when I ran out of smaller ones; Sippy cups and bottles were shared; Pants, t-shirts, socks and hats were swapped as needed.
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Friday, December 4, 2009

Just to prove I'm still alive. And some pictures.

Several times this week I sat down to write a post and failed to stay awake long enough to write anything remotely readable. And after another long day, I'm exhausted again tonight. So here's a brief summary of the best parts of this week.

I'm not sure which I liked the most...

The part where our kitchen was torn up and turned into a pile of jagged concrete rubble that filled the house with dust...


Or the part where we lugged our belongings downstairs and crammed them into every free space...


Or the part where I arrived home at 6 o'clock each night after a very, very - I repeat very long day with the boys, to find random tools, bits of floor, bits of carpet, bits of garbage, everywhere...


Or the evenings where we put the kids to bed and then continued moving furniture, ripping out carpet and baseboards and clearing up until finally collapsing onto a mattress on the floor...

Or this morning, when the snow began trickling from the Alberta sky like delicate white sprinkles and within thirty minutes turned to a full-on ohmygodwereallgoingtodie blizzard that we spent most of the day avoiding.


I promise to be back to normal next week, with pictures of the new floor.
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's my birthday and I'll brag if I want to.

So tomorrow is my birthday. The day I usually spend protesting that everyone is horribly misinformed - that I'm at least two years younger than my real age until I'm blue in the face.

Except this year I'm not going to pretend I'm 25, or even 29. I'm going to shrug my shoulders and say, whatever dudes, I'm thirty one.

You know why I'm not going to pretend I'm 29 this year? Because though life is not, by any stretch perfect, I have a lot to be happy about. I'm not wealthy. I don't have the biggest house in my neighbourhood or the fanciest car. I am not a Victoria's Secret model (yes that's right I turned them down). I don't have a wine cellar. But damn I'd like one. (J, if you're reading, there's still time to build me one before tomorrow morning if you start now...)

What I do have are two healthy, beautiful children, a wonderful husband, a great family, a roof over my head, amazing friends, and my freedom. I really do have a lot.

The old ideals slipped off my radar sometime in between having my first son and now. I'm much less preoccupied with the desire to be defined by status and wealth. Career is more about fulfillment than monetary gain. Money is about affording a comfortable lifestyle and providing for my family than excess. Health is about balance.

And.

It feels like just yesterday I was this little girl sitting at my father's piano, tapping out the sounds of the notes.


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