Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 5 Secret EPP Levels

We asked top players for their favourite little-known EPP levels, and compiled this sweet Top 5 list from their comments. Which ones have you conquered, and which ones have conquered you?!

Section 31.0: Grandmother Protection Plan

The GPP describes the protective and mitigative measures to be employed during the pre-adolescent and adolescent years of the Frecklepelt Eldest Child Project.

Section 32.0: EPP Contradicts Itself

This Section describes the protective and mitigative measures to be employed when the EPP contains incompatible, inconsistent or downright contradictory mitigation. Includes challenges such as:

- Tables 11-1, 11-2 and 12-1 vs. Alignment Sheets
- Sketchy Consultation Results
- To Silt Fence or Not To Silt Fence

Section 33.0: EPP Contradicts Reality

This Section describes the protective and mitigative measures to be employed when the EPP basically fails to align with the world, like, at all. Includes challenges such as:

- Alignment Sheets vs. Construction Drawings
- They Called THAT a Wetland but Not This?
- Three Foot Deep Mulch Layer  

Section 34.0: Failure to Follow EPP

This Section describes the protective and mitigative measures to be employed when some aspect of the EPP has been contravened, whether inadvertently or intentionally. Includes challenges such as:

- None of These People Have a GPS
- What Does the Purple Lath Mean?
- Finger Pointing 101 

Section 39.999: Complete Shitting the Bed on Following the EPP

Challenges vary widely but suffice to say that when you encounter this Level, you'll know it. Successful completion can be achieved by various means, including:

- Not Going to Jail
- Shoot, Shovel and Shut Up: the Alberta Way
- Collecting Paycheque and Going on a Loooong Vacation

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Nipple Height

Everyone's job is hard in its own way. Part of that is undoubtedly related to personal growth - when you're shiny new to the employment scene, probably most everything seems like a challenge. Take, for instance, this conversation I overheard at the grocery store a few days ago:

Gangly young produce employee (nervously): "Umm, how tall should I stack these mandarins, sir?"

Shorter, middle-aged produce manager (with booming confidence): "Nipple height!"

See how difficult things are when you're new at a job, and how easy they are when you're not? When you are new, you don't even have an expectation of what the expectations might be. Can I, should I make even the most basic of fruit display assembly decisions on my own? What if there is a Mandarin Stacking Standard I'm not aware of? Let me not be a mandarin Icarus, flying too close to the fluorescent glare above! Help, I'm paralyzed with indecision!

And the manager - oh, the authority with which he spoke! All those years of experience culminating in this glorious demonstration of prompt and confident decision making, really showing those young pups how it's done, whipping out those tried and true and not terribly sensible Stacking Standards like a pompous-ass gunslinger...

"... Umm, your nipples or mine, sir?"

Touche, young pup! I had the same concern with the manager's glaringly non-standard standard as soon as he said it. Unfortunately, I was laugh-choking to death on my coffee and didn't catch his response.

I worked at a neighbourhood grocery store in my late teens, and the produce department was one of my favourites to help out in. If only my mandarins were stacked as tall and proud now as they were back then... They were truly a sight to behold. sigh

It was surely the height difference between the two men and not the relativity of this measurement over time on his own person that caused the young fellow to question the nipple-height Stacking Standard, but I still felt a bit of solidarity with him for bravely noting the obvious flaw in his boss' statement. I decided to circle back around with my cart a little while later to see how our lanky hero was faring with his boxes.

The two were nowhere in sight, but I had to reach over my head to get a box of oranges down so I guess we know whose nipples prevailed over logic that day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Butterscotch Soul

I was about 12 years old the first time I heard the word recalcitrant. I had to look it up.

I won't judge if you had to go Google it yourself just now, but I would like to point out that back when I was 12 one had to store up words requiring definition in one's head until a dictionary could be consulted. Or I guess maybe some people would just ask what something meant, but I was not that sort of kid. I stored puzzling things in my head until I could solve them, preferably in secret so no one would know that I didn't already know what "from the mailman" or "recalcitrant" might mean. Google would have really helped me out back then. 

One more thing I need to point out is how useless it is to tell someone who asks you how to spell a word, to go look it up in the dictionary. I remember my Grade 1 teacher saying that to kids (not me, of course, because I never would have asked) and feeling angry that it was so unfair to say that when obviously you needed to have at least an inkling of how to spell something before you could look it up in the dictionary. One of my earliest subversive acts was helping other kids spell words. Psst, it starts with a C, not an S.

So. Back to age 12. I saved up recalcitrant in my head until I got home, then got out the dictionary - secretly - and looked it up. On the page was one of those uniquely satisfying discoveries that neatly crystallizes something you knew but couldn't quite put your finger on - ah, that was the word I was looking for all along!

The image that sprang to mind was a tub of butterscotch ripple ice cream: a vein of recalcitrance is woven through my soul. 

Someone asked me once, if I could choose any trait of my own to pass on to my kids, what would it be? I said a good sense of humour, because being able to laugh about things has gotten me through so much. That is a solid answer for polite company, and it really is how I feel. But it's also true that I mine that vein of recalcitrance when I need to not just get through, but to get far. Many of my big leaps in life have been fueled by the power of Oh yeah? Just watch me

Recalcitrant not typically being a complimentary term, I've considered revising my initial mental image to something less universally appealing - say, a black licorice ripple - as if in preemptive apology to anyone who happens to look inside my head and find this trait distasteful. Ultimately I decided to stand by butterscotch: not only do I not need to apologize for it but I contend that, if existing in correct proportion and judiciously employed, recalcitrance can be a delicious addition to any personality. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

They've Both Got Layers

Medium Fry didn't really care about money when she was little - I'm still not sure she really does - so money has been pretty useless to me as a motivational/parenting tool for a long time. Having been thus trained for so many years, it didn't even occur to me that Small Fry might have a different perspective on the matter. It actually took me quite a while to figure out that he was really interested in money. Really interested. Like, desperately-racking-his-little-brain-trying-to-find-ways-to-get-money sort of interested. I don't know how long I was missing out on this, exactly, but it took several separate incidents for me to piece it all together:

First, he kept pestering me to let him take his big U-magnet to the park.

Then, he kept pestering me to let him "look at" vending machines and payphones.

Then, he kept pestering DH and I about whether we wanted to drink any more beer or wine.

In retrospect, he had obviously thought long and hard about potential fundraising avenues, but as I've said before, it sometimes takes a bit of interpretation before his motives become fully clear. He has apparently had success with both the magnet and vending machine searches in the past (something I was not previously aware of), and he gets the proceeds from sorting the refundables out of the recycling so it was pretty obvious to him where the big bucks were coming from on that front.

Now that you know these were ways he was trying to find more money, it all makes perfect sense, right? But it was only when Small Fry became visibly frustrated over DH declining to have a beer one morning that it came together for me: Oooohhh! This kid needs an allowance!

There is a ton of advice out there for how to give your kids allowance. As with most things in life, I have ignored it and done what I thought was a good idea instead. I'll spare you the details, except to say that I developed what I'm calling the "Slurpee Index" for how much allowance I decided to start the kids out with: after savings and donations, it's nice for a little kid to be able to buy her/himself a Slurpee. That's a pretty tangible benefit every week when you're seven. Bonus: the philosophy roughly parallels my own spending, which is allocated based on the "Pedicures and Nice Lunches Index", so it's totally defensible.

Small Fry was thrilled with the magical concept of allowance. ("You mean I get this EVERY WEEK?! Squeeee!") I explained what allowance was and that he would be able to buy a Slurpee if he wanted to, then I handed him his money and figured he would be off to 7-11 like a shot. But once again, he surprised me with further revelations from his onion-like little soul: he wasn't going to buy a Slurpee at all. He was going to save his money. The real reason he had racked his brains for ways to get money - his one true motivation in life and dedicated savings goal - is not Slurpees at all...

It's Lego.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ninja Revelations

There's nothing quite like parent teacher interviews to bring out the guilt in children. You don't have to even be at the actual interviews for this to happen, you just have to casually mention in conversation that they're coming up. One by one, your children will soon seek you out to preemptively confess their school misdeeds. (But only if you're the Nice Parent. Kids never seek out the Mean Parent for their preemptive confession needs.)

These are some of the teary-eyed confessions that I - as Nice Parent - have heard over the years:

"I talk too much in class sometimes!"
Medium Fry, Grades 1 through - well, most likely her entire life.

"I was kissing girls!"
Small Fry, Preschool through - well, most likely his entire life.

It is really, really hard not to laugh. (But you can't laugh! Laughing would be detrimental to the whole process.) They are just so sweet and honest, and can Mean Parent *pwease* not come to parent teacher interviews, only you?

In the vein of talking too much "sometimes", Medium Fry has always been highly forthcoming about her confessions. Like, endless dramatic narrative about not being allowed to sit beside so-and-so at carpet time... or having to move to a different table from so-and-so... or completely missing a track and field heat and having to run against an older age group because she was too busy chatting with so-and-so to notice they had been called up. The force is pretty strong with this one.

Small Fry's confessions, however, are more varied in nature and tend to require some teasing out in order for the full scope of the confession to become apparent:

He comes into the room slowly. Gives Mean Parent a cagey glance. Edges surreptitiously over toward Nice Parent. Climbs onto Nice Parent's lap. Whispers in Nice Parent's ear, in that sortof damp and not-actually-quiet way that kids whisper, "Mommy, I need to tell you a secret."

I whisper back, in proper non-damp form in hopes he will get the hint one day (he doesn't), "What is the secret?"

* * *
 
"I had to put my head down on my desk."
"Why did you have to put your head down on your desk?"
"Twice."
"Okay, why did you have to do it twice?"
"For different reasons."
"But what reasons?"
"... I was talking too much with Sachiv when the teacher was talking."
"Okay, what is the other reason?"
"... I don't want to tell you."
"Do you think you should tell me?"
"I was fighting with Tyrel."
"But Tyrel is your friend. Were you real fighting or just play fighting?"
"Real fighting."
"Why were you fighting?"
"Because he asked me to."
"... So you were play fighting?"
"Yes. But for real."
"Were you being ninjas?"
"Yes."
"Did anyone get hurt?"
"No."
"Um..."
"Don't tell Dad."

* * *

"The gate is broken."
"What happened to the gate?"
"The lock thingy was a little bit stuck."
"That's okay, sweetie, we can fix a stuck lock."
"But I was fixing it already."
"How were you fixing it?"
"I was hitting it."
"... ?"
"... with a brick."
"Ah. I see."
"Don't tell Dad."

* * *

"It's not fair! They were kissing me first!"
"That again?"
"Don't tell Dad."

* * *

So far, I always tell Dad. I suspect he experiences some secret little flush of filial pride over the kissing girls business. Plus I'm not gonna fix the gate. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Patent Pending

Medium Fry - whose blog handle I may have to change one of these days to reflect the fact that she's 15 now and about as Large as she's ever going to be - joined the school choir this year. Choir, choir, choir, everything is about choir these days. I was plotting a conversation about birth control, but then she joined choir and I was like - naaah. We're good for another year.

I was in choir too when I was a kid, but this is some kind of all-girls, age-group, competitive choir. There are uniforms, steep enrollment fees, weekend training camps (plural! what could this possibly entail?!), and before and after school practice sessions at various times during the week. Good lawd. When I was in choir, it was because some kind of music class was mandatory and we were too poor to afford an instrument. It wasn't, like, a lifestyle choice or anything. If I had had to get up at 5:30 on Wednesdays to make it to early practice or stay after school on early dismissal days for late practice, I simply would not have done so. Early dismissal days, people! Not a fukken chance I would be at choir practice! But Medium Fry is all over the choir thing, so she puts herself to bed early on Tuesday evenings and is on public transit by 6:30 on Wednesday mornings. Because choir. (Also because whatever voodoo curses my mother tried to put on my future offspring when I was a teen clearly didn't pan out.) (I'm too scientific for that.)

Here is the best part: Medium Fry makes herself a fortifying hot beverage for her groggy commute on Wednesday mornings. Nope, not a coffee. Not even a tea. A hot chocolate. Isn't that super cute-larious?

Even more cute-larious, she sometimes puts a little instant coffee in her hot chocolate (decaf! she was quick to point out, as if she somehow believed that I - of all people - have something against caffeine): "It's really tasty! It's like Coffee Crisp! You should try it sometime!"

... just so darn cute that I wasn't sure how to break it to her that mocha is pretty old news. I made a Noncommittal Mom Sound* instead.

To be fair, I think I've invented things all the time. But no matter how amazing my inventions are I try to stay grounded in the notion that, statistically speaking, they're probably not new at all. I mean, there are a lot of "makey" people in the world; what are the chances I've beaten them all to it? Not that that stops me from wanting to share my inventions with people; it just stops me from actually sharing my inventions with people. For instance, I know for a solid fact that I didn't invent my most recent invention, but I still have trouble containing myself over it. I actually want to stop strangers on the street and tell them about it.

As a matter of fact, I crafted an entire blog post around telling people about it: watching a TV series makes working out suck SO. MUCH. LESS.

Yep, I know, everyone else in the world already knew that. Still, it was utterly game-changing to me when I discovered it last week. So as I was driving home from the gym early Wednesday morning (after a substantially-less-boring-than-usual workout!) and I passed Medium Fry standing at the bus stop with her go cup of mocha, I did not make a Noncommittal Mom Sound* about it. I rolled down the window and yelled, "RESPECT!"

* Patent-pending. But not really.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Call of the Wild

Or: On the Eighth Day, Let There be Leggings!

Walking into an oil town pub or a camp dining hall is sortof like having a bear encounter: in both scenarios, you are aware of being relegated in status down to mere "meat". I mean, no matter how tarted up I am in downtown Calgary I barely get an occasional second glance, but I can be just as grimy and sweaty and "practically" (i.e., strangely) attired as you please in, say, Fox Creek, and it is openly lascivious ogling all around. My friend (or, more specifically, her butt, in some leggings) nearly caused a riot at a hotel breakfast bar. Every female colleague of mine has experienced the same phenomenon, and I don't think any of them finds it flattering. At best, it's mildly amusing; at worst, disturbing - and even a little bit scary.

Bear, cool, I get it man, I'm in your space and I'm (slowly!) getting the hell out of here. Men, though: what the hell? Is there something about oil town living away from home that causes these fellows to go a little feral, or - as DH suggested - is it just that they were the dregs of society to begin with and have been unnaturally concentrated in oil towns due to their professions, so's that one notices them more?

Neither hypothesis seems very generous. Handily, I do a lot of living away from home during the field season, so I might have some insights into the phenomenon of going feral due to this bizarre natural experiment I conduct on myself every year.

I know I definitely start to get a little weird after a long field stint in the boonies. Weirder still if I'm working alone, as if the lack of human contact decalibrates my social compass. I spend hours every day fantasizing about real food - I probably spent a full two weeks near the end of my field season last year daydreaming about cooking myself a lasagna, then eating said lasagna. Every day the fantasy would get a little more elaborate - no! Not the farmer's market! I will use vine-ripened tomatoes from my own garden to make the sauce! Unnhhhh...

I do make a mean lasagna but I usually don't have the attention span to agonize over the origins of my sauce tomatoes, so this is pretty strange behaviour for me. Feral? Perhaps I was a short distance down that slippery slope... but when those men are leering at you while you eat your mashed potatoes as quickly and unsexily as you are able to, it is clearly not lasagna they are fantasizing about. I figured I was not quite feral yet.

Right at the end of my field season last year, I was standing around on a project - I don't fully understand it but there is somehow a LOT of standing around that is done in pipeline construction - just dreaming about lasagna and wishing we could get around to actually doing something at some point that day. One fellow broke up his standing activities by removing his sweater, which bunched up his t-shirt slightly and left a small sliver of hip bone exposed between his jeans and shirt. Just a little peek. Just a one-inch sliver of taut, tanned, male flesh...

I literally could not take my eyes off of it. The two weeks I had invested in an emotional affair with homemade lasagna were forgotten in an instant. I wanted to eat this guy instead.

Suddenly, I was off the deep end. I really needed to go home.

So when my friend was innocently causing the complete mental breakdown of a roomful of breakfasting riggers with her leggings, I flashed back to my deranged hip bone moment of the year before and I had an inkling of comprehension of how these fellows were feeling. She does have a great butt, after all - and everyone goes a little feral eventually.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Good Grief

The 7 Stages of Dealing with New Government Policies

Disbelief
"They can't possibly mean what they're saying here."
"This is going to take forever to do."
"You've got to be fucking kidding me."

Denial
"My project is clearly grandfathered in."
"This guy has no idea what he's talking about."
"Nope. Nope, nope, nope. There is no way I'm doing that."

Anger
"The guidance documents aren't even internally consistent!"
"How can they possibly expect this of anyone?"
"You've got to be fucking kidding me!" 

Bargaining
"Can't we just throw some money at this?"
"Maybe if I just try this instead..."
"If You just get this application through, I swear I will never do another one ever again. Amen."

Guilt
"I have a bad attitude."
"I don't even care about the environment anymore, I just want this project to end."
"I wish I had measured the diameters of those shrubs better."

Depression
"I am so over budget."

Hope
"Hm, this report is pretty sexy... maybe it will go through after all..."
"Well, at least we have a template now."
"Aaaaaand - invoice submitted!"

The term "stages" is somewhat misleading, as it implies a stepwise progression. In reality, these are more examples of emotions a consultant may experience when dealing with New Government Policies, and not all individuals may experience all of these reactions. Conversely, some consultants may feel much more Anger than others. It is common for an individual to fluctuate wildly between the different "stages" as they learn more about the New Government Policies and how they are being randomly interpreted by different people in the same damn regulatory body implemented.

If New Government Policies are troubling you, you may find venting over a bottle of wine with a colleague helpful. I'll drink pretty much anything red. Call me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Small Town Saturday Night

I don't have super high expectations of motel stays in small towns - I've learned that aiming low generally seems to be a decent way to approach most of life's slightly sketchy situations. You're much less likely to be disappointed (or disgusted) and much more likely to be thrilled about things that others with higher expectations of the world might have erroneously come to view as standard, like a working mini-fridge, say, or pillows that don't smell like they've been deep fried.

Come to think of it, lowered expectations may well be one of the key reasons I’m such a happy person. A more particular individual would have to write a scathing online review instead of a cheery blog, plus pay a lot more money for a better room somewhere else. Maybe somewhere they don’t fry their pillows.

But some things fall short of even my low bar. For instance, there is nothing quite like checking into a small-town motel at the end of a long day, only to discover popcorn and “hairs” IN the bed. I didn’t even know what my low bar was, exactly, until that moment of discovery, but it was immediately clear to me that IN the bed happens to be precisely where I draw the line.

My second thought after discovering my low bar setting was, “Aw, that guy must have been lonely.”

Another moment of clarity: apparently I feel like I can divine a lot about someone by the motel room debris they have left behind. Just imagine what the folks who actually clean (or in this case, “clean”) the rooms must know about their temporary tenants!

Third moment: I solemnly resolve to be more aware of the forensic judgement opportunities I present to cleaning staff.

But if I were to leave behind motel bed fillings for some other plucky traveler to find, what would really speak to my motel experience, in the way Mr. Prolly Jerking Off While Watching a Shitty Movie’s popcorn and pubes seemingly spoke to his? I’ve given this some serious consideration the past few days, and I propose that my motel story would best be told with Triscuit crumbs and dessicated plant fragments: Ms. Late Night Botany Session.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Ohmmmmmm...

The nature of impermanence: parenting edition*.

a. Amount for eligible dependant - check.
b. "You're the bestest Mommy ever!"
c. Age 4.**
d. Chores Chart.
e. Fresh batch of cookies.
f. "Everyone empty their bladders before we leave."
g. Wow, no one is sick right now.
h. "This is my favourite food!"
i. "My Legos are all picked up!"
j. The house is clea... aww.
k. The laundry is d.... aww.
l. This will be a fun craft.

* Decreasing exponential scale.
** Perceived time may be significantly greater than actually experienced.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Parent Hacks

Parenting hack: do stuff with your kids.

Actually, that's not really the hack. Here's the hack: you don't need to be crazy about it or anything - stuff you were already going to do in the first place works just fine. It'll take way longer and you'll need a glass of wine to cope with it the first couple dozen times, but eventually your efforts will pay off.

Oh, I guess that's my second hack for you today: wine. Lots of it.

I find cooking and baking are some things that are good to do. (You needed brownies, right?) My hope and expectation has always been that, eventually, the kids would gain some basic safety, common-sense and, heck, maybe even cooking skills. Maybe they could get themselves breakfast one day... pack a lunch without help... cook a meal for the family once in a while... not die of malnourishment in college. Y'know, the basics. I had a long game to meditate on when they were splashing pancake batter all over the damn place as toddlers.

Interestingly, I've noticed over the years that there are a ton of knock-on educational benefits associated with cooking that I had never even considered in my long game:

There's literacy: because "cookies" is an excellent motivator for sounding out that tricky word in the recipe, as is learning the deceptively big difference between cinnamon and cayenne.
Chemistry: proteins denature, carbon dioxide bubbles form, what the heck is Teflon anyway?
Math: fractions, measurements, conversions, ratios
Physics: phase changes, conduction, convection, surface tension, gelling
Biology: bacteria/safe food handling, nutrition, yeast, PMS

Yup, even PMS: the fact that we had chocolate-chip pancakes for supper once a month growing up was how my brother learned about the menstrual cycle. Kudos to him for noticing there was a pancake cycle; I filled him in on the back story. I'm certain he will make some lucky gal a fine husband one day - he learned early on to be very supportive of any female initiatives involving chocolate.

Final hack for the day: HERE is the easiest, kid-helper-friendliest, PMS-iest recipe I have on file.

Just think of how educated your child will be after helping you make these once a month for their entire childhood. You are an excellent parent. Go ahead, have some wine.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Aim High! ... Er, Not Quite That High

Small Fry emerged from the womb with a sort of natural athleticism that is completely foreign to me. If you show him something physical once, he immediately masters it and will forevermore be the world's best monkey bar swinger, two-wheeler rider, snow shoveler, whatever. (I'm not kidding - he has excellent shoveling form. He's like a textbook snow shoveler.)

I am not like that. Medium Fry is not like that, either - although it doesn't really seem as if it should be a heritable trait, this is clearly something she gets from me. We were both embarrassingly old when we finally learned how to ride a bicycle. We can't skip rocks, or catch frisbees, or ever really "get" team sports. If there are "fine motor skills people" and "gross motor skills people" in the world, I fully acknowledge that I am waaay over on this end of the spectrum doing some crocheting. 

Which brings me to Zumba. I mean, not in any logical way - in retrospect I'm very poorly suited to it. It's just that it kindof looked like it might be fun, and the promotional materials would have one believe that it's "for everybody and every body" so I decided to try it out at the community centre one night.

I didn't have crazy high hopes for myself or anything - I picked a spot in the class near some senior citizens just in case. And good thing, too, because I was even worse at it than I had expected. One of the senior ladies stopped me after class and gently said, "Have you tried crocheting, dearie?"

Haha, just kidding, that was only what she was thinking - but she did pat me on the shoulder and tell me it took her a few classes to catch on, too. Her friends nodded sympathetically. "Oh yes, us too, just keep trying!" Point being that the seniors were not only clearly out-Zumbaing me, but also that my performance was so pathetic that it engendered grandmotherly instincts in a gaggle of complete strangers.

But whatev. This many years in, I'm more or less accustomed to being really terrible at most things involving more than a modicum of coordination. I'll just keep attending class, and I'll improve with time. That's how these things go, right?

Week 2: Right??

Week 3: Isn't it how they go?

Week 4: Okay, seriously. Tell me this is going to get better one day.

Week 5: What?! Did they just change the songs again?!

Week 6: Wouldn't you know, right in the middle of La Zumbera: illumination. I have been conditioned, through a lifetime of inspirational messaging implicit in everything from office posters to family movies, to believe in the underdog - the overcoming - the breaking through. Perseverance, right? Motivation! The ragtag team gets their shit together and wins the championship! The fat kid finally catches the ball! The middle-aged lady's limbs miraculously begin working in graceful, rhythmic tandem for the first time ever!

I had been waiting for my Disney moment. Unconsciously, of course - my rational brain certainly knows better, it was just being circumvented by... well, by false advertising, really. Ah - so I can't be quite anything I want to be? I'm actually probably going to plateau somewhere right around "good enough", or maybe even "middling" or "half-assed" at some things? Several things?

Man, that takes the pressure off! Thank goodness. Now I can finally relax and enjoy my Zumba classes. 

Week 7+: Happily doing fukken terrible Zumba.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I Also Hate the Park

So I read this article the other day that purported to confess all the ways in which the author, a mom blogger, didn't "do it all" as a parent.

I am all about confessions. Confess away. Sometimes it's nice to get things off your chest. But I took issue with the article, because this woman's "confessions" were 100% Grade A horse puckey.

She confessed to not wearing makeup every day. Gasp!

To occasionally feeling too sick to play with her kids. Uh - gasp?

To not answering the dryer immediately when it buzzed, with such regularity that she had never folded a basket of warm towels.

Okay - I can't even fake surprise anymore. Or interest. These things have nothing to do with anything - not parenting, not "doing it all", not even just being a regular ol' human of any stripe. You fold warm towels? That's fine. You don't? That's fine, too. But to pretend it was ever somehow the goal is ludicrous - this was clearly a humblebrag in the skin of a confessional, and I just won't stand for it. Most parents are doing the best with what they've got, and they deserve better.

I would like to offer up some of my own parental musings to counter the false perfectionism that some folks seem to want to stuff down other people's throats:
  • Subsequent Child Ambivalence. Ohmygawd I can't believe I'm starting this all over again.
  • Incremental Returns of Freedom. Buckling their own seatbelts. Zipping their own jackets. Packing their own lunches. Tiny wins, but by golly they're like a gulp of fresh air when you've been immersed for so long in the daily grind of little humans. 
  • Outsourcing. Homemade has never felt as good as sane. 
  • Difficult Truths. Sometimes, your kids will be real a-holes. It's okay to notice this.
  • Adulthood Fatigue. When is it my turn to throw a tantrum?
  • Gentle Tyranny I. They stay up later than you, every night of the week. You will never have a moment alone again. 
  • Gentle Tyranny II. Or sex - you will never have that again either. Nothing kills the mood like knowing your teenager is quietly doing math homework in the kitchen, directly beneath your bedroom.
  • Reducing Entropy. I fantasize - actually, truly fantasize - about the day the kids move out and I can live in a clean house. That stays clean. In fact, some days I think DH can just go ahead and move out too - then NO ONE will walk on my clean floors ever, ever again, and I will be able to die happy.
  • The Sound of Silence. I misses it so.
And if this is not enough for you - if you are really having a tough go of things this day (or week, or year) - and all you want is to know that someone out there is doing just as lousy as you feel you're doing right now, or maybe even worse ('cause sometimes that makes one feel a little better)... there's always the Scary Mommy Confessional. Plus wine.

Go in peace.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Laundry Cycle

The Laundry Cycle is the biopseudophysical cycle by which clothing is exchanged between the Humansphere, Hampersphere, Kenmoresphere and Closetsphere of the Earth. The natural processes that comprise a balanced cycle are depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The Laundry Cycle

















Some amount of seasonal variation is known to occur in the Laundry Cycle, with direct Human-Kenmore  transmission ("Slopperation") increasing with precipitation events (particularly in toddler and school-age forms of laundry) (Small Fry 2008-2015); direct Kenmore-Human Transmogrification increasing in chilly months (DH et al. 2015); and Clotheslinerization increasing in pleasant weather (Mulhern-Davidson et al. 2009+).

The effects of disruption of the Laundry Cycle vary depending on the phase that is disrupted; the magnitude of the disruption; and the timing of the disruption. For example, family dinner at the local Indian restaurant is known to vastly increase the rate of laundry movement directly between the Humansphere and Kenmoresphere, due to Slopperation (DH et al. 2014). A delay in movement of laundry from the Hampersphere to the Kenmoresphere may increase the rate of emergency reutilization, particularly of environmentally limiting forms of laundry such as underwear (Medium Fry 2010, 2014). Conversely, uncharacteristically efficient movement of laundry through the Kenmoresphere into the Closetsphere has been demonstrated to result in the wearing of the same t-shirt to work on Wednesday as one wore to work on Monday, often resulting in mild embarrassment on the part of the Humansphere in question (Frecklepelt, this week).

On occasion, the Hampersphere and Kenmoresphere may temporarily be observed to be entirely free of laundry. This exceedingly rare occurrence is known as "The Laundry is Done"; however, the state appears to violate some law(s) of physics, as it is unfailingly fleeting (AME* dawn of time-present).

* All Moms Everywhere
  

Friday, March 20, 2015

Diet Journaling is for Chumps

Well, that was humiliating. Let's see what the payoff is...

And the verdict...

What the heck?! There's no way that's right. New search term...

Hm. Not in fitness database. Weird. Um...

Huh. Nope. Er...

Still no. Alright, how about...

No. Okay, fine, 732 it is. But I'm writing a note here that I question your methods, internet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Happy Unbirthday, Too!

I've been considering doing a post like this for a while now. Actually, I was saving it for Teacher's Day, but just found out that the date I was working to (May 5) is for the U.S. Teacher's Day - Canada's was back in October. Well, can't I just hold it 'til then? The answer is no, I can't, my brain has a holding capacity approximately equal to that of my bladder. (Hey, they've both been through a couple of pregnancies. Give them a break.)

Fortunately, Wikipedia tells me we're currently somewhere between Teacher's Day: Lebanon and Teacher's Day: Slovakia, so this seems as (in)appropriate a time as any.

This is the story of How I Became a Biologist. The story goes like this:

I hated science class when I was a kid. I just wanted to draw and write stories - I had grand designs on being an artist or an author. People praised me for being artistic and creative (as a parent, I now recognize this was probably in veiled gratitude for my actual valued characteristic, "silent"), which served to reinforce my decision. I hated science class when I was an older kid, too: bo-ring. It was way more fun to draw pictures, write stories and read books and, importantly, to continue to be patted on the head for my artistic(-ness? -tude?) and creativity. But going in to high school, the choice was to take "Science" class - at my school this was the term given to what was known among the students to be the dumb kids class - or pick one of Biology, Chemistry or Physics and suffer through it. So, science was like, bo-ring, but damned if I was going to be in the dumb kids' class... I picked the lesser of the three remaining evils: biology.

It was in Bio 10 that I encountered the best teacher I ever had. He was smart, funny, engaging, knowledgeable, passionate about his subject, and passionate about teaching. And I l-o-v-e-d biology. I loved it so much that I signed up for chemistry the next semester, in addition to more biology. Wouldn't you know, it turned out that I l-o-v-e-d chemistry, too! I loved biology and chemistry so much that I signed up for the dreaded physics the next semester, in addition to more biology and chemistry - this move actually necessitated the dropping of my longtime beau, Art, from my schedule entirely.

My art teacher was flabbergasted, and I still couldn't bring myself to like physics. But this isn't the story of how I became a physicist so that's really beside the point.

Eventually, I ended up in University, where I continued to lap up all the biology, ecology, chemistry, etc. courses I could wrangle into my schedule - and I l-o-v-e-d them all so much that I even tried a physics class again. (Er, not sure what I was thinking there.)

In the interest of achieving a "well-rounded education", and in an ironic reversal of my high school trajectory, I was forced by my degree's credit system to stand down on my devouring of science courses and pad my schedule with some fluffy liberal arts courses. Remind me one day to tell you about what a lousy African drummer I am.

Despite my lack of drumming and physics abilities, I found my first professional job (as a biological field technician) one summer between school years - and I was hooked. And every year since then, with every field season and cool plant find and every mile I get paid to hike, I've been hooked anew.

The story of How I Became a Biologist wouldn't have happened without the teachers in my life. So on this very special non-Teacher's Day, I would like to send out a big thank you to my high school biology teacher: Mr. Emerson, without your influence in my life, I might have been an art major. *shudder* I don't even like Starbucks.

And since it is non-Teacher's Day, I'd also like to thank all my informal biology teachers over the years as well: my colleagues, field partners, mentors and friends who have continued to help me learn and grow, both as a professional and as a person, and who make being a biologist the most damn fun job on earth.

Smooches to all y'all.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

History of Rap

It was just the perfect moment: DH and I were on a couple's vacation, strolling arm in arm, relaxed and happy by the sea. People-watching a bit. We saw some guy taking drinks out of a funky big container and DH said, "What's he sipping?"

"I dunno," I said, "gin and juice?"

DH lost his mind. "Bwahaha! Oh my gawd dearie that was awesome! Quoting gangsta rap! You get a kiss for that!" *smooch*

Wait - what?! I get a kiss? For that? This is a thing? We've been together for, like, eleven years or something and I didn't know this was a thing?

I should point out that, while I think I'm the most hilarious person I know, DH really doesn't seem to share that view. It's rare for him to actually laugh at anything I say or do, unless it involves personal injury. So he was standing there wiping away tears, still chuckling to himself, and I moved rapidly from a state of incredulity to a state of, oh yes. It is ON.

Ever since that day it has been like a game, a secret game that I play: What might I say that could get me a similar reaction? When might I naturally work gangsta rap quotes into my day-to-day, exceedingly suburban-middle-class life? How might I capture them accurately with my weird little voice and my Prairies accent?

Six months later, it turns out this may well have been a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. First of all, I had to look up gangsta rap on the internet to find out what it was, exactly, then I went looking for quotes and discovered - well, it seems I find a lot of it fairly distasteful. I actually like police officers and, y'know, women. This ruled out a great deal of the more 'quotable' quotes, while my aforementioned lifestyle rendered much of the genre simply inapplicable.

I settled for shouting, "Take hits from the booong!" at the dinner table one night after slurping the last of a mixed-berry smoothie.

It, um, didn't really work out quite as well as the first time. I used my best nasally fake-screaming voice and everything so I'm not sure where I went wrong. Maybe it was the smoothie. The kids barely glanced at me - their apparent immunity suggests I may shout out crazy things more frequently than I would care to admit - and DH just made a face and said, "Why are you yelling Cypress Hill at supper?"

Now you know, dear. It was all for you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cold Meditation

I've been laying on the couch for a few days, which is the sort of thing that gets one thinking - primarily because there's nothing else to do when you're strapped to the couch by illness. I basically never sit still, and I try not to think too hard most of the time, so this has not been a super pleasant experience for me. My first train of thought was how terrible locked-in syndrome would be, or really any such disorder that leaves ones body incapacitated yet ones mind free to wander. I even - very briefly - stuck the pinkie toe of human experience into the fever-induced waters of self pity and imagined a flicker of a parallel between my pneumonia-stricken self and Stephen Hawking and his ALS. (Mr. Hawking, if you are reading this, please forgive me. Fever; NyQuil; shit happens sometimes.)

After a read through my Facebook feed and a stop over at Neatorama, my next major train of thought was - well, it was more like a stillness meditation... on cold symptoms. We've all heard the Inuit have [insert large number here] of terms for ice and snow, so why not tidy terms that encompass all the weird things that happen to your body when you have a cold? Why does one have to say, "Aw, I could totally breathe out of one nostril for a second there then they both plugged up again!" Or, "The entire inside of my head feels like it's stuffed full of wool and chili powder and nasty little elves pounding on anvils." That's just unwieldy. Everyone has had these same experiences, and everyone both wants to share their own symptoms in gruesome detail and not hear about anyone else's gruesome details. Why not have a single term? You could groan, "Ugh, loderf!" and your partner would know without having to be explicitly told that, say, you experienced a sudden rush of nasal drainage that woke you up just as it was leaking onto your pillow. "Fuuuuuck.... requat...." could mean you're hacking up balls of green phlegm. "Klapparf" could indicate that sensation of having your sinuses solidify; "naubd" the experience of tears shooting out of your tear ducts from blowing your nose too hard; "adanc" the feeling of razor blades in your throat when swallowing. I would particularly appreciate a term for splitting your lip from sneezing - hygdal? I really hate hygdal.

Or we could work backwards, a la Dan Savage, and pick an especially distasteful public figure to whose name could be assigned the definition for a similarly nasty cold symptom. (I don't want to tread too closely to Santorum here, but could we think of anyone whose name deserves to be associated with excessive-mucus-production-related diarrhea...?)

Wouldn't this approach as a whole make it so much easier to convey one's misery? It would put the less verbose among us on a level playing field for documenting their symptoms, and it would also make describing your state to the doctor *so* much less whingey - I just hate going in there and invariably sounding like a four-year-old: My head hurts and my throat hurts and I want my mommy. You could sound so definitive instead: Yes, ma'am, I have been experiencing regular klapparf, requat, claub and a bit of numpasta as well. I think you'll agree it's pretty serious.

(I said that in a radio announcer voice in my head, but you could use your regular outside voice when talking with your doctor.)

I hope I help each of you pass a bit of time during your next cold, thinking of distinct symptoms that deserve their own name. Perhaps when we're done our good work here we can branch out into other common pathologies.

Friday, January 30, 2015

It's a Report!

It's a Report!

Birthday: 11:59pm, the evening of its due date
Birth Place: home office delivery
Size: mostly 8.5 x 11
Thud Factor: 295 adorable pages

Our Birth Story:
The proud parents are pleased to announce the arrival of their much-anticipated Deliverable. Immediately upon learning they were expecting a Deliverable, the couple gathered together ten of their closest colleagues to share in their journey. The couple wishes to extend their sincere thanks to everyone involved - we couldn't have done it without you!

It was a difficult labour, lasting approximately one year. Many tears were shed during this time, but the proud parents now couldn't be happier - they love their little Deliverable, typos and all, and in return, Deliverable is already contributing to supporting its parents. What a Wunderkind!

The couple is still together, and feel closer than ever before. Mom wonders whether she will ever fit into her pre-Deliverable jeans again, but Other Mom didn't love her for her looks anyway so no matter. The couple is presently enjoying some much-deserved time off, but say they expect to make more Reports together over the next 3, 5 and 10 years - if not more frequently!

Congratulations:
Report has all the staples and binder clips it needs, but if you wish to send a gift, the proud parents wouldn't say no to a congratulatory beverage. Or three.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Viva Lost Wages

I've never been to Las Vegas and to be honest, I have no real interest in ever going. Granted, people who go there seem to like it, but I'm of the mind that you already have to be the sort of person who goes to Vegas before you're ever inclined to be a person who goes to Vegas. I'm just going off of what I've heard from other Persons Who Go to Vegas, but I made up a bit of a quiz to see if I should go and the results suggest it's probably not a good idea: I'm too pragmatic to gamble. I don't care for Celine Dion. I'm biologically predisposed to be intolerant of heat and humidity. Despite what my family seems to think, I actually don't drink all that much. And, most of all, I don't like people, or crowds, or noise.

Let's be honest here: if I avoid going to the mall because it's too overstimulating, what are the chances I'm going to like Vegas? It is pretty much specially engineered to be not my cup of tea.

You know what's as much Vegas as someone like me can handle? Going to Costco. Costco is like Vegas for introverts. I mean, instead of an STI you come home with a twelve-pound block of Parmigiano Reggiano, but either way it's pretty tough to explain to your spouse what the hell you were thinking at the time.

It's never not-busy at Costco - it's somehow always crawling with people, and sure, they might not be quite as colourful as folks you'd see in Vegas, but the people watching is still pretty solid. (What is he going to do with two gallons of mustard? How many children do those people have?!) The lighting is intense and disconcerting. The roar of a thousand flatbed shopping carts, and dozens of children chanting, "Sam-PLE! Sam-PLE!" drowns out all rational thought. You are actually, literally trampled by old ladies stampeding the chicken cordon bleu samples table. The lineups challenge your will to live. Ultimately, you arrive back home with an empty wallet, a headache, and lingering psychological chills from your close brush with the rot of modern society.

Come to think of it, I probably shouldn't go to Disneyland, either.

Probably the one major difference between Costco and Vegas - aside from all the drugs and debauchery and ill-advised marriages officiated by Elvis impersonators, of course - is that no one is going to steal your purse in Costco. I mean, they'd have to abandon the hard-won spoils of their flatbed cart and stand in line at the door to get out - major disincentives.

Oh, but there's more to Vegas than even that! you say? I see your line of thought, and raise you: we have tickets to Cirque du Soleil in April, right here in Calgary. I'm taking the kids to Costco for a few samples first.

Full. Vegas. Experience.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Loosen Your Belt

Hey, remember that old Disney cartoon where Goofy is all calm and reasonable as a pedestrian but as soon as he gets behind the wheel he goes nutso? Well, I would never have accused DH of being entirely calm or reasonable, but I discovered this week that he is capable of a level of crazy I never knew existed. His heretofore unknown dark side is released from the bonds of conscience and loosed upon the world not by driving a car or drinking a potion, but rather by the mysterious force of an all-you-can-eat tropical resort buffet. For this reason, it shall be named "Buffadrian". And Buffadrian wants you to get his money's worth.

The kids found Buffadrian confusing and frightening. Most of their lives they've been subjected to constant reminders to eat their fruits and vegetables, but when they returned from the buffet line with nutritionally-balanced plates Buffadrian shook fistfuls of crab legs at them and growled through a mouthful of prime rib, "Why are you little idiots eating salad?! Stop that this instant and go get more animals!" Gravy frothed at the corners of his mouth. The kids glanced nervously at me - Ms. Eat Your Vegetables herself - then decided I was the least terrifying parent at the moment and scurried off to load up on meat.

Buffadrian turned his deranged gaze to my plate - more vegetables! Buns! In fact, no meat at all! "Oh, shut up," I said preemptively, "I'm saving myself for dessert." Buffadrian's mental buffet ledger, however, accounts only for transactions made in cash, credit and animal protein. He rolled his eyes dramatically and sighed - never mind that I went on to eat a fish fillet and a cool half-dozen mini desserts, I was just one more person he would have to eat for this night.

But that was a challenge Buffadrian was willing to tackle.

Unfortunately for DH, this was a decision made by Buffadrian yet suffered by himself, beginning just as soon as the siren song of the buffet had released its hold on his personality. Later that night when he asked the family, "Why did you make me eat so much?" - while he cradled his distended belly and rocked in pain - he genuinely seemed to mean why did we, personally, by the act of clearly not eating enough buffet, directly force him to make up for our collective shortfall by eating All The Things?

I patted his Food Baby and smiled, knowing that there would be a breakfast buffet the next morning and that I would soon be the proud progenitor of twins.