Blog-o! Notes from

Thu, 26 May 2011

Life is coming at me too fast lately.

We're still in the middle of the bathroom reno (basement powder room is done, upstairs bathroom is entirely non-functional). This means I have to find somewhere else to shower.

I just helped publish a book, which is really cool but the work keeps coming; we have a print edition, but we also want to produce various different eBooks (and the giant learning curve that entails), not to mention fixing errata and keeping the website up to date.

The girls' school spring fair is this weekend, which means I will be baking for the bake sale tomorrow, and both Blake and I are volunteering on the day of.

Delphine has had a persistent infestation of lice, for almost two weeks. We've treated with the chemical agent and picked nits for hours, but that didn't do the trick so I treated her again today with some herbal stuff of dubious value and spent another hour or so picking nits.

My brother is getting married in July, which is going to be completely awesome, but I've never been to Japan before and I have a ton of things to do, get, and read about before I go.

Then there's the usual groceries, laundry, cooking, picking up and dropping off, vacuuming, etc, etc.

And, finally, inevitably, I just scratched my head and came away with a live louse. So now I'm off to shave my head. Or something.

[Posted at 22:50 by Amy Brown] link
Mon, 31 Jan 2011
  1. sinus infection
  2. Delphine fell downstairs
  3. I left the bacon my friend gave me unrefrigerated overnight
  4. minus 27°C with windchill
  5. both my children hate school and don't want to go
  6. I don't blame them (actually I'm glad they have the wit to realize what a scam school is.)
  7. all my usual boring existential angst

And two reasons today is okay:

  1. My children are creative and clever and interesting.
  2. The sun is shining.
[Posted at 08:17 by Amy Brown] link
Mon, 24 Jan 2011

Right now, in Toronto, where I am, it is cloudy and -10°C. Right now, in Honolulu, where Blake is, it is mostly sunny and 24°C.

I saw my friend Julia at the grocery store this morning. She wanted to know what was new, and I told her my husband was in Hawai'i all week. She was outraged on my behalf: "What are you going to get out of this," she wanted to know.

"I get to stay in Toronto and look after my children!"

Blake didn't ask to go to Hawai'i, he didn't pay to go to Hawai'i, he didn't even want to go to Hawai'i. (Julia expressed some scepticism on this last point, but I saw how mopey he was the day he left. He's crazy, but he'd really rather be home.)

That, however, doesn't change the fact that I would really like to be in Hawai'i. (In fact, it kind of makes it worse.) I'd like to be in a hotel in Hawai'i with new neighbourhoods to explore, new food to try, new beaches to walk on, and no horrible freezing weather to endure. I haven't been anywhere new since I was in Las Vegas in 2004, and I haven't been anywhere I really wanted to go since I was in New York in 2003. And I'm so sick of this cold.

I don't know the answer. There's no way for me to go somewhere interesting for free, and it wouldn't be "fair" for me to spend a bunch of money we don't have to go on holiday somewhere just because I would really like to. I'm certainly not owed a holiday.

They did a study on monkeys: you can get monkeys to do tricks if you reward them with bit of cucumber, which they like. However, if they see that you're rewarding other monkeys with grapes, which they love, they'll stop doing tricks. They know it's not fair that the other monkeys are getting grapes, even though their cucumbers are pretty good and were considered fair reward until they noticed the grapes.

Right now this monkey is not too happy with her cucumbers.

[Posted at 14:48 by Amy Brown] link
Sat, 06 Nov 2010

I know I've beaten this horse before, but it ain't dead yet. I know because it's always trotting around my head.

Here's the thing. About a year ago I decided to add a bunch of stuff to my plate and see what happened. I managed to keep my shit together until this September, when I added work to the teetering pile and it started to collapse.

So I made a list. It's what I do. I made a list of the stuff I do, sorted by funness and importance:

Stuff I Do Funness Importance  
friends 9 9 Seeing friends is not only fun but essential to good physical and mental health, so this is the top of my list.
family time 8 9 Obviously hanging out with the kids is the most important thing I do, and it's almost as much fun as hanging out with friends, so this is an easy second.
sleep 7 9 I love and need sleep. If I don't get enough sleep not only do I become short-tempered and unpleasant, I also get stupid and sick. Seven hours a night, minimum.
exercise 4 9 As you can see, exercise gets the lowest fun rating so far at a disappointing 4, but it's pretty important. Since I spend so much time sleeping I'd like to recoup that investment by living for a long time, and to do that I need to stay fit. (As fit as possible under the circumstances.) This is one of the things I'd like to do more.
cook 8 8 I cook and bake a lot. I enjoy it and the value that cooking (and baking) brings to the family is worth the time I spend doing it.
work 7 8 Work is not only fun but satisfying and profitable, but it's one of the things I'm having trouble levering in. I am very easily distracted both online and off. I'm getting better at ignoring the outside world and buckling down. It's a process.
laundry 6 8 I spend a lot of time doing laundry. Especially folding. I've started listening to the CBC while I fold, which is at least sometimes educational or thought-provoking.
kid management 6 8 This is stuff like planning activities, sorting out clothes and toys, picking people up, and so on. It takes as long as it takes and I don't mind doing it.
housework 3 8 Hate housework. Hate dirty house. Can't afford housekeeper.
reading 9 7 Reading is one of the things I'm starting to panic about. I have hardly read anything since the read-a-thon and I feel like I'm getting behind. I have a list of interesting non-fiction books I want to read and I feel underinformed because I haven't read them yet. I must know things!
choir 9 7  
blake time 9 7  
local politics 8 7 This is a new one for me, and not actually anything I technically spend much time on, apart from reading the news, but it's an area of interest I'd like to explore further.
school choir and volunteering in the classroom 8 6 I do a lot of volunteering for the school, but choir is most fun, followed closely by working in the classroom.
blog/writing 8 6 Now that Uncle Hershey has passed (may he rest in peace) there are exactly two people in the world who want me to blog more, but I really should write more if I ever want to not suck at it.
farting around 7 6 This seems like an odd thing to include in a post about being awesome and getting things done and organizing myself, but I'm a delicate person and I need my down time. It's not that I need to fart around, per se, but I need some wiggle room in my day: I want to read news online and watch the birds out the back window and hang out with other moms on the schoolyard without feeling guilty and harried.
eco-chair 6 5 Being chair of the Parent Council Eco-Committee is my least favourite school volunteer job. I spend a lot of time dealing with TDSB bureaucracy, and most of the rest of the time trying to convince disinterested parents to think about things they'd rather not think about. It's disheartening and unsatisfying. This is the one thing on this list I'm planning to walk away from as soon as I can.

What I've learned from this exercise is that I probably prioritise activities a little differently than most high-achieving busy people (not to overgeneralize – of course there are HABP who make time for all of these things): I place a high value on reading, sleeping, cooking, and hanging out with friends, all of which tend to elbow out useful things like having meetings and writing proposals and whatever other useful things useful people do. So there's a good chance that I'll never be terribly useful, but at least now I know what I'm working with, what I'm willing to give up and what I insist on keeping, and with that knowledge I can try and spend the limited time I have on things which are really important.

[Posted at 22:31 by Amy Brown] link
Thu, 11 Jun 2009

Yesterday I got into a TwitFight. Not even a fight: There's this guy on Twitter who posts the same advice every day. Literally, the exact same Twit, every day. It's a "daily reminder". I said to him, in a lighthearted way, that I would stop following him if he Twitted that again. One thing led to another and I said I thought it was presumptuous to give out the same advice every day (actually I said he was nagging), and he said it was presumptuous of me to assume he cares. Whatever. Tiny little disagreement about something of negligible importance with someone I don't know who means nothing to me.

How did I respond to this disagreement? Did I transfer my attention to something worthy of my time, maybe one of the blogs I enjoy, or perhaps my children? My friends? No. I let it get to me: my heart rate went up, I got nervous and twitchy, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I tried to talk myself down, to get some perspective, to distract myself, but my mind kept wandering back to the disagreement. I couldn't stop thinking about it: was I wrong? Was the guy right? Should I respond back to him? Would my friends back me up? Why was he being a dick about it? Was he being a dick about it? Why would he think that people want to read the same piece of advice every day anyway? Should I not have said anything? The thoughts kept buzzing around, almost beyond my control.

It's not just this time. The same thing happens whenever I get into an altercation with anyone. It's been happening when I get into fights on the Internet as long as I've been on the Internet, and it happens in real life too, on the rare occasion when I have the balls to disagree with someone who is within arm's reach. Any fight, no matter how minor, results in hours of analysis and worrying and anxiety.

I can't bear conflict. I don't like people to disagree with me; when they do, I get defensive, I get nervous, I second-guess myself. I try and get my friends to take my side, or at least I reassure myself that they would. I forget that I'm an intelligent person who is entitled to disagree with others. I forget that I don't need a bunch of people backing me up to be right. I have a brain, I can have an opinion without taking a poll of all my friends first.

Why do I have such a strong physical and emotional reaction when I get into an argument with someone? Is it just lack of practice? Is it some relic from my childhood? Perhaps the more important question is, how do I get over it? Maybe I need to pick more fights so that I learn to deal better.

[Posted at 23:02 by Amy Brown] link
Fri, 06 Feb 2009

Cordelia and I are sick. According to the Venn diagram of misery I have either a cold with muscle pain, fever and headache, or a flu with sneezing and runny nose. Maybe I have a cold and flu simultaneously! Whatever I have it's mild enough to allow me to get up and make myself useful while still being severe enough to make me miserable.

I kept Cordelia home from school today because she woke up during the night all hot and coughing, but now that she's awake she seems more or less fine. I'm sure she will hit a brick wall sooner or later. Hopefully I can get someone to pick Delphine up from school so Cordelia can have a nice long nap.

Now I'm going to set the children up with the obligatory Sick Day TV.

[Posted at 10:31 by Amy Brown] link
Wed, 21 Jan 2009

Part III: Me

Seems like even though this is my blog (well, half mine) I don't post about myself very much. I post about the kids, I post about what I read, I even post about my husband sometimes, but I don't post about what's going on with me. Lucky for you, but today your luck has run out: this post is all about me.

It's still January, and January is still kicking my ass. I've been so tired and so disinclined to do anything since the Christmas decorations came down. I haven't vacuumed, I haven't tidied; I am just barely getting through the absolute necessities. I read awhile ago that when you get depressed there's actually some kind of blockage in the system which takes messages from your brain to your muscles, so you lie there thinking, "I'm going to get up and pick up all that Lego" and... nothing happens. That's how I feel. Plus, as discussed earlier, it's so bloody cold.

Yesterday I had a little breakdown because there's crap all over the downstairs: dolls, stuffed animals, books, random miniature backpacks, board games, the usual detritus of small children. Since I have been more disinclined than usual to tidy up, this stuff has been accumulating in the corners and nooks like giant, brightly coloured dust bunnies, and it finally tipped me over the edge yesterday. Blake's solution was: "Get the girls to tidy up." Bwah hah hah, yes, I'll get right on that. I'm sure that will be much easier than doing it myself. Then he got mad at me for being sarcastic. So we had a big fight. Le sigh.

Unfortunately Cordelia is still too small to really understand how to tidy up, so if I want to continue to allow her to own and play with stuff, I need to pick up after her. Normally I'm okay with doing that, but see above re: January. Not only do I lack the energy to clean up but I'm more emotionally fragile than usual so the mess bugs me more. Double-whammy, POW, BIFF!

Whatever. Out of the dust a phoenix rises, or at least a good idea: we're going to get each girl a giant bucket (I like these) and every day before dinner everyone has to load their shit, er I mean their prized possessions into their bucket and take it upstairs. Once there, Delphine can do whatever she wants with her stuff and I will help Cordelia put hers away in her room. Result! Hopefully.

Anyway, so that was my large digression regarding the state of the house as it pertains to my state of mind, which is not great right now but I'm sure will improve as the days get longer and the snow melts.

Apart from the usual Mum stuff of cooking, cleaning, reading out loud, playing and taking people places, mainly I spend my time reading and watching TV. In addition to the books I read, I also get through most of the Saturday Globe and Mail, (excepting the Sports, Report on Business and Travel sections which I recycle first off). I also get New Scientist every week (well, it's supposed to be weekly; it seems to come in spurts), and Today's Parent every month. I used to get Canadian House and Home but I don't have the money to decorate or renovate so it just depressed me.

We cancelled cable a while ago and now we download all our TV, which is working really well. I'm pretty happy with the stuff we watch; life is short and there are lots of books to read, so I try and only watch shows I really like. I just dumped 90210 because it wasn't good enough to squander precious hours of my life on. That doesn't seem to set a really high bar, does it? This is what I do watch: The Daily Show, Chuck, Battlestar Galactica, Dirty Jobs, Mythbusters (mainly because Blake watches it), Doctor Who, and Torchwood. We also just started watching a show called Being Erica which looks like it's going to be pretty good.

Extra-curricular activities are limited by time and the goodwill of the various people willing to look after my children so I can leave the house. I have choir practice once a week from September to May. Every month or two my book club meets for dinner on Friday night in a restaurant. (Ooh! A restaurant! Shiny!) Every month I go to the school Parents Association so I can stay in the loop with all the juicy school gossip. That's about it, I think. Housebound much?

So here's an interesting thing. (Interesting if you're me.) When I graduated from high school I was the most boring, unmotivated, uninterested, extrinsically motivated person imaginable. I didn't know what I was interested in because I wasn't interested in anything -- the only thing that motivated me was pleasing other people, and other people don't have the first clue what's right for me -- so off I went to university and did Math for some very bad reasons, none of which had anything to do with genuine interest. But I forged through. (And now that I think about it was pretty damn good to get a degree in Math from a such a hard school when I wasn't the slightest bit interested in it.) Anyway, so I got the degree and I worked in computers and every day was horrible because I just didn't care.

The last five years, since I haven't been working and since I have been reading, have been like an Independent Study. I've been free to read whatever I want and explore my own interests. If I don't want to read something, I don't have to. If I do want to, I can, and then if that book leads me to one or two or three other books I can read them, too. (Funny thing: in all that time I don't think I've read a single book about math.)

So oddly enough, being a stay-at-home mom has been a very rich time for me, intellectually. I've exposed myself to lots of ideas, lots of novels, lots and lots of facts. And the more I read and the smarter I get, the more I know that I must change careers and that I need to spend some time and effort figuring out what's right for me. Fortunately I have read plenty of books about finding happiness and satisfaction in life, so I can use them for guidance. But more on that later. That's a whole 'nother set of posts and I still have lots and lots of thinking to do. (For some reason I have time to read but not time to think.) Stay tuned.

Now it's time for bed - tomorrow is Thursday, and it's going to be warm so we might go play outside. Apparently Delphine told Blake she didn't want Mummy to be crabby any more, so he wants me to figure out what I need to feel better. I thought about it a little bit and I think I need some time to myself, to get away from everyone's needs. I don't get a lot of that, and usually I can deal but, well, January. So I'm going to take some Me Time tomorrow afternoon and go window shopping on Bayview while Delphine is at school. Delphine has French after school, then home for supper and then I might go downtown and see if I can get a good deal on a winter coat. Dunno -- maybe I shouldn't blow all my Me time on one day. Or maybe I should!

[Posted at 22:45 by Amy Brown] link
Wed, 14 Jan 2009

About six years ago I received in the mail a small tub of NeoStrata AHA cream with 10% glycolic acid. It was sent to me by a friend who had tried it to cure her acne with no success. To my surprise, shortly after I started using it, my skin cleared up. The clogged pores that made my forehead into a shiny billboard of braille nonsense disappeared, along with the pimples which had been with me since high school. I never had terrible acne, but I always had one or two or three pimples on the go at a time, and I always made it worse by picking. Pick pick pick.

But once I started using the new cream, for the first time in my adult life I had clear, smooth almost-alabaster skin. It's a small thing and I feel like I shouldn't be so vain about it, but it was nice to walk around and not be self-conscious about my skin. Before the acne went away I thought I would feel prettier if I didn't have these spots, and as it turns out, I was right. I felt prettier and more confident.

So every time I ran out of the glycolic acid cream I went for a few days without it, just to make sure that I wasn't wasting my money, and sure enough within a couple of days the clogged pores would pop up on my forehead, a sure harbinger, I thought, of the pimples to come. So off to the store I would go to spend another $35 on the magic cream.

But now the pimples are back, just like before. I have a scar on my chin where I picked one last week, I have a scab on my forehead and another at my hairline, and I have a new pimple brewing on the other side of my chin. Exactly the same as before: same kind of pimples, same places. My skin is doing the time warp. I actually wore makeup the other day. I never wear makeup!

So what changed, I asked myself. I am using exactly the same beauty routine as I was three months ago: plain soap and the glycolic acid stuff. What changed?

Then I realized: Cordelia stopped nursing. Yeah. I started using the glycolic acid cream when I was a few months pregnant. Then I had Delphine, then I nursed her, then I got pregnant with Cordelia (without giving up nursing), had her and nursed her, until a couple of months ago. And then the acne came back. But not the clogged pores! Apparently the cream cured them but wasn't actually having an effect on the acne.

It's almost funny (haw haw) how much time and money and grief I spent between the ages of thirteen and twenty-seven, trying to get rid of these pimples. All I needed to do was get knocked up! Ha!

So next time I go see the doctor I will ask her about trying one of those birth control pills which cure acne as a "side effect". Since pregnancy cured it, perhaps something which feigns pregnancy will have the same effect! We'll see. In the meantime I will try and stop picking.

[Posted at 16:11 by Amy Brown] link
Wed, 20 Feb 2008

Pronounced "windjing", it means "complaining persistently and in a peevish or irritating way". Since so much of my blogging (and indeed most people's) is devoted to general or specific pissing and moaning, I thought I'd better give it its own category. Not so much to elevate the whiny posts, but to segregate them from the rest of the weblog, the parts which might give you the impression that I'm a normal well-adjusted person and not a neurotic whining freak.

I had a teeny tiny breakdown this morning. It started yesterday; I was reading a book and one of the characters was talking about lying awake all night with insomnia. Luckily I have never had trouble sleeping, because the very thought of trying to deal with the children and get through a day without any sleep (or even without the seven hours which I absolutely need) got me into a bit of a panic. Then I got to thinking about how one person raising a family, alone for most of the day, is completely abnormal from a biological point of view. Humans are pack animals, we are supposed to live in extended family groups. I should have grannies and aunties and big sisters and cousins around to help me with my kids while I help with theirs. I shouldn't have to pull Cordelia out of her nap every single day to pick Delphine up from school, or drag Delphine away from her activities so we can get Cordelia from her school.

So there was all that, and on top of it the children are fighting like ferrets in a sack all the time, or at least it seems like it, and furthermore Delphine has started to explore the exciting world of misbehaviour and deception — and I'm feeling singularly unqualified to deal with that — and I have a cough and a sinus infection and it's bloody cold outside — I am so sick of winter — and I'm tired and all I want to do is sit on the couch eating brownies and watching Jack Harkness kiss people, which isn't going to happen until I have dragged my carcass through another sorry day of this madness. The nice thing about working in an office is that you can phone it in for a day, or a week, or even a month or two and no-one seems to notice, but as a Mom you have to step up and cook and clean and pick up and drop off every single bloody blessed day with no reprieve. Well, except after bedtime. Thank god for bedtime. And thank god my kids are as good as they are, because as Blake's mother says, "You think this is bad, you should see regular children!"

And that has been the whinge for today. Thank you very much.

[Posted at 14:43 by Amy Brown] link