Stay at Home Dad

BDH is taking a week’s vacation this week. He’s been sick, like we all have, for six weeks now, and it’s been a good five or six months since his last vacation. So he opted to take a week off and just rest and hang out.

One of the nice things is that, during this time, he gets the opportunity to get back in touch with what his daughter does in the course of a day. Being at work all day, five days a week most weeks, he gets what she does, on an intellectual level. Of course. But he doesn’t really get to experience what she does, or see the little things that I get to see but don’t mention, and perhaps take for granted.

Take swimming class, for example. Today was the first time in two years of swimming lessons that BDH has had the chance to see That Girl in swim class. He had not even been in the recreation centre before today. He just didn’t have the opportunity. But he got to sit and watch his girl paddle about — well, dunk underwater, mostly, because that is all she seems to want to do — and he really got a kick out of it.

I forget, sometimes, that these things are new and fun for him, because I see them all the time. And I forget that the little things that I take for granted may be the things that give him the greatest joy in a day with Stinkerbelle.

He has done the school run this week, and gotten to be the recipient of the joyous run-and-hug at the door that finishes each school day for Stinkerbelle. Tomorrow he’s going to get up with her and get her fed and ready for school, so I can have a sleep-in day. He’s going to sit in with me at a meeting with her developmental coordinator tomorrow. He is having breakfast with his best girl every day. And lunch. And playtime. We may even get out for a walk in the woods one day, if the weather cooperates.

I forget all the little things that make my day full and rewarding, that he gets to experience new on these days off. I think that, although he’d also love to be able to sleep in and play is online game and relax all day, he is enjoying his week as a stay-at-home dad.

It’s no week in Barbados, and no mistake. But he wouldn’t get as many kisses and hugs and moments of joy in a week in Barbados, either.


When I was living in Japan, being tall and athletic, I couldn’t buy clothes. Most conventional sizes stopped where I began, and certainly would never have been tall enough. So, because I needed clothes, I had to make my own.

Now, back in junior high school, I was not what you’d call a girly girl. And, to be fair, I am STILL not what anyone would call a girly girl. But back then, having no mom or similarly female frame of reference on which to base my ideas of what was feminine, I was not schooled so much in the finer arts of cooking and housekeeping and sewing.

So, when the time came for Home Ec class, I was so incredibly inept at sewing that by about the middle of term, my lovely Home Ec teacher recognized that sewing was going to be an exercise in frustration and failure for me, not to mention any machine I touched, and gently banned me from ever using the sewing machines again. (Cooking proved to be a lot more successful.)

Bearing this in mind, when I was in Japan, and needing clothes, I decided it was time to suck it up and learn, else I go naked through the train system of Osaka. So I sent home for my sewing machine to be shipped to me, and thus began my generally pleasant and mutually respectful relationship with my Singer.

The clothes I made were functional, but looking back, pretty awful. I bought remnants of cheap poly-cottons, and I knew nothing of lining and interfacing. But for the most part, my seams were straight, my zippers and buttonholes worked, and I looked relatively respectable from a distance.

When I came home from Japan, during the 30 or so hours of travel, I must have looked a ridiculous sight, schlepping through train station and airport, carting my faithful Singer in one hand and a fairly large stuffed toy duck in the other. The duck couldn’t fit anywhere else. And the sewing machine? I was not taking ANY chances shipping, and so carried it and stowed it and made sure it got home safely. It got a crack in the case, but otherwise arrived unharmed.

And then, it sat neglected for much of the last 20 years in closets in the various places I have lived.

I have taken it out, but very rarely. I was making real money, when I got home, so if I needed something I bought it. Sewing was not something I LOVED to do, like knitting. It was something I learned how to do and needed to do, but I didn’t love it. Occasionally, I made something like curtains, and planned and gathered fabric for a quilt for Stinkerbelle, and mended clothing and other items that needed it. But I never really loved it.

And, over the last 20 years, my machine has begun to show its neglect. It is still in good working order, but the once cream-coloured plastic bits of the machine — the case, the handle and some facing bits, the removable tray part on which you put your fabric — has now turned a dull gold-yellow colour from dust and age, and combined with the still-cream metal parts, gives it an oddly retro two-tone look.

But although I don’t love sewing, I do love that machine. And so, this year, I saw it sitting neglected in my closet and decided to use it once again.

Back in September, you may recall, I made a bag for Stinkerbelle to take to school to bring home all her crafts. I found an easy pattern online and whipped up a cute little bag in an afternoon. And I had fabric under my bed that I had purchased a few years back because it was totally up my alley but had never used. So, when at New Years I decided on a bunch of knitting projects, and I realized that I had no storage for them, I thought of that little bag.

I decided to make some knitting project and storage bags out of that fab fabric.

Sewing is not something I can do with Stinkerbelle around, what with irons and ironing boards and pins and moving machine parts, but during naptimes on the weekend I have managed to make a few.

They’re nothing fancy, and on close inspection the seams are pretty shaky and there’s an errant half-a-buttonhole where I began a buttonhole for a drawstring only to realize it has been over 20 years since I used the buttonhole feature and could not really remember how it was supposed to work. So I abandoned it mid-buttonhole. We’ll call that “a feature”.

Each one has handles to grab and go, and a drawstring to pull tight so as not to lose any balls of yarn or needles or whatnot. And they’re various sizes, so I can tote small projects out to keep me busy during Stinkerbelle’s dance class or store larger projects and their yarn like my large Weather Wrap throw blanket.

But the handles on some are slightly wonky, and the drawstring holes are a bit makeshift due to the buttonhole issue (I’ll practice that for next time). And they’re unlined poly-cotton which means they won’t last as long as a lined bag or stronger fabric would. But each one is a learning experience, and will do for the time being, and so I am quite pleased with them.

Perhaps in future I’ll invest in some thicker, stronger fabric, or, more likely, line the bags with other fabric. But for now, they’ll do the job.

Now, my problem is no longer where to store my stash of yarn and projects, but where to store my many bags of yarn.

Not the Medicine the Doctor Prescribed

Stinkerbelle is recovering from a fairly nasty chest cold. And while she does, we’re housebound, for the most part.

This is good. She needs the quiet time. She’s not been sleeping well, so she’s pretty tired, but also, whenever she gets active, it sets her to coughing pretty furiously. So we have been trying to keep things pretty low-key.

This means we’ve been trying to find quieter activities. We have watched A LOT of TV, mostly gentle things like Kipper and School House Rock. We’ve folded loads of laundry. We got out the purse and hair bows and costume bling that That Girl got for Xmas and spent some time getting GORGEOUS, DAHLING. And I have done more laps of the attic than I care to count, pulling Stinkerbelle and assorted stuffed pals around in the wagon she got for Xmas from her Auntie Tena and Uncle Randy.

But it’s hard, being quiet and stuck at home, for both of us.

A couple of days ago, Stinkerbelle had a pretty rough night, and so the next day she was feverish and tired and her sleep schedule was totally effed up. Consequently, we found ourselves at 8 pm with a little girl who had no intention of sleeping. So we thought we’d let her sit up with us and watch something on TV.

The problem? We were watching one of our favourite movies, Pirate Radio. Which, set in the 60s in a rebellious floating rock radio station, you may know is peppered with a lot of the more colourful language that a pair of potty mouths like BDH and especially me have been trying to censor around the small parrot we call Stinkerbelle, at least until we can teach her the concepts of “appropriate use” and “power of language”, which won’t be for a long while yet. So.

But, remote control in hand, we figured we could just skip past the more colourful moments and just enjoy the brilliant music and the fun of the movie. So we did. Well, you can’t skip ALL the cuss words and off-colour references. PARENTING FAIL. But That Girl was pretty lethargic and quiet, and mostly was in it for the snuggle time with Daddy, and kind of dozed a bit of the time. So we had a nice time and when it was over, she was plonked into bed with no argument and went right to sleep.

But that night, I made note of the mess that is our movie collection since our reorganization of the attic space. And yesterday, I thought it would be something quiet to do for Stinkerbelle and I to sort and organize our movies together. I could sort and shelve, and Stinkerbelle had piles of movies to stack up and use like big blocks. So that was fun. We completely reorganized our shelves of movies, into what I thought was a good personal system but most people would find completely unfathomable.

So that was good for a couple of hours of fun for That Girl, AND I tacked a project that has needed doing for quite a while. And we chatted and played and sang songs while we worked.

Stinkerbelle has finally given up singing Christmas songs, and for the last week or so has been singing her usual school songs and kids’ songs. Sometimes she just sings random snippets of tunes or little songs she’s made up. But for the last day or two, she’s been singing a little song over and over again. It’s not been one I recognized, but that’s nothing new. I often don’t clue into the songs she’s picked up at school until I hear it from the source — Stinkerbelle’s versions tend to be faithful in spirit but not so much in lyrical accuracy or tunefulness.

Yesterday she kept singing this song, though. And then she’d look to me and say “Now your turn, Mommy!” I couldn’t join in because I had no idea what it was. She was growing frustrated that I could not clue in.

And then, yesterday afternoon, I asked her what she wanted to watch. She kept saying something about “The Girl” but I had no idea what she was talking about. So I sat here and watched her walk over to the shelves of videos. She looked through the spines of the videos — she can’t read, remember — and eventually, on the fourth shelf, she pulled out a video and said “THIS ONE, Mommy!” and thrust it at me.

Not a Disney movie, or a cartoon, or one of the many kids’ movies we have in our collection. Oh no. Not my kid.

It was Pirate Radio.

And she started singing her little song. And suddenly, I clued in.

I put Pirate Radio in the DVD player, and watched as Stinkerbelle sat, enraptured, as one of the best, most joyous opening scenes in our movie collection unfolded, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s awesome deejay’s intro and the opening strains of The Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night” burst from our speakers. And in time with the music and the people dancing through the opening sequence, Stinkerbelle suddenly started singing along and dancing for all she was worth, a little jig of joy around the room.

I stifled the tears of pride and joined her singing and doing my best worst 60s dance moves.

When the opening sequence was done and the song was over, she shouted “AGAIN MOMMY!”

We watched it over and over, maybe ten times or more.

So much for restfulness. It seems That Girl had some energy to burn. And that pretty much indicated she was recovered from her cold.

She’s got a bit of a cough still, and we’re keeping her out of swimming today until the meds she’s got have had a good kick at the ear infection she had brewing. One more day at home will be good, and then it’s back to school tomorrow.

But I am sure today will be a more energetic day. And probably there will be some 60s rock and roll to keep things interesting.

Love and Hate Friday

For some people, the glass is half full. Others find it is half empty. Some people are just happy to be offered a glass.

Stinkerbelle is sick.
HATE: She was up all night coughing and feverish.
LOVE: Her little voice is all squeaky and froggy and it’s so cute when she talks.

Stinkerbelle is sick, Part Deux.
HATE: She’s feeling poorly and just wants to lay on the sofa and watch TV.
LOVE: More knitting time for me!!

There’s snow in the forecast.
HATE: It sucks for those of us who have to go out and commute to work in it, and those of us who worry about those who commute in it.
LOVE: It gives us an excuse to stay in. For some it is time to recuperate. For others, it is time to be lumps of knitting, period-drama-watching laziness.

I have a Kobo but it is temperamental.
LOVE: When it works, I want to READ ALL THE BOOKS.

Temperamental Kobo, Part the Second.
LOVE: It is seriously cutting back my online time, which is good because the Interwebs have been annoying me lately.

I am getting up early and exercising.
LOVE: It’s good for me!

I am a super online bargain shopper who got several pairs of slippers for myself and Stinkerbelle for around $6 apiece.
LOVE: I have warm feet during the day. Stinkerbelle has warm feet at night because she sleeps in hers, so that means fewer 3 AM wake up calls to cover her up.
HATE: Mine are slip ons and because one of my feet is about a size smaller than the other, I am forever blowing a shoe walking up or down the stairs. My slippers shall kill me. DEATH BY SLIPPER IT SHALL BE.

I have new glasses.
HATE: I am not getting used to them, and feel like I am drunk all the time, without the fun party beforehand.
LOVE: They cover up the embarrassing blemish on my nose and the raccoon-eyes caused by lack of sleep.

I got 4 tins of David’s Tea for Xmas.
LOVE: So delicious.

I’m Not Laughing

Okay, so. Guess who’s sick again?

NOT ME. But, BDH has bronchitis. AND post-bronchitis, which means when he was sick at Xmas? THAT was bronchitis. And then he got better. And now he has post-bronchitis. But since getting better, while suffering with post-bronchitis, he’s managed to get bronchitis AGAIN.  So, both bronchitis AND post-bronchitis. AT THE SAME TIME.

NICE. That takes a special gift, that does.

And, this afternoon, guess who started coughing?

NOT ME. But Stinkerbelle’s nap was punctuated with coughs, and she’s been coughing ever more steadily since then. TWO DAYS BACK in school, and ALREADY she’s come home sick. Or picked up Daddy’s bronchitis. Whatever.

EXCELLENT. I expect the next few nights are going to be GREAT FUN.

So, who’s next in line, do you think? The one who’s gotten sick every other week since September? The one who’s got asthma and is already prone to these sorts of things? The one who’s just gotten over the whole viral nastiness at Christmas?


Hopefully I shall dodge this bullet, and avoid getting whatever it is these two have.


No, I am not laughing AT you, sickness gods. I am laughing NEAR you. Would I laugh at you? After all, we’ve become SO CLOSE this year.

You bastards.

And Now We Exhale

Today is the first day back to school for the kids in our area. What this means for us is that it was the first day back to school for Stinkerbelle, as well as the week wherein all her rec programs resume. We are resuming our regularly scheduled programming.

We can now exhale.

I had forgotten how much we like a schedule around here. Not just me, mind you — although I have expounded repeatedly on the subject, I know — but That Girl as well. She loves to know what is coming up for her day, and to have things to look forward to, and to plan to see people. That last part is especially important for her. She has been a very sociable child, since her very earliest days, apparently, and she remains so. She loves to see people and have kids to play with and have friends to talk to.

I think the holidays was hard for her. She was sick, like we all were, and so she was tired and needed a lot of sleep and generally didn’t mind laying around or watching TV or whatever during the holidays. FOR A WHILE, anyway.  But she was also the quickest of all of us to recover and consequently, she was reaching OMG SO BORED status by about New Year’s Day. And it took a little longer for her parental units to be back up to fighting trim in that time, so we were unable to or unwilling to do a lot of activities we normally would do to keep her busy and burning energy, like going outside or whatever. Sure, we shovelled the drive and walk and the neighbour’s drive a few times, and we walked in the woods once, and we played in the snow a couple of times (or, to be honest, she played and I watched), but it was just not enough, often enough, to burn off the energy of a very busy three-year-old.

So she was bored. And thus EXTREMELY HAPPY to be back in school today.

I was glad to see her go back, too. I hate seeing her bored and unhappy, and school just pushes all the kid’s contentment buttons. She gets to play with friends, and talk to other people, and run around in the gym, and she comes home aglow and buzzing with excitement about what happened during her morning. So that was lovely.

And for me? Structure returns to my day. A schedule is back in place around which I can plan. THIS IS GOOD.

I got work done, and did some chores that needed doing, and had some tasks I was able to catch up on. I had time to have a pot of tea. I started thinking of the week stretching out before me and making plans. And this makes me contented. I like knowing what hours I have to do what tasks. I like having plans and accomplishing things on my list.

Don’t get me wrong — hours of knitting and watching Lark Rise to Candleford as I have had over the last two weeks has been lovely. I have enjoyed it. But if you’re going to have hours of leisure, you want to be well enough to enjoy it, and have it be part of everyone’s plan.

And while I have enjoyed knitting and TV time, that is not ALL I want to do, ALL THE TIME. Even during time off, I also like to get things done, and on my schedule. MY schedule. I am sure several of you can relate to the emphasis — it is good to have a measure of control over your day, and to dictate what you will do during that day, and when. When you are stuck at home for a longish period of time, or have no schedule to meet, or have someone else relying on you to meet their needs or making the plans, it may be fine — for a day or two, even a week if you are, say, on a beach in Barbados or whatever. But when you are at home, it gets old after a little while. After that, it’s a pain.

But we are back in our routine. We are well again (for the time being… except for BDH, who is still suffering) and glad to be getting out and doing things. We have places to go and people to see and things to do.

We can exhale, and it is not a cough or a yawn or a sigh of frustration.

Love and Coconut

There’s a lot about three-and-a-half that will drive you crazy. The endless drama. The saucy talk. The being-contrary-because-I-can. The endless WHYs and the random HOWs. And there are days when I think THREE = NOT MY FAVOURITE.

But then, to remind you of how cool this age can be, you have days like today.

My child, with her speech delays and oral motor issues, can be a challenge even without all the three-and-a-half stuff going on. Even being her most pleasant, sweetest, funniest self, spending an hour and a half on a meal can drive you mental. Telling her not to do something and having her immediately go right ahead and do it because she had NO IDEA WHAT YOU SAID can make even the most patient parent lose it.

But today, that stuff was not in the house. She was almost, ALMOST, like what I know children of her age to be. And it was lovely.

With her extremely limited food options and incapacity to cope with new foods, when she a) says she wants to try to eat something, and 2) says she likes it and wants more, you learn to go with it. So, today we did.

For New Years, we bought some assorted sweets from the grocery store bakery. We had leftovers the next day that we put out on a tray, and as a matter of habit, as I do with anything new, I asked Stinkerbelle if she would like to try a cookie. It was a macaroon, dipped in a little chocolate.

I thought no way, there’s no way she’s going to want to try it, and certainly if she does there’s no way she’s going to be able to cope with the stickiness and the chewiness and the texture of strands of coconut.

She tried it. She liked it.



So I got out a cookbook and found a recipe for macaroons. And I said to her today, we will make some of those cookies. My kid loves the mixer, and loves to participate in baking. So I thought we’d run to the grocery store, get what we needed for the week and for the macaroons, and then we’d do a little baking together.

It was the only time I have ever seen my child be impatient at the store (other than when she’s sick). She LOVES the grocery store and talking to everyone and being out and about. But not today. Today she was all about going home and making cookies. All through the store she politely complained that it was time to go home. And she told anyone she encountered that we had to go home and use the mixer.

So we did.

We came home, and got everything ready. (The recipe for macaroons is so simple, it doesn’t need a mixer — it can be done easily with a spoon and a bowl. So I had to promise we’d make something else after naptime.) And I cannot tell you the pleasure I took from the simple act of making these cookies. Standing there in my kitchen with That Girl on a chair beside the counter, letting her pour ingredients in and stir things. Squatting down together in front of the oven to watch as cookies bake. Having the give and take of a conversation in which she understands what is going on, and can identify things and sounds and tastes.

And the best part of all, having her sit at the table and eat something we baked. Actually ENJOY it. No complaining, no resisting, no flailing, no crying. Just eating and enjoying.

It was lovely.

Sure, she flung (flinged? flang?) coconut all over the counter with her spoon. And sure, she knocked a glass of orange juice everywhere in her excitement. But those are things you expect when cooking and eating with a three year old.

It’s when you make things time and time and time again, and offer them to her, and have her reject them out of hand, that it begins to get a bit wearing. It’s when you find yourself making three separate meals sometimes so that everyone in the house is happy that it’s a challenge. It’s when you have a very limited number of options of what she will eat and you worry about how to get more nutrition into her diet that it gets challenging. It’s when you realize that she has never eaten a fresh uncooked vegetable, or never eaten an apple, or most other fresh fruit, and that it’s been days since you can remember if she has eaten vegetables in her meals that you begin to feel like a failure. And you wonder if she will ever, ever be like other kids, or if it will always be a struggle.

So the simple act of making something together and happily eating what we made can seem huge. Monumental. It makes for a really good day.

And the bonus? Finding one more way my kid is like me — liking coconut — one more thing we share, is so much fun. As an adoptive parent, you get used to the idea that your kid is not like you, biologically, so you can’t say “we have the same eyes/nose/toes/whatever”. So you find ways in which you ARE alike and celebrate the hell out of them.

There are going to be a lot of macaroons in our future. That’s good. The future is looking bright. And sticky. And chewy.

Welcome, New Year.

It’s a new year, in case you’ve been sleeping or, say, time travelling these past few days.

The whole New Year thing has lost its magic for me in recent years. Nobody is ever transformed instantly with the stroke of 12 and the dawn of a new day, but as you grow up, you wait for that click-over and think “now things will be DIFFERENT”. They never are, and as you grow older, you begin to come to terms with that. So we have stopped with the hoopla of New Years Eve and just get on with it.

That’s not to say we don’t do anything to mark the beginning of a new year. It’s just that we’re no longer about dressing up and going out and drinking and partying and all that. We prefer to spend our New Year’s Eve/Day much more quietly. Some years we watch a movie and eat tasty noms. Some years we go to bed early but make a big meal for New Year’s Day. This year, we spent a very relaxed evening with Janna and Andrew, with way more food than should be allowed by law. And that was nice. So much so, we’re already all WE SHOULD DO THIS AGAIN NEXT YEAR.

I’m also finding, as I grow older, that I no longer feel compelled to make New Year’s Resolutions. Mostly this is because they almost always set you up to fail. Like I said, nobody can change overnight, and I think people make these grand resolutions in the hazy light of a dying year with the hope that some magic will make things different come the dawn. And it never works that way.

Instead, I find myself using the new year as a first step on a road to making some changes in my life, but changes that usually take much more planning or much more deliberately slow progress than a grand pronouncement will allow. I set myself off on the path to making something different. Usually, the path has a number of steps. The change is incremental.  And I find that makes it much, much easier to succeed.

That’s the thing about goals: they need to measurable and achievable.

When I was a teacher, I learned to set people up to succeed, even if it was simply in small ways to begin with. People like to succeed, and it’s good for your progress if you do every now and again. So I try now to build that “need to succeed” into these goals for myself. I try to set myself smaller goals, sometimes as a way to make larger goals happen, but sometimes not. Sometimes the smaller goals are enough. I set myself some challenges, usually incremental things that I can do maybe weekly or monthly, so that each increment competed is a success.

So, what am I going to do this year to make some changes in my life, or in the lives of others, or both?

  • Photos: In 2010, I did a Project 365, taking a photo each day for a year. That was a really challenging one, and I kind of failed at it. I probably managed a photo on, say, 325 days of the 365. More than A photo, more like 10 or 50 or 100 photos each day I managed to get a camera out. So while I failed at the 365 challenge, where I succeeded was to have an enormous treasure trove of photos of the year and, more specifically, photos of Stinkerbelle. And this past year, 2011, I really noticed the lack of photos to mark her growth and change. So this year, I’m kind of modifying my challenge to myself. I’m going to aim for taking a picture for as many days as I can, but my actual goal is to make sure I have photos for each week. 52 storage folders on our hard drive, each one filled with as many photos as I can manage that week.
  • Exercise: This one is hard. Lifestyle change goals are almost impossible to meet unless you make them realistic. I know I need more exercise in my life, but I also know that whatever I do, it has to be adaptable. A couple of years ago, BDH and I used to do 100-Day Exercise Challenges and the like, to push each other to exercise on a regular basis. And we’re competitive, so there was someone to push you to get ‘er done. But with a Stinkerbelle and our busy lives, something that long and hard is not always that easy, nor are we always able to do things at the same time. So I am going to set myself monthly challenges of things to do, and re-evaluate every month how it’s going. Maybe I will try to do yoga every day one month. Maybe I’ll get up early each workday and ride the recumbent bike in another month. Maybe I’ll get out and walk every day once the weather is fine. But in small, interesting, motivating blocks of time, I can fit in exercise AND make it a change that is easy to continue with.
  • 12 knitting projects in 2012: Last year I did an “11 in 2011” knitting challenge in my online knitting community, and had to get 11 projects done over the course of the year. And I did it, which was a great feeling of accomplishment. I’m doing another one this year, but this time it’s “12 in 2012”. Dog help me. But I learned that not all projects have to be OMG GIANT PROJECTS  like blankets and such, and that it was good to push myself to get some things done. I got two blankets, a scarf, and a bunch of little things done, as well as some charity squares and things that didn’t even go into the challenge. This year, I have a blanket for Stinkerbelle to finish, some charity squares I want to get done and sent, as well as some small household projects, and some new things I’d like to try. There’s no shortage of things to knit, certainly.
  • 12 knitted hats in 2012: This one is similar to the knitting challenge above. Signing up for the challenge keeps me on track and accountable, and after finding a 12 in 12 challenge specific to hats, I knew exactly what I would do. After reading on her blog about herd boys in Lesotho and the deplorable conditions that they live in, I promised Melissa that I would make 15 hats for her to take when she travels to contribute to improving the lots of these boys.

We’ve also got some Very Important Life Stuff to get done, and some other little changes we’d like to make around here, so we need to set out some goals and plans and get them done.


I am sure there are other things to try to do, things I have forgotten. But that’s a good start. A good start and a good plan for what I hope will be a good year.