The Joys of Routine

I came across a blog post yesterday written by a homemaker mom that was all about menu boards and menu planning for family dinners. I found it quite funny – maybe even charming – that I was excited by this post, and then realized how much I longed for the routine of meal planning again.

Summer brings with it a relieving break from routine: later bedtimes, (some) sleeping in, more casual meals, unscheduled mealtimes… heck, unscheduled everything. We had an amazing summer – despite the cool weather – and we could have gone with two more weeks to strike off everything we wanted to get done on our list. But alas, school beckons.

And I do admit that I get great comfort from having planned our first “real” week of meals. Due to various circumstances, the past few weeks had been a miscellany of take-out, frozen or make-shift meals, with maybe one or two home-cooked meals thrown in for good measure. In an effort to return to a back-to-school routine, I cooked dinner the past three nights in a row (pizza, macaroni & cheese and prime rib roast if you must know) and it felt like home again. I get a kick out of the orderliness of carefully planning the week’s meals and shopping list. There is an inexplicable joy for me in using my hands and fresh ingredients to create a labour of love. There is pure pleasure in the aromas of a home-cooked meal wafting throughout the house. DQ was able to identify from upstairs what was cooking in my kitchen – love! Nothing is more rewarding than your family being happy to sit down to your meals.

September is already turning out to be a very hectic month on the home-front, what with birthday parties and extracurricular activities already going into high gear. And I better get back to some serious work to pay for all these birthday presents and activities! Schedules and routines must be adhered to if we want to stay on track. But I do find routine is grounding and gives us balance after a somewhat chaotic summer.  I suppose it’s the ying to summer’s yang.

DQ is excited about the new school year, too.  When I think back to a year ago this evening, our old house would have been in shambles, half-packed for our move, and DQ was mentally preparing for a new school, unfamiliar territory, a foreign schoolyard. “What were we thinking?!”, I wondered as I snuggled with DQ in bed tonight and watched her doze off. Tonight, she drifts off knowing that she is going to see a lot of familiar faces, that she will know all the school drills and routines, and that she will feel like part of a community. It’s the joy of routine, even for a seven-year-old.


Are Emotions Ever Rational?

So anyone who is a Facebook friend knows that I was a basket case this past weekend when 7-year-old DQ went away on her first overnight camping trip. It started the evening before, as I was writing a note to leave in her bag to let her know how proud I was of her. In bed later that night, the tears wouldn’t stop flowing. My head hurt the next morning from crying so much.  I kept telling myself, “Pull yourself together. You can keep it under control; you can do this.”  When we arrived at the bus drop-off, I was feeling good, mainly because DQ was being such a star.

During the week, she’d said she was “scared”, but I could tell it wasn’t borne out of anxiety.  It was a simple fear of not knowing what to expect; who isn’t scared of that?  I could sense a level of nervous anticipation in her.  But she never once said, “I changed my mind; I don’t want to go.”  When we first spoke about the possibility in the spring, she said she was interested in trying it, but asked if I could ask some of her friends if they wanted to go, too.

This required careful consideration. You need to select the “right” friends; they have to tolerate each other for 3 whole days together.  On the one hand, I did want someone to be able to go with her, just so I would feel better.  But secretly, FuBu and I were hoping none of her friends would go, because we knew that they would end up being cling-ons the whole trip, and we wanted DQ to experience camp as a true socialization experience where you would meet a new set of friends. There were really only two friends I seriously considered; one was expected to be away on a family vacation, while the other’s parents were not ready to let their daughter go to overnight camp.  I respected and understood that decision.  I wasn’t sure I was ready either.

So how extra guilty did I feel when almost every child at the drop-off seemed to have a buddy in tow, and here was my little baby, all alone, climbing aboard that big bus with nobody but her favourite stuffed dog in hand?  And yes, that’s when I totally lost it.  As soon as she stepped onto the bus, behind the tinted windows, I was a complete train wreck. That uncontrollable sobbing kind of wreck.  I felt sorry for anyone who had to see that (luckily, DQ was sitting on the opposite side of the bus). And the more anyone tried to console me, the more out of control I got.

That’s when I realized that being emotional is rarely rational.  There was no doubt in my mind that DQ was going to be well cared for and looked after, and I was fully confident that she was going to have an amazing and memorable time.  But it’s not about being rational.  This is my 7-year-old leaving to be guided by people I’ve never met before, who don’t know her routines, who don’t understand her quirks, who need to make sure she carries her EpiPen everywhere… How could they possibly care for my DQ the way I can?!?!

But alas, apparently, they can.  And they can make her happy, too.  This was a 2-night/3-day “trial” camp.  DQ rated her experience 9.5 out of 10 and she says next time, she’d like to go on the 9-day stay (we haven’t told her yet that it’s actually 11 days). Camp is another one of those experiences I never got to enjoy when I was a kid.  To see DQ have this experience at such a young age, to listen to her rave on about it, to marvel at how I’ve already seen such a confidence boost in her now that she’s done this… I beam with pride.  And that is one emotion that is quite grounded and rational, I think.

Is It Bad to Not Like Someone Else’s Kid?

That was an especially long, unplanned hiatus. I did quit my day job almost 4 years ago now, and I have obviously found other ways to keep me too busy to write.  I miss it.  As an introvert, my brain is constantly buzzing and it gets overwhelming. Blogging had been a therapeutic outlet to release all those not-so-deep thoughts.  So I’ve been backed up… at the other end.  Forgive me for this lengthy preamble before I get to the point.  A few things to update you on:

My orthodontic treatment has been going well. I am hating it, but it is progressing. Unfortunately, as part of the treatment, I have to deal with wisdom teeth extraction this week. I am anxious about it, but whenever I am told I need to undergo an unpleasant medical procedure, I just keep telling myself, “It’s not cancer. Suck it up.” and that seems to help.  Tough love.

I have a nephew who is a genius.  He can solve a Rubik’s Cube in about 30 seconds. He can name the capital city of every state in the U.S. and while I didn’t verify this, I’m pretty sure he could name every country in the world, and its capital city. He knows the entire periodic table. He’s 11. I’ve never been so close to someone so smart. Asking him “What’s new?” just seems so trite.

I watched Enough Said this week on Netflix. While the storyline is far-fetched, the lead characters are charmingly portrayed by Julia Louis Dreyfuss and James Gandolfini. If you’ve only ever seen Gandolfini in Sopranos, you’ll be surprised at how he pulls off this character that you kinda sorta wanna give a bear hug to at the end.

And back to being busy. While I have been so blessed by the opportunity to be there for DQ, I don’t fully understand how I got back to the point where I can’t find time to fold laundry or work out.  Well, no, that’s not true. I do understand: domestic life is B-U-S-Y.  Keeping a household in order is HARD WORK. It’s incredibly TIME CONSUMING.  I often feel guilty for telling people that I only have enough time to put in about 10 hours a week for my paid consulting work. I find myself defending imagined questions that are never even asked: “But why? What else do you have to do in a day?  You’re at home now!”  I don’t know why, but I have a tendency to devalue the domestic part of my life. Wait, that’s not true either; I do know why: it’s because I DON’T GET PAID FOR IT.  Money is status. If society understood that domestic work is valued at six figures, I’d feel a lot better.  But that will never happen.

So, let’s get back to the point of this whole post: is it bad to not like someone else’s kid?  Does it make me a bad parent to say this? I’m just going to throw it out there: there is a kid who participates in one of DQ’s extracurricular activities who I find incredibly annoying: a whiner extraordinaire and a space cadet to boot.  I honestly just want to slap her sometimes (before you go calling Child Services on me, I of course mean that figuratively).  And it’s another example of just how important a role parents play in shaping their children. This girl’s parents rarely reprimand her, and frankly, her father is equally irritating. Am I supposed to overlook that, and play the role of a villager in helping to make her a better person (or at least a more tolerable one)? You know, I say this about other parents who have more than one kid who go on about how difficult life is: you made that choice.  I made the choice to have one, and I don’t really feel the need to be part of the village that takes care of yours. Is that bad?  Am I a bad, selfish person and parent? Oh well; it’s out there for all of you to judge now.

Hope to connect with you again soon!


What Did She Say Now?

I couldn’t possibly let her get away with it.

One of the things that allowed me to start this blog was having liberated myself from the “easy” 9-to-5 working mom life.  It was bad enough that Sheryl Sandberg was telling women – from a position of privilege – that they had to lean in more.  Now Gwynnie thinks the 9-to-5 working mom has it pretty easy compared to being a multi-million dollar movie star?

With an open letter in the New York Post, and a blog post in The Huffington Post, Mackenzie Dawson and Devon Corneal do a perfect job of putting Gwyneth in her place.  There’s not a lot more I can add.  But I will anyway, at the risk of being repetitive.

When you are worth a reputed $10 million, I guess it’s easy to lose perspective on the everyday woman’s trials and tribulations.  When you have an army of childcare staff and chefs and cleaning staff and chauffeurs and stylists at your beck and call, it must be hard to remember what it was like to use a toilet brush, and worry about not making it to the daycare by 6 p.m. before you get dinged $1/minute, and fret about how you’re going to explain yourself to your boss when your kid gets sick and you have to stay home to look after him right at the moment one of your critical work projects is due.

To be fair, the opposite is true, too.  People who have never had a stylist don’t understand how terribly annoying it is when the stylist keeps buying the wrong style of Louboutins.  When you’ve never had diamond jewellery loaned to you for an awards red carpet, you can’t understand how aggravating it is to have to return it the next day – I’ve got a life too, you know! If you’ve never had a personal chef, you don’t know what a pain in the ass it is when they use milk-fed veal instead of grass-fed.

Truthfully, I can appreciate how Gwyneth would find it difficult to be away from her kids for two whole weeks – heck, I can’t even manage two nights before I’m drowning in my own tears.  But if you’ve made a couple of hundred thousand dollars in that time, at least you can afford to fly your kids out (along with childcare staff, of course) to see you, even if you do have to work 14-hour days.

I’ve always believed that moms need to support other moms, regardless of whether they are working moms or stay-at-home moms, or a hybrid.  It is no easy task and it’s unfair to judge.  But I’ve come to see that when you are a multi millionaire (or even just a millionaire), you have no right to say we have it easier than you.  I don’t care what anyone says: money = privilege = power.  At least you have options that don’t make you feel like you are depriving your family.

Yucky Yesterday, Yummy Today

Here’s an interesting read from Bon Appétit magazine about how our senses of taste and smell change as we grow older.  I used to have a powerful aversion to cilantro when I was a child, to the point where I would almost gag at the smell of it.  Today, I can’t get enough of it.  The author in this article says that while it is true that there are physiological changes that affect our sense of taste, what has a large impact on what we like or don’t like to eat is that we become more adventurous eaters as we get older.  Exposure to something will play a role.  For me, the turnaround on cilantro didn’t happen over time, however; as I recall, it was quite sudden. I was at a casual dinner party, and the host – from Mauritius – had made a dipping sauce that had cilantro in it, and for whatever reason, I wanted to drink the whole thing.  Today, I crave Mexican and Thai food primarily so I can get a hit of cilantro. I find the scent fragrantly intoxicating, instead of sickening.

I also used to hate sweet peas as a child.  I think it was more of a texture issue, rather than taste.  My mother used to make dishes with sweet peas in it, but take out all the peas from my portion – god bless moms, right?!  Today, I could eat an entire bowl of fresh sweet peas on its own for dinner!

One food my taste buds have never adjusted to, however, is lamb.  Try as I might, it is a taste that my olfactory senses refuse to welcome.

Are there foods that you used to hate as a child but now love? How have your senses of taste or smell changed over time?

Don’t Be Angry

Why is the media so angry? The latest uproar started by the media was the outrage expressed over the fact that the latest Elle Magazine cover – celebrating women in television – had one cover version with Mindy Kaling in a close-up, and other versions where Amy Poehler, Alison Williams and Zooey Deschanel were in full-body poses in revealing and fitted clothing.  The media declared that Elle was perpetuating the female one-dimensional stereotype by not showing Kaling – a more “full figure” woman, and one of South Asian descent – in the same kind of shot as the others.

I adore Mindy Kaling.  She is one of the funniest women on TV today.  I personally never really got the Tina Fey hoopla.  Mindy is as sharp-witted as they come.  When I first saw the Elle covers, I thought Mindy’s was the best and sexiest of the four by far.  So I was surprised when I suddenly saw all this anger being expressed in my social media feeds. This was reminiscent of the anger that was spewing over Mellssa McCarthy’s cover on the same magazine, where she wore a trenchcoat – purportedly to hide her full figure.

But if you recall, McCarthy didn’t understand what the fuss was all about.  She chose that trenchcoat for her cover shot, and she loved it.  Kaling was equally thrilled with her cover and was puzzled by the media firestorm that had erupted.

After reading this, I realized how tired I am with the media working so hard to get readers/listeners angry.  Where is the love, people?  You all know how anti-Rob-Ford I am, but even I was getting irritated by the sensationalist headlines in The Toronto Star.  I don’t know how getting angry became the way to deliver credible journalism.  It winds us all up in a frenzy.  You can see this in all the commentary threads – I feel veins bursting everywhere reading the angry and hateful remarks.  And more often than not, all this is for naught.

So if Mindy declares that she had no problem with her cover shot, let it go.  Don’t be angry; it’s such a waste of energy.

Braces: My Mid-Life Crisis



Most people who go through a mid-life crisis want to go live in Europe for a year, buy a Maserati, go see Oprah.  Not me.  I want braces.

Let me re-phrase that: I want the benefits that braces can give me.  So, yes, at my ripe old age (and you don’t need to know what that is), I’ve decided to get them. It’s been a long time coming.  I should have had them when I was a kid, but coming from a household supported by a restaurateur father and a garment factory working mother, disposable income did not flow freely.  And even in adulthood when money wasn’t as significant a factor, I needed time to think about it.

A turning point for me was during one of my final “fireside chats” with my dying father.  He said one of his greatest regrets was that he was never able to pay for braces for me, and he broke down and wept.  Wow. That’s when I seriously started to consider it, but still, I was not ready at that moment.

Ironically, the primary reason I am getting them is not even for the aesthetic benefits, although I know I will be happiest with that outcome.  Because of our family’s finances growing up, my oral hygiene practices as a child and in my youth did not include regular dental visits.  But one day, when a filling came out, I had to cave and go see a dentist.  Three gum surgeries and many new fillings later, I saw the light and became semi-obsessed with my dental health (and with my child’s).

While everything’s improved and been very stable, I was asked again to re-consider braces because of the vulnerability of my gums in a crowded mouth.  And this time, the decision came quite easily.  I plan to stick around for many more years, so why wouldn’t I do this for myself at this age?  And frankly, I’m too old to care about how I will look to anyone else anymore.  Mind you, DQ’s a bit concerned about what her friends will think. Oh dear. Already, I will become the mom her child does not want to be seen with! My biggest concern will be the new limitations on what and how I can eat. No more popcorn?!  I hope I can make my way through Christmas turkey: will I have to throw it in the blender?!

The journey begins in a week. I may have some interesting stories to share, once I learn how to eat again. Bring it on!

If you have any advice on how to cope during the first few weeks, please share it with me!

What Does It Feel Like to Find Out a Friend Has Passed?

My mother is visiting for a couple of weeks. A couple of days ago, she decided to try to connect with an old friend in New York.  She knew that this friend had been in the hospital with untreatable cancer, so she wanted to phone the family to find out how things were going.  Sadly, on that phone call, she was told that her friend had passed a few days earlier.  I could hear the shock in her voice.

What is it about death that is always so shocking? Even when someone has been ill and we know they can’t be healed or treated, the finality of death is always very numbing.  One day, you are speaking to someone… there’s a real, living human being. And the next day, just like that, life is gone.  I suppose for someone like me who doesn’t believe in the after-life, it’s especially stark.

That evening, my mother’s heart was heavy.  When she had phoned, the family had just returned from the cemetery – emotions were still raw.  She felt sad that she hadn’t seen this friend in over ten years; it’s not so easy to travel in your eighties! I was trying to imagine what it would be like to phone a friend one day, only to find out (s)he had passed away. I have been fortunate enough to not yet have lost a close peer, but the time is not that far away when I will be reading death notices to watch for people I might know – now that’s morbid!

I suppose it’s yet another reminder to keep up relationships.  Take the time now; later might be too late.

All I Have Left to Say About #Crackgate

What I’ve found to be most perplexing about this whole Rob Ford affair is how his supporters consider his opponents “elitist”.  Ford Nation has been cast as the suburbanite who just wants the “average Joe” to be taken care of.  It’s true that if you live in certain parts of the City of Toronto, you may be wealthier than the average Torontonian by virtue of the fact that you can afford that kind of real estate.  But aside from that, I’m not sure how these people qualify as elitist.  If anything, these are the people Ford Nation supporters (i.e. Don Cherry) also call pinkos, and bleeding heart liberals (which presumes they want the average Joe to be looked after – they want everyone to be taken care of!).  Ford opponents could be called a lot of things, but I don’t agree that elitist is one of them.  I’m one of them, and I’m not sure what the problem is with wanting government to be involved with taking care of the people – that’s kind of the whole point of democracy and the election process.  If you don’t want government, then you shouldn’t want a mayor at all. You should be out there supporting the calls for him to step down, and then call for anarchy!

And by the way, Ford Nation, you call us elitist, but you’re the ones who can afford to buy a billboard?  At least learn to spell and get logo usage rights.


We’re Tired of War? Well, They’re Tired of Dying

I get that Americans are war-weary, and I’ve never been a proponent of war. But the situation in Syria really warrants some deep contemplation.

I thought Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird gave us a lot of food for thought in this interview with The Toronto Star.  When we see the horrific pictures from Syria, we really should be asking ourselves, “Are we just going to let this happen?”  If we have the power to change this, why wouldn’t we?

Baird was right to defend President Barack Obama when he said:

Does anyone believe that President Obama is trigger-happy? Does anyone believe he has been looking for an excuse to get into this conflict? I don’t know anyone in the world who will say he has been looking for an excuse to get involved in this campaign.

And I also agreed with Baird’s criticism of the United Nations, unable to make any fast decisions, mired in its own bureaucracy and politicization: “You don’t need to the stamp of the UN for something to be right.”

I thought it was a brilliant political move by President Obama to defer the final decision to Congress.  While his critics decried him for being weak, he was really testing the courage of Congress and giving them the ultimate challenge to finally show some maturity and surmount bi-partisanship.  For all the criticism – especially among Republicans – of Obama’s foreign policy, Congress will now be held accountable for the decision, whatever that may be.  And while voting against an attack may buy them more votes in the next election, they will have to live with this decision on their conscience knowing they had the power to change things, and opted not to.  It’s very easy to say ‘no’ to war when you’re not the President of the United States.  But when you are the President of the United States, people expect you to defend right versus wrong.  Americans – and the rest of the world – can’t have it both ways.

In the words of Baird: “What will people say when they see 25,000 children, men and women foaming at the mouth, their nerves jerking as their lungs dissolved?” Have we learned nothing from World War I?  Did the Geneva Protocol mean nothing?