Posted by: Hannah | 09/16/2014

book 1, chapter 11

You know, summer is not conducive to blogging. At all. After last winter’s frigid temperatures and never-ending tenacity that dragged me into the Slough of Despond with tentacles of road salt and broken shovel handles, I was determined not to waste a single minute of warm, sunny weather.

I didn’t waste very damn much! But I was also seldom around my computer for long enough to compose a sentence.

With less than three weeks to go until Blissdom Canada, it seems silly that I haven’t been posting much. Also my traffic seems to be up again, for no reason that I can determine, so hey! content would be good!

And that brings us back again to Hannah Reads Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Confession time – I just spent an hour writing a recap of Chapter Ten. I thought it was pretty good. I posted it. And WordPress added a “2” at the end of the title… meaning there was already a post called “book 1, chapter 10″… oh please don’t tell me… yup. I wrote a recap twice. TWICE. Sigh.

However! We can’t let a little thing like that keep us down or make us question the very life choices that brought us to a point where we can write an entire short essay and then completely forget about it. We must forge ahead and trust that the highly-organized mind we once possessed will return when the children leave home.

Chapter 11 – Harvest

Pa and Uncle Henry are trading work, because that’s How Shit Got Done in pioneer times. Very sensible. They travel to each other’s farms, with their families, to work on harvesting and shocking the oats. (‘Shocking’ involves tying the oats into bundles and then stacking the bundles in such a way as to help shed the rain.) The Ingalls family head to Uncle Henry’s house, and the girls are excited to spend the day with their cousins, including Charley, the eldest at eleven.

“At home, Pa had said to Ma that Uncle Henry and Aunt Polly spoiled Charley. When Pa was eleven years old, he had done a good day’s work every day in the fields, driving a team. But Charley did hardly any work at all.”

Rain is threatening, and if the oats were not cut & shocked before the heavens opened all the grain would be spoiled. Pa & Henry decide that Charley will have to forgo his life of leisure for the afternoon, and act as their helper in the fields. He’d be fetching water and the whetstone to sharpen the scythe blades. That’s it. Even I know that’s not very damn much. Charley ought to be able to handle that, surely!

But Charley has other ideas. He is not the grand help that Pa & Uncle Henry figured he would be. In fact, he goes out of his way to be a nuisance. He gets in the way of the scythes. He hides the whetstone. He follows them around asking questions and isn’t prompt with the water jug. When that just gets him ignored, he steps up his game by hiding in the oats and screaming as if in terrible pain.

He does this three times, laughing like a damn asshole every times, and when Pa says later “if he had been Uncle Henry, he’d have tanned that boy’s hide for him, right then and there” I have to agree. Sack up, Charley. You waste time today and this winter all of Henry’s lifestock will starve and they might have to go all Donner Party on you.

The fourth time Charley starts screaming, Pa instructs Uncle Henry to ignore him. After listening to him scream for quite a while, they finally decide to check on him – and it turns out he actually was in trouble, because he’d stepped in a yellow jacket nest. “He was jumping up and down and hundreds of bees were stinging him all over. They were stinging his face and his hands and his neck and his nose, they were crawling up his pants’ legs and stinging and crawling down the back of his neck and stinging. The more he jumped and screamed the harder they stung.”

Take that, Charley. The universe will punish your lies. In fact Pa actually says “served the little liar right” and I don’t know quite how everyone thinks Pa is all soft and lovable. Clearly he’s a bearded madman.

So Charley is sent unceremoniously back to the house, covered in hundreds of stings. Aunt Polly and Ma strip him down, cover him in mud, and wrap him head to toe in sheets. Look at this picture, which haunted me as a child and still gives me the squicks. Look how those children of the corn are just standing around gazing at him!

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This chapter isn’t about the harvest. This chapter is a morality tale about being a Useful Engine.

Next chapter – The Wonderful Machine.

Posted by: Hannah | 09/02/2014

post-Pixie

Today is the first day without Pixie.

Louis is taking it hard. Really hard. This is not a kid that deals well with change. At all. We’ve been through this with him many times before. Depending on how big a change is involved, he can be a mess for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Consider this: Pixie has been a near-daily constant in his world for half his life. Her leaving to be replaced with an adorable interloper (more on him later) is rocking the foundations of Louis’ self-perception.

And so, for the moment anyway, Louis is acting out in some of the worst ways possible. He’s having toilet accidents and then lying about it. He’s screaming at the other kids when they don’t ‘share’ the toys (‘share’ in this instance meaning ‘give to Louis right away and then scram’). He’s refusing to help clean up his messes.

This has been going on for a week already but it really escalated today. So… we wait. And try to be patient while also not letting him think that this kind of behaviour is OK.

For me, sans Pixie… things are quieter. Daisy is suddenly talking a lot more, presumably because she can get a word in edgewise. Yes, there have been screaming tantrums, but there hasn’t been any backtalk, sassy behaviour, or bossiness. And lunch was over in 20 minutes instead of dragging on for over an hour. I am seeing how much of the tidying up was done by Pixie, though. And she was my most enthusiastic participant in circle time so that was a bit of a bust this morning.

It’s going to be an adjustment for all of us, clearly. I’ll be curious to see how Pixie reacts to me when we see her at preschool next week.

Now, as for the new guy!

He’s 14 months old. He’s got very fair hair and not much of it, so he looks bald. He’s got bright, inquisitive eyes and is very tall for his age. He walks fairly well as long as he doesn’t stop to think about it; he suffers from a bad case of Looney Tunes gravity, because as soon as he realizes he’s walking he falls over. He likes his milk warmed up and he doesn’t like different kinds of food to touch one another.

He snuggled happily in my lap with his blankie for a couple of songs before his morning nap. Put him down in a strange room still awake and he just… went to sleep. Not a whimper. He woke up and babbled, when I was expecting him to wake up and panic.

He’s super-cute. He’s going to need a blog name eventually but I want to get to know him a little better first.

His parents are some kind of dream clients. Mom is a teacher. They have tons of family support including relatives who are volunteering to take the little guy for a day here and there to give me a break. ME! Bless their hearts.

All in all I’m very hopeful about it, especially since it all came together very quickly. Pixie’s parents gave me official notice on a Monday morning and by that Thursday afternoon it was all sorted out.

Wish me luck for the rest of this transition week!

Posted by: Hannah | 08/27/2014

working 9 to 5

It’s no secret that I’ve been burned out on the dayhome gig for months now.

Pixie makes things challenging more often than she doesn’t. Harry and Ron resent my total unavailability during business hours – even when they’re sick, they are quarantined away from the dayhome kids with all the TV they can watch & checked on regularly, but Mom doesn’t get to sit nearby and smooth the hair away from their fevered brows, or anything. George is learning all kinds of behaviours I don’t approve of, like hitting, screaming, and throwing toys. 

Half of our house is full of toys & books that we keep for the dayhome. The garage is packed full of bicycles, tricycles, wheely toys and strollers. If I want to take a personal day, like for Blissdom next month, I have to give a month’s notice and wave bye-bye to a day’s income. 

I’ve been struggling with it. And wondering why I do this to myself. And thinking of stopping now, not when George starts school in 2017.

So – I’ve been keeping on eye on the job postings in Halifax. I applied for a few back in the spring, and never even got a PFO letter. I had pretty much given up when a job came to my attention for an executive assistant in a small consultancy-based office; or, to put it another way, exactly the same job I had in my pre-kid life. I applied, on a whim, on a day when each & every child in this house was setting my teeth on edge and when I had only three days left until vacation.

Imagine my shock when I got a call the next day asking me to come in for an interview. On the first day of my vacation. When I was scheduled to be leaving for Cape Breton bright and early with the family.

But. I managed it. I got my sister and Miss Clairol to come help me deal with my horribly-uneven sunstreaked / old grey mare situation. I rummaged out my business casual clothes from Blissdom last year and (happy surprise!) realized they were all too big. I printed off my resumé and the job description they sent me and reviewed them.

Driving in to downtown, I remembered why I hate working downtown. Traffic! and not that much, because summer, but still – TRAFFIC. And parking! Holy god it costs HOW MUCH to park downtown for an hour? And I had three panhandlers ask me for change on my half-block walk to the office. And a flying rat seagull nearly shat on my head.

I found the office without too much difficulty. Really lovely space inside one of Halifax’s historic buildings. Lots of natural light. Plants everywhere. Smiling lady at the preternaturally-tidy desk. I took an offered glass of ice water and sat across from her in what was clearly the boss’ office for the interview.

What followed was the strangest interview I’ve ever been on. If this interview were a horror movie, she would be the Grizzled Old Man Who Warns Our Heroes to Stay Away from the Creepy Abandoned House. She spent five minutes asking about me and my experience, and the remaining forty minutes giving me “what would you do if…” scenarios that all pointed to one important fact: apparently, her boss is a raging control freak, and she was trying to warn me so I could escape before it was too late.

So what did I learn about my new potential boss?

  • He’s a control freak TO THE MAX. He doesn’t like to see papers on desks. Not even someone else’s desk. You can’t listen to your own music choice at your own desk, but nor can there be silence – you must have light jazz playing at all times throughout the entire office, every day. (“Can I turn it off or down if I’m doing something that requires a lot of concentration, like reconciling the books?” NO.) He refuses to allow invoices to be created in Simply Accounting, preferring instead to create them himself in MS Word – at which point his assistant has to input all the data into Simply anyway.
  • He is a glad-handing man who is the public face of the company but he actually makes his assistant do the lion’s share of the work. Case in point: he was not in the office or present at the interview, but since it’s a two-person office wouldn’t it make sense for him to meet the candidates? 
  • He’s set in his ways. See: not using Simply Accounting to produce invoices. Or his bookcases, which looked fake because all the books & binders were colour-coordinated and so even with the shelf edges it made me itchy.
  • He’s not kind. “He’s the one who writes the cheques,” she said to me at one point, “so what he says goes.” Um, yes, probably. But what an odd statement to make during the interview.
  • He doesn’t inspire loyalty. “How long will you be staying to train your replacement?” I asked. “Oh, I’m not staying to train anyone!” she replied. “I’m owed a week’s vacation and the new person will start then.”
  • Every moment working with him seems longer than the one before. “How long have you been in this position?” I said. “Three years and nine months,” she replied, without hesitation.

By the time I left, I had pretty well made up my mind that I couldn’t work there, even if I did get offered the job. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t.) I mean… light jazz????

Anyway, I then had two whole weeks of vacation to think about it. To remember that working outside the home presents its own set of challenges. To imagine organizing child care for all three kids. To picture myself at the beck and call of a boss again, after years of running my own business and (largely) calling the shots. 

To miss all the little moments that I get to participate in with my kids while they’re young and still not embarrassed to be seen in public with me.

The whole experience refocused my purpose and my energy. I sat down and really thought about what I needed to make my life now work better for me. I took some steps to make that happen. I made my peace with the notion that this is my life, and that just because some days are rotten doesn’t need to make me think the whole thing is beyond redemption.

So. That’s been my adventure in job searching. My first day back from vacation, Pixie’s parents gave me notice (it had been hinted at, since they don’t actually need me anymore thanks do a downsizing action that left her mom 20 weeks pregnant and out of a job). By mid-afternoon I’d posted ‘space available’ notices everywhere I could think of, and started beating the bushes of contacts I’d made over the summer. By bedtime I had an interview scheduled and it looks like I’ve got a replacement all lined up. If everything goes as planned I won’t lose a single day’s income. 

From a professional standpoint, it’s been very gratifying. So, Crazy Man Who Loves Light Jazz, thank you. I may never have actually made your acquaintance, but you’ve helped me more than you will ever know.

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