May 2006

Bad words

by DaniGirl on May 31, 2006 · 16 comments

in Uncategorized

Of all the potential parenting pitfalls, I never expected words to be one that would trip me up. I may not be much of a cook, I throw a ball like your grandmother and what I know about fashion you could write on a grain of rice, but I know from words. I gots me lots of words, big words and little words, fancy words and simple words, and I even know how to string ‘em together real purty.

At first, the concept of ‘bad words’ seemed cut-and-dried. Curse words bad, other words good. And I knew that my propensity to curse might some day be problematic. I don’t exactly swear like a sailor, but I have been known to drop the occasional f-bomb. More likely, a d-bomb or a sh-bomb. And I simply refuse to give up ‘bloody hell’ as a nearly perfect curse for all occasions. However, as predicted, my potty-mouth has come back to bite me in the ass – er, tucus. One day when he was about two, Tristan asked me in the most polite, gentle voice to “Open the damn door, please, mummy.” Oops!

That same year around Halloween there was this singing ghost in Canadian Tire that Tristan loved, and it sang that old disco song by Wild Cherry: “Lay down that boogie and play that funky music till you die…” We sang that song over and over again for months, except every time we’d sing it, I’d change the last word so it would be “play that funky music till you cry.” (I know, I know, but I was still a newbie parent then. I was naïve and full of embarrassing idealism. Thank god that’s gone now.)

So ‘die’ was our first stealth bad word, and from there we discovered a universe of seemingly innocuous words that lead a secret double life. Soon ‘hate’ arrived, and shortly thereafter ‘stupid’ came to call. Each time, I tried to explain to Tristan (and now Simon, who is, if anything, even further ahead on the linguistic curve than his brother was at two) that some words are simply not nice. You don’t ‘hate’ something; you do not like it. You absolutely never call another person ‘stupid’. (Except when they are, and then you only do it behind their back. But I’ll wait ’till he’s in school for that part of the lesson.) That boy did not try to ‘kill’ you; he simply tried to take your Thomas train away.

And then, just when you think you’re getting through to him, he tosses you the curve ball. You’re talking to your spouse about houseplants and lamenting that you’ve ‘killed’ every one in the house, and your son, whom you didn’t even know was listening, pipes up and chides you for using a bad word and it takes a full minute of replaying the conversation in your head before you can figure out what he’s on about.

So you launch into a discussion about context, and meaning, and intention. And around the second minute, you see his gaze wandering and you realize he hasn’t processed a single thing you’ve said, and you wonder why they only listen when they’re not supposed to.

And you realize that the whole ‘words’ thing is a slippery slope, and you’re on the way down fast. When the issue of name-calling comes up, as it inevitably does with a four-year old, you immediately react when he calls his brother ‘stupid head’ and tell him name-calling is not acceptable. You try to teach him that words have power, and in using words you have responsibilities. You suggest that calling somebody a ‘potato-head’ is a much better alternative, but when you actually hear him calling his brother a potato-head, you change your tune and issue a no-name-calling edict instead, and you realize that not only have you rather hypocritically just contradicted yourself, but that you’ve just talked yourself into a corner as well.

And the most disheartening part is you realize that this is only the first of many, many times you will do this. You realize that you have debated the philosophy of semantics with a preschooler, and lost. And you realize you have changed from the first to second person half way through your post and are simply too lazy to go back and correct it.

Words. Phft! They’re nothing but trouble.


Eight days ago, I had the furnace on at our house. On Victoria Day (last Monday), I brought the boys to the Agriculture Museum and it was sleeting – kids were dressed in coats and mittens and a few were in those fleece one-piece thingees. Last night, we discussed turning the air-conditioning on as the humidex topped 35C (100F) and the boys sweated in their beds.

Ah, summer in Ottawa. Ya gotta love it!

Actually, I do love this weather. My absolute favourite kind of day is warm and humid and hazy, especially between sunrise and 10 am or so, when the air is soft and heavy and fragrant. Oh, the smell of lilacs and tree blossoms on a sticky May morning! I’m a summer child – the heat rarely bothers me, and a stretch of sultry summer days does more for my mood than a whole bottle of xanax would.

We spent the whole weekend outside. On Saturday, we had a garage sale and although it wasn’t the most profitable enterprise ever, we cleared close to $100. More importantly, though, we cleared out junk. Goodbye boxes of clothes that were donated to us but never used (at 50 cents a piece, our most popular item). Goodbye espresso maker wedding gift that was only used five times and still managed to give me a steam burn three times (a steal at $5). Goodbye half-sized pine deacon bench ($8) and Bateman House solid pine spice rack ($6), both acquired last year at garage sales and still sitting unused exactly where they landed in our garage a year later. Goodbye paperbacks by the pound – at 50 cents each we didn’t sell half of what we have and still probably made $20 or more. (My mother is a paperback addict, and I benefit from her cast-offs. You need some Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, John Grisham or Michael Connelly, you come see me and I’ll set you up.)

Sunday, I figured 25C plus humidity was a great time to spend sprawled in the sun on blue plastic, scrubbing last year’s algae out of the seams of our oversized kiddie pool. You should be proud of me, because algae is one of those botanical things that scares the bejesus out of me, like several weeds in my garden. I don’t know why I get the creeping heebie jeebies from algae and moss and weeds (only some weeds, and especially seaweed) but I do, so getting up close and personal enough to scrub dried algae out of the pool seams was an act of commendable intestinal fortitude. Not like rescuing kittens from a burning building or anything, but we are all heroic in our own ways.

And then since the pool was clean, I decided we might as well fill the damn thing, so I spent another couple of hours setting it up and smoothing out the wrinkles, and left the hose on for six hours to fill it. Can’t wait to see the municipal services bill this month!

So, after completely rehabilitating our outdoor environment, we’re ready for summer. (Well, almost ready. Still gotta wash the patio furniture and weed the back garden beds, and get some annuals. And get my bike tuned up. And plant my sunflowers. But we’re close!)

And after spending two glorious days selling, hauling, cleaning, digging, soaking, and scrubbing, I come in the house on Sunday evening after celebrating my dad’s birthday with my folks and take a look at the inside of my house and want to cry.

There’s grass on the carpet. There’s dirty footprints on the linoleum. There’s dishes stacked in the sink. There’s unfolded laundry spilling out of the basket, now hopelessly wrinkled. Drawers full of toys have been dumped and shelves of books have been emptied. The few garage sale no-sales that I allowed back into the house are stacked in a corner, awaiting re-assimilation. The place is a war zone, and at 8 pm on a Sunday night, bodily exhausted, there’s no way I’m going to start cleaning it.

Maybe I should just pitch a tent in the back yard and forbid the kids from entering the house until September. Because if I can’t keep the inside of the house clean when we’re housebound by winter, there’s no way I can keep up with indoor and outdoor domestic chores.

It’s a good thing these summer days are so long. I’m going to need the extra hours!


Daddy’s girl

by DaniGirl on May 29, 2006 · 10 comments

in Uncategorized

When I was growing up, people used to say I looked just like my mother, but I was really my father’s daughter. Hmm, let’s see: my dad is an unrepentant optimist, a sceptic, and a comedian. He tends to be obstinate, and is known to have an occasional flare of temper. He’s a klutz. He’s smarter than the average bear, and he’s got a way with words. He’s a social, loquacious creature who is happiest with a captive audience. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and always believes the best in people. He may be a tad obsessive at times.

Nah, we have nothing in common, my dad and I.

What’s even more scary is how much more like him I’m becoming, as the years pass by. I can’t believe the number of times I’ve chided Tristan lately for making noise just for the sake of it. I never used to understand that criticism when I was a kid. Dad, you were right – there is value in silence, and in quiet. I’m so sorry!

When I was a kid, I idolized my dad. In Grade 8, our music teacher told us to write an essay about a musician we liked, and why. I remember the other kids wrote pieces on everyone from Mick Jagger to Blondie to Bach but I wrote about my dad, who was a drummer during my early childhood. (Of all the characteristics I inherited, a sense of rhythm was not one of them. And, I suspect I am tone deaf. Hopefully, the boys will inherit some combination of my father’s and Beloved’s musical talent, and I will teach them about the suicide squeeze and the infield fly rule instead.)

For a while, when I was around four years old or so and we were all blissfully happy but apparently poor as church mice, my mom worked days while my dad played with his band evenings and weekends and offered drumming lessons during the day. (Jenny Jones, the erstwhile talk-show host, used to be a student of his back in the 1960s.) He took care of me while my mom was working, and I have dim but happy memories of being the princess in a small crowd of friends who met for breakfast at the Red Grill in downtown London. Now that Beloved stays home with the boys part-time, it’s comforting to think that my boys will have the same happy memories of time with their dad some day.

The day came, though, that my father decided his musical career was not enough to support his growing family and he got a job in fundraising. Within a couple of years, he was the salesman of the year for his multinational company, and I learned from him about sacrifice, and positive thinking, and pushing yourself to reach your goals.

As I’ve written about before, my dad had a liver transplant in 2001, when I was five months pregnant with Tristan. The toxins that his liver couldn’t filter from his blood stream poisoned him, poisoned his brain, so that the things I loved the most – his wit, his cleverness, his charm – were clouded, and almost lost. I’ve always been close to my dad, but somehow the disease, and his ultimate recovery, has made us closer. Of course, the fact that my parents moved across the province to live near us shortly after Tristan was born has helped us to stay close, too!

Today is my dad’s birthday. I could write an entire blog about how much I love my dad, telling a new anecdote every day that would make you laugh, and sometimes cry. He is truly my hero, the kind of father every daughter should have. I’m proud he’s mine.

Happy birthday, Dad. We love you!


Warning: shameless bragging ahead

by DaniGirl on May 26, 2006 · 12 comments

in Uncategorized

Every mother (and father) knows that you love your child no matter how funny looking they might be, how dim they might seem, how uncoordinated they might be. And every honest mother (and father) will tell you that despite that, their heart grows a size or two when they realize that their child is, in fact, gorgeous and brilliant and at least coordinated enough to not be a risk to innocent bystanders.

Today, I got a survey in the mail from KOA, the campground kampground where we stayed earlier this month. Tristan saw the envelope on the counter and brought it to me, saying “Hey, mummy, look, it’s mail from the campground!” In the two days we were there, he managed to recognize and internalize their logo, and recall it two weeks later. He’d never seen the logo before or since, and certainly nobody pointed it out to him. That’s got to be some sort of four-year-old mensa equivalency, right?

The boys both passed their swimming levels tonight, too. I was (and continue to be) proud of Tristan (and Simon, but passing ‘parents and tots’ is a little bit like getting your name in the phone book – you pass that one for showing up). My heart melted completely when Tristan looked at me with shining eyes after we got home and he said, “Mummy, I’m so proud of myself.” Smart, gorgeous AND a healthy self-esteem… we must be doing something right.

Being with the boys has been blissful lately. They’re still a handful, and their cleverness comes back to bite me in the ass rather regularly, but times are good. They play together more often than not now, and seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

As I was making dinner, Simon asked if he could watch a particular DVD and since my hands were full, I asked Tristan to put it in the DVD player and turn on the TV. Not only did he do it, but he explained step-by-step what he was doing to Simon: “And see, you push this button and the drawer opens, and you put the DVD here…” I looked at Beloved and said, “Please tell me they’ll always be this nice to each other.” Beloved was kind enough not to burst my bubble. He said nothing.

Did I tell you what Tristan said when he gave me my mother’s day card this year? “Happy Sweet Mother’s Day, Mummy!” If that doesn’t make up for a year of shenanigans, I don’t know what would.


Yesterday we talked about family size, so today let’s talk about birth control. (Look, it’s a segue – you’d almost think it was a theme.)

I’ve mentioned before that I’m more obsessive about birth control now than I was when I was a teenager, which is particularly ironic because we paid several thousand dollars for our first child and are about six weeks away from trying to conceive our third. Oh irony, you cruel mistress.

But I absolutely refuse to take birth control pills. I wouldn’t even take them during our IVF cycle (how’s that for irony, the first thing they do when you start your treatment cycle is to put you on the pill) and argued rather vehemently with my clinic about my opposition to them.

I won’t take the pill because the hormones in even the lowest dose pill wreaked such havoc with my system that I was bedridden with a three-day, barf-inducing migraine every single month on the second day after I took the last pill in a given cycle. It only took me about a dozen years to make the connection, but once I did, I swore I’d never take a birth control pill again. So far, so good.

That’s why reading articles like this one about manipulating your system so you never have a period again perplex me. For a while, there’s been a low-dose pill called Seasonale that lets you have only four periods a year, and they’re working on a new pill called Lybrel that will inhibit periods entirely. And of course, women have been manipulating their own cycles for years by simply starting a new package of pills the day after the old package runs out, instead of taking the prescribed ‘week off’.

The idea of chemically altering something so fundamental as the menstrual cycle seems like a dangerous game to me, although I guess I can see the merit when someone suffers serious cramps or other debilitating symptoms. But knowing how seriously the birth control pills affected me, it seems tatamount to poisoning yourself with these hormones to avoid having your period. No thanks. I was never so sick as the days after my failed IUIs, when my estrogen levels (propped up artificially by the stimulating hormone injections I’d been taking) crashed when conception failed to occur. It was estrogen withdrawl, from what I understand, and it was brutal.

Continuing on the subject of birth control, the Journal of Medical Ethics published a position paper on reproductive ethics this month. The author, Luc Bovens, says the ‘rhythm method’ of contraception, whereby the couple abstains from sex during the time when the woman is most likely to ovulate, “may well be responsible for a much higher number of embryonic deaths than in some other contraceptive techniques” like the IUD, the pill and the morning-after pill. He says the rhythm method, the only form of contraception sanctioned by the Catholic Church, may result in “millions” of unviable embryos being conceived at the beginning of the abstinence period by ‘old’ sperm or at the end of the abstinence period by ‘old’ ova, and these imperfect embryos die without ever implanting in the uterine wall. He says, “millions of rythm method cycles per year globally depend for their success on massive embryonic death.”

I can’t help but roll my eyes. This reminds me of a letter to the editor that was published in the Citizen back in 2002 that compared IVF to abortion because of all the embryos that were “slaughtered” in the process, calling IVF “an infraction against nature”. I don’t think I’ve ever been so riled up by something in the paper, and of course I quickly fired off my own letter. (Wow, that seems like a lifetime ago!)

As usual, I’ll leave the big thinking on these ideas up to you. You’re so much more insightful and opinionated than me anyway, I might as well just give the show over to you. What do you think? Would you chemically alter your system if it meant never again facing the crimson tide? Is the Church hypocritical in sanctioning a form of contraception that may in fact be causing massive embryonic death? Am I going to get some truly scary Google traffic from this post?


I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about three.

For the most part, our lives are designed for families of two kids or less. Ever tried to fit three car seats, or even two car seats and an extra bum, in the back seat of your sedan? Fitting five people around your INGO dining table from Ikea is a bit of a trick. Out of approximately 90 homes for sale in Barrhaven right now on the Grapevine network, only three have four bedrooms and one of those is already sold. (No, we’re not in the market. I was just curious.)

That doesn’t even begin to cover off the worries of daycare x 3, and swimming lessons x 3, and Christmas x 3, and college education x 3, and the fact that the inmates would finally outnumber the wardens in the asylum.

In 2003, the Canadian fertility rate was a meagre 1.53 children per woman. At that rate, we aren’t even making enough babies to keep the population steady, let alone coming close to the kind of environment we were in during the 1960s, where the ratio of workers to seniors was more than 10 employed people for every retiree. Americans are a little more fecund than us, producing just over 2 kids per woman.

There was an interesting analysis of all this in the Citizen a couple of weeks ago. Columnist Peter Robb observed (sorry, subscriber only link – try the free syndication here) that in the United States, it’s socially conservative families that tend to have more children, further tipping the demographic balance in the US toward social conservativism. He quotes author Phillip Longman as saying the next generation is unlikely to rebel against the social conservative heirarchy like the baby boomers did, instead returning to a “benign patriarchal system… that rewards women and men for having more children.” He calls this slow death of the liberal state “the revenge of the empty cradle”.

Robb quotes Longman on some other interesting statistics: in the so-called red states that voted for George Bush, the fertility rate is 12 per cent higher than the blue states that supported John Kerry, and while in Seattle there are 45 per cent more dogs than children, in Salt Lake City there are 19 per cent more kids than dogs.

In a 2002 Statistics Canada comparison between American and Canadian fertility rates, I found this interesting analysis:

…Canadian women use more effective contraceptive methods than American women. For example, in Canada, among women aged 15 to 19 who use contraceptives, 86% use a pharmaceutical method, primarily the pill, and 14% use a natural or barrier method, mainly the condom. In the United States, only 58% use the pill, and 42% use a barrier. (And further), in Canada, the public health care system provides universal and free access to medical services; in the United States, such services can be costly.

I know I’m all over the place here. I had an idea of where I was going when I started, but I kept finding these interesting little digressions that now seem to have overtaken my original idea. I’ve even edited out my big rant about how Canadian social policies don’t support larger families. I’ll try to clean it up and post it another day.

But even on the micro-level of the family, without considering the greater social implications, what are your thoughts on family size? How many kids did you think you’d have, and how has fate, fortune and the intervening years changed or reinforced that plan?

(Edited to add: argh! Not only did I edit myself, but Blogger edited half what was left of this post for me. Sorry to those of you who tried to make sense of the original posting. I’ve tried to clean it up but I don’t have time to re-write it. Sigh…)



23 May 2006 Uncategorized

A while back, I posted a meme where you check off a bunch of stuff on a list and then count up your score to see if you are “spoiled”. I did the meme without editorializing, but Elizabeth and Phantom Scribbler both hosted some interesting discussions on what exactly it means to be spoiled. After […]

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Brought to you by the letter H

22 May 2006 Uncategorized

It’s been raining for 10 straight days. It was cold enough to snow this morning and the winds haven’t stopped gusting all night. Safe to say the holiday weekend weather is a bust. BUT! At least I have a meme to play with this morning, courtesy of Froggie Mom. Here’s how it works: if you […]

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Lunch and learn

19 May 2006 Uncategorized

About a million years ago, the husband of one of my co-workers, who happens to be a training coordinator at another government department, asked me if I’d be interested in doing a “Lunch and Learn” presentation about blogging. I said yes, but I was really nervous. I don’t mind speaking in public – I actually […]

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The kindness of strangers

18 May 2006 Uncategorized

Some days, just getting to work is more than half the battle. My first mistake was stopping to kiss the kids goodbye. I had already given them air kisses as I ran through the room on my way out the door, but they chased me to the door yelling “Kiss! Hug! Kiss! Hug!” and I […]

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