Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Things I'm Loving about Summer in Saskatchewan

(in the order they occur to me, not in order of importance)

1. Feeding the birds. Our neighbourhood birds are now tame enough that they will land on our feeder even if we are sitting 3 or 4 ft away. Its pretty fun to watch them.

2. Feeding the red squirrel. The squirrel actually gave Andrew and I a lecture the other day for being in his way when he was trying to get to the food. There is nothing quite so amusing as watching your toddler watch a squirrel perched on an 8 foot fence post chatter and squalk at him. I explained what I thought the squirrel was trying to say, and now whenever Andrew sees the squirrel he says "Squirrel wants eat!"

3. Building castle walls. We bought a big bucket of sand toys this spring for Death's Sandbox (see post of that title). I bought this particular bucket because it has molds for a castle wall, a round turret and a square keep. Its pretty cool. I showed Andrew how to build castle walls. Once every couple of days he wanders over to me and says "mommy build castle walls". I go and attempt to construct a castle out of the sand molds. Andrew helps me pat the sand down, watches with delight as I pull the mold off the wall, and then crushes it. Its a pretty fun game.

4. My garden. I am actually growing vegetables. I am sure this amazes you all, but I ate spinach out of my garden tonight, my carrots have leaves, my sunflowers are about a foot high, and my zucchini plants have about 5 or 6 leaves each. I was really excited the other day and said to Dave, "look, Dave, my garden is growing!". He responded, "That's what happens when you actually plant one, Jill". Ha ha.

5. The mosquitos. Who doesn't appreciate this fine insect. I love the humm of them as they swarm around my head. I love watching them land on my son's face so that I have to rush over to him to try and smack it away, and instead end up making him nervous. I love the constant burn of mosquito bites on my legs because, while I am very dilligent about putting bug repellant on my son, I tend to foget myself. (um, yeah, this one is meant to be sarcastic).

6. The park. What a brilliant way to amuse my child. I wander around after him and comment on his activity, and he wears himself out. Its great most days. His favorite activity at present (ironically enough) is the swings. He likes them because they are facing the four way stop just outside of the park, and a fairly major (by our town's standards) road -- not Main St, but a fairly main road -- intesects there. So he gets to have a ride and watch all the cars and trucks and people go by. Its perfect. And a great arm workout for me.

7. The barbeque. My husband eagerly offers to cook on it. Everything tastes great grilled. THere are no pots and pans. How can I not love that?

8. I can wear shorts and no socks without social ridicule or risk or frostbite. I really am not a big fan of socks. Unless someone is expected at out house (in which case my husband likes me to be civilized and wear socks) I go barefoot in the house all winter long. I have really hot feet, and they like to breathe. I also hate having my legs covered. It aggrivates me. I can't really explain this, but it is a fact. Also, I love my ankles -- I have decided I should have been born in the Victorian era because I have damn good ankles.

9. Walks. Walks keep my son and I on good terms. He gets a much needed break from activity (which he will only otherwise take in front of the television or when I'm reading to him) and I get a break from his constant need for attention and stimulation. How can this not be a win-win?

10. Hair. My hair looks redder from all the sun in the summer. I know most red heads hate this, but I love my hair. Since the birth of my son, the middle of my body is all squishy, but at least I have great hair and great ankles.

11. Hats. Okay, so I wear a variety of hats all year, because I have a number of very cool hats. But summer sun mixed with fair skin is a particularly good excuse for a great hat.

12. Watermelon. Nuff said.

Hope you are enjoying summer as much as we are.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream . . .

When will my son learn to sleep? Many people I know with almost - two - year - olds have children that sleep. Some of them even have kids that put themselves to bed at night, or tell their parents when they want to sleep.

We had about 2 glorious weeks of sleep, when my son would say "go sleep now" and we would happily go off to bed and "quickly" (for Andrew that means in under two hours) fall asleep. Unfortunately Dave's watch broke. And we were invited for two evening visits in the same week. And since he had no watch and he was busy being interested in the people we were visiting, our whining son and my many reminders of "we really need to be going" just didn't sink in. So he stopped beleiving that mommy would put him to bed when he was tired and he could peacefully fall to sleep. So he stopped sleeping again.

Now, instead of Andrew falling asleep right around 9 on the dot, he is falling asleep closer to 11. This is after the usual bath - stories - nursing and songs and backrubs routine, followed by any number of other "essential" bedtime things, such as the backpack ride with mom when she needs to get things done, the car ride with dad, the stroller ride if Dad has the car, the cuddle stories in bed, the late night snacks, the "I give up just go and play while I ignore you and do something on the internet" times, and, my favorite -- the time when I marched our bleary eyed but not sleeping son into the study and passed him off to Dad, saying "I have put this child to sleep for 21 months now. I have woke with him in the middle of the night and every morning. It is your turn to deal with him." Its one of those times when you have a nice, peaceful night and you think "aha! I have it now!" only to find that it only worked that night . . . and never works again.

Ah well, in a few years I can just put him in bed and he can pretend to sleep when he thinks I'm there and read in bed with a flashlight or the light from his closet which is cleverly attatched to a long string so that it can be activated from his bed . . . not that I have any experience with such things. The point is, eventually he can not sleep and bother no one but himself. Inevitably by that time I will no longer have babies and toddlers in the house and so I will also be prowling around late at night sewing, writing, emailing, and otherwise getting up to mischeif. Hey, wait a minute . . . maybe there's something to that whole genetics thing.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Graham Crackers

My friend Lisa sent me this email today (this was the whole thing) and I thought it was so great I had to post it for all to enjoy:

I got these No Name graham crackers, thinking they’d be inexpensive replicas of the Mr. Christie brand or whatever the usual brand is. You know, the nice dense crunchy ones that are hard enough that when you dunk them in milk they retain their solidity long enough for you to eat it? How can you go wrong saving $0.75?! So you know how some crackers like Stoned Wheat Thins have perforations to make it easier to break them? Well, these ones are about 2”x5” and the perforation is down the length of them, so I tried cracking one in half and it turns out the “perforation” is fake! It’s just a line they impressed lightly on the surface to fool the consumers and the cracker, being inferior quality, actually shatters and you get cracker crumbs in your keyboard and all over your desk and clothes when you eat it at work! And dunking is out of the question because it instantly disintegrates and falls apart into your milk! So the moral of my story is, don’t waste your time or money on No Name graham crackers. Or Select brand sweetened condensed milk vs Eagle brand, but I won’t go into that story.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Land of the Very Late Night Sun

It is 10:30 as I write this, and the sky is still the deep blue you get just after the sun has set. Although we are not far enough to get the midnight sun, we come pretty close at this time of year. Yesterday morning, when I was awake with my toddler at 3am (don't ask), the sky was a rosy pre-dawn colour. This means that at present we are getting about 5 hrs of night time and 19 hrs of daylight. You can imagine how difficult this makes it to put young children to bed, or to think of going to bed "early" at 10, when it is still light.

My Favorite Recent Kids' Book Anacronism

For those of you who did not have teachers that made you look up and memorize common literary terminoloty in highschool (if you're taking an English degree, boys and girls, learn them. Being able to properly use the term "anacronism" will wow an English prof even more than actually knowing what "nihilism" is. Of course, regularly referring to nihilism will impress your fellow first year students, so I guess it all depends on wether you want university street cred or just good marks.), anacronism means something that is out of context chronologically. For example, Shakespeare has a character who is supposed to be in the dark ages referring to spectacles in one of his works. In this context, I am using it to mean something slightly different -- something that would have been normal in the time the book was written but is out of place when we read the book now. Is there a word for that? If so, someone please tell me and I will eagerly add it to my list of words I now use to impress highschool English students with my scholarlyness (since I obviously can't count on my spelling to do the job).

Anyway, all that to say that we just got a book about trucks from the library yesterday. There is this one page, where a woman is driving a pick up with a plow on the front, and she is driving past the guys who are grating the roads after a snowstorm. In the first picture they are all just driving, pushing snow. In the second picture she is winking, and the guys are grinning. It totally cracked me up. I love picture books from those crazy '60's.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sunflowers 1

On the May long weekend we planted sunflowers. It was pretty fun. I spent a few days digging up the soil while Andrew followed after me insisting that he needed to "see shed! see shed!" "After mommy digs one more row of dirt we will see the shed".

Then we got out the sunflower seeds and planted them along the edge of the garden. I made holes for the seeds and tried to convince Andrew to put the seeds in the holes. Some ended up in the garden. Some are in the decorative brick that lives mysteriously next to the garden. Some are in the lawn. Some, I am sure, are in the shed. But about 8 are in the garden. Updates will follow when we see some action.

The Shed

My son's latest obsession is our shed. At least twice a day we have to unlock the shed, open up the doors and look at all the tools. We pull out the rakes, the shovels, and the spade and try them all out on the lawn. We identify the clippers, the lobbers, the gas can, the power trimmer and the lawn mower. We once more affirm that the axe is too sharp to be held by 21 month old boys. He pulls out assorted bits of wood and bangs them on things. Then we put everything back, and close the doors. As the doors are just about to be locked, my son stops, turns around and demands "See Shed Again", and we do it all over again. And again.

A related obsession is the one with cutting grass. When my husband mows the lawn, he must be in our sight at all times so my son can watch the power trimmer and lawn mower. If a power trimmer is heard, we must find it. My son is starting to learn that if we can't see it, it is "too far 'way". Any long stick-like object in my house (brooms, poppers, window scrapers) has now become a power trimmer. The other morning, after the lawn had been mowed, we had a lengthy discussion about the process (I have cut out my "yes"es for brevity):

"Dad use power trimmer."
"Dad use power trimmer cut grass."
"Dad put gas in lawn mower."
"Dad use lawn mower cut grass."
"Dad cutting the grass."
"Power trimmer go "voom, voom"".

I hope and pray that Chapman's Lawn Care is not hereditary.

Masterpiece Picturebook Theatre

You know how when you watch some of those old movies on Masterpiece theatre, you realize how times have changed in the last 40 or 50 years? Well, I'm finding that the same is true of kids' picture books. Let me give you a few examples of classic moments I've discovered in classic picture books.

"Madeline and the Bad Hat" -- what would you think this book would be about? Perhaps Madeline's fashion faux pas? Madeline's adventures shopping in Paris? No, sir. The Bad Hat referred to in the title is Pepito, the bratty son of the Spanish Ambassador who moves in next door. I guess a Bad Hat is someone who misbehaves.

"Madeline and the Gypsies" -- aside from the fact that you would never find a modern book with this title, there is the plot. Madeline and the now reformed Pepito (see above) are kidnapped by gypsies. When Miss Clavel finds out and tries to rescue them, they are sewn into the skin of a lion. Which would be very uncomfortable, impractical and well, wouldn't really work. The gypsies, although not particularly villainish are well, gypsies, and so are simply doing what gypsies do -- steal small children and tour around the country using them as circus perfomers.

"Curious George" -- have you looked at this classic from 1947 recently? I'm amazed animal rights activists even allow it to be reprinted. No only is George stolen from the jungle by the Man with the Yellow Hat, he is then left to roam about and jump off of a steamer ship. When he gets back to the city, he and the Man with the Yellow Hat have a meal (including wine) and a smoke. It seriously says something along the lines of "After some supper, and a pipe, and a good night sleep, George felt much better". After this George creates untold mischeif and chaos in the city (of course) and is then placed into a happy place -- a zoo.

"Curious George Takes a Job" -- after escaping from the zoo (he steals the zookeeper's keys while the zookeeer is -- you guessed it -- lighting his pipe), George finds himself a job washing windows. Essentially, because he is a monkey, he has no need of a scaffolding or safety belt -- instead he just hangs off the sill with a squeegee in one hand and a bucket hanging from a belt around his waist. After getting too curious and doing the George version of "While You Were Out" on a lady's house (he paints a jungle in her living room while the painters go our for lunch) he jumps off the fire escape and breaks his leg on the pavement below. Then when the story breaks in the newspaper, the Man with the Yellow Hat finds him. But not before he has an interesting experience with a bottle of ether (George felt dizzy. Then he saw stars and swirls. After this George felt like he was flying. Then everything went dark.). The Man with the Yellow Hat decided that he has not capitalized enough on his stolen imported monkey, so he signs a movie contract on George's behalf and makes a movie about his life. My favorite picture in this part of the book is one where George sits, blissfully happy and unaware, on the lap of the MWTYH while he and the movie producer smoke fat cigars and smile contentedly.

"Curious George and the Animal Rights Activists" -- oh, sorry, this book wasn't really written. But I'm sure we can all imagine what adventures that curious little monkey could get up to with his new friends, the animal rights activists, who rescue him from his new home, the cosmetics testing laboratory, where the Man with theYellow Hat has put him when he imports his latest pet -- Annie the Lemur -- and pays for his expenses by selling George.

These are my favorite examples of very dated, but still delightful, children's literature. My son LOVES these books and asks for them every time we go to the library. And I oblige him, because I like them better than the insipid childrens' books from the 80s with titles like "Jackie Learns About Sharing" or "The Bully". And after all, the first time I read the Old Testament as an adult, I was way more shocked by what I found than these few tidbits I've discovered in these classics. Seriously, read the whole book of Judges some time.