Put Away Your Zagat Guide, This is the Country

I grew up in the throbbing metropolis which is known for having too many people in too small a space. This leads to phenomenon such as line ups, traffic jams and general rage. The last one may just be something I have when in the throbbing metropolis but still. The upshot of this is, I line up. I am awesome at lining up. In addition, I rock at showing up early to avoid the aforementioned line ups.

The country, or the middle of nowhere, where I currently reside has lots of space and very few people. Yet instinctively, I still stick to my learned habits of showing up early and expecting a mad house to events. It’s exactly like the “Field of Dreams” where they say “If you build it, they will come” only there’s nothing built and yet I’m still standing here waiting for masses of people.

For example Santa visits. In the throbbing metropolis Santa is available all day, every day the month of December. Parents cut off their right arms to pay to meet the jolly guy and then turn sideways for the photo to hide their missing limb while underpaid youth wish them “Merry Christmas”. Families wait upwards of an hour for this privilege. This is my normal. This is what I know.

So when I found out that Santa only met twice in December, for only two hours, at what we call our local mall, I expected a madhouse. I debated the merits of the baby carrier versus the stroller in the event that we were trampled in the rush to get to Santa. I ultimately concluded that the stroller could double as an ankle battering ram as well as protection for our son. I made my husband take out fifty dollars in bills because I knew these kinds of places only accepted cash. The four of us, my husband Tex, myself, our au pair and my son had an early supper so we could be there thirty minutes before Santa arrived to line up.

Being from the middle of nowhere, my husband Tex tried to reason with me, saying the five minutes was more than enough time. But he quickly lost that argument because I’m from the throbbing metropolis- we metropolites KNOW we are right. Always.

Supper took a while. As it does with a toddler. Also I insisted on bathing our son and dressing him in a specific outfit and that everyone freshen up. Because I am unreasonable seeker of memories and a tyrant. It’s one of my best qualities. All of this prepping and unnecessary eating meant that we were only twenty five minutes early instead of thirty.

“Go, Go GO!” I shouted to our au pair as our husband dropped the three of us at the entrance so we wouldn’t waste the thirty seconds it took to park. “We’re late!” I cried. I tucked Mini-Tex under my arm like a football and sprinted for the doors slamming through them. There was no time to wait for the slow automatic door to open. We were late.

I ran past the bank and the store that sells tissue masquerading as clothing to teenagers all the way to the giant Christmas tree at the center of the mall to see… nothing. There was no one there except for the sign saying the times when Santa would appear and an empty chair.

One minute later, my husband appeared. “Excellent” he said “There’s no one here, can we go grocery shopping now?”

“NO!” I cried, “The crowds will arrive any second- we have to get into line!”

The urgency in my voice and my statement would have made a lot more sense if there had been more than you know, fifteen people in the whole mall. And by fifteen people, I mean they were all scattered either working or shopping in the stores and clearly not there to see St. Nick.

“Oooooook” said my husband in the “I’m going to leave you to this” way that he does when I get crazy. “I’m going to do our shopping and come back in twenty minutes” Then he and our au pair took off and Mini-Tex and I wandered the vacant mall for twenty minutes. Mini-Tex mauled the Christmas decorations while I was on high alert, ready to start throwing elbows and fighting the throngs of people who would inevitably appear in an enormous group to meet Santa and take up the full two hours so Mini-Tex missed out.

Just so you know, we weren’t the first ones to meet Santa. Five minutes later, at the sound of the jingle bells, a family materialized out of nowhere and rushed Father Christmas. Exactly like I predicted. Then our son had a full five minutes with Santa. I’d like to say this is because he loved Santa so much but it was actually because Santa was smitten with our au pair and tried unsuccessfully to convince her to sit on his lap. Also the whole interaction was free. Well unless you count creepiness as a price in which case Janey our au pair paid dearly.

One would have thought I learned my lesson.

But no. Last week the circus rolled into town. I was unreasonably excited the whole week. Because nothing happens here. Well not nothing, but traveling acts are few and far between. I may have shaken my son awake that morning “The circus is coming!” in an effort to make him as excited as I was.

I had the day planned down to the minute. Every moment was used to ready ourselves for the circus. I bathed. Mini-Tex had a bath. I did laundry so he would have an adorable outfit to wear. If I had owned Spanx, I would have broken those out to ensure attractive and svelte looking family photos. I took Mini-Tex to the indoor playground as soon as it opened and ran him like a tiny greyhound so he’d nap before noon.

My husband got off work early that day. As he walked in the door he shouted “I forgot my phone”. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem except that THE TICKETS WERE ON HIS PHONE. Luckily, thanks to my advance planning, my son and I were ready. So we all hopped on our bikes and cycled back across town to retrieve Tex’s phone.

This makes it sound like a gigantic, athletic debacle, but across town to the hospital where Tex works is all of two kilometers away. However the upshot of this is that we were only twenty minutes early, rather than the thirty minutes that I had planned for.

Biking back from the hospital, I resisted the urge to shout “What’s our time?” at my husband at every stop sign. I remembered the Santa Claus meet and greet. I also calmed myself by picturing a warm, sunny beach. Of course I wouldn’t be lying on it, because even in my fantasies, I realize that such a place would result in my pale skinned death. But I also imagined a giant curtained cabana that I could peek out of at said scene. In between sitting in absolute darkness.

I managed to keep my calm long enough to stop to get Mini-Tex a snack. A hotdog, because he has an obsession with the book “The Pigeon Finds A Hot Dog”. Previous to this, Mini-Tex had never shown any interest in hotdogs and I had actually thrown out two packages because my husband and I don’t eat them either. However they seem like good toddler food so I bought them.

Walking into the tent, I expected bedlam, with parents frantically throwing diapers bags and coats over the bleachers to reserve seats. Instead we were met with strobe lights, the smell of popcorn and a whole lot of empty stands. There were about ten people there.

Even with all that empty space, I was still judicious about choosing where to sit. After all, the tent could fill up at any time. We biked through the back field, so it’s possible we missed a lineup of cars all paying thirty dollars to park. I resisted the urge to walk around the entire tent in order to determine the best vantage point. Instead, I picked a side and a row a little ways up, explaining that even if people filled the rows in front; we’d still have an excellent view.

Then we waited and Mini-Tex finished his hot dog. And requested another. So Tex ran out and returned within thirty seconds with a second hotdog. Apparently not even the concession stand was busy. A handful of people trickled in. Mini-Tex demolished a second hotdog. A clown came around and took photos with all the groups. A family trooped into our section and took up the back row. I tensed up expecting a swarm of people at the last minute.

Mini-Tex requested yet another hotdog. While peering around at the empty rows, I silently vowed to write “The Pigeon Eats Kale Salad”. Then I placed the tiny Skip Hop penguin back pack on the bleacher next to me, silently cursing myself for not bringing a large bag, because no doubt when the crush of people arrived, I’d be smushed up against a large, hairy man who bathed even less often than I did. I asked Tex the time. The show was supposed to start. I scanned the entrance, expecting a stampede of people. The show did not start. Apparently the circus also expected more people.

I silently and smugly congratulated my urban self for arriving early and getting the best spot before all these late comer rural people arrived. Three more people walked in and seated themselves across the ring.

Then the show started and I conceded that I may have to stop being quite so Type A if we’re going to live here for any length of time. Well you know unless we want to be the people who show up an hour before the party starts. But nobody likes them.

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Forget Locking Up Your Daughters, You Need To Lock Up Your Washers

So a couple of weeks back, I did something bad. Not like murdering someone and tossing the body under a bridge bad, but worse than stealing Tex’s car keys so I could secretly eat Halloween candy for breakfast. (He locks our Halloween candy in the car because I’m like a devious, curly haired raccoon.) I broke our washing machine.

To be fair, Tex gave me permission to do it. Because when I held up our bathmat that had seen better, cleaner days, and asked “Can I wash this in the machine?” Tex replied “Yes”. So he’s an accomplice in the death of our washing machine. I would like you all to remember that when the Maytag police show up at my door. Yes, our son will be an orphan but at least I won’t go to appliance prison alone.

But the thing is, I’ve done this before. Not washed our bath mat, but when we were staying in the walk-in closet a couple of months ago, the place came fully furnished. Complete with a bathmat that was proving the theory of evolution every single day by spawning new and disgusting creatures for Tex and I to squish under our feet.

trash heap

(This trash heap from the The trash heap from the Fraggles was cleaner and less concerning than the walk-in closet’s bathmat. Photo Credit: youtube.com

I’m the Great Unwashed. I freely told my doctor that I only bathe once a week. I regularly let my son cover himself head to toe in dirt and then send him to daycare like a living, breathing Pig Pen. However, this bathmat was a whole different, more gag worthy version of dirty. One that I am not comfortable with.

That’s saying something.

The bathmat was so dirty that you could feel bacteria wrapping their mutant tentacle arms around your toes when you stepped on it. Like a horror movie crossed with science fiction. Had I left the bathmat as it was, it undoubtedly would have inched its way to our bed during the night and suffocated us in our sleep. It was maybe eight days away from forming intelligent life.

So I washed the walk-in closet’s bathmat. I didn’t have high expectations. In fact a part of me expected the creature to spawn in the water so that when I came back down, it would have sprouted legs and taken off with the washing machine, dryer and the random giant painting of a pear in the basement.

A better option would have been to use fire. Or even better Tex’s ray gun that he still claims doesn’t exist. Although undoubtedly Tex would deem that washing a bathmat was an inappropriate use for a ray gun. As it was, all I had was a washer. So I threw the sucker in.

It was so disgusting I may have used tongs to transport it downstairs. Then I said goodbye to the washing machine, dryer and the random painting. But forty minutes later when the cycle finished, lo and behold the washing machine was still there. And after drying- it looked like a whole new mat. Complete with a different colour! Like entirely different. I still shudder when I think about the degree of change.

The whole point of that new life form filled story was that I have successfully washed bathmats before. And also if pushed I can kill entire civilizations. But only those living on towels.

Fast forward two months when we are back at home in our house. While washing our bathmat I discovered something- bathmat washings are not like cats. Both in the way that you can’t put bathmats in the crate, spray water at them and hope for the best like my sister did once with one of our cats; more in the way that cats have nine lives and apparently a person only gets to wash a bathmat successfully once in their life.

I washed our bathmat and destroyed our washing machine.

Like completely destroyed it.

Part of me wished that I had ruined the walk-in closets washing machine because there were six other units in the building so I could have walked away and pretended it was someone else. But no, it was OUR washing machine, in OUR house and there was only one person who could take the blame.

There was water sitting in the drum. There were little bits of rubber everywhere. And I could tell that this rubber-bitty situation continued all the way through the washing machine’s innards. “Tex?” I called, inhaling deeply to mentally fortify myself before admitting my mistake, “I, um, I did something bad.”

The next three hours were my and Tex’s punishment because I had to put our son to bed by myself while Tex took apart every single piece of the washer and laid it out on our basement floor. Then he swore. And not in the normal Tex way, when he uses curse words as exclamation points. For example “It’s a &%$@ing beautiful day!”

No, this was more of an angry pirate, on a sinking ship, fighting a giant shark for his peg leg kind of swearing. I’ve never heard the word “tree” included in a curse before. Once or twice, I’d poke my head around the stairs and ask ruefully whether I could help. Then Tex would sigh, mutter another new profanity into the belly of our former washing machine and say “No, just go upstairs and never wash another bathmat again.”

It took him three hours to fix the washing machine.

Three hours.

Nothing takes my husband three hours. The man is a farm boy, engineer, doctor, black smith who knows how to pick locks. I’m not even sure his ray gun took him that long to put together. Although he swears up and down that it doesn’t exist.

And we’re getting to the worst part.

The repair didn’t work.

Well, not the first time.

Tex of course successfully ran a test load of laundry. And then I ran a load of laundry and everything was fine.

But then, oh then, my parents came to visit. Which everyone knows is a completely stress free experience for all involved, and when I washed the sheets, a little bit of water trickled out the bottom. I ignored it. Because I make bad decisions like that. Regularly. And I’ve been known to get a little splashy with the liquid soap sometimes. Also did I mention we have a two year old? I found a chunk of banana in my shoe the other day. Stuff happens. A little water can be ignored.

But then I made the mistake of doing two loads back to back. And then there was a puddle. One large enough to soak my socks if I wore socks. I brought my mother into my confidence. “You mustn’t tell Tex” and she agreed especially after I told her about the tree curse word thing.

Previously, in my life, when my butt sat much closer to my back and I didn’t have weird lines in between my boobs that may or may not be wrinkles, I didn’t do laundry often. And by “not often” I mean, I wore things three or four times until I determined that they smelled (OK, maybe five or six). I worked at many different job sites so wearing the same outfit the entire week wasn’t an issue. The point is- I am accustomed to being a little dirty. I am after all the Great Unwashed.

By contrast, Tex might as well be known as the Obsessively Cleaned. He loves washed clothes. He attacks stains with the same vigor and effort that Mr. Clean would if he showed up at your door, all bald, shiny, and grinning.  For the record it’s equally disturbing to watch.

There was only so long that I could put off doing laundry. If Tex had been away, my son and I might have gone months. I mean at some point, when the stink lines coming off my and my toddler’s body became visible, I might have sprayed some Febreeze, but then we would have been fine for another month. As it was, I got a week in before I was forced to tell Tex.

Happily, he fixed it in an hour. It’s been working since then. Now everyone knock on wood for me.

 

If This Isn’t Contraception I Don’t Know What Is

Greetings from the center of the sun. Or as I like to call it “home”. In a fit of insanity, I chose to live in a fourth floor walk-up that’s the size of a celebrity’s walk in closet. The kicker is NOT the forty steps up to our suite, no, it’s the lack of air conditioning.

So we’ve all become nudists. Mini-Tex has stopped saying “Mommy! Your pants! Find your pants!” when I walk around now. We can all just sit on the couch in a partially-clothed, over-heated heap. The newest toddler game has segued from jumping on the couch to sticking himself to the couch. Given that he was always wearing clothing before, Mini-Tex only just discovered the joy and entertainment of peeling bare skin off vinyl. A trick he repeats over and over in the way two year olds do.

For some strange reason when Mini-Tex goes to bed, my husband and I don’t find the same glee in unsticking our bare skin from the couch.

Fun Fact– Air conditioning changed the timing of babies. Previously people didn’t want to bang-a-lang when their goolies were all sweaty, so fewer babies were born in April and May. But with the advent of central air suddenly people were bumping uglies year round and there were more spring babies. True story.

Tex and I lived this fact the other night. So it was 35 degrees Celsius outside and approximately 7,000 degrees in our apartment. Mini Tex had demanded the fan be moved to the bedroom so my husband and I were left to sweat it out in a sticky, mostly naked mess on the couch. Sounds hot right?

You better believe it was. I mean I was lying there, completely motionless and yet beads of sweat still were forming under my eyes. If that isn’t hot, I don’t know what is. The couch is small, so my legs were draped over Tex. He put a hand on my knee, then moved it to my ankle and uttered the words every woman desires to hear. “Your entire body feels like a dog’s nose- vaguely moist and clammy.”

My God, it was like the trilogy of Fifty Shade of Grey right there in one sentence.

“You know,” I responded “now would be as good a time as any to experiment with ice cubes”.

“Do we have ice?”

I snorted. “This place doesn’t have a pot with handles. Do you think there’s an ice tray?”

“There are frozen peas.”

The prospect removing a package of frozen peas to cool myself was attractive, but liable to be messy given my habit of tearing into the plastic bags like a cougar ripping into a gazelle. It makes for a lot of large and oddly shaped holes, which would make for many tiny, frozen marbles on the floor. I shot down the idea “Nope. The pork chops could defrost on my stomach though.”

In the end, we stole the fan back from a sleeping Mini-Tex and lay on the couch thinking about all the celibate couples like ourselves before the advent of air conditioning.

Our Family’s Paris Accord – A Year Later

All non-hippies or those who don’t enjoy puffed bulgur and braiding their underarm hair may ignore this post.

A year and a month ago, I showed “Before the Flood” to Tex. That coupled with Trumps defection from the Paris accord caused our family to write our own Paris accord and make some large scale changes to how we live. I wrote about the initial progress a couple months in after we received our cargo trike but since then, haven’t offered any updates. Here is how we have been doing on all our environmental goals. We met every single goal on our accord except for the number of car free days.

 

Eating less beef

We have done that. Despite having cattle ranchers as relatives, we have done that, which is impressive. It helps that cousins have started raising pigs and chickens, meaning that my city slicker self has someone to turn to when we start raising our own non bovine livestock. Ultimately, we didn’t feel this change keenly.

 

Using the car less

I will be honest and say that we failed to meet our lofty goal of driving only 15,000 kilometers a year but met our lower goal of reducing our mileage by 6,000 kilometers. Most people put approximately 20,000 kilometers on a vehicle per year and the majority of families have two vehicles or more, meaning that they drive about 40,000 kilometers a year. We have one car and previous to our agreement, had been putting about 25,000+ kilometers on each year. Because of Tex’s work which required him to frequently visit the city and the distance to said major city, we ended up putting 19,000 kilometers on the car which was over a 20% improvement on the previous year. We hope to decrease that next year.

 

Car free days

Our au pair was not a fan of the bike and chose to use the stroller when it was warm and discreetly take the car keys when it was cold. Between this and the significant amount of time we spent living in the big city without our bike so Tex could receive training for his job, it meant that we had fewer car free days this winter than hoped. Our goal was 115 car free days last year. I think we had around 80. Given that we spent five and half months in a city without our bikes, I think that’s pretty good. I absolutely think we will achieve that goal this year as Tex has completed all of his training this year and will remain at home for eleven months this year.

At home, we do not use the car. Even in the winter Tex would pack up our son and ride off to the grocery store. My personal favourite example of Tex choosing the bike over the car was when he took Mini-Tex to see the Christmas lights around town. They were out for an hour and our son came back with his eyes alight and red little cheeks. Boy was he delighted. In the car, our little boy faces backwards so he rarely has the view we do and will often miss things, but on the bike, he faces the same direction so it’s more fun.

Both Mini-Tex and myself will be acquiring neoprene masks so that we can bike comfortably in the winter. This is Tex’s get up in order to get to work on the coldest of days.

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This gear could also be used in the Antarctic or on the moon. Photo Credit : Tex

I should also mention that although I have NEVER received as much respect as a cyclist as I have in our small town- people will regularly move over to the other side of the road to give me a full lane when passing, Tex did not have the same experience in the winter. The amount of snow we receive is so great that it builds up along the roads and takes up about a lane, narrowing the streets. Around about December, Tex was forced to put a pool noodle on his bike to remind motorists to give him space. Since the spring thaw, he’s removed the tube of green foam, but it is still in our shed for next winter. Tex also bikes home from work at 12 AM on occasion, so he needs extra visibility and space.

Tex’s bike’s odometer just passed 800 while our cargo trike passed 1300. If anything, I see us increasing the mileage on our bikes and decreasing the mileage on the car this year.

 

Air travel

This was a sensitive point of shame for me, as air travel is one of the worst actions one can take in terms of environmental impact. I made two unplanned trips home this past year in addition to making stopovers while en route to a conference for Tex’s work- both there and back.

My Grandma passed away in February. One trip was to see her before she died and the other was to attend her funeral. While I am happy that I chose to spend time with my family during the difficult and sad period, ultimately Tex and I have decided that the cost of the travel was far too great for the environment, a strain on our finances and caused a great deal of personal stress for our family, so we will be remaining at home for quite a while. My goal is to fly only once this year for a wedding.

 

Reducing packaging and waste

We bought in bulk this year. A lot, which was a challenge because the bulk products available in town are limited. Meaning that each time we visited the big city, on our way to Tex’s training, we would stop at a bulk store and fill up every single one of our available containers.

I am proud to say that even when we were in the city, I continued to compost. The biggest challenge was finding local hippies. Luckily there was a large garden with a composter down the street from where we rented an apartment. So I showed up one morning and asked very sweetly if I could empty my giant bag of eggshells and vegetable peels into it. Between my short stature, my high voice and my bright clothing choices, I’m often mistaken for someone much younger. So this man, whose door I knocked on, rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and silently questioned himself why a child was holding a bag or organic waste then said “yes”. Boy was I happy.

 

Increasing our dependence and support of renewable energy

The solar panels were installed at the farm last August and have been chugging along ever since then. We have discussed installing more panels when we move there to support the energy required for an electric car as well as an electric furnace.

 

No internet

This isn’t really an environmental move so much as a lifestyle move, although it does mean fewer electronics are plugged in at our home. We got rid of our internet at the end of December and I finally chucked my smartphone in February. I have not regretted either decision once. Tex has a limited amount of data, meaning that if I want to use the internet, I head to the library.

All libraries offer free wifi. All librarians are helpful. Spending more time at a library has NEVER hurt anyone ever and more than likely will result in more reading and learning.

For me personally, no internet means more space to think. My time is not absorbed by social media or random click bait that I am want to fall prey to. I’ve read more books since getting rid of the internet and my smartphone, I’ve felt like a more engaged and attentive parent. But the most creatively rewarding aspect has been the effect it has had on my writing. While I haven’t been posting here, I have been writing up a storm for other projects, a feat I’m quite proud of. Ultimately this has been an excellent choice for me, although it annoys and confounds the living hell out of my family.

I must say that Mini-Tex misses music. Any grandparents out there are permitted to buy him children’s soundtracks, or his most coveted music- the Frozen soundtrack. Aside from that, a paper map in the car has replaced Google maps, in addition to an increased sense of direction on my part.

A year later, that’s where we are. I can’t wait for the environmental goals we will reach in the coming year.

Seeking Short Term Rental- Frat House Adjacent With Live-In Poltergeist Preferred

I failed being an adult. Again. It’s worse than the time I wiped my son’s butt with one of his socks but better than the time that I didn’t change the oil in my car for six months. Tex is working in the big smoke for a couple of months and wanted Mini-Tex and I to accompany him. Thus I was charged with finding us accommodations. No small feat because the place needed

  • To be available for one and three quarter months starting May 7th
  • To be furnished
  • To be within walking distance of Tex’s work
  • Also to be in our limited price range

In retrospect, Tex should have been the one to search for housing because I choose housing based on

  1. The proximity to frat houses. My ideal living space is a soundproofed duplex with frat boys on the other side, so I can be right on top of the action. Isn’t “Baby’s First Kegger” one of the major milestones? Of course Mini-Tex wouldn’t imbibe; he’d just be the adorable celebrated mascot that the young men would nickname “Little Bro”.

 

Frat boys are the literary equivalent of living on a gold mine. They create it just by virtue of doing everyday actions, for example peeing. Most people choose to do this in the privacy of bathrooms. By contrast frat boys will take any old alleyway. Even the one that my kitchen faces.

  1. Amenities like functional plumbing are less important than say a poltergeist because how else am I going to explain who ate Tex’s lunch in the middle of the night?
  2. A self-described cheapskate, this quality is the key reason why I’ve lived in somewhat unique housing for the majority of my adult life.

As it was, Tex works full time and I am a stay at home Mom, meaning that procuring a short term rental fell to me. After a couple of false starts- no one responded to my frat house with poltergeist ad, we found a place. Tex is a fan of the apartment in spite of the fact that it’s the size of a celebrity’s walk-in closet. I mean yes, there’s a bed in the kitchen and we have to move the kitchen table and chairs one way if we want to sleep and back the other way to open the dishwasher, but first world problems – am I right? I keep telling myself that it’s training for if I ever lose my mind and embark on a train trip across Canada and have to shower over a toilet for two weeks. These are the kinds of life skills I was missing.

Also, my refrigerator Tetris skills have never been sharper, due to the fact that one of the two vegetable crispers can’t be used because the bed prevents the fridge door from opening fully. Should TLC ever pilot a show “Food Storage Wars” which chronicles the struggle of polygamous families with thirteen teenage sons trying to fit the week’s groceries into a small space, I will swoop right in like an organizational Mary Poppins, only I’d have a parachute of kale rather than an umbrella.

As much as I joke, Mini-Tex LOVES the place. He is never more than five feet from either parent. If this doesn’t cement his attachment to us, I don’t know what will. Also the “using the back of the kitchen chairs as a framework to bounce himself on the bed” is the best toddler game ever. Two year olds don’t care if they can touch three out of four walls while standing in the middle of the room, or that it was the only place available, no, the springy nature of the futon coils is what counts.

The funniest part is, I’m beginning to like the Lilliputian life. I’m trying to convince Tex that we should actually become elves and live in a hollowed out tree. We’d have our mortgage paid off in no time.

I’ll Either Gain 3,000 lbs or lose 30

The last couple of months have been, well, rotund. That’s putting it nicely. My skirts have been straining at the seams. The ones that I can struggle my way into at least. My butt is developing its own gravitational pull not unlike Kim Kardashian’s but less shapely. My stomach, which has generally been a flattish (ok not really) friend to me, became a turncoat and developed a mutinous roll to accompany my omnipresent muffin top.

Something needed to be done. For a while now. Other bloggers have lost countless pounds by recording their journey for their readers, to keep them on the straight and pizza-free narrow. But this seemed like the writing equivalent of the sixteen year old girl who calls up her boyfriend every night and lists off everything she put in her mouth that day. Alarming and so many shades of irritating.

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And then I nibbled on a plain rice cake and afterwards I ate four red jelly beans but left the purple ones because like eww. Someone once told me they’re made of Smurfs which makes NO sense because I always thought Smurfs were green. (Photo Credit meangirls.wikia.com/wiki/Regina_George)

So I was in the process of accepting my slowed thirty something metabolism and my new fatness when Tex decided he would go on his high fat diet again. Earlier this year he shed twenty something pounds while following this regimen. Out of concern for his health, I told him that I would follow the diet as well, for three months. It would mean giving up buttercream icing as a food group and no longer classifying knitting as my physical activity for the day, but I had nothing to lose. Well, except for the gravitational pull around my butt, which was raking in leaves and the odd candy wrapper into its orbit.

The Basic Tenements of this Diet

  1. People are not designed to eat processed carbohydrates

It’s why I’m beginning to resemble the cast of Wall-E or at least that’s Butter Bob’s explanation.

  1. Previously people ate more fat

A lot more. A staggering amount more. Based on what Tex is eating my only conclusion is that early man survived on mammoth blubber. I wasn’t aware mammoths were that flabby.

  1. When the body gets an adequate amount of protein combined with a tremendous amount of fat, it feels sated

Tex has done the research on this, most of his research consists of reading Butter Bob’s thoughts. And as everyone knows, random people on the internet are ALWAYS right. It’s how I know that smearing axle grease on your arms cures angina and gout.

  1. People eat too often and when they’re not hungry, eat only in an 8 hour window

Agreed. Again, the roly-poly people of Wall-E, which I myself am becoming.

 

It’s only been a week or so for me, but my conclusions thus far have been

  • Life has never been more delicious. Tex loads up salads with so much fatty dressing that I feel like my arteries will clog just from the sight of them but I’m not concerned because I’ve got a can of axle grease at the ready.
  • I don’t crave sweets or breads. Strange because I’ve spent my entire life wanting to mow down entire bakeries in one sitting. For serious, Paris for me was like one giant carbohydrate trigger.
  • I’m not hungry. Like physically can’t eat because I’m that not hungry. My entire life has been a denial of hunger. I’m the fat kid in my family with my body’s end goal being that of a large pear shape, something along the lines of James and the Giant Peach. Only I’m the giant pear. So this sense of satiation is novel.
  • The amount of butter and avocados that we are consuming is frightening. But our intake of meat has not changed.

What the Hell Wednesday- Kicks in the Pants and Hillbilly Televisions

After my most recent Storyworth post, Tex commented that he liked what I wrote but he felt that he could ask better questions, so he wrote me some. I have to admit, they’re better questions, so here are a handful.

You have been selected to participate in “The Amazing Race”. What five countries do you NOT wish to visit and who will be your partner?

When I was eleven, life was amazing because my Uncle was traveling all around the world for his job, which meant that all of his stuff including his TV lived at my family’s house. Our TV was three thousand years old and weighed as many pounds. It sat underneath my Uncle’s TV in our living room in a set up that would have been completely hillbilly if one of them was broken. As it was it was, the two TVs gave our house more of a sports bar vibe. I got to live every preteen’s dream of playing Nintendo 64 while watching Boy Meets World at the same time. This lasted for the year that my Uncle spent crisscrossing the globe. This story does have a point, stay with me.

Anyway, in all of his travels, my Uncle said that the only places he wouldn’t go were places that ended in “stan” so basically Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Iranistan, war torn, dangerous countries. I stand by that. Although I’m pretty sure that Iranistan doesn’t exist and Kazakhstan might have been the fictional country that Borat was from, but I’m sticking with that statement.

As for partners, it would have to be Sula. The Amazing Race is the most intense form of punishment I can possibly imagine for myself, after traveling for hours and hours, people are expected to eat spiders then luge down mountains? It sounds like a recipe for my death. If I was to try something like that with Tex, on the very first leg of the tour, I’d say “I’m tired I hate this, now I’m going to gnaw your arm off in a show of my displeasure.” Tex would then soothingly tell me that we should find a nice, quiet restaurant to sit down and a Westin hotel because they have excellent beds and wouldn’t I feel better after a long night’s sleep that wasn’t on an airplane?

Sula, by contrast is equal parts glamour and adventure. Also she takes no prisoners and never surrenders. We’d be about to jump out of a plane and I’d say “I’m petrified and want to go home” Sula would respond by hurling into her barf bag because she gets motion sickness then use her foot to kick my butt out of the aircraft. Next, she’d jump out after me, and yell while she passed me on the way down “I believe in you!”

Yes, I realize that all objects fall at a constant rate so Sula couldn’t pass me but she is so badass that my friend doesn’t have to obey rules like physics. Then she’d hit the ground and scale the giant sequoia with her bare hands to earn us the first place for the stop.

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I could picture Sula mowing one of these down without hesitation. By contrast, I prefer food that doesn’t put up a fight. Photo Credit newsatlas.com

A Dementor is bearing down on you, what terrible form does it take and what animal is your patronus?

The Dementor is without a doubt a manatee, aka “Terrors of the Sea”. I have an irrational fear of swimming with manatees and all of them congregating over me, thus preventing my ascent to the surface for air. It’s the aquatic version of being trampled to death by elephants. Although I’m pretty sure that the creature that inhabits closets and takes the form of your worst nightmare in Harry Potter’s world is a Boggart. Dementors force you relive the most horrible moments of your life. Undoubtedly I’d be sucked back to a date I had with a young man who kept awkwardly swatting my arm and calling me a “bad girl” in a way that I’m sure he thought was sexy but was actually just eight different shades of awkward. My patronus would be a honey badger because the name sounds sweet and you’re all “Look! A badger-how adorable!” and then it gnaws your face off.

Where All the Robot Mole People Come To Hang

Months ago, right after Tex took off for rainy Vancouver and left our au pair Janie and I all alone to care for the house, the basement started beeping. Which was quite concerning, given that basements don’t beep.

Generally my farm raised, cowboy husband takes care of these sorts of issues. He’s a dab hand at that type of house stuff. When I bring him some broken, wrought-iron patio furniture, he says things like “Oh, I’ll just weld that back together” as if it’s the easiest task in the world. Then I feel silly, because if only I had thought to break out the blow torch and stick the leg back on the chair with finesse and panache. Of course being raised in the middle of suburbia where my father hired people to put together IKEA bookshelves, I’m about eight different kinds of handy as one might imagine. Or not.

Anyway, so there Janie and I were, most likely about to be blown sky high because our house was sounding an awful lot like the bus from “Speed”. And worst of all, Keanu Reeves didn’t even bother to show up and help, so we were all by ourselves trying to figure out the reason for the beeping.

While Janie considered my theory that terrorists had driven four hours from Winnipeg, broken into our house and implanted a bomb in our basement to make a statement about how tasteless it is to have a play structure in your living room instead of a couch, ultimately, we decided that it was one of the many electronic machines that live downstairs that was making the racket.

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If by tasteless you actually mean FAB-u-luusssssss. This is best said in a singsong voice. Photo Credit: Unwashed

The difficulty was that the beeping wasn’t incessant; it was only a couple of times an hour, making it hard to locate the exact source of the noise. Within a day, we determined that it wasn’t coming from the laundry room. Janie and I had both been folding clothes when we heard the muffled beep from another room. This was reassuring because when washing machines go rogue, it’s ironically quite messy.

Eventually we determined the source – the random box in the corner that we have no idea what it does but it says in big letters “DO NOT UNPLUG!” so it seems foreboding that something like that would be acting up. After two consecutive weeks of beeping, I was done; giant capital letters or not, that electronic box was getting unplugged. While I will confess to being a harbinger of chaos and destruction, I do attempt to be a good mom most of the time- so I asked Janie to take Mini-Tex upstairs while I cut the beeping monster’s power.

Happily, there were no explosions, and Keanu Reeves once again failed to show up but I’d stopped expecting him about ten days back, so that was fine. I stood there, with the cord in my hands saying nasty words to the formerly noisy box and then because I don’t enjoy that much chaos, and didn’t want the firemen to come back, because we still had no idea what it was, so I plugged it back in. There was silence. I felt smug and slightly all-powerful for defying the capital letters and living to tell the tale. But then, it came again- BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP.

It was then that I had a brainwave- what if the mystery box wasn’t placed by aliens to spy on me and steal my secret to having skin that is prone to freckles and random allergic reactions? What if it was part of the weird alarm system that we never ever use because we’re terrible tenants? After a call to the alarm company, and resetting the entire system, for the first time in weeks there was quiet in the house. But then it came back, like raging case of herpes – BEEEEEEEEEEP.

At that point, I gave up. After all, I learned to live like a mole person in a house that 90% of the windows begin above my sightline, so what’s the harm in adding beeps to my existence? I’ll just pretend that I live in a mole-person, robot dance club that only plays one song.

 

Part Two – For Pete’s Sake This HAS To Be Someone’s Monkey! Please, If This Is Your Monkey Come Get It. It Has Fleas, Bites and Snores Like a Bandsaw During The Night. I’ll Bet You Miss It More Than Anything

 

Yes there’s a part two! EVERYONE knows that isn’t how mole person, robot dance parties end!

The mystery machine in my basement which said in big letters DO NOT UNPLUG, was still beeping a monotone song and I just decided to groove with it. The alarm company hadn’t laid claim to the plastic box. So probably the box was installed by evil geniuses who were conducting a study about how long a box could beep before the inhabitants of the house lost their minds.

The ignoring coping mechanism worked for another month, at which point I got fed up with the chronic beeping, climbed on a chair and more closely inspected our irritating electronic DJ. Huzzah! There was a website written in tiny letters, I visited the site and discovered that the mystery box beeps when the battery is low. And the box supposedly belongs to the phone company. Please note that the website did not explain the purpose of said mystery box or why it is imperative that the mystery box should not be unplugged, which leads me to believe that the government is spying on me and I need to start wearing tinfoil hats and clothing like a character out of the Wizard of Oz. The website detailed how to remove said low battery and where to take it once removed.

The battery removal instruction pictures made it look easy, but based on the images, the company had Hagrid remove the battery – whose hands measure a foot and a half from pinky to thumb? There is no way that my pinky and thumb could stretch like that. As it happened Mini-Tex was playing in the basement while I did this. It was a proud moment for me because he learned the F word in this whole process. Around the second time that Mini-Tex dropped his second F-bomb, I called in the cavalry and had Tex finish taking out the battery.

Finally, after three months of intermittent beeping there was silence in the house. I would have thrown a parade with a marching band and children playing kazoos to celebrate but there remained the problem of a battery the size of Estonia.

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See it’s a microscopic country but it makes for an enormous power source. (Photo Credit freeworldmap.net)

Anything that large needs to be recycled and responsibly. So I set off to the mall to give back the phone company what was rightfully theirs and demand a new one because at the very least if we weren’t going to use the alarm system, we would make sure that it was functional. We’re mediocre tenants like that.

“Here!” I heaved the battery onto the counter. “I believe this is yours” I said to the woman and then she looked at me like I had three heads. “Please don’t look at me like that” I begged. “I listened to this mystery plastic box beep for three months straight and I finally removed this enormous albatross from its electronic innards and taught my son the F-word in the process and now you have to take it because the website said you would and the internet never lies.”

“It’s not my monkey.” The woman replied. Actually that’s not true; she mostly looked at me with confusion, pity and a bit of annoyance because while I was saying this Mini-Tex was throwing all of the cell phone cases onto the floor. But she told me that she had never seen anything like that in her life and no she would absolutely not take it, nor did she have any idea where I could recycle it and had no clue where I could get another one. She suggested that maybe I should call the alarm company again.

Then I collapsed in a puddle of frustration and anguish. Only not actually, because I’m thirty and have a child so I had to put the 57 cell phone protectors back on the wall. But I thanked the sales associate in a way that let her know that the act of apologizing and leaving the store with the battery was stabbing my soul. And then apologized again for taking her time, because I’m Canadian.

Back to square one. At the very least, the beeping had ceased although there was a part of me questioning that if the mystery box was so clear about NEVER BEING UNPLUGGED, that it was likely bad that the elephant sized battery was sitting on my dresser rather than in its mysterious plastic home.

Once again, I called the alarm company, described the now silent box and the battery then inquired where I might get another battery and where I should dispose of this one. The alarm company was all “Sorry, it’s not our monkey, also we have no clue where to get a new one and that mystery box isn’t ours.” So since the box doesn’t belong to the phone company or the alarm company, the only conclusion is that I’m being spied on by Martians, which is reassuring because I’m fairly certain that I’ve cut the power to their planet by removing the gargantuan battery from the mystery box.

That’s my life this week in a nutshell. If I disappear without a trace, please send NASA to find me. Also, if the aliens come knocking looking for the heart of their civilization- it’s on my kitchen counter.

Man-Eating Fire Trucks, Unpredictable Horses of Satan and Other Forms of Childhood Entertainment

There’s a saying that “It takes a village to raise a child”. I firmly believe in this adage, particularly when visiting places like indoor carnivals, hence how we ended up with a four to one ratio of adults to toddlers last month. In our motley crew was; myself (obviously), Tex, my Dad and best of all Clark’s chosen godparent, my old friend Gordy.

After a visit at my Dad’s, we decided to spend the day at an indoor fair. Is there a better place for children? Rides? Check. Animatronic dinosaurs? Check. The biggest indoor playground one could imagine? Check. An endless line up of quarter and loonie operated machines to climb on? Double check.

This place is truly a child’s dream. Six months ago when I visited my Dad, the three of us had spent an afternoon at the carnival and it was fun. Unfortunately, Mini-Tex, my son is a toddler and a super cautious one to boot. Given that Mini-Tex is becoming more of a riot and more independent with each passing day, I had high hopes for yesterday. That said, my little boy darts, and also requires a fair amount of reassurance, hence the excessive adult entourage. I figured I could comfort from one side, Tex would be the other half of a toddler reassuring sandwich. My Dad could take pictures and enjoy watching and Gordy would be on hand to catch him if Mini-Tex tried to pull a toddler Houdini.

It was a great plan. Truly I was destined for the toddler mothering championships. And then we walked in; the first thing Tex, Mini-Tex and I saw was a giant animatronic elephant. Mini-Tex LOVES elephants. He adores pictures of elephants, he kisses his stuffed elephant, he enjoys acting like an elephant with his little friends at the library once a week. However, the enormous trumpeting elephant at the entrance to the indoor fair solicited a “No thank you, no thank you” when we got close. Same for the animatronic Santa wishing him a Merry Christmas.

No matter, we rushed up the escalators to meet Gordy and my Dad. My father had thoughtfully purchased ten tickets while he awaited our arrival. “Let’s go on the carousel” he suggested, anxious to start enjoying some awesome Grandpa-grandson bonding time while galloping on wooden horses. Mini-Tex likes horses because of where we live, he sees them regularly. My son even does a spot on impression of a horse’s whinny. Essentially, he’s a total horse fan. With eyes as big as saucers, Mini-Tex approached the stopped carousel. The attendant had just closed the gate but we ushered our little guy forward, eager for him to watch the ride and get in line. Then the carousel started to spin, Mini-Tex’s brow furrowed in horror as he realized what we were pushing him towards. “No thank you, no thank you” he cried scrambling to climb up my body and away from the out of control carnival ride that was clearly going to end in his death.

So that was a bust. No matter. His Daddy needed coffee so Tex and Gordy ventured off in search of caffeine while my Dad, Mini-Tex and I looked at the forty foot T-Rex which was flanked by a ten foot baby T-Rex. Ever the optimist, my Dad said “What about the hot air balloons?” During our last visit, Mini-Tex had clung to me like a terrified baby spider monkey on this ride. We got into line. No protests. We entered the ride. Mini-Tex stayed silent. We boarded our balloon and all was well. Up and away we went, spinning around and around with me using dance training skills to spot the purple slide in an effort not to puke. My Dad was delighted and pointed out dinosaurs and sights to my son.

Upon exiting, we spotted Gordy and my husband. I remembered that there was a quarter operated fire truck about ten feet away so we all walked there. I carefully explained that Mini-Tex loved these machines but only if they didn’t move. An important point for my Dad, who competes for “Grandpa of the Year” constantly, and would have loose change at the ready in no time flat.

Mini-Tex was enthused at the idea of riding his own fire truck, having seen an actual fire truck outside of our house a month ago, but unbeknownst to us, a kind stranger had deposited change into the fire truck and left it for the next person to enjoy. With wonder in his eyes, Mini-Tex clambered into the front seat, smiling an actual smile rather than the uncertain, fearful expression he had been wearing since we walked in. And then he pressed the big green flashing button, all at once the truck sprang to life, moving back and forth. Mini-Tex froze and then lunged for my arms. Desperate to help, Gordy stood by the truck touching it “It’s all right Mini-Tex, look I’m having so much fun!” When Mini-Tex was unconvinced by this display, Gordy folded his adult male sized self into the truck and rode the bucking quarter machine, “This is fun, wheeeeeee!” Best godparent in the world, right there. But Mini-Tex was still skeptical and furthermore, my son extrapolated that if THIS machine moved, all the others did too, so from then on he kept a wide berth between himself and all the unpredictable helicopters, jeeps, zebras, tigers and racecars in the event that they too began moving on their own. So that was a win.

Still, we forged on, determined to make a magical afternoon for my toddler. Mini-Tex loved watching the triceratops and brontosaurus as we made a beeline for the train. Unfortunately, the train was closed for maintenance, but just beyond the station, was another dinosaur! Win! Or a win until the dinosaur roared loudly and scared the living daylights out of our meek little boy. Again, ever the supportive godparent, Gordy started petting the dinosaur and cooing to it about how it was such a nice dinosaur. No dice, Mini-Tex was not going to be swayed- this was clearly an evil, boy-eating dinosaur and possibly the others were too.

We decided to give the carousel another try. In the face of rogue fire trucks, and vicious dinosaurs, by contrast, the carousel now seemed tame to Mini-Tex and he willingly walked onto the ride with me. My Dad was ecstatic and immediately whipped out his camera to document the entire experience. I chose, what I felt was the gentlest looking horse, and just as I went to lift Mini-Tex onto it, came the stream of “No thank you, no thank you, no thank you” before giving way to a terrified screech when his pleas didn’t work. My Dad and I sat on the sleigh. Mini-Tex clung to my front, white knuckling it for all three turns while Tex and Gordy looked on from the outside, waving vigorously each time we past, in an attempt to convince Mini-Tex that this was fun.

Last, we tried the enormous playground. Gordy was going for broke with the whole “Best Godparent Ever” idea and waited at the bottom of the slide for twenty minutes so that when Mini-Tex’s little head popped up at the top of it, he could encourage him to slide down. SPOILER ALERT- it wasn’t successful but man did Gordy try. My son actually enjoyed himself though; he met a six year old girl who wanted to be his friend. She kept shoving him aside and lightly trampling him but in the grand scheme of how his day was going- escaping death by fire trucks, dinosaurs and rabid horses, it seemed like the lesser of all the evils so Mini-Tex accepted being squished and pulled like a champ.

At this point, Mini-Tex was fading fast and using his Dad as a pillow, so we called it a day. Although the day could reasonably be called an exercise in terrorizing your child, personally I would classify the day as a success; super fun for me and I was reminded how much my family and friends love me and the lengths they are willing to go to support both me and Mini-Tex. As it happened, the next day, Mini-Tex was telling everyone about the “big, REAL dinosaurs” he saw to anyone who would listen, so it might not have been a total parenting flop.

All of the Good Bits

Some of the last words that my grandmother uttered before she wasn’t able to talk anymore were “I’m not going”. The statement was in response to her family’s attempts to put her in the hospital where she would receive an increased standard of medical care. I love this so much. This anecdote is pure Grandma- a woman who knows her mind, has made up her decision and by God you are going to respect it. That’s the woman I lived with my entire life, the one who inspired me to show that same determination. And the one who strong armed me into celebrating my marriage with Tex.

Our wedding took place on Tex’s family’s farm two provinces away from my family. There were fifteen people there, including Tex and myself. A month later, a party was planned for Tex’s entire family. I’ve been married before. Tex hasn’t. So I wanted his family to be able to celebrate our nuptials, whereas my family had already done that. Admittedly with another man, but a party is a party right? My Grandmother, who wasn’t able to attend the ceremony because it was on top of a steep hill in the middle of nowhere, was having none of this. She hijacked her own 91st birthday party and ordered a three tiered wedding cake. I was not included in any of this. I was merely told after Grandma had picked out the cake and everyone had RVSPed. Classic Grandma.

The same trip to trip Hawaii when Grandma became a boozehound, she also was a mountain climber. Just for a point of reference, my grandmother was 81 at the time and Haleakalā is 3,055 m high or 10,023 ft. for my American readers. “Dad!” my sister, mother and I cried when he brought Grandma back from their hike up the mountain together, “I can’t believe you made Grandma do that!” Looking back, I realize, there was no making Grandma do anything. Ever. Somehow, she funneled all of her octogenarian determination and hiked for hours and hours to summit Haleakalā and take the triumphant, laughing photo of herself and my Dad that’s in our family’s scrapbook. I hope I’ve got half her fitness when I’m that age.

My grandmother has always been a wildcard. Once, she drove across country with four children and her husband, a chemical engineer. My late grandfather drove most of the way and he did so in the same manner that my own chemical engineering husband completes tasks- thoughtfully, at his own pace, so that it will be right the first time. At some point in the trip, my grandfather got tired which was fortunate because my grandmother was tired too- of watching the scenery plod past her. My Grandpa laid down in the backseat and Grandma took the wheel. When my grandfather awoke a couple hours later, he was astounded at how far Grandma had driven. With four children, there are four more sets of eyes to watch for cops and four more people to silently cheer as you set land speed records with an Oldsmobile.

Despite the fact that my grandfather made an excellent wage as an engineer, he gave Grandma very little to run their household, which meant that she frequently got creative. This was how my grandmother ended up being the only woman in a refinishing and reupholstering class. She would dumpster dive to get her materials and then spend her nights sanding the wood down and pulling the fabric taut to cover surfaces. My grandma was full of ingenuity and chutzpah. Many of the pieces she refinished and recovered live in our house. When the movers transferred her furniture from my Grandma’s house to mine, they commented about the nice quality of it, some forty years later.

My sister commented today that something she misses most now is the fact that when my sister asks Grandma how she is, she doesn’t hear the words “Oh, I’m fine” in response. In my whole entire life, I have never once heard my grandmother complain. I’m fairly certain that even after she bumped her head and needed stitches, when she awoke to the firefighters peering over her, she undoubtedly answered “I’m fine” when they inquired how she was feeling. I have this suspicion no matter her state, even if Grandma was dizzy, in a huge amount of pain, with blood from the cut dripping into her eye and she would always answer “I’m fine” with that same cheer and intonation. It wasn’t until I heard Diana say this that I remembered how much I loved this aspect of my grandmother. I’m sure in the coming days, weeks and months I’ll add to the list of everything I will miss about this wonderful woman.