May 2007

The joys of May

by DaniGirl on May 30, 2007 · 59 comments

in Postcards from my uterus

As I mentioned, yesterday was my Dad’s birthday. I was thinking about his birthday on the weekend, and remembered that it was four years ago on his birthday that we told my parents that I was pregnant with Simon.

I had found out that day or the day before, and had had a hard time keeping the secret even that long. I remember practically dancing from foot to foot in their sunny living room, telling him that he was going to get a present for his birthday but that it would take nine months to be delivered. Dad regarded me for a long moment with a confused look on his face, obviously aware of some hidden message but not quite able to piece it together. My mother, on the other hand, squealed in a lovely supersonic yelp that might have been, ‘REALLY?’ before we both burst into tears and fell into a hug. Looking back, it’s sweetly ironic now that Simon and Papa Lou have a special bond that defies description. It hasn’t occured to me for years that we announced his pending arrival as a birthday gift to my Dad.

I have to admit, I’ve been thinking a lot about that May, back in 2003, as this month unfolded. Of course, I started the month with babies on my brain as my lost due date came and went just before our cottage weekend. And here we find ourselves deep in the thick of a hockey playoff season, just like we were in 2003. For those of you who haven’t read it, the story of how I found out I was pregnant with Simon has always been one of my very favourite stories, and I’ll wait if you want to go read it and see what I mean.

*waits*

*checks watch*

*waits*

See? I mean, of course I’m biased, but I’ve always loved that story. And each year, I can’t help but smile nostagically as I hop back on to the hockey bandwagon, because exciting playoff hockey games and happy news are now inextricably linked in the mythology of my family.

I’ve been conscious, as the month of May passed this year with its many highs and lows, of that blissful May four years ago. So much so that when I found myself a few days late again this month, I couldn’t help but smile. I am, after all, only a couple of days late. I really do know better than to get excited over a mere couple of days.

But I kept thinking about buying that test and bringing it home, and it was a Wednesday four years ago, too. And I kept remembering that hockey game back in 2003, and how exciting it was having the game and the big maybe all tied up in my brain, and I couldn’t help but think about tonight’s game, Game Two. And when I found myself wide awake at 2:30 in the morning for the second night running, I puzzled over my insomnia for a while before realizing that the only other times I have suffered insomnia have been while I was pregnant.

So I went out at lunchtime today, and I bought a test. A two-pack, of course.

And then when I got back to the office, I just couldn’t stand having the damn thing there and not doing anything about it, so I decided what the hell. I’ll take the test. So on my lunch break, with far from my first morning urine in a stall in the office bathroom, I took the test.

And it was positive! A big, dark, immediate and unmistakable plus sign. I’m pregnant!

So I’ve been walking around my office all afternoon with a positive pregnancy test tucked safely in my pocket, and Fates be Damned, I’ve been having a lot of fun flashing it to a select group of my absolutely lovely, sweet and supportive colleagues, none of whom flinched at me waving a peed-on stick around in front of them and several of whom cried or squealed in delight or did both.

Oh, and speaking of colleagues? Shhhhh! What we say in the blogosphere stays in the blogosphere, at least for now, okay?

Four weeks down, 36 to go…


{ 59 comments }

I’ve been meaning to blog for a few days about the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars.

Thirty years.

Thirty!!

Star Wars is, hands down, the single most influential movie in my life. It also happens to remain my all-time favourite movie. My childhood memories are tightly woven into a backdrop of Star Wars movies, toys, books, bubble-gum cards and mythology. On this anniversary weekend, there have been plenty of articles in the media about how seminal Star Wars was, and how it changed the movie landscape forever. From an article in the weekend Citizen:

No wonder the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Film Registry has named Star Wars “a culturally, historically, and aesthetically important” film, or that the American Film Institute placed it 15th on its list of the top 100 films in the 20th century. And then there’s that ubiquitous line from the movie: “May the Force be with you.” The AFI ranks the phrase as the eighth-greatest quote in American film history. In this light, it is no exaggeration to say, as film critic Stephen Greydanus puts it, “the Star Wars universe remains a cultural institution of immense proportions.”

I clearly remember going to see it for the first time. We went with another family, and on the way to the theatre the four adults sat in the front and back seat of our wood-panelled Cutlass Ciera station wagon (it was, after all, 1977) and we kids rolled around like peas in a 10-gallon tub in the back. Return of the Jedi was the first movie my brother and I were allowed to attend without parental supervision; I remember my father dropping us off in front of the downtown cinema – in the days before the mall-based multi-plex – for an 8:30 am showing.

When we got our first VCR in the early 1980s, one of those giant ones with the square buttons you pushed down and held to make them stick and where the lid opened upwards to accept the cassette and the ‘remote’ was attached by a long cord and consisted of an analogue switch with two options ‘pause’ and ‘play’, Star Wars was the first movie we rented and later copied. I lost count of how many times I watched it through high school, but it was in excess of 120 times. (I may have mentioned I didn’t get out much in the earliest years of high school, and by the time I had a pack of friends, they were the kind of good-natured geeks who loved nothing better than to watch Star Wars again and again right along with me after hours spent playing D&D.)

Growing up, my brother had tonnes of Star Wars action figures and playsets. We (note the plural possessive – they may have been gifts for him, but we played with them together) had the ice planet Hoth, the Death Star, and of course, a Millennium Falcon. I had a wicked crush on Luke Skywalker through the first two movies, but as I entered my teen years my tastes strayed from Luke’s clean-cut innocence to the roguish worldliness of Han Solo… because in the end, no matter how good the girl, she always likes the bad boys the best.

All these years later, I will still queue up Star Wars in the DVD player if I have an open stretch of evening and feel for a little cinematic comfort food. I think it’s safe to say that I would personally rank the movies in the descending order they came out, except that I liked Episode III more than Episode I. I’m a purist, though. The new series, the Anakin stories, are good movies in and of themselves, but they don’t hold a candle to the original trilogy.

The Interwebs are full of Star Wars tributes and memes, but these two I couldn’t help but share. Have you seen this this hilarious photo from Flickr? Apparently the US Postal Service decorated mailboxes to look like R2D2 in honour of the movie’s 30th anniversary. The photo is clever, but the comments embedded into it are hilarious. (Note to self: figure out how they did that – very cool!)

And one last treasure to share with you: this clever little plot comparison between Star Wars and Harry Potter from Neat-o-rama. Perhaps this one appealled to me in particular because I’m deep in the heart of the Harry Potter books, currently in the thick of the Goblet of Fire, working my way through the series in anticipation of Deathly Hallows this summer. Funny to think that Harry Potter may be for this generation of kids what Star Wars was for me!

This post is getting unweildy and I still haven’t examined how Star Wars influenced me spiritually, or how Beloved and I still compare and contrast what the movies meant to us growing up. I haven’t had a chance to talk about the quotable Star Wars, and how the language of the movie introduced me to a world of rebel alliances and emperors and bounty hunters and cantinas and smugglers and ambassadors – words I learned for the first time through Star Wars and that coloured forever my understanding of them. I haven’t gotten into how Star Wars made me curious about life on other worlds, and inspired a life-long love of astronomy and fascination with SETI… I could go on for two sets of trilogies!

What does Star Wars mean to you?


{ 14 comments }

It’s my Dad’s birthday today. Dad, if you happen to be reading, go away! You can come back tomorrow, but if you read any more you’re going to spoil the surprise of your birthday present.

(I can never tell which of my family members reads the blog with any regularity. I know my Mom reads every day – Hi Mom! – and I’ve set the blog as the default home page on our internet browser, so I know Beloved reads the posts about him and the ones with catchy titles. My sister-in-law in Windsor has said she reads it, but I don’t know how regularly – Hi Belinda! – and while I think my brother mostly ignores it, his wife drops by sporadically. Hi Nat! Where was I going with this? Oh right, I was giving my Dad time to leave the room so we can talk about him.)

My Dad doesn’t ask for much, and he’s difficult to buy for simply because what he wants he immediately goes out and gets. (At least I come by my lack of impulse control honestly!) He has been known to buy stuff for himself on December 23 that someone has already bought and wrapped and tucked under the Christmas tree for him.

So when he mentioned that he would like a cordless drill for his birthday to replace one that wouldn’t hold a charge more than a few minutes, I was thrilled to have an easily obtainable gift that I would love to give, and that he would really need and (hopefully!) would not acquire for himself in the days leading to his birthday.

The only caveat was that he wanted to make sure it had a minimum of XX volts of power. I say XX because within three minutes of the conversation, I was distracted and whatever number fit into that XX slot was lost forever. I think he said 18v, but he might have said 12v; I didn’t want to ask him because that would confirm that I was taking him up on his suggestion and he would know he was getting the drill for his birthday. (Subtle, eh? Almost as subtle as writing on the Internet about it.)

The very next week, Canadian Tire had a nice 12v cordless drill in the flyer for 35% off, and I made a mental note to pick one up and ask my brother if he wanted to share the $50 cost with me. (Hey, we’re Dutch and Scottish; what can I say, we’re cheap.) He didn’t immediately reply to my e-mail, but I wasn’t too worried about it. I saw the flyer on the day before the sale came into effect, and thought every single day of the seven-day sale, “I’ve really got to get over to Canadian Tire and buy that drill.” I finally made it late on the last day of the sale, a good 10 days ahead of my Dad’s birthday. I was a little concerned that he had said he wanted a 18v instead of a 12v, but I figured if he really had his heart set on a 18v, he could just trade up.

Drill safely tucked into my closet, I sent another e-mail to my brother asking if he wanted to go in with me. A few days after that, I saw in a flyer that Zellers had an even nicer 18v cordless drill with two batteries for only $40. More power for less cost? That in itself is a gift my Dad would be all over!! But I promptly forgot through the weekend to get myself over to Zellers to pick one up. So yesterday morning I called Beloved from work and told him his task for the day was to get over to Zellers to buy that drill, and we’d take the other one back to CanTire.

After I called Beloved, I called my brother, who reported that he had in fact received my e-mails, and had found a great deal at Rona on an 18v cordless drill, so he had picked it up. He wasn’t entirely sure how or when he’d get it up to Dad here in Ottawa, but it was still a better deal than the original one I’d bought at CanTire. I told him about the Zellers deal, and he agreed that it was the best deal of all and we would respectively return our other cordless drills to Rona and CanTire.

Are you keeping track? At this point we’ve purchased not one, not two but THREE cordless drills. When we get something into our heads as a family, we really follow through!

Beloved called me late yesterday afternoon to report that he had successfully acquired the third and final drill. He said that while he and the boys were in Zellers, they encountered – of all people – my Dad. I don’t think I’ve ever heard my Dad talk about Zellers before. He likes Winners and WalMart and the dollar store – oh how he loves the dollar store! – but I haven’t ever heard of him haunting Zellers. I was SURE that Beloved would report that they found him with cordless drill in hand, but apparently not. Beloved and the boys had a close call, though, diving into a nearby rack of clothing when they first spotted Papa Lou, and then leaving the drill safely hidden in a pile of clothes while they went over to say hello. Tristan relayed the story to me with great hilarity as I tucked him into bed last night, highly amused that Beloved had to quickly clap his hand over Simon’s mouth as an abrupt end to a sentence that began, “Papa Lou! Guess what? We just bought you a ….”

Okay, so this post is more for me than for you. I’m okay with that if you are. Truth be told, it’s really for my Dad, who is a living example of what a great father and a wonderful grandfather should be. He’d appreciate a story about how his family schemed and planned and leapt behind racks of clothing to avoid him.

Happy birthday, Dad, even if you aren’t allowed to read this post until your birthday is done!

Now, where DID I put the receipt for that first drill?


{ 11 comments }

The good news is, this is the LAST Monday I have to work until after Labour Day. Having a certain amount of seniority means I get almost five weeks of vacation time this year, and in addition to a week in June and a couple later in the summer, I have booked off every Monday through June, July and August. Yay!

The bad news is, I have to work five days this week and the forecast calls for wall-to-wall sunshine. What a drag!

The good news is, the Sens are playing in game one of the Stanley Cup finals tonight. Go Sens GO!

The bad news is, the game starts at 8 pm and the end of regulation time will be dangerously close to my bedtime. Please, hockey gods, no overtime on the weeknight games.

The good news is, I’ve made contact with a few potential caregivers this weekend, including two daycare providers and a nanny.

The bad news is, I’m tired of interviewing caregivers and more than a little gun-shy about starting all this over again. My standards for personal connection are considerably elevated (and they were pretty damn high to begin with!) and my financial threshhold is getting dangerously high, too.

The good news is, I have hugely satisfied my recent craving for family friendship by getting together with some old friends last week that I had lost touch with, and spent Sunday with not one but two different groups of friends who are like family and family who are like friends.

The bad news is, with all that socializing the house is a disaster and I have no clean underwear.

The good news is, my backyard is in full bloom, from the lilacs to the irises to the apple tree to the honeysuckle and the myriad other perennials that are self-sufficient enough that I haven’t yet neglected them to death.

The bad news is, we still have a 12′ diameter dirt circle we have to resod from where the pool used to sit. It looks alarmingly like a crop circle in our backyard. I’m thinking of painting a red target in it, just to see if the neighbours react.

The goods news is, I actually managed to whip together a post this morning, which is more than I expected to be able to accomplish because there is simply not enough hours in the day to do all the stuff I’ve been trying to get done lately.

The bad news is, it’s a pretty sad excuse for a post. I’ll do better tomorrow, probably. Or, you know, maybe not. See, that’s the fun of coming here lately. You never know which of the 17 personalities I’ve been cultivating will be holding the pen. Today, I think it was a group effort.


{ 36 comments }

Colour me impressed

by DaniGirl on May 26, 2007 · 9 comments

in Tristan

Originally uploaded by Dani_Girl

Someone left a brilliant comment recently about saving kids’ art to Flickr. I love this idea and have decided to start uploading the boys’ art the lazy way, via the digital camera (as opposed to the scanner, which I haven’t yet mastered.)

Is it just me, or are these pretty darn good drawings for a five year old? The one on the left is Woody from Toy Story, and the one on the right is (cringe) Sponge Bob Square Pants. He drew them freehand, without any reference material at all. You know I’m all about the words, so he didn’t get it from me, but Beloved is a classically trained animator with a degree in fine arts, so I’m guessing Tristan has Beloved to thank for his artistic proclivities.

P.S. This is my first post-from-Flickr blog entry. How cool is that? And I’ve just realized that I now have to upgrade to a Pro account because I can only have three sets on the basic account. Now at least I know what to ask for for my birthday this year! Does anyone know how I can add more than one picture per post when blogging through Flickr?


{ 9 comments }

Book review: The Big Payoff

by DaniGirl on May 25, 2007 · 7 comments

in Books

Today is my turn to host a stop on the MotherTalk blog book tour for Sharon Epperson’s The Big Payoff: 8 Steps Couples Can Take To Make The Most Of Their Money — And Live Richly Ever After. (Disclosure: I got a complimentary copy of the unedited proof and a small honourarium for participating in the book tour, and the link is built through my Amazon Associates account.)

I was interested in this book because my finances are a bit of a weak spot. We make a good chunk of change as a family, certainly more than I ever expected to make, and while we own our own home and half of a three-year old car (we’ll own the other half in another three years), we have what I consider to be a sickening amount of debt, mostly consumer debt and the tail-end of Beloved’s student loans. If we could get out from under the debt we’d be in great shape, but too much of our income goes to paying down the debt and we haven’t really got a savings plan – nor have we started socking away money for the boys’ bail college funds. I have the golden-handcuffs security of a freedom 55 government pension, but Beloved jokes that he’ll be working from beyond the grave. In short, we’re luckier than average in a lot of ways, but there are still lots of areas we need to work on.

Unfortunately, this book wasn’t a huge amount of help for our family situation for one key reason: we’re Canadian. This book has great information about 401(k)s and IRAs, 529 plans and Coverdell Accounts – none of which exist here. If you are American and looking for a great book with lots of specific details on the various types of accounts and tools you can use, I’d highly recommend this book.

The author, Sharon Epperson is a CNBC business correspondent and frequent contributor to a financial column in USA Weekend Magazine. She writes on what can be a complex and, let’s admit it, somewhat dry subject with an easy style. The book is well-organized and easy to follow, even for a Canadian like me – I now have a greater understanding of American financial tools and options, at the very least.

In addition to the specifics of the American system, there was a lot of good general information, too. I particularly liked the section where Epperson reiterates the “60% solution” conceptualized by MSN Money editor in chief Richard Jenkins. The theory is that you limit all essential spending to 60% of your gross income. This essential spending, called “committed income”, includes household expenses like rent/mortgage, home insurance, taxes, phone, utilities, basic food and clothing, basic transportation (including car payments, maintenance, gas, public transportation fees, etc.), insurance premiums, and fixed expenses like childcare. The remaining 40% of your income should be roughly divided into four groups: retirement savings, long-term savings and/or emergency fund; short-term savings, and fun money.

I have to admit, I haven’t had time in this topsy-turvy month to actually sit down and figure all this stuff out, but I know I’m going to have to do it soon. The other issue that Epperson raises that had me toe-ing the carpet in guilty embarrassment was the need to sit down with your partner and create a budget. I’m terrible for budgeting, and I’m worse for communicating about finances. Beloved and I each have control over our own money, and I take care of most of the household expenses. In fact, our only joint account is the mortgage. We really have very little idea how much the other makes or where the money is going. It works for us, but it’s not terribly practical. Epperson notes that “a budget helps facilitate communication.” I think this is the best take-away from this book for me. The budget isn’t a be-all end-all, but a tool to help foster financial openness. It’s on the to-do list, I swear it is!

I had a few other grumblings about this book. Although it purports to be designed for middle-class couples, Epperson’s version of middle-class seems to be a lot wealthier than my conception of the term. One of the main recommendations is that you should live on one income. Epperson recommends that if you are in a dual-income family, you try living on one income and putting the second income into savings or toward paying down debt. Ha! I’m sure we’re at the high end of the middle-class scale, and there’s no way we could do this any time in the foreseeable future.

Anyway, while this book didn’t quite live up to my expectations for it, it still had enough morsels and nuggets that it was worth my time to read it. I am inspired, at least, to start making a formal budget and – gasp! – talking to Beloved about our finances a little bit more. Well, we can start by talking about his finances. It’s better than nothing!

I’d be happy to donate my copy to one of my American friends. If you’d like a slightly-used unedited proof of The Big Payoff, leave a comment below and I’ll make another random draw next Monday.


{ 7 comments }

Go Sens GO!

24 May 2007 Canadianisms

When I heard that there would be a rally to cheer the Senators on to a Stanley Cup victory on the very day I was home with the boys, I couldn’t resist bringing them downtown for what could be a once-in-a-lifetime event. It was hot – damn hot, to quote Robin Williams – and crowded, […]

8 comments Read the full article →

We definitely need a Yay Day!

24 May 2007 yay day

Whaddya think, peeps? We’re long overdue for a Yay Day around here. If you haven’t been by on Yay Day before, the rules are simple. Leave a comment with something that makes you happy today, or something that makes you proud, or something that makes you smile. Celebrate the small victories in life – and […]

25 comments Read the full article →

Now appearing in Canadian Family magazine

23 May 2007 My 15 minutes

How do you pull a blogger out of a tailspin? Not chocolate, not diamonds, not swedish massage from brawny blond masseurs (although if you’re looking for suggestions, all of these are certainly acceptable second-string choices.) No, if you really want to cheer up a blogger with attention-junkie disorder, give her validation by putting her name […]

12 comments Read the full article →

Another twist of the knife

23 May 2007 Working and mothering

I just spent 30 minutes transcribing the infamous letter, delivered surreptitiously under cover of night, to share with you. (No, I haven’t posted it yet. I’m still pondering how wise a decision it is to publish it.) The whole time, I could hear the boys above in their beds, playing and talking and generally avoiding […]

8 comments Read the full article →