Pan Fried

I found a crepe recipe a few days ago. For those of you who don’t know, crepes are my favorite treat, but the only place that I know where to find them fast is West Edmonton Mall, which is a whole 1.5 hour drive from my house. I can’t justify three hours of driving with two toddlers just to eat a crepe, which I can’t share because my kids somehow channel the feeding of the five thousand and spread a mess of food much farther than science says it should go.

So I wondered if I could make it at home. I took the boys grocery shopping and gathered all the ingredients before heading home to make a delicious crepe lunch.

Life, then, felt sane. I mean, I was struggling to be a mediocre mom on a day off with the boys and trying to get a handle on all my school work, but life felt more in control than it did a year ago. Brian and I have been okay, I think. Life with two toddlers, one of us working full time, and one of us at school full time means we don’t get a lot of time to connect, but we both knew this was a season.

The first crepe was small and a little crispy, but Brian ate it without complaint. The second was a little better. The more I made, the better they turned out. And they tasted perfect. Smeared with a little whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and raspberries. Not a healthy lunch, but delicious.

Today I wanted to make crepes for breakfast. Same recipe, same pans, same everything. Not same me.

Life’s been turned upside down in a matter of days. It’s inappropriate to share any details, but my face today is a little tear-stained. My shoulders are slumped a little lower. I forget to breathe for a while until my chest aches and then it comes in big gasps, almost like I’m drowning.

I followed the directions, mixed the ingredients, poured the batter into the pan. It smelled magical. Exactly what I needed on a day like today. Three minutes later, I went to flip the crepe, but it stuck to the bottom of the pan. I scraped it out and tried again. Four more times. The fourth time used the last of the batter. There was nothing left.

A pile of broken pastry sat next to me on the plate with nothing to do but scrape it into the garbage. Time, money, food all wasted. The only thing I’d made was a mound of dirty dishes.

Life is like that sometimes. One day, everything works out. The next, all the effort and energy you expend turn into nothing but more work. You’re further behind than when you started. All you can do is clean up the dirty dishes and hope for tomorrow to work out a little differently.

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Joining the Bullet Journal Cult

It all started with a tweet:

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Link here and you should be following me

A bullet journal? I thought. What in the world is a bullet journal? 

And then I was sucked deep down the rabbit hole of bullet journaling. I read the Buzzfeed article, which basically says that it’s a planner/to-do list that’s in a regular lined, dotted, or plain journal. You make all the pages yourself rather than having them done for you, which gives you both a lot of work to do and lots of freedom to do what you want. I learned that the term for bullet journaling for those in the know was “bujo” (an obnoxious word, btw) and there was a whole Instagram subculture dedicated to it.

I was intrigued. A daytimer that worked however I needed it to? A to-do list that I could add and remove things from as I did them? STATIONARY?! Well, I’d better see what other people were doing.

I disappeared for two days as I scrolled through my Instagram feed looking at all of the beautiful, creative, fun ideas that people had come up with and I decided that I’d better try it. So I picked up a notebook, a ruler, and some pens and…. then turned back to my phone to look at more Instagram ideas.

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I picked a Leuchtturm 1917 journal because it had a dot grid, which felt like a happy medium between ruled (which doesn’t leave much room for different shapes or doodles) and plain (I’LL NEVER DRAW A STRAIGHT LINE). I grabbed some magnetic page markers so that I could easily flip back and forth from frequent pages. The pens were recommended by many on Instagram, but they also happened to be my favorite brand. The 0.3 mm tip is perfect for bullet journaling, though I adore the 0.1 mm tip for other writing. I grabbed both the bright colours and the pastels and let me tell you, the pastel blue-grey is my all time favorite pen.

Then I started the pages.

First step was to make an index so that as I filled my book, I’d easily find things. It’s not called a Table of Contents because instead of outlining chapters and sections, you put a word like “January” and list every page that has that word next to it. It’s easily filled in as you fill in the book.

Second page was the key:

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In my daytimer, I’d use these symbols to denote specific things so that I could easily scan to see what needed to be done (the to-do portion of my journal), appointments I needed to attend, and just cool things that happened in my day, such as Monkey saying “Grandpa” for the first time.

But after the first two pages, I retreated back to Instagram. There were so many things that people did. To read pages, Walk to Mordor challenges,weight-loss trackers, gratitude journals, and calligraphy practice pages. It was a little overwhelming. I reminded myself that this book is just for me and it’s not meant to be perfect so I settled on a page to list all the books I read this year, which I set up as a bookshelf. I’ll fill in each book as I read them (and colour code them based on the author’s gender so that I can see if I’m reading as many women as I think I am).

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Instead of adding a bunch of pages of tracking systems, I decided to wait. If I wanted to add a tracking page, I could just do it where ever my next blank page was. Because of the index, it doesn’t have to be in any order. So my yearly, monthly, and weekly calendars started up:

The best part is that I can track whatever I feel like. I’m interested especially in the habit tracker where you fill in a box every day you eat out, read, write, spend money, exercise, play video games, etc. It can track whatever you want. And then at the end of the year you can look back and decide if that’s how you want to spend your time next year. Did you eat out more often than you expected? How about exercise? It’s a really cool way to show yourself where you put your time and effort. I am also tracking weather because it’s so funny how often we say “I can’t remember the last winter that was this cold.” Well, I have it written down.

Mine are simplistic because I’m not artistic at all, but they don’t have to be. You can make it as simple or intricate as you like. You can add weekly inspirational quotes. You can have a doodle box in the corner so each week you do some kind of art. You can make each month/week different or keep them the same. If my January spread was above, here’s my February. Not the same at all. I love variation.

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Make it whatever suits your life and what will inspire you. Get whatever supplies that make you excited to fill in the next month. All I ask is that if you do it, post pictures to Instagram. Let the world see your pretty Bujo!

Have you ever given this a try? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to see what you’ve been working on!

R.I.P. Tranquil Turtle

Welp, we had our first accident with the kids. Not car accident. Pee accident. It’s finally happened. I mean, they’ve peed on stuff before, but not like this.

Some backstory: Monkey hates diaper changes. He’d sit in a full diaper forever if I’d let him. I have to carry him to the changing pad and hold him down just to get a clean, dry diaper on this kid. He fights with all his might, sometimes with tears, sometimes with giggles, but always with flailing arms, kicking legs, and seventeen attempts at escape.

So today I was changing him. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster week here so I’m a little burnt out already. As I was changing his diaper, I found a pebble. Like a white, round river rock. And I was so perplexed at how it had gotten in there since it’s the middle of winter and we are covered in a good 1.5 feet of snow that I let my guard down. And off went naked Monkey.

Well, crap.

The first place he always runs is his pillow. It’s a body pillow as long as he is and he stretches himself out so that it’s hard for me to lift him. And then I hear it, that unfamiliar pitter-patter that I usually associate with rain on pavement. But there’s no rain here. It’s -25 degrees outside. And then I hear Monkey giggle.

I quickly raced to him, scooped him up and strapped a diaper on that kid before sending him away as I assessed the damage. What I expected would be a round puddle looked more like an over-sized coffee cup stain. That’s strange, I thought as I gazed at the crescent. Until I looked onto the bed and noticed Monkey’s most prized possession: a Cloud B Tranquil Turtle.

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This is a nightlight/sound machine, if you have never seen it before.

Monkey has had this turtle since he was born. It plays every night before he goes to sleep and, if he wakes in the middle of the night, he presses the buttons and puts himself back down. He loves it so much that he has another one that stays at daycare. I have to send this guy anytime Monkey is even going to nap somewhere. And the interior of the shell is full of pee.

I was about to have a full-blown panic attack. Not Brian. He’s pretty sure it’ll dry out just fine. Who knows, right? But me, I’m sitting in silence wondering if Monkey will ever sleep again. My heart’s racing, my breath is coming in short gasps, and my palms are sweaty. It’s like the time when my little sister gave up her soothers and I was scared to death that she would cry all night (a legitimate fear since we shared a bedroom).

I haven’t got the ending of this story yet because Tranquil Turtle is still dead in our laundry room and I can hear Monkey’s woeful cries from his bed. I will update soon.

Update: So last night was a nightmare. Took Monkey an extra half hour to go to sleep, which isn’t bad at all. I had hope for the night ahead. But at 3 am, I was awoken by a heart-broken Monkey. He didn’t want to be awake. I didn’t want to be awake. I tried lying down with him, which didn’t work. I tried a different nightlight, which also didn’t work. So we started our day very, very early.

Update 2.0: I bought two of these suckers and I plan on never living without one again. He’s going to college with a Tranquil Turtle.

What have I learned from this episode? Alway have a backup of the kids favorite sleeping aids.
What about you? Does your kid have something they just can’t sleep without? Did you? Have they/you accidentally destroyed that precious item? Tell me below and make me feel better.

 

Hello Again Ham

Well, here it is: December 1st. A few weeks ago, I decided to try being a vegetarian for six weeks. And here I am on the other side.

How’d it go?

It started well. I was excited. I searched out lots of new recipes and got my husband on board. We ate cauliflower instead of chicken. We substituted beans for beef. And, for a while, it worked well.

But I failed, and I failed often. As I figured, eating out was going to be a hurtle. There were very few vegetarian options out there and most of them were labeled “Mediterranean,” which meant a whole lot of olives and feta. Gross. But after each time, I shook my head and said, “I will try again tomorrow.”

And as long as I called myself “vegetarian,” that worked.

Then my kids got sick. Monkey had this cold that’s going around for a week and as he was recovering, Eggs picked it up. Two weeks of little sleep and inconsolable kids made me reach for the quick and easy. Pizza, burgers, poutine… whatever was easy. School didn’t help. Giant projects with a few hiccups lost me more sleep and more patience. And I forgot to keep calling myself a vegetarian. I was just Becka once again.

I learned a lot from the experience, though. I learned that I needed to tell people I was a vegetarian, not because I was judging their choices or bragging about my moral superiority, but because I need to remind myself that this was who I was going to be for a while. It encouraged me to keep going, even when all I really wanted was a pot roast or beef stew.

I also learned that it takes a lot of work to be a vegetarian. Or maybe it’s discipline. It’s saying no to some things and making sure not to reward yourself with something incredibly processed and unhealthy as a replacement. How many times did I say, “well, chocolate is vegetarian” or “I’ll just have a large fries, please.” So I applaud people who have done this and stuck with it. They deserve respect.

This foray into vegetarianism was good for me. It made me more aware of what I was eating, a positive thing for someone who self-medicates with food. Turns out being a vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean you’re eating healthier. I did see some changes in my body, which was interesting. Not weight related, but just general health related.

I’m proud of myself for trying something new. I know that, in the end, it’s not for me, but that’s okay. I needed to experiment a little. And while I failed frequently, it was nice to see me pick myself and try again. I know that when I fail at other things (like, say, receiving yet another rejection letter for my writing), I can say:

“I will try again tomorrow.”

I Could Have Been A Trump Supporter

There is a lot about me that could make you think that I’d support Donald Trump if I were an American citizen. I am white, I am in a heterosexual relationship, I am a Christian, and I live in a province that is infamous for its support of the PCs (which is the watered-down, Canadian equivalent of the Republicans for those of you who don’t know). And there was a time that I could have been.

In my teens, I was convinced that women’s rights were a waste of time. I mean, I’d love to stay home and have no responsibilities. And what’s the point of voting if I was just going to vote the same as my husband. I parroted these opinions, thinking that it’s what would make me desirable. After all, I didn’t want to be one of those feminists. I believed that abortion was wrong, that women who got pregnant had to “deal with the consequences,” that homosexuality was a sin, that homeless people were lazy, that other religions were misguided at best, that immigration was something that big cities had to deal with.

I am not proud of it.

I would have been a prime Trump supporter years ago. I would have gobbled up the rhetoric because it aligned with my world view. I would have turned my nose at Hillary because she should know her place. Maybe I would have dubbed Bernie Sanders the antichrist because of his popularity.

But last Tuesday while the votes were being tallied, I was taking a bath and I looked up at the ceiling and said, “Dear Lord, please don’t let Trump win this. I have never been more afraid of anyone in my life. I don’t even live in the same country and I am afraid. I can’t imagine what all of those people he’s scornfully mocked are feeling right now. Please, God, if I’ve ever asked for anything, let this be where you work a miracle.”

Then I looked at the count. Florida was being tallied and already it wasn’t looking good. When I went to bed, sleep didn’t come easily.

My children woke me up early in the morning. I could hear Monkey whining to come out of his room, but I stayed in bed for a moment. A heavy weight of fear pinned me to my sheets, only releasing me enough to let my reach for my phone. Then I saw the news. Trump had won.

I’m dreaming, I thought and I tried to turn over and go back to sleep, but Monkey was awake and this was real.


On September 11, 2001, I was in my dad’s Intrepid on my way to the second week of seventh grade. I remember Dad was unusually silent. He’s not talkative at the best of times, but this was different. We were listening to the radio, not the usual Michael Bublé CD, and I remember hearing that some building had been hit by a plane. I didn’t understand what it meant.

When I was dropped off at school, things seemed normal until my first class when our principal came over the intercom to explain that something awful had happened and we were going to have a moment of silence. That moment in silence marked where the world changed for me. My education was suddenly peppered with discussions about terrorism, war, and the Middle East. My limited understanding about what was going on led me to fear.

We were at war because somewhere, a group of people hated us. I didn’t understand why. Perhaps it’s because my pre-teen brain wasn’t ready to comprehend the complexity of international affairs. Probably it’s because people didn’t think we could understand it and only presented a watered-down version that didn’t provide any answers at all. Maybe the people educating us didn’t have all the answers themselves. I don’t think anyone was prepared for what the future had in store for us.

Everyone knows where they were the day the towers fell, when they heard the news. That was a Tuesday that changed the world. I can’t help but think that last Tuesday was the same.


I could have been a Trump supporter years ago. But why am I not?

My confidence in my beliefs was slowly chipped away as I got older. Things happened at church, where I’d picked up most of my beliefs. Things that my heart told me were wrong, but my brain told me were the results of my beliefs. I tried to reconcile them quietly, trying to make them fit into the boxes that I’d created long ago. When they didn’t fit, I stuffed them in the back of my mind. Under the staircase where they wouldn’t be a bother. I tried to forget.

Then in the fall of 2007, I was raped.

Things changed for me that year. I refused to deal with the experience and looked to my beliefs to understand what had happened. It was my fault. I shouldn’t have been drinking. I should have stayed with my friend. I shouldn’t have been flirting. I shouldn’t have accepted a drink I didn’t pour myself. I shouldn’t have even been there in the first place. My fault.

So I packed the experience up. Another box placed under the stairs where the others were festering. I’d learned a lesson, hadn’t I? I’d done something wrong and now I was the soiled woman that all the purity books talked about. What is it that I’d heard? Oh yes, no one wants a piece of gum that’s already been chewed. No man wants a wife who isn’t a virgin.

I let my life go to shit then. I’d diminished my quality as a wife. I was already chewed up and spit out. There was nothing to safeguard anymore. So I partied. I drank. I smoked some marijuana. I let myself be all the things that I was warned to stay away from as a little girl. It didn’t matter anymore. I didn’t matter anymore. The whole thing sunk me deeper and deeper into a depression that I couldn’t escape.

I met Brian in the midst of that depression. He chose me, even then. He stood by me for each panic attack, each irrational outburst, each threat of suicide. Until one day I begged him not to go out with his friends. In the darkness of that October night, I remember him standing silhouetted in the bedroom doorway.

“I can’t do this anymore,” he said. “I can’t keep wondering what I’ll be coming home to. You need to deal with this.” Then he left.

I wrote letters to each of my family members that night and tucked them under my mattress before downing a bottle of pills.


I knew I’d wake up the next morning because we didn’t have anything that strong in our house. What did surprise me though, was that I was glad to wake up. The late autumn sun  snuck its fingers through my basement window pane, illuminating the mostly empty room. Brian had come home. He was sleeping soundly next to me. For that, I was grateful.

His words from the night before still stung, but I realize now that I did need to hear them. I swore he wouldn’t see the pain I felt like needles under my skin. I made a decision to fake it. I clutched my feelings of inadequacy, of worthlessness, firmly to my chest, but my face would be smiles and small talk.

People tell you to fake it til you make it. For me, it ended up working. Had my feelings been connected to a neurotransmitter imbalance, I know this would not have been a solution. My self-loathing was a practiced one, one that I’d spent years preparing the ground for. Rape was the seed and my subsequent actions were the water. I shouldn’t have been surprised at what grew.

The crappy thing about that self-loathing is that once it’s planted, you spend your whole life plucking its weeds. Sometimes it convinces you that what you feel is real, that anything awful that comes your way is directly related to how truly, deeply, perfectly wretched you are. Other times, you look it square in the face and tell it to get behind you. If you’re not careful, though, the weeds can grow where you least expect them.

The birth of Monkey, and the horrible hormonal swings afterwards, caused a bout of postpartum depression. I failed the exam they give you at the doctor’s office and was scheduled for weekly visits to a therapist. Experiences, beliefs, fears, and my overwhelmingly low self esteem poured out in each hour-long session.


Yes, I could have been a Trump supporter. That was when I knew only a handful of people of colour in my community. That was when many of my LGBT friends weren’t out. That was when I thought that if I followed my restrictive, narrow-minded rules, I wouldn’t get hurt. That was when I thought that if others got hurt, it was because they didn’t follow those same rules. That was when I prioritized financial success over loving people.

Since then, I have learned a lot. I spent time with people who didn’t look like me who were kind and loving and smart and nothing like what the newspapers told me they’d be like. Friends of mine came out as LGBT and I realized that nothing had changed. They were the same people I cared about and that maybe what I’d been taught about them wasn’t true. I had children of my own and realize exactly how insanely hard it is to be a parent. I learned to respect single parents because I can’t imagine doing it on my own, especially when the world looks at them like they’ve done something wrong. I learned about rape culture, the patriarchy, and privilege and how those things directly contributed to what I experienced. I have a great appreciation for the women that fight for equality and strive to be a voice for equality myself.

I am not a Trump supporter. And I don’t think that every Trump supporter has the same world view that I had years and years ago and maybe they don’t have the same views as Trump’s most avid campaigners, but I do think that Trump supporters have declared with their votes that those views are okay. They have said, “It is okay that Trump gropes women without consent. It’s okay that he makes fun of disabled people. It’s okay that he is an alleged child rapist. It’s okay that he is part of a lawsuit about illegal business practices. It’s okay that he hasn’t paid taxes in years. It’s okay that he wants to mark Muslims and deport millions.” And this is what breaks my heart and makes me afraid.

I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Is everything going to normalize after a couple of months once people get used to the idea that Trump is going to be president? Are things going to escalate? What is it going to mean for my home province, where Trump’s rhetoric has effectively taken hold?

I am desperately hoping that people have voted for Trump out of misinformed fear. I don’t like to think that people are as racist as it seems, but each new report of hate crimes gripping the US is telling me otherwise. I’m convinced that many of those people would change their minds if they spent some time around the people that Trump has so viciously espoused his hate towards. It’s easy to hate people you haven’t met. It’s easy to fear things you don’t understand.

I am having trouble myself not fearing Trump supporters because I sure as hell do not understand. I don’t understand how Hillary Clinton was the greater of two evils. In fact, I don’t see how she was evil to begin with. I don’t understand how fellow Christians, who believe that our Christ was a person of colour with no wealth and who spent his time with criminals preaching love and kindness, decided that hate should prevail. I don’t understand and I am afraid. Afraid for the rape victims who never speak up because even their president has been accused of rape. Afraid for the people of colour who are attacked because even their president doesn’t value their lives. Afraid for the Muslims who have already had to shoulder the burden of 9/11 even though they had nothing to do with it. Afraid for the LGBT community because they are being condemned and killed over love. Afraid for women (yes, even the white women who especially let the rest of America down) because one by one, our rights are eroding away.

I won’t let this fear turn to hate. But I also won’t let this fear leave me cowering. That is why I had to write this and why I had to share a story that I am not comfortable sharing. I stand with victims of assault. I stand with Muslims, and people of colour, and LGBT folks, and women. I stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and the Truth & Reconciliation program. You are not alone. I love you, I believe you are worthy, and I hope that in the end, love will prevail.

 

Comments have been disabled for this post at least for now. To be honest, I am really afraid of the reactions people will have to this post. I ask that if you comment on social media or here (once comments are allowed), that you be gentle no matter what side you’re on. While it’s okay to have differing opinions, I will not allow hate, name-calling, or bigotry, all of which get to be defined by me when it’s on my pages. Thanks for understanding.

Doctor Very, Very Strange

Brian and I took the day off yesterday to spend some time together. It’s reading break at university and Brian had a couple of days off so we left the boys at daycare and headed to a movie.

I should preface this with one thing: I do not like Marvel movies. The superhero thing doesn’t do it for me. I don’t like the punch, look over one’s shoulder, say a punny line to no one in particular, and punch again sequence. Explosions don’t excite me and the world has been at stake so many times that I’m ready for it to end. Oh, and I loathe Iron Man. That guy needs to launch into space and stay there.

Anyways, Brian and I went to see Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (not to be confused with Dr. Strange from 1978). My hopes were pretty low. I saw a couple reviews that pegged it as a way to waste a couple hours with something fun at the end. Brian, I’ll let you know, was more excited than I to see it. He’s a pretty big fan of this seemingly never-ending build-up to a finale of movies that will disappoint us all.

We took our seats at 12:30 with a bag of popcorn and a mostly empty theatre. We got the nice, comfortable d-box seats with our points because the extra leg room is sure nice. And you don’t have to share arm rests! Then the movie began…

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So it was like House and Batman Begins and Inception were mashed together into a single movie and then put through a kaleidoscope. We have a brilliant doctor who treats everyone like crap because that’s emerged as another trope we seem to eat up. He works with a less smart, but quite attractive doctor played by Rachel McAdams, who has some kind of romantic relationship with him. I can’t remember her name at all, which is kind of telling. Her character is there to convince the audience that we should care about Stephen Strange, even though he drives like a jerk, he has more money than most country’s GDPs , and he is overwhelmingly selfish.

After an accident that would never let him be a surgeon ever again, Strange searches for a way to restore his body to what it was before. This journey leads him to Nepal where he meets The Ancient One and learns that there’s magic in the world that comes from other dimensions, one of which is threatening to turn our world to darkness. Strange has to learn how to get over himself (just kidding, he doesn’t have to because he’s so incredible that he’s incapable of change) and tap into the magic so that he can save our world.

There are some references to other movies and I’d suggest that you watch Guardians of the Galaxy before watching this movie. The “twist” relies on it.

The acting is *shrug*. Cumberbatch is not as fun to watch when we are deprived of his accent. And his beard during his training is just… no. Tilda Swinton is as marvelous as ever, even though I’m not impressed that they cast a white woman to be the leader of monks in Nepal. And I know they “fixed” it with one line of dialogue that she is actually an ancient Celt (with a very British accent) who inherited the monastery, but it still rubs me a the wrong way. Why not have the monastery in Ireland? Why do we always have to associate Asia with “mystic” and “exotic?” I can’t tell if this is to be true to the comics (which I haven’t read) or because it’s easy. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo was fun to watch. I’ve always been a fan since his appearance on Serenity, but they gave him some weird accent that we all know is phony and borders on insensitive.

The CGI people had a field day with this movie. If you get motion sickness easily, maybe don’t see this in 3D because I was definitely feeling woozy half-way through. But as crazy as the effects were, I never looked at it and thought, wow this is pretty.

I think that was really it for me. It was okay. It didn’t blow my mind, nor did it make me angry so I guess that’s a plus. And I didn’t spend the movie wondering when it would be over. This movie is another in the long line of Marvel movies that is only there to introduce the character so that when they group up in yet another Avengers movie, we don’t have to go into backstory. We can just have more explosions.

If you love Marvel movies, I imagine you’ll enjoy this. If you have a couple of hours you’d like to burn, this isn’t a bad way to do it. If you just want to get away from reality right now, this will definitely remove you from it. But if you’re looking for a movie that passes the Bechdel test, that breaks the mold, that has fully fleshed out characters, look elsewhere.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Think I shouldn’t have reviewed this movie because I’m so biased? Let me know below!

 

The Witching Hour

It’s a coincidence that I am writing this just as Halloween approaches. This will be my first Halloween trick or treating with the boys and I’m pretty excited about it. Mostly excited about eating the candy that Monkey will surely forget about. I imagine that we will go to about 5 houses before I get sick of it and go back home. We got Monkey a pretty cute Halloween costume. In the true nerdy spirit of the Topping household, Monkey is dressing up as Yoda. It’s going to be adorable.

But today’s post isn’t actually about Halloween. If you have children, you read the title of this post and you knew exactly what I was talking about. The witching hour, for the uninitiated (and because I’m typing this in said witching hour, stay uninitiated as long as you can for God’s sake), is an hour around supper time where your children turn into the spawn of Satan.

It’s not that bad, you think in your glorious ignorance. You are wrong. It’s the worst. This hour is the number one reason that there is no way in the world that I will ever be a stay-at-home mom. There isn’t a single thing that doesn’t go wrong.

Let’s start with today. Our witching hour begins precisely at 4 pm, which happens to be 75 minutes before Brian gets home. The opening credits for a television show begins (because by the end of the day, I’m ready to let Food Network parent my kids) and both boys lose their minds. Eggs wants to go down for another nap, but with bedtime at 7 pm, a nap at 4 is inadvisable. Monkey wants supper, but that’s not for another hour or so. So I fill both boys with snacks. Today it was raspberry jello.

But, oh no, Monkey doesn’t want jello. But he doesn’t tell me that. He just takes a bit and then runs away to spit it into his hands and smear it on the living room walls. Eggs, on the other hand, loves the jello. Problem is that he wants to eat it faster than he is physically able. He chokes on the jello. And because he has a sensitive gag reflex, he throws up. Red bile all over the carpet.

Okay, so I grab a new snack for Monkey, clean up the wall, clean up the floor. While I do this, the kids head over to the TV. We have a long TV stand with 3 drawers because they don’t make childproof TV stands and they want you to attach your television to your brand new wall, which is super unreasonable in my opinion. Anyways, they have pulled apart the three drawers by the time I’ve cleaned up. But not just pulled everything out of them, pulled them out of the stand. And not just pulled them out of the stand, but pulled the rails out as well, tearing long gaping holes where the screws are supposed to sit. One piece of furniture destroyed.

It is now 4:15.

To be honest, I’m ready for the day to be over. Actually, I’m ready for the sweet embrace of death because it has been a long day. So I put them in their rooms so I can try to fix the stand and sob because I used to have nice things once upon a time. And then I go to sit back down and step in the wet spot from Eggs’ vomit. A cheerio grinds under my other foot. So I decide to vacuum.

Partially because there is a colony of cheerios living around the exersaucer. And partially because I know my boys are terrified of the vacuum and if you can’t take joy in the little things, I don’t know what to say to you. I pull the vacuum out and suck up all the cheerios as my children cry in both terror and in grief for the loss of each and every cheerio they threw on the floor instead of eating.

The vacuuming done, I go to comfort the children. I hold Eggs because his sobs have turned into gags, but this sends Monkey into a full blown tantrum because he wanted to be held first. Once Eggs is calm, I go to Monkey who doesn’t want to be on my lap now because he’d rather be smacking Eggs in the face, who is now screaming once again.

It is now 4:30.

Wait, where is the snack I brought up for Monkey? Oh, he’s crushed it between two shelves that he managed to pull off of the bookshelf, sending the contents of blu rays to the floor. I clean up the crumbs, put the shelves back up, and check each case to make sure that none of them have shattered.

The boys are screaming again. Don’t know why this time. Probably because they are hoping that the next time I go to school, I drive my car off the high level bridge.

Because I’m dead inside, I just let them cry until…

It is now 4:45.

We go downstairs to wait for Brian to get home. Because there’s nothing like screaming children to greet you at the door. The change of scenery calms them for 51 seconds. Then they realize that is where the food is. But not just any food. They want chocolate. At least Monkey does. And because he knows where the chocolate chips are kept, he tries to sneak into the pantry to get them.

But I’m smarter than an almost 2 year old. I’ve hidden them. But that doesn’t go well. He screams at the empty spot in the pantry, alerting his brother to his presence. Eggs follows the sound and finds the dog dish where he starts choking on dog food. Cue the vomit.

It is finally 5.

Brian will be home in 15 minutes. So what do I do? I hide in the bathroom.

 

This is the witching hour. Apparently a combination of tiredness and hunger, this is the equivalent of WWII here. A living nightmare where it may only be an hour, but you have aged at least 7 years from 4 to 5 pm.

And there is nothing to do with it except endure. Until they stop being like this, which I estimate to occur sometime around 2030.

Bye Bye Bacon

Last night I made a rash decision. I was lying in bed, waiting for sleep to take me, when my mind wandered to something a new friend at school had talked to me about. She is a vegan and had tried out veganism for one month back in the spring (I think?) and hadn’t looked back. A month, she’d figured, but it lasted even longer. I applauded her discipline and thought nothing more of it. I can’t go without meat, I thought. Bacon, turkey, burgers, meat sauce, chicken fingers… No way. Same with dairy and eggs (but only in baking). As if.

But then I looked at my diet. Not deeply. I just seemed to notice it ever since my friend and I had that chat. Dinners at home only had meat in them about half of the time. Where do I get most of my protein? Fast food. I’m embarrassed to admit it, let me tell you. I can see a pattern, though. My cravings for fast food come when we have had mostly-veggie dinners at home and I happen to be out of the house. And that is dangerous.

Brian has been living a lot healthier the last few months. He works out five times a week, he tries to eat better. He only drinks pop on Fridays. Me, on the other hand, has a bag of chocolate covered almonds that I don’t close because I stick my hand in there so often.

I’ve always used food to self-medicate. It’s a cheap, easy way to reward myself when I’m having a rough day. Problem is that every day is a rough day by my reckoning. Boys had dirty diapers? I deserve some chocolate. Boys didn’t nap at the same time? I should probably have some Coke, for the caffeine of course. Bad traffic on the way to school? Maybe I should grab a donut. Line too long for a donut? I’d better get two so that next time I don’t have to wait. I am so bad for this.

But Brian said something last night that stung. Something I shan’t repeat because it sounds cruel without the context. But it reminded me that I have an obligation to my family to take care of myself, something I haven’t been doing.

So, as my friend suggested, I am trying something new. Until December 1st, I’m going to do my level best to live as a vegetarian. No meat, fish, or poultry. I’ll still use animal products like honey, dairy, and eggs. And if someone asked me to give up wool, I might poke them with my knitting needles. But for the next nearly six weeks, I’m going to try something different.

I’m curious to see what this does to my fast food habit. And I wonder what effect this will have on my body and demeanor. But I’m actually excited about this change. Probably won’t be by tomorrow, but that’s why I’m putting it in writing. Now all my friends know and can bully me into not ordering chicken fingers if we go somewhere. Though, this doesn’t mean that I want anyone to cater to me at all. If you invite me over or if you come to my place, there will be meat on the menu. I just won’t partake.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

With Thanksgiving

It’s dark in my living room tonight as I sit at the computer. Brian is putting dishes in the laundry as we listen for any indication that our boys aren’t sleeping. We are both filled with great amounts of food. The boys’ backpacks are ready for day care tomorrow, now carrying the requisite winter equipment. All of my most pressing homework is done, though I could always stand to get ahead.

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It’s snowing outside. The little flecks sparkle around the halo of street lamp light. It’s too early for winter and we weren’t prepared. The scramble begins for winter tires and snow brushes. The highways were frozen for Thanksgiving (see above)–a weekend full of travel–but our tables were still filled with loved ones.

The snow quiets everything. The honking of the migrating geese is gone. The chorus of frogs in the pond near our home has long been quieted. Even the train is muffled beneath the blanket of white.

It is here, at the birth of winter, or the death of fall if that is your view, that I am thankful. Thankful for the deep quiet before I head to bed for the night, which is something I had never realized that I needed so much until after I had children. Thankful that there are children to break up the silence, children who are healthy and relatively happy. I’m thankful that my two boys are growing and learning and changing every day. At the same time, I’m thankful that they stay the same in some ways, that I can enjoy the little moments with them. Those moments where I admire the locks of hair that curl around Eggs’ ears, or watch Monkey sign “please” when he wants something, or seeing them pet the wary dog.

I’m thankful that we have a balance between busyness and rest, something I worried that we wouldn’t have when I started school. I’m even more thankful to be in school, and with a husband that supports me 100%. I’m thankful that I get this second start so late into my twenties and that it’s something that I enjoy.

This Thanksgiving is different than every other one I’ve had. Things have changed, which is bittersweet. Gone are the days where my cousins and I gathered around the basement of my grandparents’ house and played pretend. Gone is the kids’ table, the nicknames, the bickering. It’s been replaced by polite conversation and card games. But the past is still there, under the surface. Then someone brings up a memory and we are giggling about the time my brother didn’t realize he was texting my aunt, not our cousin. Or when we pulled each other in the little wagon.

Now there are new kids at the kids’ table. New little people riding in the wagon. We watch from the couches, the same way our parents watched us. It’s strange. It’s wonderful. We talk about jobs and children and the Blue Jays in between interruptions of cries and sticky fingers and the pat, pat, pat of children wanting to ask something.

My twenty-seventh Thanksgiving is very different from before. I wouldn’t change it, though I wouldn’t say no to a quick trip back to my seventh or seventeenth. Just for a day. Just for an afternoon. Just for a dinner.

This Thanksgiving is over. In five years, ten year, fifty years, I’ll be looking back to this weekend the way I look back now. I’ll be thinking about grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles with a drifting kind of heartbreak after they are gone. I’ll be missing the glee on the faces of my children as they were pushed around in the wagon. I’ll forget the things we talked about and the way that Monkey’s hair waved like wheat as he steered his way around the pool table. I won’t remember how Eggs was just learning to stand.

There are a hundred Thanksgivings behind us and another hundred ahead (give or take). Don’t forget to be thankful. Because they are only the same for a season. And seasons always change.