Archive for October, 2007


October 31, 2007

Just in case you’re lacking sound effects for your haunted house tonight.

Happy Hallowe’en!

Every Day Is Halloween

October 30, 2007

It is fitting that, as Hallowe’en approaches, I am looking more and more like a zombie. A zombie with a bit of a bulge around the middle, which doesn’t seem quite right, but still: I’ve got the vacant look and the darkly-circled eyes and the pallor of an old white sheet that’s been washed once too often with dirty grey socks. Throw in some periodic groaning and heaving and much, much lurching and you’ve got the barely-living dead, for sure.

That’s what weeks of nausea and vomiting and, now, many days of anxiety-induced and nausea-aggravated insomnia will do. I am now the walking pregnant dead. Should be good for scaring the children.

Wonderbaby is ready for Hallowe’en, too. She’s going as an extra from the Brady Bunch movie, or HBM-circa-the-mid-seventies, depending upon whether I can get the wig to stay on her head. The thing is, I don’t know what to do with her once I’ve got her costumed. She seems too young for trick-or-treating – and in any case, I’m not keen to get her started on the whole hoarding-candy thing – but she still seems old enough to get into the fun of Hallowe’en.

Last year she went as Sesame Street’s lone burlesque performer. We stayed in and I made her dance, but there was NO CANDY.

So do we just keep her in, helping to open the door and give out treats to the little ghouls and goblins and ninjas and bees who come a-callin’ (in which case, how do we keep her little paws away from all of the candy that the other kids are getting? I’m anal about candy – for her, not for me. I like candy, too much. I know, it’s hypocritical, but whatever) – or what?

Nobody tells me about this stuff. How I am supposed to know what to do?

When did your kids start – or when will they start – trick-or-treating? How do you – will you – negotiate the whole candy thing? Or is Hallowe’en just a big ol’ festival of evil and I should high me to a church and forget all this nonsense?

*(Undying – er, undead – respect if you get the reference of the title of this post.)

Addendum To Vulva (Or, ‘Once You Start Talking About It, You Just Can’t Stop’)

October 28, 2007

We’re still reading The Book at storytime. Wonderbaby asks for it, and in any case, it’s become something of a personal challenge to find ways of discussing, with her, the vulva-like flower and the abbreviated erotic haiku that accompanies its image without explicitly discussing, you know, gynecology and cultural interpretations thereof, while at the same time affording ourselves ample opportunity for dirty giggles.

Why flower hot Mommy?

– Because the flower’s on fire, honey.

Why flower got fire Mommy?

– Because sometimes, sweetie, when flowers are really, really happy, they burst into flame.

I’d like to thank* the ever-thoughtful Kittenpie for pointing out that Georgia O’Keeffe’s Red Canna does kinda look like it’s on fire – which, really, makes the whole erotic subtext of the board-book page in question all the less subtextual, to my mind, but still. And, too, I’d like to thank dear Bubandpie for consulting her own experts on this particular text and reminding me that the story continues on the very next page:

Fire truck. You know, to put out the flames on the vulvic lily on the preceding page.

A well-equipped fire truck, too, obviously. Note the numbers.

Nothing eases the heat of a flaming vulvic lily than Number 69.

I think that we’ve all learned something important about the pedagogy of sexuality, haven’t we folks? I’m not sure what it is, exactly, but I feel, strongly, that it’s important.


*Thanks, too, to the ever-scorching OTJ, who nicely underscored my point about the inherent lameness of using botanical imagery in depictions of female genitalia by e-mailing me a link to a page with more colourful descriptions. It is, of course, much more, um, vivid to use wildlife imagery than imagery involving flowers and jewels. Although now we have to put away Goodnight Gorilla. (You won’t get that joke unless you follow this link. But I warn you, the language that you are about to encounter is not for the fainthearted or excessively prudish. Consider yourself warned.)

*Non-Sexual Miscellany:

1) Sicky preggos out there – I’ve discovered something that sorta helps the nausea, which at this stage, for me, is a discovery of epic proportions: decaffeinated Lady Earl Grey tea, with honey and lemon. TRY IT.

2) Karen MEG – you’ve won the draw for some cool Crayola stuff. E-mail me!

V Is For Vulva (That’s Good Enough For Me)

October 26, 2007

I’ve always cringed at references to women’s parts that invoke floral imagery. ‘The soft petals of her womanhood,’ ‘she opened to him like a flower’ – ew, ew, ew and ick. They’re lazy, these tired botanical tropes, these limp figures of speech that call upon a weak association between the softer, gentler, prettier elements of nature and womanhood. They’re lazy, because they derive whatever resonance they carry from our deeply ingrained assumptions about the delicacy of women and the fragile passivity of their sexuality. Feminine sexuality, when compared to flowers, is characterized as a thing of beauty that stands nobly and quietly while the more aggressive forces of nature penetrate and draw upon their sweet liquids, the better to expand nature’s bounty. It paints woman as passive participant in the sexual act, where that participation amounts only to accepting the invasive ingression upon her core. It’s stupid, in my books.

So it is that it has always been my intention – regardless of the difficulties I might face in forcing myself to use the correct terms, with a straight and unflushed face – to avoid euphemism in discussions of body parts with my child. And in particular, to avoid cheesy or lazy or icky euphemisms. Like “flower.”

What, then, am I supposed to do when Baby Einstein starts putting Freudian interpretations of Georgia O’Keeffe in their toddler board books? How does one avoid vulva-flower associations when one stares you in face at storytime?

Whassat Mommy?

It’s a flower, sweetie.

Whassat say Mommy?

It says “hot,” sweetie.

Why flower hot, Mommy?


Georgia O’Keeffe, of course, rejected Freudian readings of her work, even when it was her own husband promoting such readings. So I’m guessing that a layout of her work that sets Red Canna alongside some kind of abbreviated erotic haiku would have bugged her more than it bugs me. But then again, she wouldn’t have been confronting said layout during storytime with her toddler.

Some day, of course, I look forward to thumbing through art books and visiting galleries with Wonderbaby and talking about all the wonderfully different ways one can read art. I just hadn’t expected to be confronted with a graduate-level case study before she turned two. Well, sweetie, Steiglitz and others saw in O’Keeffe’s work an erotic study of the vulva – that’s the outer part of your sexual organs, honeybear – but O’Keeffe insisted that a flower was a flower was a flower, implying that female sexuality was more robust than any flower. Then, what? I bust out my best Muppet imitation and we sing “V is for vulva, that’s good enough for me? Oh, vulva, vulva, vulva starts with V!”? It just doesn’t feel quite right to be jumping into the finer points of eros vs. thanatos in art and analysis of artistic and literary interpretations of female sexuality before the child has mastered the potty.

Or is this what they call a teaching moment, and I’m just not seeing the pedagogical garden for the vulvic lilies?


Today’s the last day to post your kids’ artwork for the Wonderbaby Artstravaganza Crayola Giveaway. Freudian or Post-Freudian interpretations of said art optional. Wonderbaby will draw a winner tomorrow (so get your link to me sometime before dawn tomorrow, EST), and we’ll announce Sunday.


More evidence than my mind is in the gutter (better than head in the toilet: we’re nearly twelve hours clear on that count, touch wood), as if you needed it: pondering Beckham’s putative manliness (and inarguably stellar – if awkwardly displayed – butt cheeks); wondering what got into Heidi Klum that she had to discuss her husband’s dick size on Oprah; wondering why Sarah Jessica Parker’s spectacular boobs couldn’t keep her off Maxim’s evil unsexy list.

Running Off At The Mouth

October 24, 2007

I have been known to curse. I have been known to curse a lot. But I curse only under very strictly controlled circumstances, which is to say, only in the company of close friends and/or in situations where the cursing will be received as the colourful flourish of language that it is meant to be and not taken in offense. This, I know, sort of defeats the purpose of cursing, but still. It’s cursing.

I like cursing, when it is skilfully deployed. Cursing that issues from poor language skills and a want of vocabulary is not interesting to me. I like creative cursing, cursing that adds colour, cursing that makes a point. I like the cursing of dirty-minded old professors and grannies who like to shock. More than this, I like the cursing of pre-pubescent boys, of children who are just learning that there is a world of language beyond the polite language that is encouraged at home and in schoolrooms, a world of language that is dark and dirty and forbidden and thrilling beyond measure. I like the delicious thrill of using such forbidden words, of lacing a statement with unexpected threads, with vowels and consonants that – when put together just so – shock.

I could offer all variety of academic defense for this taste – the greatest comic poet in Western history, Aristophanes, was a master of the profane, of the extraordinarily profane; the second greatest comic poet, Shakespeare, was a skilled practitioner – but at the end of the day, it comes down to this, I think: that part of my soul which responds to comedy is inhabited almost entirely by the spirit of a twelve-year old boy, a youth who leaves his home each morning well-scrubbed and well-schooled in his manners but who spends his time between schoolroom and home scrambling up trees and tearing holes in the knees of his trousers and sharing dirty jokes and dirty stories and using filthy language with his friends before returning home to his parents in dire need of a hot bath and perhaps a soapy scrub-out of the mouth.

This boy is well-disciplined: he knows when to hold his tongue and he knows that the joy of cursing and the thrill of dirty stories are directly proportionate to the discipline with which language and comportment are otherwise held. That’s what makes the cursing fun, what makes it exciting: the contrast between it and the larger share of his developing verbal skill. He plays word games with the words that are forbidden, in the recesses and lunch-breaks of his day-to-day discourse. He passes notes when he get away with it; dirty puns scratched out in crumpled paper and passed covertly to comrades-in-arms, ever careful to not let anyone see or hear who shouldn’t see or hear. It’s a secret language, a fun language, the language of play. He never swears in front of teachers or authority figures or anyone with delicate ears. And never, ever in front of small children.

Never, that is, unless he’s caught in a maelstrom of hormones and loses hold of the discipline that otherwise serves him so well. The hormones catch him up and he loses control, gets caught. The hormones do it; hormones of the sort that plague pubescent children, and pregnant women.

I am ordinarily so well-disciplined when it comes to cursing that you could get me stone drunk and, if there were anyone at the table who I felt should not hear me curse, not a single profanity would issue from my lips. Not a single one. Now, the tiniest surge of hormones and the slightest provocation and I’m cursing like a trucker in front of my toddler:

Spoon hurled from toddler seat: SHIT.

Macaroni hurled from toddler seat: OH SHIT.

Banana hurled from toddler seat: GODDAMN IT.

Masticated bananas hurled from toddler mouth, after toddler gags self with spoon: F*CK (while running off to toilet to retch.)

My husband gets cross. You shouldn’t swear in front of her, he says. She’s listening to you.

I KNOW she’s listening, goddamnit! I say. I KNOW I shouldn’t swear. I KNOW. SORRY! GAWD! (stomp off to retch in toilet.)

I know she’s listening, because she laughs. She knows good cursing when she hears it; she knows that Mommy’s not supposed to be saying those things; she knows that this is all somehow forbidden in the very best, most delicious way. Sometimes, now, when I’m just at the end of my rope, she’ll look me in the eye and hold her juice cup out in front of her and then – still looking me in the eye – tip it over, dumping the contents on the floor, and say OH SHIT.

Then she says, uh-oh, made MESS, paper towel peeeease. SOWWY! GAWD!

(Then, crouching on the floor with her paper towel, because, no, I am not above letting my daughter scrub the floor if she asks: cleeeeean up! cleeeeean up! in a cheery sing-song voice. It’s a lot twisted, I know.)

I think that it’s a sort of Pregnancy Tourette’s Syndrome. It’s not that I’m wandering around blurting random profanity; it’s that I’ve lost all control of my emotions and and have completely lost place of my censor button. I never know when I’m going to burst into tears or giggle inappropriately, and I certainly don’t know when I am going to respond to some real or imagined disaster of any real or imagined magnitude (toddler hurling banana, me spilling tea, Blogger losing my post, cat meowing too loudly) with a staccato round of curses: shitdamndamnshit!

I don’t want to do this; I really don’t. I want Wonderbaby’s exposure to cursing to be limited, so that she can come to know it for what it is, a forbidden language, one that you only get to play with once you’ve grown up and proven yourself able in the practice of bidden language. I don’t want her to understand curses as adjectives that serve any purpose, anywhere, anytime; I don’t want her ears to become to dulled to their edge.

But at the moment, I don’t know how to curb my profanity, how to stop running off at the mouth, how to get my emotions back in check, how to regain control.

Short of duct-taping my mouth shut – which would, I’m guessing, only aggravate the nausea and vomiting – what can I do? And, is it just me?

Monday Sucks

October 22, 2007

You know what sucks? More than Monday? More than all-day all-night morning sickness and the flu combined? More than all-day all-night morning sickness and flu combined and insomnia and a house cluttered up with boxes and piles of wet laundry on a Monday? Finally feeling up for a good bout of writing and crafting an epic post that actually involves thoughts and ideas instead of incessant whining and then losing three-quarters of that post because Blogger decides against all evidence to the contrary that you are not logged in so that when you hit Publish it just drops everything and opens the log-in page having not saved a thing for the last hour. Just in time for the nausea to come back and drive you to the toilet so that you can retch and retch and retch and imagine that you’re retching and flushing the only reasonably thoughtful words that you have produced and likely will produce in weeks.


I’m going back to bed. Wake me up when the world doesn’t suck so much.

The Art Of The Matter

October 19, 2007

Things that I have discovered, lo these many days of sick:

1) Ginger ale does squat for my nausea.

2) Except give me gingery burps.

3) Peppermint tea helps a little bit.

4) So do Peek Freans Chocolate-Covered Digestive Cookies, but only psychologically, and only for a minute, before I throw them up.

5) Having the flu while you are suffering from all-day morning sickness is a twisted sort of hell that I would wish on nobody other than, maybe, Ann Coulter.

6) Having the flu while you are suffering from all-day morning sickness AND trying to get your house ready to sell AND wrangle a toddler who welcomes each day as an opportunity for MORE! MAYHEM! is, I think, beyond even hell, and would make the devil weep.

7) God invented television to save sick mothers from the torments of unrestrained household chaos. But he didn’t allow for any contigencies in the event that one’s child refuses to sit and watch television, which has unsettled my already shaky faith in His benevolence (yes, HIS. If God were a woman this would all be much, much easier.)

8) Okay, maybe he allowed for one or two contingencies, but these involve crayons and markers and paints and play dough and so bear the mark of collaboration with the devil. Heavenly distraction; hellish clean-up. Third-Circle-Of-Hellish if you are a) sick, and b) trying to prepare your house for real estate viewings (hunched on the floor scrubbing Washable Marker from the carpet while the bile rises in your throat: evidence that you’ve fallen to the Fifth Circle as punishment for your intense desire to be Slothful.)

9) The artwork of a child – all the more when that child is your own child, and presents said artwork with a kiss – is ample distraction from all the torments of hell:

Mommy’s Cage Of Sick (2007, mixed media fingerpaint)

Ode To Mommy, Who Will Rise Like A Phoenix From The Ashes And Give Me Cookies (2007, mixed media, Crayola Washable Markers and Crayola Paint Pen)

Elegy For Georgia O’Keeffe (2007, watercolor)

I think that WonderBaby is an artistic genius with a future in abstract art. Every parent says that, I know, but still. Who needs Jackson Pollock when you have a toddler?

Show me your kids’ artistic genius – we can congratulate each other for having spawned creative genuises and, also, it will amuse me while I remain prone with my nausea and my earache and my sore throat. Post a picture of your child’s artwork – be sure to title it, for posterity – on your blog and link back here. Next Friday, Wonderbaby will randomly select one and will send that artist a signed Wonderbaby original, and a selection of the Crayola tools (from their new line of easy-to-handle, toddler-friendly ‘Beginnings’ products) that Wonderbaby currently uses to create their masterpieces.

Wake Me Up Before I Blow Blow

October 17, 2007

So. Facking. SICK.

It’s been coming and going of late, but this week the all-day-all-night morning sickness has been coming with a vengeance. Lay-me-out-on-the-floor-and-wrack-me-with-nausea-when-I-should-be-packing-and-painting-and-trying-to-sell-a-house-and-oh-yeah-caring-for-my-very-possibly-bionic-toddler kinda vengeance.

It sucks, it just really sucks. When do I start glowing? When do I start facking glowing?

Rant over. Please send ginger ale wishes and Diclectin dreams.

And remind me why I wanted to do this pregnancy thing again?

(Right, yes, I know: more babies to love, more familial bliss, yadda yadda. At this point, that may not be enough. I’m goin g to need serious presents.)

Going Placidly Beyond The Noise And Haste

October 15, 2007

(Voila – now with picture!)

We – Wonderbaby, Her Bad Father and yours truly – live in a house that is one hundred and twenty-plus years old. It is small and creaky and dusty and in a condition of perpetual renovation. It sits on a quiet street in an old Portguese neighbourhood – one that is less and less Portuguese with every passing month – that is very near the city centre, on its west side.

The neighbourhood is a busy one, a mix of families and elders and disaffected renters who may or may not be involved in the underground economy. Our neighbours are lovely, although truth be told they sometimes hover too closely (the elderly couple on one side of us have strong feelings about the fact that I do not take full-time care of my daughter, that I have ‘outside interests,’ that I sometimes travel and not take her with me. I have been known to refrain from stepping out onto our front verandah, for fear that Mr. will interrogate me – kindly, of course, but nonetheless interrogatively – where is Baby? Why Baby not with you? Mother should be with Baby.) The street itself is constantly undergoing renovation, as its Victorian rowhouses are bought, one by one, and gutted and brought into the 21st century to be sold to families like us. And although the street is quiet, by city standards, it is still a city street, with many vehicles that sometimes go too fast and many, many sources of noise.

We have loved the noise and the bustle and the feeling of humanity pressing in on us from all sides. We have loved the places to go and the people to see, the non-stop parade of activity on our doorstep. We have loved not being bored, not being boring. But we have also not loved it. Sometimes, it has been too much – the noise, the haste, the crowds, the speed at which time flies when every step out of the door is the first step of a rush into a crowd. Sometimes, the city has pressed down upon our shoulders and made us to feel its prisoners, caught in a cage, pressing our faces against the grates to get a sniff of fresh air, to see a glimpse of sky.

We have felt all the more caught – I have felt all the more caught – by the restriction of space, by the noise and the haste, since WonderBaby was born. We have yearned to escape. We have wanted out. We have wanted to be bored, to be boring.

It’s a cliche, of course, this feeling: to feel a hankering for big yards and wide quiet streets and playgrounds devoid of condom wrappers, once one has a child. To wish for space in which one can put a tree fort, a sandbox, ride a tricycle. To yearn for quiet, for just a little bit more quiet.

Cliches, however, are cliches because they speak of a common experience. I am not at all embarassed to admit that I have been having an experience that is common, that is ordinary, that is run-of-the-mill. I have been falling out love with the city. We – This Bad Family – have been falling out of love with the city.

So we started looking for a little something on the side, and we found this:

In a village, just outside the city, on a quiet street just a few blocks from the shops and the espresso bar and the bakery and the bistro and the library. A short stroll from the Montessori school and one street over from the big Victorian house with the pool where they give lessons to all the neighbourhood kids. Around the corner from the town museum, and not too far from the zoo. Very near the commuter train line, a quick trip into the city that we can’t give up entirely, and where we’ll certainly keep a little flat. An old house, but a bigger house than the one in which we currently reside (four bedrooms, oh my heart), with all the quirk and character that we love and with a big yard and lots of trees and lots of ivy and a wrap-around verandah for sitting outside and sipping tea on cool evenings. Not the city, not the suburbs; somewhere in between.

Somewhere right for us.

What I Don’t Know Can Hurt Me

October 12, 2007

“Late Maternal Age,” they call it. It’s a fancy term for OLD MOM.

I was not late of maternal age when I had Wonderbaby. I was not entirely early of maternal age, but still – I didn’t qualify as elderly. Somehow, between the time of her birth and my current pregnancy, I became old.

I don’t mind being old. I much prefer the older me to the younger me, and I intend to go on liking myself even more as I continue along the long and winding road of time. But I’m still don’t like the euphemism that is “Late Maternal Age.” I don’t like it because it’s code, because it’s troubling code. It doesn’t refer to my maturity, or to the wisdom that time has conferred upon me as a mother – it refers to the long list of negative factors bearing upon the odds of success of this pregnancy.

Because I am now over 35 years of age, I have an increased risk of miscarriage. I have a markedly increased risk of carrying a child with fetal abnormalites. There is an increased risk of Spina Bifida and Down’s Syndrome and Trisomy and all those other terrible disorders whose names we prefer not to speak. Because I am now over 35 years of age, the doctor puts pamphlets about Chorionic Villus Sampling and Amniocentesis into my hands and refers me to genetics counsellors.

Because I am now over 35 years of age, my doctor tells me that I must consider seriously tests that will tell me the odds of this being a “problemed” pregnancy. Tests that will give me information that might lead me to consider terminating the pregnancy.

Before I was pregnant with Wonderbaby, I underwent genetic testing and genetic counselling, because my nephew’s disorder, the one that will kill him, is hereditary, passed along the female line of the family. I swore at the time that no matter what the tests revealed, I would proceed with starting a family.

When I was pregnant with Wonderbaby, my doctor offered to conduct amniocentesis, because I was already in my thirties, and because there was a history of genetic difficulties on both my husband’s and my own side of the family. She said, because there is a risk of miscarriage, I only recommend this if the results would effect whether or not you would continue the pregnancy. I was going to continue the pregnancy no matter what, I told her. The results of an amnio test wouldn’t change that.

She said the same thing to me this morning, although she added that, because of my age, the odds of miscarriage due to amnio are now precisely the same as the odds of the test results showing Down’s Syndrome. It’s a worthwhile risk, she said, if knowing the results of the test are important to you. What she meant: if a certain result would lead you to consider terminating the pregnancy.

I told her that I didn’t know. I told her that I didn’t know. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

That I don’t know – that I don’t have the conviction of the last pregnancy, that I don’t have the faith of the last pregnancy, that I don’t know what I’d do – is hurting me. It’s hurting my heart.