humor

NO HAPPY BIRTHDAYS HERE

As of today, I have dragged this carcass around the sun 37 times now. I know that doesn’t exactly put me in the category of wizened old broad just yet, but I have come to the realization over the past year that time is marching directly on, right across my face. I have upped my game a little bit and tried to live a balanced, healthy, outlook regime. It seems a popular thing to do to overshare lifestyle routines on various social media outlets, and I want nothing more than to be popular. So here you go; this is how you be a somewhat presentable 37 year old woman with various neuroses.

Sleep

Sleep no more minutes per night than your age in years. My body steadfastly maintains that rule, and has for nearly four decades now. So fuck you, science; insomnia doesn’t kill.

Exercise

I do get my heart rate up from time to time, mostly getting generally feminist mad about people telling me to lean in/employ parenting methods/be more mindful/eat more kale/generally put in any effort into anything besides subsisting. Not only does this have cardio benefit, but yelling is good for the lung capacity too.

For the past year I have also had intensive daily cardio whenever I drop my kids off at daycare. Among other daily atrocities, I think I can sum up our entire daycare experience in telling you that we had to find TWO CHICKEN COSTUMES for their Christmas play December. With two weeks notice. In December. When Christmas is. I drop my kids off at daycare because I have a full time job, and it is not as a chicken costumer. The subtext was that we should make the costumes because we don’t spend enough quality time with our kids. Two weeks before Christmas. In December. In terms of cardio effort, I should be thanking them for saving me thousands of dollars on a personal trainer.

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We actually had one chicken costume. I made my husband drive an hour and a half out of town for the second chicken costume, only to have our children refuse to sing the song  in front of an audience. I still don’t understand what happened because the song was in Spanish. But I assume there is a Christmas Chicken. There’d better be a fucking Christmas Chicken.

Then there’s all the idiot attempts that I make at doing shit that I am not prepared for. Like this for example:

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Those are my cousin’s hands firmly on my butt. She is the only thing between me and 30 burpees. And death.

My cousin asked me to do this, and I NEARLY DIED. It was one of those obstacle races, on the hottest day of the year, and I was grateful to wallow about in the mud pit to have some relief from the dust and heat. At my worst moment, a mystical unicorn of a woman well into her 70′s (who I mentally named Helen, because it felt generationally appropriate)  breezed past me. Instead of the demoralizing effect of crumpling into the dust to let an army of fit young dudes with something to prove trample my corpse, it spurred me on. If Helen could do this goddamned race, so could I. When I finished, my dad congratulated me by saying “wow, I was pretty sure your cousin would make it, but I thought you’d die out there.”

That’s me, exceeding expectations.

Diet

I am a really strict omnivore. I just really go out of my way to eat every goddamned thing I see to adhere to my principles. I have also skipped the cheap gin and tonics and switched to fancy gin and fancy tonic, which has had an enormous benefit because I can no longer afford to drink to the point of hangover. I also look at a LOT of healthy recipes on pinterest and share the fuck out of things like squash tacos and whatnot on Facebook and I rail about organic foods and GMOs literally all the time. I mean, I haven’t actually implemented most of these dietary changes at home, but change has to start somewhere right? Armchair activism is as good as any other method of anything out there.

Hobbies

Look, you gotta stay mentally sharp. My recent blog posts are fairly indicative of my primary hobbies, which are “having ennui about children growing up too fast” and “comparing everything to flowers”. Consider the lilies and all that.

I also keep bees and suffered a LOT of bee stings last year, you guys. So goddamned many. I was not sad even a little bit when one of my hives died over the winter because those things were jerks. They were honeybees masquerading as Japanese hornets. My thighs were constantly throbbing, and not in a fun way, but because they were constantly full of venom.

 

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Q: Which hand got stung by a bee? A: You have stupid hobbies, lady.

So anyway, between ennui and metabolizing venom, I feel like I really have this hobby thing nailed down. No one is getting bored around here.

Grooming

If you look good, you feel good. Although my husband would argue that I have long since given up on making myself appealing at most points of the day, I do spend an inordinate amount of time and money maintaining my “I don’t give a fuck” appearance. You would be SHOCKED to learn that my hair is not naturally blonde, and neither is my 93 year old grandmother’s. Yet here we are.

I have an army of women who tend to my various bits and bobs as they start the long (hopefully) slow march toward death. Estheticians, massage therapists, personal trainers.  It’s a slippery slope to duck lips and immovable foreheads, friends. For now I am hung up on expensive potions and ablutions though, and that is giving me the false sense of security that I have stopped aging in it’s tracks.

Which is why I found myself siphoning a precious “brightening oil” off bathroom counter with a medicine dropper when my son dumped it out. Twice. He came out of the bathroom smelling suspiciously like tangerines, and I knew right away that I was in one of those precarious parenting situations where I didn’t want to teach him that possessions are anything to freak the fuck out over, or that aging creams are important. What I ended up teaching him was that Mommy will cry as she desperately uses her City recreation pass to cut the oil into strips to be sucked up like so much precious cocaine using the a leftover syringe for dog medicine (I don’t think cocaine is particularly precious but as my only pop culture reference to how I managed to get oil back in a tiny bottle let’s just say it made me feel pretty desperate.)

Anyway, it was totally worth it because my skin is so bright it lights up like a goddamned Christmas tree now. No, it doesn’t, but it should for what I paid.

So. To conclude: sleep, exercise, diet, hobbies, grooming: CHECK. I’ve got this shit all locked up. I can cruise well into my 90′s with no concerns for the future. Keep on keepin’ on. Or something.

DO NOT WISH ME A HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Instead, tell me what you do to stay youthful, or whether you give a hot damn at all.

Dear The Huffington Post

I recently perused your article Christmas Gifts for Mom: 15 Items that Won’t Break the Bank. It featured an adorable photo of a young child holding her forehead to her mother, along with not 15, but 116 inexpensive items that mom would enjoy! I would like to thank you for including #84 in your  list, along with the disclaimer to “open in private”. The PleasurePillar Wonderland would be welcome in any mom’s stocking this holiday season. I am glad to see you have a progressive and enlightened attitude toward women’s sexual health, but I agree it’s a bit delicate to open in front of family on Christmas morning. I also appreciate the economy and singular focus on finding something uniquely for mom in place of the typical vacuum cleaner or “fitness aids” I have been gifted over recent years. I am sure you’ll receive many thank you letters on Boxing Day from happy moms everywhere.

This is not one of those letters.

Perhaps, HuffPo (I hope I can call you that) I can provide a gentle critique and suggest that your list was egregiously mistitled and should not be listed as a gift for moms of any sort. You see, this led to an uncomfortable situation where I was perusing this list with my two four year olds and now they want to buy a PleasurePillar by Wonderland for Grandma. They have no clue as to it’s purpose, but they liked the bright colour and amusing shape, and despite my desperate attempt at clicking away from the image faster than the speed of light, they feel that it would be the thing that Grandma would enjoy most this holiday season. Even more than the dinosaur planter (#49) that I tried to direct them towards, or virtually any other fucking thing in the universe.

Not the PleasurePillar, but a future resident of my desk if everything goes my way at Christmas (thehappyplanter on Etsy)

I tried to rely on the Memento like memory of four year olds to erase the idea from their minds to no avail. This morning, my son asked what store we were going to go to in order to purchase “THE BLUE THING FOR GRANDMA.” I am not sure, HuffPo, if it is appropriate for my son to give an item that will not be legal for him to purchase for another 14 years. After all, you don’t see many delightful hand printed and glittered bottles of bourbon at Christmas, do you? Hopefully he’ll be progressed enough in his sexual education by then to be deeply uncomfortable about buying such a thing for Grandma. I hope he wants to poke out his own ear drums and bleach his eyeballs at the mere suggestion. If he does, I know I will have done my job at instilling appropriate boundaries. I think boundaries are important, don’t you, HuffPo?

With warmest regards for a pleasure filled holiday season,

Hopeful Receiver of a Dinosaur Planter and in Desperate Need of a Lobotomy

Making Halloween Happen

Kind of.

My four-year olds are totally enthralled with costumes, and I have had occasion to dine with a unicorn, giraffe, lion, or Captain America. Batman helps me pick out tampons at the drug store (complete with drawn out and loud discussions about female anatomy), and a jellyfish has had a fit about buying pancake mix for some indeterminate point in the future instead of setting up shop in the homewares section like some insane Top Chef challenge and making them RIGHT NOW. This is just our every day life. When it comes to Halloween, I feel like we have to up the ante a little.

It turns out that one aspect of parenting I am not terrible at is costumes. I discovered this when the boys had a recital at daycare. The kids had to dress up as various animals, making costumes out of “inexpensive household items”. I made this instead:

They were supposed to sing a song about animals, but they mostly just stood staring out at the sea of iPhones recording them. The Unicorn yawned throughout.

They were supposed to sing a song but they mostly just stood staring out at the sea of iPhones recording them. The Unicorn yawned throughout.

To be fair, a lot of other parents went kind of over the top too, but I can safely say that I went the most over the top by a wide margin. A lot of glue was involved while I cracked the whip over Mr. Giraffe to custom paint the costume while I fiddled around getting the eyes right. I am still not satisfied with them. I am still finding bits of foam everywhere in our house.

Halloween prep started shortly after this. Angry Birds are the order of the day here, so Angry Birds it would be. The Engineer wanted to be Chewbacca Bird and the Unicorn wanted to be a Slingshot.

*scratches head*

Uhhh… ok, let’s roll with that.

Plans changed when we found amazing Yellow Angry Bird and King Pig masks at good ol’ Wallyworld. Mr. Giraffe was tired and I think vaguely optimistic that we’d just achieved a somewhat easy holiday.

It should come as no surprise at all to you that a month later I found myself finding Angry Birds templates for pumpkins, buying eavestrough joints, and hoarding boxes and cardboard to “just add a little something” to Halloween festivities.

I am a busy woman, so I left the eavestrough at my dad’s house with instructions to turn it into a slingshot for Yellow Bird. I think he thought I was insane, but he totally made that shit happen, and made me completely envious of the fact that he 1) owns tools, 2) knows how to use the tools, and 3) is retired. The final product was better than I would have ever been able to achieve and happened with very little input from me. It worked out so well I am going to see if I can outsource a lot of things now (See: aforementioned tampon and pancake mix purchasing).

In retrospect, I wish we’d stuck with his original vision and just gone with the slingshot. That thing is a work of art.

Two days before Halloween, Mr. Giraffe excitedly messaged me to ask: “Are we making Halloween costumes tonight?” I was confused by his enthusiasm and participation until I realized the subtext was “Are you going to be knee-deep in cardboard shavings, hot gluing your fingers together for the next two days?”

Indeed, I was.

King Pig needed a TNT box.  Parents out there can attest to the fact that diaper boxes are the most useful byproduct of child-rearing, and they proved their worth again here. As my dear friend Sara noted later, I was going balls out. I couldn’t half-ass this with markers. No, I was going to make a 3D textured TNT box that looks just like real life. Except, you know, the 2D cartoon version of real life. Or something. I think I have my dimensions confused. Anyway, it was going to be epic.

The first night I thought really hard about how I wanted to achieve the box. I even cut 3 strips of cardboard and a head hole. Feeling really good about my progress, I rewarded myself with as many rounds of Candy Crush as I could manage (5. DAMN YOU CANDY CRUSH, I WILL NOT SPEND MONEY ON YOU) and went to bed, confident that I would be able to complete my project before bedtime on the 30th.

I did, in fact, complete the costume before going to bed on the 30th. Or rather, four hours past my bedtime at 3 am on the 31st. At 6 pm on the 30th, my parents came to deliver the slingshot. At 7:30 pm, the groupthink and yelling about how to attach the slingshot to the Unicorn’s body was accomplished, as was the total and complete defraying of all of my nerves. At 7:35, Mr. Giraffe had delivered the kids to bed, and wisely disappeared, not to be seen by the rest of the night. At 9 pm, I had a bloodied hand and 3 Angry Bird themed pumpkins that had to have various parts of them hot glued back together.

It occurs to me that Halloween pumpkins are sort of like those Buddhist sand drawings, except that I don't achieve any sort of spiritual ascension and no one dresses up as a sexy hot dog to celebrate sand drawings.

It occurs to me that Halloween pumpkins are sort of like those Buddhist sand drawings, except that I don’t achieve any sort of spiritual ascension and no one dresses up as a sexy hot dog to celebrate sand drawings.

Pumpkins achieved, I turned my attention to the TNT box. At 11 pm, I ran out of hot glue, and narrowly avoided impaling myself with a box cutter, then remembered there was a bottle of wine in the freezer. At 11:01 the top of that bottle shattered while I was trying to reef the cork out with all my might. At 11:03, I strained the glass shards out of that wine and drank the hell out of it.

True story

True story

Without the benefit of hot glue, I had to hold the pieces together while watching nine episodes of Duck Dynasty. Those dudes are really wholesome. I think I would get along with Uncle Si. I had a long time to think about this. Finally, I had the genius idea to hold the glued pieces together with my hair band, and called it a night. It was 3 am.

At 3:04, I discovered that the Unicorn had an ear infection. At 7:30 am, I had a complete mental break where I believed that “just ten minutes” of sleep would carry me through the day, and I was at risk of murdering anyone who told me otherwise. At 7:42 am, the Engineer declared that he wasn’t going to wear the TNT box because it hurt, and I had an aneurism, while I simultaneously wondered if I could somehow squeeze my middle-aged carcass into it instead.

YES. YES. YES! My vision come to life! Brought down to earth moments later by kiddo shenanigans. I am not enough of a narcissist to force him to wear a costume just because I made it. Just to be clear.

YES. YES. YES! My vision come to life! Brought down to earth moments later by kiddo shenanigans. I am not enough of a narcissist to force him to wear a costume just because I made it. Just to be clear. He wore it later entirely of his own volition, and promises that his candy haul would be improved if he had a really good costume.

At 9 am, I was at the walk-in clinic with the Unicorn where he was crying so loud and so hard that they let him in ahead of a lady with a spurting head wound.

The Unicorn would have gotten into the doctor faster than this guy. (image from delvedigger.com)

At .. oh fuck, I don’t even know. Later in the day, we found ourselves wandering around the drug store. The Unicorn laid down in the aisle. He was curled around a discounted stuffed Angry Bird, and it appeared to be the only thing keeping him alive. We purchased that bird: who was I to say no? I lamented that Angry Birds came into our lives only during moments of weakness; like when we hand over the iPad because we’re tired. This had delivered me directly to this moment, scarred up by Angry Bird costumes, undone by my own weakness There were a lot of surprisingly complicated thoughts going through my head given the fact that I could not form complete sentences and had to have a nap in the van before I trusted myself to drive home.

At 6:30 pm, everyone was properly propped up on ibuprofen, and we were out trick or treating with the neighbors. I made hot chocolate and Baileys for the adults. When Mr. Giraffe inadvertently spilled my drink all over me, I made lemonade out of lemons.. or rather, skipped the hot chocolate, poured whisky out of the bottle, and drank an entire mug, and made excuses twice to run back to our house to refill it. The boys had a grand time, and I am pretty sure I was unfit to parent by that point, so thank the Great Pumpkin Mr. Giraffe was out too. Maeby dressed up as a bee.

This was not at Halloween; this was at a Meadery.

This was not at Halloween; this was at a Meadery.

The End.

Lesson Learned: STOP DOING ALL THE THINGS, STUPID.

A Review of the Coleman Family Tent

Canadian Tire has this commercial.

I did not know about this commercial thanks to the magic of PVR, but when I purchased this behemoth of a ten-person tent for a 5 day family camping trip, Coleman was unwittingly fulfilling all of my unexpressed desires. I wanted to be the envy of all the tenters out there, all one amongst the army of 30 foot trailers. I wanted a tent that would house me, my camping-averse husband, my four-year olds, and my wayward dog for 5 days in a temperate climate during a family trip without causing a domestic dispute.

Is that too much to fucking ask? Yes. Yes, it is.

Set Up

Pros: YES. FUCK YES. BUY THIS TENT RIGHT NOW.

Setting this tent up set me up for a level of optimism I can only describe as “overly confident” at best, but “delusional” is a more realistic term.

Cons: The worst part about setting up this tent was that I had to set down my beer to do it because the poles have clicky things that require two hands. I really tried not to set down my beer, friends, but things just couldn’t be helped. My husband fiddled with this random piece of material that we think is some sort of fly or perhaps, OH MY GOD I JUST FIGURED OUT IT’S PROBABLY A WALL FOR INSIDE THE TENT THAT IS SO SMART BUT HAS VIRTUALLY NO USE TO US NOW BECAUSE I AM HOME WITH ACTUAL WALLS MADE OF DRYWALL AND I AM GOING TO KISS THEM.

THERE ARE TWO QUEEN SIZED AIR MATRESSES IN THERE THIS IS PRACTICALLY THE HILTON

There are two queen sized matresses in there and room to spare. Camping is going to be goddamn aces, you guys. Optimism level: OFF THE CHARTS.

But really, this delivers on the promise of the instant easy set up, if you subtract the hours worth of fiddling with mystery material.

Staying In the Tent

Pros: This tent is large. There is lots of room. It seems durable. There are lots of windows. It is a rectangle. I am a tallish woman and can stand up straight in it, if you don’t count me nailing myself in the head with a lantern at least six times during this trip because I evidently don’t have a short-term memory anymore.

Cons: You guys, being dry is all well and fine when you’re in a car wash for a few minutes, but what do you get when you’re in a downpour with two small people with only passing knowledge of potty training, a camping-averse husband who said (for real, I am not shitting you) “I didn’t change my clothes for three days because I kept thinking we were going to shower” and a dog who prefers feces and rain-soaked kibble to anything else?

The answer is condensation. You get condensation.

I can see the water is beading on the outside, so why is it dripping on my head. This is my thought process for two hours.

I can see the water is beading on the outside, so why is it dripping on my head? This is my thought process for two hours.

This is what I figured out as I clung desperately to the side of the brand new air mattress that required complicated re-pumping every day after having seven children (five not my own) abuse it to the point of disrepair. I had four-year old feet in my face, I was half out of my sleeping bag, and I was getting dripped on. So I had some time to think. And I thought “FUCK YOU, Coleman. Fuck you for making a completely sealed off “family” tent.” No one wants to be sealed off with their family. That is why suite hotels and boarding schools were invented. It’s all well and fine that you can make a neato commercial, but the practicality of having a completely sealed off tent is nil. So basically, I was having angry thoughts.

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All that air took hours to escape because I did not have the cognitive ability at the end of the trip to open a door or window to let it out.

And then, just as I was getting some sleep, the voice of my dad appeared from the heavens. He’s not dead, so it was especially weird that he was offering us respite in form of a the hotel room key that he and my mom were checking out of, so we could take a hot shower. So weird that I grumbled “but there’s pay showers here”, and he retreated as quickly as he came, but left wine. I thought it was a dream until my husband lost his shit over the fact that there was no hot showers to be had and I tripped over the wine bottle on my way out of the tent. I am drinking that wine right now you guys, and nothing ever tasted so good.

Take home message: Coleman denied me a hot shower by making me think too hard. It does not matter how big the goddamn tent is, friends, if there is no ventilation and five mammalian bodies, you have a problem.

Take Down

Pros: Take down of the Coleman Family Tent is relatively easy because of the magic of presto buttons and neat shit like that. I completely fooled our spectators (my cousin and the assorted kids) that everything was fine because we got it all sort of down minus all the massive air/ventilation problem seen above. And they left for the beach, with us promising to follow shortly as soon as we got our tent in the bag.

Cons: And that is when the proverbial wheels came off the proverbial fucking piece of shit tent.

Friends, I said and did things this morning that I don’t care to repeat. A lovely, lovely couple staying in the campsite next to us who were quietly having breakfast, and who live-in-the-same-city-as-us-so-I-will-probably-run-into-them-at-the-Farmer’s-Market-tomorrow-because-they-seem-like-the-type and their two-year old daughter, did not need to hear the things that they heard this morning. There was a domestic scene of epic proportions, rivaled only by our camping neighbors trying to park a 35 foot trailer in pitch black the night before. I feel ashamed, dear readers. Ashamed at what that tent made me do.

All of this shit had to go back into our van. I would have just set it back up and lived there on a permanent basis if they let you stay more than 16 days. I could have been a charming campground resident who helped you back your trailer in. I had plans. A lot of plans.

All of this shit had to go back into our van. I would have just set it back up and lived there on a permanent basis if they let you stay more than 16 days. I could have been a charming campground resident who helped you back your trailer in and made hilariously burned pancakes every morning. I had plans. A lot of plans. I had a lot of time to make those plans.

I have many reasons for yelling, but that tent became the lightning rod for all of my frustrations this morning. I was furious at Coleman for disabusing me of the notion that a family camping trip could be the joyous family fun times that I was envisioning. Mostly though, I was furious at them for saving the shitstorm right for the end of the trip, when we had lost all organizational capacity. All I wanted was a hot breakfast, Coleman. What I got was a maelstrom of throwing shit around, patronizing, and accusations. Where is that in your goddamn commercial, Coleman?

But on the bright side, at least we didn’t leave the camping tradition of having a major domestic incident aside. It’s right up there with roasting marshmallows and beer fueled hikes.

Rating
Let’s review:
Pros: I was lulled into a false sense of security that everything was going to be ok.

Cons: I do not enjoy 1) being disabused of notions and 2) having all the shit saved for the end of things. I like the shit up front so I can deal with it.

This tent is recommended for the camping-averse and those with short attention spans. This tent is highly recommended if you have lost your sense of smell, prefer moist environments, and you can afford to just abandon it at the end of your trip.

This tent is not recommended for actual families, those in shaky marriages, or people with dogs of any kind, especially ones who have earned the moniker “Smelly” by a horde of children becoming collectively more odorous by the moment.

Happy Father’s Day, RollerDad

I have certain traits that I don’t have to think very hard to figure out where they came from. In many ways, I am my dad in female form.This is not surprising; until my tumultuous teenage years I was my dad’s shadow. I would watch him carving ducks in his wood shop, happy to go retrieve the dead mallard from the freezer when asked. I was reasonably competent with power tools for all of my overachieving art projects. He would let me sit on his lap and drive the big blue GMC around the prairies when I was merely 8 years old (or maybe it was the red Dodge by then?). We went for family bike rides in the prairies and hikes into the coulees and we would stop along the way to check everything out.  Our annual family vacations were just roaming with only a final destination in mind; stopping along the way to see anything that interested us. Saturdays were for mowing my grandma’s lawn, and Sundays were for going; anywhere and everywhere. Even in our small prairie town, I grew up as cultured as we could manage because my dad challenged me to try new foods and see new things wherever we went. And oh my god, we had to watch so much PBS.

Because of him I had a free childhood, and I learned to explore. This is probably the best gift that I have from my dad, although my power washer was a close second.

About a year ago my dad sent me copies of slides from the 70′s that he had scanned and I laughed and laughed when I realized how much of my dad I have become.

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My Dad, sometime in the late 70′s

Me in 2011

Me in 2011

That fierce, get’er done, explore everything, be afraid of nothing, kind of guy that he is. And I love that he now passes this on to my kids, and reminds me to do the same even when I want to wrap them up in bubble wrap. I think he would have been a natural raising boys, but I think I did my best despite being a girl.

A family that drinks together has a very expensive wedding. Paid for by my dad.

A family that drinks together has a very expensive wedding. Paid for by my dad.

Now, life is not without it’s challenges being raised by your exact personality match, but I am very glad now to have a dad that will bravely go approach a beehive with a screwdriver at midnight after I have wussed out and gotten stung three times already. In his shirtsleeves. Thanks for taking one for the team, Dad.

Happy Father’s Day.

Back from the time warp

HERE I AM! Rocking you like a hurricane. Or maybe more caressing your face like a gentle breeze. I don’t even know anymore. I have a lot happening right now all the time. It’s all good stuff, but it’s so much stuff that I don’t have time for other stuff. Like blogging stuff. I have missed you all though, I swear.

When I started work two months ago I was all manicured, pedicured, spa’ed out, well rested and excited.

The only record I have of myself where I don't look tired.

Proof! I felt awake once!

Now I have been through training and trial by fire. Adding to that is field season, in that being a biology type person who works on industrial type things, spring and summer are the time when all the critters have to stand up and be counted. I am terrible at that sort of thing, so my job is to do paper work while the more talented among us are out enjoying the sunshine. That suits me just fine; I get to go pick up my kids at 5:15 every day and they’re happy to see me. It makes my life.

May is also stupid with birthdays in my family, along with Mother’s Day, inlaws visiting for two weeks. And me insanely deciding that we have to put our house on the market RIGHT NOW the day our inlaws arrived, and despite no evidence that we are going to be able to get our house in show condition without an intervention from that hoarders show.

Did I mention I am in a beekeeping workshop? Yeah. So there’s that too. Although I hate the snow, I am glad at least that our late spring delayed the bees for a couple of weeks this year so I could catch my breath a bit. My hive from last year gave me a lot of grief and I am just going to do a separate post on that for the bee lovers among us.

I have a beekeeping helper this year

I have a beekeeping helper this year

Did I also mention that I am taking a running workshop? I AM GOING TO LOVE RUNNING, GODDAMMIT. Or I am at least going to do it. Because since kids, I can endure basically anything for any amount of time.

This may have been more than I was up for, but in typical rollergiraffe fashion, I careened right into it. As a result, all of that pampering and pedicuring wore off quickly. This is a recent photo:

Smoking relaxes me

Smoking relaxes me

My kids are totally validating my daycare provider’s assumption that I was really shitty at parenting. When they started daycare they were hot messes and we were limping in every day barely alive. In the last two months they have learned to dress themselves, mastered potty training, learned all the continents and many countries, learned to write their names, done art projects that I can’t even do, grown grass, and learned a whole second language. I worked for TWO YEARS on that potty training thing. So, basically feeling pretty amazing about my daycare picking skills, you guys.

But they’re FOUR! My babies are four, and of all the things I have been through this month, that is the most exciting and fun. They’re so cool right now. I love every day that they come home with something new.

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Fourth birthday at the amusement park

One of these kids is a bit dramatic. I'll let you figure out which.

One of these kids is a bit dramatic. I’ll let you figure out which.

Anyway, I make no promises about blogging right now, but do know that I do my best to keep up with y’all’s prodigious blogging pace. So tell me, how are YOU?

Must See NYC: Chess

So way back in October we went to New York. We saw many fabulous sights, including Broadway Shows, a taping of the Daily Show, a concert at a bowling alley in Brooklyn, and a lot of people buying toilet paper in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. I am told that last part worked out fine.*

All of those things were very exciting and deserve a long post about how much I love New York. But I am here to talk to you today about Chess Tourism.

Background

All my knowledge is courtesy of Mr. Giraffe, who spent his youth playing chess. Needless to say, (and thankfully) we don’t run in to legions of old girlfriends.

Tournament goers are very diverse, but tend toward eccentric. The one thing that they have in common is that they are brilliant with the sixty-four squares and seem to enjoy sitting. Forget your notions of ornately carved wood and comfortable leather chairs, this is low rent but serious business.

A typical chess trip is something like this:

1) Study chess. This requires reading books full of diagrams like this:

This is something really exciting that someone famous did.

2) Cram into car with as many chess players as you can fit (they’re more flexible than clowns this way due to budgetary concerns).

3) Check in to crappy hotel, and prepare not to see the sunshine for four days.

4) Sit with your head in your hands for six hours without movement, food, or breaks, occasionally moving a piece as needed. Other player observe in silence and occasionally nod in approval or defeat.

5) Hope to repeat #4 as often as possible because that means you’re being successful.

6) Review games with other players and fret over all of your key mistakes in life.

Anyway, because of all the hours invested into such things it was natural that when we hit New York we were going to fulfill a lifelong dream to hit all the chess landmarks.

There are three.

Washington Square Park

This is where the chess players play outdoors in all the movies. We met a charming man named NaShawn at Washington Square Park who held his own against Mr. Giraffe for many hours on a sunny fall afternoon.

New York 2012 075

A chess player would look at this board and instantly tell me who is winning. I am telling you it’s a chess board.

This gentleman kept me company while Mr. Giraffe was playing and insisted I take his photo.

New York 2012 096

Steeze

I assure you there was nothing untoward, as he was mostly showing me pictures of his girlfriend on his iPad complete with Barry White soundtrack. Their living situation is tragically complicated by his parole conditions, but I think those two are going to make it.

The Chess District

South of Washington Square Park in the hopelessly complicated maze of streets that is Greenwich Village, there is the largest chess district in any urban dwelling. There are over two stores packed to the rafters with chess books, sets, t-shirts, clocks and any kind of chess related paraphernalia you could ever imagine. My favourite part was that I was allowed to use the bathroom there because Jesus Christ, where does anyone go to the bathroom in Manhattan? Are you all chronically dehydrated? Is there a special brand of Depends for Manhattanites that gives you all pert asses?

New York 2012 080

This is not the one I used the bathroom in.

Marshall Chess Club

Two blocks north of Washington Square Park, inhabiting a beautiful townhouse in Greenwich Village, is the Marshall Chess Club. Some enterprising chess guy dedicated an expensive piece of Manhattan property to the pursuit and study of chess. The door is so elusive it will only appear to you if you know what a Spassky is. Grandmasters from all over the world have honorary memberships. This inspires a bit of class warfare between them and regular members who pay steep dues only to have their asses handed to them at tournaments. Even chess players have problems.

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Elegant old world charm accented with cheap $4.99 chess boards. Chess players care not for aesthetics, only for symmetry of the board. Or something.

Chess Tour Notes

Mr. Giraffe had thoughts about all of this ranging from awe to being underwhelmed by certain aspects. Unfortunately, I don’t play chess. Instead I contemplated the socioeconomic implications of the down and out players at Washington Square who eke out a living hustling chess not knowing that the high falutin’ Marshall Chess Club existed only blocks from them. On the whole, the players at Washington Square seemed to be having a better time.

The Rollergiraffe recommends the NYC chess tour for those who enjoy chess, chess history, and chess politics. All eleven of you. It may also be of interest to those who enjoy wafts of pot smoke, observing racial and socioeconomic tensions, conversing with ex-convicts, and watching old white men attempt to wrap bologna sandwiches in wax paper. Bathrooms are located in the Starbucks at NYU on the east side of the park, in the chess stores and NOWHERE ELSE IN MANHATTAN.

Summer 2012 440

There is a lot of this in my future.

*Hurricane Sandy did not work out fine at all. Please catch up on ongoing relief efforts at http://sandyrelief.org/

This post was inspired by the redoubtable Carrie Rubin, who braved a magic convention with her son. She also wrote a book while still being a doctor and a bunch of other stuff, and I am more or less convinced she’s actually Wonder Woman.

Snowy Sunday Misadventures

It looks like this outside this morning.

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Stop focusing on the fact that my Christmas lights are still up and look at all that stupid snow.

That is some major bullshit. To some of you southerners this might appear like the end of times, but up here in Canadaland we just call this “March”. It’s Sunday so people will still go to church if they’re really dedicated, but less people will go shopping and we shall collectively roll our eyes and generally endure.

So anyway, that’s happening today. I may have over-imbibed a bit with the neighbors last night and my kids have the sniffles so I was really looking forward to a movie day. Maybe some baking. If things got wild, I’d make popcorn. You know, really earth shattering type stuff. But nothing that would require me to put my winter jacket on because I am totally done with that fucking thing. I am really serious about that.

You can imagine how delighted I was to wake up to the following conversation:

Engineer: Mommy, get the gray thing out of my mouth.

Mommy: (launching self out of bed) WHAT? What grey thing? What did you eat?

Engineer: The grey thing. From playgroup.

Mommy: (stabbing at eyes to make eyes work before remembering to put on my glasses) WHERE DID YOU GET IT?

Engineer: (Points at desk)

I surveyed my desk. Grey things include: paperclips, staples, tacks, money, BATTERIES. No grey things that seemed like a good idea to eat. Maybe I am not being imaginative enough, but I can’t think of any grey things that seem like a good idea to eat. (Google says buckwheat noodles. I’ll give them that.)

Mommy: (In shrill, shrieking voice) Where is the grey thing?

Engineer: In my tummy.

And so in a flurry of coats and hats and boots and car seats, we found ourselves at the Children’s Hospital before breakfast. Not to cast aspersions on our local Children’s Hospital, because they are wonderful people who have given us excellent care over the years, but they were NOT AS PANICKED AS I WANTED THEM TO BE. In fact, they barely registered any alarm at all. They directed us to the waiting room where we sat next to the poster full of “Actual Items Swallowed by Children”. The actual items were glued to the poster and included things like buttons, pennies, small toys, a safety pin, magnets a KNITTING NEEDLE. Not one of those little crochet hooks, either; this needle could have been a bonafide weapon.  I am not shitting you. This informative poster did nothing to make me feel better.

There was virtually no waiting time because not many children were committed to self harm on a Sunday morning, so it was us and a few pukers. The Engineer informed the doctor that a grey thing was in his tummy and he wanted a picture of it, so off we went to x-ray. By the time we got to the x-ray, I was kind of didn’t know what to wish for. I kind of suspected that this could all be a lie, and here I was calling his bluff by shooting him with radiation. I had only a couple of seconds to ponder the risks of either proposition though, and decided on the balance it was better to find out what he ate.

The Engineer was a superstar about it and laid as still as he has ever laid for five seconds at a time. And we learned just a few minutes later that the kid was completely full of crap. Literally and figuratively. But no dangerously sharp, life threatening metal objects that were going to poison him and shred his insides, as I had naturally assumed.

Then we braved the blowing snow and crappy roads home. I am sure that the worst part for the Engineer was the twenty minute lecture, borne out of complete gratitude that he was totally fine and this was just a misadventure. Now we can get started on doing absolutely nothing today.

Winter 2013 063

Resume regular programming. MORE OF THIS TODAY, CHILDREN.

 

It’s not you 2012, it’s me.

2012; you’re going away today and I have to be honest; I am not that sad to see you go. I don’t really blame you, 2012. Well, I kind of do, but I realize that you were just the wrong time in the wrong place in my life.

We had some good times, 2012. I had some great times this year with my friends, not nearly enough time with my family. You introduced me to a lot of good people, like Le Clown, Madame Weebles, The Ringmistress, on top of scores of other bloggers who feel like friends to me (like really, too numerous to mention.. I love you all!). I even got to meet some in real life, like Love and Lunchmeat and Lame Adventures. Both of those meetings were as great as I expected them to be and affirmed how much I love meeting new people. I went with you to New York for the first time, I got to hang out on the beach in PEI for a week. I watched my beautiful kids turn 3, surrounded by dinosaurs and bikers. I fulfilled my lifelong dream of keeping bees, which is something only you gave me, 2012. I will always be grateful for that.

Rockin' the freezies like a boss on my kids' birthday.

Rockin’ the freezies like a boss on my kids’ birthday.

But mostly 2012, you were a bit of a downer. Admittedly, 2011 being such an asshole didn’t help your cause. My expectations were too high for any year to come along, being as naive as I was about how house floods and insurance and all that kind of baggage that 2011 left behind. When I left 2011, I didn’t realize how much of a mess I was and that wasn’t the best way to start my relationship with you. You were a bit of a rebound, really. I was just so excited for 2011 to be over, I was ready to just jump into the next year without any forethought. That’s my fault 2012. I could have predicted you wouldn’t be the year for me, but I was blind.

But man, you made 2011 look like a goddamn saint. I mean, within the first two months of you I had been sued, accused of insurance fraud, and had to pay for a second round of renovations for my house because 2011 delivered me the worst, most malicious contractor in the world. You brought along illness and disease. You claimed our dog. Then you claimed Mr. Giraffe’s aunt. We tried to fix things by going on holidays with you, but you were just an emotional vortex, 2012. Seriously. Everyone I know who was involved with you says the same thing. Even when I tried to relax you threatened me with Superstorm Sandy, and you seriously affected some of my friends with it. I take that kind of thing personally, 2012. No holiday went unpunished this year, no weekend unsullied by your constant pressure. You even delivered the worst kind of experimental jazz at every opportunity you could, ruining a whole music genre for me, and waited until I was on my own traveling with twins to give us all a stomach virus. Way to go, 2012. I feel like you could at least clean the puke out of my van, but I just want you to go.

Anyway 2012, I know you’re moving on, and I am glad because I think we aren’t good for each other. If indeed time travel ever does become possible, please don’t call. Don’t write. Just pretend that you never happened. Don’t try to undo all the shitty things that happened this year, 2012, because we both know that would be a lie. Even if you could change how things went, you can’t change who you are, 2012. You were just full of negative energy. If things were different, I might be tempted to go back to you and I think that we both agree that our relationship is pretty toxic.

Instead, just gently let me go to 2013. I am moving forward with lowered expectations, a bit more calm. I am just going to embrace whatever 2013 brings and not try to change 2013′s ways, like I did to you. And with that I say adieu, 2012. Go fuck yourself.

I want this exact statue on my grave when I die

This will be my permanent attitude in 2013 and beyond.

And to all my readers, I hope 2013 is brilliant and kind to everyone. Happy New Year!

Things I found in my printer

Today’s edition of “Things I found in my printer” include:

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The natural reaction to having these items jammed inside the paper tray of your printer might be upset. On the contrary; it makes me feel better that the cordless phone thing wasn’t all my fault; we were playing a really advanced game of hide and seek with it. I am also happy to report that I am not losing my marbles in thinking that I owned a stapler. The rock; I can’t explain its origins except that I think it’s some kind of sedimentary rock from the Badlands of Alberta.

Three year olds are delightful, aren’t they?