Saturday, April 29, 2006

Warping young minds since 2006

I thought about posting this on the Books and Babies group on Flickr, and then imagined the sort of feedback that might come from those whom Mimi Smartypants calls "Cat-Sweatshirt People, and reconsidered.

But man, it's too hilarious not to share.

It is immensely draining to have a mobile one-year-old bouncing around an incompletely childproofed house. I keep asking Mr. Krapsnart: "What have we gotten ourselves into?"

On the good side, Pina brought a large stash of maternity clothes for me, and is leaving as a shower present the travel crib that she bought for Ewan to sleep in this weekend. Thanks, Pina and Ian!

The cats are terrified of the baby. At first they were very curious and eager to investigate him, but then he grabbed Charlotte's head. She wasn't so hot on that idea. Now, when he's awake, they spend a lot of time under the bed. Martha ventures out now and then only to panic when he notices her and enthusiastically waves his arms up and down. Poor kitties. They have such a big adjustment coming.

Pregnancy news: the nausea seems to be down to once a week, but now the nosebleeds have started. Yay! Nosebleeds!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

One more picture from last weekend

Originally uploaded by Spamily.
People seem to like this picture a lot. I know I do.

Pina and Ian and their small are coming this weekend. We've never had a one-year-old in the house before. I should get back to battening down the hatches.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Smiling Llarry

Smiling Llarry
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
I love llamas.

We spent the weekend at a bed and breakfast up northeast of Orillia, an hour and a bit north of Toronto. It was marvellous. The hosts were friendly and kind, the house was beautifully appointed, the spring peepers were peeping, the old cat was a great big suck, the reindeer were full of personality, and the llama was highly photogenic. Sunshine would have been nice, and a lack of head cold would have been nicer, but all in all it was a most enjoyable couple of days.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sixteen weeks

Since the awesome day on Tuesday, I have been miserable with a head cold. No good day goes unpunished, I guess.

But the misery of the head cold disappeared into the aether late this afternoon while I was tutoring one of my SAT students, a really good kid who wants to get into Princeton. We were at the office, and suddenly I had to stop talking about logarithms because I had tears welling up.

"I just felt my baby move for the first time," I told him.

It was a quick little fluttering low in my belly. Pina (who had her baby last year) told me a few days ago what to expect, so I knew exactly what the feeling meant.

J. is about seventeen, less than half my age, but he still got it. He was of course a little shocked to see his teacher being so unexpectedly emotional, but he collected himself quickly and immediately congratulated me a few times, then, and again when we were finished for the day. I too collected myself as quickly as I could, and soon we were back to the logarithms, but my mind kept drifting back to my belly. "Hello!" I kept thinking. "Hello! You're really there! Hello! How are you doing? Are you getting everything you need? Hello! Are you healthy? Will I ever get tired of your kicking? Hello!"

I knew the quickening happened at about sixteen to eighteen weeks, and had been envisioning where I'd be when it did. But I hadn't imagined it would be at the sixteen-week mark on the nose.

There really is somebody in there. Wow, sez I.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A good day

Today did not suck. It was Mr. Krapsnart's 40th, and in the morning I gave him two small presents: a rubber chicken and a cow in a can. (I was so excited to find the cow in a can at a toy store the other day. I'd been looking for one for years.)

I then took my bike to the shop where I bought it last year so that I could get it tuned up a bit and get the flat handlebars swapped out for ones with a bit more sweep, so that my wrists quit freaking out when I ride. (Yet another thing one is not told before pregnancy: carpal tunnel is very common in the second and third trimesters.) I also asked the guy (who built the bike, which I adore) to put on a new mirror, because the bracket for the old one was cracked.

Then I went to the Mountain Equipment Co-Op to see about getting a GPS unit as Mr. K's real birthday present. He's been wanting one for years.

The guy at the Co-Op could not have been more helpful. He spent at least 15 minutes talking to me, describing the pros and cons of the models I was interested in, and showing me how to use the one that I eventually bought. The computer said there were two in stock, but he couldn't find the other one, so he offered me the demo model complete with batteries. Sold, I said, and thanked him, and then went upstairs to get some shoe insoles. Suddenly there he was, saying that he'd found the new, unopened one. So we traded, and I thanked him again. He didn't have to do that.

Work went pretty well; the students in the TOEIC class seem to be warming up to me more, and I'm getting to know the test better. Then I had a nice conversation with the new volunteer, who has 60 hours of TESL training under her belt but no actual teaching experience. It was odd to feel like a grizzled veteran. I also got to listen to the boss talk to her and describe his teaching philosophy, which he's been carefully honing for more than a decade. He said something I hadn't heard him say before: he believes there are four stages of teaching. One: you know what the answer is. Two: you know why it's the answer. Three: you can explain why it's the answer. Four: you can do all of the above and add something extra. He tries, and encourages us to try, to reach the fourth stage as often as possible.

It's so nice to work for an experienced teacher who prompts me to think hard about my profession and how to improve in it. It might be easy to stagnate, working in test prep, but I have a feeling that this job will continue to challenge me.

After work, I went home to drop off my knapsack, and then made my way back to the bicycle shop. I'd expected to pay somewhere in the neighbourhood of $90, all told, for the tuneup and the new handlebars and the new mirror. The mechanic asked me how much I'd paid for the old mirror (which I hadn't even bought there), and I told him. He knocked that much off the price of the new mirror. (!) When I took the bike to the front and handed my card to the cashier, she rang it up as $9.20. I tried to protest, saying I was sure I owed them a lot more than that. But she looked at my bike and said, "We won't charge you for the handlebars because it's one of our bikes, and it's your first tuneup, so we won't charge you for that either." So $9.20 it was. Wow, sez I.

I am now a very big fan of the Urbane Cyclist shop.

And the bike rides so, so much better now. I love my bike.

Then it was off to dinner with Mr. K at the Archeo Trattoria (formerly the Distillery Canteen [formerly the 1832 Restaurant]) around the corner. The service was impeccable and the food was great. And Adrienne Clarkson and her husband John Ralston Saul were having dinner there too. We were quietly thrilled.

As we were walking home at around 9:30 we noticed that the doors of the Brick Street Bakery were wide open, so we went inside to see what we could get for dessert. There were a lot of beautiful lemon curd tarts just sitting there waiting to be eaten. We asked the guy behind the counter, "Are you open?"

"No," he said cheerfully. "What can I get you?"

Any evidence of the lemon curd tart that made it home has since vanished.

Happy birthday, love of my life.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Nearly fifteen weeks

Saw the midwife today. I was impressed by how thorough a physical she gave me: checked my heart and lungs, thyroid, reflexes, blood pressure (105/64), pulse, and the baby's heart rate (148bpm). Mr. Krapsnart got to hear it for the first time. It's not a sound I get tired of. Just over three weeks until the big anatomical ultrasound.

Nigella's Asian-spiced kedgeree was dinner tonight. Yum, yum, yum. I'd never cooked with lime leaves before. We have a big bag of them now, so I'll have to find some other recipes that use them.

I've been reading a lot lately. Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, a novel about a bright middle-class girl who goes off to a hoity-toity boarding school in Massachusetts, hit a lot of nerves. Her descriptions of the campus, the alienation that the main character felt there, the intense and sometimes spectacularly failed friendships, the racial and especially class tensions: it all reminded me far too much of my own college experience. Sittenfeld is a very good writer with a knack for capturing the angst of a smart teenager who's a fish out of water no matter where she goes. I liked Prep a lot, even if it was awfully wrenching at times.

Another book I just finished was Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore. I've read all of Murakami's translated fiction and generally liked it a lot, but with this one (another tale of adolescent alienation, with a heavy dose of Japanese surrealism and general weirdness) I found myself rather baffled at the end. I know that the last scene with Hoshino was supposed to be the climax of the book, but I couldn't figure out what it represented. The weird, while satisfyingly meaningful and symbolic most of the time, too often seemed to me to be there for the sake of the weird. (I wonder whether a toke or two would help with this book. Can't test that theory right now, alas.)

Kate Taylor's Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen was marvellous. Historical fiction (in the form of Marcel Proust's mother's diaries) blended seamlessly with the stories of the diaries' translator and a French Holocaust escapee who grew up in Toronto. The book evokes very strong senses of place (especially this city, rewarding since I've been here for so long), and it is a bittersweet, poignant work about love and family and food and history and memory. Highly recommended.

I've just started Edward P. Jones's The Known World, more historical fiction set in nineteenth century Virginia. I can't read very much of it at a time, because I just get to shaking with anger about the whole idea of slavery. Reading about people working for years to put money away to buy their own children brings the true depravity of such a system home on a gut level. I keep thinking about my ancestor who fought for the Confederate Army, and I'm sure that many of my numerous North Carolina relatives must have kept slaves. So there's familial shame and good old lib'rull white guilt burbling up as well, for all the good they do. It would be easy to put this book down and just tuck all that rage and shame away again. But I'll keep reading, because I should know more about this stuff. Everyone should.

Finally, I picked up a copy of Ami McKay's new book The Birth House today -- the midwives were selling autographed copies. It's about a woman in rural nineteenth century Nova Scotia who is apprenticed to a midwife who dies just as a male obstetrician is moving into town and holding afternoon teas to explain why it's no longer necessary to endanger Our Children by letting unqualified women look after mothers during pregnancy and delivery. I suspect this one will have me foaming at the mouth as well. The more I read about the medicalization of birth for women with normal, low-risk pregnancies, the angrier I get about that, too.

Women are built to make babies and give birth to them. Most mothers don't need medical intervention. There are reams and reams of information passed down through generations of women about how our bodies work and how we can treat them well in order to bring about healthy outcomes (and babies).

I'm looking forward to learning more about midwifery so that I can learn more about social history as well. The Birth House should be a fascinating start.

In other news, Martha the cat is still impossibly cute.

Friday, April 07, 2006

We'll definitely be going back to this place

One of my colleagues and I went out for lunch at a nice Indian restaurant on Eglinton today. His comment, on seeing this sign: "I'd like three grams, please."