Conversations with Delphine, V

This morning Delphine slept late, and she was in an exceptionally chatty mood when she woke up. She came into bed with farting on the mind, and asked,

"Who farted?"

"I don't know," I said, "who?"

"I think Zaida farted."


"Zaida has a big white moustache. And hair. His hair match his moustache." A pause. "Zaida is very old."

Miracle Cure

Due to an ill-advised combination of drinks last night (cherry beer plus sweet wine plus cider) I woke up with a killer headache and no small amount of nausea. It was miserable; you would think by thirty I would know how to drink sensibly. I didn't even get drunk! It was just all the alcopop.

But the best part is that my back, which has been troubling me for weeks, feels fantastic today; no aching or tightness or alarming stabbing pains. I'm not sure if it's coincidence or the muscle relaxant properties of alcohol, or what, but I am very pleased. (Now that my headache and nausea is gone.)

About the Name

I wrote a bit about Cordelia's name.

Okay, I'm trying to figure out the cheesy Cordelia song. It might not be Chris De Burgh, because I couldn't find anything on the 'net. It goes "Cordelia! Let's (something) away the night together, let's (something) 'til the stars fall down from the sky". It's really cheesy, y'all, but I can't find it anywhere on the Internet. Isn't this what the Internet is for?

Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel

The sub-title says it all. This is a book of value both to those both looking for advice on child-rearing and looking for guidance on how to live according to Jewish teachings.

The thing that strikes me, as a secular Christian, about Judaism is that it provides so much guidance on how to live daily life. Judaism takes the sacred out of the temple or the church and puts it in the home, it takes the worshipping out of the hands of the priests and shamans and puts it in the hands of the mothers and fathers. (I guess that's what comes of centuries of persecution -- you spread your faith around so it always survives. Kind of the distributed computing of religions.)

Conveniently for the rest of us, Jewish teachings with respect to the home and the raising of children are eminently sensible and time-tested. This book has advice about how to appreciate your children, how to get them to appreciate (that is, respect) you, how to teach them gratitude, get them to do chores, discipline them. The author is a psychiatrist and a mother, too, so she puts the teachings in a modern perspective. She's also pretty funny.

This is a useful book and an easy read, and has lots of good recommendations for other books -- in fact, I might get this out of the library again just for the bibliography (some of the books she references aren't applicable to my children just yet). You will also learn lots of useful Hebrew words like yetzer hara. (Maybe that's Yiddish? She doesn't say.)

More January Books

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a science fiction book by a non-science fiction author. As such it's kind of implausible from an sf point of view because Ishiguro isn't trying to create a rigorous, believeable universe to satisfy nerds like me, he's creating an allegory to make a point. So I guess it's not really science fiction; I'm not sure what you would call it. Anyway, it's very good and quite sad. And I guess it's not all that unbelieveable. It depends how pessimistic you are feeling.

Race Against Time by Stephen Lewis

This is a collection of essays originally delivered as the 2005 Massey Lectures. Stephen Lewis is the United Nations' Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and boy, is he pissed. Basically we are all screwing over Africa because we can't be bothered to spend the few bucks it would take to treat and prevent AIDS and thereby rescue an entire continent from tragic poverty and remove from the world yet another hatching ground for un-parented proto-terrorists. (He doesn't say that thing about terrorists, that's mine.)

Africa is full of child-led and grandmother-led families and it's heartbreaking and sickening how we continue to turn our backs on it. Africa is a magical land rich with resources and cultures and the rest of the world has metaphorically hit it over the head, stolen its lunch money, kicked it in the ribs and is now walking away. Call your representatives and tell them it is time to look after Africa.

Also Stephen Lewis is smart and strong and noble and brave, even if I did make fun of his daughter-in-law here a while back.

American Backlash: The Untold Story of Social Change in The United States by Michael Adams

Michael Adams is the head of a polling company which has done extensive polling of Americans and discovered that the true divide in American values isn't between Republicans and Democrats but between politically engaged citizens and those who couldn't give a rat's ass. And it's the values of the non-rat's-ass-givers which are leading the trajectory of social change in American from respect and independence to hedomism and individualism. So he says. He also talks about how the two parties can reach undecided voters, and why the Democrats are having their asses whupped so bad lately.

He makes some pretty compelling arguments, but now I am more interested to read Fire and Ice, which compares Canadian values to American values.

I think Jon Stewart should read this book, except he probably already has. Although maybe not, because I'm not sure this book has been published in the US.

How to Simply Cut Children's Hair: A Step-by-Step Guide to Cutting, Perming and Highlighting Children's Hair by Laurie Punches

This book seemed pretty useful and I might get it out again once Delphine is old enough to sit still while I try and cut her hair. And before she gets old enough that she is too cool to have a home haircut. So that will be a, what, two week window? The book blurb says "Exploration is part of the adventure" -- let me assure you that an eleven-year-old does not want you having any adventures with her hair.

Incidentally I should look up books on how to cut my own hair -- I am meeting more and more people who cut their own hair and I think I should try it. Fifty bucks every six weeks is just too much money.

Leading a Software Development Team: A Developer's Guide to Successfully Leading People & Projects by Richard Whitehead

Like it says in the title, this book is written for developers so it sometimes left me wondering whether I can make it as a software manager. Whitehead talks a lot about design and architecture, saying that it's important to take the time to come up with a good design before you begin coding. I understand that that is important but I am not sure that I would be able to tell if my team had come up with a good design. Actually, no, I think I would be able to tell if we had a lousy design, but I'm not sure I would be able to convince my team that I'm right. Perhaps the only problem is one of confidence.

Anyway, because the book is written for developers it leaves one with the impression that the only good team lead or project manager is someone who started off coding; I don't think that's true but I need to read "A Non-Developer's Guide to Successfully Leading Software People and Projects" or some such book to get an idea of my career trajectory. I need to decide how much time to dedicate to being in development before I can move into project management -- none? Five years? Ten? Or maybe I will go through testing instead.

Did I really just say that? Am I insane? How passionately did I swear that I would never ever do testing again? Can I really go back into a job I hated and love it and make a career out of it? Has my attitude improved that much? I just don't know.

Still, this is a very good and useful book that covers many areas of project management, from technical issues to decision making to managing team members to dealing with lousy bosses. Blake is going to read it too. The only worrying thing is that the author photograph very flatteringly makes the author look about 32 so I'm not sure I trust him.

Morale is Low

I have too much stuff in too little space, and I don't have the resources to reduce the stuff or increase the space. My hair looks like hell and is constantly, annoyingly in my eyes. I have a premobile baby whose every physical need is my responsibility, and a stubborn toddler whose emotional upheavals are severely trying my already limited patience and empathy. I have so many things to do and I haven't any idea how or when to start.

My skin is so dry that every time I move my bra feels like sandpaper on my raw back, and my hands make me cry to look at them. My feet are revoltingly calloused and I haven't painted my nails since before Christmas. All my clothes are old and ill-fitting, and I couldn't make myself look respectable even if I had the time and space to do so.

But instead of dealing with any of these problems, or just waiting for them to pass, I bake. Please, come over and eat my cookies and carrot cake and banana bread. And while you're here you can help me get rid of some crap. Or maybe just hold the baby while I fix my toenails.

Let's try this again.

Has it been a month already? I guess it has. Tan Quach, I know you've got stuff to say because you bother me with trivialities every day over IM. So comment here, and tell me about your new house, and your fancy job, and the Bodog girls™.

My Life in Point Form

This is a nice metaphor, actually: I feel like I only have time for myself in the form of short bulleted statements.

  • I just called for an NDP sign for the balcony window.
  • I am reading books about software project management but I am concerned that my lack of programming experience will hinder me.
  • I am not losing weight as quickly as I would like, but
  • I am also not eating as healthily or getting as much exercise as I should.
  • I made and then cancelled an appointment to get my hair cut very very short.
  • Cordelia is crying and I am ignoring her because I want to post this.
  • (Okay, I got her a soother.)
  • It's warm enough (eleven degrees) that I have the windows open to air the place out. It's JANUARY!
  • My back is kind of sore and I have a chiropractor appointment and a massage booked for next week.
  • I am going to relearn how to skate so I can teach Delphine (she got bob-skates for Christmas) because I think all Canadian children should know how to skate.
  • I am looking forward to getting back to yoga because it makes my back stronger, it's relaxing and it helps me go longer without taking a breath when I sing.
  • I rejoined the choir -- I can still sing a high B-flat (or higher, but no-one writes higher than that for choirs).
  • I watch a lot of TV: The Daily Show, Miami Ink, What Not To Wear, Everybody Hates Chris, Veronica Mars, Battlestar Galactica, The Hour on CBC Newsworld, Dead Like Me, American Idol, and assorted emergency room and decorating reality shows. I don't watch Desperate Housewives, Lost, 24, or The Bachelor, so even though I watch a lot of TV I still can't talk about it with other people.
  • I like having the window open and being able to hear the city. I feel more like I'm a part of it. I will miss living on Yonge Street when we move.
  • We probably won't move for another eighteen months or so.

What's Up With The Baby?

Cordelia's almost four months old. It seems like longer, somehow; it seems like she has been with us for a long, long time. But it also seems like she's developing faster than Delphine did, because we have been down this route before. You know how the first time you go on a journey it seems to take a really long time, because you're not sure where you're going or when you will get there, but after that first time the trip seems much shorter? That's what's happening here. I'm enjoying this slightly boring and annoying helpless-baby stage because I know from experience that it does end some day, so it's easy to brush off the annoying parts and appreciate the sweet, squishy, fun parts. Everyone should have two children: a practice one and a fun one.

She has an astonishing smile; her cheeks puff out and her eyes crinkle and she shows all her gums and it's like you are sharing the most wonderful joke ever. It makes you feel like you are the most splendid person she has ever met; if she keeps this smile all her life she will break hearts and win votes left and right.

She still hasn't rolled over the other way more than a couple of times; she ends up on her belly and stays there until she gets mad and someone responds to her protests by rolling her back over.

I tried to put her to bed at bedtime yesterday, but it didn't work; she didn't sleep. I think she's still too young to have developed the two-naps-and-an-overnight-sleep pattern yet. She does sleep from eleven until seven, with us, though. Sometimes she wakes up in the middle for a nurse, but most often not these days.

She's learned how to grab things and stick them in her mouth -- she loves to chew stuff. I think she might be cutting a tooth. I remember it seemed like forever before Delphine learned to grab things, and now I'm shocked at how soon Cordelia can do it. Right now she is mowing down on a rubber elephant chew toy and making satisfied grunty sighing noises.

Who's in charge here?

How many times have I publically declared that we will start potty training TOMORROW here? Three? Four? Guess what we still haven't done?

I think I have overloaded myself with information on this matter because I flip-flop, literally every day, between (in a deep, gruff voice) Being The Boss and telling Delphine it's time to start using the potty, or (in a light, floaty, slightly mocking voice) Waiting until She Is Ready. The consensus in modern theory seems to lean towards letting her decide, with vague handwaving talk of Negative Consequences if I force the issue. At this point I am leaning towards going with the consensus on the basis that if it turns out to be the wrong decision I can pull out the "everyone was doing it" defense. That's not a defense I have a lot of respect for, though.

This is complicated and irritated by the fact that Delphine has decided to stop pooping. Pooping is unpleasant and smelly and generally beneath someone such as her. However her body didn't get the memo, so at around 4:00 every day (her body would like to be regular) I am faced with a two-year-old frantically waddling around, penguin-style, moaning "My bum hurts! My bum is sore!" Every third day or so her body wins.

Altogether this means I am spending much more time than I would like to thinking about, talking about, and reading about poop. (Did you know Everybody Poops? I have a book that says so.) I am done. I need a poop holiday.

Everything else is going okay, though. We are reading more and more meaty books (I even got a picture-book version of The Secret Garden!) together. We just discovered Curious George, which I don't remember reading as a kid but quite like now. I gather there is a movie coming out -- we will be sure not to go. (I think two-and-a-half is too young to sit through a whole movie. She can hardly pay attention through a 20-minute Baby Einstein DVD.)

We still don't watch much TV with her. She gets one or two 20 minute DVDs a week, and we almost always watch with her. Actually, she watched TV by herself for the first time yesterday, while I did a Grocery Gateway order. I felt strangely neglectful and inclined to crack open a can of cheap beer and light a cigarette.

(Actually I think I might buy some beer this weekend. Maybe some popcorn too.)

She has lots of dollies now: a Cabbage Patch baby named Phoebe from Baba, a homemade rag doll (with no fixed name that I can ascertain) from my mother, and her first dolly, a rag doll named Boy which Auntie J'Anne gave her. She also has a variety of stuffed animals, which rotate in and out of her favour. My favourite is a purple and orange orangutan-type thing named George. She likes to put her babies to sleep, and push them around in her push cart, and generally leave them underfoot for me to step on and swear. (I am turning into my mother.) Phoebe and the rag doll are both naked at all times, as were my dolls when I was a child. The only reason Boy has clothes is that they are stitched on.

She also likes to play with the Fisher-Price Little People house I got her for Christmas, and to draw and colour. Her drawings are getting more representational, they are no longer just scribbles. Now they're circles and lines which are arbitrarily (probably not to her) assigned meaning: this blob with lines coming out is a mouse, and this smaller blob is a banana. She likes to help in the kitchen too; she stirs things. That's about all I let her do so far, since she's clearly too young for fire and sharp things.

She's cute; she's lovely; she's funny and interesting and I like her very much.