Monday 24 November 2014

Parent Teacher Interview: I Hope You Stay Silly

From Frack's book: Then they are all done fighting. They eat then watch TV.
The following is an excerpt from my meeting with Frack's teacher and some of the things that were going through my mind at the time:

"Frack seems to be doing much better since we last spoke, Mrs. Rotten."  says Madame.

"Oh good, I'm glad to hear that."  I say.

"Yes, he is learning that he isn't getting anywhere with his silliness.  I refuse to give him any attention for that."

"I see."

When Frack was about three years old he started wearing super hero capes and bright yellow rubber boots everywhere.  He wouldn't go anywhere without them: bus rides, grocery store, bank.  We used to hide the rubber boots on him because they made his feet so stinky.  We had to draw the line and not let him wear the capes to school because his teacher said they were too distracting.

"He also seems to be letting go of his need to always have a smart answer."

"Smart answer?  As in 'sarcastic'?"

"Something like that.  It's like he's looking for attention by saying silly things."

"Like what?"

"Well when we had our Roots of Empathy volunteer, she asked the children 'What might be a nice thing to do with a baby?' And Frack answered, 'Put it on a leash and take it for a walk.' "

(Snert.) "Oh dear." (I purse my lips together to keep my face muscles from smiling.)

"It was rather shocking."

"I see."

Title: A Guy That's Farting on Another Guy's Face

"You should know, Mrs. Rotten, that I don't tolerate any silliness in my classroom."

"Of course."

"Yellow and Brown Man makes everything yellow and brown."
"I have had a very difficult time with this particular class.  They have no idea of respect.  I cannot tell you how upsetting it is to have the gym teacher come to me, for the first time ever, to say 'I can see how you're going to have your hands full with this lot.'" (She looks at me significantly)

"That must have been very difficult for you."

"It was."

Frack got a note home a few weeks ago, informing me that he had been "disrespectful" in class.  I was actually really proud of him because it was literally the first thing he said to me when he got home from school.  He told me before I had to find the note in his agenda when usually he would try to hide it from me.  After much questioning, it turns out all he did was "make a funny noise" while sitting down.  I can see how that is silly but disrespectful?

"Speaking of 'respect', you wrote me a note a little while ago about Frack being disrespectful in class.  What was that about?  I'm not sure I got all the information from him."

"Oh, I don't know.  I wasn't there.  I was just letting you know what the librarian told me."

"Okay.  I tried telling him not to do whatever it was he was doing but it would have been better if I had more information."

"I'm sorry about that.  But as I said, Frack is making excellent progress.  He now understands that there is no place for his antics in my classroom.  He's much better at staying at his desk and isn't the whirling dervish he used to be.  He's doing very good work and he no longer says he can't understand me.

"Well that's good to hear."

Future Frack is forming a badass fighting team for Now Frack.  They correspond via snail mail.

Frack is very proud of his My Little Pony Collection and likes to show them off to visitors.

Frack adores his baby cousin, and all babies for that matter.  He touches her cheek and tells me, "Babies are for loving."

Frack has been "in love" with the same little girl for over a year.  He writes "Frack + Z" on just about every available surface

Frack is obsessed with writing books.  He is constantly begging for paper and asking how to spell things.

Is it bad that I don't want her to tame him?  Is it bad that I want him to stay silly?

I hope you never change, Baby Boy.

Thursday 30 October 2014

Passive Aggressive Agenda War

So Frack has this agenda thing that I'm supposed to look at every day.  I am no stranger to the agenda.  The agenda has been the bane of my existence since Frick was in 1st grade 7 years ago.  I know what is expected with the agenda.

I use it to communicate with the teacher and the teacher uses it to communicate with me.  I look at it every day.  Usually the deal with the agenda is that if the teacher sends me a note I initial it or if I send her a note she initials it and then we know that the other person has read and acknowledged the note.  Pretty simple, right?

This year is turning out to be a little different.

About a month ago I began to notice that every once in a while the teacher would put a circle on a calendar day that had already passed and had nothing written on it.  Beside the big circle was the word "sign" written in cursive.  I was like, WTF?  What does she want me to sign?  There's nothing there.  And then I'd sign it feeling kind of like an idiot.

Then last week I noticed that she had circled every single day that I had not signed the page (because there was nothing written there to acknowledge) each circle accompanied by the word "sign" and suddenly realized, "Oh, she wants me to sign this thing every day.  No matter what."

You see it was her complete lack of ever asking me to do this combined with her inconsistent yet passive aggressive circles that had confused me.

My first thought was, "Oh, I better get to signing this stupid thing every day then."

But my second, less mature, thought was, "But what if I don't?  She can't make me.  Why should I have to sign it every day if she doesn't have to write a note in it every day?"

I can be pretty immature sometimes.

Ordinarily I would do whatever little thing that would please the teacher just to please her.  Over the years I have signed all the forms in triplicate and then signed new ones just for the hell of it.  I have donated countless boxes of Kleenex.  I have gone out to the store to buy the specific food bank item I was asked for (after they turned down the many food items I already had in my pantry....why not take it all?  Sheesh.)  I have done just about every little weirdly unreasonable thing that has been asked of me but I WILL NOT DO THIS.

Mostly because I just don't want to and there's no good reason for it and there are no bad consequences if I don't and because I do not take well to bullshit passive aggression.

And so I have decided to take this petty little stand about the silliness of acknowledging a blank page with my signature after I've shown myself to be communicative and responsive .  It's a stupid thing to do, I know, but I also don't care.  Because if it really means that much to her a simple and direct communication about her expectations (like an adult) would have done so much more for her than this silly, passive aggressive circle making.

Because when it comes to passive aggression, I can passive aggressive circles around your passive aggressive circles.

Tuesday 30 September 2014

My Son Doesn't Understand Me!

I am having a bad Mom day.

I've been trying to keep my head up for a little too long and this morning I just crashed, so I need to vent a little.

My son doesn't understand me, or anyone else for that matter.  At least that's how it feels right now.

Last night I had a meeting with Frack's teacher.  He doesn't understand her.  Which isn't all that surprising since she only speaks French to him.

After much debate and discussing it with Frack's teachers my husband and I decided to enroll Frack in French Immersion.  We are fully prepared to take him out at any time.  As you may already know Frack was speech delayed and had only graduated from his speech therapy about a year ago.  I have a certificate and everything: "Congratulations!  Frack is considered to be at his age level for language development."

But the thing is Frack has always had difficulty with abstract language concepts.  He can point to and name any object you like, count to any number, recite whatever you want him to recite.  But he will confuse "on" with "under" or "beside".  He gets confused trying to sort out the difference between "more than" and "less than".  He has a hard time following instructions and when he feels confused or frustrated he shuts right down and will only communicate the things he knows.  Or he will only agree with and repeat anything you say because he thinks that is the right answer and he doesn't know what else to do.

He is often afraid to admit that he doesn't understand you because he thinks it's "wrong".  He can't stand being wrong.  Trying to get information out of him is crazy-making.  You have a word limit.  After speaking about thirty or so words at him he just starts giving you answers he thinks you want because he no longer understands you, if he ever did in the first place.  On top of that he might change his answers several times during the conversation, trying to give you what he thinks you want.

The devil of all this is, like most small children, he is also capable of very shrewd understanding.  He often says things that let me know he understands far more than I give him credit for.  If he is relaxed and happy his comprehension seems to be very good, if limited from time to time.

I had to explain all of this to Frack's teacher last night.  And, yet again, I found myself in the position of having to apologize to a professional educator for having to have my son in their class.

Because Frack is not adjusting to grade 1 well at all.  It's hard to be at his desk all day.  The work is hard for him because he just does not understand what is expected of him.  So he gets frustrated, shuts down, and refuses to participate or put any effort forth.  And yesterday, he took things to a whole new level by angrily defacing his school work and being rude and disrespectful to his teacher.

At first I really tried to keep myself up.  Hey, at least I have a lot of practice dealing with frustrated teachers, right?  I guess we'll just have to come up with some strategies to help Frack.  Sure, we can do this!

But you know what?  I'm just so fucking tired right now.  I had a particularly bad weekend at work, but I stayed positive to help out my team.  My husband is out of town for work, so I'm missing my partner to hear me cry and rage and vent, and then help me come up with solutions.  I had to spend a lot of time on the phone with my mother in-law, who had been watching the kids for me while I was at work.  My older son, who I had hoped would know better, to whom I had promised very hefty bribes for good behaviour, was out of control for almost the whole time he was with her.  Consequently I spent a good part of my afternoon contacting his two social workers and pediatrician.

This meeting was the last straw.  I felt like I was being told, "Congratulations Mrs. Rotten, you've got another academic career full of parent-teacher meetings and disciplinary bullshit stretching out ahead of you!"

And even though I started off trying to be positive about it, my attitude deteriorated as I watched Frack spend his night moping and sullenly punishing himself.  He spent a good two hours sitting in the time-out spot even though I kept telling him I wasn't mad and he didn't have to sit there.  I tried to talk to him about it but I hit my thirty-word mark and watched him turn into an uncomprehending robot in front of me.  He got angry at me during cuddle time because he had asked me a question and could not understand that I was answering it, so he kept asking it over and over.

And all I could think was, "Why can't I talk to my son?  He's done with speech therapy, it's not supposed to be this way!"

And then this morning, he didn't seem to understand anything I was saying to him and I had a bad moment and I yelled at him.  And watching him stand there, heroically trying not to cry, I broke down.  I decided to keep him home from school for today, and I spent about ten minutes in our basement, selfishly sobbing my heart out.

Because I know I'm supposed to be stronger than this.  I know I'm supposed to be grateful for my son the way he is: healthy, strong and wonderful.  But right now I just need a little moment to wallow in self-pity.  Just five more minutes or so, please.  I think if I can have that I'll be able splash a little cold water on my face and get back to the business of figuring out what our next step is going to be.

Friday 26 September 2014

All About That Body Positivity

Well, I finally watched the "All About That Bass" video I've noticed  being passed around facebook and whatnot, and I thought, "Huh.  This is kind of super cute in a totally uncomfortable way."

Cute, as in super cute girls in cute dresses on a cute set singing a cute song.  I love seeing *non-skinny people glamourized in media.  Watching these cute non-skinny girls (and guy) look beautiful dancing makes me feel better about my non-skinny self.  Really.  More of that please!

Uncomfortable, as in the words "skinny bitch" make me cringe.  "Stick figure silicone Barbie doll" doesn't sound like something a person promoting body positivity should say.  It sounds like something a deeply insecure person would say.

There are also potential racial issues with the song and video.  Pop music has a history of cultural appropriation that is problematic.  If you want a good break down of the problems with this song, Jenny Trout's post I Am Not All About That Bass is a pretty good read.

*I prefer to use the word "non-skinny" instead of "fat" or "normal" here because 1) are the women in this video fat?  I kind of think not.  But do I call them "normal" because 2) what actually is a "normal" body anyway?  "Non-skinny" just seems like a more accurate and inclusive term.

As someone who has struggled with eating disorders in the past, I am no stranger to a negative self-image.  I find it ironic (but also great!) that I love my body way more now, even though I am heavier, than I did when I was 23 and super-skinny.  I don't love my body the way it deserves all the time.  Of course I have days when I feel fat and unattractive.  But for the most part I feel much more content with my body and comfortable in my skin than I ever have before.

This isn't something that came with age or wisdom.  This is something I work on.  I don't live in a bubble, and I am as much affected by Photoshop and the glorification of skinny bodies in the media as the next girl.  But these are things that I do that really help me.

1) Put down the magazines.

Photoshop is a very real problem in our culture.  But why?  We are usually told because Photoshop helps sell stuff: clothes, makeup, magazines.  Photoshop is going to be around for a long time, but the way it is used could be changed if altering women's bodies stopped selling.  That's not going to realistically happen when I wake up tomorrow.  So while I'm waiting for a new feminist utopia to emerge, I find that not looking at Photoshopped women has had the immediate benefit of making me feel better about myself.

2)  In fact, take a break from media in general.

It also really helps to just stop watching TV or movies for a while.  It really sucks that non-skinny people are so under-represented, and unattainable skinny ideals are so glorified, that in order to clean my headspace I need to opt out.  But here we are.   All I can say is that when I take a week or so off from sitcoms, soap operas, and the commercials that go with them (advertising is the devil) I just feel a lot better about myself.  Because then all I get to see are regular people.  When I come back it's a lot easier to see those bodies as not reflecting what people in the real world actually look like.

3)  Be a conscious consumer.

Not all media is bad.  There is some great stuff out there, you just have to seek it out.  Some of my favourite shows include Orange is the New Black, Inside Amy Schumer, The Mindy Project, Bob's Burgers, The Daily Show, Drunk History, and lately the ladies of Saturday Night Live have been killing.  For my part, I have found these shows to be much easier on my psyche, and more reflective of my experience as a woman in general.  Also, all of these shows are funny (Yes, even OITNB) and, as everyone knows, laughter is the best medicine.

And hey, even "bad" media has it merits.  When I'm not filtering my media it's an opportunity for me to recognize where and how it is missing the mark when it comes to representing women (eg. Meghan Trainor).  It's an opportunity to articulate what is wrong with our representation and to ask for - no, demand - better.

4)  Wear clothes that fit.

A couple of years ago I put on an extra ten pounds.  It seemed like nothing I could do would help me shake that weight.  And you know what?  I'm not all that worried about it.  Now.  But at the time I was very uncomfortable because my clothes didn't fit anymore.  They were too tight, no longer flattering and made me feel self-conscious.  At first I resisted buying new clothes because I thought I could lose the weight.

After about six months of trying I realized that I was just going to have to break down and buy larger clothes.  It made a huge difference!  I felt better and more confident.  People thought I had actually lost weight but really I was just wearing clothes that flattered my figure better.

5)  Exercise.

Every day I take at least fifteen minutes of exercise.  Any exercise.  It really doesn't matter.  The thing that matters to me is my intent.  I try to center my fitness goals around things that go deeper than how I look.  I tell myself that I want to be stronger.  Or I want to be more flexible.  Or I want better endurance.  These fitness goals are healthier than simple weight loss (which isn't the best indicator of health, anyway) and the results are more immediate.  I didn't lose any weight last week but I can do more push-ups than I ever have before.  And I can run all the way to my kid's school without having to stop and catch my breath.  That makes me feel awesome!

I now look at weight loss as a potential side effect to regular exercise instead of seeing it as an ultimate goal. It's not like I wouldn't be happy to experience that side effect, but I'm not going to get hung up on it because maybe I'd like stronger muscles instead.  And I'm super jazzed that becoming more flexible means less arthritis pain for me.  Also, people who exercise even moderately are happier and benefit from better self-image.  Science says so!

6) Stop dieting.

Life is too short for restrictive diets.  I swear I would much rather be a little heavier and eat wonderful food than have a perfect body while watching everyone else eat cheese and chocolate.  Victoria Beckham doesn't even let herself eat a piece of cake on her birthday.  No wonder she looks so miserable all the time!

But I notice that I feel really good when I am nourishing my body with good wholesome food instead of punishing it with denial.  I am discovering the joys of trying new fruits and vegetables.  I've been trying to re-examine vegetables I used to hate as a child.  Right now I'm learning to love mushrooms and brussels sprouts.  I like thinking about all the good things this food does for my body when I'm eating it.  Mmmmm, Greek yogurt....healthy gut bacteria.  Mmmmm tomatoes....lycopene.  Avocadoes...aghaghagagh.

Sorry.  I got a little distracted there. is so fucking awesome!  Why make yourself eat like you're in prison?

Crack almonds.  I want me some of those crack almonds.

And every once in a while, what the hell, have a cookie.  Have two.  Because cookies are awesome.

7)  Changing perspective.

I've stopped looking at other women's bodies with envy.  Because I finally realized a fundamental truth: there is always going to be someone, somewhere, who envies my body, no matter how shitty I feel about it.  Some may envy that I weigh less than they do and some may envy that I weigh more.  They might envy my breast size, butt shape, waist to hip ratio, or my height.  They might envy my relative health or youth.  They might envy something as simple as my ability to walk.  I'm not happy that there might exist people who envy me.  But realizing that there might exist people out there who would be grateful to have the body I'm hating on right now, made me feel like kind of an asshole.

So instead I'm learning to marvel at all the cool things my body can do.  I dance with my kids and, when I can, I run because it's fun.  I go outside as much as possible because I am healthy enough to leave my bed.  I enjoy the feel of grass under my feet and the sun and wind on my skin.  Because someday I'll be too old to do what I take for granted now.  Some tomorrow I may long for the body I despised today.  I'll wish I had loved it when I had the chance.

If I love my body right it might keep doing amazing things for longer than I thought possible.  If I love it right it will give me an improved quality of life in my old age.  And who the hell is going to care what my body looks like when I'm a shriveled old lady?  Not me, that's for sure.  I'll be grateful to get out of bed without breaking my hip.

But right now I'm going out to my living room to dance to this song because it is cute and it has a good beat and if there's one thing it got right it's this:

"Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top."

Thursday 14 August 2014

My Almost Bill Murray Moment

The other day, while on my travels, I stopped at my local bus station to get a bus pass and then use the bathroom.

This bus station is a very nice one.  It has a very retro 1920's feel to it (Okay, I'm no historian.  Anywhere from 1920's to 1950's even.  Doesn't matter, just know it's pretty cool).  They keep this place in almost pristine condition.  I believe one of the reasons is because Anytown is a bit of a hotspot for Hollywood to come and shoot their movies here, and this bus station makes an excellent location for a period piece.

As I walked into the gleaming ladies room I saw the penthouse stall wide open, immaculately clean, kind of beckoning to me.  It was pretty quiet at the bus station and I figured I wasn't hurting anybody by using that one so I went in and that's when I saw this on the shiny, stainless steel partition wall:

Is it?

Could it be?

I wasn't sure but I was very excited at the possibility.  And by "excited" I mean I couldn't have been more thrilled if I had walked in on a real live unicorn taking a rainbow coloured dump in there.  I don't have much of a bucket list but, at the top of that list is to have a Bill Murray moment.  I mean, there can be no doubt as to just how awesome Bill Murray truly is.  He is  BETTER than a unicorn, because he's twice as magical and actually exists!

For a moment I believed that I was sharing a personal moment with Mr.  Murray.  I stood there, where he might have once stood, reading his personal special message for me written by his hand, that should have been in the men's room but wasn't.  I got to see this because I am a woman using the women's bathroom!  I felt like I knew how Mary Magdalene must have felt when Jesus appeared to her after His resurrection.  I had to go and spread the message of Bill!

I have no internet on my phone so I had to wait until I got home to try and verify this graffito.  I wasn't about to call City Hall, the local media and the bus station and demand they turn that bathroom stall into an historic monument without proof!  It took freaking forever.  I had so much nervous energy I ran part of the way home.  I did a Google image search and came up with this:

So not a precisely, exactly matching.  There is enough of a difference to cause my skeptic senses to go all tingly.  What do I do?  I pride myself on being skeptical, of not just believing something simply because I really, really want it to be true.  But I really, really, REALLY, want this to be true.  It's not quite a Bill Murray moment but this is probably the closest I will ever get.  This is the most magical thing that has happened to me since that night my parents got one of their friends to dress up as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and woke us kids up to meet him.

So I'd love you readers to weigh in.  Here is my case:

Reasons Why This Isn't Really The Bill Murray's Real Graffito:

1) The hand-writing isn't a perfect match.

2) Anyone could have written this.  It is a public bus station after all.  Maybe it was just a BIll Murray superfan expressing their appreciation of Bill "Facking" Murray.  Or maybe it was just someone who happened to have the same name and thought a lot of that fact.  And then decided to put it on a women's bathroom wall.

3) Nothing this awesome could really happen to me in real life.

Reasons Why It's Totally, Really and For True, Bill Murray's Graffito!!!

1)  He could have been in Anytown.  As I said, lots of movies are shot here.  For all I know Bill Murray was in that bus station filming a movie and had this opportunity to leave his mark, knowing full well the staff would remove it probably soon after.

2)  If Bill Fucking Murray were to write his name on a bathroom wall in Anytown it would be done in this way, in this bus station, in this bathroom in this stall.  He would write "fucking" as "facking".  He would do it with a flourish and he would put a period of emphasis at the end because he is Bill Fucking Murray.  He would see this empty bathroom in an empty(?) bus station and say "I am Bill Fucking Murray and I will piss in the ladies' room right now just because I can (and maybe no one else is around) and hell yeah, I will piss in the penthouse stall and if I'm going to do that I will make sure at least one person has some idea that I did it."

3)  If Bill Murray were to do all of the above he would do it in just such a way that no one will ever believe you.

4)  The signature isn't an exact match  but it's also not that different.  I would argue that the "m" is very similar.  Also, when you write your name on a wall OF COURSE it's not going to be the same as your signature on a piece of paper!  Why would it be?  It's just graffiti, not a cheque (or autograph).  Writing on an upright surface is very different than writing on a horizontal surface, so why wouldn't the hand-writing have some differences, too?

And since it seems I have more reasons to believe this was really and truly Bill Murray, I am going to go ahead and believe.  Because it makes me feel happy.  This is the Magic of Bill Murray.  I still want to know in the comments what you all think of this, but I'm just saying my world is a brighter place because of my near-Bill experience.

Bill Murray, I have loved every single thing you have ever done.  Everything.  Even Garfield.  Thank you for taking an unconventional leak in my town.

Monday 4 August 2014

Drama at the Swimming Pool

My kids have been bugging me all summer to go to the public swimming pool at the end of our street.  It's a really nice outdoor pool with a little splash pad in a corner of the shallow end for the babies and plenty of pool toys: noodles, beach balls, colourful rings and the like.  I've been waiting for the perfect day to take them but it's been a cold and rainy summer this year.

Well, today was that day.

When we got there Frack managed to find us a ball and the boys started tossing the ball back and forth over the buoy rope that separates the deep end from the shallow end (Frack's not allowed in the deep end, not even with me).  I liked this game because it was the nicest they have played together for the longest stretch of time so far this summer.

I didn't much like getting hit in the face the odd time by one of these balls (who would?) but it was never a big deal.  It was always by accident and the kids were always quick to apologize.  Hey, what're you gonna do?  You're at a public pool with lots of kids.  Balls go flying (snert), people sometimes get hit.  That's why it's a good thing these beach balls weigh next to nothing and it doesn't hurt at all.

So I thought it was very interesting when one time Frick failed to catch the ball, it landed a few feet away from an older woman swimming and, unlike every other person there who would have simply passed the ball back to him, angrily grabbed the ball and hurled it out of the pool.

Overreact much?

Frick climbed out of the pool to get it and gave me a bewildered "what the hell is her problem?" look.  I just shrugged my shoulders back at him and we went back to playing.

I've been observing people for a lot of years, and I have developed a pretty keen eye for crazy.  My gut was telling me to keep an eye on this woman because it would be only a matter of time before she delivered some quality WTF behaviour.  And deliver she did....

We spent another 15 minutes tossing the ball back and forth when Frack, trying to throw the ball as high and far as possible (as 6-year-olds do), unintentionally hit her square in the face as she was floating on her back.  Of all the people he could have hit, of course it had to be her.

I have to confess: being the awful and terrible person that I am, my knee-jerk reaction to this was to laugh.  I know.  I am going to hell.  I covered that shit up quickly though, so as to attempt to be a good role model for the kids and turned to Frack to tell him to be more careful when throwing the ball.

Then I turned to look over at the deep end where Frick and the lady were to make sure she was okay, and this is what I saw:

This woman was angrily grabbing Frick with one hand, twisting his arm in an unnatural direction, and holding the ball up out of his reach with the other while yelling at him.

Here is a list of possible reactions she could have had with which I would be totally okay:

-yelling at Frick (I'll disagree with the necessity of this, but I get it.  You're irritated and not very well-adjusted and you just got hit the in the face with a ball.  This at least has the advantage of not involving a physical altercation.)

-yelling at Frack who, after all, was the one who threw the ball.  (But if you have to get that angry at some strange 6-year-old kid for what was obviously an accident, then you need to step back and re-evaluate the situation.)

-complaining to the lifeguard (What a sane person would do)

-complaining to me (Also what a sane person would do)

Or you know, rub your face a little, maybe glare at the kid a little, and then move on with your life.  What most people would do.  I know this because I watched several other people get hit in the face with these balls (snert) and that's exactly what they did.  They didn't even find the glaring part necessary.  I guess because they realize that they are at an open swim at a public pool where about a hundred kids are splashing and throwing balls around and have adjusted their expectations accordingly.

I am definitely NOT OKAY with anyone man-handling (woman-handling?) my son for any reason whatsoever.


I am not easily ignored.  I was in drama for years, bitches.  There they teach you how to PROJECT.  From the DIAPHRAGM.  Everyone around us had stopped what they were doing to stare, but this woman kept going as if she didn't hear me at all.  I don't know for sure how long the altercation took.  All I can say is that I screamed at her to let go of my son half a dozen times before she finally did.

Looking back I have no idea why I didn't shout for help.  I totally should have.  It's just that no one has ever been able to ignore my screaming-from-the-diaphragm-mama-banshee voice before. When I looked at the lifeguard she just looked really confused like she had only just now noticed what was happening.

Crazy "It's MY ball now!" Lady swam over to the lifeguard to complain, while Frick swam over to me.

"I tried to apologize to her but she just grabbed me and kept yelling at me!"

He said his arm hurt but she didn't leave any marks on him and he was otherwise okay.  As soon as I knew he was okay I marched the three of us over to the lifeguard to do some complaining of my own.  At first the look on her face said "That lady told me what your son did to her".   But by the time I was finished talking she just looked horrified and apologized profusely.

Next she called over the other lifeguard who was older and more intimidating looking than her.  About a minute later he is talking to Crazy "I have no sense of boundaries" Lady.

"Ma'am?  I'm going to need you to get out of the pool."

Crazy Lady sashayed out of the pool with her head held high and her nose in the air.  Seriously.  I don't throw around the word "sashay" lightly.

I'm trying to get the boys to play a different game that doesn't involve balls (snert) when I notice that she is packing up her things.

"I think they're kicking her out!" laughs Frick.

He's right because now she is sashaying herself out the exit.

"Shh!" I tell him.  "Don't laugh.  Not right now anyway.  When we get home you can laugh all you like.  But it's not nice to look too happy about this."

"But you are happy about it, right Mommy?"

"Yes I am.  I am very happy about it."

Monday 30 June 2014

Sluts vs. Touch-Me-Nots: The Catch-22 of Being a Girl

Summer vacation has begun!  Laissez les bon temps rouler!

This is Frick's summer before 8th grade.  What a magical time.  It really takes me back to my own "Wonder Years".  For me the summer before 8th grade was when I got my first period.  It was a time where me and my girlfriends talked endlessly about sex and spent lots of time watching the boys skateboard out in front of my friend Jen's house.  We also spent lots of time talking and worrying about high school.

I remember being a little concerned about grade 9 initiation, mostly because me and my other friend Jen managed to piss off the entire graduating class of grade eight girls that year.  They were bullies who liked to push around us grade 7 girls because they felt, as 8th graders, they ruled the school and Jen and I were having none of it.  (Fun fact: I got into my first/only school yard fight with a grade 8 girl that year.  It was a bit of relief that aside from being much larger than me, she had no idea how to throw a punch.)

But what worried me more than getting bullied as a "minor niner" was trying to understand what it meant to be a teenaged girl, socially.  It turned out to be way more complicated than I had imagined.  One night, I think it was at one of our slumber parties, the Jens and I were all talking about what it was going to be like in high school.

Jen B:  I heard that in high school, if you're a girl, everyone calls you a slut or a touch-me-not.

Me:  What?  Really?  How does that work?

Jen B:  Well if you do anything with a boy, even just kissing, you'll be a slut and everyone will talk about you.

Me:  Well, that's easy.  I don't want to be a slut.

Jen B: Yeah, but if you're not a slut everyone will say you're a touch-me-not and no boys will ask you out.

( I don't know what your middle school culture was, but for us "touch-me-not" was our standard expression for some goody-two-shoes who never does anything bad and is a total loser and no one would, like, ever want to be labeled as a touch-me-not.  A touch-me-not can NEVER hope to be popular and being popular was a big deal.)

Me:  But I want boys to ask me out.  I don't want to be a loser.

Jen B:  Well then you'll have to be a slut then.

Me:  That's not fair!  What about the boys?  Does anyone say anything about them?

Jen B: (just shrugs.)

Me:  So those are our only choices?

Jen B:  Pretty much.

Me:  What do we do?

Jen B:  I don't know.

What I didn't know was that we weren't the ones who got to choose.   You got labeled by others whether you liked it or not.  You were held entirely responsible for any attention or lack of attention you got from boys, as if that were a thing you could possibly control.  If you were invisible to boys it proved you were an ugly, boring loser through your own choices like not wearing the right clothes or make up.  If you got attention from boys it proved you were a big whore through your own choices like not wearing the right clothes or make up.

The only way to avoid slut or touch-me-not status was to get a special magical talisman called a BOYFRIEND.  Girls with BOYFRIENDS were the only ones you couldn't mess with.  When you got a BOYFRIEND you got elevated to the status of being Bobby's Girl and that would make you popular because other girls would like you again and stop talking about you behind your back.  Having a BOYFRIEND proved you weren't an invisible touch-me-not loser.  Having a BOYFRIEND made other boys stop paying attention to you which proved you were not (or no longer) a slut.

The problem was, the only way to get a BOYFRIEND was to risk being called a slut because in order to get a BOYFRIEND you needed to attract the attention of a boy somehow.  And attracting the attention of boys on purpose?  SLUTTY McSLUTTERSON you are!

(Le sigh.)

I am very glad that Frick doesn't have to worry about being a slut. I'm not saying that his behaviour won't be strictly policed by his peers (Hello, Heteronormative Bro-Culture).  I'm just saying that at least his social navigations don't involve this lose-lose kind of bullshit.  At least with boys there was a possibility of winning that didn't involve some kind of relationship status symbol.

As for us girls, it seems we must lose no matter what we do.

Monday 26 May 2014

Parenting For Company: It's Different!

Have you ever been treated to a lecture about your parenting?  I have!  Aren't they terrific?   I swear just hearing the words "I know it's none of my business but..." is enough to send me into a frenzy of anticipation over what I am about to hear because it can ONLY BE AWESOME!!!

You'd think that in this day and age people would know better than to offer unsolicited criticisms of your parenting.

They don't.

Hearing this kind of bullshit friendly advice is only marred by the fact that I know how far off the mark they actually are.  Because the truth is that unless this person lives in my home and cares for my children they really can't know what kind of parent I am.

Generally speaking, when you are on the receiving end of a parenting lecture the person delivering it is someone you know very well like a family member or a friend.  They feel compelled to speak to you after keeping their mouths shut for so long.  They are trying to help you because it is so obvious to everyone but you that you are doing everything wrong.

They feel confident in their right-ness in telling you how wrong you are "because," they will say, "it's been like this every time we visit."

So I would like to explain to all the Well Meaning Dispensers of Wisdom out there on behalf of all us Terrible Parents, why you are wrong.  Dead Wrong.

I, and I suspect the majority of parents, parent my kids differently when I am around company.  I do it differently, but I also do it consistently.

Parenting, when done right, is difficult and time-consuming and complicated.  My kids fight just about every ten minutes.  They fight over toys.  They fight over the best spot on the couch.  They fight over breathing the same air.  When you are not here I would deal with the fighting by first, trying to ignore it in the hopes they will resolve the issue on their own.  If I paid attention to every fight they have I wouldn't be able to get anything else done so I will only interfere if I hear repeated crying or some kind of physical altercation.

At that point I sit them down and cross examine them.  Then I have to play detective to figure out which one's version is closest to the actual truth.  Then I have to come up with some kind of appropriate consequence to help them learn to get along better.  Then I have to oversee that the consequence is being carried out.

Does that sound like a lot to you?  Imagine having to go through this roughly half a dozen times in a three hour period.  Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Do you really think they are going to put their fighting on hold just because I am trying to have a visit with you?


But when I am with you Wise Friend, it is my wish to enjoy your company and conversation.  As a result I am naturally anxious to put the kibosh on any unpleasantness brewing between my kids so as to maximize the pleasantness of our visit.

And so I will jump on them the moment I hear even a whisper of dischord when I would otherwise try to ignore it.  Because I promise you no one wants to listen to them loudly bicker, whine and scream at each other while they sort their shit out.  I will resolve the issue quickly by placing the blame on whichever child is statistically to be most likely at fault and then issuing a quick and easy to enforce, all-purpose consequence.

If it's the first fight during our visit you may have to watch me go on about it a little too long to my kids because I am hoping that I if I lay down the law then and there I might not have to deal with them for the rest of the visit.  A little naive, I know, but believe it or not that sometimes works.

None of this is what I would call top-notch parenting.  At best it is merely unfair.  Sometimes I make a mistake and blame the wrong child (which will happen anyway no matter how good your parenting is).  At worst it would only serve to damage their relationship even further thus causing more fighting.  I already know this just like I know my kids way better than you do.

So understand that when you see me engaging in shoddy parenting it just means that I am putting my concern for their self-esteem and well-being on hold for a few hours out of consideration for YOU.  Because I am trying to enjoy the time we have together.

It is completely unfair to hear the things you imply in your well meaning lecture.  You imply that I favour one child over the other.  You imply that I am making things worse between my kids.  You imply that you have no faith in my ability to raise my own children without your interference.  Do you realize how much you cross the line here?

With all due respect you are just not there to see me being awesome at what I do.  You're not there with me through the parenting classes and meetings with social workers.  You're not there with me through the meetings with concerned teachers.  You're not there with me and my husband as we discuss parenting strategies together.  You're not there with me when I'm talking my kids through problem solving strategies so they can learn to resolve conflict on their own.

Quite frankly, you have no idea what you are talking about.

But since you have decided against your own better judgment to offer me advice I would like to return the favour.

The next time you hear yourself saying the words "I know it's none of my business but..." JUST STOP TALKING.


Nothing good ever came of anything said after those words.  And it really isn't any of your business so you can relax and just learn to trust me when I say I've got this parenting thing.  As soon as you go home I will be all over it.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

8 Reasons Why Men Can't Take Pictures of Themselves

Selfies are everywhere and mean lots of things to lots of people.  I've seen selfies used to raise awareness for political causes.  I've seen selfies taken for fun like the famous Ellen Celebrity selfie.  And sometimes selfies are taken just because you look good and want a decent picture for your profile.

And while I personally tend to avoid taking selfies (mostly because I am camera shy and my face tends to do weird things in pictures) I don't have a hell of a lot of judgment for those who do indulge because, why not?  Have a little fun.   To each their own.  Hell, even the POTUS and the Pope take selfies.  They honestly seemed mostly harmless to me.

But recently, after James Franco's rather unfortunate, pale and clammy half-naked selfie (blech!) was uploaded, then taken down, and then gone viral (because the internet forgets NOTHING!) talk about selfies seems to be at the forefront of social commentary.

There has been much hand-wringing about the selfie.  Selfies are a cry for help..  Selfies either cause/indicate the presence of poor mental health.  Selfies are addictive.  The pressure to take the perfect selfie is driving teenagers to suicide.  Selfies are going to usher in the END OF AMERICA!

Apparently I was wrong about selfies being harmless fun.  Selfies are super important and super dangerous and can indicate everything and nothing about you!  This is kind of confusing but fortunately for me the internet, in the form of online trashmill of "ironic" misogyny Elite Daily, is here to help you understand.

8 Reasons Why It's Never Okay For a Man to Take a Selfie

I kind of chuckled at the title.  I'm interested in reading articles about selfie-etiquette because the phenomenon interests me as an outsider who does not participate.  I have read a few that seemed to give reasonable advice on the subject but this was the first one I have ever seen that was gender specific.

I didn't expect it to be a good/well-written list of rules (gender specific codes of behaviour rarely are) and it did not disappoint.  As a woman, I am not entirely confident that I can refute such iron-clad social logic so instead I will only attempt to understand it by rendering a rough translation into terms my feeble girly brain can grasp.  So here are...

8 Reasons Why Men Can't Take Pictures of Themselves

1) Selfies are strictly for women.  Women like to brag about what's really important to them: being pretty.  If you don't have titties to display no one wants to see it.

2) No really.  Chicks only.  Men are allowed to have two (or an absolute maximum of three photos if they should be unfortunate enough to get married....shudder), preferably taken by someone else, or you have to officially trade in your dick for a vagina.

Special allowances will be made for more than three photos but only if you are in full Batman costume, which is the most manly of all the superhero costumes.

3 & 4) If you take selfies you are a shallow, attention whore.  Remember: only chicks are allowed to be shallow attention whores.

5) You won't get laid, so why bother?  Nothing is worth doing unless there is an absolute guarantee of a "happy ending".

6) If you insist on taking a selfie like some brainless chick, we'll tell everyone that your penis is small.  Not because there's any research behind that.  Just because we think it's funny to humiliate you if you decide to shamelessly act like a woman according to our arbitrary rules.

7) Real men (like racist, homophobe Chuck Norris) don't take selfies.  Aren't you fucking listening, brah?  Don't you want to be a REAL MAN???

8) You can't be a bad ass and take selfies.  Only chicks and Justin Bieber take selfies and everyone knows it is impossible for either to ever be bad ass.  Don't you want to be a BAD ASS???

(Not paraphrased) "The next time you think about posting a selfie, ask yourself the following: Am I an unmanly, attention-seeking, shallow, small-penised, sissy girl?"

That is a very good question to ask.  Unfortunately Samuel L. Jackson didn't get your memo, guys.  Which one of you Real Man's Men are going to tell him (preferably in person...oh, please make sure it is in person) that he's an "unmanly, attention-seeking, shallow, small-penised, sissy girl"?


No volunteers?

Friday 2 May 2014

Goodbye, Henrietta Findlay (A Eulogy For My Oven)

Alas, my oven has died.

Hetty: A rusty Old Bitch, but we loved her.
Henrietta (also affectionately known as "Hetty", "Skinny Bitch" and "Piece of S#@% That F#$%ing Burned my F@#$ing Bread Again!!!") was the oven that came with my house.  My first thought was "I have lived in a lot of tiny apartments and yet this is the tiniest oven I have ever seen."  She was an itty bitty 20.5" wide.  20.5 inches!!!

You cannot find an oven this small now unless it's a microwave.  We know this because we needed to find replacement parts for her to keep her running over the years and her petite size meant there were some parts we couldn't replace.  This girl was old and broken when we first met.  And it's all been downhill from there.

Eh.  I've worked in smaller kitchens.
My best guess is that she was made sometime in the 1960's.  The company that made her, Findlay's Limited, was bought out by a corporation in 1965 and then went out of business in 1972.  The only evidence of its existence online is in historical archives.  The only way to buy a Findlay stove is on Kijiji as an antique.  We were reluctant to replace her because the smallest possible oven you can buy now is about 24", so no matter what we would have to cut up our kitchen.  There is no other place to put an oven because my kitchen, much like Hetty, is tiny...though not the tiniest.

Hetty served us for ten years.  Which was approximately 30 years past her retirement age.  There were many times we thought we lost her for sure.  There was the time we lost one and then two burners on the stovetop.  But my ingenius husband managed to fix the already-broken-when-we-got-it element on the other side and we just learned to live with 2 out of 4 instead of 3 out of four.  Who needs four elements on their tiny stove anyway?  Not us.

Then there was the first time the oven shut down.  I thought that was it for sure but my husband hooked her up with some new wires and we were good to go.  The second time she died it was because I tried to clean out the oven compartment and the bottom element just disintegrated into ashes when I moved it.  I think that was the time we just moved the broiler element to the bottom of the oven and learned to live without the broiler.  Which BTW totally sucks when you enjoy making nachos, garlic bread and french onion soup.  I had to learn to sear my roasts on the stove top before putting them in to bake.

But after that she worked awesome!  In fact she was working so well that you had to reduce her temperature to about 100 degrees lower than you would actually bake at.  I burned a lot of stuff during that learning curve.  For a while I was not at all capable of baking cookies that weren't black on the bottom.

One time my husband actually salvaged an old element that would actually fit in her and for about three days we had a broiler!  Hallelujah!  But then the broiler died, never to work again, and the bottom element began to slowly die after that.  I started needing to turn the dial up by a hundred degrees hotter than I wanted to bake.  And that was the pattern for the rest of her life.  She would falter in temperature, die, be resuscitated, burn like the fiery pits of hell for a while and begin to falter again.  Keeping her alive while managing to produce decent meals began to be a point of pride for us.

I think I knew it was over for real when we had to stop keeping her clean.  I stopped cleaning the oven because any movement of the elements could jostle a wire too hard and it would stop working.  The last time I tried to clean out the stove elements I discovered that the burner pans were literally being held together by the old aluminum foil cover I was trying to replace.  She looks solid on the outside but her whole insides are riddled with rust.

We were beginning to question the safety of continuing to use this oven when she finally breathed her last.  My husband worked valiantly on her but a vital part snapped in his hands and we lost her forever.

So, Goodbye Hetty.  I'd like to say you served us well but we both know that's not true.  It makes me a little sad knowing how much you won't be missed.  My husband always felt bad about the fact that our kitchen is small given how much I love to cook but the truth is I never minded a small kitchen.  Not really.  The very worst part of my small kitchen was you.  However, I believe when I think of you in the future you will at least be remembered fondly.

But for now....MOMMY'S GETTING A NEW OVEN!!!  WOOHOO!!!  

(dances on Henrietta's rusty old corpse)

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Giving Chivalry the Shank

Last week I read this great blog post about how chivalry needs to die already.  (Check out other posts from Jenn at Something Clever 2.0, because she's awesome).

Can I hear an "Amen"?  Can you give me "Hallelujah"?

Hell yeah!

So much YES to this post.  Chivalry ranks in my top ten Things That Piss Me Off.  Not so much because it happens (bad enough but good intentions yadda, yadda, yadda), but because those who perpetrate it force it on you against your will!  Seriously!  Have you ever tried to reject an act of chivalry?  It is near impossible.

When my kids were in the stroller stage men were constantly going out of their way to open doors for me which, sure it's polite to offer to open the door for someone.  But when I told them, "Thank you, but you don't need to do that.  I've got this."  They would open the door for me anyway!  And yes, sometimes it was more than awkward and I would have gone through the door much faster without help than with it, but more than that it made my blood boil.

I felt like I was being told that not only was I not capable of handling the door but that I wasn't even capable of knowing whether or not I could handle the door. You don't know me!  Maybe I've been training for this.  Maybe I worked hard during my pregnancy to be the Formula One Race Car Driver of strollers! 

Quit stealing my Days of Fucking Thunder, asshole!

And it was like this every single time some dude was holding open a door for me.  I would literally  say "No, thank you" and they would do it anyway, sometimes with a big, shit-eating, self-congratulatory grin.  How in the fuck is it polite to do something that someone explicitly asked you not to do?  How in the fuck is that not outright disrespectful?  Grrrrrr!

So Jenn, I want you to know that your post inspired what I did today.

Today, I had to bring Frick to the hospital to see his opthalmologist.  We were waiting for the elevator and when the doors opened I indicated to the man who was waiting with us to go first because he was waiting there longer than we were.  And then this happened:

Man: "Oh no, you can go first."

My leg muscle twitched to do the automatic thing and comply even though I know it will piss me off and then I stop myself.  Why do I have to do what this man tells me?

Me:  "No, you can go ahead.  You were waiting longer."

Man:  "I must insist."

Me:  "Oh no, I insist.  After you."

Man (becoming visibly irritated):  "No really.  You can go first."

At this point Frick is already on the elevator and the doors are starting to close.

Me:  "Frick could you press the 'open door' button so this gentleman can get on the elevator, please?"

Man (shaking his head in disgust and muttering): "...have better things to do than stand here arguing with you all day."

And then he finally gets on the elevator.

I thought that after this I was going to feel guilty, like I had unreasonably thwarted someone's genuine good intentions.

I was wrong.

I felt awesome!!!

I hadn't felt this level of exaltation since the first time I successfully tied my shoelaces ALL BY MYSELF!  Instead of spending the next ten minutes resentfully wishing I had done something subversive, I actually did the subversive thing and now I felt like fist-pumping the air or doing a cartwheel.  

I knew I did the right thing because this guy was the one being unreasonable.  If he was truly being polite it shouldn't have mattered who entered first.  But it did matter to that guy.  His angst at me showed that it mattered a lot.  I wonder if he felt infantilized.  I wonder if he felt belittled.  I wonder if he felt every bit as humiliated as I was going to feel if I had accepted his act of "chivalry".

Doesn't feel so polite when it's being forced on you, does it?

So yes, I am right on board with chivalry needing to die already (Amen!  Hallelujah!  Praise Gloria Steinem!).  But I propose that we hurry things along by giving chivalry the shank.  From now on, when some "gentleman" tries to force his unwanted chivalry on me I'm going to stand my ground.

Anyone with me?

Monday 31 March 2014

Mirena: The Cadillac of IUDs (Because It Costs Almost As Much As a Cadillac)

I think my favourite part about my husband's new job is their amazing drug and dental plan.  It covers just about anything, which is great because it's looking like Frick is going to need braces.

With his last job we had to be more careful about our drug and dental spending because we could only spend X amount of dollars each year.  Also they made you pay upfront and would reimburse you after they got the prescription receipt.  Which means that the last time I was in the market for birth control I had to pick something that wouldn't break the bank.  I really wanted the Mirena IUD, which is a wonderful, magical IUD that gives you little or no period and makes your uterus smell like a spring meadow (not really).  But the Mirena costs something like $800.  

On the other hand there was the Nova-T, which is not magical, makes your period last longer (mine was 8 days long.  8 DAYS!!!), makes you bleed more heavily and makes your cramps worse. The Nova-T is a lot more like the one your mother probably used before people found out they were dangerous and gave IUDs a bad rep for a couple of decades.  But they're better designed now, they WILL prevent pregnancy and back then they only cost about $80.

And hey, I don't want to knock the Nova-T too much.  Because according to my Nurse Practitioner I should have got mine replaced about two years ago (oops!) and yet I'm still baby free.  So that's something.

When I went to go pick up my fancy new Mirena, they gave it to me like this:

They had to double bag it!

I laughed and told the pharmacist, "That's not going to fit!"

She said, "Oh, we just wrap it up like that to keep it discreet."

Discreet?  Then why is it packaged in such a huge motherfucking box?

Seriously.  Here's a picture for scale.

They crayon is for scale.  The lego is to cover my name.  The upside down is just because.

As you can see the actual IUD is smaller than the crayon.

I remember when I picked up my Nova-T that it came in a little plastic Ziploc bag.  That was plenty discreet.  When I told my husband that he laughed and called it "ghetto".  I guess this giant box is what you get when you are paying $800 for birth control.  Deluxe packaging.  I wondered what else might be inside this enormous box.  Reams of complicated instructions?  Some weird kind of applicator?  A swag bag?  I couldn't wait to find out!

Finally the day of my appointment arrived.  It had been five years since I had to worry about getting pregnant and I did not like having to worry about it again between IUDs.  Also I was looking forward to the possibility that I might be amongst the 33% of women who stop getting periods with this thing.  (Fingers crossed!)  So I wrestled my enormous Mirena box into my purse and headed to my doctor's office.

As usual the nurse handed me a giant paper towel, told me to strip from the waist down and then made me wait, half naked, for waaaaaay to long.  I started playing one of my waiting games.  I have many.  If I'm waiting for the bus I play "Hipster or Homeless?" because sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.  When I'm on the bus I play "Who's Holding the Weed?" because the buses in Anytown smell like a Cypress Hill concert and because it's always fun to pretend it's the elderly lady wearing a sock monkey hat or something.

And in waiting rooms/doctor's offices I play "See If You Can Find Dust."  Spoiler alert:  you can't.  But it's super impressive once you start really looking for it.  In this particular office there were these hanging butterflies made out of coloured nylon stretched over wire wings.  They had little fluffy pom-pom antennae.  These things should be impossible to keep perfectly dust-free....and yet they were perfectly dust-free.  Amazing!

Right when I was starting to wish she would hurry up already because it's chilly in here, dammit!  I heard the radio start playing Rick James' "Superfreak" and then all I could do was pray that she would at least not come back until the song was over because I couldn't guarantee that I would be able to refrain from laughing my ass off.  This is a delicate procedure requiring steady hands and a patient without the maturity of a 12 year old.  Since she wasn't going to get the latter I could at least try to help with the former.

My prayers were answered and just as the song was ending the nurse knocked on the door and asked to come in.  Once she got to work it turned out that my fears about the music distracting me were baseless since she kept up a steady stream of small talk, which I'm not entirely sure was better.  I hate small talk in general.  I am terrible at it.  It just provides me with an opportunity to say stupid things to a complete stranger.  It's even worse if I feel awkward or nervous as one is likely to feel when one's feet are in the stirrups.

We talked about mundane stuff like shoes and kids and then she told me to cough because I would "feel a pinch" which turned out to be a total lie because I didn't cough so much as have the wind forced out of me involuntarily.


"Are you okay?"

"That was slightly more than a pinch!"

"Was it?  I'm sorry.  Well, I guess we're not friends anymore."

When she was finished she went to great lengths to reassure me that everything went well.

"That went in sooooo easy!  Just right in there with no problems at all.  The opening was nice and wide."

Um....thank you?  It's nice to know I have such a huge cervical opening?

Aw, who am I kidding?  I bet she says that to all the girls.

As for the contents of the giant box?  Nothing but a small consumer information pamphlet.  Not even a lousy coupon book.  What a let down.

Friday 7 March 2014

Baby's First Forgery

A couple of nights ago after I got home from work, my husband called me from his job to tell me he got a message from Frick's science teacher.  He was confused as to why she would be calling him.  The school knows to contact me first as I am the parent that handles the school stuff.  The only time they call him is usually because they tried me first and I wasn't available.

He told me she was wondering about an overdue science assignment that one of us had apparently signed a note acknowledging that we knew it was overdue about a week ago.  It was still not handed in and she was wondering what was going on.  He wasn't clear on any more details than that because his work voice mail sounded like crap.

I have to admit that for a second this information worried me.  Not because there was an overdue project unaccounted for, but because I couldn't remember anything about signing a note and for one second, one teeny-tiny second, I began to wonder if it were possible that I could have signed something without realizing what it was.

This didn't sound like something I would do.  Usually when Frick hands me something from the school to sign I scrutinize it carefully to find out a) whether or not I am agreeing to something I shouldn't, like I would when signing any document, and b) what kind of trouble/problems with schoolwork Frick might have caused/experienced so that I can get into problem solving mode.

I will admit that during that teeny-tiny second of doubt I didn't want to admit that it was possible that Frick had somehow managed to take advantage of a moment of distraction to get the better of me.  Just as I was mentally preparing myself to have to admit I probably dropped the ball somewhere my Mommy-senses kicked in.

Maybe the reason I didn't remember signing anything is because I'm not the parent who signed it.  That would definitely explain why the teacher called my husband instead of me.  I asked him if he signed anything recently and he told me he has never signed anything from the school ever because that's kind of my jurisdiction.  This is when we figured out that the most reasonable explanation was that Frick had forged his signature.

We confronted Frick about all this and he caved and readily admitted to the forgery.  Later on my husband admitted to being reluctantly proud of Frick.  After all, haven't we all tried forging our parent's signature at one point or the other?  Even I have memories of painstakingly copying my parents' loopy scrawls and flourishes so that not even Sherlock Holmes would know the difference, and I was a model student.  Oh, the nostalgia!

He told me it was a shame Frick hadn't taken advantage of the forgery to hand in his assignment, otherwise we might never have found out.  I laughed and then smacked him on the arm and told him to shut up.

The next day, as per our request, Frick's teacher sent home a photocopy of the forged signature.  When Frick handed it over he was probably baffled by the fact that I started giggling.

This forgery was terrible.  Calling it a 'forgery" is a misnomer and an insult to all other forgeries.

First of all the signature was in printing, not cursive.  The writing was so obviously Frick's that is was clear he hadn't even bothered trying to disguise it.  And he hadn't even included the entire last name.  I wish so hard I could show you guys a picture of it but it has my husband's real name.  Imagine something along the lines of an extremely childish scrawl reading "Daddy R".

When I tried to imagine my husband signing cheques to pay our bills with a childishly printed "Daddy R" my giggles turned into guffaws.  Frick wanted to know what was so funny.  Wiping the tears out of my eyes I told him, "Honey, I love you but I think you just ought to stick to being honest because you really do suck at being devious. (Snert.)"

"Does this mean I'm not in trouble anymore?"  he asked, hopefully.

"Oh God, no.  You are so totally grounded, Darling Boy."

I think it is a testimony to the compassion and understanding of Frick's science teacher that she initially accepted this signature, despite some pretty serious suspicions.  She clearly considered the possibility that my husband never mastered cursive, or perhaps suffered some kind of injury that made handwriting difficult for him.

It's nice to know my kid has such great teachers.

Monday 3 March 2014

The Super-Nice, Friendly, Outgoing Lady Who Works In The Produce Section

There is this super-nice, friendly, outgoing lady who works in the produce section at the grocery store where I shop.  She is so friendly and full of energy and bubbly and happy and sweet.......and I am terrified of her.

I seem to be a natural target for her attention because I am in that grocery store almost every other day with my kids.  One of the things that super-nice, friendly, outgoing people seem to have in common is that they love kids.  And my kids love her.  So when she first started talking to me it was usually because she was talking to them.

But now that she knows me she goes out of her way to be super-nice, friendly and outgoing at me even when I don't have the kids and I can't staaaaaaand it.

It's not that I hate her or anything.  I can appreciate her super-nice, friendly, outgoing-ness as being the antithesis of assholery.  More people should be like that.

It's just that for me, having any kind of conversation with anyone is an ordeal that requires a great deal of effort and energy on my part.  While I may appear to be a smiling, friendly, talkative person I am actually desperately trying to avoid saying anything foolish.  I am desperately hoping that I won't be unable to sleep later because I can't stop replaying some stupid remark I made about someone's hair or something equally unimportant.  It's weird, I know, but it's an anxiety thang.

And unfortunately, Ms. Super-Nice, Friendly, Outgoing Produce Lady's super power seems to be having the ability to trap someone into a conversation that easily lasts a minimum of fifteen minutes.  Seriously.  I have not yet been able to politely extricate myself from her attention in under that time.  I'm pretty sure you don't have to have a mental disorder to find that annoying.

So the other night I needed to go out and buy some garlic.  I didn't have enough for a recipe I was trying and I figured I would just quickly run to the store and back.  But of course when I got there I spied Ms. Super-Nice, Friendly, Outgoing Produce Lady cheerfully stacking apples.


She wasn't looking in my direction so I quickly ducked into one of the aisles before she could see me.  I figured I could bide my time checking out next week's specials and head to the produce section when she inevitably has to bring her empty apple cart to the back of the store.

Every couple of minutes I would surreptitiously peek into her section from behind a display of potato chips to see if she had moved yet.  But damn!  She was taking forever!  How long does it take someone to stack some lousy apples???

Apparently, pretty long if that someone is trapping random passersby into conversation.

I had been in the store for twenty minutes and she was still stacking those apples, chatting away to anyone that walked by.  And it's not like she had a hell of a lot of apples.  Did she manage to sneak back and get some more when I wasn't looking?  She must have!  I had officially spent more time avoiding this woman than I would have spent talking to her.  

And it didn't seem like she was going to leave at all.   How was I going to get my garlic?   I just want to make some soup, dammit!!!

Finally I saw that she had cornered a couple of college girls and decided to take my chance.  Keeping myself out of her line of vision I crept up, snatched the garlic and hightailed it out of there.  

I'm sure it must have looked very odd on the security cameras to see a customer case out the produce section for twenty minutes, sneak in there, seize a head of garlic, race out and then promptly pay for the garlic.

Would I go through all this again just to avoid having a conversation with this woman?  Yes.  Yes, I would.  Judging by the looks on the faces of other people she talked to, I made the right decision.  Besides, I prefer to save the ordeal of human conversation for my friends and family who are already aware of how weird I am.

Thursday 9 January 2014

The Story About That Time I Went to a Nudist Resort

There's nothing quite like a polar vortex for making me wax nostalgic about....public nudity?

Yup.  Public nudity.

It's time to tell the story about that time I went to a nudist resort with some of my friends back in my college days.

How It All Started:

I think I can safely blame this one on Mummy Dearest.  You may or may not remember that I am a hippie love-child from the 70's.  This means that I grew up listening to Mummy's hippie adventures including that magical summer she met Stu, my hippie-bio-dad, while they were living in a treehouse on a nudist commune.

One afternoon in my early 20's I was sitting with my college friends telling them one of Mummy's hippie-nudist-commune adventure stories and it completely captured the imagination of one of my guy-friends.  We'll call him Pedro.

Anyway, Pedro was instantly all, "We MUST go to there!" and started bombarding me with questions.  Where exactly did this place exist?  Does it still exist?  How do we get in?

At the time it was most likely exactly what you're thinking: Pedro loved the idea of maybe getting to see all of us naked.  He was also in incredibly great shape and probably liked the idea of us getting to see him naked.

At first we didn't really take him seriously.  Sure, Pedro.  Yeah.  Let's all go have a naked picnic and laugh our asses off while we eat hotdogs.

But by the end of the week he had definite plans on going to a nudist resort he found about a half hour's drive out of town.  He tried and tried to talk the rest of us into going (I think there may have been a fair bit of begging as well) but there were no takers other than his girlfriend....

....and myself.

At first I wasn't going to go because my boyfriend at the time was not down with the idea.  He kept telling me he was worried that he would get an erection seeing a lot of naked ta-tas all over the place.  But when I tried explaining this to Pedro he practically dared me to go anyway.

"Nobody else will go, and I was counting on you!  You're the reason I got the idea in the first place!  Come on, it'll be fun!  You're not going to chicken out on me, are you?"

Nobody calls me chicken!

(Why yes, I am an idiot.)

The thing is, Mummy had all these amazing stories to tell about her hippie days and I felt it was high time to go out and make my own stories.  Pedro was handing me this golden opportunity to be publicly naked without getting arrested and I would be stupid to pass that up!

How It Went Down:

So one beautiful summery afternoon I packed a towel and two bottles of high SPF sunscreen and waited for Pedro and his girlfriend Jen to pick me up for our trip to the Ponderosa Nature Resort.  The ride there was fun.  Other than nudity we had no idea what to expect.  Pedro informed us of all the information he had got from the resort.  We had to sit on towels everywhere.  Nudity wasn't absolutely enforced unless you wanted to swim.  And if you show up to this place single, you're going to get the third degree.

Actually we didn't know about that last part until we got there.  I mean we could have figured it out by the pricing.  If you show up as a couple or a family then admission prices were significantly reduced.

When we got to the registration desk there seemed to be some confusion about me.  I was the third wheel.  The guy signing us in was clearly trying to find a polite way to ask me just what the hell my business there was until a naked guy at the bar nearby turned around and said:

"Don't you get it, Dave?  They're a threesome!"

And then everyone laughed and he put my name on the guest list.

And yes, the guy at the bar and the guy registering us were naked.  Everybody there was naked except for us and some guy who was their to repair the plumbing.  

OMG.  This plumber.

There were naked people all over the place; comfortable, relaxed and having a good time.  But that plumber dude was obviously not any of those things.  He worked very hard, intensely focused on the task at hand and diligently not looking anywhere else.  

I found this incredibly amusing.  I wondered if he understood just what he was getting into before he responded to this particular call.  Rarely have I ever seen anyone quite so absorbed in their work like this plumber.

Also?  Nary an inch of plumber's crack to be seen.

After paying our admission fees we went outside, took off our clothes, slathered on our sunscreen, making jokes about the horror of sunburnt genitals, and then made our way to the pool.  The resort was beautiful: two huge in-ground pools, hot tub, tennis and volleyball facilities (they LOVE naked volleyball) and wooded nature trails.  We ran into a few people who seemed to be going on a nature hike (they had shoes, fanny packs and water bottles).

I was surprised at how much of a family environment the place was.  There were little kids running all over the place while their parents and grandparents sunbathed.  I don't know why I was expecting some kind of swinging party to be happening but it was definitely the opposite of that.  Through conversation with people we learned that one of the reasons they screen people and set up the rates the way they do is to discourage gawkers and people coming in for inappropriate reasons.

Which, BTW, in no way discouraged us from being totally immature and giggling amongst ourselves at funny looking old man junk.  

I was also surprised at how super friendly everyone was.  Not that I was expecting anyone to be rude.  It's just that usually when you go to a resort/beach/public pool everyone just keeps to themselves.  Here, if someone happens by they greet you.  If you are sitting close by they will strike up a friendly conversation.  It was clearly a tight knit community because everyone knew that we were new to the place.  They all universally asked us if it was our first time.

That mystery was solved for us by an eight year old boy.  We were sitting in a hot tub when someone had asked us, yet again, if it was our first time.  I was in the middle of commenting on how uncanny it was that everyone seemed to know when the boy piped up:

"That's because you're cottontails!"

We had no idea what this meant so he went on to explain that a "cottontail" is someone whose butt is still white from lack of sun exposure.  The sight of a white butt is unusual to see here so it naturally attracts a lot of attention.  And since people bring their kids here they like to get to know the newbies and put their minds at ease.  But also, yes they're just very friendly people.

Stuff I Learned:

1.  Naked is a state of mind.  The only time that day that I felt naked was when we were at the registration desk.  I didn't stop feeling naked until I had taken off my clothes.  It was the weirdest thing.  I mentioned it to Pedro and Jen and they agreed.  I wondered if that plumber would have felt better if he were naked, too.  Probably not.

2.  Nudity does not automatically mean sexy times.  I already knew this to be true but my boyfriend refused to join us that day out of fear of being aroused in public.  This fear was baseless.  In reality it is one of the least sexy environments I can think of.  When you are surrounded by people of all ages, some of whom make up families, and they are universally naked it's's just NOT a sexy environment.

Also they have VERY strict rules about behaviour and etiquette at nudist/naturist (I forget what the preferred term is) resorts/events.

I have since noticed that partial nudity is way more arousing than full nudity.  There was very little in the way of partial nudity here.  Unless you consider middle-aged men wearing nothing but Birkenstocks and a fanny pack to be "sexy".

And can I tell you how awesome it was to be naked and a woman and not be sexualized by men?  Because it was pretty fucking awesome.  I was treated with more damn respect at this place with my clothes off than I ever had being fully clothed.  Which made me think....

3.  Men need to see more naked women in a non-sexualized context.  You know how once upon a time the sight of a lady's ankle might drive a man wild?  And how nobody give's a half-chubby for ankles anymore now that we see them all the time?  Because they're just freaking ankles?  Maybe this translates to the rest of the body?  Maybe seeing the naked human body as no more than a naked human body because you see lots of different ones all the time is a good idea?

                                            ♪♫♪You may sa-a-a-ay I'm a dreamer♪♫♪

4.  Women need to see more naked women in a non-sexualized context.  Because that's when we get to see what normal women look like.  Not these crazy wasp-waisted, big-boobed, big booty-ed unicorn women.  Speaking for myself, getting to see lots of different women of different ages and sizes made me feel more comfortable in my own skin.  You get to see that so-called beautiful bodies have their flaws and those which our standards have taught us are supposed to be not beautiful actually are.  I no longer felt self-conscious about my personal flaws because everyone around me has them and we are all totally okay with that.  Nobody gives a fuck and that, for a 21 year old girl, was a profound experience.

5.  There's no ice-breaker quite like being naked.  It was easy for everyone to talk to everyone else because, what the hell?  We're already naked, so what are you afraid of?  There's just nothing to hide.  I felt way more comfortable talking to naked strangers than I ever felt talking to clothes-wearing strangers.  It's a little more of an authentic experience because removing clothes also removes a lot of pretension.  Our clothes can tell people about our tastes, our socio-economic status, our professions, our politics and all kinds of stuff.  When everyone is naked together we are all just equally human and nothing more.

6.  Swimsuits are bullshit.  I found out that I love naked swimming and swimsuits are just dumb.  Being naked in the water just makes so much more sense to me.  The only reason I own a swimsuit is because the staff at our local pool said I couldn't come back there without one.

They are sooo unenlightened.

So do I still go to naked places?  Not really.  The last time I went was with Pedro and his lovely wife (he married my childhood best friend so we're still in touch) back when I was pregnant with Frack.  We had a blast but my husband didn't want to go because he's self conscious about being a wookie.  I missed him and although he told me to go ahead and have a good time it just feels wrong to do naked stuff without him.

But if ever you have the opportunity to go to a place like that then carpe diem, my friends!  You will not regret it.