Amy (old posts, page 6)

Late Summer Reading

Here are some books I have read lately.

Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud To Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox. I did not love this book. Mem Fox is convincing, nay evangelical, on the subject of reading to your children, and I am all for that, but I found some of her recommendations intimidating. For example, she says you must read books with the same intonation every time. Well, sorry, but sometimes I just don't have the energy to do Green Eggs and Ham with full vigour, and sometimes I do. Poor Delphine will have to deal with the horrible ambiguity of it all.

Also Fox wants you to stop and point out rhymes and play "find the letter" games and stuff, which seems kind of tedious and teacherly. Ironically she insists that this stuff isn't teaching; she calls it "enriching the reading experience". You're playing! You're having a good time! To me it seems annoying and forced.

I would heartily recommend Babies Need Books by Dorothy Butler over this book. Butler's book is not only convincingly evangelical and encouraging about reading to babies and little kids, but it also provides pages and pages of actual book recommendations. I found it didn't take me long to be able to pick out a good kid's book after I had read a few of her suggestions.

Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story, Coyote Blue, and Practical Demon-Keeping by Christopher Moore. I don't usually gorge myself on multiple books by one author like this, but Blake has been off work and I have been working full-time for the last couple of weeks, and he has been in charge of going to the library, so this is what has been new around the house. The books are good; they are funny and the characters are engaging.

The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This is a science-fiction romance packaged as a ... I don't know, what do they call them. Contemporary fiction? Those books that come in trade paperback size and have the kind of fuzzy matte finish and a picture of feet on the front. It seems like it should be really confusing, because it switches back between one point-of-view and another, and hops back and forth in time, at every chapter. But somehow it's easy to follow. The story is effectively manipulative, so if you like a good cry you will like the book, and if you hate to be handled like an emotional marionette you may find yourself a little annoyed by it.

I feel like I should have read more, but lately I have been sleeping instead of reading. I have a couple of weeks off work with Delphine in daycare, though, so I am hoping to get some reading in before the baby comes.


Today is my thirtieth birthday. So far it has been pleasant; Delphine let us sleep in until 6:40 (forty minutes extra), and we've been pootling around the house ever since. I did some chores, Blake played with Delphine, we all had showers, I had cake and ice cream and read the newspaper. Delphine is napping right now, and after she's up I will open my presents. She seems more excited about them than I am. Presents aren't really as much fun as they used to be when I was a little kid. This year will be different than usual, though, because I got presents from friends as well as family and I have no idea what they might be.

I'm happy to finally be in my thirties. My life is more that of someone in their thirties than someone in their twenties; I have kids, I have a mortgage, I cook and clean and own furniture made out of actual wood, I don't drink or go out clubbing, I spend my money on diapers and organic fruit, not shoes and manicures. I am more Heather Mallick than Leah McLaren. It's good to finally be in a decade that suits me. (But I still think I've always been forty on the inside, and I think that will be a very good decade for me.)

We had a party yesterday; since this is likely our last summer in the condo I thought we should have a barbeque up on the roof, and my birthday was the perfect excuse. It was a fantastic party; very low-budget and low-effort, with paper plates and burgers and hot dogs and a cake from Loblaws and ice cream in cones for the toddlers. And balloons! I think it was just perfect.

Jeff, Janet, Kathryn, Douglas and Tanya and Ursa, Ellen and Peter and Dexter and Maxine, Baba and Zaida, and Morgan and Erik all came and we just sat and talked and watched the little ones play. Morgan and Erik were in charge of the meat and they did a fine job. They also lent us their Cadillac of coolers which happily held dozens of bottles of beer and pop, and then ice cream and leftover meat later on. It's living in our hallway now. I wonder if they want it back?

Almost everyone got to hold Maxine -- she is around six weeks old now. Delphine was especially taken with her; when I got my turn to hold Maxine, Delphine came and sat next to me and touched her: "There's baby's foot. There's baby's ankle. There's baby's other ankle. There's baby's knee. Baby's crying." Yeah, she cried for me; she didn't cry for anyone else. Possibly because I was the only one who let a toddler fondle her legs. Anyway, Delphine did not seem upset or perturbed by Maxine at all this time, just very interested. I am quite looking forward to seeing how she is with our baby. I expect she will be pretty happy with it until she figures out that it's staying.

Another friend of mine just had a baby (nine days early! Whoo!). She lives just a block or two from here so I hope Delphine and I can go over and visit a time or two before our baby comes.

Delphine and I both got sunburned yesterday. I swore I wouldn't let her get sunburned under my watch, and already I have failed. She's, what, just two years and three months old? That's pretty lousy. I even brought the sunblock upstairs but then I was too stupid to put it on either me or Delphine. I think I figured it's late enough in the summer that we have enough tan to protect us from sunburn. Except Delphine hasn't any tan at all because I've been so careful up until now, and I was wearing a different style of shirt than usual so I had fresh virgin skin exposed to the afternoon sun. Fortunately Delphine's burn has already faded to very faint pinkness, and mine doesn't look bad enough to blister. Still, though. Stupid.

Delphine's sleeping, incidentally, has gone from awful to sublime. The very day after I posted about the problems and my intended plan of action, she went to bed (about twenty minutes earlier than usual) with barely a whimper, and slept longer in the morning. Last night was even better; at around 6:30 she announced to Kathryn that she was tired and wanted to go to bed, so Blake put her down and she did not cry, not one bit. Then, like I said above, she slept an extra forty minutes this morning. And furthermore, at 11:00 this morning she told Blake she wanted to lie down for a nap, and she was down and sleeping by 11:06. It's not 12:53, so she will probably be up soon.

But man, that Weissbluth is a genius. You only have to read his book for your kid to sleep better. I need to buy a copy of it for myself. Since it covers sleep problems right up to adolescence, I'm sure I will need it again.

The new baby is doing great. For the last few days he's -- I just realized I'm using "he" far too often; I think I am getting really stuck on the idea of it being a boy because everyone I know who has had their second baby this summer has had one of the other gender than their first, and also because all the superstitious types are saying it's a boy because of how I'm carrying, and also because I would really kind of like it to be a boy -- so for the last few days she's been kicking and moving around a lot, which is very cool if occasionally uncomfortable. I have another midwife appointment tomorrow, and I hope they will be more certain about her position. Two appointments ago my primary midwife said she was head up, but at the last appointment my secondary said she was head down. I don't think it matters at this point, but we are rapidly approaching the point where it does.

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz

This is a book about how more choices can make you unhappier with the choice you finally make, and how people are inherently bad at making decisions. It was very interesting and gave me some insight into my own thought processes and their emotional result. I was particularly struck by the discussion about careers; as a middle-class Westerner I can do pretty much anything I want to (provided I don't mind incurring a lot of debt) and that leaves me pretty much paralysed. What if I pick wrong? Aaah!

I would recommend this book to just about everyone, particularly people who feel depressed or dissatisfied with their life. Not only does it include a lot of information about how decision-making happens, and how it can screw you up, the best thing about the book is that the last chapter gives some concrete suggestions for how to deal with all the choices available to us.

(Oh, but it has one of the ugliest covers I've seen in a long time.)

The Art of Urban Cycling by Robert Hurst

This is a book about how to bike in the city. There are a couple of dogmatic schools of thought about how you're supposed to bike in the city (the Vehicular school and the Invisible school) and Hurst pretty much dismantles them both. He is very pragmatic, about where to bike, when to bike, how to stay safe, and how to relate to other vehicles. He has a very calm, accepting philosophy about how things are and argues that you are better off working within reality rather than spending a great deal of time being angry at it. In that sense this is an excellent guide to how to live, as well as how to bike.

He did piss me off at the end by dissing my bike (I will paraphrase because I don't have the book with me: "Comfort bikes seem to be designed for people who want to bike while maintaining as much of a feeling of sitting on the couch as possible.") Okay, that's kind of why I bought my bike, but it still smarts.

Having said that, though, later he talks about how your bike should fit, and says that your weight should be equally distributed on your hands, your feet and your butt, and it's when beginners don't realize that that they are uncomfortable and decide to stop biking. Well, duh, I bought my bike with the big seat so that I could sit all my weight on my butt, and lo and behold, it's never really comfortable.

So next time I go out I will try and balance my weight better (I think I will have to adjust a bunch of stuff, because right now the handlebars are pretty high and the seat is pretty low.) I think, though, that that means biking is a lot more work than I thought it was. On the other hand, that means that if I bike more it will make me much stronger and fitter than I thought it would.

Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan

Robert Sullivan thought it would be cool to spend a year or so hanging out in an alley watching some rats, and write a book about it and rats in general. It turned out to be a pretty good book, but with a lot of needless philosophising which didn't seem to result in any great conclusions, that I could tell. I would have been happy with just lots of facts and observations. (The book has them, just mixed in with the other stuff.)

Reading this book I realized that I am missing what seems to be a fundamental human trait -- I'm not afraid of rats. I suppose if you stuck me in a dark alley surrounded by lots of them, I might be, but when I imagine the scenario it doesn't faze me at all. We had rats as pets and I have a great deal of appreciation for them; they are intelligent and resourceful and generally very sensible animals. And unlike cats, they don't vomit.

Two Books

Efficient Society: Why Canada Is as Close to Utopia as It Gets by Joseph Heath. This is an interesting book about the benefits of efficiency as a social value, and how Canada is so great. I especially like that last part -- who doesn't like to be patted on the back? -- but I also found the book to be an interesting economic and philosophical primer.

A Place Of Hiding by Elizabeth George. This is a good, fairly standard mystery, but it seemed to go on forever. Towards the end I was just reading it to find out what happened. It didn't help that the protagonist is an emotional, slightly idiotic woman. She is contrasted with her analytical husband, and I suppose you are supposed to relate to the woman, but I really didn't.

Lots of Books

I have read a few books since I last posted here. I didn't post for ages because for ages I didn't read anything; when Delphine naps, I nap too, because I'm pregnant and if I don't nap in the afternoon I hit a brick wall at 4:30 and fall asleep over Delphine's supper. So in the last couple of months I've clawed myself through two, maybe three books.

Then I threw my back out and got to lie around for two days, and I think I have pretty much made up any book deficit I might have had.

So here's what I've read. I read a collection of long short stories, or short novels, or whatever, edited by Robert Silverberg. Legends, I think. I'm not sure which one. They were pretty good, I guess, but they didn't make me any smarter or more interesting.

Don't Make Me Stop This Car! Adventures in Fatherhood by Al Roker, which is totally a parenting journal/blog, printed out and bound. Cute.

Language Visible: Unravelling the Mystery of the Alphabet from A to Z by David Sacks, which goes through the history and cultural baggage (for want of a better word) of the letters of the alphabet, one by one. Mostly interesting, although a little repetitious. Almost all the letters took the same journey from Egypt to our alphabet; is it really necessary to describe that journey anew for each letter? Also I found the historical sidebars pretty boring, but fortunately the sidebar format made them easy to skip.

McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, edited by Michael Chabon. Good stories, although I always feel like short stories are trying too hard. Like any collection of short stories, this would have been better enjoyed in small sips rather than gulped down all at once, but I never manage to do that. Besides, I have to take it back to the library.

Beach Girls, by Luanne Rice. Fluff, but good fluff. Also a story about mothers and daughters, which is always guaranteed to get me all verklempt.

I think there might have been a couple more, but I don't remember what they are.

Bad back! Bad!

I am scraping the bottom of the barrel for clothes that fit these days. Theoretically I should have scads of stuff, because I am still smaller in the waist ("waist") than I was at the end of the last pregnancy, and I had plenty of clothing then. I think the fatal flaw in that theory is that the last pregnancy was in winter, so I have lots of jeans. It went up to 30 today -- I ain't wearing jeans.

I'm down to a couple of skirts and a couple of dresses, which aren't much use for going to the park with Delphine or sitting on the floor playing with Lego. So I made plans, last Thursday, for Morgan to babysit Delphine for a couple of hours in the morning while I went to Old Navy or some other appallingly cheap place and got a couple of pairs of appallingly cheap maternity shorts or capris or something.

Instead of doing that, though, I slipped a disk. It was really quite well planned. Morgan works at a the same Health Clinic as my chiropractor, and I already had her lined up to babysit. She lives right by me so she and Erik were able to come over to my place to help me get myself and Delphine downtown to the clinic.

But it was bad, it was so bad. I have never hurt my back this bad before; I actually cried. Usually I am stoic, but there was yelping and crying this time. The chiro said it was the worst she had seen in fifteen years -- she could hardly touch me. And it was really stupid and entirely my fault; my back has been so good lately that I haven't been doing any of the stretching and strengthening exercises I am supposed to do, and I injured myself by half-bending over with Delphine in my arms, which is perhaps number one on the long list of things I am not supposed to do (I have slipped this same disk before).

So all my chiro was able to do for me on Thursday was send me home with some exercises to encourage the disk back into place, and strict instructions to lie down all day and ice my back. I had to call Blake to come home with me and look after Delphine while I just lay around (which he did without a murmur because he is a good man -- plus he likes to hang out with Delphine).

Friday Delphine had daycare; I woke up feeling better, well enough to shuffle across the street with Blake to drop her off, and then it was back to bed. I was way better by my next chiro appointment that afternoon -- the doctor was astounded at how much better I was. She gave me some more treatment (mostly she doesn't do chiro on me, she does soft-tissue therapy called Active Release Techniques which is pretty phenomenal, although I am a little scared to do any research on it in case it's actually just quackery. But it's patented!) and sent me home with instructions to keep doing what I was doing.

Anyway, it's now Monday, and I am almost all better. I think that's pretty amazing, going from totally crippled to almost healed in five days. If my rapid healing were an Academy Award, I would thank Blake and Morgan and Erik for dropping everything to help me get better, and I would thank myself for being smart and asking for help instead of trying to be heroic.

It's only today that I've been able to pick up and hold Delphine. Four days without being able to cuddle her was hard, and sad. It wasn't just the not cuddling, but knowing I couldn't pick her up if she hurt herself, or run to her if she was in danger left me feeling like half a mother. I don't know how parents with chronic pain or disability do it. I feel like my own physical ability is intrinsic to my ability to be a good parent, and I didn't realize I felt that way until my physical ability was compromised.

Anyway, between the pain of my bad back and not being able to have contact with Delphine the way I'm used to, and not being able to keep up with housework, and this weird altercation I had with a guy in the lobby of my building this morning, and some other health problems I will not burden you with the details of, I am floating in this weird miasma of not-right-ness. I expect that now that I am mostly better, after a couple of days of normality (or what passes for it in this time of interminable and tedious flux) I will feel okay again.

Insomnia and Melancholy

I'm feeling rather melancholy and insomniacal. I think the insomnia is because of the iced coffee and chocolate I had tonight. I bought some of that Iced Java coffee syrup stuff and it has a crazy effect on me, maybe because I've avoided caffeinated coffee for so long. I think I should not have any more of it.

I'm probably melancholy because I am tired and should be sleeping, but it's manifesting because the owner of my favourite Internet community is predicting the imminent demise of her board. I'm kind of gutted about it -- I've been part of this community since 2001 and they have done a lot for me. Lots of great advice, and a baffling deluge of actual 3D gifts for Delphine when she was born, and generally good company through lots of long hours of idleness at work. I will miss them so much.

I suppose there are other boards with memberships which intersect with the membership of this board, but I have checked them out and they just aren't the same. Obviously, I guess; if they were the same they probably wouldn't exist. And I suppose after the board shuts down I will be sad for a while and then life will go on. (After all, I walked away from akt and #ana and survived, and even hung on to a really good friend from that community.) But I will really miss the owner -- I don't know how much of an Internet presence she is going to maintain after the board goes down. Hopefully she will at least keep her journal, which has always been one of the best on the net.

One of the reasons the board is dying is because of non-participation, and I am certainly part of that problem. Once Delphine was born and I stopped working I practically stopped posting at all. That has made me realize that the way I spend my time is completely non-congruent with what I would say my personal priorities are, if you asked me. Something like this:

Priorities: Blake and Delphine, household, reading books, reading newspapers and magazines, friends and online friends, health, television and pop culture.

Time Expenditure: Blake and Delphine, household, television, whatever else I can squeeze in when I'm not watching television.

It's ridiculous; I haven't read more than a couple of books for months, and yet we sit and watch TV for two or three hours every night. There's maybe four or five hours of stuff per week that I am really interested in watching, but we end up watching filler like "Holmes on Homes" or "Top 10 Technological Disasters of the 20th Century" just because we have to have the TV on and that's all there is. It's a sickness and it's really starting to piss me off. There are so many books out there I could be reading. I could be ten times smarter than I am.

Not to mention all the other stuff I should be doing but "don't have time" for. I have about five paper letters waiting to be responded to, from valuable and interesting friends who happen to live far away from me. I have a lovely brother who is constantly waiting on email from me with news about his niece. I have a stack of decorating magazines to go through to tear out ideas for my decorating file. I have political representatives who really should be informed of my opinions on such pressing matters as AIDS in Africa and the impending flu epidemic. And back to the original topic at hand, I can't very well cry and moan about my favourite online community dying when I haven't posted more than a dozen times in the last month. Are they supposed to keep it alive for my benefit, so all my buddies will still be there when I decide to show my face again?

Anyway, it's well past midnight and I am so going to regret staying up late tomorrow, but I couldn't sleep and posting this is better than tossing and turning and bothering Blake. Hopefully now I have got it off my chest I will be able to relax and sleep better.