metro mama

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Metro Reco: Life on the Refrigerator Door

As you know, I’m a big fan of concise writing, so when I heard about a book comprised entirely of post-it notes, you’d think I’d have been excited. Well, not so much. The literary snob in me was very sceptical about the whole concept.

I was wrong. Again. (I should be used to it by now).

I read life on the refrigerator door in one sitting, in about half an hour. Consisting of a series of notes between a single mother and her teenaged daughter, the entire story takes place in less than a year. Telling so much with very few words (and telling as much by what it omits) the story is gripping, the characters real.

It’s a bittersweet and stirring little book. I’m glad I gave it a chance.

I’d like you to give it a chance too--I have five copies for the first folks to email me at metro[underscore]mama[at]hotmail[dot]com. (Sorry, just Canada!)


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Home for a Rest

We’re home for a day before we take off again for the North (I have an orientation to attend tomorrow, breaking up our week of holidays. Figures). We’re going to spend a few days with my sister-in-law, relaxing by the lake.

As usual, we had a good time in Kingston. Cakes is now calling McHotty’s parents “grand buddy” and “that guy”.

We’re trying to give Cakes, and ourselves, lots of time with her grandparents before they leave for a big trip. They’re gone for eleven weeks, spending time in Turkey, southern Italy, and over a month in India. They’ve been doing some very adventurous travel since I met them—I hope we’re half as active at their age.

Speaking of travel, we’re still hoping to go to Italy in the spring, where we will likely start project Number Two. We want to cover lots of ground, and drink lots of wine, with as little stress as possible (meaning no car). So we’re looking at tours. Can anyone recommend an operator? I’m looking for something like this one with Contiki. Has anyone used Contiki?

Any advice would be appreciated!

Have a fab long weekend everyone.


Many thanks to Kyla for this:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Street Party

As you all know, I have fabulous neighbours, and we often enjoy a few cocktails with the guys next door. We can see Cakes’ bedroom from their patio and plug in her monitor outside, so we can happily have a babysitter-free adult evening.

We also have neighbours across the street we love, a cool couple with a daughter Cakes’ age. We do lots of play dates during the day, but both our kids go to bed early, we don’t have childcare, and we can rarely get together in the evening. Well, my smart friends have solved the problem. Last night McHotty was working and I was on my own. I had just finished my dinner of PC Indian and Dave’s Honey Brown (Loblaws should be paying me for this) and I was planning to work on my blog all evening (yes, I’m that much of a loser), but they gave me a call and suggested we drink beer on the front porch. They have a high-powered baby monitor, and their daughter’s bedroom faces my porch. We pulled a couple of chairs outside, along with a bucket of cold beer and a bowl of chips (in my ‘hood we fit right in). We were soon joined by a couple more neighbours, some tunes, and a bottle of rum. Good times. Why didn’t we think of this sooner? And the summer’s almost over!

In MBT news, we are very happy to welcome Mama Tulip. She’s writing a new feature, an advice column called Ask Mama T. Mama T has answers for your most pressing problems. Go on over and give her a warm welcome.


Friday, August 24, 2007

What I've Been Up To

I have been trying to make the most of these last weeks of summer and the wee hiatus in my studies to catch up on some fun. I had a decadent day on Tuesday: shopping for fall clothes in Yorkville (don’t get excited—I didn’t make it past the Jacob basement), lunch with a friend, and a Harry Potter matinee. I liked The Order of the Phoenix. Ralph Fiennes is a very scary Voldemort, despite the overdone face, Helena Bonham Carter is wicked as Bellatrix Lestrange, and Imelda Staunton is sickeningly sinister as the ultimate evil bureaucrat, Delores Umbridge. I liked how they handled the climax, sparing us the sentimentality I loathe so much.

Yesterday we made the trip to my hometown to visit the folks. Cakes loves visiting her grandparents now, it’s so sweet to see her getting excited when we tell her she’s going. They all spoil her rotten too. My mom had some of her favourite foods: watermelon, chocolate cake, smoothies. We learned that Cakes’ language “delay” is all an act. She was outside on the deck and overheard my mother ask if I wanted some cake. This child of nouns, babble, and grunts piped up right away, clear as a bell, “I want cake too”. She just needs a little motivation.

My father is spoiling her too. Her favourite animal now is the donkey and he actually managed to find her a stuffed donkey that sings “Who Put the Bomp” (seriously—and we had to listen to the fucking thing the whole ride home).

As usual, I managed to forget to pack a few things. We went to do the last diaper change before we left for home and guess what I didn’t pack enough of. Yep, I had to MacGyver a diaper out of a maxi pad and a swim diaper. Seriously.

Blogging will be sporadic for the next week or so. Sunday we’re off to Kingston for a few days. Then McHotty’s parents are coming here, and we’re heading to North Bay by ourselves for a few days. I plan to laze around, drink beer and read the new Harry Potter (finally!)

How are you spending the last days of summer?


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Island Retreat

We'd been planning to take Cakes to the Toronto Islands all summer, and the season almost got away from us. We finally made the trip last week, and I'm so glad we did.

The city's soon left behind with just a short ferry ride. The ferry alone was a big adventure for Cakes. Surrounded by many other small shining faces, she excitedly watched sailboats skimming by and planes taking off.

Once we reached the island, we diverted from the streaming masses headed for Centreville, and strode straight for the north end of the island, where there was barely another soul. [more]


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Shopping Maniac

Cakes likes to choose her own clothing now, especially when it comes to shoes and hats. This would be charming, except for one thing: she has hideous taste.

I never used to bring her shopping, but after twice buying shoes and having to return them because they didn’t fit, I’ve resigned myself to having to bring her with me, at least when she requires new footwear. Our shopping expeditions are becoming more and more stressful.

This week she needed new running shoes. We go to Winners, which Cakes just loves. Since she won’t stay in her stroller, I set her loose and she makes a beeline for the shoe section. This girl LOVES her shoes. When she gets to the shoe isle, her eyes widen, she starts to salivate and before I know it she has kicked off her sandals and slid on some sparkly purple espadrilles, ladies size 8. She clomps along happily, and I coax her to the children’s aisle. While I look for cute sneakers that aren’t pink she finds some orange sequinned sandals with which she replaces the espadrilles and is ready to head for the clothing section (she knows the routine).

“Cakes, we’re not buying those. You need running shoes. Please, try these, they’re cute.”

“Nooooo, buddy!”

“Honey, please”, beseechingly.

[Emphatic shaking of head, followed by stomping off towards the clothing aisle.]

McHotty and I wrestle her to the ground (yes, it takes two of us to buy our daughter shoes) remove the tacky sandals and try on the cute sneakers. Thank god they fit.

We head for the clothing, and on the way Cakes snatches a Barbie suitcase. Fine. I let her run up and down the aisle with it while I look for pyjamas for fall. In the space of three minutes, she manages to snatch a white cowboy hat and a giant Bugs Bunny (why does she gravitate towards brands when she doesn’t even watch any TV?) Next thing you know, she’ll want a fucking Dora backpack.

More than ready to leave by now, I head for the checkout, first having to wrestle away suitcase and rabbit. I was going to give in and buy her the cowboy hat, but the ever sensible McHotty distracted her with a cracker and we were able to dump it before we reached the cashier.

Do you take your kids shopping? Any tips for me?

As you can see, her mother shares her tacky taste in footwear.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Heart, Melted

Cakes is not just becoming more loving towards her little friends; her new, sweeter nature is even being extended to me!

For the longest time, I haven’t been getting any physical affection from her, even at bedtime. She’s even stopped sitting on my lap for her night-time stories, preferring to sit on the floor at my feet. Tonight we finished stories and I, sitting in the rocking chair, scooped her up and gave her a big hug. To my astonishment, she hugged me back. I gave her a bunch of kisses; she took out her soother and gave me a big sloppy smack on the lips.

I told her I loved her, then said, as I do every night, “can you say ‘I love you, Mommy’?”

And you know what? She smiled at me, and said, clear as a bell, “love you buddy”.

I melted.

She then proceeded to cuddle with me for ten whole minutes! This may not sound like much to you, but this is seriously exciting. I haven’t had ten minutes of cuddling since she was two months old, except for that time she was sick.

I’m pinching myself.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Sugar and Spice and Finally Nice

A while back I wrote about how I was concerned about Cakes’ alpha-babe tendencies. She had a nasty habit of pushing the other kids around, stealing toys, and generally being a big arse in social situations. I was actually a lot more concerned than I let on here. I hoped it was just a phase. I tried everything to change the behaviour, even actually following through on threats to leave the park. But Cakes’ quest for world-domination persisted, for months. I knew I wasn’t alone: I knew other moms with “assertive” daughters. Yet I was worried and even a little ashamed.

So, if you’re going through the same thing, you can relax. It is a phase, and they do grow out of it. Look! Photographic evidence!

Yes, that’s Cakes and WonderBaby, holding hands. And just a short year ago they were beating each other up in the park. She is even sharing her toys and, gasp, offering snacks to her friends!

I’m really relieved things have changed before she starts preschool. And maybe now I’ll get invited on a few more play dates: now there’s only one arse in this mother-daughter duo.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A New Balance

I’m starting my program full-time in just two weeks and Cakes is going to be cared for by someone other than family for the very first time. She’ll be going to preschool three days per week.

I thought this big transition would be a source of more blog fodder (and maybe it still will), but to be honest, I’m not very torn up about it.

I love the preschool we chose. It’s new and bright and spacious. Cakes thrives in a routine, and loves to be with other children, especially older ones (she’s going to skip the toddler room and go right to pre-school rather than have to move in a few months). It’s family run and we really like the lady in charge.

I think it will be good for her on so many levels. I truly think it will help her speech development being around other kids so much (they’ll force her to use her words to be understood). She’s starting to love arts and crafts and I’m just not very creative when it comes to that stuff. They make their own food there, and I’m pretty certain it will be better than what I make (I sure hope so). I think she needs more than I can give her and I hope she’ll get it there.

I also think this is going to be very good for me. I don’t think I could handle another winter of full-time parenting. It’s one thing during the summer when you can be at a different park every day, but keeping your toddler (and yourself) amused indoors all winter is a challenge indeed. I admire SAHMs and childcare providers so much, they have the toughest job in the world.

I’m so thankful I’ve been able to stay home with her this long. I’m also thankful we can have this time apart now (the research I’m doing will pay for her preschool—I’m not sure how we would have swung it otherwise). Neither of us is ready for her to be in full-time childcare yet, so I hope this arrangement will give me enough time to do my work, and still spend lots of time goofing off with my gal.

I hope we’ve found a balance that will work for both of us.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Uninvited Guest

On a lighter note, something funny happened the other night. We had our neighbours over for dinner. As we sat on the patio enjoying cocktails, McHotty opened the BBQ and lit it. A moment later he exclaimed, “oh, oh!” and jumped back, frantically trying to turn off the gas. Now, McHotty being a firefighter, it was a rather unsettling to see him startled by the BBQ like that, so were a little alarmed that the thing was about to blow up or something.

Turns out there was a mouse hiding out in there.

So, we extended cocktail hour, giving the BBQ a little extra time to burn off mouse germs before getting dinner ready.

Later, we’re eating dinner when one of our guest exclaims, “oh, oh!” and pushes his chair back from the table. The furry fucker had returned and ran over his foot!

We spent the rest of the dinner with the candles under the table. I ate in the lotus position.

We are getting ready to narrow our focus over at BlogHer’s Act Canada. We have decided to take a two-pronged approach to the environment: we’ll tackle a national issue as well as issuing monthly personal challenges to help us all learn how to be more environmentally friendly as individuals. But first we need to select one national issue to focus on. Please take part in our survey and vote by August 19, 2007:


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Inadequate Response

I had a very upsetting experience yesterday afternoon. I took Cakes to our local park at about 4:30. It was full of parents and kids, but I noticed three children I didn’t recognize, who were obviously siblings. An hour later, a lot of the other people had cleared out, and the youngest girl, a three-year-old, tugged on my skirt and said, “senorita? mama?”

They was no parent in the park with these three children.

I approached the oldest, a boy of about eight. He spoke very little English (the two younger girls spoke none) and I wasn’t able to learn anything other than his mother had told them to wait at the park for her.

So another parent and I called the police. It was 5:30 by now. The kids were hungry and thirsty, so we gave them snacks. At 5:45 a cruiser went by—we tried to wave it down but it kept going (would that happen in Rosedale?)

Just before 6:00 a woman came to the park and the children ran towards her. There were several of us waiting by then. We approached her, but she didn’t speak English. One of the women had a little Spanish, so she tried to explain why you do not leave your children alone at the park. Honestly, I didn’t know how to react. The police still hadn’t arrived, so they walked away (though one of the dads did end up following at a distance).

It was heartbreaking.

I started to walk home and finally saw a cruiser, driving slowly, looking at the park. I waved them over and asked if they were responding to the 911 and they were. The most frightening part? They described the woman and asked me if the mother matched the description. She did. They left with sirens on.

Needless to say, I’m feeling a little haunted. I don’t know if the other parent successfully followed them and gave the address to the police. I wonder what I should have done differently. I pray I don’t hear about these kids on the news.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Head Down*

I’ve been writing furiously (so much so that my wrists are ache) and I am finally closing in my 25-page paper, hopefully in time to allow McHotty to proofread it for me.

Yep, McHotty proofreads all of my academic writing.

If that’s not devotion, I don’t know what is. Some of it’s pretty fucking boring.

And he’s really picked up the slack in the childcare/housework/cooking department as well.

Thanks McHotty. I owe you something special.

Will try to write something substantial around here soonest. In the meantime, have you seen Hot and Bothered’s first video? It’s far more entertaining than anything I have to say.

* D’ya like the double meaning?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Metro Reco: Sonny's Blues

Sorry about the lack of book reviews around lately, but I haven’t read a novel in weeks. My short story course finishes up in a couple of weeks and I hope to hit some new novels (and the Harry Potter!) before next term starts. But I did read a magical, beautiful short story, one I will highly recommend (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—read more short stories!).

Short stories often focus on one theme, an epiphany, a moral or lesson. “Sonny’s Blues”, by James Baldwin has the depth and breadth of a novel with the lyricism of a short story. It’s a story about many things: the black experience in North America, the relationship between brothers, coping with pain, drug addiction, finding salvation through art. Baldwin says a lot with few words.

In a magnificent passage the narrator watches his brother perform for the first time. Incredibly evocative, Baldwin captures the magic and collaboration as jazz musicians riff off each other to create something divine. Here’s a passage:

Sonny began to play. Something began to happen. And Creole let out the reins. The dry, low, black man said something awful on the drums, Creole answered, and the drums talked back. Then the horn insisted, sweet and high, slightly detached perhaps, and Creole listened, commenting now and then, dry, and driving, beautiful, calm and old. Then they all came together again, and Sonny was part of the family again. I could tell this from his face. He seemed to have found, right there, beneath his fingers, a damn brand-new piano. It seemed that he couldn't get over it. Then, for a while, just being happy with Sonny, they seemed to be agreeing with him that brand-new pianos certainly were a gas.

Then Creole stepped forward to remind them that what they were playing was the blues. He hit something in all of them, he hit something in me, myself, and the music tightened and deepened, apprehension began to beat the air. Creole began to tell us what the blues were all about. They were not about anything very new. He and his boys up there were keeping it new, at the risk of ruin, destruction, madness and death, in order to find new ways to make us listen. For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it must always be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness.

Baldwin hit something in me. I highly, highly recommend "Sonny’s Blues". I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever read.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Buddy Juice

We’re home again after a fab summer weekend in Kingston. Cakes’ taste in food is even more refined after being spoiled by her grandparents. Why eat grapes when you can eat cherries? One night there were bacon-wrapped scallops and Cakes isn’t eating shellfish yet. So her lovely grandmother put a Babybel on a stick and wrapped it in bacon for her. I wanted to eat it. Nope, she’s not spoiled at all. I had to come home and cook up some Kraft dinner for her to keep it real.

She busted her mother: she grabbed an empty bottle of gin out of the recycle box and exclaimed, “buddy juice!” Thanks babe.

She changed so much in the five days I was in Chicago. When I returned home she had peed on the potty for the first time (I was planning to postpone training until she starts pre-school in the fall). She’s starting to talk more—even using four-word sentences. She is turning somersaults!

She’s really into the swimming now:

My MIL took charge and gave Dirty Simon a bath. It was really embarrassing. The water turned this disgusting colour of grey:

But now he smells so good. And he even has a few white-ish patches.

For our final night in Kingston we had a wine tasting. Cakes’ grandparents made sure she wasn’t left out:

She joined in on the toasts. She nibbled hors’ d’oeuvres. We all watched her, awestruck.

I don’t know who had the most fun.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Ebb and Flow

I’m at my in-laws’ place in Kingston for the weekend. I’m sitting next to the lake, furtively picking up someone’s very weak wireless signal, hoping I’ll be able to post this.

Earlier today, I put Cakes down for her nap and plugged her monitor in the outlet by the lake, installed in a tree by my ingenious father-in-law for our wedding a few years ago. I waded into the lake and struck out in the cool, rough water. I swam out about a hundred yards and noticed a sailboat, a couple of hundred yards away. It sailed along the water on a beam reach, the occupants struggling a little to control it in the strong wind. Enviously, I swam towards the boat, cutting through the waves, strongly, powerfully. But the boat just sailed further away. Conscious of the baby monitor, now completely out of earshot, I rolled over onto my back and let myself be carried in the opposite direction, towards the shore, towards the dear family beckoning back on land.

Towards the chocolate pie beckoning from its haven in the fridge.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I Heart Da Chi

In between all of the partying, posing, and boob-grabbing I did manage to see a little bit of Chicago. What a wonderful city. The waterfront is magnificent—this is what Toronto should strive for.

The walk from the W down the Magnificent Mile to the Art Institute was fab. There is so much outdoor art and the parks and planters were lush with gorgeous plants and flowers. The Art Institute, which houses what’s considered the best Impressionist collection outside of Paris, is free Thursday evenings. There were children taking an art class in the building (I resisted the urge to photograph them). I didn’t resist the urge to buy Cakes a souvenir book from the gallery gift shop.

Sunday morning Redneck Mommy and I did an architecture river tour. It was fantastic. As we sipped lemonade the guide discussed the various types of architecture (there are so many examples in Chicago!) as well as a little bit of the city’s history. The architecture is breathtaking…

Please forgive my shitty camera. If you’re a photographer, this city’s for you.

I feel like there’s so much I missed: the theatre, the music scene, the aquarium. I’ll definitely be back with Cakes and McHotty one day. It seems to be a very family-friendly city—very walkable, and lots of attractions that would appeal to kids.

If only it weren’t so humid.


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