Posted by: Hannah | 04/10/2016

Ron, eight

Dear Ron,

A spring snowstorm is blowing outside for your eighth birthday. It’s a little disheartening, given that your big gift is a new bicycle, but in typical fashion you’re just cheerfully rolling with it. We can always just play a board game or something inside, you say, one of your many Lego encyclopedias open in your lap.

This past year you’ve really come into your own. You’ve stepped out of Harry’s shadow to really be your own person, and it’s been so fun to watch. You’ve insisted on having a mohawk. You’ve decided not to play baseball this summer, instead opting for, of all things, violin lessons (and as I suspected, you have inherited the musical gifts my grandmother’s family was known for).


All smiles while you learn.

You have lots of friends, and each of them calls you their “best” friend; that tells me you are very good at making people feel special and important. You make others feel good just by being around you, and that is a rare gift.

You read constantly. When you’re in the living room, you’re never without a book in your hand. You retain everything you read, and the refrain I read it in a book somewhere! is your go-to response when someone asks you where you heard a particular fact or bit of knowledge.

After years of begging for a “small pet” of your own – you were thinking hamster or guinea pig – we compromised on three zebra fish. Frank, Mary Ann, and Sally live in a small aquarium on your dresser and you care for them very responsibly. I rarely have to remind you to feed them, and you often build Lego constructions to put near the tank so they have something different to look at.

You’ve been taking more charge of our dog, too. He’s very big – he outweighs you by a good thirty pounds – but you are feeling more confident in your ability to manage him. We took him for a walk one afternoon and you said I think I’m mature enough to hold his leash now, mom and guess what? You were.

dog walk

He behaves better on leash for you, anyway.

You want to be an astrophysicist when you grow up. Specifically, a cross between Bob MacDonald and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. You like the idea of making your living explaining things to people. Every Saturday on our way home from your weekly art class, Quirks & Quarks is on CBC Radio, and you insist on listening. This past summer we vacationed in Toronto and Ottawa, and one of your favourite stops was the national aviation museum. The sections on space travel thrilled you to the core.


You’re frowning because this is your “Serious Chris Hadfield face”.

You have a very even-keeled personality. You love video games, board games, tabletop games, all kinds of games – and you rarely get upset if things don’t go your way. If you fall, you get back up. If you don’t catch the ball, you try again. You’ve taught yourself to climb reallllly high up the tree in our front yard. In just three short years you’ve gone from being terrified to get your face wet to heading into Swim Kids 4. You gamely went on the school skating trip even though you can’t skate. You always, always get back up again, no matter what. You don’t seem burdened by self-doubt, and you take risks, but not chances. I’ve never seen you try something dangerous, but you definitely push yourself to expand your comfort zone.

You are starting to show an interest in learning to cook. You’ve developed a more adventurous palate this year, too. You still won’t eat mushrooms – and I’m beginning to suspect you never will – but you love broccoli, spicy foods, cabbage & bean soup, and calamari. You’ve got a real sweet tooth, and for your birthday cake requested chocolate, with chocolate frosting, and Smarties all over it. And I want to put on the Smarties.

You sleep with a pink fuzzy blanket on your feet every night, under the sheet. You call the blanket “Stinky Pinky” and insist that you can’t drift off without the softness and extra weight.

You hate cleaning your room – what kid doesn’t, I suppose – although you love to see the finished job. You just get distracted, and most times I’ll send you off to clean it up only to find you an hour later, nothing actually done, but you putting the finishing touches on some new Lego design you’ve come up with. You always look slightly shame-faced when you’re caught, too.

You think farts are funny, but you love a good snuggle. You like to dress up in your fancy clothes, often wearing a bow tie to school, but I have to watch you like a hawk to make sure you brush your teeth properly. You’re a mass of contradictions but my easiest kid to please.

You are a bright ray of sunshine in our every day, and we love you so very much.

~ Mom

Posted by: Hannah | 04/07/2016

So many random thoughts careening around in my head this week. I’ve got the attention span of a bee in a field of dandelions.

The gym

Yes, I’m still going. Yes, I’m still enjoying it, although now that I’m over my first flush of “hey, I did it!” I am getting frustrated with myself and the wreck I’ve let my body become. I’m just not strong yet, and I knew that, but there is something humiliating about realizing just how weak I actually am. Also, my left knee is really starting to hurt – it’s an old injury, from way back in junior high, and it’s distressing to feel it acting up again. Being out of shape is one thing. Being actually hurt so you can’t do exercise A or B even though you really want to is panic-inducing. It’s “OMG what if I never can get fit again because I’ve let it get too far”. It’s scary. I’m pushing through, and if my knee continues to worsen I’ll talk to the trainer and see what suggestions he has.

Star Wars: Rogue One

The new trailer dropped today and yes, it’s freaking awesome, and yes, I’m thrilled that it once again has a strong female lead. Predictably, the men’s rights activists are out in force (heh) crying that it’s a terrible thing to be so marginalized in society. I mean, it’s really hard for them, going to an action movie and seeing a protagonist that they can’t immediately relate to because Different, And Also Vaginas.

My Badge of Honour (skip if not into baseball)

Sort-of related to the previous bit, I mentioned on Twitter yesterday that I was disappointed in John Gibbons’ comment “maybe they want us to wear dresses” when asked about a controversial call related to the new “Chase Utley” slide rule. In brief, Jose Bautista slid into second, interfering with the double play in progress, and because the MLB has made that a no-no ever since Utley broke Ruben Tejada’s leg last season he was (rightly) called out.

Gibbons, I have never much cared for you as a manager. I especially disdained your laconic Texas bullshit back during your first stint as a Jays manager. I hated watching you sprawl on the bench, manspreading like a champ, scratching your testicles for seven innings of mediocre baseball before bestirring yourself to make pointless pitching changes just to show how very important you were. Last season you seemed better – more engaged, anyway – and I was willing to give you another chance. I was even willing to give you a pass on your initial stupid comment, given that you were a) still mad; b) pissed about losing; c) speaking off the cuff. After everyone pointed out that equating traditional femininity with weakness was a bonehead thing to do, though? That was your moment to say “oops, I goofed”, not “yeah, well, my wife & my daughter said it didn’t bother them, so lighten up, 50% of the population”.

Anyway, I tweeted that I was disappointed in Gibbons and immediately a bearded dude-bro replied to me that I was a “social justice warrior [who would] ruin the world”.

I’m inordinately pleased that I’ve drawn the ire of the MRA crowd. I’m sure I won’t feel so smug about it if they start being threatening and sending me dick pics, but for now anyway it’s amusing.

We’ve Reached Peak Internet

Today was report card day in Nova Scotia, and I saw a friend post on Facebook about how proud her daughter was to get straight As. I was stunned when several people immediately posted comments about how report cards are meaningless, the system is broken, passing & failing are irrelevant, etc etc. Not one word of congratulations for the CHILD who was proud of being recognized for doing their best.

Folks, if you’ve got so much time on your hands that you can turn a proud parent giving her daughter a moment in the spotlight for her accomplishments into a rant about everything wrong with western education… well. You need to get out more, is what I’m saying.

Incidentally, my kids’ report cards were awesome – straight As on the actual academic portion, and top marks on the learner profile except, funnily enough, on the line “strives to produce quality work”, where they both scored a step down. “Those are MY children” said Michael, oddly proud yet rueful.


Posted by: Hannah | 03/31/2016

work it

At the gentle urging of my younger sister, I signed up for a 28-day fitness boot camp.

I am not someone who enjoys exercise. I’ve never had the endorphin rush. Running makes my boobs hurt. I’m super-competitive but also woefully uncoordinated and the results in a class setting tend to be catastrophic.

I don’t work up to things. I dive right in with both feet, throwing caution to the wind. I go like a mad thing until the deed is done… then as soon as I get away from the rest of the class I crumple to the floor, gasping, vowing to never again do That Exercise That Was Going To Change My Life But Is Now Terrible.

I did a spin class once. It went pretty much exactly like when Bridget Jones tried it, except in my version I limped for a week and cried whenever I had to step into my bathtub for a shower.

I’ve been down this road before, so I’m not going to pretend that this time will be different. I don’t know that. I will admit that two classes in, I feel surprisingly good. The instructors are encouraging without being drill sergeants. If you need to take a break, you just take one, and no one bats an eyelash. If they see you really struggling, they suggest mods or gentler variations that challenge without discouraging. They only want you to do three classes per week and suggest taking a walk or maybe doing some yoga on the rest days.

This is all good stuff.

This wouldn’t be a very interesting blog post, though, if I was all I started an exercise class and I think it’s going to be a good thing and the nice folks who run the gym seem very kind. This is me we’re talking about here! I sprained my ankle standing at the bus stop one day! I fell asleep during savasana and drooled on the mat when I took pre-natal yoga! In grade nine we had a field trip to a new gym and I wrecked my arms so badly trying to show off how much I could lift that I ended up missing two days of school!

What’s the opposite of a gym rat? Whatever it is, it’s me.


This is what I feel like every time I try running.

We started with a short orientation session the evening before boot camp. We thought it would be a tour and an explanation of how the routine works. It was… but it was also a quick primer of all the various exercises we’d be doing as part of the actual class. With boot camp, there is no time to explain how to do a burpee or a mountain climber.  The class starts and boom! you’re rotating through the various stations every 45 seconds, with a 40 second break after every complete circuit of the gym. I did everything at orientation, except the pushups. (I can’t do pushups. I’ve never been able to do pushups. In the 5th grade I missed pushup day when our class was working through the Canada Fitness Test; I was forced to do them in front of the whole class as a make up, and when I say “them” I mean “three”, because even though the minimum baseline was seven that was not something I could do.)

I was feeling pretty confident when my alarm went off at 5AM the day after orientation (because did I mention the classes are at 6AM? I didn’t? WELL THEY ARE. Welcome to my harried schedule where literally the only time I can exercise is before the rest of my family wakes up). My confidence lasted all the way into town and even got me in the front door.

Then, I wobbled.

Everybody else in the class already knew one another and were on a first-name basis with the instructor. They go so often they leave their sneakers at the gym! I was supposed to be there with my sister but she hadn’t arrived (I later learned she had a roaring case of influenza and could barely get out of bed). There were men in the class, too – I’m not sure why I hadn’t expected that, but I hadn’t and I was immediately wary. I forgot my water bottle in the car and my hastily-purchased sports bra had shifted position, causing my two boobs to become one tragic uniboob in the middle of my chest.

In short, I looked and felt like a total noob who was in waaaay over her head.

The music started. “Let’s warm up with some jumping jacks!” said the instructor cheerfully. Wait, I thought in a panic as I started doing my first jumping jacks in twenty years, this is the warm-up? WHAT THE HELL? Wait… wait… did he just say “now push-ups”? OMG HE DID. Now jumping jacks again! THIS IS ONLY THE WARM-UP I AM GOING TO HAVE A HEART ATTACK AND DIE.

And thus commenced 45 of the toughest minutes of physical activity I’ve ever endured… and I’ve delivered three babies. Squat lunges. Burpees. More push-ups. That bicycle leg thing that looks deceptively easy but is actually really hard to do. Squats while holding weights. Balancing on one leg while lifting weights with one arm. I was good at that one. I’ve got great balance. TAKE THAT, MAN STANDING ACROSS FROM ME. You may be lifting 50lbs to my 12 but you keep falling over so HA HA ALL OVER YOU.

At one point I felt myself fainting. Everything went dim, the music faded, and everything swam. I immediately got down on the floor and rested in child’s pose until I felt OK.

When the forty-five minutes were up, my legs were jelly. I could barely walk. There is a high step to get out the gym’s front door and I was honestly flummoxed how to manage it. Driving home was agony. When I pulled into the driveway and looked at the five steps leading up to my front door… and then remembered the additional flight of steps once inside because I bought a split-entry nine years ago like a dumbass… well. I’ve never come so close to living in my car, let me tell you.

Yesterday was ROUGH. My quads were on fire. Going up and down stairs hurt like a bitch, and I run up and down the stairs in my house all the time, as it turns out. Getting down to floor level where the dayhome kids were was agony. By day’s end I was actually howling every time I had to squat down. By bedtime I was honestly picturing myself just standing there in the next boot camp class, failing again.

But I got up this morning at 5AM. I rubbed A535 into all my sore spots and took a couple of Advil. I wedged myself into the stupid sports bra and drove downtown. I went into the gym and stretched carefully. And when the jumping jacks started again…

…I did them. I did all four circuits around the gym, moving with the group. I didn’t do as many reps as the more seasoned people, or hold my side planks as long. I used 12 pound weights for the bicycle legs and 15 pounds for the squats. I did all the arm pulls on the TRX without quitting and I even had time between gasps to chat with an old classmate of Michael’s who was taking the class.

The drive home wasn’t quite as painful. I made it up the stairs without limping. Today I got around pretty well and while my muscles still ache, they aren’t screaming in protest when I try to move. My next class isn’t until Sunday and I’m actually kind of disappointed.

So, we’ll see. My goal from this is to finish, and to increase my strength and endurance. If I happen to lose some weight too, that would be nice, although one thing I noticed about the class that I approved of is the wide range of body types on display. While there are a few of the wiry gym-types that people find so intimidating, there are also some heavier folks like myself, and then some who just seem ‘average’ but are incredibly strong. I’d like to be like that, thanks.

A more specific goal would be to complete a push-up, correctly, by the time this is all over.

I’ll let you know.



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