Blog-o! Notes from

Tue, 31 Mar 2009

...although she doesn't like the idea. On Friday, when I told her it was her three-and-a-halfth birthday, she said she was too little, and also that her next birthday was going to be four! I was going to bake her a cake, but clearly she wasn't interested in the half-birthday thing, so I let it go.

She's grown about a mile since last I checked. I took her into the school this afternoon when I went in to help Delphine's class put their jackets on, and I noticed Cordelia is taller than some of the JKs. I know that's not unusual, but Delphine's always been so relentlessly 50th percentile in terms of size (once she got over being a mondo baby, that is), I find it weird to have a taller-than-average child. She's gaining on Delphine alarmingly - her 3-and-a-half height is only a centimeter or so short of Delphine's four height! I wonder how they will end up.

I would say Cordelia has come out of her shell, except anyone who knows her knows she was never in a shell. But just lately she has become even more voluble, more dramatic, more funny, more opinionated. She's also getting a little 3-and-a-halfish in the sense that she is provoking power struggles about stupid things, and over-reacting to things to see how far that will get her. She's psycho, basically, at least some of the time. We try to roll with it and not let her faze us or throw off the whole day.

Cordelia spends a lot of time with Delphine. Yes, they fight a lot but not all of the time. Delphine reads to her - they particularly like Chirp magazines - and... well, I'm not sure what they do together. This afternoon they spent a good hour out in the backyard, digging holes with sticks and watering things which don't need water (like the deck). At one point Delphine came inside to retrieve matzo, jam and almonds for a delectable picnic. It was lovely. For some reason they don't seem to fight when they're outside. Maybe the house depresses them as it does me.

Cordelia's all signed up for kindergarten in the fall. I signed her up for mornings because she's still napping at least five days out of seven. We still don't know whose class she'll be in. I'm getting to know which are the better kindergarten teachers, though, so this time I actually care whose class she's in. Hopefully someone good. (You're not allowed to ask for a particular teacher, so if you do they put you in someone else's class on principle. Boo.)

Cordelia can sing! She sings herself to sleep most nights, and a few weeks ago I was listening to her sing her usual autolullabye, the ABC song. She sang, "A B C... A B C... A B C D E F G" - the first two times she sang it, she sang it on "do do fa". She didn't continue until she had gotten it right: "do do so". Not only can she sing in tune but she knows she can sing in tune! Obviously I am now planning her career as an opera singer - she is very loud.

What else? We are all scheduled to the hilt with summer activities. Well, more scheduled than last year (ie, we have some plans). We have three weeks off at the start of summer, then Delphine is going to a day camp at a farm in the city. After that the girls and I are going to Sask for two weeks, and as soon as we get back the girls are off to the cottage with Baba and Zaida. (Not sure if I'm invited or not.) Once they get back, they are both signed up for a day camp at Cordelia's nursery school. It will be the first time Cordelia's done all-day anything, and it will be the first time I have ever had all-day off for five days in a row. (Except when I was in Sask by myself last September.)

So lots of firsts these days. I realized the other day that I have no qualms whatsoever about taking the girls downtown on the bus and subway alone - before, I would always be more comfortable if I had another grown-up, but now Delphine can be trusted to be sensible, and Cordelia responds to verbal commands (sit! stay!) so I know I don't have to be hanging on to one of them while praying the other one doesn't do something stupid. It's like they're real people! Halleluia!

[Posted at 22:05 by Amy Brown] link
Thu, 26 Mar 2009
March Books

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. If you have been paying attention here, you know how much I love Alfie Kohn. But I've been reluctant to read this, his parenting book, because I knew it would force me to raise the bar on my parenting, to really think about what's behind how I treat my kids. And I was right, this was a good read but a tough one. This isn't a book with a bunch of techniques or tricks for managing your kids (Alyson Schafer is your girl for that), but rather a discussion of how traditional parenting techniques put your kids in the position of having to earn your love in the form of rewards, praise and attention (or avoid your approbation in the form of punishment, time outs or "consequences").

Kohn's radical thesis is that children are human beings and deserving of love and respect no matter how much they fuck up, and equal love and respect (not more) when they get it right. He writes about "working with" children rather than "doing to" them.

Unconditional parenting is hard; it goes so contrary to popular wisdom which is all about praise and consequences. It's also, to be honest, sometimes hard to treat your kids like human beings when they act like maniacs, or idiots, or animals. You have to really try hard to see the human being inside that crispy exterior and try and respond to her. Which can be hard when you're tired or in a hurry or otherwise resource-challenged. (One of Kohn's list of recommendations is "Don't be in a hurry", which is great advice if you can take it.)

Kohn's arguments are, as always, compelling, well-researched and well-supported; the notes and references seemed to start about two-thirds of the way through the book. (That's one thing I missed from Alyson Schafer's latest book: it just ended. No index, no references, no further reading, nothing. Girl needs a new publisher.)

This is a must-read for me. I would buy this book if I weren't such a cheap bastard.

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. Bill Bryson lived in England for a long time (Wikipedia says over twenty years), and he wrote this book after he decided to move back to America. For his last hurrah he did a whirlwind train tour around Britain and wrote all about it. I love Bill Bryson and I love England, and I love train travel, so I thought I would love this book, but I found it kind of sameish after a while. I can't put my finger on why, exactly. Although I can tell you that despite the fact I went to lots of different places when I was in England, my trip and Bill's hardly overlapped at all, so I missed that thrill of reading about a place I'm familiar with.

My favourite thing about this book is how Bryson gets all sappy and sentimental about England, because I love it too (although in a nice-place-to-visit way; I couldn't live there). I was a bit perplexed, though, by his insistence that Brits are so thoughtful and polite. In my experience Brits tend to be a bit mean and rude, if anything (sorry to generalize; usual disclaimers apply, some of my best friends, etc). They're hot on "manners" and behaving "properly", but not so much on actually considering others. Maybe I'm wrong - I was there in middle school which isn't exactly a hotbed of consideration on any continent.

Design Ideas for Home Storage by Elaine Martin Petrowski. Take a guess what this one's about. Yes! A useful book with lots of good ideas, and plenty of photos (some apparently ripped straight from the Ikea catalogue). What makes this one a keeper, though, is that it includes the dimensions you'll need to make storage design decisions: how high is a kitchen counter, how much room do you need to hang a pair of pants, etc. And last but not least there are instructions for a few simple storage projects you can build yourself, like a window seat built from store-bought over-refrigerator cabinets. Brilliant!

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. Okay, my "friend" Ellen picked this book as our book club read this month. Our relationship might never be the same. When I found out the premise of this novel (a philosophy of sustainability explained through a telepathic Socratic conversation between a person and a gorilla) I knew I would hate it. I know, you're not supposed to prejudge things, but when you reach a certain age and you've read a few things, you know what you're going to like. And what you're going to hate.

I hated this. Generally I hate books that are discourses on philosophy disguised as a novel. I hated Jonathan Livingston Seagull, I hated Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Okay, that's not true, I guess I liked and found value in both those books when I read them (when I was much younger), but both of them left a bad taste in my mouth, like I'd been spoken down to. And maybe because I'm older and have a stronger sense of my own morality and philosophy, Ishmael was a thousand times worse. I felt like I was being spoon-fed something really quite simple: the whole message of the book could be delivered in a few pages. And on top of that the thesis of the book is ridiculously flawed: the author manages to lump all the subtlety and complexity of every non-Western culture into one group, the "leavers", and says that they're lovely and good people because they don't take more than they need, not like us selfish bastards. It's just all so stupid and patronising (to the other cultures this time, not to me).

Should make for a good book club discussion, anyway. (I'm pretty sure Ellen hates it too - I wonder how everyone else feels.)

Wow, every paragraph in this post has a parenthetical insertion. (Except this one. (Whoops!)) I think I have a problem.

[Posted at 22:17 by Amy Brown] link
Mon, 23 Mar 2009

(With thanks to Bunnyhero, both for the title, and the inspiration to get blogging again.)

As you can probably guess, if you’ve read Bunnyhero’s blog post, I recently learned that the AlertView delegate method alertView:clickedButtonAtIndex: can be called multiple times for one AlertView, much to my surprise.

And here’s how I found that out. A couple of weeks ago, I ran across a bug in my still-in-development iPhone game. I was displaying an alert when the game ended, and when the user clicked “Okay” it would go to the next level. And it all seemed fine until one day, when instead of clicking the “Okay” button, I hit the home button to exit the game while the dialog was displayed, and the next time I entered the app, there were, like, 40 robots where I was expecting 8!

As a favour to a friend of mine who’s a prof, I let the bug sit until I could debug the code in front of a room full of undergrads, as a part of the software engineering class he teaches. (The whole experience turned out to not only be something that I wished I could have seen when I was an undergrad, but also something really fun to do from the the industry-type person side of things! Anyone who has a laptop, and some code with a small bug that they don’t mind showing to a bunch of students should really give it a try!). Debugging the problem led me not to the archiver/unarchiver as I was expecting, but instead to the observation that when I hit the home button, my delegate method was being called up to 5 times!

This is why I saw way too many robots, because I was advancing 4 more levels than I should have been. And so when I re-entered the game, it happily put me on level 5-ish, instead of level 2.

The fix was fairly simple, if slightly inelegant. I merely added in a flag to tell me when I was handling an alert, and would only advance the level when I thought I had popped the alert up. (Now that I write it, I wonder if I can set the alert’s delegate to nil when I’m done handling it instead. Thoughts, anyone?)

[Posted at 21:55 by Blake Winton] link
Fri, 20 Mar 2009

I looked and looked for some cool gifts for Blake's birthday, and largely failed. (I ended up getting him a couple of books and some chocolate, always welcome around here.) However, I did find a whole heap of stuff I want! (This is the problem with shopping, and why I don't do it as a rule.)

Here is my Lee Valley wish list. Some glue to fix my wobbly chairs; some flashlights in case of a blackout (extras so the girls can lose a couple); some heavy-duty magnets to hold those giant construction paper projects to the fridge; a solar-powered radio (see above re: blackout); a sharpener which may or may not wreck my knives; a completely gratuitous gingerbread house mold I may never use but which represents the kind of Christmas Mom I would like to be; and of course the aforementioned mandoline. Nothing really cool for Blake though.

Then I checked ThinkGeek. They have lots of cool stuff that Blake might like, but we have a small house and stuff has to be really awesome to earn a place in here, and I just wasn't sure he would like any of the stuff enough. But I found some stuff I like: an MP3 player for the girls; an awesome keyboard (with clicky keys!); a gratuitous but cool alarm clock; more fridge magnets; another emergency radio; a clock to help the girls learn how to tell time (whilst also not being criminally ugly!); and a thing to tell us how much power we're wasting with our three computers and my stubborn refusal to light my home with greenish-grey fluorescent lights.

[Posted at 21:42 by Amy Brown] link
Thu, 19 Mar 2009
Apple Butter

Sometimes I write letters about stuff that isn't very important in the grand scheme of things. I sent this to the nice folks at Wellesley:


I just wanted to let you know how much I love your apple butter! I am from rural Saskatchewan and some of my neighbours made apple butter when I was a kid, so I was excited to see it on the shelf at my grocery store. I was even more excited when I tasted it - I don't remember my neighbours' apple butter being so sublime! You have definitely figured out the perfect recipe.

Wellesley Apple Butter is now my gift for people who are visiting, or for when I go away -- maple syrup is such a cliche, but apple butter is perfectly local and evocative of Southern Ontario. You make it easy to eat locally!

Congratulations! Amy Brown

[Posted at 22:19 by Amy Brown] link
Tue, 17 Mar 2009
More Marvellous March Break

March break has been great so far but I keep thinking we've done more than just two days of it. We've crammed in a lot of excitement already, so hopefully we didn't peak too soon.

Monday morning we got up nice and slow, and then Delphine and I did some jobs around the house; we sorted and put away all the girls' laundry, we baked cookies from a mix she got in a party loot bag, and Cordelia joined us in cleaning the kitchen floor, which we did with two buckets of soapy water and a lot of cloths. Cordelia mostly splashed around but Delphine really helped. She was very agreeable company all morning.

After lunch Delphine went on a bike ride with Blake, and I put Cordelia down for a nap and then lay down on the couch myself. I read some of the Globe, then fell asleep and woke up in time for Cordelia to wake up and Blake and Delphine to get home. I really should have cleaned the kitchen at some point, but instead Blake suggested we watch The Sound of Music. So I popped some popcorn and the girls and I snuggled on the couch for their second movie ever.

Delphine loved it. She loved the songs, most of which she already knew, she loved the children, she loved the story. She even got into the romance, which surprised me.

She was really scared by the Captain at the beginning; she was petrified that the children were going to get into trouble all the time. She really doesn't like stern people, and she's petrified of authority figures, of getting in trouble, of doing the wrong thing, and of displeasing authorities. She gets it from me, and I'm not sure what to do about it. Anything? But we talked to her and got her thinking about whether all rules are worth following, and about whether getting into trouble is really the worst thing that can happen. We're so subversive.

Oh, and she was scared of the Nazis at the end. (Or the Nasties, as she called them at first.) I figure the sooner you learn that Nazis are scary the better.

Cordelia was a little bit scared of the things Delphine was scared of, and towards the end of the show she just got bored and started kicking people.

After the movie, which as it turns out is really really long, I was all logey and out-of-sorts, which was bad because it was 6:30. Dinner is supposedly at 6:00, and choir is actually at 7:30, so I had -30 minutes to get some food on the table and 30 minutes to eat and leave to get to choir on time. I nuked a bunch of leftovers (which was, as it turns out, actually the plan for dinner), ate, got out the door (with some uncharacteristic leg-hanging and bawling from Cordelia) and was only about five minutes late to choir, although out of breath.

Choir was only half-full and I got all cocky and sat off by myself. I was soon humbled by the realization that I don't know the piece half as well as I thought I did; without all those voices around me I missed a few entries and ballsed up a few intervals that I would have sworn I knew. Choral singing can make a person really lazy.

The piece we're doing has some really (really really) high notes and I was feeling very unsure as to how well I was singing them. Sometimes something sounds great in your head but awful outside, and they're such high, loud, conspicuous notes (the ones in the sixth movement, for those playing along at home (Dave)) that I really didn't want to be fucking them up inadvertently. So I sucked up my courage to ask the conductor how I was doing. I hoped he would say I was doing okay but I steeled myself to be cool if he had a problem, like if I was too loud or flat or something. I know logically that you can only improve by accepting negative feedback and working on it, but like Delphine I like to be perfect at things right away because I hate criticism.

The good news is that my high notes are fine, so now all I have to work on is the whole rest of the piece. Sigh. But I was pleased with myself for having the nerve to ask about it rather than make myself miserable second-guessing my high notes for the rest of the season. Now I can belt them out with great confidence!

I came home all fidgety and still out-of-sorts, happy because of the good feedback but unhappy about the number of mistakes I made, tired but too wired to go to bed. I read too many chapters of Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson, and finally fell asleep.

This morning Delphine had a playdate at a friend's house - a really sweet, vivacious Grade One girl who was in Delphine's kindergarten class last year. They don't get together very often now, but they seem to maintain an affection for one another. So Delphine stayed there for lunch while Cordelia and I entertained a friend of mine and her baby. This is a new friend, one of the many lovely and clever and interesting people I've met in the last year or two. She admired my kitchen. I always appreciate people who admire my kitchen.

After our company left I managed to stuff some food into Cordelia and put her down for a nap before Delphine was returned home after her playdate. Delphine watched some TV while I cleaned the kitchen and did laundry. (Cleaning the kitchen and doing laundry seems to be more-or-less my default state.)

At 1:30 I roused Cordelia and we all headed over to the park to meet Auntie Morgan. The girls are thrilled to rediscover the park and explore all their new abilities, developed unwittingly over the winter. Cordelia loves to go down the big slides which scared her last fall, and Delphine can now successfully pump on the swings (although she prefers not to).

After an hour or so at the park Cordelia declared she had to go pee, so we walked over to my friend Tanya's house to use their facilities. (It's important to cultivate friends who live near the park.) When they heard we were at the park they thought it was such a sovereign idea that they decided to join us, and then we bumped into still more friends, and then the ice cream truck hove into view! The park is truly a wonderland of friends and unexpected frozen dairy treats.

I was the only person there with money, so I bought four little ice cream cones for various little people. I think I got shortchanged but getting that much happiness for under a ten-spot is still a pretty good deal. Plus I got to finish Delphine's ice cream. ("Mama, can you eat this ice cream for me? But don't eat the cone.")

When it was time to leave the park there was some confusion: Delphine wanted to go pee but didn't want to go home, so we all walked over to Tanya's place to use her bathroom again. I knew, of course, that there was no chance that Delphine would just pee and leave - she and Ursa got to playing and Tanya and I were similarly reluctant to part company. I tried to coax Tanya to come to my place for burgers and hot dogs, but she has been sick and was tired, and she had plans to meet her husband, but then it would be easier to come to my place than go out, and burgers are yummy, and the girls are having such a nice time... we dithered, we weighed options, we wasted a great deal of time. I think Tanya was just too tired to make a decision.

Then I suggested a sleepover and Tanya visibly brightened. She asked Ursa if she would like to go for a sleepover at Delphine's place, and the girls acted as if I had just offered them pink flying ponies with sparkly tails. So that was a go. The whole lot of us walked back to our place (desperately slowly, with several wipeouts) where I ended up making KD (it was too late to do burgers and anyway Tanya wasn't staying for dinner). Everyone ate a bunch of KD and edamame, and Tanya and I had tea.

And Tanya gave me a wonderful gift! She's a painter and she painted me a picture of the red Marmoleum floor that I originally wanted (with some broken eggs on it). It's fantastic and I need to figure out where to put it. And which way is up. (Since it's a picture of the floor, any way could be up. I get to decide!)

The girls finally got to bed after far too much foolishness, although they were still awake at 8:40. Hopefully this means that they will sleep in. (Hah.)

[Posted at 22:39 by Amy Brown] link
Sun, 15 Mar 2009

Today started early for me - I was awake at around 6:30. Awake of my own voilition! No-one jumped on me. I lay in bed, too hot because we haven't adjusted our bedding to account for spring (why is it that even though the thermostat always says 18, it's way colder in January than in March?) and listened to an unexpected chattering noise from somewhere in the house. It wasn't music or the radio... I couldn't place it, and then I realized it was Delphine reading to Cordelia. I stayed in bed for as long as I could stand the heat, and finally got up at 6:45. The girls and I headed downstairs for breakfast, with a brief detour to jump on Daddy (well, for the kids).

For first breakfast we had cereal, and then Delphine logged on to play her daily complement of video games (she likes Diego games lately) and I hied myself upstairs to clean the bathroom and take a shower. Once clean and dressed I went downstairs again to put brunch in the oven, for we were expecting company! Then I vacuumed and tidied and cleaned and dusted like a mad woman, in time for everything to be ready at 10, when our friends were to arrive.

Then we waited! And cleaned. And waited! And puttered. Waited! Put some coffee on. Waited! Arranged coffee mugs and cream and sugar artfully on the counter. Waited! Sent children outside to greet company. And then finally they arrived! They were probably only ten minutes late but when you've busted your ass to be ready in time and you're all set, it's so anti-climactic to have an empty house for even a couple of minutes.

Brunch was a delightful French toast/bread pudding. I got the recipe from Kat, who got it from her friend's mother (I think). I reproduce it here in full because it's that good:

French Toast Bread Pudding (Fread Pudding, of course)

1 loaf challah (although we used raisin bread this time and it was sublime)
7 eggs
2.5 C milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 C butter
1 C brown sugar
splash of maple syrup if you have any

Cut up the bread into cubes. Beat the eggs and milk and vanilla together, then mix the bread in. Put it in the fridge overnight.

Next morning butter a lasagna pan, and put the bread mixture in it. Melt the butter and mix in the brown sugar, and then pour the butter mixture over the bread.

Bake the whole thing in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (see, I can spell it!) for 40 to 45 minutes. I usually broil it for a minute or two for crunchiness. Let it cool for a few minutes and serve.

We had great company - two other couples with two kids each, so we had one baby, an almost-two, Cordelia who is three, Evan who is four, and Delphine and Ursa who are five. They all had a great time with only bits of crying. Otis in particular was a trooper despite having lost a fingernail in a horrific toilet lid accident earlier in the day.

After we stuffed ourselves silly with fread pudding, bacon, croissants, strawberries, and coffee the children dragged us slowly to the park where they ran around for an hour, or maybe two, while we grownups talked to each other. Lovely! And Blake got a sunburn.

Oh that's right! I didn't mention how perfectly perfect the weather was! It seems we have passed that season of purgatory wherein if it is sunny it must be cold, and if it is warm it must be gloomy. Now we can have both at the same time!

So Blake has a charming sunburn on one side of his forehead. I said we have to go back to the park tomorrow and stand on the other side of the playground, so he matches.

After the girls had run their fill (almost - I don't think they have ever actually exhausted the charms of the park on their own terms, I always have to drag them away, but the dragging was easier than usual today) and I had investigated a rather charming little creek born from the runoff from giant snow mountains dumped at the top of the park throughout winter, we headed east, to Bayview. I bought the girls their ceremonial First Ice Cream of the Season (lemon for Delphine and chocolate mint for Cordelia), and I had my first Frappuccino of the year.

And finally we circled back to home, which was still tidy and clean from my hard work of the morning. The girls did some drawing, and before we knew it, Baba and Zaida were here for family dinner. Zaida picked up sushi, so we didn't have to cook or dirty up the kitchen, and it was delicious. The girls played outside for a little longer, and then headed to bed without all that much fuss. (Especially since I didn't have to put them there - Blake and Zaida did bedtime while I worked on the cryptic with Baba.)

It was one of those lovely, chilled out, sunny, fun days with lots of good friends (good, smart friends!) and family, cute kids and yummy food. Food and company - I think those are my favourite things. At least for today.

[Posted at 22:01 by Amy Brown] link
Fri, 13 Mar 2009

Here's a letter I sent to Scholastic books through this petition.

Dear Mr. Robinson and Ms. Newman,

My name is Amy Brown. My daughter is in kindergarten and she loves books. I remember buying books through Scholastic when I was a kid - my copy of Charlotte's Web was a Scholastic book, and I just bought my daughter her own copy through Scholastic. I think you provide a great service.

However, I am disappointed by the amount of toys, trinkets, and electronic media in your book clubs, to say nothing of the TV-show and movie tie-in books which are of questionable value. It's really become a chore to comb through your catalogues in search of quality. (Although it's much easier now that you list the author name - thanks for that!)

The opportunity to sell directly to children in schools is a privilege, not a right. Schools grant Scholastic unique commercial access to children because of its reputation as an educational publisher. But Scholastic is abusing that privilege by flooding classrooms across the country with ads for products and brands that have little educational value and compete with books for children's attention and families' limited resources. There's no justification for marketing an M&M videogame or lip gloss in elementary schools.

Please return to selling books - and only books - through your in-school book clubs.

Sincerely, Amy Brown

[Posted at 21:12 by Amy Brown] link
Thu, 12 Mar 2009

Quintet by Douglas Arthur Brown. I can't remember where I found out about this book - probably from the Globe and Mail's now-diminished book section. I don't always like the novels they like, but I did really enjoy this one.

The book is about three men, triplets, who lost their parents in a freak accident. After the accident the brothers decide to reconnect with each other by taking turns writing to each other in a journal. As the book progresses each brother's voice becomes clearer and various mysteries are presented and resolved, as one would expect. (I'm tired, man.) It was a good story, once you got past the extreme unlikeliness of three brothers all happening to be such good writers, and managing to find the time to write longhand when half the time we don't even have time to email each other. Nice characterization and development, a bit of a mystery, interesting secondary characters. (I should do this when I'm not so tired.) So this was a good book and if you like character-driven novels you should read it.

Burning Down The House: Fighting Fires and Losing Myself by Russell Wangersky is a memoir of the author's time as a volunteer firefighter. These days being a firefighter is as much being the first responder to car crashes as it is fighting fires, and was largely that aspect at the job which really worked at Wangersky's head and messed up his life. Not talking to anyone was part of the problem, as you might imagine. This is the story of Wangersky's experiences as a firefighter, his descent into darkness and recovery. It was a good book, if you're into descents into darkness and back.

The Chameleon's Shadow by Minette Walters is about a English soldier who returns from Iraq after being injured by an IED which killed two of his men. He has trouble remembering what happened at first, and as the novel progresses he gets his memory back and tries to put his life back together. Meanwhile a series of grisly murders seem to be connected to him, and he has to try and clear his name with the help of a motley band of psychiatrists, doctors, drunks and street kids. I enjoyed this book; it wasn't as cynical as Walters' usual stuff, and the mystery was well-played-out.

[Posted at 21:18 by Amy Brown] link
Wed, 11 Mar 2009
State of The Nation

Part IV: Delphine

Delphine has a good day every day. At least, that's what Blake tells me. Every night he has a little chat with her after I read her bedtime chapter to her. Every night, he asks her if she had a good day, and apparently every day is good. I'm glad to hear this, because it's sometimes hard to tell, while you're going through the day with her, that it's a good day. Sometimes she cries, sometimes she seems very unhappy or angry or disappointed, but apparently in retrospect, every day is pretty good. I don't know if this means she is resilient, or just that she has a very bad short-term memory.

Delphine is in the second half of Senior Kindergarten, and she's very happy at school. In fact, she would like more school; two and a half hours a day isn't enough for her. Lately her teacher has been away sick, and her substitute teacher isn't as brilliant as her regular teacher - it took her four weeks to figure out Delphine can read. But then she has a million little kids to look after, and Delphine's pretty quiet. Delphine wasn't very happy to have a new teacher, but she's adjusted. Maybe next year she can go through an entire year with the same teacher.

Right now we're slogging through the seemingly-endless Magic Tree House series. She hasn't had the nerve to try reading a chapter book on her own, so I am stuck reading them but I might put my foot down and insist on something a little more complicated. There's no point in me reading her something written at a grade, like, two level (or whatever) when we could be reading Anne of Green Gables or something more sophisticated. Plus it will be incentive for her to practice reading more.

Delphine loves to play video games. She loves to watch TV too. I have some qualms about this - I know that sitting in front of a screen isn't the best thing for a little kid. On the other hand, it's not the worst thing she could be doing. She enjoys herself, and most kids' TV and video games try very hard to be "educational". For now she's limited to 30 minutes a day on the computer and two shows a day on weekdays, 4 on weekend days.

She and Cordelia watch Dora, Blue's Clues, Yo Gabba Gabba, Pingu, Peep and the Big Wide World. And a show called Heads Up, which is about astronomy and science, with Bob McDonald, who she calls "Bob". How one tiny brain can harbour love for both Heads Up and Dora the Explorer, I will never know.

Delphine's big obsession right now is space. She's fascinated by the origin of the universe, and she especially loves planets. Her favourite is Saturn, but she is a fan of gas giants in general. We read a lot of books about space. (I really like "11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System" by David Aguilar.) She's also interested in weather, and science in general.

She has a million and one questions about everything, and I've learned to talk things through ("Well, what do you think?") rather than just answering them. Often she has the answer, she just needs to think it through. Or she comes up with something I would never think of. For example, apparently Santa isn't real, but his work is done by elves. Elves who sneak into your house through little holes. I can't make this stuff up.

What else does she do? She teaches Cordelia stuff. She fights with Cordelia (I'm convinced this is somehow entertaining for them.) She rides her bike and skips, now that it's a little warmer out. She spends a lot of time drawing and writing and otherwise creating things with paper and tape and stickers and stuff. Yesterday she wanted to do science. She figured out what paper is made of (paper is made of little dots!) and then she asked me to give her a question. I finally wanted to know, how hot and how cold is the water that comes out of the tap? I set her up with a thermometer and a mug and let her at it. It wasn't the most rigorous science ever, but it was fun.

[Posted at 22:17 by Amy Brown] link
Another Great Video

This one's less cranky. In fact, it's funny and inspiring.

(Wow, it's like this weblog is becoming a list of interesting things I find on the Internet. Like, a log of web pages or something.)

[Posted at 11:06 by Amy Brown] link
Mon, 09 Mar 2009
This Is Fracking Brilliant

[Posted at 13:01 by Amy Brown] link
Wed, 04 Mar 2009
  1. I was baptized into the Anglican church when I was ten. Yeah. Old enough to know better. I'm still not really sure why I did it; I don't think I really believed in God even back then. I was not the most thoughtful kid, and I think I figured that it was some kind of protracted metaphor or something. Or maybe I did believe in God back then. I remember praying when I was little, six or seven. I used to pray to Jesus that I would have a new toy when I got home from school. Yeah, I was a horrible little materialist too. I know I was thoroughly atheist by high school, I'm just not sure when and why I changed my mind.

  2. I once perpetrated a horribly executed breakup. I was nineteen and I broke up with the one boyfriend I had before I met Blake. I didn't know why I wanted to break up with him - still not very thoughtful by then - I just knew it wasn't going to work and I wanted out. So I broke up with him, but of course since I didn't know why I wanted out, I couldn't tell him why, which must have been very unsatisfying. On top of that, I felt so guilty about making the guy miserable that I kind of told him we might get back together. We weren't going to get back together, and I must have realised that, but I was too much of a coward to make a clean break so I strung the poor kid along for a couple of months. Oh, did I mention we were still having sex? Yeah, that was all part of the "let him down easy" initiative. I don't think the guy knew it was really over until he realized I was going out with Blake. And by "going out with", I mean... well, you know what I mean.

    But the ex consoled himself with a fresh new seventeen-year-old, so I don't feel too bad. I think they're still together!

  3. I have IBS. (I love that domain name.) I don't really talk about it because it's not very interesting and it seems like TMI. Although apparently it affects between 15% and 30% of the population, and yet I don't know anyone else who admits to having it. So maybe it's time to start talking about it, because I know I feel like I'm the only person in the world with this stupid, embarrassing problem.

    Hm, I just realized I'm exaggerating. I know two other people with various awkward bowel problems, and a third person has told me she has IBS. So maybe I'm not so alone. Still. Feels that way sometimes.

  4. I have a thing for (tall) men with beards. Big, full beards, not long, Gandalf beards. Yeah, I know it's weird and runs contrary to the current (like, the last century) fashion but there it is. It might have started with an early love for Gerald Durrell Or maybe it's just a Santa Claus thing. The irony is Blake's never going to be able to grow a decent beard.

  5. When I was eleven I started to learn flute, and then clarinet, and quit them both. I quit because I was not instantly successful and I didn't yet realize that most things worth doing are difficult and annoying at first. I was the classic over-praised child; I was so keen to maintain my reputation as "smart" and "capable" that the moment I wasn't good at something I quit. I also doubted my ability to succeed - I honestly thought that if something was hard at first I would never get better at it. I don't know how I so colossally failed to get the concept of a "learning curve" for so many years. Trying not to let that happen to my kids.

  6. I have a million cousins. Well, not a million, but plenty, especially considering I only have one aunt and one uncle. My aunt Delphine, my mother's sister, had one daughter who had two kids, so that's one cousin and two cousins once removed.

    My uncle Michael, on my father's side, was a little more fecund. He has four children (so five cousins total). Cousin Martin has four children, Bernard has three children, Amanda and Bridget have two each for a total of thirteen cousins once removed. Bernard's daughter Giorgina has a baby now, so I have a cousin twice removed as well. That makes nineteen cousins altogether.

    I guess that isn't that many cousins - people from larger families have dozens of cousins. But to someone who grew up without any significant contact with extended family, it seems like a lot. It seems weird to have this connection with such a big group of people.

    I don't hear much from my extended family, at least on my dad's side, probably because they already have eleven cousins and four aunts and uncles to deal with. I'm sure they're not in the market for yet another family member.

  7. I lived in at least ten different houses before I went to university at seventeen. Why? No good reason. My parents (my dad, really) just felt the need to move a lot. I think my childhood would have been better if we hadn't have moved so much, but there were benefits, too: I have lived in three different countries, I have experienced what it is to be an outsider (again, and again, and again). I am extremely adept at finding people I like and making friends. I'm good at finding my way around new places and I can feel comfortable just about anywhere.

    The moving madness didn't stop when I went to university, of course. I was in co-op, which meant another move every four months. Waterloo, Ottawa, Waterloo, Mississauga, Toronto, Waterloo. But since then (apart from a four month trip to Europe) I have lived within two kilometers of Yonge and Davisville, and here I intend to stay until the girls go off to their universities. It's nice to finally put down some roots.

[Posted at 22:44 by Amy Brown] link
Mon, 02 Mar 2009
Well it's been 14 years...

On this day in 1995, Blake and I started going out. I was nineteen, in third year (or second? It's a blur.) and Blake was just about to turn 22. We had been friends for about a month. We started hanging out after seeing Pulp Fiction with a group of friends at a Waterloo repertory theatre. The chemistry was great and we spent all our time together. Finally on March 2nd we decided to start going out, and we've been together ever since!

Okay, not much to this post but I wanted to mark the day. Fourteen years is a long time!

[Posted at 20:50 by Amy Brown] link