Category Archives: 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.

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

Microblog Mondays: Deep Clean

Two weeks ago I hired people to come in and deep clean my house.

It was an act of desperation: we’d just been away and we were about to have visitors who were on their first (and likely last) trip to Canada. I wanted to leave them with a good impression of our life here, as I’m a bit sensitive to the fact that most of Q’s family think we’re nuts for living where we do.

I wanted a super clean house but didn’t have time to scrub baseboards, so I threw (a not insubstantial amount of) money at the problem until it went away.

They came in, and they cleaned, and afterwards, I felt…disappointed.

The house was cleaner, definitely, but I didn’t walk in the door and be amazed by the change.

I suppose that’s a good thing, as it means that Q. and I generally clean our house pretty thoroughly. The only two places where we did notice a huge difference were the windows and the kitchen (not coincidentally, those were the two areas that prompted the deep clean in the first place as they were driving me crazy but I just didn’t have time to get to them).

Basically if I can find time once a month to really scrub down the kitchen and we clean our windows even a couple of times a year, I can see no reason to ever hire someone else to clean our house again.

I’m not sure I’m pleased I’ve made that realization.

Do you have a house cleaner, or do you sometimes get someone in for a deep clean? If you clean your house yourself, how do you fit in the extra chores above and beyond the usual laundry, vacuuming, bathrooms?

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, Money Matters

Microblog Mondays: Rake

Q. and I have recently started watching an Australian television show on Netflix called Rake, which is set in Sydney and follows a brilliant but deeply flawed barrister. We were tipped off it was available by an English colleague of Q’s who was sick of watching Dr. Who and Sherlock because they’d become too similar and too self-referential.

We’re continuing to slowly work our way through the Dr. Who reboot, but we’ve hit season 8 and I don’t like the new not new anymore but we take so long to watch it he’s new to us Doctor very much and there are still episodes that make it difficult for me to sleep afterwards so it’s good to have an alternative.

Rake is the sort of Aussie television that just cannot be successfully reproduced anywhere else (I gather there is a U.S. version of the show which has been a miserable failure, which doesn’t surprise me in the least). It’s irreverent and lewd and profane and deeply, deeply funny (although it definitely has points where Q. thinks it’s hilarious and I’m finding it to be just too much, which is typical, in my experience, of the difference between Aussie and Canadian humour).

It’s started off with such a flourish I’m a bit worried about where it’s going to go, as most of the other television series we’ve enjoyed watching have clearly dropped in quality (or just outright jumped the shark- Sherlock, I’m looking at you) as their run continued.

At this point, though, it’s fun to have something to look forward to.

What’s the best thing you’re watching right now? Why do you like it so much?

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: Signs of Spring

Last week we finally had a nice day (18 degrees Celsius and sunny).

After P’s morning nap I dragged her outside, set up the travel crib, poured in a bunch of easily washed toys, and plunked her in. I then ran around at top speed trying to cut back all the dead bits in the garden that I should have cut back last fall but didn’t.

In the forty minutes we were out there P. threw all of her toys over the side. She babbled at a neighbour who came over to say hello. She ate at least one pine needle (I fished three or four more out of the crib once I realized the tree that was providing shade was also providing unauthorized snacks).

I got two-thirds of the garden tidied up, filled a yard waste bag, and counted the crocuses (no yellow ones at all yet, which is an even worse result than last year).

I ended up with dirt under all ten fingernails (even while wearing gloves).

And I felt my whole body relax.

It’s time to play in the garden again.

Spring is here.

What (other than the weather) tells you that spring has arrived where you live?

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 Choose Happiness, Daily Life, Microblog Mondays

Microblog Mondays: Learned Helplessness

Last week I was at a gas station with E., P., and my mother in tow. My mother volunteered to pump the gas but had only been out of the car for a moment before she was over on my side asking me to release the lock on the cover for the gas cap.

“I’m sure there isn’t a switch,” I told her.

She insisted, so we had a lengthy look at all the buttons and levers to confirm that I was right, after which I got out of the car and said, “I’m quite sure you just pull it open” and demonstrated. This did work, but it wasn’t easy, it didn’t feel familiar, and it didn’t seem like a very good piece of engineering (which would make it an anomaly in that car).

While Mum was pumping the gas, I got out the owner’s manual to learn how to change the clock, which I couldn’t do without having the car turned on. Stymied, I looked up the cover and discovered that to open it you have to just push on one end- it’s spring loaded.

We have owned this car for almost a year now, and apparently I’ve NEVER put gas in it before last week. If I’m with Q., I guess he’s always gotten out, whether he’s driving or in the passenger seat. And if I’m on my own, Q’s obviously made sure at some earlier point in the week that the tank is full (he tends to use the car more than I do).

There are areas in our marriage where I’m very much aware that I’m largely incapable of doing something which I should be perfectly capable of doing (just because Q. always does it), including cooking meat, making bread, and carrying out home repairs. Q., of course, has his own areas of learned helplessness, especially surrounding the household finances. In some ways it just comes with being a long-established couple: we divide and conquer household responsibilities all the time.

But I really should know how to put gas in our car.

Where are your areas of learned helplessness? Do you have ambitions of erasing them?

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