Sunday, April 25, 2010

psycho-babble mumbo-jumbo

I am sewing today. Or, rather, I am trying to sew. My wrists are making it difficult. I read on the wikipedia article about CTS that frequent breaks are helpful, as opposed to going as long and as hard as you can, and then stopping. So I'm stopping every five minutes or so, resting five minutes and starting again. It's kind of contrary to the way I'm used to doing things, but it seems to be helping. Cutting is the worst, since where my thumb connects to my wrist is where it hurts the most.

The thing I'm sewing is one of those 'vintage Vogue' patterns, and it's a basic 1950s house dress. I bought this ridiculous retro fourth of july style fabric, which I fell in love with in the store and now looks nightmarish in fifteen different pieces, but I'm staying the course. If I don't finish it, it doesn't say a lot about my sewing skills or my stick-to-it-iveness. I'm also unclear on sizing, I'm about a 12 or 14 in regular dress sizes, but it seems like sewing sizes run a little bigger, so I'm doing it in an 18. I figure it's easier to take something in where it needs it, rather than letting it out. Also, I don't have a seam ripper. Quite the oversight. Screwing up is not an option.

I'd say I'm about half way there, and I'm following the instructions, even the stupid ones I don't agree with.

Sewing a 1950s style house dress leads to all sorts of ongoing jokes between Mike and myself about 1950s ideals and beliefs. We banter back and forth with the required jokes about Valium prescriptions, father knows best, and so on. Mike pretends to read Dianetics and I primly say that I don't go in for that 'psycho-babble mumbo jumbo'. Ender tries to eat pins. We stop him. He tries to grab the iron. We stop him.  He cries. We laugh. He laughs. So on.

I've also put together an herb garden on my dining table. It's just a small one, but I've always wanted to have one. Something about those herbs in their oblong terracotta pot instantly gives my living area a touch of provence, a little je ne sais quoi. I can't wait until they are successfully rooted enough to pinch off a leaf here or there, and improve my summer cooking with some freshness of flavour.

Speaking of which, I made veal parmisean tonight. It was fabulous. Ender is still surviving off of breastmilk and the three green beans I managed to stuff in his mouth. This too, shall pass. In the meanwhile, he's missing out on some good eats.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Improvement Accomplished

*gasps for air*

I'm back. For good this time. Yes, I thought in the last two weeks I would never blog again because life is just TOO busy and TOO stressful to take time to write. I also promised myself I wouldn't write again until things got better. Of course, because everything is temporary things did improve.

1 unexplained baby fever, 2 carpal tunnel wrists and a broken toe later, I'm back in the groove. And better than ever because I survived, damnit! For the first time in a long time, I let myself give up. It's not something I'm proud of, but I did. I got really frustrated about having no 'me' time, and that my baby was ruling my life, and that dal still hadn't gotten back to me, and that Mike didn't get into art school, and that my body wasn't listening to me at all and deciding to hurt whenever I tried to get things done.

Oh yeah. Mike didn't get into art school...well, kind of. The denial letter he got was conditional. He is now being given the opportunity to revise his portfolio under the supervision of a prof from the school because he has 'potential'. I personally think his so-called potential is fully-flowered genius, but I'm not on the admissions committee, so what I think is fairly irrelevant. The issue is that Mike doesn't do realism, both of us thought realism was boring to include in a portfolio (because it is) and so it wasn't there. The admissions committee took this as inability. However, it's very hopeful that they gave him a further opportunity to prove himself.

I, on the other hand, have called my school three times last week, to be told three different times that I would finally know their decision on my fate. The current story is that I should know by noon, Monday. I am, if you haven't noticed, dear reader, a fairly impatient person. I'm sure it takes years off my life, but I don't know any other way to function. I just think people like me should be put to the front of the line in general, as it saves hassles for everyone involved.

Anyway, my toe is healing, the baby's fever is gone and hopefully a tooth is going to pop through soon and end this intermittent bawling. He seems quite happy and then suddenly he'll melt down. My carpal tunnel syndrome is still bad. My ace bandage has become my constant companion, and I know I need to go to the doctor but I'm really finding it hard to fit that in my schedule. Wait times in Toronto are insane. I'm probably looking at four hours wait time at least. Yuck. With Ender's birthday party in the planning stages, and my life getting back on track after a long hiatus, I just can't seem to figure out when that four hours would fit.

Ah! Mike has returned home with a much deserved bottle of wine. Until next time, which will be soon. I promise.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I wish I liked the show, The Tudors better. I mean, it's a series for godssake. A period drama that has an unending parade of glorious Tudor-era gowns and doublets. Right up my alley, you'd think. For some reason though, no one can do a period series like the BBC. There is something unabashed and honest about their retelling of history, with just the right dash of wry wit. For instance, if the BBC were to do a series on King Henry VIII, they would replace the rugged, handsome actor that played him in his youth with someone fat and unappealing. Because King Henry was fat an unappealing when he advanced in years. To avoid this fact is frustrating for anyone who knows the slightest bit about Tudor history. But the British, they would not be afraid to have someone ugly on camera. They wouldn't lose their viewership for it, either.

The last few days have been incredibly rough. I keep describing it as The Worst Week Ever. I mean, I'm sure there have been worse weeks. But this week just seems to keep getting worse. First my wrists sieze up to the point where I have to bolster them with ace bandages and braces, which sets me on all these thoughts about an inability to work, to sew, to pursue my dreams. Then, Ender seems to have caught a bug, or was teething, or something. Either way, it made him very uncomfortable and feverish. It made everything go back to the way it was when he was two weeks old. Constant crying. No one allowed to hold him except for me. No solid foods. Breastfeeding every two hours. Meltdowns in the bathtub. My poor little fellow was suffering something fierce. No sleep was had. No spare moments. I'm not actually sure when the last time was I brushed my teeth, but I'm pretty sure its been a while. Anyway, enough wallowing in details. It was one of the more challenging experiences of parenthood. The fever seems to have broke, and now I feel as though I've only now just caught my breath, and sink blissfully into my sofa, back to my blog, back to normalcy.

I pray that tomorrow will be an improvement, for all of us.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Lessons of Birth

I can't help but feel this blog has died. I've been suffering from fairly severe wrist pain. From carpal tunnel or repetetive strain injury, I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure it's CTS. My wrists were especially painful when I was working at the law firm, which resulted in me using an ergonomic keyboard, two wrist braces and a special chair. All of which simply kept my wrists from hurting while I was at work. When I was at home, I was in agony. I can't lift a pot or a baby without flinching. It really sucks. It also makes typing less than ideal and not recommended, either. I've been laying off, dear reader, in the interests of my health. So I hope you forgive me.

It also means, while I can't type, all sorts of ideas for blog posts have been percolating through my mind.

One of which being, the lessons of birth. As Ender's first birthday approaches, I am nostalgically looking back at the journey Ender, Mike and I have all taken together. It has been rough, wonderful, and undoubtedly life changing. While it could be argued that it all began in pregnancy, the crisis/miracle of birth is where I personally trace the beginning of my life as I now know it.

I doubt that anyone can really reach a conscious state similar to the mind of a labouring woman without the assistance of psychotropic drugs. You are all at once focused, and not of this world. You don't care about your nudity, or the needs of those around you. You need to be alone, but with the hands of the ones around you.

While I was labouring, I didn't let Mike leave my side for more than a few moments. It was so important to me to have him there, looking at me in a way that told me he trusted me with this massive responsibility of bringing our child into the world safely and effectively. I had spent my whole pregnancy informing myself about the politics and language of birth. Its medicalization, its naturalization. I had a clear image in my mind of how I wanted it played out. I wanted a home birth, I wanted my husband, my mother, my midwife and my baby there. That was all. I wanted to lay, exhausted on my own bed after successfully accomplishing what I viewed as the most natural task of all.

As I laboured, it became very clear that the baby was not moving. He was wedged in my spine and causing severe amounts of back pain. My midwife told me to let it all go. I began to sob. I told her that I was sorry. She asked me why I was sorry, and I told her it was because I wanted to do it right. Now I was doing it wrong.

This was straight out of my subconcious. I don't think anything could more succinctly describe the way I feel about life. I want to do it right. I want to rebel right, and conform right. I want to be the right measure of maternal and agressive and beautiful and political. I'm not sure where all of this pressure to do things right came from, but it has dominated me for many years. So, at that moment, when doing things right was not an option, when my subjective view of right was being dictated by my body, and not myself, I had to be set straight.

There is no right way to do this, my midwife said. There is doing it, and that is the right way.

I'm not sure if she realised that that, in itself is significant. There is no right way except getting it done. Living out your life is the right way to do it. So simple. Perfectly nihlistic. Perfectly Nicole.

That's the lesson of my birth, which helps me go forward with my life, and with my motherhood.

Monday, April 12, 2010

scared straight

Well my sofa arrived, and it's even more glorious than the photograph portrayed. I've rented 8 samples of fabric from Designer Fabrics, and have been agonizing over them all day. I have no idea which one is right. The colour that I'm looking for was available, but in a yucky cheap looking microfibre. Microfibre has its place, but not on my shabby-chic victorian revival sofa. It calls for velvet. The sage velvet that I like is 61 dollars a yard. I need about 10 yards, making it prohibitively expensive.

Back to food. I've been posting less about food because a. I've had less time than usual to do all of my cooking, b. the baby is much more mobile and because he can crawl around the house it scares me to leave him alone for even a second, and c. we are very very broke from our trip to Ottawa, which seems to have cascaded us into a series of irresponsible spending behaviours. But I think our bank account balance is enough to scare us straight back into our lentil eating, powdered milk drinking ways.

There are a few new things on my list that I'd like to try. One of them is kimchi. Kimchi is the Korean equivalent of sauerkraut. It is cabbage with chili, green onions, garlic, ginger and a little bit of fish sauce, left to ferment for a few days. It is glorious. For some reason I've been craving Korean food constantly lately. It is possibly some of the best food in the world, and if you've never had Korean food, I suggest you go out and try some tonight. It's fresh, delicious, and usually involves barbeque. I also am going to try and make my own japanese pancakes, which I've had the luck of trying freshly made at a certain Japanese pancake joint I found.  It's like a large vegetable fritter/omelette with cabbage.

Notice that these both largely involve cabbage. Cabbage is cheap. Cabbage is nutritious. We eat a lot of it.

I'm still coming to terms with Ender's new mobility. It's so weird, as I'm used to him being this static little person who I plopped down and was there when I came back. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for him. I know he was getting frustrated at his own inability to move himself. It's fantastic to see him scoot over to all the things he has been staring at for so long.


It's a lot more work. I mean, it is more work than ever before. I thought it would get incrementally easier as he grew older. Not so much. Now I'm trying to cram shoes on Ender's feet as he crawls towards a piece of carpet lint with a hungry look in his eye. His poops are real poops. His food is real food. It's weird. He's growing up so fast, and I have a feeling that before I know it he's not going to be a baby anymore. Like all moms, I'm not ready for that. I'd like him to hold onto that milky sweet baby smell just a little bit longer.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Well, I'm not sure if I've been mentioning this lately in my blog, but I've been in the market for a new couch. I use the word 'new' very lightly, as there's no way we can afford an actually new couch straight from the factory smelling of foam rubber. New to us. I've been trolling the craigslist and kijiji ads for months. I never cease to be amazed by what people will ask for, for an absolute piece of ugly crap. There was one ad where a guy was trying to sell two ends of a sectional for a hundred bucks. It didn't meet up. It was made of that hideous, uncomfortable velvet poly stuff, and was covered in stains. Buddy, I wouldn't pick that out of the trash, let alone pay you a hundred dollars for it.

Our current couch is falling apart. It was my dad's, and both he, I, and several boyfriends have been hard on it. There is the one arm, where the chenille melted when I rested a hot pan on it, back when my kitchen was my living room. There are cigarette holes, from when we used to smoke inside. There are stains, from when I didn't have a dining room and we always ate on the sofa. Worst of all is a large tear that has exposed all the fiber fill, which Ender pulls out in clumps and tries to eat. I don't blame him. It looks yummy, but the texture leaves something to be desired.

But we found a sofa! I finally had honed in what I was looking for. It is in the French provencal style, kind of antiquey looking but probably from the 70s. It's covered in Ivory damask, but we are reupholstering. I haven't yet gone to the fabric store, but I have a firm idea of what I want.

Currently, my house is entirely decorated in burgundy velvet with gold accents and dark wood. Very bordello/shabby chic. Normally I would've said more burgundy velvet for the sofa, but that was before I found this hotel:

The Gramercy Park Hotel looks as though it was decorated by my dreams. It also has the unique idea to pair burgundy with the very unlikely electric blue. But as you can see it looks fabulous. If I can't find the right colour of blue I may go with sage, but blue is ideal.

Um. Yeah. I'm pretty excited.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why I Want What I Want

I've been working lately, and very very busy. You don't realise when you're a stay-at-home mom all the things you have the luxury of doing. I mean, I felt busy before, but now I am positively frantic. In the mornings, I steam Ender's baby food, in the afternoon I puree it, and when he's gone to bed I freeze it in ice cube trays. He has been a picky eater lately, so I'm trying to hone things in to his preference while at the same time expanding his flavours. Mostly he likes sweet things: pears, peaches, beets and squash. I can't blame him, since those are my favourites too! Whenever it's all savoury, say, lentils and broccoli, he'll have none of it. So I have to sneak in weird combinations: lentils and pears, peaches and chickpeas. Sometimes it works, sometimes I'm left with three sandwich baggies of frozen food that Ender refuses to eat. I shall not waste your time, dear reader, with the story of the confluence of my feeding Ender okra and trying to teach him to eat with his hands...let's just say thank god my baby still fits in the kitchen sink for such emergencies.

Now, with time ahead that I'm not working, I'm looking forward to getting back to basics. Piles of baby clothing that no longer fit my rapidly expanding son will be sorted in 'give away' and 'if we every have another kid' piles. Currently fitting clothes will be moved from their current residence on the pink chair, back into dresser drawers where they belong. Ender's room will stop being an oversized closet, and start being a room again. This is my resolution.

I guess as I am waiting for my decision from Dalhousie is as good a time as any to explain the program that I am applying for, and why I'm applying for it. I've applied to costume studies in the theatre department of dalhousie. My mother did theatre studies at Dal, but with a different specialization, in props. Props is in essence the things that the actor uses on stage. The furniture they sit on, the mirrors they scream into, the tree they sit under contemplatively. It is not set creation or design, which is a common misunderstanding. My mom worked in several prop shops when I was growing up, one of which is the one that I am currently working at. While it's not exactly what I want to do, it's close enough for now, and gives me some real experience in the theatre industry. Of late, I've even had a chance to work on some costumey stuff, which is excellent.

The program that I've applied for is for costuming. It has a historical focus, and teaches design as well as construction. I'm mostly interested in design. I want to do period dramas for the BBC or even sci-fi stuff for hollywood. That said, one needs to crawl their way slowly up this ladder. I will probably start as a seamstress for a large wardrobe house. The thing that I like is that there is a ladder to climb, which is not like my job as a legal assistant, in which I was treading water, counting the seconds towards my inevitible demise. Most, if not all wardrobe designers started as seamstresses.

So why do I want to do it? How do I explain it, without sounding overly dramatic....most of my life all I've focused on is what people wear. Does that sound superficial? It's not meant to be. I've always noticed it in such a scientific way, in the sense that clothing is a signifier. It can express so much about a person's standpoint, character and mood. It can also throw things off in its contradiction. This was always my favourite; the honours student with dreadlocks and a lip ring, Marilyn Manson talking eloquently about American politics in a top hat and blind man contact lenses, or Bettie Page, the fetish pinup girl in a bullet bra with a squeaky clean 'jesus loves me' smile. These contradictions were some of my first 'aha!' moments, in which I realised that subversive clothing could exist to not only throw off people's perceptions (were they close minded enough to leave it at that) or have people question their existing ones. If Marilyn Manson can look the way he does, and still be an intelligent and socially concious person, doesn't that make us question things like the wearing of a suit and tie in the business world? Not that I'm against this, but I think that it's much more fitting if done with an awareness of its anachronism and irony. The suit is a signifier of an all boys club in the business world that is dead and gone. Your grandfather would have you believe that it will give you a leg up at a job interview, and maybe it would, but I think this speaks more to the outmoded belief in clothing as signifier of current HR departments. If we can accept a world in which Marilyn Manson is an intellectual and a fetish model is a jesus freak, seeing the business suit as a sign of employability is simply naive. Anyone can dress up to act out a part, if needed. It takes balls to dress up like a freak and convince people you're normal.

Further to this, I like the duplicity of meaning that clothing can have. I love the idea that a corset can act as a stand in for the nude body. That during the Victorian era, the corset itself was a sexier thing than the nude female form. It also simultaneously expressed the chaste and upstanding matron and the she-devil whore. A proper lady wore a corset to maintain her modesty. A loose woman wore a corset to accentuate her assets. The difference, if extant, is deliciously subtle. 

I think I'm going to stop rambling now.

I just wish I had my letter from Dal...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Lesson of the Dinner Party Dessert

This evening, we were out to dinner at a couple friends house for easter. They made a lovely ham and full course meal. I offered to bring a dessert. Probably not the best idea. While I am perfectly capable of hosting my own dinner party, offering to bring only one course has its issues. For one, you want it to be show stopping, since it's the only thing you're providing. Two, it should be relatively easy to prepare, because you doubtlessly have underestimated the amount of time you have to make it before going out the door. Three, you should follow a recipe. It's not the time to wing it.

Well, I betrayed all three of those rules. I had decided to make a pear cheesecake. This relatively simple plan was immediately derailed by the fact that there were no grocery stores open in the vicinity. Mike had independent plans to barbeque some leftover meats from yesterday, so he didn't want to go too far afield. I was stuck with the meagre offerings of our local Hasty Market. With (spreadable) cream cheese, gelatin, condensed (unsweetened) milk, pear flavouring, and a (chocolate) graham cracker crust, I tried to make magic. It didn't happen. For some reason the whole time I was paralysed with fear that the spreadable cream cheese would have the wrong consistency for a proper cheesecake, which lead me to add not one, but four packages of knox gelatin to the mix. The result was a very strange, very dense, indescribeable gelatin cheese cake. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good, either.

At the last minute, I made Mike go out for his third trip to the Hasty Market to buy filo dough and canned peaches and made a last minute ricotta peach struesel. Which was not show stopping. It was eclipsed by the wierd cake that I also brought, that everyone spent the whole time politely eating, trying to describe what it reminded them of. I downed three glasses of white wine in an attempt to drown out the embarassment. It was returned to me along with the cake pan on my way out. Always a bad sign. Mike, on the other hand, ate it with relish. He was and is very glad it returned home with us.

This is all to say that despite the miracles I make in the kitchen, tell me it's my only chance to impress, and I will guaranteedly fail.

Thankfully, my child is very cute and distracting. Even when I've convinced myself that both Mike and I are the most socially awkward and unpleasant people in the world, our sunny, chubby baby redeems us as dinner company. He has begun pulling up on everything, scooching his little butt across the rug to get to his mommy or daddy, and babbling constantly. His words so far are 'mama' 'dada' and 'ubb' which we're pretty sure means 'up' since he always says it with his arms flailing in the air, sitting at our feet.

As usual, I am amazed.

I would like to take him to the doctor soon, though. I am worried at how lean he is in the torso. While I could chalk it up to mother's guilt, I'm worried that he's not eating enough, and he's still holding fast at the weight he was at nine months. This scares me. I would hate for his development to be halted because I was supposed to be supplementing with formula, or force feeding him, or something. He is so reticent to eat, that it shakes my seemingly unshakable belief that mother knows best, and babies lead themselves to healthful habits without intervention from medical authorities.

Well that is all for now, dear reader. More soon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


According to the Dalhousie website, a decision has been made on my application to the costume studies program in the theatre department. Whether the decision is yes or no, only time will tell. It's so nerve wracking to wait. Each possibility has its ups and downs. I'm not especially looking forward to packing up my house, renting it out, finding somewhere new to live, figuring out the logistics of childcare in Halifax once we get there. I am looking forward to the idea that it is possible to do something for a living that I enjoy.

I was thinking today about when I decided to move to Toronto. I had always said I never would do it. Toronto was too brash, greedy, loud, large and lacking in culture. It seemed like the brutish, overweight cousin of the genteel, chainsmoking Montreal I had gotten used to. In Toronto there was no cafe on every corner, the bars weren't open until 3 in the morning. Everyone in Toronto had house parties, because rent was so expensive no one could afford to go out to drink. In Toronto, you couldn't smoke inside. However, as I tried to decide what to do when my graduate studies came to a close, I knew I had to leave my sweet city of Montreal for greener pastures. I couldn't get a job outside of my university, because I wasn't fluently french speaking. Une bière s'il vous plaît was not sufficient and pretty much the full extent of my linguistic abilities. As I mulled it over in my mind, I began to say goodbye to my favourite spots, some of which I still have yet to see again. Parc Mont Royale in the summer, cafe presse in the winter. The fountain at Place des Armes that I fecklessly jumped into when I was seventeen, only to be rebuked moments later by a security guard who boredly pointed at the signs. Where could I go that could possibly match the city I had declared my love to, for so long? I remember discussing it with my mom's partner when I told him I didn't know where I wanted to live.

"You know, Nic, your mom cries a lot." He said it matter-of-factly, leaning in and gripping his steering wheel more tightly.

"Like, generally?" I laughed uncomfortably.

"She would just like you to live closer. She talks about it. Montreal is so far away."

"But we fight every time I visit. If she wanted me to move closer then she'd be nicer."

"I think you both are guilty of that -- of not being nice."

My silence was complicit. Undeniably, both of us were incredibly petty in those years. A nasty feedback loop of one expecting sniping comments from the other, then preemptively striking. It was difficult to tell if either of us were mad at eachother, or just constantly defending percieved attacks.

"I could never live in Toronto though, it's awful there."

He shrugged, clearly feeling as though he had said his piece.

After that conversation, no matter how many reasons piled upon reasons why it was a good idea for me to move to Toronto, and yes there were many, it all came back to that conversation. Despite how much I rebelled, and continue to do so, I don't ever want to make my mom cry. Maybe some tears are inevitible, but I definitely don't want it to be a lot.

In retrospect, it was a good decision. Not only because Toronto was where I met my husband and gave birth to my child, but because it is the first marker for me of adulthood. It was the first selfless choice I made as an adult, and it gives me hope that at one point, after giving and giving and giving, your children give a little back. It's not what they give, but the fact they've learned to give at all.