Jeff and Colleen

Back in March of 1999, I started working at a small software company downtown. I got there about a week before their network administrator quit, to be replaced by a quiet guy named Jeff. Jeff was an agreeable fellow who would listen patiently when I wandered into his office to talk his ear off about last night's TV or the latest movie I'd seen. It soon became apparent that Jeff had a formidable memory for facts and details; he could identify obscure actors, recall chemical names and properties from his grad school days, and could reel off all kinds of sports minutiae which still don't mean anything to me. You could talk to Jeff about just about anything—food, science, sports, celebrity gossip—and he would be able to hold up his side of the conversation.

Jeff soon became my number one work buddy, my go-to guy whenever I needed a break from my computer and wanted a chat, my faithful lunchtime companion, my reference for all things operating system-y, my fellow sufferer of workplace bullshit. Once we skipped out of work for the afternoon to see The Perfect Storm.

A year or so after I met Jeff, I started taking singing lessons. The girl whose lesson came after mine was named Kathryn; our music teacher introduced us once, but I didn't pay much attention because I'm a lazy cuss with limited social skills. My laziness came back to haunt me when a few weeks later a pretty, animated girl walked up to me in choir practice. "Hi, Amy!"

Blank stare.

"It's Kathryn! From singing lessons?"

Oh, yeah. I'm a dork.

Fortunately Kathryn forgave me and we became fast friends. One day I invited some friends from work, and Kathryn, over to play Trivial Pursuit, eat pizza and drink beer. Jeff, as usual, kicked our asses in Trivial Pursuit because he never forgets anything he's ever learned. Kat was struck by the breadth of his knowledge and also his unassuming, agreeable manner. She decided he would be a perfect match for her little sister Colleen, herself a games nut and formidable repository of trivia.

But first we had to wait for Colleen to break up with her boyfriend at the time. Then we had to try and get the two of them together in the same room. That took a couple of years. Finally in September of 2007, they were both invited to our deck party, Colleen with specific, illustrated instructions to seek out and interact with Jeff. Sure enough the pair of them hit it off and chatted all night. Kat and I nudged them together over the next couple of days, and...

Yesterday they were married.

The ceremony was at U of T's Miller Lash house in Scarborough. It was short, sweet and sunshiney (most of the female guests seem to have gone home with the sunburn booby prize, myself included). There followed a long break for lunch, during which Blake and I came back into the city to drop the girls off with Baba and Zaida, and (in my case at least) take a nap. Refreshed, I trowelled on some spackle (I mean makeup), wired my underwear and outerwear together, glued my hair in place, wrestled with some strappy sandals, and thanked God I don't have to look like a girl every day. Finally Blake and I caught the #54 bus and rode it all the way to the end of the line, for the reception at the East Rouge Community Centre. "Community Centre" conjures up images of sweaty basketball courts and ice rinks, but this is actually a very classy venue, an elegantly casual, good-sized hall with a balcony and a fireplace.

This might sound a little bit lame, but I was really excited to go to this wedding reception. Between being a stay-at-home mum and economising, we never go out for a fancy dinner, and I haven't gone dancing since Delphine was born. The idea of a nice dinner with tablecloths and wine and interesting company, followed by dancing, was pretty thrilling. Fortunately (considering the commute) the night more than lived up to my expectations.

Dinner was served buffet-style, with chicken stuffed with goat cheese and peppers, and grilled sirloin with caramelized onions and a selection of sauces, grilled polenta, orzo salad, caesar salad, and little potatoes. For dessert there were butter tarts, lemon tarts, meringues with lemon custard, brownies, homemade Italian cookies, and berries and whipped cream. Oh, and wedding cake after that! Gastronomic bliss, and my wine glass was never empty.

After a few short but heartfelt speeches, there was great music for dancing. Blake doesn't dance, and at first I was too self-conscious to dance "by myself", but soon enough I was dancing with a bunch of girls and having an awesome time.

But enough about what a great time I had last night—it's wonderful to see Jeff get married, and it's gravy (for me—what? It's my weblog!) that he married someone I'm connected to in another way. Because Kat and I are so close, and I'm so fond of Jeff, I feel like this marriage has created a circle of connections which somehow vaguely includes me. I hope Colleen and Jeff are happy together forever, and I hope they (and Kat) stay a part of my life for just as long.

The New Cordelia

I have a confession to make. For the last few months, I have seriously worried that I might like one of my children more than the other. On the one hand I had Delphine, irritable, emotional, and bossy; on the other, I had Cordelia, amiable, charming and fun. (Also little and cute.) Obviously I love them both, but Cordelia was a lot easier to be around than Delphine.

And then Cordelia changed. She's still funny and cute (and little), but she's gone all intense. She's at that age now, where if you cut her toast wrong, or put the applesauce on top of the yoghurt, or put the left shoe on before the right, she freaks out, sobbing until whatever it is is put right or you manage to make her laugh. The other night she didn't want to go to bed, and she had a stereotypical toddler tantrum, screaming and kicking and yelling, for a good ten minutes. We had honestly never had one of those, with either Cordelia or Delphine.

I'm not sure if this change in behaviour is a developmental stage, or if it's simple that we gave up naps a week or so ago and she's still adjusting. Before this she'd always been a happy, easy-going baby, but I remember Delphine going from Straightforward to Complicated sometime in the preschool years. Parenting a baby and toddler is a physical endeavour, carrying and feeding and wiping. Parenting a child is emotional and mental and completely different. I think I now have two children.

Thank goodness—I don't think I could have pretended they were both equally easy and fun for much longer.

Oakville ride

A couple of years ago, as you might remember, Blake biked from Toronto to Balm Beach on Georgian Bay, a 135K ride preceded by several long training rides. He got all fit that summer, and seemed to have fun (mostly), so I proposed that we do something similar this summer: plan a nice long ride, do some longish training rides, spend some time together and get fit.

As it turns out, Blake, Kat and I did one 44K training ride, and then we biked to Oakville. (It's way too hard to schedule rides for three people and a babysitter.) We picked Oakville because it is the right distance—a 100 K round trip—and because it's nice. Kat's been there a few times so she knows the lay of the land.

The day started early—our babysitter arrived, Tim's in hand, at 7:50 am, and Blake and I got on our bikes and headed down Mount Pleasant to meet Yonge Street somewhere south of St. Clair. We tried to leave Yonge a couple of times, but with Bay Street on one side and the Pride parade on the other, we didn't have a lot of options. It was fun blowing through downtown first thing on a Sunday, and before we knew it we were at our rendezvous point at King. Kat joined us and we made for the waterfront.

Our route took us west on Queen's Quay to the Waterfront Trail, past harbours and beaches and coves and rocky bits and all kinds of watery goodness. We stopped at the beautiful Humber Pedestrian Bridge for a photo op and some energy bars, then blew past the Butterfly Garden in Mimico, making a note to stop there on the way home.

Soon after that the rain started. It wasn't a drizzle, making us moist and warm. It wasn't a driving rain, lashing into our faces. It was merely large raindrops, plenty of them, falling straight down. Not ill-mannered rain, but very insistent, very wet, very rainy rain. We were soon soaked.

We carried on, through Etobicoke and into Mississauga. We were still on the Waterfront Trail, which at that point alternated between on-road routes (with some great real estate and gardens to ogle, especially on the water side) and a wide paved trail travelling beside the water through parks and woods. For a while we leapfrogged with a pair of athletic dads (I could tell they were athletic because they were wearing technical biking gear) pulling their kids in trailers, but they left us near the edge of Mississauga, saying, "It's all sidewalks from here on".

They were right about that. The Mississauga/Oakville border bit of the Waterfront Trail is mainly oversized sidewalks beside busy streets, with a rather surreal detour through an industrial area ("Trucks crossing") and directly beside a complicated, strangely beautiful Petro-Canada plant.

Eventually the actual trail—well, the overgrown sidewalks—ran out and we had to bike through the curvy, monotonous streets of suburbia. The houses got farther apart, the streets lacked sidewalks, the... oh, don't make me go all Kunstler on you. Finally Mississauga ended and Oakville began, to much rejoicing by Kat. (I don't know that anyone has ever been that happy to get to Oakville. I was just wet. Did I mention it was still raining?)

Oakville's contribution to the Waterfront Trail does not appear to go anywhere near the waterfront. It consists of narrow sidewalks, signposted alternately with forbidding notices informing you that Oakville frowns on bike riding on sidewalks, and friendly green signs with bike icons on them, running beside giant houses on vast acreages. You can't ogle the houses, though, because they're walled in. I did get a look at a couple of greenhouses. Occasionally the sidewalk ends, to be replaced by a grit path, intersected by driveways used by people who don't look out for you because no-one has ever been mad enough to bike this way before. As we biked I nursed my hatred for rich people.

If you persevere on this path beyond all sense and reason, eventually you will get to "downtown" Oakville, which is a lot like Bayview and Davisville. That's a hell of a long way to travel for someplace just like home, but there's modern life for you.

We locked up our bikes and searched for a restaurant sufficiently casual that the entrance of three grubby, soaked cyclists wouldn't put everyone off their lunch. We ended up at a sandwich cafe where we ate good sandwiches, mediocre soup, and disappointing desserts, while debating our next move.

We were wet but not disheartened, but Blake and I were bored with biking through suburbia and Oakville's shitty "bike path". Kat, whose thirst for challenge apparently knows no bounds, wanted to bike the whole damn way back. Blake was having no fun, and wanted to take the GO train all the way back. I was tempted to agree with Blake but I could also sympathise with Kat's desire for a more epic ride, to push ourselves a little more. I suggested we use the GO train to skip the boring suburbs and land us back in civili–, I mean, Toronto to bike home along the bits of the Waterfront Trail that are actually within sight of water.

We raced to the Oakville GO station and made the 2:30 train, wrestling our bikes onto inconveniently non-bike-accomodating cars for the twenty-five minute ride to Mimico, where we rejoined the trail along the water. It had stopped raining while we were on the train, but obligingly started again once we were back on our bikes. The ride back into town was uneventful—we did slow down through the butterfly garden but lacked the inclination to linger. By the time we got to Bay Street our bums were all sore and we were exhausted. Blake and I took the TTC back up to Davisville and then enjoyed the short ride home, although not as much as we enjoyed long, hot showers and some quality couch time.

All in all it came to 67.5 K for Blake and I (7 K less for Kat because she didn't have to ride downtown), which is pretty good but not quite epic. I'd like to try another couple of long rides this summer, if we can find indulgent babysitters, although I think I would rather take transit out to somewhere interesting and bike from there, than have to bike through the suburbs again.

(Incidentally, I looked at the maps after we got home and Port Credit is really where the Waterfront Trail stops being nice—we were being conservative when we came all the way back to Mimico.)

How I use Mercurial (and the MQ extension).

I started working for Mozilla Messaging a while ago, and since David Wolever asked me how I used Mercurial and the MQ extension, I thought I would put up some notes on how I’m currently using them in my day-to-day work. Of course, the stuff I’m doing now is a little different than what I’ve done in any of my previous jobs, so I’m not sure how useful any of the following will be to anyone who isn’t contributing to an open source project.

First, let’s talk a little bit about how I have my Work directory set up. The first thing I did when I started working on the Thunderbird source code was to pull down a clean copy of the source into a directory named “src-base”. The purpose of that directory is to always contain a clean copy of the upstream source code so that when I want to update the various branches I have (five, at last count), I only need to download the changes from the Mozilla repo once, and I can then propagate them from src-base to the other branches. I got the idea to do that from the Bazaar-NG developers, and I think it has helped to keep my bandwidth usage down. It might cause a problem if I was sharing my branches, but since Thunderbird seems to revolve around submitting patches to bugzilla, it works out pretty well.

The next thing I did was to clone src-base into a directory named “add-reply-list-button” (because I was writing a patch to add a Reply-To-List button :), go into that directory, and type hg qinit -c to create an mq repository, and put the mq repository itself under version control. (I didn’t actually do that the first time, and was quite annoyed that I couldn’t revert changes I had made in my patch queue.) The other part of that is that I’ve aliased mq to hg -R $(hg root)/.hg/patches. This lets me type mq commit to commit the changes to the patch.

So, now we’re at my day-to-day work. If I’m working on a bug that I’ve already got a patch started for, I cd to the appropriate branch, type hg qseries to see where I am, and hq qpush or hg qpop to get to the patch I want to work on. Then I make my changes, and when I’m happy with the results of hg diff, I type hg qrefresh to put the changes into the patch. After that, I use hg qdiff > ../branch-name-bugnum-description.diff to get a patch that I can upload to bugzilla. At this point, I usually load the patch into Vim, and search for some of the mistakes I’ve made in the past. (/^+.*[[:space:]]+$, and /dump caught a lot of my initial mistakes. Now I’ve moved on to things that are tougher to check for, like putting open-parens on a new line instead of on the previous line.) I usually go through a couple of cycles of hg qrefresh/hg qdiff … before I’m happy with the patch. Once I am, I type mq commit -m "Updated patch to fix foo and bar." to save the state of the patch, and then I upload it.

Graduation, Passion, and Shopping Frustration

Both the girls "graduated" last week, Delphine from Senior Kindergarten, and Cordelia from Nursery School. There is some division of opinion on these early graduations: Some people seem to think they're idiotic—graduating from kindergarten?! Seriously?—while others, mostly parents, think they're charming. I'm in the latter camp: a rite of passage is a rite of passage, even if you're only three feet tall. Both Cordelia's life and Delphine's are going to be very different in September, and I think that's worth acknowledging.

Cordelia is starting Junior Kindergarten in fall, in the mornings. We haven't met her teacher yet because she's going to be new to the school, and I have no idea who else is going to be in her class. All we know is which room she's going to be in. She's familiar with the school, though, from dropping off and picking up Delphine for the last two years. She's thrilled to be going to "my sister's school". (She refers to Delphine almost exclusively as "my sister".)

Delphine is starting Grade One in fall, and we'll find out tomorrow who her teacher is going to be. She's alternately scared and excited about Grade One. I'm excited about finally being able to buy school supplies.

Cordelia has a new passion: chewing gum. I always used to judge, a teeny bit, people who let little kids chew gum, but as in so many ways, I have become that which I judged. I have to limit her to one piece of gum a day. She likes the minty kinds.

Delphine's new passion is Dirty Jobs, which she likes to watch every day. I figure it's an informative window into the grown-up world, and it will give her some idea of how much work goes into making the food and objects which appear in our house. And into cleaning skulls and preparing owl pellets. She calls Mike Rowe "Mark".

Delphine and Cordelia were enjoying a marathon TV session on Saturday morning, when Saddle Club came on. Saddle Club is one of those cheap soap operas in which Australia seems to specialise—this one is set at some kind of horsey school and is aimed at, I assume, "tweens". Delphine doesn't watch it regularly but she enjoys it when she catches it. I think it's rubbish, and when it came on I huffed and rolled my eyes. Delphine said, "What?"

"I don't like this show. There's too much melodrama and people getting upset with each other."

Blake cut in with, "They don't talk to each other about their problems, they just get mad."

I said, "No-one acts like that in real life."

Delphine gazed at us levelly. "Maybe they just want to make it exciting."

Well, I guess I don't need to worry about her media awareness.

I went to Value Village today. (Blake stayed home and looked after the children, so they don't appear in this story. Sorry.) My mum sent me some money for my birthday, because I said I wanted to buy myself some new clothes. I thought the money would go further if I shopped at VV instead of Addition-Elle or Lands' End.

The trouble with living in a middle-class neighbourhood surrounded by more middle-class neighbourhoods is that you have to travel a long way to get to a second-hand store. My second-hand-shopping maven friend told me that the Value Village at Landsdown is the best one, so off I trekked. A bus trip (it was too hot to walk to the subway station) and a long subway ride (with a transfer!) later, I arrived at Landsdown. I can't comment on how nice the Landsdown area is, because it was 30 degrees today and there's a municipal strike on; I imagine every Toronto neighbourhood looked like shit today.

The Value Village at Landsdown is huge, it's like a small Zellers. I managed to find beautiful dresses for the girls to wear to the two weddings we're invited to this summer, and then I started shopping for myself.

How is it possible that I'm too fat to be a size 18 in the dress section, but too thin to be a size 20? (Also why are there so many ugly dresses? Did the Golden Girls Fan Club and Drag Show recently clean out its closet?) Further, how is it then possible that I can be too thin to be a size 18 in the pants section? How is it possible that there was only one cute dress that fit me, but dozens of sweaters and shirts? Do fat women not buy cute dresses? Or do they buy them and then hang on to them for dear life?

The most frustrating thing was how unevenly placed the sizes were; I found clothes that fit me (and many more that didn't) in the size 16, size 18 and size 20 sections. Some of those clothes had the original store size labels on, and the VV staff had faithfully placed the clothes in the section that matched the label. Which, of course, is a failure. I'm an XL at Cotton Ginny, a L at Tabi, and a 1X at Addition-Elle, but I don't fit into Reitman's XL, or really most other labels' XL. I'm a 16 pant at Lands' End and a 18 at Addition-Elle. So even if you do place clothes in the label-appropriate section, you won't get consistency in section sizes.

VV has a chance to correct the vagaries of women's clothing sizes; surely it would be simple to have a template in the back room against which staff could hold up each donated item of clothing, to sort it into the right bin. Even if you only picked one dimension—waist for pants, say, and bust for dresses—once you found the size that matched your body, you would be one variable closer to finding something that fit.

This was only my second VV trip, and I think I've decided it isn't worth it. It's a long trip to get there, it took me forever to find clothes to try on, I had to wait for a change room, and then only about fifteen percent of them fit. And after all that, of course, it's another long way to come home again. If there were a location nearer to here I might go again—they're opening some new locations, but I fear we are too embedded in Richville to ever get a thrift shop nearby.

After all that, I didn't even find a dress for myself to wear to the weddings. Tomorrow I will call the local consignment stores (without much hope) to see whether they carry my size. I expect I will end up going to Addition-Elle, which is no loss; I still have a good chunk of my birthday money left. (That's the great thing about VV: two sweaters, three shirts, one pair of pants, two pairs of earrings, a hat, and two kid's dresses for $70. Seriously!)

Getting Twitter 2.0

(I rewrote this entry to be shorter and hopefully more useful.)

I'm on Twitter. I love Twitter—it's a fun way to stay connected, get the latest news, and to share ideas and news of my own.

Some of my friends have signed on to Twitter, tried it for a couple of days, and never returned. I'm going to try and explain how I use Twitter which makes it so fun and useful for me, in the hope that people will try it, or try it again. Because when it comes to Twitter, the more the merrier!

Before I go on, I will quickly explain how Twitter works. You probably already know it's a site where you can post 140 character messages. The messages can be read by anyone who "follows" you.

Your Twitter page also shows your "Twitter feed", which is a display of all the messages ("tweets") posted by people you follow. Note that you don't have to follow the people who follow you, and the people you follow don't have to follow you.

Getting Started

Signing up to Twitter is easy—the hardest part is picking a good username. After you have signed in, fill in your Location and a short Bio, to make it easier for people to find you and decide whether to follow you.

Finding your Tweeps

Once you're in, you need to follow some people. But who, and how many? The real key to making Twitter work for you is balancing the number of people you follow and the frequency with which you check in. If you don't follow enough people, Twitter will be boring and pointless and you'll lose interest. If you follow too many people, your feed will be too busy and you won't be able to keep up.

I'm going to throw out the number 75 as the minimum number of people you should follow to keep things interesting. Of course, it will depend how voluble your followees are, and how often you can check in to Twitter. (I follow 225 people, and check in four or five times a day, and I'm seldom either bored or overwhelmed.)

Finding people to follow is the fun part. There are plenty of ways to find people. You probably already know a few people who are on, so find out what their Twitter usernames are and check out who they are following like this:

  • Go to the person's Twitter page:
  • On the right you'll see a number with "following" under it—click on that number to see the list of people your friend follows.
  • Now you can click "follow" to follow anyone you like the look of. If you're not sure, you can click on any username to go to their Twitter page, which will show you all their tweets from latest to oldest.

Follow anyone who looks interesting—it's really easy to unfollow people later. (When you follow someone they get an email notification, but when you unfollow them they don't.)

You can also find people using the "Find People" option, at the top of the Twitter window. There, you can find people who are in your email contacts, or you can search for people by name.

How do you decide who to follow? That's up to you; I look for people who post interesting things about what they are doing, and interesting links. Funny is good too. I avoid people who only seem to @reply to other people, and people who mainly RT (retweet). Interaction is nice but I like to read original thoughts too.

You can also follow institutions and entities you have a relationship with in real life, like @starbucks or @globebooks, and of course a few celebrities are fun. I follow @SlashHudson, @Jeffrey_Donovan, @donttrythis, among others.

Another interesting way to find people is Tweetmondo, a site which lets you find Twitterers who live nearby. I found a couple of people in my neighbourhood, and it's neat to read their tweets about weather and local happenings.

How Often To Twit

Twitter works best for people who are online all the time, but you can still have fun with Twitter if you only get to your computer once or twice a day—you will just have to scroll down a few pages to catch up, or only read the latest couple of pages and your @replies.

I don't think it would work to check Twitter less than once a day, or maybe every couple of days at the very least. Twitter is an of-the-moment medium and the more involved you are, the more you'll get out of it.

About @replies

One of the best things about Twitter is the @reply system. @replies are a way to directly address another Twitter user. You put their username in your tweet, with an @ sign before it. For example, if you want to @reply me, include "@amyrhoda" in your tweet. Your tweet will be specially flagged for me to read when I log on.

You can also reply to a specific tweet by clicking the little curly arrow which appears to the right of the tweet when you mouse over it.

To read your @replies, click on @yourusername on the right-hand column of the Twitter page. If you don't have much time to Twitter, you can always check your @replies page to make sure you read and respond to tweets addressed directly to you.

If you want to send a message to another user, but don't want it to be public, start the message with "d username". This will send them a Direct Message which can only be read by that user. Read your Direct Messages by clicking on the Direct Message link on the right column of your Twitter page.

Following Back

As I mentioned above, you will receive an email message whenever someone follows you. Do you have to follow back everyone who follows you? No. I tend to set the "should I follow" bar a little lower for new followers, but I still won't follow you if you're not a real person, if you don't have any updates, or if you're unspeakably lame. Say.

Have Fun

Some people take Twitter way too seriously. It's not a popularity contest. It's not a major marketing tool. You're not obliged to tweet, to retweet (repeat someone else's tweet to pass it on to your followers), to @reply, to follow certain people, to participate in #followfriday, or anything else.

Use Twitter however you like, however it works for you. It's a great, fun way to connect with people. You just have to find the right set of Tweeters to follow, and figure out the rhythm of Tweeting that works for you.

Two Books About Compost

I just started making compost in my backyard, and because I can't scratch my nose without intensive research, I took a couple books out of the library. Both named Compost.

Compost by Ken Thompson is a glossy, beautifully produced little book published by the always-extravagant DK. As well as being gorgeously designed and illustrated, it's simple, to-the-point and includes everything you need to know to get started composting. It's thorough and scientific, yet readable and above all, encouraging.

Compost by Clare Foster covers about the same material as the Thompson, but it's much dryer, preachier, and lacks the pretty pictures.

I also re-read Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner for the non-fiction book club at the library. (What is that book, like, four years old? It would be nice to read something newer in the book club.) It was good to reread this, especially having read Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn which addresses the issue of incentives. The Steves talk about how everything can be explained by incentives, but then give some examples which have clearly been disproven, as shown in Kohn's book. That doesn't affect the plausibility of the Steves' arguments, though, because despite talking about incentives in the introduction they don't lean on them much throughout the book.

I liked this book the second time as much as I liked it the first time. I relish the use of data to understand the world in ways which are contrary to popular wisdom, whether it's called economics or statistics or sociology.

Like A Sensitive Little Flower

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.

Latest News at Casa Winton Brown

The end of the school year draws near and everything is starting to ease off. First, choir ended, freeing up my Monday nights. Then Delphine's Sparks year ended, then Music Together. Now all that's left is school: Cordelia has two weeks and Delphine has three. They both have "graduation" ceremonies, Cordelia's to celebrate the end of Nursery School and advancement to Kindergarten, and Delphine's to celebrate the end of Kindergarten and advancement to Grade One. Fall 2009 is going to be huge around here.

Cordelia is invited to visit her new kindergarten teacher and see her next classroom the Wednesday after next. As you can imagine, she's beside herself with excitement to be going to the same school as her adored big sister. (And yes, they do adore each other, as we discovered this weekend when Delphine was away overnight and Cordelia kept asking when she would be home.)

The excitement begins anew the week after school's out: the girls are signed up for two weeks of swimming lessons, every morning for half-an-hour. Then we have one honest-to-goodness week off before Delphine has a week of all day camp downtown. The following Tuesday we're off to Sask to spend two weeks with Granny, who the girls adore.

No sooner are we back from Sask than the girls go to the cottage with Baba and Zaida for a few days. It's a small cottage so Blake and I aren't invited this year, which is fine. I like the cottage fine but it's not a must-do. (It just occurred to me that this will be the first time Blake and I have been away from the girls for more than a night. Whatever will we do?)

The following week, both girls are in a day camp nearby for a week, and then we have two more weeks off before school starts again. This summer is the opposite of last summer's unscheduled bliss. We'll have to see which is better. I think I might have overdone it with the camps and stuff this year, but it might turn out to be just right.

Delphine has a loose tooth! There are a couple of girls in her class who have lost lots of teeth, dozens and dozens of them. One of the girls started losing teeth in JK! So of course Delphine is miffed that she hasn't lost any yet. I've been periodically checking her teeth to see if they're loose, and today one on the bottom middle was a little bit wiggly. (It might even be the first tooth that came in.) She was beside herself with excitement.

The bad news is, I asked online how long it takes one of these things to come out once they start wiggling, and apparently it's one to four months. Four months! She might be in Grade One before this tooth finally comes out. It will give me time to get used to the idea of her beautiful tiny white baby teeth being replaced by those disproportionate tombstones little kids are stuck with.

Blake got a job. Well, kind of. He got a four month, full-time contract. With Mozilla—cool. Unfortunately it doesn't come with an office. We've been trying to figure out what he's going to do with himself in order to get eight working hours in every day—since he got laid off he's been consistently doing contract work, but never eight hours a day, so he's been able to hang around the house and get distracted by us without falling too far behind.

He has an open invitation to work at U of T, but that's a significant commute, and I'm not sure whether the undergrads are more or less distracting than me and the girls. There's two hours of free wi-fi at Starbucks, which is where I would go every morning. There's the library—I would go to the library, too, but I don't know if that would work for Blake.

Incidentally, in addition to this full-time contract, Blake still has two other contract jobs on the go, so I might not be seeing much of him for the next little while. Hopefully he can get lots of work done when the girls and I are in Sask.

I think that's all, apart from that I planted some Irish moss and creeping jenny in the front yard between the neighbour's yard and our path. I'm not sure how well it's going to do, but the neighbours two doors down have some creeping jenny which is thriving, so I expect it will be okay. Provided I water it.

Oh, I forgot to mention in my last post that Delphine and my conversation about World Wars ended with a rousing chorus of "Sniper, no sniping!"