Saturday, August 6, 2011

Past Deadline: Random Summer Math

Three weeks ago – that’s 21 days ago – I wrote a column about working from home while the kids were off for the summer. That was roughly 14 days into the summer holiday.

Here we are, about 22 days in, with about 34 days left to go. That’s 816 hours before school starts. I would go as far as to suggest that 238 of those hours will be spent sleeping, but that’s just crazy talk because everyone knows nobody sleeps that much around here – except maybe Groom-boy. I might be able to snag 170 hours of sleep, which sure sounds like a lot.

Incidentally, there are about 50,000 minutes until school starts, but who’s counting?

I’m not complaining, by the way, I am just doing a little math here. I love math. Really. Ask anyone.

I remember when I was a kid, my mother and her mother (Nanny) used to sometimes head off to Watertown, N.Y. for a week of shopping in the summer. Maybe it was because our dollar was doing really well against the U.S. greenback in those days; I’m not really sure and I haven’t done the research.

I remember my brother and I being intrigued by the fact Dad was doing the cooking. I remember him cooking fish and doing a great job. I remember Mom and Nanny coming back with food products we couldn’t get here and telling us about their motel and what they ate for lunch while hanging out to watch the Y&R. I also remember them telling us about how American restaurants served their lunches on platters and that they probably could have shared one meal and still come away with leftovers.

I don’t remember spending a lot of time dwelling on the fact that Mom and Nanny took off for a week. Maybe I did – I was a worrier and probably needed to know the exact details of the why and how and when.

Seven days away from home – that’s 168 hours. I betcha about 49 of those hours featured uninterrupted sleep. If you tend to eat breakfast, lunch and supper, that’s 21 meals cooked and served by someone else.

That’s zero dishes to wash.

Whoa. Now THAT’s a likeable zero!

Now, I should clarify, I am glad to be able to spend time at home with the kids over the summer, but as we get beyond day 20 and they start to squabble and squeal at each other more often, sometimes my last nerve gets exposed.

That’s never a good thing.

This happens because during summer holidays routines get dishevelled and, well, I am Type A. I like routine. It is hard for me to just go with the flow. I am not the poster child for living in the moment. In fact, my calculations show I can only relax approximately 2 per cent of the time (based on no one’s science but my own).

So, 2 per cent of one hour is 1.2 minutes. That’s 28.8 minutes of every day. This means I’m not even relaxed when I am sleeping, really.

( may have not noticed this before, but sometimes I am prone to hyperbole.)

Anyway, this does not bode well for the remaining 34 days. It works out to about 980 minutes of relaxation – a mere 16 hours.

A really good way to throw this math off kilter (besides having me do the calculations), is to add another variable: a vacation.

Good idea! Based on the above, one would assume that vacation should happen pretty much immediately in order to alleviate the relaxation deficit. In fact, it probably should have started about 11 days (264 hours, 15,840 minutes) ago in order to have been super effective and timely.
Except...the raving lunatics in this family (present company included) thought it would be a good idea to wait until the end of August to do it. That’s about 23 days away (552 hours, 33,120 minutes). I will be relaxed for about 11 hours of that time.

Incidentally, that’s about 69 meals left to serve before we go to a cottage where I will be, well, serving more meals – but at least it’s a change of scenery.

Oh and Mom? I totally get it.
Published in The Perth Courier, Aug. 4/11

Past Deadline: Get a Cool Job

Last week, as the mercury climbed and the population suffered, it occurred to me there isn’t really a heck of a lot to do when it’s hot. Well, I suppose there is, but there are also a lot of restrictions on things like, well, doing stuff outside.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. I mean, people were still going out running when the humidex was in the high 40s. Not me. I wouldn’t do it – not even without a kilt.

I suppose it stands to reason that in a country where we endure extremes, we should be allowed to complain. After all, few countries in the world can boast hitting minus 45C in the winter and plus 45C in the summer.

That’s just annoying.

Some folks spend all winter griping about the cold and the snow, only to spend all summer saying, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

So, even though the weather has cooled a little since last week, I figured it couldn’t hurt to think about some ways to beat the heat should the hot breath of heck blow on us again. Here are some of my ideas:

1. Stay inside. It’s a yucky idea, but it has to be said. Sometimes, especially for the young, the elderly, the frail, the people with health conditions and the cranky, the heat is just plain dangerous. Unfortunately, staying inside and enduring the SpongeBob marathon on television can also be dangerous because it stomps all over your last nerve.

It’s important to have a game plan for inside, especially one that involves doing things away from screens. Since baking cupcakes is not ideal when the world is on fire, maybe making sundaes would be better. Or fill a bathtub with ice and stage a fundraising summer polar plunge! Or maybe lie around with large fans and pretend you are on some sort of exotic journey! I dunno.

2. Thing is, summer is about being outside, so the more ways you can find to survive the heat outdoors the better. So get a pool! Have I mentioned this (in an entire column last week) before? Okay. So if you can’t have a “real” pool, then get one of those blow-up wading pools. We have the one that is six feet long by four feet wide by two feet deep or thereabouts, and it can be handy. The kids love it, but I remember spending a heck of a lot of time sitting in a similar one when I was pregnant with child number two during a hot summer. In fact, I think I really need to make better use of our wading pool. With a little imagination, my real pool-“covetation” issues will be a thing of the past.

3. This seems to be a logical place to suggest drinking lots of fruity adult drinks, especially ones with the little umbrellas. As much as it seems they would help to beat the heat, we (ahem) grown-ups know alcohol can dehydrate us and probably we shouldn't drink a lot of it around the kids anyway. Drink water instead. This public service announcement has been brought to you by....

4. Here’s an idea – get a cool job. I mean get a job that has air conditioning or a walk-in freezer. Become a lifeguard so you can go swimming or at least find a job that offers the promise of a refreshing swim at the end of the shift.

I’m thinking of when I was a gate attendant at a provincial park as a student. It was so nice to hit the beach at the end of a shift! Does anyone hire 40-year-old gate attendants? Of course then I would bore the rest of the gate staff to tears with stories about how “In my day, we didn’t use computers to register campers, we filled the forms out by hand! And when they found a campsite, we stuck a sticker on a big map to show it was occupied! And we liked it! We loved it!”

Well now that’s a sure-fire way to make a cool job not so cool. It also makes those fruity adult beverages sound really good right about now.

Well, off to the wading pool!
Published in The Perth Courier, July 28/11

Past Deadline: A Pool! Not!

I have a love-hate relationship with the beach.

I love the beach for the swimming. Floating and pretending to be a fish (but not pretending to be a floating fish because that is rarely good) is one of my most favourite things to do in the world. I feel comfortable and free in the water. It’s good exercise and I wish I could fit it into my life more.

Say! A great way to make daily swimming more convenient would be to have a pool in the backyard. Man, would I ever like a pool.

I’m telling you, in the summer I would move my home office to the deck. Part of that rationale is also because in my current teeny, tiny Les-Nessman-style office I have to sit a mere two feet from a window air conditioner. My left side is frozen within 10 minutes, which makes typing difficult, to say the least.

If I had a pool, not only would it bring new meaning to the term “office pool,” but I would create my own personal union of one that would negotiate a contract with myself (as management) that stipulates the employee must have multiple swim breaks during the day. That’s right. I would sit beside the pool and talk to myself about how many swimming breaks I should take. (This is what can happen sometimes when you are self-employed.)

Also, I would probably have to hire staff (in addition to Mr. George BlackBerry, Executive Assistant). I'm thinking I would need a margarita-serving pool boy, yes?


Okay, well let's talk about the beach some more, then. I also love the beach because my kids love it. We enjoy exploring the shorelines for critters and they are fish like I am. Their dad claims he used to be a fish. He also was, I’m told, a lifeguard while he was a student, but I am sceptical because the whole time I have known him he has rarely even gotten his toes wet. Perhaps he is still waterlogged from those days. So much for Dad teaching the little fish to swim.

You know, I think those little fish would also love a pool. I also think it would save a certain Mama’s sanity in the summer while she is trying to work with kids home, and it could form part of the negotiations in terms of health benefits. The pool boy could be tasked with lifeguarding during the times when I am not on deck.

It’s obviously a win-win.


Okay okay. Back to talking about the beach.

Here’s what I don’t love about the beach: the Wearing of the Bathing Suit in Public. I have had bathing suit issues for a good chunk of my life. At first it was because I was so tall and lean that bathing suits never fit right. They literally hung off of me in order to accommodate my length, and I looked like a dork.

Oh, those days are so over now it makes me want to cry a little.

Eventually I filled out my frame decently, but this was short lived. I got a desk job and my derriere felt compelled to become a king-size pillow to keep me comfortable whilst I sat.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Then I had babies. Then my metabolism slowed down and my willpower left town. ’Nuff said. Now I am twice the woman I used to be, which would be fine if I were referring to self-esteem or philanthropic tendencies or some other spiritual or humanitarian effort, but all it means is that at the beach I displace twice as much water as before.

That’s just one more reason why a pool would be so awesome. I could displace water in the privacy of my backyard. More importantly, I could do laps and get toned. My pool boy, in addition to his lifeguarding duties, could also be a personal trainer. Soon I would be fit and fine and confident for beach appearances if necessary.

It is a perfect plan.

What? No?

Oh, right. The backyard is too small for a pool.

Could I still get the margarita-serving pool boy?


Sigh. Fine. See y’all at the beach. Just don’t look at me, okay?

Published in The Perth Courier, July 21/11

Friday, August 5, 2011

Past Deadline: I Heart Lost Harbour

(Sorry I am so far behind with posting! This goes back a few weeks.)

My oh my. It seems as if it was only a couple of weeks ago that the kids used to go to school.

Oh yeah. It was.

School’s out and now we are playing a 68-day game of “Let’s hang with Mommy!” Mommy works from home. Rather, Mommy “tries” to work from home. How’s that going for Mommy, anyway?

Well, let’s just say it’s...interesting.

Back when I was really new at this Mommy thing, I used to read lots of blogs about and by WAHMs – Work At Home Moms (as opposed to SAHMs – Stay At Home Moms) about the challenges and rewards of working from home. My mom was a SAHM. Probably I will never truly understand how great it was to have a mom waiting for us every day after school because it is all I have ever known.

After my first baby was born, I remember hitting the six-week mark and being amazed by the fact that in the United States that is all the maternity leave some moms get. I wouldn’t have wanted to go back to work full time after six weeks.

Being self-employed, though, meant no maternity leave at all (at that time). Fortunately, I could modify and manage my schedule and work back into things. It wasn’t always easy (lots of evenings and weekends spent working while Dad was home). Even now, being a WAHM might mean I am physically present at home, but it also means the TV might be on more while Mommy “just has to do this one little thing.”

Grass is always greener, right? Parents who work away from home often wish they had more time with the kids, while some of us who work at home greet more time with a tinge of trepidation.

Fortunately, grandparents, babysitters, play dates and day camps are part of our lives.

This summer has been interesting so far – all 14 days or so of it. My kids are much more mobile this year – they’re older and they can visit neighbourhood friends without always needing Mommy in tow.

They also nap less (read: not at all) and go to bed later than they used to, which means less quiet time for Mommy. They have vast vocabularies, too, which they try out on each other and on me at various pitches and with varying degrees of success.

When the sibling rivalry or the boundary pushing goes a bit too far, then Mommy pulls out her Repertoire of Threats. (At this point I am picturing a large heavy book with gilded pages and gold-embossed lettering, complete with monks chanting instructions about the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Sorry. Monty Python hiccup there.)

Suffice it to say there is no book. All that’s really there is a sketchy assembly of threats tucked in my addled brain about cancelled play dates and computer prohibitions – but one has to be extraordinarily careful that one doesn’t threaten more than one

After all, one of the Golden Rules of Parenting, aside from giving instructions about not running with scissors (which I actually had to do just the other day), is to follow through. You threaten, you make it so.

Another Golden Rule (there should be a gold-embossed instruction manual with every child) is to be consistent, and that doesn’t mean you should consistently present empty threats. You do that too many times and you just might need the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch after all (what IS this woman babbling about?).

Since school ended (did I mention it was about 14 days ago), I have found myself reaching repeatedly into my repertoire to try to remember the name of the, ahem, summer camp I threatened to send the kids to last year when the going got occasionally tough. I checked a column from about this time last year and there it was: Lost Harbour Summer School and Military Camp.

Lost Harbour (tee hee!) is a magical, faraway place where kids stay for many weeks and where the program consists of four hours of school each day followed by marching and building walls out of heavy rocks.

I haven’t had to play that oh-so-believable (ha!) card yet, but it’s early, and there are still some work deadlines to navigate before Sept. 6.

Published in The Perth Courier, July 14/11