Fat Girl Running

Kat has inspired me to get my running shoes back on; she is training for an as-yet-unspecified 5K, so we're going to egg each other on. She runs on the treadmill at her condo and I like to run outside (because I don't have a treadmill and I'm too poor to join a gym, and because running on a treadmill is boring) so we probably won't actually run together until spring. But we'll talk about running!

We talked about running last night before choir, and as Kat wisely pointed out, if you want to do something you should do it as soon as possible after you've determined to do it, so I ran this afternoon after I dropped Delphine off at school. Since Blake is "working" from "home", he can make sure Cordelia doesn't catch fire or something while she's napping, and so I can leave the house in the afternoon. Plus it was sunny and warm (only -5!) - too good to pass up.

I did 3K in 1-and-1s. 1-and-1s is pretty lame, but I haven't been out for a long time, and it's cold and when I run in the cold my lungs get wheezy and I get that coppery taste in my mouth, so I thought I would go easy on myself. And it was a pretty easy run. There were times when the one minute of running seemed too short, and only one time when I was really glad of the break, so next time I will do 2-and-1s.

My plan is to run three times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and the weekend. I'll do 3K for the next two runs and then up the distance a little bit and also increase intensity to 3-and-1s. I just hope it doesn't stay so cold for weeks and weeks. I don't know if I can motivate myself to run when it's horribly cold.

I went for a couple of runs over the winter, before it got so cold. I tried something new: listening to music instead of timing my intervals. (I have to choose because I time intervals by the beeping of my watch and if I'm listening to music I can't hear the beeps. I'm sure there is some technological solution to this problem.) Listening to music is fun, but I missed the satisfaction of being able to measure and manage the ratio of running to walking. (I'm a geek.) Plus it's kind of nice to have time to just let the thoughts roll through my head. Apparently that kind of unstructured daydreaming time is very important. So I'm going to stick with timing intervals.

And now I should go stretch.

Friends to Make Maps With

Delphine and I were walking to a playdate a few weeks ago. As we walked she asked me about the names of the streets we were on, and which way they all go. I said, maybe sometime we can make a map of the neighbourhood. "Maybe," I said, "you could do it at your playdate, and your friend's mother could help."

"That would be fun." said Delphine, "But my friend will only want to play fairies!"

Then she paused and said, "No-one ever wants to do what I want to do." (She is prone to these gloomy generalizations.) "None of my friends like what I like."

I explained to her that she has only met thirty people her age at school, plus a handful more at daycare and around. I said as she goes through school she'll meet more people and maybe one day she we meet someone who wants to make maps instead of playing with fairies. Sooner or later we all find our people.

What I Know About Window Film Insulation

Our house is pretty chilly in winter, and it's quite clear that one of the weak links is the windows. You can tell from the avalanche of freezing cold air that rolls off the windows as soon as you open the blinds*. So this winter we decided to try that plastic wrap stuff that you tape around the windows and then blowdry to tighten it up and make it all smooth. It's kind of ghetto but we can't afford to replace the windows, so it will have to do, and I was determined to do it right -- there is a house nearby with plastic on the windows and they didn't prep it properly so the tape has come off and it's hanging down and it looks really ghetto.

There were two brands at the store, 3M and another brand from Quebec. This whole post would be much more useful if I remembered what the brand of the other stuff was; anyway, it comes in a blue box and it's from Quebec. We bought the two-window kit by 3M and the five-window kit from the other company; both kits were about $35, so you can see that the 3M stuff would have to be much better to be worth the extra money.

Here were the differences between the two products:

  • the 3M stuff had slightly wider double-sided tape, and the tape backing had red text printed on it - that doesn't seem like a big thing but our window frames are white so the white-only backing on the other tape made it a little harder to find the end of the tape. 3M advertise that "the difference is in the tape", and indeed that's one of the things they are known for, but apart from the slight difference in width and the backing, I couldn't perceive a difference in the tape. Maybe the other brand will start peeling off in February or something.
  • the instructions on the other stuff were more thorough. At first Blake interpreted that to mean that the other stuff was harder to install, but installation was identical for the two products, it's just that 3M tried to make it sound easy.
  • the non-3M film was thinner. I suppose that would make it more fragile but I didn't have trouble with it breaking, and it heat-shrunk better. I doubt the width of the film makes much difference to insulation; I expect insulation is mainly furnished by the air between the window and the film.

So this is what you do:

  1. Clean the window frame. I used a solution of water, dish soap and vinegar, and a cloth diaper. (I cleaned the window too because I'm not going to get at it for a few months.) Then I wiped it with rubbing alcohol - that's what the non-3M stuff said to do.
  2. Put the tape on the window frame. After the first couple of pieces I figured out that you need to peel a couple of inches off the backing paper before you put the tape up because it's really hard to start it when it's up on your window.
  3. Cut the plastic film to size. We ended up with lots of extra film, but I'm not sure how much extra they give you. Our windows might just be small. Anyway, give yourself three or four extra inches on each side just to be safe.
  4. Peel the backing paper off the tape. This is kind of fun.
  5. Adhere the film to the tape. You can actually stick it on fairly gently to start with, and then pull it off, stretch it and restick it until you have it as tight and smooth as possible. Then press it firmly onto the tape once you're happy with it.
  6. This is the fun part: use a blow dryer to heat the plastic so it shrinks like a giant shrinkydink and pulls all the remaining wrinkles out.
  7. Trim the excess film. Carefully. I was very conservative and left lots of extra because I didn't want to risk puncturing the film. Your mileage may vary.
  8. Stand back and admire your work. I'm really happy with how ours turned out; you can't see it at all from outside, and it's barely noticable from inside.

It took me about half an hour for each window, and I did it over a week or so. Kind of a big production and pain in the ass. I think it's helping with the cold thing though. Our big problem (apart from the aforementioned avalanche of cold) was condensation, and there's much less of it now, so clearly that cold is being stopped. I'm not sure if it's going to save us $70 in utility bills, though. But we'll probably do it again next year just for the increased comfort.

Anyway, so that's what I learned about insulating window film. Hopefully this is helpful to someone somewhere.

* Incidentally our blinds are awesome. We have honeycomb blinds from Hunter Douglas and they block a heck of a lot of cold. We saved a bunch on natural gas after we installed them, which is good because they were about a million dollars. I expect another brand of the same product would be equally effective, but the Hunter Douglas ones are very well made. I'm happy with them. (I wish we had got the top-down/bottom-up mechanism on all the blinds, though; the only window we didn't get it for was the living room, and sometimes I would like to open just the top of that, like in the morning in summer when I'm not dressed yet.)

Poems By Delphine

Delphine has written one poem and and two, um, prose pieces which might be poems. Here they are, preserving random capitals:

me you we
A soiN. A Bote.
Me AND You tRNiNg
iN toWe.
Musis togetheR

tAte i LiKe

AND SEahors too.
thosoR the thiNgs iN the SEa

Y'all Should Watch This

I mentioned briefly in my last post that Blake and I have started watching a show called Being Erica. It's about a 32-year-old Toronto woman who gets a chance to travel back in time and revisit some bad decisions from her past. We're really enjoying it; the characterization is good, the scripts are funny, the music is AWESOME, and of course it's perfectly our age group so everything is sometimes painfully close to home. And it's SO Toronto and so Canadian: lots of location shots, Molson Canadian, sex in a canoe.

So Blake said, "I should totally tell Morgan to watch this, with the graduating in '94 and the trips to Muskoka." And I said, "Yeah, I want to tell Kat about it, too." Kat and Morgan and I are all '75ers, and I think Kat would really enjoy this show and relate, too.

And finally I wonder if my New York friends Sascha and Leontine would like it -- they love Canada and Toronto so maybe they'd get a kick out of it, if they have time to watch TV.

Anyway (I think) all those people read this blog, so consider yourselves notified. (Kat, we have them downloaded if you want to watch them here.)

State Of The Nation

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!

What We Call Each Other

We call Cordelia: DeeDee, Boo, Bootle, Bootle Bumtrinket, Doodlebug, Cordoodlebug, Babalou, Bubbles.

We call Delphine: Feenie, Feen, Fee, Delly, Foo, Delphine Elizabum, Jellybean, Jelly.

We call Blake: Daddy, Daddily, Daddy-a, Blake, Husband (that's me), George (mainly Andy). Yes, the kids call him Blake. They think it's cute.

We call me: Mummy, Mama, Mummy-a, Mummily, MA! (usually Cordelia), Amy, arbrown (Andy again), Amily (Blake calls me that and it makes me feel all cute).

State of The Nation, or, What's Going On?

Part II: Blake

There's something slightly weird about me posting about the other writer of this shared blog, but whatever. This is the wifely perspective on Blake's life.

So Blake is in some kind of between-job limbo, fortunately punctuated by contract work which we assume will be lucrative once he gets paid. There's a vague job offer in the offing but nothing has been signed yet. Limbo indeed.

The working from home is going pretty well, I think. We don't have a home office, per se, in that our house has six rooms (three bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and living/dining) so he's set up in the bedroom, on Baba's antique sewing machine. It's a pretty sad state of affairs and it wouldn't work in the long term, but it will do for now. He also takes breaks in the living room, and sometimes gets out of the house and works at U of T (where he Knows People) or Starbucks (where he Spends Money).

Apart from the working he spends what seems to be a lot of time on his own programming projects and on open source projects. (I say "what seems to be" because for all I know he was spending the same amount of time on that stuff when he was at the office and I just didn't see it). He also reads lots of books (but not as many as me because he's not insane) and listens to a lot of podcasts. A huge number of podcasts. Mostly really geeky ones about programming languages, comics and role-playing games.

Despite Blake being laid off in these Trying Times, we're pretty optimistic. Our spending habits are pretty sensible, and the future looks bright. And like Blake says, we have a lot of available credit. Hah.

State of The Nation, or, What's Going On?

Part I: Our Routine

It's the middle of January, and January sucks. It goes on and on forever and ever, and it's bloody fracking cold this year. I mean really cold, and I'm tired of it. I know it gets cold and it snows every year - this is Canada - but I hate it. I hate the bundling up and the having to hurry everywhere outside, but mostly I hate the sheer discomfort of being cold. I am a big baby.

The girls and I are still doing what I like to call Der grosse Schlep on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We take Cordelia to school for nine, pick her up at 11:30, have lunch and then take Delphine to school for 12:40. When Delphine is at school Cordelia takes a nap, and then we pick Delphine up at 3:20. This massive to-ing and fro-ing was supposed to be a little easier this year because Baba and Zaida bought a condo halfway between Delphine's school and Cordelia's, which was to be our waystation and lunch room. However, the condo is still (still!) not finished. I am hoping it will be done before the end of the school year, but my breath is not held.

On the other hand Blake's quasi-employed status is proving to be very helpful. I can leave Delphine at home while I take Cordelia to school, and pick her up, and after lunch he puts Cordelia down for her nap while I take Delphine to school. This makes for much less putting on and taking off of snowsuits, and of course I can travel much faster alone. Hopefully by the time he gets back to work, snowsuit season will be over.

Apart from the main schedule, which revolves around school, we have some other stuff going on too. In the fall both girls had gymnastics, and now we're in Music Together on Saturday mornings. (In order to keep our schedule manageable we do an annual rotation of activities: gymnastics in the fall, music in winter, swimming in spring.) Delphine also has Sparks on Wednesday evenings at 5:30, which let me say is an insanely bad time for an activity. We have to leave at 5:15 and we're not home until 6:45, which (when bedtime is at 7:00 is far too late for dinner.)

The other regular rhythm to our life is that after school the girls watch two (2) TV shows. I was pretty hardline on the TV thing for a long time, but an essay in that Alfie Kohn book convinced me that TV isn't inherently evil, and Delphine's getting to the age where TV is a significant part of her peer culture. And Blake and I watch and enjoy our TV shows - I try not to be too much of a hypocrite.

That's our routine these days. It's going to be like this until the end of the school year, and then next year life will be significantly easier because Cordelia will be in JK at the same school as Delphine. Hooray!

Book book book... b'gawk!

Village Life in England, 1860-1940: A Photographic Record by Johnathan Brown and Sadie B. Ward is a collection of early photographs of life in rural England. The book includes hundreds of pictures accompanied by descriptions, and divided into categories: school, work, domestic matters... It was just there on the shelf, it looked neat so I picked it up. Lots of interesting pictures, if you like this sort of thing, and the text taught me a lot about the fate of village life as more and more people moved to the cities: basically the villages became either bedroom communities, or theme parks for town folk looking to get away on the weekend. My favourite picture was the one of two village lads wearing their work clothes, with their sleeves too short, tiny pockets up high on their waistcoats, exactly like the hobbit costumes in Lord of the Rings. (I guess those costume people know what they're doing.)

You Know What They Say: The Truth About Popular Beliefs by Alfie Kohn. Debunking and Alfie Kohn, two of my favourite things together in the same book! Kohn takes on dozens of common misbeliefs and aphorisms: do birds of a feather flock together or do opposites attract? Is it never to late to learn, or can you not in fact teach an old dog new tricks? Are no two snowflakes alike?

The book is pretty old, which means on the one hand it hasn't worked because most people still believe the stuff he tries to clear up, and on the other hand a couple of the beliefs he discusses have been further researched and the latest research actually supports the belief. Specifically, there has been more research on whether being cold causes you to catch cold, and it seems that being cold, or at least having cold feet, can increase your susceptibility to cold viruses. That's the great thing about science, you never know what's gonna be true tomorrow.

A couple of the chapters I just didn't believe, like the one about PMS which scientists apparently don't (or didn't) have any evidence for. I'm pretty sure the misery I feel before my period comes is materially different from the misery I feel the rest of the month. It's the difference between soul crushing depression and, say, the disappointment I feel when they're out of sour cream glazed at Timmy's. It just feels different. Hopefully they've done some better research since the book was published, but I expect the pharma companies just decided to declare PMS an official disease so they could sell us crap to cure it.

That apart, I really enjoyed reading the book, because I love to get the story straight on everything, and also because I like Alfie Kohn so very much. He's smart, he's funny, he's a skeptic and a thinker and a humanist. I might even send him some fan mail, I like him so much.

Oh, and I think it's kind of funny that two of the popular beliefs were "Rewarding people makes them do better work" and "Competition builds character", both of which he then expanded into entire books of their own.