Category Archives: Daily Life

Habits

I’m not sure how NaBloPoMo is going to go in the last week. I’m three posts behind at the moment, I have a seminar paper to give on the 30th, and my mother really wants me to come look at potential condos with her on the 29th since I’m her unofficial real estate consultant. I can make the time to write, but, as I’ve discovered over the last couple of weeks, doing so almost inevitably eats into the time I have for academic writing. It’s been hard to find a balance, and I don’t want to post something just because I have to- I’d like my posts to be thoughtful, to have a point, something for the reader to take away with them.

Here is an incomplete list of what is on my desk right now:

  • a recycling bag with old artwork of E’s that I had been hiding in the winter clothes bin until it was safe to put them in the recycling- I had to get them out when I dug out the winter clothes and I haven’t had a chance to take the bag out to the bin with me. If I put them in the recycling bin in the house he’ll find them again.
  • a bag from a Banana Republic Outlet store with a work shirt I bought at the start of November
  • a collection of completed schoolwork E. brought home last week that I’ve looked at but haven’t yet had time to decide whether any of it should be kept
  • a pair of waterproof mittens and a pair of waterproof gloves that I bought E. but have turned out to be ever so slightly too big- they need to go into his storage bin for next year
  • one pair of pjs that E. really has outgrown
  • three white shirts that need to go into P’s 2T bin (the rest of the newest round of hand-me-downs are in a box upstairs after being washed last night)
  • two onesies and a pair of pants that P. really has outgrown
  • the vocabulary quiz my students wrote on Tuesday
  • my teaching prep for the last two weeks
  • the textbook for my course
  • my good camera
  • my iPad and its keyboard
  • a hydro bill
  • two credit card bills
  • two packages with Christmas presents for the kids
  • three separate piles of receipts
  • E.’s report card
  • a library book I’ve read but I don’t want to return yet because I haven’t had time to type out the quotes I want to keep from it
  • a toy house my mother made for E. when he was two- I got it out for P. two weeks ago but she’s not quite ready for it yet
  • two felt flowers P. pulled off of the house that I have to glue back on before I put it away

I have said on here before that one of the biggest challenges I have found in going from one child to two is the lack of time to keep on top of what I call “life admin”.

So my desk has become a dumping ground, and every couple of weeks I freak out when I look at it and take an hour when I should be actually working to clear it off. It remains blissfully clear for the rest of that day and then, inevitably, things start to pile up again. (I don’t work at my desk, but I find it difficult to concentrate on work if I know it’s messy, even if I’m working outside the house.)

I don’t have a good habit for managing the stuff that ends up on my desk.

I don’t have a good habit for flossing my teeth anymore. I used to floss in the morning but my mornings are so rushed with getting the kids ready that I can make time to brush my teeth but taking the extra minute I need to floss seems indulgent.

I don’t have a good habit for cleaning the litter box. We have two and only one cat now, so if I miss a day occasionally it’s not a major issue, but I have been missing much more than the occasional day of late because I can’t figure out when to do it. I’m either rushing in the morning to get E. to school, wrangling both (tired and crabby and needing connecting time with me) kids by myself after school, or I’ve got the kids in bed and by the time I go down into the basement it’s so I can brush my teeth before I can go to bed and I’m so tired the idea of one more thing seems overwhelming.

What has become clear to me over the last couple of months is I won’t get anything done well if it’s not a habit. My brain feels like it’s running at its maximum capacity all the time. I can make to-do lists and plan my calendar and keep my agenda up to date, but I only ever stay on top of the things that have to be done in that immediate moment. I never forget to pay a bill. I (usually) get my library books back on time. I remember the permission slips. My kids have seasonally appropriate clothing at all times.

It’s the little things that need to be done on a regular basis that seem to be always slipping through the cracks.

Do you also struggle with this? Any tips or suggestions for me?

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Daily Life

Dormant

Dear bulbs,

Thanks for joining our garden. I’m sorry it was so late in the year before you were planted, but luckily we’re pretty far south for such a northern country; winter hasn’t really arrived yet.

You might be wondering what kind of a life you can expect here. Perhaps you noticed the relatively haphazard way in which you were planted- at high speed, not evenly spaced, and at inconsistent depths. No one was thoroughly watered, like all the packages recommend, but it’s supposed to rain soon, so that should help. Those of you who are most likely to be eaten by squirrels over the winter (tulips- I’m looking at you) did receive a dusting of cayenne pepper before the soil was swept back over, but otherwise you’ve largely been left to fend for yourself.

The good news is you’re in good company. I planted around 250 of you this year, and I’m certain I’ve planted close to 1,500 bulbs over the last seven autumns. You probably noticed some of your older and more experienced neighbours when I accidentally dug them up while trying to find space to plant you.

That happens a lot. Every spring I tell myself I’m going to mark the areas in the garden where there aren’t enough bulbs to make things easier in the autumn, and every spring I’m too busy keeping one step ahead of the weeds to do so. Some of you had a taste of what that feels like when I accidentally dug you up the same day I planted you because I’d forgotten where I’d been digging.

I have a lot of sympathy for squirrels who can’t find their acorns.

Not all of you will grow, of course. Some of you I’ll have planted too deep, and others I’ll have planted too shallow, and some of you will be eaten by squirrels or dug up by squirrels and abandoned on the surface. Some of you will bloom next year but then never again. You at least have the advantage that I’ve learned not to cut off your leaves until they’ve died back, so you’ll be able to store up all your energy for the following year. I got a little snip-happy one day this spring, so it might not be as colourful next year as you would expect given the number of bulbs in the garden.

Some of you will get to meet my kid. He spends a lot of time keeping me company in the garden. When he was younger he used to like helping me plant bulbs. I’d dig the hole and he’d drop the bulb in, telling each one, “Night, night, bulb. See you in the spring.” These days he doesn’t plant or weed much but he loves digging for nature. The rule is he can’t dig for nature where there’s an established plant, so he digs in the empty spots which also happen to be where you hang out. He’s very good about putting you back in the ground when he fills in the hole, but he doesn’t always pay attention to which end should point up.

Lest you think the life of a bulb in the garden is unfairly difficult, I hasten to point out that, in my garden, the general attitude towards plants is one of benign neglect. I water perennials the first year they’re put into the soil, but after that they have to rely on rainfall and the occasional full-garden sprinkler. We mulch semi-regularly and I do weed, although you’re likely to have died back by the time I really get started on my annual battle against the bindweed that’s hiding almost everywhere. I’m pleased to say that I’m finally winning the war there.

I make the same mistakes with my perennials that I do with my bulbs. I forget that I’ve planted them and pull them out in the spring, thinking that they’re weeds (icelandic poppy and red coneflower, I am truly sorry). I let other plants overgrow them and block out their light (lupins, if you’re not dead, I promise no more calendula incursions next spring). I dig them up and move them around if I don’t think they’re thriving (and sometimes the digging up and the moving around guarantees that they won’t be thriving).

Plants in my garden have to make flowers (sorry, ornamental grasses, I’m not very sorry that you all died). Most of them need to attract bees and butterflies. They need to be pest resistant as the sum total of my pest control strategy is occasionally sprinkling baby powder on the oriental lilies so the red lily beetles don’t eat them. There are a lot of worms in our garden, so I hope you like worms (there are also lots of grubs and larvae and centipedes and snails and pill bugs and ants, to judge from the results of my son’s digging for nature expeditions).

The good news is that most plants get to just keep on growing. I’m always looking to fill in gaps, and block out the bindweed, so it’s rare that I make the decision to uproot or even divide a plant (although, salvia, your time is coming; yours too, prairie coneflower). I know I should pull out tulip bulbs when they only send up one leaf and no flower, but I often just cut the leaf off instead when I’m weeding, and the bulb survives to grow again another year.

You don’t know this yet, but you’ve become part of something very special. The corner where you now live used to be a terrible eyesore in the neighbourhood. It’s taken a lot of time and energy, and there’s been a lot of sweat, some swearing, some crying, and even some blood, but I’ve turned our little patch of earth into something I can be proud of, something our neighbours always comment on when they walk by. When I was out this week planting you and cutting back the frost-wilted plants, nearly everyone who walked past stopped to ask what I was planting and to tell me how much they were looking forward to the spring.

The garden is beautiful in almost every season, but you, my bulbs, you are the heralds of spring. The indigo and yellow and lavender of the crocuses is the first promise that the winter is ending, and every year I count the blooms as they emerge. Yes, daffodils, I know that when the tulips are at their peak they are a riot of colour and everyone is drawn to their showy exuberance, but I love you best for your cheerful yellow faces and your steadfast loyalty in returning every year. Irises, you are a new experiment this year as I adore your larger cousins. And snowdrops, you’ve been a dead loss in the garden every other time I’ve planted you, so hopefully you’re game for a challenge.

I may grumble and complain about planting bulbs in the autumn, when the days are too short and the wind is too sharp, but when spring comes I am reminded, again, that every bloom was worth it.

Night night, bulbs.

See you in the spring.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Choose Happiness, Daily Life

Not my favourite month

I am not a huge fan of November.

At the start of the month the clocks go back, which means it suddenly gets dark in the late afternoons. By the middle of the month it’s back to being dark in the mornings as well, so the time change never seems to have achieved anything useful (as opposed to when we spring forward and suddenly it seems like there is so much daylight in the day).

It is usually grey and often rainy. I like rain and I like jumping in puddles, but November’s rain always seems colder and more miserable.

It’s late in the semester, so I’m tired and my students are tired. They struggle to focus and take in the new information (if they’ve come to class at all), and we’re not even halfway through the year.

Most of the leaves are down but we usually don’t have good snow yet.

All of the weather that lifts my spirits in the spring (above freezing but below ten degrees, lots of rain, bare trees and sleeping gardens) does the opposite at this time of year, because I know we’re sliding forward into the long dark, rather than emerging from it.

And yet, I also know that I wouldn’t love spring as much as I do, wouldn’t feel that overpowering sense of awe, that riotous joy, that strikes with the first flush of green on the trees and the first flowers in the garden, if we didn’t have the winter that came before.

E. is excited about winter. He’s looking forward to Christmas. He’s desperate for snow.

And so I am trying to mentally rehabilitate November. In the spirit of “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”, I’m testing out “there’s no such thing as a bad month, only a bad attitude”.

Today it may feel unbearably cold outside (-13 at the moment with wind chill) compared to the weather we’ve been having, but the sky is clear and the sun and is bright and I walked through a carpet of still-green leaves dusted with snow on my way to work this morning.

Do you also struggle with November?

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Filed under Choose Happiness, Daily Life

Winter is Coming

We had our first big freeze last night, severe enough that Q. came home early from work to make sure he could roll up the hoses and put the cover on the air conditioner.

Last night, once both kids were in bed, I thought to myself, “It would be a really good idea to go and find all the cold weather gear now.”

And then I watched an episode of House of Cards with Q. instead.

This inevitably led to me running around in a mad panic this morning when I woke up and discovered that yes, it really was -12 outside and yes, there had been a dusting of snow. Luckily I knew where all the winter gear was and E. went off to school this morning in snow pants, jacket, neck warmer, waterproof mittens, hat, and winter boots (last year’s- he says they still fit, so the ones I bought on sale in the spring are still in the box for now). When we left, P. was marching around the house in her new (to her) snow boots and looking deeply pleased with herself.

At drop off, I couldn’t help but notice three or four kids who were wearing snow pants that stopped at the tops of their boots. I’d have been right there with them except two weeks ago I had the sense to realize that E. was going to need new snow pants this year and I asked a friend for a recommendation as I hadn’t been happy with our two previous pairs. The brand she recommended happened to be on sale that weekend so I ordered E. a pair along with a hat and a balaclava, and a neck warmer for P.

I could be feeling smug about how well prepared we are for winter (we put our winter tires on the car at the end of October) except for the fact that I have over 150 bulbs I haven’t put into my front garden yet.

Luckily it’s supposed to be well above zero again by the middle of the week, so I should be able to get them planted.

Are you ready for winter?

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, Daily Life, E.- the seventh year, P.- the second year

Microblog Mondays: Unwanted Houseguests

Ants are trying to move into our house.

Specifically, they’re trying to add our dining room to their territory. They come out from under the baseboards somewhere and then fan out to search for food.

I repeat: they’re in my dining room. You know, the place where we eat every.single.meal.

The dining room is carpeted (don’t ask me why- previous owners of this house did some crazy things).

I have two small children.

I vacuum after every meal and yet the ants always, always, manage to find something to keep them coming back.

I feel like I’m Sisyphus.

But, as I keep reminding myself, it could be worse. Back in November 2015, when we discovered that indoor cats can too get fleas, I was vacuuming the entire house every day, including all furniture and baseboards, while pregnant with P.

This too shall pass.

But they sure are a pain right now.

Any suggestions on how to get rid of ants when they’re in a spot where you can’t use a trap?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Daily Life, Microblog Mondays

Microblog Mondays: Teeth

Last week we took our cat to the vet for ridiculously expensive unavoidable dental work.

When we picked her up at the end of the day, the vet’s administrative assistant presented us with detailed care instructions, a bag of pain medication, and a small pill container which contained the two teeth the dentist had removed.

I’m not at all sure why they did this. To prove they took out the teeth they said they did? To demonstrate the necessity of removing the teeth by allowing us to witness for ourselves their state of decay? To provide us with souvenirs?

I was more than a little weirded out by the whole thing, but I had E. with me and he thought it was amazing, so we brought the teeth home. They sat in their container on the kitchen table (where E. had abandoned them) until dinner, when Q. asked that we not share the meal with the teeth (fair).

At some point the container migrated upstairs to our room, where it’s currently sitting on my night table, right next to where the cat herself usually likes to sleep during the day (weird, no?).

Today, I realized that I’ve also got three or four of E’s teeth stashed in my sock drawer, a result of having the tooth fairy visit right before I go to bed and then not wanting to throw the teeth in the garbage in the upstairs bathroom in case E. somehow found them.

I’m a tooth hoarder.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Daily Life, E.- the seventh year, Microblog Mondays

Microblog Mondays: New Look

Three days before we flew overseas I went and got my hair cut, for the first time since my “we’re going to have to go to a funeral so I’d better make the time to do this” hair cut back in August of last year. To say I was overdue would be an understatement.

“Look at your hair!” exclaimed my hairdresser, not (I think) in horror. “How can the baby be one?! She was only a few weeks old when I last saw you!”

I sat in the chair and we chatted and nattered and all the while an increasingly large pile of my hair was heaped upon the floor.

I told her I wanted bangs.

Not side bangs, but proper straight bangs.

And, yes, the irony of asking for a recognizably high maintenance style after failing to make the time to get my hair cut for TEN months was not lost on either of us.

But I’ve wanted to try bangs for years now and keep chickening out, so I pressed on and my hairdresser did as I asked, and I went home with bangs for the first time since grade school. For a while I was convinced I looked like a Vulcan (and not in a good way) but I’m more used to it now. The bangs are refreshingly easy to look after, largely because my hair is so straight I can get out of the shower, finger comb it, and then it air dries exactly how I would want it to look. The only shock has been realizing just how much grey is in there- I’m clearly not going to take after my grandmother who still doesn’t have a single grey hair at 93.

Thus far the great bang experiment appears to have been a success.

Now I just have to see if I actually make the time to get them trimmed.

Have you ever made a major change to your hairstyle as an adult? Was it a successful change?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

7 Comments

Filed under Daily Life, Microblog Mondays, Mirror, Mirror (Body Image)