tripping the life unbalanced

Sunday, July 30, 2006

vacation postmortem

I've been back for awhile now, but apparently getting my ass in gear to blog again is much too much energy. And it has been DAMN HOT in Toronto, so I can use that as an excuse for my lethargy. But really? I'm just lazy.

Instead of give you a full play-by-play of exactly what went down during our time away in this excellent place, I thought I would just leave you with some of the more memorable events. (and hey, those of you with a young child: you know it's not really a week of relaxation when you spend the time with 10 of your family members without your partner in parenting and with a 3 year old who doesn't fall asleep until midnight every night, right? Ah yes. You know that).

A few glimpses into our vacation:

1) A roomful of grown adults singing along to Disney's "Princess Sing-Along Song" on dvd, which highlights the more popular (and somewhat annoying) hits from any Disney movie with a princess in it. Best all-around award must go to Uncle Aaron who belted out "A WHOLE NEW WORLD!!!" every hour or so, sending Alice into a fit of giggles each time.
2) A table full of shouting (and mostly drunk) grown-ups playing Texas Hold-Em, while a 3 year old tries to sleep upstairs.
3) watching Alice get progressively stoned after I gave her baby Gravol for the first time (oh people, it works, it REALLY works)
4) a Treasure Hunt my parents orchestrated that sent my siblings and I into a tizzy of competition. Yes, that's right. An organized hunt, people. A full-on scavengener-like hunt that drove my sister, myself, and my SIL to run around the small town, giggling like teenagers and trying to throw the other team (my brother and brother-in-law) off track.
5) eating greasy fries on the beach
6) rock hunting with Alice on the Lake Huron shore
7) a well-intentioned but poorly-planned anniversary celebration for my parents (35 years!) that began the night before with a bunch of excited brainstorming and over-the-top plans and ended up being a really nice dinner cooked by my brother and SIL.
8) hanging with my asshat sister who lives too far away in New Jersey. Also hanging with my BIL and SIL getting to know them better
9) watching Alice paint her beloved Uncle Peter's toes pink
10) in the car on the way home, Alice grabbing my hand and whispering "I like it when we have a holiday together."

Ok. That's it for me for now. I have to get some momentum infused in this blog - I just don't seem to be that interested in posting these days. I'll try to get some more posts in soon.

Over and out.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

tales from the girly side

I have admitted here before that my spunky energetic daughter has been enamored with all things ultra feminine as of late. She loves dress up and high heels and lipstick and purses and barbies and princesses. I have been learning as I go along this parenting journey to interject when I think it's appropriate and let her be at other times. And for the most part, it's harmless stuff - she's playing at being girly and I think it's good to explore all kinds of stuff at this age. It's not easy to be asked to "play house like girls do" but I try to filter out the shit and leave the rest behind.

It has previously only been in the realm of play that we have encountered these issues. We now, however, have suddenly come up against the issues around gender stereotypes: "mommy, boys can't wear skirts!" "that boy said only boys can climb up the slide - it's too hard for girls" and my very favourite "but I don't wanna be a firefighter, mommy, I wanna be a FIREMAN!"


In many ways, I love this stage in her life because I get to see her start to really question what is put in front of her, on her own terms. In other ways, it's very difficult to help your daughter understand gender stereotypes at 3. Her world is so black and white right now, and conceptualizing grey...well, it's near impossible.

We experienced this difficulty the other night while reading books in Alice's bed. She had recently received a giant bag of books from a friend and I hadn't yet gone through to see what was there. And so when I lay down to read her a bedtime story, you better believe I was speechless when she pulled out this:

Not sure if any of you have had the pleasure of reading this book, but suffice to say it is probably my least favourite of any of the B. books. (and I'm not a fan, so you do the math). It's about a little cub who pisses off her older brother by following he and his friends around. It's not only the sibling shadow that bothers him (and that's a valid concern, take it from an oldest sibling), but the fact that she is better than the boys at traditional male activities: running, playing ball, marbles, and climbing. And THAT is what she gets punished for - the boys of course run off on their own and start a NO GIRLS ALLOWED club, and well, you can see where this is going. The book's message is apparently supposed to be a lesson about bragging and how it can lose you friends, but really it's just a diatribe about how girls shouldn't make boys feel badly if they - GASP - are better at something than the boys. Take this gem from Mama Bear (to Papa Bear who is actually defending his daughter's right to be the best in the room):

"how would you have liked it when you were a cub if some little girl could outrun outclimb and outhit you?"

Of course, this was the part in the story that I put the book down and had a long conversation with Alice. We talked about what girls and boys can both do, and how some people think that there are things that boys can do that girls shouldn't, and vice versa. It actually turned out to be a good thing we talked, because I think it's pretty confusing at her age to work out in her head why Mommy doesn't like her book.

She's still a little foggy on the details ("you mean people can do whatever they want, when they want, right? Like I can have candy whenever I want!") But at least she is starting to understand that boys can wear makeup and girls can be mechanics. I know we have many more conversations like this ahead of us, but I do take comfort in the fact that she is happy to explore all sides of the gender line, and self-confident enough to tell the boy on the slide that "girls can do whatever boys can!" unprompted.

Of course, I also take comfort in this:

Which is what her arms were wrapped around when I peeked in on her later.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

can you feel the love tonight?

Oh god. It has happened. Disney has captured my sense of good taste and won't let it go. We've been watching The Lion King the past few days (because a 2 hour movie takes oh, about 5 days to get through with a preschooler). I had never seen that movie before, and apparently I'm the last person on this earth to admit to that. Even Matt, the self-professed hater of all things Disney, was surprised "never? as in NEVER seen The Lion King?" I guess I was too busy drowning myself in beer and bad romances when it came out in the theatres.

So anyway, I finally watched it and really? It didn't kill me. I know, I know - I can't believe it myself. But that first part of the movie where all the animals come running to see the new lion cub and Simba is held up to the sky? I'm embarrassed to say a few tears made their way down my pathetic traitor cheeks. I used to talk a big game about the evils of Disney and the ways they rule the world. But now, here I am bugging my daughter to just "hold on a minute, OK? I know you're about to pee your pants but mommy needs to see what happens with Scar and Simba's big throwdown." I blame her, of course, as surely it is her influence on me. She's also to blame for the Barbie doll I bought her a xmas. So there, internet.

In other news, I'm happy to report that our 4 day hiatus from active parenting was excellent. I took two days off work and just puttered around the house for most of the time. I even got to catch up on some good books and spend some quality time with Matt. We celebrated Scarbie's birthday celebrations with her on Friday night and let me just say this - I was so impressed, and a bit envious of how well she handles herself about 5 tequila shots in. We stayed out with her crowd until late and got to sleep in the next morning. The best thing, it is, this thing they call sleeping in. Even better than better-than-sex pie.

Alice came back to us refreshed and full of energy. I think all of that Lake Huron air and spoiling from her grandparents did her a world of good. And even better? We were all so happy to be reunited - it was amazing to realise how much we missed her presence in the house. We are just not our family without her.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

#46: Veronica

One thing I totally hate about conventional chicklit is how contrived it makes female friendship seem: packaging it in a neat box of sentimental tears and pinky swears and a bunch of women howling at the moon in unison. Joining hands in female solidarity, with not a drop of contempt nor insecurity nor jealousy between them.

Yeah, right.

Don't get me wrong - it's not like I think that female friendship is not important or life-changing. I just think that it is more complex than sharing secrets about lovers and holding each other's babies. While those things are indeed fun and even necessary at times, I want to read stories about female friends that goes far beyond these clich├ęs. How about seeing your own self-loathing reflected in the eyes of your friends? How about the solace you find in the fact that you are not alone in the depressing day-to-day crap train that is your life? And I'm not talking here about a literary version of That's What Friends Are For with Dionne Warwick, but more She's Losing It by Belle and Sebastian. I am talking about those friendships that are few and far between, where you take comfort knowing that you are both damaged, both crazy, both walking the line between vanity and insecurity.

I love these kinds of stories - I find myself seeking them out at bookstores and the library. And I found a new one with Veronica by Mary Gaitskill. This novel follows an unlikely friendship between a 20-something has-been model and middle aged professional "temp" worker who contracts AIDS in the early days of the disease. Unlike most well-worn images of female friendships in literature, these two women are not all that sympathetic nor likeable at times. The novel mainly focuses on Alison, and her search for connection in the world. She doesn't feel as though she belongs anywhere, and this emptiness follows her for most of the novel:

page # 132: Sometimes I saw the goodwill and the deep things and longed to know them. Sometimes I saw the thrusting jaw and the bony calves and turned up my nose. Because I could never fully have either feeling, I stayed detached.

It is through her memories of her friendship with Veronica that Alison is able to crawl out of the hole of selfishnesss and detachment that had previously crippled her. Here is a story of female friendship that reveals the complexities of such relationships - they are not all beautifully-wrapped packages full of hearts and smiley emoticons. Instead, they are deeper connections that hold up a mirror to our deepest fears and insecurities, and allow us to find comfort in those reflections.

page 256: I was not saved by an innocent girl or an angel crying in heaven. I was saved by another demon, who looked on me with pity and so became human again. And because I pitied her in turn, I was allowed to become human, too.

This novel touched me in ways few have. I love the way Gaitskill can confront you with ugliness and tenderness in the same paragraph. Most highly recommended.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

and out of the blue

I recently received a call from my dad:

Dad: How are things?

Me: OK. (subtext here is: Tired. Cranky. At my wit's end. How about you?)

Dad: Your mom and I are coming to Toronto on Tuesday, and we wanted to know if we could take Alice with us to the cottage for a few days.

Me: stunned silence. Unable to compute.

Dad: So we would take her from Wednesday until Saturday. Would that be OK with you guys?

Me: OK? (Still unable to completely comprehend that my parents have just offered to give me a vacation from being a mommy for 4 days. 4 WHOLE DAYS, PEOPLE).

Dad: Yah, you know. As in: would you agree to that?

Me: swallowing back tears of pure joy. Yes. Oh yes. I could agree to that.

Dad: Great. See you then.


And so it is, my friends. My parents just left with my child to enjoy 4 days of sunshine and beach and grandparents' love and Matt and I are on our own. I am so excited I don't know what to do with myself. I mean, I really don't. I think I will just sit here for a few hours and simply soak up the silence. WOO HOOOO!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Vacation, All I ever wanted

I'm feeling nostalgic this weekend. Feverish with memories of being younger and without a child or husband and just being on my own. I'm in a repeat cycle of thinking about patio nights in the summer, pooling change for $7 pitchers of beer, and watching the nights turn into early morning haze. It's like I'm homesick for a 20 year-old me.

I don't really know why I'm feeling so maudlin about that time in my life. It's not like I led such a great life back then, nor is it like I oozed super confidence and was happy in everything I did. I suppose it's the drama of those years -the silly tears over boys and the giggly comfort of my best girl friends. It was a time without a future and where moments were grounded in the "today" of it all.

I was standing in the grocery aisle today, making important decisions regarding whether I should buy the new Lysol spray over my usual brand, when "Vacation" by the Go-Go's came on. Even though that song hit big before my young adult life really mattered,, it's not like that song doesn't remind me of my own younger days. I felt wishful and giggly and a bit remorseful all at the same time. Singing that song softly to myself in the grocery aisle doesn't really cut it against dancing to it during a heat wave at the Dance Cave years ago.

Here's the goods if you wish to indulge. If you're like me ( and I suspect some of you are), you will probably feel a little stirring at your own memory bank. My treat to you today.

Signing off now - I promise not to be so syrupy in my next post...