M and I received the first and second seasons of Mad Men on DVD last Christmas. We were excited to watch it but then never got around it. So even though I'm sure we are going to LOVE it, we have yet to caught the Mad Men bug.
This new collection offered at Banana Republic right now, designed in collaboration with the show's costume designer Janie Bryant, is making me drool. I'm really tempted to get one of these dresses. I have about no fall clothes, after a huge purge of my wardrobe last spring, when I decided to change the way I dress slightly. New rules: have less clothes, but have only pieces I love and that flatter me. Stop wearing things I only feel ho-hum about (generic sweaters and pants that do nothing for my pear shape), buy things that makes me feel good each time I wear them instead (dresses, feminine skirts, crisp little shirts). Buy pieces with character, think in terms of outfits. Invest in a few pieces I will wear for years.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
M and I received the first and second seasons of Mad Men on DVD last Christmas. We were excited to watch it but then never got around it. So even though I'm sure we are going to LOVE it, we have yet to caught the Mad Men bug.
Monday, August 29, 2011
...is the beginning of LP's last year at daycare. He's now in the "big kids" room, the one upstairs with the computers and the newest toys and the corner view. This year, there'll be trips to the library, and at some point, visits to the elementary school.
...is also the day F is starting to go there. She'll be downstairs in the nursery, with her own little high chair, her own little crib in the nap room. Her blankie and her bottles and her fluffy pink rabbit to help her go to sleep.
...is the day I know everything is going to be fine. I know it deep in my heart and soul.
But today, I mourn.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Last weekend M joined us in my hometown with the motorcycle.
The last stretch of road, 200 km between Quebec City and the Saguenay, is in a very beautiful, rugged, remote, and also dangerous wildlife refuge. There is only one stopping point at halfway (L'Étape), with fuel, food, rest rooms, and emergency services. Anywhere else, it's just you, the bears, and the moose.
My husband said the road was perfect on this slightly chilly, sunny Saturday morning -no traffic, dry conditions, not a cloud in the sky. A little before arriving at L'Étape, M rode behind another motorcycle, the only other one he saw -a big Harley, with a man on the wheel and a woman behind. They continued for several minutes like this, then right before the exit, M decided to pass them. They all nodded and waved, like bikers do. The woman, who seemed totally relaxed, flicked a little smile to M.
We have never really stopped at L'Étape; usually we simply like to get out of that road as quickly as possible. M had plenty of fuel, it was about 9:30 AM so he wasn't hungry, and I missed him so I had urged him to arrive as early as possible. He didn't need to stop. But while passing the Harley, he began thinking, should I stop? He wasn't sure why. He hesitated. It's going well, let's go on, he told himself. Then, at the very last second, he changed his mind and pulled over in the ramp, towards the parking lot.
Just a few seconds later, before he had even stopped his bike, he heard a loud crash, and saw all the people there dropping what they were doing and rushing to the road.
A big SUV coming from the other direction had hit the Harley. The car was making a left turn to stop at L'Étape, and the driver had never seen the motorcycle.
"I don't think the woman is going to make it," a passerby told M after coming back from the crash scene. A minute later, when the ambulance arrived, they simply placed a yellow tarp on her, and only focused on saving the man (who was critically injured, but survived). Her death was later confirmed. She was 52.
The husband who finally arrived to me a little over an hour later was very shaken. Because he was literally the last person who saw her alive. Because it was the first time he saw someone alive one minute, not alive anymore the next. Because I don't know how many times we have ridden like this, the two of us, with me in the back. Because it was a reminder that even if you're the best and most careful motorcycle rider, other drivers are the real danger you have no control over, and no protection against.
Because if he hadn't stopped, it really could have been him.
Sometimes (rarely but still), life makes it hard on us atheists/skeptics/rationals not to believe in guardian angels.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
One day at my dad's last week, we were all sitting around the table, including baby F in her high chair. Their dining room is edged by a large mirror, in order to make it appear larger. At one point during the conversation, I realized that my daughter was saying "ma-man-ma-man-ma-man..."
So I turned to her, smiling. Then I realized that she wasn't just saying the syllabes...
She was pointing to my reflection in the mirror and saying the word.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
So even though we weren't actively looking for a new house with an agent, M and I have been paying attention to what was happening on the market since last year. We would check houses for sale once in a while, and drive around places we liked. Houses in our neighbourhood were usually flying fast, and for an always increasing value. It seemed like a good time to sell, especially now that the family is done, we are becoming quite cramped in our house, and nothing was really holding us back anymore.
Recently you can imagine what happened: we both had a huge crush on a house. Since we've been sort of looking in the last year, this had never happened -M would love one but I would find it so-so and hate the neighbourhood, or vice-versa. But this house really had everything we had wanted, everything we needed to raise our family there and truly settle down. So we visited, and made an offer. And had to fight another bidder, so we ended up getting the house but waving the condition to sell ours before the transaction happens. So in order to protect ourselves from disaster as much as we could, we gave the seller a moving date of April 1st, which gives us ample (hopefully!) time to sell our own house.
The house is in the same town as we already live in (which we've always loved), thus providing plenty of benefits (great services, low taxes, and last but not least -we can keep our $7-a-day daycare spots). It is GREAT: two-storey detached cottage from 1987 (our house is a 3-bed 60s bungalow), four bedrooms, three baths, my dream kitchen, a double-faced fireplace, plenty of space for everything. It is move-in ready; there are several small (cosmetic bathroom updates) and bigger (stairs' dated railing) things we want to do, but nothing major, nothing very expensive, and we can take care of everything ourselves when we decide to, in time.
But what won us over is that the house is located on a (very beautiful, tranquil) golf course, so there are no neighbours in the back, and the view is extremely therapeutic. There's an expansive deck outside, and even though the yard and garden are not big, there's still enough space for the kids to play (which we don't really have here), and no pool (hurray!) I went back to the checklist I posted last year about what we liked/didn't like here and what we were wishing for, and well, the new house has everything. Except for a shed (but there's a garage and a huge storage room downstairs), and except for an interesting garden (it is very basic -no peonies, no lilacs, no place for a big vegetable patch, etc.) But truly, this is the house we will live in forever.
So this is where we're at right now: waiting to be cleared for financing -because the house is sold without a condition, we need to be approved for the two mortgages simultaneously, even though it's just on paper. This is obviously a bit of an issue, since that represents a very high debt ratio, which we obviously don't intend to put ourselves into, but the banks have to consider as a worst-case scenario. Then, we need to act very quickly to put on our own house on the market as soon as possible, hopefully next week. This requires quite a lot of steps (getting a big cleaning endeavour done, paint retouches and other minor fixes, finding temporary storage/packing what's going into storage/renting a truck and moving stuff, staging the house, redoing part of the roof, having the driveway resurfaced, work on the front yard to increase curb appeal -all within a few days). F is also starting daycare next week, and well, I have to find a job...
So this is stressful but in a good way I guess, and we're trying to take care of things one at a time, trying to remember that we'll get our wonderful prize in the end. We really, really, really hope our house sells quickly so our mind can be a little more at ease, and we're doing our best to make it highly sellable. The seller of the new house moves out on November 1st, so if we ever sold fast, we could even move in the fall.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Do you remember last year when I posted that even though we didn't plan to move right then, we had realized once and for all that our house wouldn't be the one we would stay forever in?
Well, we're buying a house. And it's all going really fast and there are a million things to do and it's really exciting and a little stressful too. I obviously won't tell you where it is or anything, but just as a little teaser, here is the view from the back yard (taken in the spring by the realtor; the view is better now).
I'll be back soon!
Friday, August 19, 2011
Even though F is not quite ready to always eat the same thing that we are having, she's really had it with baby food, and increasingly pushes it away. So I'm trying to come up with meals that we can all share, either as is or with minimal handling (such as a quick mashing with a fork). I've been aiming for healthy, tasty, varied, and reheating- or freezing-friendly (for lunches). It's not always easy, but I'm especially proud of myself when I find something that really works, and that we all love. Here is one such recipe.
"Orange" lentil shepherd's pie
Proof that our ancestry is perhaps just as much British as it is French, a version of this comfort food classic is widely, widely popular here in Quebec. For some obscure reason (which may or may not be related to Chinese workers who helped built the railroads here), it is not called "Pâté du berger", but rather "Pâté chinois" (Chinese pie). Traditional pâté chinois is essentially made of cooked crumbled beef, covered with corn (usually canned, with an ongoing debate between which kind is more proper: whole kernel or creamed), then covered with mash potatoes. We have not made this version for years though -we find it bland, we don't eat much beef anymore, and even though it's cheap and filling, it also doesn't have much nutritional value. But we're been experimenting with it: using ground turkey with Mexican spices and chipotle peppers, frozen corn or other vegetables mixed with salsa, etc. Then we started topping it with sweet potato, and never went back. This is my newest meatless attempt - a hit with the whole family, including F who could eat this straight from the pan.
1 cup uncooked red lentils (they cook the quickest, but you could also use canned)
1 large can of tomatoes with juice (I always buy them whole (San Marzano) and cut them up with shears in the pan. They're cheaper and better -the lesser quality ones are used for the diced ones)
1 onion, diced
A little spice to your liking (I usually use cumin and paprika, but all kinds of spices would work)
4 average size sweet potatoes
1-2 potatoes (all sweet potato would also work, but I find the potatoes make the mash pleasantly thicker).
1 small bag frozen vegetables (we use a mix of peas, corn, carrots, and green beans, but all kinds would work)
1/4 cup butter
Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks. Place them in a saucepan, cover with water, and boil until tender.
Preheat oven at 400 F.
Over medium heat, saute the onions in oil until translucent. Add the tomatoes, lentils, salt and pepper, and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer until the lentils are cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
When the potatoes are done, drain the liquid and mash with the butter, salt and pepper.
Place the lentil mixture into an ovenproof dish, cover with the frozen veggies, then top with the mash.
Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes -until bubbly and heated through. Alternatively, put in the fridge to bake later, even the next day, or freeze. If baking from frozen, simply adjust cooking time accordingly.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
M, completely besotted with his daughter: "You're the most beautiful girl in the world... And your mother is a close second... But don't tell her I said that."
Me, asking LP questions to see if he had been paying attention to one of his favorite TV shows. "So, Olivia has a little brother, right? And what is his name?" LP, without skipping a beat, as serious as can be: "Pot de colle" (Glue stick).
LP, asking me where was my house back when I was living with my parents. I answer, adding that it was "a long time ago". He lights up, very excited. "You mean, in the Middle Ages?" Me: "Yes. Yes, exactly."
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
I've been wanting to do this post for a looong time... Since the summer of 2008, actually. But the logistics were complicated and it never seemed like the timing was right. I always kept it on the back of my mind, though, and recently while driving back from the supermarket I decided to just DO IT, even if the circumstances were less than perfect, even if the whole family wasn't in the picture, even if the picture wasn't that great.
What brought me to this idea is a book titled Hungry Planet (from Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio, available here) which I got at that time and read with fascination. I still leaf through it often, and LP loves it too. It's a series of portraits of families from around the world, pictured along with a usual weekly supply of food. There's so much you can tell from these people just by looking at their groceries, you have no idea. Everything is in there, from the most unfortunate people in the world (refugees from Chad living in a camp, for whom a few limes are a prized treasure), to more traditional cultures (Ecuador, Bhutan), to people facing social transitions with more (Turkey, Egypt, India) or less (Mexico, Greenland, Philippines) success, from people who eat relatively well with limited means (Mongolia, Bosnia, Cuba) to people who plainly overconsume/eat (the US, England, Kuwait. We would definitely be there too, if the authors had thought we were significant enough to pay us a visit).
For each family, a detailed list of their food is provided, as well as background information on how they live, their feeding rituals, how the shoot happened, etc. A few examples:
The Mendozas in Guatemala, $75 per week
The Nantomos in Mali (a polygamist family), $27 per week
The LeMoines in France, $420 per week
The Sobczynscys in Poland, $151 per week
The Revis in the USA, $342 per week
(All pictures from Peter Menzel)
The x-Laforte in Quebec, $234 on that particular week
One typical week of groceries in August. Family consists of M (38), M-E (36), LP (4) and F (9 months). * means organic
Grain and other Starchy Foods: Whole wheat baguette, bagels with sesame seeds, whole wheat pitas, baby cereal (whole wheat with fruit)*, baby cereal (mixed grains with apples)*, toasted oat squares breakfast cereal, cheddar and asiago crackers.
Dairy: 2L carton 1% fat milk*, family tub of vanilla yogurt*, large containers of both heavy and light cream* (I was going to make ice cream), 1/2 pound salted butter*, cottage cheese*, cream cheese*, firm cheeses: Ementhal, St-Morgon (a Camembert-type), mozzarella*, medium cheddar*.
Meat, Fish and Eggs: 1 pound ground chicken*, 1 pound ground pork*, 1 1/2 pound ground turkey*, 1 dozen free-run eggs*, medium-firm tofu*, 2 fillets of fresh halibut (not pictured).
Fruits, Vegetables and Nuts: Blueberries*, 1 pouch of pureed mixed fruit for babies*, red plums*, peaches*, papaya*, avocados, cantaloupe, strawberries*, red grapes*, Bosc pears*, one red and one purple bell peppers*, bananas*, tomatoes* (at this time of year I have my own cherry tomatoes but I needed the big ones for a specific recipe), cucumber*, arugula*, mangetout peas*, green beans*, zucchinis (yellow and green)*, Gala apples*, radishes*, 15 ears of corn (they were $2. I kept a few to eat fresh and as for the rest, I sliced the kernels off the cob and froze them in plastic bags for later use).
Condiments: Dill pickles with garlic, 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley*, 1 bunch fresh dill*.
Snacks and Desserts: Blue corn tortillas*, sweet potato and corn tortillas, all-natural fruit pops (usually I make my own but they were on sale and I was intrigued by the pineapple flavor), arrowroot baby cookies*, all-natural fruit strips*.
Beverages: All-natural, no-sugar-added apple and pear nectar, 2 bottles of Italian-style frizzante: Sicilian lemon and pink lemonade (not pictured).
Frozen food: 2 bags of cut-up sweet potatoes*, bag of chick peas*, bag of broccoli florets*, bag of brown rice with black beans* (none of these are usual purchases, but they were 75% off, too good to pass up).
Other: 3 boxes of tissues, sunflowers.
I would say that this $ amount is pretty typical, although I always aim (and sometimes succeed) to spend less. Around $175 per week would be ideal, but difficult to consistently attain for a family of four, given that healthy/organic food is a big priority for me, and given that the price of groceries has increased 40% in the last year alone. To offset that, I stock up on sales, try to buy in season, and make my own food as much as possible (chicken stock, pizza dough, soups, salad dressings, sauces, bread and flatbread, muffins, jams, occasional cakes, pies and cookies, etc.)
The amount of produce is also typical; sometimes, I buy even more than that (I still had broccoli, cauliflower, parsnip, carrots, green onion, celery and cabbage left from the previous grocery run). On that week, I didn't really have to restock on grains (pasta, couscous, rice, quinoa), staples (oils, garlic/onion, spices) or baking supplies (flours, sugar, yeast), so they're absent. The meat I bought was to make baby food; there's no more, because we're trying to make a conscious effort to eat less of it (not center all of our meals around it, anyway), and because I still had some left in the freezer.
A typical grocery run would also often include a bottle of wine and/or a 6-pack of beer, but we had already gotten these a few days prior when we hosted friends for dinner.
M usually brings in lunches to work, as I do (when I work). We don't go out to restaurants or have takeout more than once or twice a month, so bear in mind that this covers pretty much all of our meals for the week.
The day before, I went to the drugstore and bought a can of powdered formula, a pack of disposable diapers and a jumbo pack of baby wipes, so in all honesty, had I gotten these at the supermarket instead, it would have hiked up the bill by about $70.
What do you think?
I really don't expect to receive any kind of response to this, but I suppose I should still put it out there that I'd LOVE to see other people doing this on their blog, if they were so inclined! Let me know if you're up for it, anyway.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Next week I'm taking the kids to my hometown (500 km north of here). We'll spend some time with my father and stepmom, maybe go visit our friends who are vacationing by the Lac St-Jean nearby (this place is beautiful in the summer -I'm thinking of even taking them to this "ghost town", where my recently deceased grandpa was born, and where I haven't been since grade school). After a long motorcycle ride, M will join us on Saturday, when we have a big celebratory dinner planned for my grandmother's 80th birthday. I hope I can also see her as much as possible during our stay there, because now she's the only grandparent I have left and I'm painfully aware that she won't be here forever...
I was longing to go back there, and hope we have good weather (unlike us, they are having a so-so summer)... It will be our last little getaway before life catches up on us, both kids are in daycare, I have to focus on my future career plans, fall happens, etc. Wish me luck on doing this with both kids solo!
(I have a few scheduled posts planned).
Thursday, August 11, 2011
This was my third visit to San Francisco: the first one was 11 years ago, the second one, with M, six years ago. I always thought that this city was really great and unique, but also that I hadn't completely gotten the real feel of it, the one that's outside of the tourist paths. I was really excited to go back, especially with LP who had been talking about it for weeks: cable cars! The funny crooked street (Lombard)! All of these crazy hills!
Our visit in Northern California started with a wonderful stop in Half Moon Bay, a small town about half an hour south of the city. We were meeting Lisa for lunch, and I was so nervous and excited; she's such an amazing, smart, classy lady. We met right by the bay at a restaurant where ALL of the seafood was local and amazingly fresh (might seem normal for some people; for us it's a real luxury!) and shared a truly wonderful meal and conversation. Lisa was so warm and nice and natural with the kids! (Not that I ever doubted she were, but I'm always so surprised and comforted by how meeting good "blog friends" ends up being exactly like meeting dear, "real" friends, because you know what, that's exactly what they are). We then walked around the piers and watched fishermen bring back big wild salmons to shore. That afternoon will always remain really special to me.
We then left Lisa to check in at our hotel, but we were meeting her again for dinner at a Mexican restaurant in the city that very night, along with Meg and her husband David. And I can't tell you how fantastic that evening was. Honestly, one of the few I've had ever since becoming a parent that had me wishing I had left the kids at home so we could stay longer, and longer, and continue drinking margaritas and having such a great conversation and time.
What did we talk about? Law school and the legal market (David is a newly minted attorney, and M also went to law school, although he never passed the bar). Balancing (writing) careers and life, including family life. The "strange" (David) or rather "awesome" (Meg) law we have here that prevents married women from taking their husband's name (David didn't think that wives keeping their name was weird, by the way, just that legislating something like that was going a little far). Our "such great" (according to them) social measures and relaxed attitudes towards things that are still sometimes marginalized in the US: unmarried (but committed) parents or partners, gay couples, nonreligious people... Traveling (including with kids, which is so natural for us that we don't even realize a lot of people just conclude that "it can't be done"), and of course our dear blog friends, especially the ones who live in the UK where David and Meg will soon stop on their way to Greece.
We also talked about the weather, because, well, we were in full-on thermal shock. Starting in Half Moon Bay, but especially in San Francisco proper, we had hit what is called the "marine layer," in which the warmth from the inner state hits the fresh sea air right above the hills of the city, resulting in lots of rain, and COLD. And it was COLD. Not just breezy or chilly. Rather rainy, windy and about 8-10 degrees Celsius. We were completely unprepared for that, coming from LA first, and because even though we are actually used to much colder temperatures here, these NEVER happen in the summer. Our summers are very warm and usually sunny, and if anyone robbed us of that, there would definitely be a major exodus to more comfortable places, because you CAN'T ROB PEOPLE OF THE SUMMER. It simply can't be done. Rob them of laughter, hope, and their will to live, while you're at it, because it's pretty much the same thing. Nice weather in summer is essential to one's well-being. But unfortunately the San Francisco marine layer hasn't gotten the memo. It's a very peculiar natural phenomenon, because as soon as you get out of the city, the sun and pleasant warmth you expect from California shows up again, and you can breathe a sigh of relief. On the other hand, though, it is pretty constant all year long, and the winter tends to be nicer, so I guess I could definitely live with that. And, just maybe escape somewhere else during the summer.
"Well, this is the worst time of the year," David said, resigned. They both come from LA, but he doesn't like brutal heat, so ho doesn't mind as much as Meg, who has a hard time with all of this summer bleakness. I have only been in SF in the summer, by the way, and I remembered it was chilly, but never that bad. Consequently, I hadn't packed appropriately at all (I just figured we would need a light sweater, but in fact we needed sweaters + jackets + jeans + socks + umbrellas + a wool hat and a blanket for the baby). LP, F and I were FREEZING, so we had to rush and buy some fall clothes. Women in the streets were wearing parkas, boots, and scarves. In July! It was the only time in my life I actually saw someone wearing both flip-flops and a thick wool winter coat.
Except for that, I was still very much in love with the city... It is completely different from any other in the US, I think, both because of its geographical location (sea+ hills) and because of its vibe, which was all at once very posh (I couldn't get enough of those lovely traditional houses/architectural gems!), very hip, very smart, very relaxed, very family- and nature-oriented, very imprinted with American counterculture, very imprinted with all kinds of other cultures, too. A wonderful mix, only made more interesting by the terrain and the harmonious urban planning. One can only wonder why people decided to build a city there, because in some places, they REALLY didn't have it easy!!!
Despite it being my third visit, I still didn't get a glimpse of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Every day I was ever there, the Bay had been wrapped in a very thick fog, and this time was no different, which prompted me to think that maybe, it was only an urban legend? But while we left the city to go to Napa, we drove through it, and I guess I could only admit that I was wrong. But barely. Because that still could be just a ghost-like shadow or something.
All in all, summer weather aside, living in San Francisco must be fantastic, inspiring, and very enriching in the everyday life. If only it wasn't that expensive. Sigh.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
I can't believe we're here already... On August 29, our routine will be forever changed, when my daughter officially starts daycare. Her integration will be very gradual, spanning over the whole month of September. On the first day, I won't even leave her there alone; but I'll rather spend an hour or so there with her, while trying to take a backseat but still being in the room for reassurance.
LP's integration was difficult, and of course this upcoming big change makes me sad and nervous. Things are different though; F has already been there several times a week for drop-offs and picks-ups since she was a tiny infant. She LOVES it there. She lights up when she realizes that this is where we're going, as she knows she'll get plenty of attention from both the teachers and the kids. Her temperament is a little smoother, too, she's very sociable and curious, and she thrives when there are a lot of people and noise and things going on. Plus, she'll have her idol (a.k.a. brother) around... We'll have to see how it goes. Maybe this transition will be harder on mama than on her.
I know how lucky I am to have all this precious time off on mat leave, I'm very aware and grateful for that. But just like every mother, I still think that it's nonetheless going by way too fast. With another kid to take care of and all kinds of other projects, it's been especially true for these last nine months. I do think I have made the most of it, but I still find myself in a bubble I wouldn't mind staying in for the next little while.
F is doing well. She's waving "bye-bye" all the time, even on demand -which delights her grandmother during our Skype calls, and she says it, too ("ba-ba"). She says "maman" non-stop, another milestone that makes it all worthwhile. She's really bored with pureed food and wants to eat what we're having, which is a little problematic given that she only had two teeth! So I usually give her something she can eat on her own (a piece of bread or a cracker, small cubes of soft fruit or veg) and feed her the still mushy (but not pureed) food while she's a little distracted. She doesn't crawl yet (LP only started at about that age), but pulls herself up almost on her own -I expect her to succeed doing it in her crib in the next few days).
I still breastfeed her four times a day (no, she's not sleeping through the night yet), and she has three small cups of formula. Exactly like LP, she rejected the bottle, is not interested in milk much and probably doesn't drink enough (I estimate that she probably gets 10-12 ounces of breastmilk with 4-6 ounces of formula a day, while our friends' baby who is the same age drinks 28 ounces). She does, however, compensate with food. She's not big (about 16 pounds), but she still has chubby little thighs and is in the 90th percentile for height (also just the same as LP, who at 4 is the same height as an average 6 year-old and wears size 12 1/2 shoes like most 7 year-olds).
Her naps are usually longer than her brother's, but there is still not much of a pattern to them -40 minutes one day, two and half hours the next. She interacts a lot more with LP, and this is truly the best part of all: sometimes, they start laughing together like mad silly little partners in crime, and I try to take it all in, telling myself that it's only the beginning of this soul soothing adventure.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
What a beautiful, fascinating, humbling, telling-a-story-without-words photo series. From a book by James Mollison you can find here.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Well, another thing to remember from the very eventful year 2011.
Last Wednesday night, around 10:30, M and I were quietly reading in bed, when suddenly something just swooshed into our bedroom. Something black, and big, and... flying. But it wasn't a bird. Its wingspan was about 15 cm (6 inches), there was more of a gliding motion to it, and it started flying in circles above us.
After a few seconds of sheer shock (and some screaming from the both of us), I jumped out, got out of the room while closing the door, and went to close the door to both kids' rooms. Then M slowly tried to do the same, while the bat circled in around him. Finally, he got out, and we surrendered the bedroom to our invader, while making sure to shut the door.
We had another WTF?????!!!!!!! moment, and then we decided on a course of action. We would try to drop a towel on it, put the towel into a shoebox and take it outside. We were completely panicked, our hearts racing, finding it hard to think clearly. We went downstairs to get what we needed, and came back into our bedroom, less than 2 minutes later.
We expected the bat to still be flying in circles, but it wasn't. In fact, we could not see it. It was somewhere in our room, trying very hard to be invisible. M started looking around -in the drapes, in or under our bed, etc. At every moment he expected it to jump out and bite him in the face or something, but no chance. I let him continue to look and went to the computer to see what we were supposed to do in this case.
And our instinct had been right -bats are rendered pretty much motionless when you drop a towel on them, and they can't untangle themselves or fly away. It was also strongly advised to put on gloves, because they do bite -however, only when attacked and scared. So I grabbed two pairs of thick gardening gloves and went to give one to my husband, who had started tearing the room apart but could still not find the little night visitor. I mustered up the courage to tell him that the one thing we did not do right would probably end up being the most costly: you should always keep an eye on it and know where the bat is, because they can hide virtually anywhere, and get in holes about as big as a quarter. And when they go into hiding, they can stay there for HOURS.
Around midnight, we had become really discouraged (not to mention exhausted -M had an important presentation at 9 the next morning). We didn't know what to do; it didn't seem to be anywhere. Open up the window, close the door behind us, go sleep on the couch and hope it would have gotten out by the next morning? No. There would be no way of knowing it really got out, and who knows what else could come in (bats usually live in colonies, there are tons of disgusting bugs at this time of year). So I called the police -not the emergency line, just the regular police station number, in case they would know. They didn't. They said they could page the animal control center, which was normally closed during the night, and see if they would call us back. Fifteen minutes later, a woman clearly infuriated from having been woken up called, and plainly told me that if we didn't even know where the f bat was, then how could we expect them to help us? There was nothing they could do. Good luck finding it, she told me with a snide. It could be anywhere, including hanging somewhere in your clothes, and it could take days.
We were on our own. We were so tired we almost gave up and decided to wait until the next morning, but the thought of the bat lurking somewhere in our bedroom was unbearable. So we had no choice: we would have to empty the room completely, including, if need be, taking down the bed, dissembling furniture, etc. We decided to start by emptying the closet. M started handing out clothes to me, I shook them a little, then made piles I brought to the living room. At some point our teenage neighbor's boyfriend arrived to drop her off at her house, and for a second they stared at us through the windows, all lights on and drapes open in the middle of the night, the both of us frantically going through our closet with crazed looks on our faces. Uh-oh, the normally quiet neighbors have started smoking crack or something, I could imagine them thinking.
I brought in the last pile at around 1 AM. Suddenly I turned around and the bat was flying right besides me -I guess it was hiding in clothes after all and we missed it. I screamed again, M arrived. Go fetch the towels, he said! I'll keep an eye on it! When I returned it had perched itself on the highest spot in our house, above our front door. It looked different now, not so big and scary. I took a picture.
M went outside to grab the long-handed net we use for the swimming pool. I was looking at it, and could see that it was just a terrified furry little mouse now -it kept turning up its nose as if to try and recognize a familiar smell (that of outside?), and let out faint cries, which were extremely weird, like a clicking or a metallic sound. M came back, opened the front door, and tried to help the bat out. It started making the noise much, much louder -it was clearly scared, sending out ultrasounds I suppose. It took flight, but instead of getting outside it started going in circles in our living space. I ran to open the patio door on the other side of the room, but again it didn't get out. It suddenly ducked right besides our fireplace.
M was getting despaired. He was furious at himself that we had lost it in the first place and wasted precious hours, he couldn't believe that we had lost it again, and now, in a much wider space. He went to look into the fireplace with a flashlight. The bat was nowhere to be found. I asked him if he was sure it was in there. I really think so, he said. OK, eff it, then, I said. Let's get a really big box and block the fireplace with it and just deal with it later, alright? He agreed, but then just to make sure he moved whatever was close to the fireplace: a chair, a table, some vases for my flowers. He moved the very last item: F's exersaucer. Then he screamed. The bat had been hiding underneath, lying on its belly on the floor. Quickly, I handed him the towel, and he covered it. The bat was not happy. It started with the very loud clicking sound again, only it felt like a buzzing too, M said, like when a cell phone vibrates only a hundred times stronger. Every time we would try to move the towel slightly, it would do it: it's as tough we could feel the sound as much as we could hear it. Gently, M put the towel into the box, brought it into our backyard, and released the bat slowly. It first lay on the patio, then took flight again. Phew.
It was nearly 2 AM. We were so much on an adrenaline high, there was no way we could sleep after that. The funniest thing is that these animals are associated with gory lore so much, unbeknown to each other we both had irrational reactions: when it first appeared into our bedroom, I admit that I had a split second of almost expecting it to disappear into a loud poof! of smoke, and then see a dapper Dracula-type appear instead. My husband, who's the most rational/cynical person I know, told me that at the end, he was so exhausted and stunned that he started thinking: "Did this really happen? Did we really have a bat into our bedroom, or was it some kind of weird paranormal sh*t we both hallucinated????"
The kids never woke up. On the Web, it said that these nocturnal visitors are especially frequent in houses in August, because that's when the babies start fending for themselves, and their instinct/orientation is not as sharp. We have NO IDEA where it came from, and obviously never saw it come in. We had seen bats outside before on a couple occasions (like at my mother's house the week before), but not really here in our densely populated suburb. It was the first time we saw one that close, even while M lived in a big, old country house with a huge barn until his early-twenties, and even while when I was 17 I spent one summer working on a remote island in an Ontario provincial park (there) where my cabin had no electricity and we had EVERYTHING else: bears, raccoons, an old scary flying squirrel, plate-size moths.
We were of course slightly concerned about rabies for the kids: what if the bat had gone into their room before ours and bit them? Even though the chances of the bat being infected was low, it was still scary: if untreated, rabies is always fatal. But we tried not to be too crazy: only about 10% of bats captured and analyzed in Canada end up carrying rabies. The kids doors' were not shut, but they were still almost so. So the odds of the bat having been inside, having found the sleeping child, and having decided to bite it even though the child was still seemed unlikely. The bat didn't bite us, in fact, it seemed to want to avoid us at all costs. I ended up checking with our local health authority, and they don't systematically administer the rabies vaccine (which is very expensive, full of harsh side effects, and has to be given in 5 different doses over several days) only because a bat was found in a house where there were sleeping children. There has to be something that lets you believe there was indeed a bite: either bite marks, or the child suddenly waking up while crying violently as if in pain, only to find the bat shortly after. The kids don't have any marks. Let's just hope I never have to see a bat again.
Friday, August 5, 2011
I was cleaning out my computer and came across these pictures I had saved earlier this spring when I worked on a freelancing project focusing on that decade... Non mais... Look at that CRAZY, rockin', badass style, people. Surprisingly enough, the 80s were not *entirely* bad.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
People usually say that F looks like me, while LP looks like his dad. I suppose they nearly always say that for everyone, more or less consciously associating the sexes together. I don't know. Of course children are always a mix of both their parents, and take from both families. This is so complex and fascinating... Sometimes you share very obvious traits, like identical eyes or mouths or feet (which I do with both my kids). Then there are resemblances that are much more subtle than that: the way they look at you, the way they laugh, the way they do certain things. Sometimes you realize you have an almost uncanny resemblance with obscure relatives, for instance. Apparently, some things LP does remind my in-laws of M's paternal grandfather. They swear he's just the spitting image of M... While in my family people marvel at how much he looks like me and my dad's family. I agree. I can see so much of myself in my son, in so many ways, that it's hard for me to think otherwise. As for F, it's still hard to tell... Even though she has my eyes -not the color but the shape- and it's always the first thing people comment on, I'm not sure she looks that much like me...
Here is F this week, just about to turn 9 months old, eating beets for the first time. I had completely forgotten how much of a mess babies can make with a ridiculously small amount of food!
Here I am, six months old. Not much hair, quite chubby and not especially cute:
And even though there are no pictures of my husband as a baby, here he is as a toddler. Back then, this picture was published in the newspaper his dad was writing for, to illustrate an article on financial planning for your kids' education. Something in his expression definitely reminds me of her... What do you think?
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
We are having a hot, humid summer. Consequently we are also having a lot of thunderstorms. Very sudden, crazy pouring rain, flash floods in some streets, hail, high winds, temperatures dropping 13 degrees Celsius in under an hour kind of storms.
This one, which occurred on the night of July 21, was especially freaky. A huge cloud sat still over Montreal for a long time around 9 PM, with non-stop, contained lighting bolts (but no rain nor thunder, not here anyway). M, who had been outside taking care of the pool, made us join him and we all stood together, watching in silence (LP was in bed, but wasn't sleeping yet). Even though we live outside the city, the cloud seemed to be right there in front of us. From that footage, it looked like it's from War of the Worlds or Encounter of the Third Kind. Very beautiful and eerie.
The Demon Storm from operatique on Vimeo.
LP's anxiety has flared up again, because of all of these natural phenomenon he doesn't understand (he's also equally scared of fireworks -all of this, including the fire alarm episode two years ago, is always triggered by very loud noises). Poor little guy. This worries me so much, and I'm just unsure what to do. If only we could wrap him in a blanket of security, put his too-aware-for-his-age little mind to rest and find a way to simply make him feel safe again... :-(
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
A few days before we were leaving for California, Rebecca Woolfe from Girl's Gone Child tweeted a picture of the most adorable dress worn by her 2 year-old Fable. I asked her if her talented mom had made it -Fable is the best dressed babe I have ever seen, and I know that a lot of her cute/unexpected/quirky/stylish pint-size fashion sense comes from grandma and her sewing skills. She replied to say that no, the (nonetheless handmade) dress had been purchased at a wonderful fabric store in Oceanside, called Maisonnette. Had I uncover the (not-so) secret source of all of these incredibly unique fabrics I've been eyeing on her site for years? I quickly noted the address and put it aside for our trip.
We met with Rebecca again, by the way, at the Petersen Automotive Museum (where M and I had been six years ago, and where we wanted to take our little car fanatic). She had brought Archer, while Fable was at home with the sitter. We spent an hour and a half chatting, about everything but especially about her upcoming twin girls, about what it would mean for them to become a family of six -so much love and luck, but challenges and fears, too. She was as funny, smart, charming, candid, and cool as ever (I've been following her since 2007, and I don't get starstruck easily, but I'm still in awe of her beauty, talent and amazing personality, even though in person she's just the most down-to-earth, approachable chick ever).
Both times we met, she was exactly 6 months pregnant... I loved her slightly self-deprecating, resigned stance, when she patted her belly and said: "I used to travel a lot and loved it more than anything... But then, I had a million kids." Poor girl. She still looked so fab, but I feel for her: third-trimester pregnant with twins in the LA summer heat, two children to take care of already, a husband who has no choice but to work a lot to support the family, and a blog (as well as other related projects) that she depends on for income and that constantly needs updating, regardless of everything else she has going on. Her mother is supposed to move in for a month when the girls arrive in September; I really hope all goes well.
Back to the fabric store. One morning, we all packed for the beach (the four of us, plus my friend and her two kids) and headed to Oceanside, which is south of LA, about half an hour from San Diego (where Rebecca comes from and where her parents still live). We had lunch at a classic diner, and before going to the waterfront, we looked around for the store. "It better be good!", Julie and I were telling ourselves. When we finally found it, we let M watch our brood and went to have a peek inside.
And, it's like we had landed in heaven! This was our dream store, for the both of us. You know when you have to stop yourself from buying everything? We stayed relatively reasonable, but here were our purchases:
We both got this (handmade) dress for our girls (Julie's is 5, so she can wear it now, but F's is a size 2, so it doesn't fit yet):
I also got this beanie hat, which you'll see later F wore in San Francisco:
I got the pattern for this dress, which my mom will sew in the "beach cruiser" and "urchin forest" organic fabrics below (in the picture the aqua colors don't look quite the same but actually they are):
And finally, Julie bought F this little dress and bloomers outfit, but in a different pattern, which you can see her wearing on the beach in Malibu a few days later:
All goods pictures above are from Maisonnette. Check them out, they even have an online shop! There were so many other beautiful things there: cushions, aprons, children backpacks, boy clothes, retro dresses patterns for women... And the fabrics! I had never seen such an amazing selection. I will certainly do other projects with these (there's even fabric for curtains, raincoats, etc...)
Finally, during the trip, we also got F two little dresses that might fit her next year:
(Ditzy raven dress from All Saints Spitalfields)