Posted by: Hannah | 04/16/2014

meme Monday (on Wednesday)

I keep sitting down to write and after a sentence or two, I stall out. It’s not that there’s nothing happening… more than I’m pretty sure none of it is terribly interesting to read.

Each day has its own challenges and triumphs, some big, some small, but it’s nothing beyond what the typical family goes through, I’d guess. I’m also feeling a bit constrained online again. I’ve got moms of the boys’ friends tracking me down on Facebook. I’m having more local interactions on Twitter. I don’t know anymore who sees this blog and who doesn’t, and I find myself gazing at Tumblr and thinking YES THERE I CAN BE ANYTHING I WANT TO BE… but I’m not good at writing in a void so the first thing I’d do would be to link there from Twitter and it’s just possible that I’m not cut out to be online.

The writer’s block is bad enough that the beautiful Nicole came up with some questions for the rebirth of meme Monday – good questions – and I was paralyzed by my inability to answer them and thus did nothing.

So! Meme Monday on Wednesday. With apologies to Nicole for punking on week one.

Is it spring where you are?

It is early spring, but yes, The Long Winter is finally over. If you’ve never been to the Maritimes in early spring, and you have plans to do so, you’ll need rain boots, a lined raincoat, and some light gloves. Don’t bother with an umbrella unless it’s magical like the one Mary Poppins used – the wind really never stops blowing here from late March until mid-May, and it’s not Owl’s “gentle spring zephyr”. It’s a constant, howling, tree-branch-snapping patio-furniture-blowing toddler-toppling presence.

Today the wind is blowing steadily at 60 kph (38 mph) with gusts up to 75 kph (46 mph). Oddly, this is somehow not enough wind to blow away the thick, dense fog bank in my area. We are very close to the Atlantic coast, and the spring fogs are a sight to behold – they obscure the treetops, frizz your hair, and make headlights at noon a necessity.

We’ve also had rain. So much rain. All the rain. Now, the rain I don’t mind, actually. You don’t have to shovel it, a wet spring makes for forests that aren’t tinder-dry come August, and puddles are a fine plaything for small children. But if you don’t have decent rain boots… and splash pants… and a raincoat that actually repels water… you are going to spend a lot of time vaguely dampish, like a toad by a pond.

What we don’t get much of during a typical Nova Scotia spring is SUN. You get used to seeing forecasts that say things like “showers” or “a mix of sun & cloud” or “cloudy periods” – what they all mean is grey. Just grey, and brown leafless trees and tangled brownish yellow lawns, and mud. Grey-brown. On sunny days in spring everyone grabs it with both hands and pretends that summer has arrived. You see men everywhere in shorts. Women in short skirts and flip-flops, shivering but determined. It’s not uncommon, especially if the sun comes out on a weekend, to see people with a toque AND a sunburn come Monday morning.

So… is it spring? Yes. As long as you know what we Maritimers mean when we say “spring”.

What was the last book you read, and would you recommend it?

I re-read a lot of books, and right now I’m taking a second crack at George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons, partly because it’ll be at least another year before The Winds of Winter comes out, and partly because I had such a visceral reaction to one particular plot point on first reading that I actually threw the book across the room in a rage. (Aside: It’s a character death. Which if you’re a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire is not noteworthy, because the bitter joke is that main characters die all the time, but in this particular case it felt cheap. Not to mention frustrating, because by that point we had invested FOUR THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED PAGES of text in this character, and to just suddenly kill him off would seem to make no sense.)

Anyway, the last new-to-me books I read were Stephen King’s The Wind Through The Keyhole and the first volume of The Walking Dead graphic novel series. Wind is, in King’s words, “volume 4.5″ in the Dark Tower series; it is set between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla  in the chronology. You could read it as a stand-alone book if you wanted to; although some parts would certainly make more sense with context, it’s really a separate myth set in the Dark Tower universe and told by Roland of Gilead. I quite enjoyed it; if you’re interested in the Dark Tower but aren’t convinced you want to commit to the full seven-book cycle, I’d recommend picking this one up first, because stylistically it’s very consistent with the series and would be a good introduction. If you have read and enjoyed the series, it’s just nice to visit with the ka-tet again.

The Walking Dead graphic novel was interesting; I expected colour drawings and didn’t realize it’s all in black and white. The level of artistry and detail is stunning, but would be quite upsetting for the gentler folk among us; it’s extremely graphic and legitimately scary. I really liked it and would be keen to read the rest… but there are at current count 125 issues, and I paid $16.99 for the first one. Which I read in less than half an hour. So, I can’t in good conscience recommend it unless you are independently wealthy, have recently won the lottery, or have a friend who’s got the series and is willing to share.

Reality TV – yes or no?

Reality television is a scourge on our landscape. It exploits the stupid and the gullible, turns reprehensible people into stars, supports an industry based on cheap content that puts writers out of work, and is basically the sour cream & bacon potato chips of television.

I love it.

Feel free to tell me I’m a terrible person. You’d be right. I don’t love all reality television, by any stretch, but the shows I do watch I am sadly, guiltily drawn to. My current favourites are Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, 19 Kids & Counting (that one’s a hate-watch. I’m usually cringing in second-hand embarrassment the whole time and yet I keep going back to it), House Hunters (bonus fun: take a drink every time someone says “entertaining”, as in “we need a large open-concept space for entertaining”), and Chopped (but not Chopped Canada, because Dean McDermott is a smarmy, unpleasant person and why the Food Network decided he was the best choice to host their spinoff is beyond me).

Who is your favourite cartoon character of all time?

Oh, I’ve loved many cartoon characters – too many to choose just one. I find myself quoting The Simpsons’ Agnes Skinner a lot, as I get older. She’s just so damn crochety, irascible, mean, and cruel – she’s like the side of myself that I try to keep a lid on, given expression.

“I don’t care for cake.    Too sweet.”

Also, I will hereby confess that as a kid I had a crush on Walt Disney’s version of Robin Hood. You know the one I mean.

He’s a fox, amirite, ladies?

Do you have a song stuck in your head right now? If so, what?

Because I work with small children all day, and because Easter is coming, I have Little Bunny Foo-Foo stuck in my head. That’s so powerfully lame I kind of want to go hide.

Could be worse, though. Poor Michael has had Smooth Operator stuck in his head since the weekend, when it was played on Randy’s Vinyl Tap on CBC. He keeps trying to get it stuck in mine, because misery loves company, but so far it hasn’t worked.

Posted by: Hannah | 04/11/2014

now we are six

Dear Ron,

Well, another birthday has come and gone. You’re six. As several of my friends pointed out, you need to use two hands now to show people how old you are. It’s a big deal.

The difference between five and six always feels like a big jump to me. Since your last birthday you’ve learned how to swim, started school, traveled on a different bus to visit a friend, chosen salads instead of fries at restaurants, slept without a nightlight, and spent a summer playing Little League baseball.

Yesterday my mom said something about how you “aren’t really so chatty” and I thought my god, she doesn’t know you. Aren’t chatty? You never stop chatting. You’ve always got a story to tell, or a bad joke, or an opinion. You’re my little goofball. I saw on Twitter today that the average six year old laughs 300 times a day, and that’s you, little buddy. You’re so sunny! Occasionally your feelings will get hurt, and you’ll cry in frustration that your friends (or more often your older brother) doesn’t understand you at that moment. But the storms are always short-lived and pass quickly.

You’d rather be happy, and so it’s never hard to bring your mood back around.

For your birthday, you wanted to invite your five very best friends over for a Skylander-themed party. Okey-dokey. You noticed all the little touches I worked on. You loved having your buddies in the house. You thanked each one sincerely and graciously for the gifts they brought. You were a kind and attentive host, and I was so proud to see how you’ve come into your own.

You’re my only introverted child. You and me, in a house full of talkers and noisemakers. You understand the need to have quiet alone time. You spend it building elaborate Lego constructions. In recent months you’ve brought me a Sphinx, a pyramid, countless spaceships, castles, forts. You also like ‘making crafts’ and asked for craft supplies for your birthday. Even your super-competitive older brother says you’re very creative and better at designing stuff than he is. You have a definite knack and an eye for what works.

You’ve gotten very interested in cooking. From the kid who needed to be bribed with a sticker chart just to eat dinner only a year ago, you’ve become adventurous enough to try anything once. You still have pretty defined opinions about food, but I don’t ever lay bets on what you’ll eat. You think spaghetti is gross, for example, but you’ll cheerfully eat mussels and squid. You’ve got your dad’s sweet tooth and can’t ever get enough chocolate.

In the past week you’ve told me that you want to learn how to fish, that you’d like to wear a tie to school, that you want to grow onions in the garden and that you still don’t like mushrooms. You’ve decided that pickled beets are delicious and you are determined to learn to ride your bike without the training wheels this spring. (“I want to learn before my best friend,” you whispered.)

You really aren’t a minute’s trouble to anyone, buddy, and that’s important. Everyone who crosses your path is better for it. You brighten my every day and I love you so much.

Happy birthday.

Love, Mom

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Posted by: Hannah | 04/03/2014

now is the winter of our discontent

Thank you all for commenting on Harry’s little blog post. He’s going to read and respond to the comments this afternoon. This is great practice for him – he doesn’t enjoy writing projects in school and we hear a lot of “he’s not working up to his potential” when we get to that section of the report card – so to see him excited about writing is really gratifying. He wants to post! every! day! but I’m thinking longer pieces once a week. 

****

It’s been a rough few days.

Winter is still here. We had two snow days last week, and another one this week. Another virus is camped out over my house. Michael has a raging sinus infection. George has a bad cough and hasn’t slept more than an hour or so at a stretch in nearly a week, so he’s screamy, tantrumy, and angry all the time. Ron coughs all night. I’ve picked it up too, although I don’t seem to have it as bad (yet). All three little dayhome kids also have colds and Arthur is home sick today after a night of vomiting.

FUNTIMEZ, WE KNOWS HOW TO HAVE ‘EM.

Because it appears that winter is never going to end, ever, I have developed a certain sad fatalism about many things.

I don’t care if we spend too much on Ron’s birthday. If this is the end times, Game of Thrones-style, and summer is not coming for another decade or so, I want him to have a good time first. So he’s getting a party, and cupcakes, and presents, and everything. In the same spirit of why are we destroying our mental health working like dogs all the time if we aren’t going to enjoy it, we signed Harry up for a two-day baseball skills training camp with former Toronto Blue Jays players. And I’m going to Blissdom this fall again even though it’s really just a very expensive sleepover with my friends. Michael’s been muttering about a guys’ weekend in Montreal next winter and we’re talking about a weekend away this fall for our 10th wedding anniversary.

SPEND ALL THE MONEY, BURN THAT FISCALLY-RESPONSIBLE BRIDGE.

Don’t ask me about eating, or my weight. If I want to eat something, I do, without regard for the calories or later consequences. I wanted to try running this spring so I could get up to 5k and run with Harry, but the shoulders of the road are still packed with icy snow and the road itself isn’t much better. I haven’t gotten out for a walk with the kids in weeks because it just isn’t safe with a stroller and two prone-to-wandering preschoolers in tow.

I AM BUILDING UP A LAYER OF FAT FOR PROTECTION AGAINST COLD AND STARVATION AS WINTER GRINDS ON.

Our local weatherpeople, presumably because they are tired of finding flaming bags of poo on their doorsteps every morning, have taken to reporting the temperature to the tenth of a degree. Just now, my Twitter feed proclaimed “Current Conditions: 0.2C and mostly cloudy”. Because I am alternately filled with rage and sadness all the time now, this makes me want to reply in ranting fashion, castigating them for their stupid precision. It’s still winter, jerks. Tell me the temperature when we hit double digits.

Yesterday I finally told my Twitter friends that I have sunk back into S.A.D. depression. That I couldn’t make myself get up and prepare dinner. That the cycle for me is so entrenched now I’m not sure the return of the sun will fix it. It goes something like this:

1. Child (any child) does something they shouldn’t.

2. Hannah reacts more strongly than she should. There is yelling.

3. Hannah feels incredibly guilty that she overreacts.

4. Guilt feeds anxiety that Hannah is a bad mother who is damaging her children.

5. Anxious Hannah expresses said anxiety with anger.

6. Repeat.

Immediately, I was overwhelmed with support, and love, and cheesy song links. My friends near and far sent me messages and virtual hugs and sympathy.

Today, I’m still exhausted. We’re all still sick. It snowed last night. But I don’t feel quite as hopeless as I did.

And for that, I thank you.

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