Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Day One

The drive from Ottawa to Kitchener went surprisingly well. It was actually fun. Seriously. The girls slept for the first two and a half hours. They played after that. Getting close to Toronto I had to stop twice, once for a pee break for Emily and once to feed Hope to try and stop some crying. It didn't work. She'd had enough. So, she cried for about 40 minutes until we reached my dad's house in Toronto.

We had a nice dinner and visit there and then on to Kitchener. Emily watched Franklin on the new DVD player and Hope slept. Not sure where I stand on the portable DVD player but it served me well at that point.

Today we made a trip to Costco with Tamara. I don't have a membership and doubt I ever will so this was pretty exciting for me. I bought too much but hell, it was fun. Then home for lunch and then we took a hug walk to Waterloo Park where there are some animals (llamas, ostrich, rabbits, tortoise, etc) and a playground. Emily loved all that - the swings more than the animals in fact.

On the walk home we treated ourselves to frappacinos, Emily fell asleep and the babies amused themselves.

Highlight of the day was Rockway Fish and Chips for supper. Great fish and chips and a butterscotch milkshake split three ways. Emily ate butter. Plain. Out of the little butter disposable thingys. Then she ate tartar sauce with a fork and asked for me. Which I gave her. We are on holiday after all.

More updates tomorrow. Must go watch the hockey game.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Why I do it

Shannon, my dear Fairy Blogmother, tagged me for a meme about why I blog. I'm going to address that in a minute or two. First I want to say something about why I watch hockey and more specifically, playoff hockey because aside from the part of being a fan, I don't really know. I find it inordinately stressful. My blood pressure goes up as soon as the opposing team puts any pressure on my Sens. I'm sure it is unhealthy. And yet I can't not watch. I have to be part of the action, part of the excitement and part of the celebration when they bring it all home. Which you, of course, know they will. For some reason though I'll be in Kitchener when all the partying and hoopla goes down because we all also know they'll be finishing this up in 5, baby.

Okay, on to why I blog. I'm supposed to list five reasons. Here we go:

1. Keeping people in the know. I started to blog to keep my work to a minimum while keeping all my family in the know in regards to Emily and the person I then called #2, now known as Hope. It is still a big reason for why I blog but certainly my motivation has gone well beyond this now.

2. To keep a good record of my moments with these two crazy kids. In the past I've tried to keep a written journal but I never keep it up. I've been much better about the blog and I know that both I and they will be very happy to have this journal one day to look back on.

3. Feeding my creative side. I've always liked to write but I rarely do it for pleasure anymore, until I started to blog. I think I've sloughed off the rust now and I'm starting to feel like I'm doing it fairly well again. Without the blog, I doubt I would be writing much beyond the occasional email.

4. Working things out. I find the blog is a great way for me to work out problems, come to decisions but putting on screen the choices, sides, pros and cons. Sometimes I don't even know my position on something until I start to blog about it. Through my writing comes realizations.

5. The social. When I started this I never expected to actually "meet" people because of my blog. Now there are at least two people who I've never met in person but feel very comfortable calling friends. And I love to hear from they regularly in comments and through the occasional email.

Okay, so I'm not going to tag anyone today, since I pretty much always tag the same people. If you would like to do the meme, please join in and just leave me a comment saying you're doing so.

On the holiday front, I'm pretty damn organized and feeling pretty proud of myself. Now if only I could get Hope to bed so I could concentrate on the hockey game. The girl doesn't sleep for days and then today does a 3.5 hour nap. It seems to have made her rather chipper.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Learneds has me single again

A few hours ago, John left to attend his big conference of the year: The Learneds. It is held at a different Canadian university every year. It is the meeting of all the different learned societies - geography, philosophy, English, history, etc. It's a time for John to show off his historical "stuff" and also to meet up with his colleagues from across the country.

You may remember that last year I was left home alone with Emily for the week. This year it is times two. Last year, I was tired, pregnant and Emily had recently started her new daycare with Dawn. This year, I'm tired, mother of two, and saddled with a toddler who has decided again to show me her prowess in demonstrating all of Satan's most beloved characteristics.

I have a draft post on the go entitled "Portrait of a Toddler." I started it a few days ago when I was feeling downright overwhelmed with the joy of being Emily's mother. She has been, to put it mildly, perfect the last week. When asking for anything she says "may I please have..." or "may I use....". She always says thank you, she tells me how much she loved her dinner, she showers me with hugs, she spontaneously plays games with Hope, she has the funniest and sweetest inflections in her language that I just want to listen to her talk all day, she plays on her own with such gusto and imagination that it makes me wish I was two again so I could populate that world with her.

And then today happened. The draft post remains in draft form and just might for a while.

Several time outs, shouting and screaming (not just from her), peeing in pants (just her), a lot of crying. In short, a normal day for a two and a half year old.

I really was enjoying the break from toddler reality. Although during said break, the reality of babyhood hit when my perfect sleeper, Hope, decided that it was time to catch up to all the normal babies out there and stop sleeping and start crying instead. I mean, really? Why sleep when you can just cry and get hugs and perhaps some boob all night long?

To offset John's absence, I've planned a getaway for us girls. We're packing up on Tuesday after Emily's preschool group and heading to Kitchener to visit my good friends, Tamara and Greg and then on to John's sister's house in Cambridge on Friday, then to St. Catharines to John's mom's house on Friday night. I'll pick John up at the airport in Toronto on Saturday afternoon and we'll head back to his mom's and stay there for a few days so that I can visit my aunt and uncle and plant some nice things at my mom's plot at the cemetery, too. Whew, I'm a bit tired just typing it all out. It will be nice though and good to have some distraction from my responsibilities as sole care giver.

I promise to post throughout the time away with some updates of our goings on.

My big accomplishment of the past week, and what kept me from blogging much, was the vegetable garden. It is in! Cucumbers, tomatoes, squash (three kinds), rutabaga, rhubarb (in anticipation of next spring), and herbs. I hope it all works out and I don't have to water every day. Last summer I didn't water the gardens once. Ottawa just got the perfect amount of rain. This year, the gardens are already parched and it's only May. My spring blooms are almost done but I did take some great pictures of my beautiful crabapple to share with all of you. The scent filled the house when the breeze was just right.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Practically me

My two blog friends, Shannon at Tales from a Fairy Blogmother and Sognatrice at Bleeding Espresso were excellent participants in the interview game. I shied away at first but after Shannon threw her hat in the ring, I knew I had to participate. So, Shannon sent me the questions and I, typically, sat on them for a week or so because I had to chew them over and oh yeah, because I'm lazy. Anyway, on with the interview:

1. What's your one guilty pleasure or your guiltiest if you have multiple ones?
Since I received the questions a few days ago (blogging has been taking a backseat to the garden lately), this one has played a starring role as I mulled over possible answers. And do you know what conclusion I have come to? I am possibly the most boring person I know. I have no current vices or guilty pleasures! I don't watch any reality t.v., I don't read teen magazines or watch B movies, I don't even eat bad snacks (too often). I used to watch Coronation Street every night but even that, my most famous and consistent of guilty pleasures, has been abandoned. I asked John what he thought. Sometimes the person closest to you has a more objective perspective (read: no blinders on). He quickly responded that chai lattes are my Achilles heal. He is right if I was answering this a month or so ago but since I stopped spending money, my chai latte/red tea latte/anything latte has come to an abrupt halt. Sigh. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm open to suggestions for finding a new vice. Clearly I need one.

2. What's one thing you do with your kids that before you had kids you swore you'd never do?
Easy. Lick my finger and clean their faces. Total yuck! I swore I would never do that to my kids after enduring years of it from my mother. And yet, I stand beside the car with nary a wet wipe in sight and in goes the finger and onto Emily's ketchup covered face. What does she say? Thanks, Mummy!

3. You've moved around a bit, which place do you miss the most?
I have two answers. I miss Peterborough because of the place we lived. We lived right on the Otonabee River. There were otters playing right off our lawn, herons visiting daily, bullfrogs lulled us to sleep. It was where I fell in love with gardening and also where I firmed up my desire to live in the country with more than a postage stamp lot. The other place I miss is Kitchener because some of our closest friends and best memories were made there. We'd really like to move back there.

4. What type of vacation is more appealing, camping or a luxury resort?
Ooh, tough one. I'd have to say camping simply because I love it and John hates it and therefore I rarely do it anymore so it seems unattainable and something I would have to do whenever I am given the chance.

5. You've won a shopping spree at a store of your choice, which do you choose?
This question also took a lot of thought: would it be a garden store, hardware, furniture, does a travel agency count? But I settled for what I need right now. I would choose L.L. Bean. I know, the clothes there are rather "mom" as Beth recently pointed out to me. But you know what? I am a mom. And I need practical clothes that are comfy and have at least a bit of style. I'm sitting here right now wearing the one pair of shorts that fit me comfortably (I'm working on it!) and a t-shirt I bought in Russia in 1997. Clearly, I'm in need of some clothes and would love to go nuts in L.L. Bean. And you wonder why I have no vices? Practicality all the way, baby.

Want to join the fun? Here are the rules:

1. Leave me a comment saying "interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions (make sure to leave your email address in your comment). I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with your answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

Grilling season is in full swing around here which means vegetarian fare will likely take a hiatus for a while anyway. Tonight is the first in the carnivore series. If you're at all familiar with the Looney Spoons or Crazy Plates cookbooks, which are popular 'round these parts, you'll no doubt realize from the title of the recipe that it comes straight from Janet and Greta's repertoire. So, for today's What's cooking Wednesday we have Barbiechop Quartet. Their description of the recipe is: This spicy number hits a high note where flavor's concerned. On the pork chop taste-o-meter, it rates a perfect tenor! Couldn't agree more. Although throw me a bone on the Canadian spelling, wontcha?

Barbiechop Quartet

4 boneless pork loin chops
1/3 cup orange juice
3 tbsp each honey and ketchup
3 tbsp mango chutney
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp ground cumin

Arrange pork chops in a single layer in a glass baking dish. Whisk together remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over pork shops. Turn pieces to coat both sides with marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight if possible.

Preheat grill. Cook pork chops over hot coals for 6-7 minutes per side, basting with leftover marinade. Serve.

We then cook the remaining marinade in a saucepan until hot and thick and serve as a sauce with the pork chops. It really takes it to the next level.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A day in the Village

Today was another one of those perfect parenting, proud of my kids, proud of us, glad to be alive days. We took the girls to Upper Canada Village. It's a pioneer village set in 1860s Upper Canada (guess that part was kind of obvious). It's just an hour's drive south of Ottawa on the banks of the St. Lawrence River.

Neither John nor I had been before. I didn't know too much about its size or what it offered aside from some nice old buildings and people in period costume. We were all totally taken in. There was a lot to see, in fact we didn't see everything, the interpreters were great, all the machinery was running (the mills, the wagons, tow scow, stage coach, etc). Emily couldn't have been more interested. There were animals. Lots of them. And with three restaurants to choose from, really in Emily's world, it couldn't have been better.

It was a happy place. The Village just smelled wonderful. A mixture of baking, blossoms, animals, river, freshly milled lumber and flour. A perfect sensual mix.

I love day trips that aren't too far by car but allow you to see something new and fun and interesting. If it means we're also outside most of the time, all the better. I've told John that I want to get to know regions of Quebec better. I'm making a resolution for myself here and now that this summer, as time allows, we will explore that side of the River more often and get to know the other solitude in the way that we should have by now.

I've put all my photos from today on Flickr but here is a taste of what we did and saw, and how cute Emily is.

Friday, May 18, 2007

It's real now

Yesterday I informed my boss and the language training coordinator and one of the daycare providers that I'm not coming back for at least a year. Wow, it's real now. Asking for just one more year still gives me the option, after the year, of doing the French training, or I can continue the leave. Leaves options open for me. Just one more daycare to inform and then it's all done. It feels right.

Of course, Emily has proven "challenging" since I made the decision to stay home. A total coincidence but funny and tragic at the same time. She's just being, well, bad. She pours water on the floor for fun. She dumped a bowl of water into Hope's mouth during the bath (much choking, spluttering and crying ensued from Hope). The best one was when she put two balls inside our sub-woofer (still trapped in there until we do some sub-woofer surgery). This one actually made us laugh (in private). It's attune to grilled cheese in the VCR.

Top all that with the "why's". I'm going crazy with the why's. Why is it hot? Why is it dirty? Why are you making lunch? Why I hungry? All rather philisophical I suppose but also SO ANNOYING. I try and be patient but after 12 hours of this, I think Job himself might throw something.

Time to get on top of the cleaning. This house is disgusting. I get sick, the place gets very dirty, very quickly. Why is that? Why is it when the woman gets sick, nothing runs quite the same? Oh right, because I'm the woman.

That just wasn't in the brochure.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

I honestly thought I had already posted this recipe for a previous What's cooking Wednesday but when I perused my previous posts, I found it absent. What luck because it is what was cooking tonight, and it is one of my favourite vegetarian suppers of late.

It seems very hippie vegetarian but don't let that scare you off. One bite and you will embrace the tassels, guitars and free love. It takes a little bit of preparation, especially if you don't have a food processor with a grater, but if you have a friend nearby, make it a grating party!

Cauliflower-Cheese Pie with Grated Potato Crust

2 cups packed, grated raw potato
1/4 cup grated onion
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten
a little oil

1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp thyme
1 medium cauliflower, in small pieces
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup packed grated cheddar

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Oil a 9-inch pie plate.
2. Combine grated potato and onion, salt and egg white in a small bowl and mix well. Transfer to the pie plate and pat into place, building up the sides into a handsome edge.
3. Bake for 30 minutes, then brush the crust with a little oil and bake it 10 more minutes. Remove from oven, and turn the temperature down to 375 F.
4. Heat the olive oil in large skillet. Add onion, garlic, salt, pepper and herbs and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add cauliflower, stir, and cover. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally (about 8 to 10 minutes).
5. Spread half of cheese onto the baked crust (ok if it's still hot). Spoon the sauteed veggies on top, then sprinkle on the remaining cheese. Beat the eggs and milk together, and pour this over the top. Dust lightly with paprika.
6. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until set. Serve hot or warm.

It's great the next day, too!

Monday, May 14, 2007

The anatomy of a decision

It took well over a week, and it was a tortuous week at that, but I did finally arrive at a decision yesterday. I was hoping all week that suddenly the "right" answer, or maybe I should say the most comfortable answer, would suddenly be revealed to me. That's the way these things often work. All of a sudden you just know what you should do. But this time, in this the hardest decision I've made, it wasn't happening.

And then, in the cliche to end all cliches, it came to me while I was sitting in church yesterday. It had nothing to do with anything going on around me. I think it was just time to pick a side.

On Saturday night, I talked to my friend Anne. Anne did her French language training just before going on maternity leave. She didn't enjoy it. She's also the person I know who did it most recently and so I wanted her take on it. She enlightened me on a few things that I didn't know and reminded me of a few things I'd forgotten.

The language training taught to employees of the government is "taught to the test," which means that the instructors are, logically I guess, teaching you in a way to pass the levels tests. The tests are multiple choice and done on computer, except for the oral testing. Anne came out of the training getting a C level in writing (very high) and not being able to write a paragraph. A year after finishing the training, she felt she couldn't speak French at all because she hadn't used it.

My plan, as you know, would have been to do the training and then go on unpaid leave while the girls get to the end of Kindergarten. My French would be gone by then, even if I used it occasionally with them or around the city. Added to that is that you have to retest ever 5 years. So, if I took 5 years off then I would still be faced with applying for jobs without my French or having to retest soon after I started a new job, and likely have to retrain anyway. So, why miss out on the year with the girls when the training would just have to be repeated and be a very frustrating process anyway, as it would not be giving me what I really wanted: true bilingualism?

After talking to Anne, I thought about it the rest of the night, but the answer was becoming more obvious. Sitting in church beside Emily, I turned to her and said: Emily, is it okay if you don't go to Mimi's school next year and we just stay home instead? She said: Yes, I want dat.

As soon as I decided that, the knot in the pit of my stomach went away, my shoulders relaxed and I felt really, supremely happy. During the week, when I briefly decided (a few times) that I was going back, I felt tense, anxious and sad. This was what I needed, this was the moment I was looking for, the sign that I made the right decision.

Thanks to everyone for all your comments. They were all read and mulled over and discussed here in our house.

Now we start living like students again. And probably no Boston. It'll totally be worth it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Friday, May 11, 2007

Beating a dead horse

Thanks to everyone who has left comments on the post about my big decision. Everyone had something thoughtful to say. And yet I still haven't decided what to do.

One day I'm definitely staying home, the next day I decide that I'll do the language training, and then I look at this person:

and this person:

and wonder why I'm entertaining the thought for even an instant.

There are two things holding me back from making either decision. The first is my relationship with Emily. It has become so much deeper since she came home from daycare. It is on another plane, in fact. This year, being her third year, has been tough, as you all have read. But I imagine how much tougher it might have been if she had been at daycare and not had us being so consistent because we were tired, or busy, or trying to get one hundred other things done. Hey, maybe it would have been easier... it's possible. But the truth is that I also take pride in the fact that we have weathered all those tough 2-year old moments all on our own and have come out on the other side with a girl who says "may I be excused?" and "you are a great mummy" and "i not like it when daddy is at work" and "thanks, guys! thanks for the present!" and also poops in the toilet.

What is keeping me from deciding to stay home then? The chance that in a few years I'll feel lost and confused and not know what I'm supposed to do now that my kids are in school and have lives of their own and I'm very limited in my choices in Ottawa because I only speak English.

Fun times.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

7 things about me

Today is my birthday. I'm 35 today.

A few days ago Sognatrice tagged me for a meme. This one is called the 7 things meme and these are the rules: Each player starts with 7 random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged need to write on their own blog about their seven things, as well as these rules. You need to choose 7 people to get tagged and list their names.

Okay, so I'm getting tired of coming up with people to tag and I end up re-tagging people who have already been tagged for the same meme (sorry, Michelle!). So, I'm not doing that part. If you want to play, please feel free and just let me know in the comments and then I will link to your blog.

Since I'm 35 today, I've decided to divide my number of years by 7 and list one thing about each of the 5-year divisions I end up with. What luck that 35 is divisible by 7!

0-5 years old: My favourite piece of clothing was a pair of orange overalls with Winnie the Pooh on them. I wore them in my kindergarten class photo. I think I wore them a lot. I loved Winnie the Pooh when I was little. I still have my oversized stuffed Pooh; Emily plays with him now. I still get Pooh gifts for my kids based on the fact that I was a bit of a fan when I was tiny. Some things you just can't shake. I never owned the stories though. Go figure.

5-10 years old: In grade 1 I was spanked by my teacher for talking too much in class (not exactly surprising). As my older cousins had been asking me every time they saw me if I'd been spanked by my teacher yet (knowing that she was a spanker), I was rather proud of it. I came home and told my mum, thinking she would think it was funny. Turns out, no. I distinctly remember her telling me: If you get spanked again, you'll get a spanking from me, too! As an aside, I LOVED my grade 1 teacher and continued to do so after the spanking.

10-15 years old: I got my ears pierced for my 13th birthday. My mum had originally told me I had to be 16 (she was a bit strict about these kinds of things). I begged and pleaded and she conceded for my 13th birthday. Now, I never wear earrings. Although I have 3 piercings in 1 ear and 1 in the other. Kind of screams 1988.

15 -20 years old: I got a tattoo when I was 19 with my friend, Holly, from university. I recently reconnected with her and we reminisced about the tattoos. We both still have them and neither of us regret it. We did it before the "tat" craze hit so it seemed edgy. Now we're just like everyone else.

20-25 years old: When I was 24, I got a gig doing a Dove soap commercial. It was Dove's first foray into the "real users" campaign. It's a bit of a long story but in the end it was just me mountain biking (a passion of mine at the time and one I sorely miss), and I made about $7,000 which helped pay for part of my graduate school fees that year and paid my way to Russia and backpacking through Europe with one of my closest friends. Oh, and I got to keep the Donna Karan suit. Too bad it doesn't fit anymore. I really need to get back on that mountain bike.

25-30 years old: I married John when I was 27. My mum was also married at 27 and when I was younger I thought that sounded so old for "marrying age." I swore I would be younger (I have no idea why I cared about that - I think it was from all my friends' parents being younger than that when they got married). I'm so glad that I was in my late twenties. My mum was glad, too. More maturity, more life experience, and lots of time to explore my independence.

30-35 years old: In these last 5 years, two things have happened to me that have fundamentally changed me: my mum dying and John and I having kids. My mum died when Emily was only 6 months old. Emily's first six months were clouded over with my mum's terrible illness and her impending death. That experience, and her absence, has changed the way I think about things, decisions I make, the way I am as a partner and parent. Having my girls has changed the way I think about life as a whole.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bye-bye Beantown

I cancelled our reservations in Boston. The trip has been postponed until sometime in June (hopefully). My cold is just too bad. After walking to Kindermusik this morning I felt so awful. I had no energy and just wanted to crawl in a hole and die. For a while anyway. Being unable to take medication totally sucks. The one major drawback of breastfeeding. So John and I decided to postpone and swallow, as much as it pains us, the $180 Canadian or so that we won't get back.

Needless to say I suppose, I didn't cook tonight. No What's Cooking Wednesday around here. Next week, I should be up and running again.

The Vietnamese food I ate though is keeping me warm and cozy.

Tagged.... twice

I've been tagged by my two closest blogger friends. First, Sognatrice at Bleeding Espresso tagged me for a "seven things about me" meme and then Shan tagged me for the 4 meme. With no slight to Sognatrice, I'm doing Shan's first because I need more time to thing about the previous one and with a bad head cold, my brain filled with thoughts about what to do next year, and our trip to Boston (that is happening, damn it!), that takes extra time.

Four jobs I've had.
1. Camp counsellor
2. Teen director at a summer resort
3. Costumed museum interpreter
4. Government lacky

Four Movies I can watch over and over again.
1. Princess Bride
2. Empire Strikes Back
3. When Harry Met Sally
4. Back to the Future

Four places I have lived (oh, where to start - we've moved A LOT).
1. Copper Cliff, Ontario.
2. Fonthill, Ontario
3. Sherwood Park, Alberta.
4. Peterborough, Ontario.

Four television shows I love to watch.
1. Veronica Mars
2. Battlestar Galactica
3. The Office
4. Coronation Street

Four places I have been on vacation.
1. Dominican Republic
2. New York City
3. St. Petersburg, Russia
4. Vancouver

Four of my favourite dishes.
1. Pad Thai
2. Thai Green Curry Chicken
3. Squash soup
4. Maklubbi

Four Websites I visit daily.
1. True Mom Confessions
2. Tales from a Fairy Blogmother
3. Bleeding Espresso
4. Nose in Ear

Four Places I'd rather be right now.
1. In bed, sleeping.
2. In Austin, visiting my sister.
3. In bed, sleeping.
4. In bed, sleeping.

Four bloggers I am tagging.
1. Beth

2. Julie, because I'm sure she has nothing better to do.
3. Sognatrice. I know she's done this before, but I'm sure she can come up with some new answers.
4. Chantal - who doesn't know that I read her blog, but I'm tagging her anyway.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Boston postponed?

Ugh. We have colds. Bad colds. I thought I'd made it through winter and this round of breastfeeding without getting a sinus cold, but then Emily got a cold last week and now I have it. Through her other colds this winter, I've managed to stay healthy. But no longer.

Every time I get a cold it gets into my sinuses. Extremely painful but made worse when you can't take any medication. I love breastfeeding, but that part sucks.

Anyway, if we're not a lot better by Thursday, we'll have to postpone the trip if I can convince Priceline to give me cancellation insurance after the fact. Otherwise, I guess I'll be sick in Boston instead of at home.

Shit luck.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

What would you do?

Well, here it is. The long-ago promised navel-gazing post where I wax on about my choices for next year. Ready? Hold on tight.

I want to continue to be home with the kids. I'll say that right out of the gate. It would be an easy decision but for one thing: my French language training.

For you non-Canadian federal government employees out there, let me give you the low-down. Most jobs in the Canadian federal government are classified as bilingual imperative. This means that when you're hired you are expected to be able to read, write and speak a certain level of the other official language (specified in the job ad as level A, B, C or a mixture thereof). Okay, if you REALLY know nothing about Canada: that would be French and English. For example, a job like mine is rated CCC English/French. This means you need to read, write, and speak both French and English at a very high level. The only level higher is E for exempt, which most native English and French speakers would be given for their mother tongue. First paragraph and I'm already going into WAY too much detail.

There are a few jobs in the federal government that have another, highly sought after classification: bilingual non-imperative. Bilingual non-imperative is the holy grail of federal government job classification and becoming very scarce, I might add. Bilingual non-imperative means that you can be hired even if you are unilingual and the government will pay you your regular salary while they train you to become bilingual to whatever the level is for your job.

My director went to the wall for me to get my position re-classified (lots of Canadian federal government lingo being thrown around here - sorry about that. However, being that I work for the Department of Foreign Affairs, where creating symbols and acronyms is actually a hobby, even a career in itself - I'm not kidding - I'm being rather reserved.) to bilingual non-imperative. It is nearly impossible, in the current political climate in Ottawa (Stephen Harper and his brutal excuse for a government), to find an advertised non-imperative position.

Okay, so you now have the background of my dilemma. I've done all the required testing so that those who need to know now know my current levels for French (sad state, I'm afraid) and how long it will take for me to get my C levels (39 weeks, full-time language school). My director, Gisele, was supposed to find out during this year (while I'm on maternity leave) when I would start my French. (Typically, there is a big waiting list.) The idea was that I would come right off leave and into French training.

About two weeks ago, I inquired for the umpteenth time with her to see if she'd heard anything. Without going into great minutiae, she hadn't heard anything but she had a name. I left a voicemail. Nuttin'. I sent an email, copying relevant others and finally got a response. Yadda, yadda, yadda, after providing a bunch of information that my director could have provided herself, it looks like I can probably get into my French training in November sometime, which is what I wanted.

Or so I thought.

When I got this news this past week, my first response was a sigh of relief. I'd been hoping for this for a long time. But as the day went on, I felt more and more anxiety about it and the reason is, I want to be with Emily and Hope. Period.

But... Again, the buts. To pass up this training is tantamount to stupid in a lot of circles. If I don't take it now, well, that ship has sailed, my friends. I have great daycare lined up for both kids - Emily at a wonderful French preschool where she'll re-master the language, and Hope at a French home daycare with a friend of mine who I know is excellent. We'd all be learning French together. But, they won't be with me, and as egotistic as it sounds, nothing will ever be as good as being at home with me. In my oh-so-humble opinion.

Last year, when Emily was in daycare and I was back to work, was one of the hardest years I've had. I was badly pulled between two things I really loved - my family and my job. Okay, so yes, of course I love my family more but most days, I also really liked my job. I never felt I played either role perfectly last year because I couldn't give either pursuit the time it deserved. Also, weekends were not great - I played with Emily and spent time with John but while Emily slept, I cooked and cleaned and had pretty much no time to myself except when I was at work. And then, I was working. It was really hard. But not in a fun way like being at home with the kids. Being a stay-at-home-mom is definitely harder than working outside the home, but the rewards are way bigger and for me, there's a lot more satisfaction knowing that I'm doing one thing REALLY well. I can only imagine that it will be even more difficult to balance it all when I have two kids to think about, oh yeah, and learning another language to boot.

So, what do I do? Yes, money will be very tight if I'm not earning a salary, but I'll be happy. However, in a few years, when the kids are both in school full-time and I'm figuring out what to do job-wise, will I regret not getting my French while I had the chance to have it paid for? Especially being that so many jobs in Ottawa, even outside the public service, require bilingualism. Or will I regret more missing this year with my kids? (Regardless of my decision for this year, I will be staying home with them after this year while they get through the kindergarten years. At least, that's my plan.)

John has been very careful to ensure that this decision is mine. He's also helped me see all the angles. He said this: I can always take French another time, but I will never get this particular year back with my kids and I should consider that along with everything else. This is very true. But it's also unlikely that I'll have the opportunity again to take full-time French training while earning my full salary.

This is one of the hardest decisions I've had to make, if not the hardest. I need to decide within a week or so because I need to inform the daycares what I'm going to do. I could tell them yes and then bag off if I change my mind (and lose some down payment money). I could tell them no and then if I change my mind find other daycare. Not the best option as good daycare takes a lot of time to find. It's out there but it takes a lot of looking. Or I could start the French, and if I hate the training (a common sentiment from people I know who have taken it. This is not a romantic, foreign-language school, self-indulgent ritual that you see in some movies) just quit and pull the kids out of daycare. An option, but a very disruptive one for everyone involved.

Clearly, I'm heavily conflicted. I'd like to know, what would you do?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Sometimes I don't want to be right

Remember this post? Yah, well, apparently I was on to something there because tonight during our usual post-dinner living room play with the girls, Hope crawled.

Yup, she crawled.

Okay, so it wasn't the advanced crawling of a seasoned crawling professional. It was the first crawl. You know - on the stomach, flailing to move inch my inch (or centimeter by centimeter, as it were) to the thing she desperately wants that is just out of reach (in this case, Emily's Cariboo game) by jiggling across the floor, arms reaching out commando style while her right foot is pushing her forward with her little toes curled against the hardwood. Very cute. And a sure sign of the apocalypse. At least in this house.

And me with no charge in my video camera.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

Well, hey, look at this! Three posts in three days. Not bad for someone with no time on her hands, eh?

Let's get to it then. For this What's Cooking Wednesday, I made fish. My dad is visiting, which has been quite nice I must say, and he bought fish for us to have tonight. I needed something easy. I also wanted something with a lot of flavour (it being a white fish) and it had to be healthy as my dad has been very regimented about his eating the last 3 months or so (and man, does it show! What happened to the ole beer gut I knew so well?). This seemed to fit the bill and got some nice comments, too.

Fish in Foil Packet (thanks to Canadian Living)

This is for one person. Just prepare multiple packets for multiple people.

You need one fish fillet per person - a white fish of some kind. We used haddock. Grab a good size piece of tin foil (about 3 times the size of the fish fillet you have). Lay the fillet on top. Sprinkle on some white wine, some olive oil, some tarragon, salt and pepper, fresh lemon juice and then lay on some thinly sliced onion. Seal the packet by folding in the two ends and then rolling the sides closed.

Put all your packets on a cookie sheet and bake at 425 F for 10 minutes per inch of thickness of fish. So, if the average thickness is 1.5 inches, bake 15 minutes or so.

That's it!

Oh, and just for fun, Emily's favourite place to spend her time of late:

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I see my future and it is hell

Well, actually, it isn't hell so much as hellish. As of yesterday, Hope is showing obvious signs of figuring out how to be mobile. Oh, say it ain't so!

Between yesterday and today, she's become even closer to beelining across the floor. Right now the situation is this: she sits and sees something out of her reach. She slowly rolls herself forward until she is on hands and knees then lifts one arm (I know! Some adults can't even manage that) and tries to grab the object (think Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade just before the temple collapses). She then collapses onto her stomach and spends the next while rolling around and inching backwards. She pretty much mastered this move since yesterday.

I'm not predicting that crawling will be happening in the next few days necessarily but you never know. If she wants it bad enough, it could very well be that we'll be in full lock down very soon. Because, this one? She's going to be into everything. She's already torn apart two colouring books and a Kindermusik book. She's pulled games, blocks and books off shelves and onto her head and I know she wants a lot more. She wants it all, baby. Unlike Emily who I've never had to tell more than twice to stay out of the china cabinet. With Hope we may be replacing everything with Tupperware.

Oh, one more Hope tidbit: got a call today from our doctor who said that Hope's results from the CHEO tests of last week came back with the all fine. Great news.