Tuesday, January 26, 2010


LibraryThing has sucked the soul right out of my mouth, leaving me gaping, drooling and forgetting to breathe through my nose. All I do all day now is try to come up with highly descriptive tags describing the books I've read. All of the books I've read. None of this "19th century literature" for me. How could anyone possibly recall a book they've read by thinking to themselves "hmmmm, feminist literature, class struggle, Britain"?

Did you just think of 497 books that fit that description?

Now, try this one on for size:

ramparts (sod), patient enduring of torture, spontaneous dropping of eyes to the ground, the insolence of Pelagius, Pictish raiders, abundant corn leads to lying, the malevolence of demons, nocturnal emissions

Yep, that's right. The Venerable Bede. There could be no doubt, could there, not really. It's the combination of "nocturnal emissions" and "Pictish raiders" that gives it away.

Here's another:

really long walks, dreadful realism, annoying dialect, convenient head wound, books that are held to be important but are unreadable

Right? Could not be anything but The Red Badge of Courage.

Fun! Addictive! In fact, I've taken to thinking of my entire day in terms of such tags, adding another charming OCD ingredient to the mix.

Par example:

suburbanites (greying), too bad about the souffle, what's that smell? get your face off the bathmat, cornmeal (effing), no i don't want more turnip, don't say turnip, nips and tatties is a revolting expression, if i check in the toilet right now will it be flushed, grimy little hands paddling in my face, do you understand the first thing about basic kitchen hygeine, you know how long it's been since I came in to brush your teeth?, potty humour (of six year olds), scissors (not being playthings)

I think I'm just going to use this shorthand as my journalling technique from now on. Kinda just lays it all right out there, doesn't it.

Join me on LibraryThing? I'm LBV123.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Some people . . . .

. . . . never learn.

Me (on chairlift, high above snowboard trick park): What kind of moron takes his two-year-old for a walk below those kinds of jumps???

Lady on chairlift: Oh, they're just trying to take a picture of my older son.

Me: gak mph erk

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kieling over

The last time I felt that the air was too warm, too close, that there wasn't enough space to stretch, that the walls were pressing on all sides was when I visited the U995 at Laboe. Perhaps it is time to climb temporarily out of the smelly and creaky old submarine that is my scribbling career and take the dog for a walk in the winter woods.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I want this

The Arch of Neutrality: a 230-foot (70-meter) white tile-clad tripod crowned by a statue of Saparmurat Niyazov that rotates to face the sun. It's in Ashgabat, the capital of Turmenistan. For now, at any rate. The new president, Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, is not as keen on the statue as his predecessor, Mr Niyazov. I'm willing to take it off their hands. It would look fabulous in the bungalow backyard and would totally make the neighbor's 12-foot Canada goose decoy look lame.

Incidentally, a bunch of people from Turkmenistan are called Turkmens, not Turkmen. It's not like "moose," in other words. And I'm sure Turkmens are unlike moose in many ways. Just feel like I should say that in case I cause an international incident without meaning to.

Plus, how great is the name Ashgabat. I'm going to try to work it into conversation a couple of times today.

Kid, you eat that eggplant or your name's gonna be Ashgabat!
Where did I leave my Ashgabat? There's a bug in the basement.
Har, Ashgabat. Heave-to.

Anyhow, as you might surmise, the arch of neutrality celebrates Turkmenistan's UN-recognized "permanent neutrality," which is something I also would like to have made official. Although it would be better to be recognized for "permanent eyeliner" or "permanent waving."

Out the door

I have a new mantra. It works in many different situations, trips off the tongue, and gives me that tingly feeling that only radical inattention to reality can give one.

27 metric tonnes of The New Yorker back issues. Out the door!

Two bags of organic potatoes from three months ago that have organized and agreed upon a rudimentary language. Out the door!

34 mismatched grey man socks, some of which have been lonely in four countries. Out the door!

Farty coonhound. Out the door!

Six-year-old curmudgeon in weird clothes. Out the door!

Three-paragraph fables about how great a company's motley collection of SVPs are. Out the door!

Fantasies of glamorous work attire. Out the door!

Bake-sale burnt offerings. Out the door!

Middle-aged woman with eye bags/saddle bags/shopping bags struggling beneath weight of 11 overdue library books, responsibility for purchasing nutritious boy-approved lunch, persistent nagging doubts about creative life and burning desire to do somethinganythingohmyGOD about the grey.

Out. The. Door.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why I Love Steffi Lou

Two weeks after leaving to go back to Germany, she phoned to lead me on a scavenger hunt in my own basement. Where I discovered this beneath the sofa:


Monday, January 18, 2010

Hold your nose and thnk of The Empire

Currently treading upon my last nerve:
Kid holds his nose while eating dinner. The whole dinner. At first I thought it was funny and even held his nose for him while he somehow--and God knows how, poor darling--he managed to get whatever nutritious and delicious, probably organic, dinner was that night in front of him down the little red lane.

Now? I'm ready to blow a gasket.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dogs of the Renaissance

I sometimes have trouble explaining things to Kid. Like why some movies are considered G and some PG. Why some books are "Early Reader" and others very similar are "9-11s." I can't quite think of why some of the Lego pieces are partitioned off in slightly differently textured bags with more ventilation.

I wouldn't be able to explain this to him either, but thankfully he is still in Grade 1 and not really into Renaissance books of manners yet.

Revelation at the Crack of Dawn

This morning we were actually five minutes early and I realized that more than 4 other children, none of whom were racing/flailing/praying/trailing mittens as they pelted toward the soon-to-be-closed doors, go to Kid's school.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How long?

Mommy, how long will you live?

I wish I could give Kid the comfort of religion, as my parents gave it to me. Clouds and angels and harps and everybody reunited, looking their best, with great hair and the clothes best suited to their own unique but now perfected body type. And rootbeer floats for breakfast. And singing Christmas carols whenever you felt like it, because it would always be this glorious combination of Christmas and Valentine's day and your birthday. I always imagined small yellow rabbits and turquoise chicks--possibly because of the Easter displays at Chinook shopping mall when I was about 6--sleeping under mushrooms. No idea.

When asked The Big Question this evening, I simply replied that I would do my best to live to be 120. And then, just to take wholly selfish advantage of the situation, I added that certain scientists believe that sleeping in is the best possible way to stay healthy. So perhaps mommy might be granted a few extra minutes tomorrow morning, hmmmmm?

Fingers crossed. How long?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Further notes on exceptional parenting: The "Prone to Biffing" Edition

$2500 and three years into the project, we still have not convinced Kid that he will ski with us. We have purchased him pricey Mojo Spawn skis primarily because he thought the name was funny. We have allowed him to plaster his helmet with demonic goat faces because he quite enjoys the idea of looking like a radical boarder with some serious attitude. He has been bribed with junk food. We have reasoned with him. We have procured private lessons.

It's a no-go.

Perhaps it's because he saw this:

Perhaps he fears that magical pixie monkeys will snatch him mid-air.

Perhaps he knows himself to be one of those people who are overcome with the urge to jump when they find themselves in high places.

Perhaps in another life he was a sea anemone or a winkie beetle or some other form of life seriously out of place on a chairlift.

What is certain, however, is that he has now talked THREE different instructors out of making him get on that lift. He is like the tiny Saruman of the slopes.

So yesterday, after finishing up his four hours of lessons, we were not entirely surprised to hear that he had not, in fact, gone up on the chair--despite being bribed with the thing he loves best in the world: Puffles. If you don't know what those are, you are among the blessed and I'm not going to wreck that for you. So then I says to him, I says: "Well, looks like no stuffies for you." At which point, Kid falls to the snow, SCREAMING and BEATING HIS HANDS and KICKING HIS FEET and ROLLING AROUND and YELLING and RENDING HIS CLOTHES and CASTING ASHES UPON HIS HEAD.

The entire hill went silent and watched. The lifts ceased operation. The bar band stopped its hideous ruination of the Top 40 of 1976. I imagine some people thought to themselves: "Say, I've seen that woman in the mango skisuit before. Last year, she forced some poor kid to get on the chairlift when he didn't want to. Tsk-tsk-tsk." (Note to self: buy less standy-outy skiwear next year.) The part of me that is still in denial about parenthood looked on from above and muttered "Well, now, that's quite the spectacle that young man is making. I wonder which one is his mother. I bet she's horrid."

I wish I had some zinger to finish this story up with. Unfortunately, I was then and am now too tired to know what to say, what to do, which of the angry tiki gods I have pissed off this time and therefore which vertebrate to sacrifice. I turned my back and left the small screaming person to do his screaming in the presence of his father, who is dark enough of complexion not to blush furiously when humiliated in public by the complete system failure that is his (our) parenting.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Notes on Exceptional parenting

1. Last night, I held my son's nose while he ate the homemade organic butternut squash soup that I laboured over for three hours.

2. It is difficult to deliver a stern lecture on ethics to a recalcitrant six-year-old when one is dressed in long underwear, a yeti hat and pink knee-high ski socks.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The magical exploding cappuccino maker

I originally sent this letter a couple of weeks ago under trying circumstances. I've not heard back from the probably very busy people to whom I sent it, but I thought perhaps if anyone else were trolling the Internet morosely, covered in foam, perhaps that person might take comfort in knowing that he or she was not alone.

Hello there, nice person at Stone Haven Group:

I just cleaned up my kitchen. That’s probably a good thing in general, although I would have preferred to have done it at leisure and not in my pyjamas. But, you see, there was hot milk and coffee all over the walls and the floors and underneath the stove and the dog was getting into it and, believe you me, the very last thing a girl needs three days before Christmas is a giant coonhound all buzzed out on Italian caffeine.

My Mukka doesn’t work. I just have to tell someone. It either produces lukewarm cappuccino, dribbles the water down the sides (despite my having rubbed a little oil into the grooves as suggested by a consumer site), or explodes dramatically—which, while fun to watch, doesn’t result in my dream life of sitting quietly with a glorious hot beverage while reading the paper. I have a PhD, albeit not in rocket science, and I feel I am essentially clever enough to be able to do this thing, this making cappuccino thing, and yet it never works. I’ve concluded there is a magic trick involved that I am not performing. If you know what it is, or know who I can talk to about it, I would be willing to learn an ancient language, or conduct furious hand gestures, or whatever it might take. I am at That Point.

Wishing you a lovely and non-dramatic holiday season,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I just ate the last holiday chocolate for breakfast. My German tigger friend has gone back to Europe. Husband at work. Kid at babysitter. Coonhound snoring in the living room. Work emails trickling in.

Time to look back.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the things that happened this Christmas:

All hope of gaudy baubles died the day we had to install this:

And this (sigh):

Somehow, the fact that they are Santa red just frosts me even more. Hello: RUBIES ARE ALSO SANTA RED.

Moving on.

Yesterday when we were toboganning, Kid sat at the bottom of the hill and shrieked at me to come and get him and drag him back to the top. Apparently, his hands were "exhausted." I refused and after 5 minutes of yelling and wailing he trudged resolutely back to where I was waiting. Then spat out this, jabbing his little mittened finger in my chest:

"Next time, I will expect to see less laziness and more kindness."

We had to have a talk about that.

Went on a long cold walk in the woods and saw a deer, a coyote, and a voodoo mask on a tree:

Went skiing and banged my head on the lift while hamming it up for Tigger:

I used that as my excuse when I took out the Spanish first-timer, sending him cartwheeling down the mountain. He made sounds like this: "ell heeyo de poota," which my German friend said translates roughly as "oooh, you bad person."

Put together the following Lego: Hogwart's Express, 3-in-1 scorpion/tarantula/weird bug thing, and the PowerMiners Rock King (or something like that):

His teeth are green.

My nose is red, but you already knew that.

Monday, January 4, 2010

And if you ever saw it

I have just put a dear old friend on a plane back to Frankfurt and have been looking through the pictures she took while here.

I am horrified.

I have a big red nose. Like, a BIG. RED. NOSE.

I'm a kind of bipedal Rudolph, as it turns out, and no one told me. Perhaps they thought that I was a secret drinker of closet martinis. (Not so often as all that.) And here was me thinking that I was pretty well preserved for someone of my grand age: not so. It's not the grey hair (which I am always telling myself is silver)--it's that I look like WC Fields.

So now I am in search of the finest anti-red-nose cosmetics on the face of the earth. I'll even consider the shockingly priced French stuff. What I need now are options. Options, I tell you. If you have any, send them. Homeopathic, aromatic, shamanistic, mud-related, Latvian, made from civet poo: I am no longer proud.

And just in case you have never read it before, here is my favorite nose poem, for which I have new fondness. It's by Richard Brautigan.

"My Nose Is Growing Old"

A long lazy September look
in the mirror
says it's true.

I'm 31
and my nose is growing

It starts about 1/2
an inch
below the bridge
and strolls geriatrically
for another inch or so:

Fortunately, the rest
of the nose is comparatively

I wonder if girls
will want me with an
old nose.

I can hear them now
the heartless bitches!

"He's cute
but his nose
is old."