Marc was in Las Vegas last week and that was fine. Being a single parent would be exhausting and difficult, but four days of not having to think about Marc was sort of really nice. The day before he came home I told Marc he’s either a slob or being in a relationship with him is such an impossible time suck I don’t have time to be tidy, because without him there, the house was spotless. That’s when he said “I’ll stay for another week than since it’s so great without me.”  And that’s when I responded “sure, go ahead, we’re fine WITHOUT YOU.” And that’s when I decided we missed each other and should say that instead. So yes I missed you Marc, I just didn’t miss your mess.

Toronto was finally blessed with a proper snow fall to make the doldrums of cold winter days bearable by having something to do outside other than walk to school.

SNOW, 2011

I recognise this picture hardly represents the scale of the snowfall, having a picture, any picture, obscuring the rotting, threadbare shingles of our garage made me feel better. It made me feel like don’t have a problem under all that snow. Nope, no problem. I’m going to look at this picture forever. Especially in the spring.

Toronto got snow which is fun. Vegas got no snow AND was chilly. When I do the math, chilly + no snow = not fun, therefore:

Toronto – 1

Vegas – 0

Our Friends Jess and Chad invited us over for dinner and I didn’t have to cook OR clean up the kitchen. It was amazing, a gift, I practically floated. We made our own little pizzas, which were delicious (though mine and Jess’ were most delicious). Kate and Simon didn’t really eat because when we visit Pizza Jess (the endearment is a literal one), Super-tall Chad (yup, also literal) and baby Ada (totally a baby), it’s a little too fun to bother with food, but they pretended. At least for a few seconds.

eating. sort of.

Yes they are drinking coke. Yes it’s the only thing they finished (other than the popcorn Chad made after they didn’t eat their dinner). Yes everyone wished I’d brought them a teeny bottle of coke too.

Unfortunately I don’t have a shot of Baby Ada, who is really so delightful and lovely and cute and I wanted to put her in my pocket and sneak her out of there, but I do have one of Jess and Chad even if happens to be a wee bit out of date..

2002, 2011

For those of you who know Jessica and Chad you might find this photo surprising. Especially the Chad part of it. Whoa. It was taken at our wedding (I met Jess in junior high), where instead of a typical guest book we fitted corners into a scrapbook, left it on a table with a Polaroid camera (I know, what’s that?) and gold pen, and people basically got the idea. I’m sure when our guests saw they were given half a page for their message instead of the usual one line, they were really, really happy.

Marc had dinner out that night too, but someone always cooks for him so that makes it less special. Obviously. 

Toronto gets a whole point, Vegas – half.

Now it wasn’t all snow days and dinners out while Marc whooped it up in Nevada. There were also birthday parties, two of them. So what if Vegas has gambling, night clubs, fine dining and… other things, it doesn’t have parties with birthday cakes for loot bags.

cake 1 of 2.

Two kids, two loot bags, two cakes.

 Toronto – 1

 Vegas – 0.

The best thing in Toronto, and something that absolutely, 100% could not be found in Vegas:

better than vegas, 2011

And one of these:

also, better than vegas.

I’d like to offer up “me” as a final reason why Toronto beat Vegas this weekend. Sure, Vegas has a fair streamlined system for replacing spouses (albeit often temporarily), but why would Marc avail himself of such things when he as this:

better than vegas?

Simon took this picture when we got home Friday night, making it an honest illustration of our time Marc-free. Hard to beat? You betcha!

For the two children, 1 point each. For the accommodating, irreplaceable wife, 1.5 points. Vegas got Marc though, which is a point (cue sappy music) but he loses half for anything stupid he did I don’t know about.

Toronto – 2.5

Vegas – 0.5

Grand total:

Toronto – 6.5

Vegas – 1.0

The numbers don’t lie folks, the clear and expected winner is Toronto. I’ll let you know how the city fairs when I’m in Northern New Hampshire for four days in the spring. I suspect the good times come with me, but we’ll see.

Aaaand for the two of you who give a shit:

sweater, 2011

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4 – The number Simon turned at the end of  November.

animals that belong to other people are fun for kids at parties (yes, Simon is also taking pictures).

 

17 – The number of commitments we had, individual and family, between December 5-21st.  I’m not sure why I stopped counting on the 21st, before Christmas and before fulfilling all our commitments, but every time I counted, that was where I stopped. The holidays beat me.

48 – The number of times I swore silently to myself because Simon is short and got stuck in the back row during the Kindergarten songs at the school Winter Concert. The only snap I could get was this blurry one as they were filing out:

argyle simon, 2010

When all I really wanted was one like this. But singing:

songless simon, 2010

0- The number of presents/anything Christmas-related Marc organised before December 23rd. 

1 – The number of people Marc decided he was responsible for this Christmas.

1000 million – The number of reasons the holidays are so much cooler now that we have kiddies.

reindeer kate, 2010

5 – The number of things we got up to between Christmas and New Years. Apparently we don’t learn.

7 – The number Kate turned at the beginning of January.

last kate photo of 2010

1 – The number of Queens in the hive at the museum we went to on the last day of December.

last simon photo of 2010

7 – The number of (adult) revelers around my friend Judy’s table on New Year’s Eve (the children were in the basement. Destroying it).

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

innumerable – The number of ways I’m fucked because my friend Steph, a fine knitter who happens to TEACH speed knitting, just declared the sweater we are knitting together (separately, two sweaters, but at the same time, a knit-a-long) wasn’t a race. And I know Steph, and that totally means it fucking is. Steph has a furnace war every autumn, trying to out-freeze participating family in separate households to see who can go the longest before turning on their heat. There is no prize, only the glory of… winning? Of freezing voluntarily (a freeze-a-long?) for no particular reason? Knitting is way more comfortable than that, and the outcome so much sweeter. She has two sleeves and part of the body. I have this:

wool. not a sweater.

2 – The number of mittens I have to finish (Christmas gift- knitters I know you understand) before beginning the sweater.

almost mittens, 2011

1 – The number of lessons I learned about starting a knit-a-long with Steph.

Happy New Year folks!

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

man, 2010

Dear Man under the Dora the Explorer Blanket, you were right, I’m sorry.

Fitfully and in bursts of energy and quiet, life has tumbled along here  (even in the absence of pages and pages of blog posts to attest to that truth). So here it is, the Reader’s Digest version of what’s been up (or not, depending on your perspective) this last bit.

Not long after the last of the bacteria evacuated my lungs, but before we went on holiday, school started. And for the first September ever, my two littles went to real, publicly funded school.

grade 1, 2010

The newest members of school are staggered in over the first week, so Simon had to wait until day 2 for his scholastic beginnings. Simon mostly ran away or shoved his hand in the lens as I begged him to  let me memorialize the occasion. I think he called me an ass under his breath.

fuck, i'm not smiling for a picture again, get it right.

After reluctantly leaving Big Sister Kate at the threshold of the Kindergarten classroom for two years, Simon got his chance.

finally, 2010

 

Vehement crowd-haters, it was no accident our holiday and the first week of school coincided. And since waiting for things is hard, especially really, really good things, we decided to wait until the very last minute to tell Kate and Simon about the super-excellent trip we’d been had planned for months. I’ve seen the advertisements, we all have, the ones where parents disclose the impossibly exciting news of a trip to Disney World to eager, wide-eyed children, and how it’s met with shrieks of joy and hysteria from said thankful children, replete “yippees”, “hoorays” and perhaps a tear or two. We couldn’t wait. That was dumb.

Marc was desperate to be the one to let them know the news, but when he told me the details of his unveiling, I was a little skeptical: really important news? Really, your plan to excite a 3 and 6 year old about a super-fun vacation is to have a family meeting about “important news”… But I’ve been wrong before (or so he’s told me), so I took the video and he did the talking.

I will probably go to hell for correcting Marc on his Disney World vs. Disney Land bungle, but it was all going a bit haywire and Simon was crying and Kate was worried about school, and I couldn’t control myself. I’m fine with it.

When the camera was off we took a few moments to explain why Daddy handed them little plastic cards and asked them to get excited, and then spent a few more moments warming them up before turning the camera on again. Take Two:

A forced, insincere improvement perhaps, but an improvement to be sure. Oh well, I’m certain it’s not the last time our children could care less about something we think is fantastic.

Next up, birthdays. A whole whack of them. Mostly I’m just going to talk about mine because, well, I can.

31 candles, count them.

There was dinner, wine, friends and poutine – mostly in that order. This is Jim, he’s very dark because he always wears black, or has a dark aura, or something.

winter jim, 2010

Jim goes with Alison, kind of like peas and carrots but mostly like Cheech and Chong. Alison was there too, somewhere.

Dinners that produce pictures like that often end in trips here:

poutine, 2010

With faces like this:

younger friend, older sister, 2010

That’s my friend Jess on the left and my sister Alicia on the right. It was also Alicia’s birthday, why yes she is older than me. Being so close to Thanksgiving, Jessica thought about streamlining the whole operation with turkey poutine. Genius.

Hallowe’en rolled up next (and after all the mini chocolate bars, I rolled out).

CANDY!

Then the Royal Winter Fair:

during.

 

after.

 That brings us basically up to today, Wednesday. Kate at home for her mental health masquerading as “I have a cough”, and me writing the beginnings of this blog on napkins at a Portuguese bakery because Kate had my phone and I had no knitting.

people actually do this. apparently.

We finished up the afternoon by painting the fairy moulds we made a few weeks ago,

a rare glimpse of the near-extinct crt television, 2010

 and fighting over checkers, which sadly I don’t have a picture of.

That’s about it.

Expectations are funny things. For something that can’t be touched, or seen or smelled, I marvel at how something so seemingly invisible could be so not-invisible. Visible?

I am always tripped up by my expectations, sometimes because I expect something to be different (better) than it is, but mostly by expecting people to do things the way I would do them. I’m reluctant to admit feeling my way is the right way, but unrequited expectations can only mean that very thing. Because really I imagine I’m the nicest, most smartest, most thoughtful-est person in the whole widest world, and anybody who would do anything different must be doing it wrong. Poor Marc, marriage for him is a particularly dangerous mine field – I expect.

I was recently saddened by what I can only describe as mis-matched expectations. I zigged, they zagged, and despite explanations that resonate completely with the zagger, my zigger just couldn’t get it. I tried to listen and understand, because despite my aforementioned perfect-ness, I really do recognise I’m nuts and try to accommodate the sanity around me. Yet there we were, round and round, back and forth, cosmos filling the void between us, and we could do nothing to bridge the disagreement gulf. I imagine the zagger would say we parted ways on conduct, I’d say I zigged over feelings, but either way, we each expected the other to act, then react, differently. So here I am, with all my ideals about  having a moral compass, respect and integrity, and all I have to hold is frayed disappointment, which is about as weighty and invisible as the expectations that caused it.

All grown up and in firm control of what I do with my expectations and the disappointment that may or may not arise from them, I realise my conundrum is really a parenting one: is there a way to teach Kate and Simon to have a strong compass, to embrace compromise but not at the expense of their integrity, to be understanding and thoughtful and to believe the world is full of like-minded people? And can it be done without making them expectation-full and relentlessly let-down by the differences that make people unique and interesting?   I want them to treat people with dignity and expect it in return, and to know when it’s missing, and walk away when it is.  That it’s possible for a boyfriend or girlfriend, or friend, or family member or fellow transit rider/shoe shiner/roofer/gardener/boss/colleague/barista to be as committed to kindness and respect. Are you not always surprised by someone who honks because you’re not turning fast enough, or swears at a cashier in a grocery line for forgetting to ring in a coupon, because I am. I am surprised everyday I see strangers yell at other strangers for getting in their way, and when it happens to me personally, stranger or otherwise, the shock is a thousand fold.

So maybe I’m enormously a tiny bit sensitive, but there has to be somewhere in between it being okay to holler over a mistaken no-foam-but-got-the-foam-latte and horror over the hollering. Certainly there a few, incontrovertible expectations most of us can heartily agree on. For instance, at least as far as I can tell, we’re in agreement that murder is generally bad, we don’t want people to do it, and in fact expect them not to. When someone does engage in the murdering, we are disappointed, collectively, and collectively, expect it not to happen again. Even when it does. Again. And again, and again, and again. Same for driving drunk, abuse, hurting children, ATM charges, system access fees and the impossibly (and infuriating) short supply of the iPhone 4. We expect these things to be different from they are, is that wrong?

After considering the crude list above, I realise the argument lies in that few things are in fact incontrovertible, that for every obnoxious cash machine in a corner store, there’s someone bottle feeding instead of breast feeding and the argument isn’t so clear anymore. I suppose I answer my own question on the nights I’m too exhausted to spell my name and dump a box of Kraft Dinner into a pot of boiling water instead of steaming broccoli and grilling portobello mushrooms. I suppose it’s also how you negotiate your life and the relationships with the people around you. And as hard as it is to relate when Meursault “kills the Arab“, I suspect we are all as capable of that as we are of losing our shit over a latte, given the right circumstances.

For now I’m comfortable with my disappointment, which I assure you persists. Not because I’m oddly committed to feeling bad, but because I’ll take the disappointment as a natural consequence of what I hope is the standard I hold myself to.  I’m still a tad unsure of the best way to teach/model expectations without judgment and strength with compromise, but now that I’ve talked it through I feel even more like it’s possible. Thanks.

And because she only reads my blog to find her name, hi Alison.

alison walking, 2010

p.s. I apologise if you read this before I spell-checked. My secret is out, I spell expectation wrong every time without help.

Holy shit is Disney World expensive, like way, way more fucking expensive than we thought – and we’re thinkers. I know cussing in the first sentence of a big long paragraph about Disney World is probably, I don’t know, against the law, but after spending $150 to rent a double stroller for five days (yes, the cost of a real stroller that we actually get to keep – forever), we began to realise Disney is smarter than us, and our futile plans to hold on to our retirement savings and still have fun at the park were just plain dumb. 
  
Okay, that is perhaps the most enormous a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s definitely pricey, and we screwed up everything by arriving snack-less, water-less, coffee-less (gasp) and fan-less, and so had to purchase all of those things to keep us from passing out from the deep, penetrating, Florida heat. 
  
And oh that heat, with its enticing, misty smell, so deep and hot.  The pool at our hotel is unheated, but warmer than my parent’s pool. The air is so hot it practically smokes, I’m worried it will light itself on fire, making the use of a towel all-habit and no-necessity. 
  
Since I can come, partake, then leave, the heat is welcome and exotic. Still, I think I understand why when I spoke to a woman at a Disney reservations desk she exhaled longingly when we exchanged weather anecdotes about our respective parts of the globe. I think I understand because during the sun’s fullness just before lunch, we stood in front of Cinderella’s castle watching Disney’s finest sing and dance about the power of dreams. (In anywhere but Disney World I would throw up in my mouth, but here, in the happiness place on Earth, I think I actually believed…) So yeah, it’s hot, singing, dancing, trickling? That’s right – right down my leg. I was frozen in horror by the instant thought that having two kids had finally caught up with me, that all that kegel shit is a big fat lie, that I was so damn happy listening to Mickey’s inspirational lyrics I lost control…  AND PEED MYSELF.  
  
That, or I was sweating  profusely. Fuck it’s hot – Reservation Lady, I completely understand.
  
Smart enough to bring my camera cable to upload pictures throughout the week, I wasn’t smart enough to bring A) the software or B) the computer the software is installed on. I could probably find it online, but that’s a pain, so I used Marc’s Blackberry and took pictures of pictures on my camera’s screen. This partial vindication I think makes me semi-smart. Maybe. 
  
So we got a stroller: 
  

"kate's squishing me" 2010

  
 
  
With minimal tears we went on rides: 
  

OHMYGODSIMONSTOPCOMPLAININGABOUT KATESQUISHINGYOU!

  
 
  

We paid too much for lunch for the privilege of eating at a table, with air conditioning and bottomless glasses of water: 
  

after lunch, dispositions better.

  
 
  

 We got autographs: 
  

all characters with fake heads don't speak. which is weird.

  
 
  

We saw rainbows: 
  

rainbow. duh.

  
 
  

Yes it’s hot, and yes it’s expensive, but it’s also absolutely delightful. The one thing I don’t have a picture of, the thing that sums up perfectly the reason we came, was the look on Kate’s face when arrived today. Wonder, amazement, shock, magic. Who doesn’t love magic. 
  

This isn’t a trip just for our children, but for our family, both in the way we delight in their happiness and in the way we’re enjoying the park for ourselves. Sure a trip to France would have been lovely, but I suspect Notre Dame Cathedral can’t hold a candle to Cinderella’s castle*, at least not for my kids.   

Another reason we’re having such a grand time:

wait time, five minutes.

  

*We’ve been here, it’s crazy-cool. One day my kids will feel the same way, then we’ll take them.