Friday, January 29, 2010

Another month closer

Connor is seven months old. How did this happen? It was only yesterday....

I have rounded the midway point of my inevitable return to work. Hopefully every month doesn't go nearly as fast as this one has. Hard to imagine a week ago at this time I was in a cab heading to Fremont Street... it is equally hard to not to start dreaming about where next!

I sat down thinking I would have more to say, but nothing profound is percolating. I have a Lescroart book on the go, hopefully to finish off tonight. A week ago I had a dearth of books lined up, and now I have a pile of books to read. Have I mentioned that I am glad that I have rediscovered the joys of heading to the library? The selection, the fact that I don't have to pay for a book it really doesn't take me all that long to read, and really, I have so many now, I really don't need more on the shelves (unless I deem it to be one of those books needed for future re-reads), and just being able to see what is out there. I remember all the other times over the years I have spent lots of time in libraries. Old friend, it is nice to reconnect.

So, after this one... I have one called Never Let Me Go that looks like it should be a good read.. and then I will delve in another pocket book...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Home, sweet home.

It is amazing how much one can accomplish in 48 hours without kids. It is also equally amazing how quickly you can fall out of parenting mode, only to find yourself exchanging that attitude again once you are greeted with your kids!

We had two glorious days in Vegas. I couldn't imagine us having had the chance to do more than we did. Saw the Phantom at the Venetian, it was okay, we went to the Outlets, once again, they were decent. Got myself a swimsuit out of desperation (recall one Penguin Plunge in awkward fitting and ego killing suit) and a few new pairs of shoes. I love my shoes. A balance of practical, a little edgy, and just damn cool. We went to Fremont Street and had a big shrimp cocktail (paired with a guinness, quite lovely I must say) and watched the show, we saw the Bodies exhibit at teh Luxor, which was cool in a way that is hard to describe, hung out at the House of Blues, and we saw the Lion King at Mandalay Bay.

Lion King blew my socks off. It made Phantom seem very average. Lion King was awesome. The opening scenes brought tears to my eyes, and the singing, oh la la, the singing was amazing. It was one of the top three shows "big" shows I have ever seen in my life. Wow. Every little detail was really well done and choreographed. The costumes were great, our seats were great, the characters were right on. Just magic.

We ate a little, we gambled a little, we walked a lot. We just enjoyed being us together, no kids. It was a great time to connect and do something out of the ordinary for us. Highly recommend as good for the soul.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Winter on the West Coast.

Enough said.

I lurve books.

I have a few boxes that I have ready to go to the used book store as trade ins for futures. I figure this will be a weekend trip in the next few weeks, and since I am planning to check out a new, used book store, it should be an adventure. I love the smell of old book stores, they have a life of their own. Lots of memories from being in used book stores. You never know what you are going to find - I think it is an adventure, and I never really seem to stick with the alphabet. I am all over the place as ideas and titles hit, and I attempt to chase them down.

It would be nice to have a local used book store, the ones I really like, one is in Victoria, one is Sechelt, one is in Seattle, another two are in Bellingham. Somewhat closer would be nice.

I just combined my chapters card with my mom's... and we have 6 books waiting to ship once a pre-order book is available! WOO WOO!! New books! I even got a smattering of literature (Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) to tradebacks (not as memorable titles but they are new books from some of my favourite authors) to a deck of kid's yoga poses so me and the kids can stretch! COOL!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Open letter to folks at the pool

I don't think I have spent this much time at a public pool since I was a kid. We were lucky enough that we had a pool for my teenage years (side benefit of parents running a pool and woodstove store, even if it took us three years to build said pool in the backyard... not kidding, we had one of those great gaping holes in our backyard that collected water for a long, long time) and living on the coast, there was always a lake or the ocean to go swim in.

Between Brandon going twice a week, and Connor once a week... we are at the local pool A LOT. It is a nice, new facility. I don't like where they get the parents to sit, it is like the half circle of ogling. On the plus side, they do have a huge unisex area with lots of closed change rooms with showers. I usually head here because of the lockers, and the locked in shower area, are really important when you have a three year old on the go-go-go.

My pet peeve, besides the parent watching area (which just makes you feel lame, and the only folks who really get to watch their kids are those on that first row of the half circle of ogling), would be those folks without kids that use the unisex area. Um. Hello. There are two nicely appointed gender specific change rooms you could use, why are you taking up the space that folks with kids could be using??? Nothing like standing there with a dripping kid clinging from you and your backpack full of clothes behind 2 or 3 single folks without kids. Especially folks that are just getting changed in to their suits!!! Go to your appropriate change room folks and the leave the unisex rooms for the folks who actually need them!!!

/rant over

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Words, Books, Thoughts

It's been a busy weekend, in a way.

Had a fabulous Thursday night out with one of my dearest girlfriends. We went and saw Greg Mortenson speak. It was an amazing night on a few levels, and terrible traffic on the way in to the presentation and monsoon rains didn't deter from our experience, more enriched it as only it could here on the west coast. What a humble man with an amazing vision. It is hard not be moved by what he has to say, and to agree that everything begins with building relationships (in terms of bringing change, you could say to the areas he is directing his energies towards but I think that limits his vision to a degree, or in the specific case of building schools in remote regions in Central Asia). It is also hard not to agree with how important education is, for both sexes. I am humbled at times by how grateful I am for my own education, how it has been a struggle at times, how I am still paying for it, and also the opportunities I have had, and perhaps will have in the future. How important it is to hold on to them, and to try to pay lessons and opportunities forward (that is the true power).

Part of our ticket price included a copy of his new book, and we faithfully stood in line and were the very last souls to get our books signed by him. My gal was amazed that he was a climber because his build didn't fit that of a typical climber, and that he had a different kind of physical presences. I had to laugh, because he came off in person as I would have expected him to - not necessarily comfortable in his skin, but it doesn't really matter in what is important to him. He didn't seem that comfortable in his suit, but he did seem comfortable talking to people, children especially. He spoke much of educating women, and the role that education women plays in improving overall quality of life. I think his unwavering approach and his being true to himself is his key to success and we can all take a few lessons from this graceful man. I was choked up a few times, hearing about his experiences, and the tales of wonder and woe from some of the world's most remote places.

So what do you say when you get to meet someone you greatly respect and admire and know through their writing?? Hi. Thanks. I stumbled for words, and I wonder how awkward I may have come off. I still stick by standard saying - when you are yourself, and authentic, even if you are stumbling, your sincerity does come across. I shock his hand, thanked him for being himself, and for doing what he does. Then we left for home (and a chai), a little inspired, maybe a little verklempt, and just glad.

Then out with a great big group of friends for dinner on Saturday night. I think there was at least 12 kids with us at this kid friendly restaurant. My eldest kid was doing laps of our section. Running. They were all yelling, and having a great time. I spent how many years waiting for him to run, and then he starts to run and get all flushed in the face in a restaurant (yes, he has already been running, but it is funny, he does lap after lap after lap of our big tables chasing the other 3 year old with an endless supply of energy and no time to stop and take drinks until his pizza arrived at which time it was okay to sit still for a minute or two). Timing, right? It was noisy. Nothing like having a dining experience with 32 of your closest friends.. It was fun, and I got to talk to mostly everyone. I must say, I enjoy smaller gatherings better. I want to look you in the eye and have a conversation that isn't rushed. I want a little bit of more controlled chaos, I want to bask in news, rather than feel I get to hear it, sort of talk about it, and then chase a kid down while worrying about whether or not the other one is getting over-tired and cranky. Could be the age our kids are, but I think I have shifted within myself from wanting the big noisy gatherings to enjoying a little less chaos. Who knew? There is a time and a place for everything...

And of course I have finished another book. This time it is Dunant's Sacred Hearts.I think I will recommend this one for my book club because it was excellent. It takes place during the Italian Renaissance in a fictional convent. It is about so many different elements - love, religion, politics, medicine, art, relationships, women... It was a novel read - I had never really thought about the freedom a woman could actually enjoy in a convent, but this book gave me pause and illuminated a few thoughts I have not considered before. It is beautifully written, and I was almost sad to reach the last page.

I think we have hit teething full on. Connor's lower gum is swollen, he has a red cheek, his nose his running, lots of drool, and frankly, he was a little miserable, starting from about 10 o'clock last night. Hopefully we will fare better tonight and will sleep better. So, here we are, just over six months old... Connor has not cut any teeth yet (could change) and he has an amazing amount of hair... we love to call it the party in the back. Connor can roll when he wants to, but he doesn't do it very often yet. He can sit on his own for a while, and from an incline, and pull himself up to a sit position. He is babbling, and when he is really upset, it almost sounds like he is calling for mama... he smiles a lot, and doesn't wake up crying. He watches Brandon a lot, and he loves to be up and likes the excersaucer we have for him. His eyes are still blue, and who knows what hair colour he will end up with. He loves to hold my fingers, and he is a different kind of cuddler, he wants to be up, and as close to you as he can be, but looking out. He loves to grab things, and shake things, and he has a pretty good range of motion. He has done awesome with food - no allergies have cropped up, and it seems a little hit and miss with some dinner combinations I have tried out. Apparently in our house, stew is on it's way out. Not big around here. My stew is the only food Connor gags on. Yeah. I am making all of his food from scratch, like I did for Brandon (except cereals, obviously). Connor loves to eat - he will grab food if you aren't watching carefully, it is funny! Makes Brandon seem not that adventurous when it comes to food. What else??? He is big, about 21 pounds, about 28 and a bit inches tall, and pretty healthy.

While I think about it, I should stretch this marathon post even further - at 3 and 1/2 Brandon is doing awesome. He is really TALL. And big, and strong. It is very assuring because I would be surprised to have smaller kids. Neither Ken nor I are built that way. Brandon has an amazing vocabulary, and we are working with him on the building blocks of reading, and yes, I love phonics. He still loves story time, and he is just getting in to dinosaurs. He still loves the movie Cars, but he will watch other movies, if he has too. He is still very much a poppa's boy and walks at the lake to feed the ducks is still a big hit. He is in swimming lessons, and I am going to see about going to the gym or picking up another sport in the next while. His walking, running, and jumping are coming along at a good pace, and he is pretty good about playing with other kids. Being off with me we are in our little world and play dates are huge to help keep up the social skills (not that he will ever be shy, but just in terms of interacting with other kids and playing nice.. ) He is learning preferences, and he is coming up with some great sayings... like I startled him the other day and he said to me "mom, now was that necessary?" I laughed. He is a cool kid when he isn't trying my patience. He is three, he has a lot of energy, and he is starting to push boundaries and not always act out, but just trying himself out, and expanding his own world. It is cool to see as he emerges from the toddler stage to the preschool stage and his world and his thoughts are just expanding.

Phew. I think that is enough for tonight. Once again, a book calls as the house is silent, although this one is not profound, it is escapist literature, a Nora Roberts book which are always good in a pinch for some light reading but a decent story.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Another one of those inspiring reads..

I believe grace, and sometimes understanding, comes when we least expect it. A few days ago, I finished this month's book club read...not unlike a few other times, I was a bit skeptical on whether or not I would get anything out of this book. Of course, as fate would have it, I found it to be a very powerful story. We read The Prisoner of Tehran and I am sure that this will be an interesting night when us girls get to sit around and talk about it. What a courageous novel, and what an unbelievable life to have lived through to be able to talk about! Marina is inspiring, in how she is true to herself, and how she manages to get through the darkest hours of her life.

A few passages really stood out for me. I have taken the liberty to quote a few of them here (taken towards the end of the novel, after she has been released from Evin prison and she is attempting to reintegrate in to her previous life):

"I was going to find my life and reclaim it ... I was happy to see (all my birthday guests), but there was a tangible distance between us, between the girl who had gone and those who lived a normal life. There were uncomfortable pauses in every conversation...It wasn't their fault. Everybody was polite and kind, but that was where it ended. No one wanted to know....Home wasn't the same because I wasn't the same. The comfortable, safe innocence of my childhood was lost for good."

Marina recalls speaking to an older female relative about this, and how no one really was asking her what had happened to her, and how she was truly doing - "The answer is simple. We're afraid to ask because we're afraid of knowing. I think this is some kind of natural defense. Maybe if we don't talk about it, and maybe if we pretend it never happened, it will be forgotten."

Marina reflects that "I expected my homecoming to make things simple again, but it hadn't."

It struck me that in this completely different tale, that I found a thread of what I (and my DH, Ken) experienced when Brandon went through his surgery a few years ago. It was so jarring - the few hours leading up to the event, and then the return to a different but familiar life. No one really wanted to talk to me about it, how it impacted me, how that night after his surgery was for me: that Brandon was doing really well was all that anyone really wanted to know. I remember not having to bring anything for Christmas dinner, and that everything continued on as if nothing had changed, but I had changed, I was different (I can't speak for Ken on that one, I only know me inside, and how the world shifted for me). I wasn't the same person as I was before everything happened. Now, years later, and many experiences later... I have grown in to this new woman. Not totally different, not really the same. I see myself as having gone through fire and have come through stronger, and at times more vulnerable than before. This afternoon, before writing this, I was working on Connor's baby book, and I look at the four of us, and I am blessed. Our story that is unfolding and changing all the time. It has taken me a long time to reach the place where I am talking about things, and I am moving forward. I thank my core family unit, in each of their own ways for that. The Don is a charming, smart, funny little boy. C-man is a cool baby whom has been a real joy, and Ken is my rock, my island in the storm. In the midst of it all is chaos, but in the chaos, is the calm. Somewhere in the middle is us.

In a nutshell, read the book. I found compassion, empathy, and inspiration and I am really glad that it was suggested as a read. One of the really positive aspects of my book club are the books we choose. I don't know how many I would have grabbed if they weren't book of the months for us, but I am grateful for the journeys the stories have brought me on.

It seems I haven't posted a lot this January, but each time I have it has been a novella.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Winter O, eh?

With weeks to go, I find it somewhat ironic that we are in the middle of a typical deluge of rain, and it is hovering about 12 degrees out there. I find it somewhat bizarre that we are to host the winter event here on the west. Winter, what winter? Ah yes, that weird event we experienced last year for a few months and that seems to happen once you pass a place called Hope, ironically enough.

I find it truly bizarre that we were reminded how to be nice. Er, okay. Have you met Canadians? We tend to bend over backwards to be nice... Okay. Maybe not all of us, we do have that slightly nasty east side drug problem... but we survived Expo well enough, I am sure we will do fine this go around.

I just wonder if the visitors truly know what to pack for - ah yes, the Great White North. Must have heavy clothing, gloves, toques... nope. You need a gortex jacket and some funky rainboots. I have no plans to get even close to the city for a long while. Yesterday was my big foray in to the big city, and the end of my girly weekend. My mom and I went and saw a play, and it was excellent... my mom was excellent too!! I can't even post a post whinging and whining and venting. It was a great weekend. Nice thing was, the boys were good for Ken too!!

No wait, I think the month of January is going to be something of an aberration for me - I have our trip to look forward too (almost counting down the days) and I have a book reading to go to this week, I went to a play, I have book club.. some really awesome stuff on the go.

On a totally different note, I am also doing pretty good with my attempt to stay on top of the kitchen and housework... There has been some chaos, a few lunches that didn't get made, but all in all, it is HELPING to stay on top of things rather than let them go and look forward to a three hour marathon clean. I just have to remind myself of this when I have a bad day, or I am barely functioning from lack of sleep.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

a taste of things to come...

It has been one of those Saturdays. A night of chaos sleep patterns between the little'uns, and then up early to get C-man out for his first swimming lesson. He was a total rock star and took to water like a fish. All smiles, splashed around, and I even dunked the poor kid. Both kids are officially now in swimming lessons so we are at the pool three times a week. Woah!

After swimming, it was shower the little one, run home, me shower, get both kids together and off to a birthday party. All girls, except my boys. It was pretty cool - got to watch Brandon bounce around in one of those blow up castles, and he did really well running around. A friend's mom who hasn't seen him in over a year said it was like watching a miracle when she saw him walk in to the play room. Made my heart go all twitterpated (yes, that is a real word, somewhere) because we just do every day, and it is nice to hear a comment from someone who hasn't seen him in a while and to know that it is a vast difference from where he was a year ago. I am so proud of my boys - and with Brandon, his will, his smile, his heart. He just goes, and does, and rolls with it. He is a sensitive boy, he is caring, and he is also very strong and generous. We got there, he grabbed the party girls hand, and away they went. He didnt' need me. How cool is that?? Even when it is a part of letting go, it is still a wonder to behold as your kids start to circle around you instead of being glued to your hip.

I am having what I would consider a really "girl" weekend... last night I got out for dinner with the Fabulous Mel and my sistah from another mother, Nej, and it was just divine. We shopped a little and then we ate well. Damn. A fine evening. No kids, adult talk... verra nice. I even get to see Nej again tonight! You know times have changed when hanging out, having dinner together, and just chillaxing is the way to go.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

wooden spoons and a bag of doritoes

The other night making dinner, I learned something new about my second child. For 30 minutes of amusement, just add a bag of unopened doritoes and a few wooden spoons, and he is a happy camper! Ah, the bliss of just being able to make dinner while the littlest one is completely occupied. Says something about all those toys you end up buying... you don't need fancy schmancy, you just need something a little noisy that they can grab on to!

It is really cool watching Connor develop. He can now sit for long stretches of time, and unlike Brandon, everything, and I mean everything is going straight in to his mouth. He does raspberries, and he blabbers to himself, and like Brandon, he is a happy little dude. A maternity leave spending time with my boys is pretty damn cool. There is a world of difference in me between the first time around and this time around. I am not so wound up, I hope I am better at going with the flow, and I still miss my full income paychecks. I nearly fell over in shock when I hit the grocery till the other day. I am a good shopper, with a pocket of coupons and the totals still shock me. It isn't like we are going to town and having steak every night, we have pretty reasonable tastes and yet it the money still seems to flow like sand through your fingers.

I just finished the latest Slade book, Red Snow. Damn it all if I don't have to wait until Slade finishes penning the next installment. It was a page turner. This one took place just before that big event that is happening here on the west coast, and the snow was definitely soaked in spilled blood. Part social commentary, part police novel, part thriller... I really enjoy these books, especially having followed the characters through 13 novels. I have read them completely out of sequence, so at some point I will go back and read them in order so I don't have to scratch my head seeking out some arcane knowledge from a past book.

Of course, once this book landed in my hands, out went the PD James book (actually with a gleeful laugh I chucked it down the hallway). That one was a slog. I had only made it through the first quarter, and the end was looking a long way off. I have no idea if I will go back to finish it. Yes, the language is beautiful - lots of big pretentious words and descriptions... but the pacing of the novel left a fair bit to be desired. I don't know if I am up to it.. especially since after a visit to the library I have my next book club read, The Prisoner of Tehran, and then the newest Sarah Dunant book lined up... I suspect that this book will be left in my reading dust.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Not quite resolutions

Once again I have been meaning to post something profound, or in the very least prolific to reflect upon the last year so I would have something to look back on and at least trigger some memories.

2009 was a year that I wanted to start to push my comfort zones. I have pickled, I have made my own soap, and I have rediscovered the joys of reading, knitting, and female friends. I have started to use my slow cooker, and have discovered some great new recipes. I now try different things when I bake - it isn't just apple pies and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies anymore. I have two kids. We saw Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens and both were incredibly cool. I went in to a wild hot springs beside a glacier fed river and did run back and forth between the two. I like my job and feel good about going back to work when my maternity leave finishes. I am striving to find balance in my life and it isn't getting easier, but I am starting to get better at it.

Did I mention we are going to Vegas in a few weeks, without kids? So I guess that will be pushing my comfort zone.. Connor will be barely 7 months old and we are going away for not just one night.. but two!!! I can't wait. Last year we made it to Bowen for a night, and it was wonderful. I can't wait to get away for two whole days, out on the town, seeing the sights. It will be good for us to be the big kids and seize the day rather than taking care of the kids. Oh, I am sure I will miss them, but in a healthy way as we get everything we can out of time away!

I don't quite believe in resolutions, but I believe in goals. Verbalizing them helps make them a reality, in part because you have put them out there in to the universe. This year I want to get a little bit better at housekeeping. Especially about the kitchen. I am a messy, messy cook. I create some pretty good meals and baked goods, but I can really destroy the kitchen and cleaning up my own messes suck. I need to get better at cleaning up as I go, and not avoiding the dishes when I have a free minute to just take care of a corner of it.

I want to continue the path I am on reading wise - trying out new authors, persisting and reading some of those books I bought long ago because I thought they would look good but never got around to reading, and being open to more new ideas. Except those parenting books. I don't need the guilt that seems to come along with a lot of those. Yes, some stuff you need to research, or ask questions about, but so much of child rearing is love and common sense.

I'd like to fit in more exercise to my life, as I work on ensuring my kids are as active as they can be. To appreciate the balance between computer/tv (for all of us), downtime, playtime, and time outside. This time next year I would love to be 15 pounds lighter. There. I said it. It is possible. We just seem to have way too many sweets still kicking around from Christmas and they are always tempting. But this is good practice right - I do believe in everything in moderation, and trying to stick to homemade. That we still baking and chocolate kicking around means we haven't eaten it all already! Truly, it is about moderation. Which comes back to balance. Funny how that it is.

At the end of the day, I just want to be a better me. Staying on the path to self enlightenment, battling my own inner demons, putting my best foot forward - for myself, for my husband and kids and family, for my friends, and then all of the other circles as they ripple out away from me. Hell, even for the cats. I think New Years and birthdays are time for reflection, to at least take a moment and appreciate where you have been and where you are going. I think I am starting to wax poetic here and look - here comes a tangent! I am reading my first PD James novel... it is a slow start but I am intrigued with how it will unfold. Of course I checked out reviews online, and it seems like you don't find a lot of middle ground in reviews - like most things, the folks who loved or hated an experience (etc) are the ones who generally talk about it.

Two posts in one night... with my track record must mean I won't be back for a few days (laugh at self inserted here).

Well hello there 2010

It wasn't until I started looking at my various pins collected on Polar and Penguin plunges on New Years Day that I realized that it has been five years since my last glorious dip in to freezing water. I was on a hell of a streak between 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 . . . until once again, in 2010.

A few years have been bloody cold - wild winds, rain, snow, and just damn cold. For some reason, this felt like the year to get back at'er and do the plunge. Since the last time, I'm now married, have two kids, and things are on a similar but different track than before. I also figured it was a nice way to bookend the decade. In 2000 I went to English Bay, and yes, that was quite the experience. I had sambucca in a flask and smoked a cigar afterwards. It is a crazy run there in to the water, and you do feel a bit like a spectacle since thousands of people turn out to watch the 2000 or so hardy souls who do the plunge here. A few years we went out to Deep Cove to do the plunge. Nothing like hanging out on some rocks to make your run in and out in a truly beautiful setting. It almost felt colder, being able to look at the mountains and see the snow up close and personal.... this year, it seemed like other plans and ideas did not pan out, and I figured, here I live on the wet coast, and still haven't done a plunge close to my home community.

This year I did. Got there with a few minutes to spare, donned my lovely pink robe, and waited for the run in. The lovely organizing folks even added some ice cubes to the water to ensure that things were good and cold (ha, ha). I ran down the ramp, and then stood there, waist deep in the water. It wasn't bad. In fact it was quite refreshing. I looked around and then figured I should just go ahead and get the rest of me wet, so I did. Then I nonchalantly strolled out of the water. It was great. I am really glad I did it this year. Before I went in, I figured it could be one of my last times doing it.. coming out, I am psyched to do it again next year! Wash away the year, the decade, and start from scratch.

The one down side is that I saw pictures of myself in the bathing suit I was wearing. Oh my. I need something a little more flattering than that. The color is about the only part of that suit that is appealing. This prompted a quick trip to a local store to try on a new suit since they were on sale. Yeah, there goes my ego. Thank god my husband thinks I am sexy because the suits I tried on did nothing for me. Almost as bad as the one I wore to the swim... I need a new suit. Quick. Swimming lessons start up again this week!!!