"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Sleepless at Someday: Baba Pickles edition

I've written about being sleepless at Someday before, but last night was an epic no-sleeper. And I can't blame the stuff that used to keep me awake, like bad dreams or anxiety or heartburn or false labour. Nope, last night was my own damned fault: I allowed myself to fall asleep in Dylan's bed and though D (allegedly) tried to rouse me a couple of times, I didn't stumble out of the kids' room until 11:30 p.m. And then I was wide. Frigging. Awake. Argh.

D tried to coax me to come to bed, but I knew it would be hopeless. I pointedly took a bottle of wine and a pint of blueberries out of the fridge, which is when he gave up and went to bed and fell asleep in thirty seconds flat, like he always does.

I drank a small glass of wine and ate the wine-soaked blueberries at the bottom of the glass. Then I played online scrabble for a while. Then I did what any country woman would do when faced with a long night of wakeful alone-ness: I made pickles.

These pickles are just like the ones my Russian grandma, my Baba, used to make, with cold water and cold vinegar and kosher salt and about a dump truck full of garlic. Instead of boiling them, you just tighten the lids, give them a shake and leave them alone for four or five days to ferment themselves into fizzy, crispy goodness. The cucumbers and garlic and dill are from local Mennonite farmers, which Baba would approve of. She always admired the "Mennoniteskies," as she called them. She probably wouldn't have been horrified to learn that I made them at 1 in the morning either, as we sometimes caught her outside raking her lawn in the middle of the night when she was having one of those sleepless spells that afflicted her occasionally.

I'm so tired today that all I can offer you is a photo essay of my Baba pickles. I hope you like them. I think they're rather beautiful. But maybe that's just the sleep deprivation talking.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Tangled Plots

I'm what you might call a greedy gardener. I have formal flower beds at the front and back of the house, a huge vegetable garden and a new hillside flower bed outside my office. I regularly neglect every one of them, yet I have a near-pathological urge every spring to BUY MORE STUFF. Often these new plants, purchased in a heady rush of excitement over their colour/fragrance/newness, are left to wilt in their containers because I haven't got the faintest idea where to put them, or I get busy with other things, or it's too hot out. I know. I should be banned from all garden centres within a 50 km radius or whipped with stinging nettles for serial botanical neglect. Thank heavens the only one who really notices is D, and I don't really listen to him when he starts ranting about how many times he's tripped over my nearly dead marigolds or wilted roses.

My enthusiasm for gardening bursts into action in April and peters out around July, or whenever the first bout of relentless humidity descends upon the Bruce. There’s something rejuvenating about spring gardening; I dive into the task of tidying up autumn debris with a big silly grin on my face. I don’t know if it’s the scent of fresh earth, or the way my muscles start to unwind after the laziness of winter, or the feel of my crusty old gardening gloves. Probably all three. There's deep pleasure in being outside without ten layers of clothes, digging in my patches of dirt.

There are so many gardens at Someday I hardly know where to begin tidying up all the gunk to make way for spring blooms. This year I decided to tackle the wild looking patch along the driveway that I like to call my "naturalized rock garden" (although it doesn't have very many rocks and looks more like a nature preserve than a garden). It's full of perennial treasures like columbines and bluebells and forget-me-nots, and over the years I've planted fragrant grape hyacinths, stubborn crocuses and crinkly-leaved primulas as part of my previously mentioned compulsion. Last summer, I even hauled six loaf-of-bread-sized rocks home from the beach. “See?” I told D. “Now it’s a rock garden.” D rolled his eyes and muttered something about crazy people and their stones.

Spring gardening has a lot in common with brushing a toddler's hair. You're tempted to rake through the snarls and tangles and sticky bits without mercy, but you know that if you do, it will all end rather badly. The trouble is that my so-called rock garden rests under four very large maple trees, and in the spring, every inch of the ground is covered in crispy dead stuff. I try to pick leaves off the flowers with one tine of the rake, but I always end up getting impatient. I start thinking how good a hot cup of coffee would taste, twang the rake a bit too vigorously, and a little bluebell head snicks off and rolls down the hill, causing me to shriek as though I've just witnessed Eddard Stark's beheading.

Once the cleanup is done, usually around May, my planting obsession takes over. Five years of wildly unorganized purchases have taught me that a crowded garden is not a happy garden. Stick too many plants close together and things start to tilt out of balance: one flower elbows out another, a gang of aphids show up, weeds strangle the roses and suddenly it’s chaos.

My preference for buying “care free” perennials backfires because I forget to thin and transplant them. The front gardens have been taken over by a fuzzy but determined troop of lambs’ ears; the harmless looking plant that resembles giant buttercups has morphed into a yellow menace, squishing my poor peonies and threatening my innocent mock orange. Daisies have exploded in unexpected places from heaven knows where. And don’t get me started on what were once two tiny patches of sweet woodruff I’d brought from my old gardens in Waterloo. Apparently woodruff takes the term “ground cover” very literally.

You’d think I’d learn a thing or two from my mistakes, and try to limit my flower-buying until I get my gardens in some semblance of order. Instead, I have a dahlia, a clematis and a geranium gasping for water in their pots by the garage, a husband who wants to strangle me and a slightly guilty conscience. If only someone would hurry up and invent a spray-in conditioner for tangled up garden messes. And a cure for obsessive plant buying.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Unkindest Cut of All

Back when Dylan was just a goofy little tyke, not yet a year old, D and I lamented over whether he'd EVER get hair. My dad is somewhat lacking in the hair department and has been since he was a young man, so as believers of the old "maternal hairline" curse, D and I resigned ourselves to the fact that we'd have a little baldy of our own in the family.

But by the time he hit 18 months, lil' Dyl had sprouted a healthy, shaggy crop of honey coloured hair. It hung around his head like a helmet-shaped mop - or perhaps a mop-shaped helmet? - and he was continuously mistaken for a girl; everywhere I went, people complimented me on my "beautiful daughters." Jade enjoyed correcting them; I enjoyed their looks of embarrassment.

D didn't care. He loved Dylan's hair - said it reminded him of his younger brother Paul, who'd had that kind of long, blonde hair for most of his childhood. Which, I repeatedly pointed out, was in the 1970's, when little boys with shaggy long hair were, you know, normal. Allowing your toddler to have long hair nowadays is tantamount to pasting a sign on them that reads, "Help, my mommy neglects me," or worse, "Help, my mommy is trying to make me look like a hipster."

Dyl's bangs got so long that he couldn't see properly. I worried he'd have chronic neck problems from constantly having to peer out from under his shag rug hair, so I called up our friendly hairdresser to come and give him a trim. I told her just to cut enough off so that he could see, and not to worry about style or anything, which was just as well since Dylan yelled and swatted the poor woman the entire time. He ended up with a 1980's looking bowl cut.

"He still looks like a girl," said D upon returning home that night and getting a look at his son's new 'do. "A girl with a bowl cut."

Then I decided Dylan's hair had to be shorter.

The second haircut was a result of several things: escalating humidity, my son's refusal to wear a hat, having to change his pillowcase every two days because his little head was drenched in boy-sweat. I figured all that hair must be making him miserable. A nice short cut would be just the thing for the summer months. It would be fine. We'd all get used to it. He was nearly three; it was time to turn Mr. Mugs into a boy.

I discreetly enlisted our friendly hairdresser to come and do the deed on a day when Grandma Lowry wouldn't see the kids and where I could duck out the door for my yoga class before D had a chance to freak out on me for scalping his son.

"Cut it off," I told her. "All of it."

True to form, Dylan wouldn't sit still and kept howling "OWIE! OWIE!" every time our poor hairdresser snipped a tiny particle of hair off his head. Bless her heart, she didn't even flinch when he swatted her and called her "DIRTY!" Finally, I put him on my lap and held him down. I was so focused on keeping the kid in a death grip so he didn't accidentally lose an ear that it was only after it was all over that I noticed enormous clumps of fluffy blonde hair on my lap, shoulders and the kitchen floor. It looked like a lot of hair.

"Oh man," I said, dreading what I was about to witness. "That looks like a lot of hair." Dylan slithered off my lap and I caught his hand before he dodged from the room. I forced myself to look at my newly shorn boy.


He did not look like my son. He looked like some tiny investment banker who drove a Lexus and talked on one of those bluetooth devices. Okay, a tiny investment banker wearing soccer print pyjama pants, but still.

"Oh DYLAN!" was all I could say.

Dylan said, "Hi Mummy!" and ran into the other room without a backwards glance.

The hairdresser laughed. "I think he looks cute! It's amazing how their first haircut changes them into little boys, eh?"

I could barely reply. I felt sick to my stomach. WHAT HAD I DONE? Why didn't I just tell the hairdresser to trim his bangs and let the little bugger sweat his way through the summer like the rest of us? Why had I tried to be so freaking practical and parentally correct? My darling moppet-haired Dylan was gone. In his place was some grown-up boy who no longer had the option of looking up at me mischievously through a pouf of hair. What would I run my hands through at night when we cuddled in bed? Would D freak out or laugh? And what would Grandma Lowry say?

The worst part was that with the new haircut, my son kind of looked like a miniature version of my brother-in-law. I love my brother-in-law, but I don't want to look up and see a weirdly familiar face when I'm changing my son's butt.

Strangely, Grandma was very supportive and assured me that Dylan looked adorable. D - not so much. As I sniffled my way through the harrowing hair-cut tale after yoga class, he just shook his head and patted me on the back in that useless gesture men all over the world use to calm semi-hysterical women.

"Kimmy, you have all these great ideas, and then when they happen, you're crushed."

"I thought I was doing the right thing!" I said into D's chest. "He's always sweaty!"

"So are you." D patted me on the back some more, then swivelled me to face a photo of the old Dylan on the fridge. "Well, I hope you're happy. You'll never have that little long-haired boy back, you know. His hair will never grow in quite the way it was."

This was true, but not particularly helpful. I choked back more tears, swatted my husband and trudged up the stairs to lie beside my little man, who really didn't give a flying fig what his hair was like. I stroked his fuzzy head (which was, of course, sweaty), sighed, and realized that this was a very minor milestone on the all-to-short road through my son's childhood.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Stuck in a whirlwind!

Hello, my bloggy friends.

I know I haven't posted in a while, so I thought I'd better just drop by and say hey, thanks for checking in, and don't worry, I'm still writing. I have a ton of blog posts! It's just that they're all in my head. Which doesn't really help you much, does it?


It's been a bit of a whirlwind around here with swimming lessons, Canada Day, parade nights, beach days, visitors, wretched garden issues, too much scrabble and temper tantrums (some of them mine). But I'll be back to tell you all about it soon.