Get to know your toilet

Monday, October 31, 2011

A funny thing happened last night.

I woke for my increasingly normal "It is 3 a.m., so I have to pee" visit to the bathroom.

I pushed Emily back to her side of my bed and crawled out.

I went to the bathroom and used the facilities.

I flushed.

I went back into the bedroom and lay down.

What is that sound? Is the toilet still running? Hmmm. Not sure. Going to lay here for a few minutes, maybe I am just hearing things.

No, I am pretty sure it has been an abnormally long time since I flushed. The toilet should have refilled by now. Dammit. Now I have to get back out of bed. FINE.

Pull top off of toilet. Huh. Thats strange. The water is almost up to the line, but I can still hear the running noise. Apparently I just didn't give it enough time. I'll wait here for a few more minutes. God, this bathroom is kind of dirty. I really need to scrub that tub out, that grout is abysmal. Wow. I have alot more gray hairs than I would have thought. When did that happen?

What is it cat? Just because I am awake , standing in the bathroom, is not an invitation for you to stare longingly at me. I'm not feeding you.

Why is the toilet still running? I know FOR SURE that the water should have refilled by now. I'm going to jiggle the handle. FUCK ME! The handle just fell off. What the hell?

Oh, I see. The chain fell off the arm and is stuck under the seal thingy. Shit. Now I have to reach into the tank, with freezing cold water, fish around until I get the chain and try to reconstruct the chain/arm ratio... I was asleep not 15 minutes ago.

How on earth does this thing go on the arm? There is no hook at all. OOooooohhhhhhh. There is another piece at the bottom of the toilet. Terrific. I have to reach back in there and extract the piece.

Stop watching me Cat! I am not happy about having my arm fully immersed in the tank of the toilet at 3 a.m., trying to figure out the structure of all things toilet. Do not rub my leg. That is not helping.

Ok. Chain successfully re-attached. Now where did the handle go? Sweet suffering Moses. The handle! Where is the handle?? Oh, for fucks sake.

Behind the toilet, of course. Reattach, replace lid...wash hands.

Wow. I'm wide awake now. Plunging your entire arm into icy toilet water really brings one back to life. Add this to the list of "things I had no idea I could do, but now know that I can, if needed."

I hope I can fall back to sleep tonight. Damn you bladder.

Gimlet Eye, 2006

Botanical Garden

Saturday, October 29, 2011

To save our sanity (and the lives of our daughters) Maija and I bundled up our respective hellions and took them to the botanical garden. Despite being quite cold, we had a lovely time. Plus the Lantern Festival was still going on (until Monday), so really where else could you want to be on a day such as this?

A hiding spot under the Cedars

Such Beautiful Texture

The first spotted lost glove of the season.

This years theme was "The Emperor Returns"

People usually visit the gardens in the Spring and Summer, and I have too. But I admit a certain love for the gardens in early and late Autumn, when the the last colours are showing and the raw textures of nature are more easily discerned. And when we can race under trees kicking and throwing leaves at each other to the delight of a not-quite-two-year-old.

Bits and Bobs

Friday, October 28, 2011

Oh!  Hi there.

So apparently some foolhardy soul nominated me for top 25 canadian mom blogs.

Which is uber kind, considering I am not really Canadian ( but will happily accept the moniker given I do my best to blend in around here) and that I am - on the best of days - kind of a mediocre Mom.

Plus the whole "mom blog" thing makes me cringe...but really, it is very kind and I should shut up and take the compliment.

It seems you can vote for me - or not. Really, it is fine either way. (Ack! I DO sound Canadian!)

Also - Been to Whorish Ravens lately? No? Well, you should. I love my little photo space.  Well, today is a photo of my grandmother's coffin - which, were I to tell that story, would involve me getting very bizarre looks from the funeral home staff as I ran around taking photos...and even me thinking "I am not sure this is considered "appropriate" in the context of a funeral, Yet and still - fuck it. She is my grandmother and if I want to take pictures then I am taking pictures. I pooped in this woman's yard and she still Loved me, so if I want to take pictures than goddamit, I am."

Here's another great visual from my day - I slipped, in bare feet, on the wooden floor in the living room. I was carrying coffee, which I heroically saved. However, this means that the soles of my feet have become so smooth as to offer no traction on a wooden floor. OR the more likely scenerio: Terrance is using some crazy product on the floors meant to kill me and make it look like a tragic accident. If my obit declares that I was found with a broken neck on my living room floor - with a cup of coffee undisturbed next to me?  Please point the coroner to this blog post.

Finally, from the continual esoteric conversation file of Dawn and Maija:

Today we discovered that we Both adore East of Eden.  As in both of us considered naming sons ( had we had them) Caleb.  If you haven't read it, you really should. I am not sure why people got beaten with Grapes of Wrath in high school, as this would have made a much more intriguing discussion.

And now I have to work on the Monsters paper.

sixes and sevens

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Parenting with Terrance is like parenting with Idi Amin. His decisions are final, and not predicated on any logical rationale.

Today, Emily came home with news of plans for a movie afternoon on Saturday with her friends.

"Oh, Ok", I said in the car. "I don't think we have any plans for Saturday."

She discussed it some more over lunch at our favourite deli. Of course she was also rattling off the social complexities and dramas of the 32 member 7th and 8th grade classes at her school.

Today I am worn out, tired and achy. I can barely keep up with the circulation of my own blood, let alone manage names and who likes who and who likes who but doesn't want him to know scenarios. Once we finish lunch ( and start scouting snow boots for her and drive out to pick up the Hay for the rabbits because we live the glamorous life Sheila E. only dreamed about) we made our way home.

I could hear Emily burst forth with her plans, projecting them at my co-parent like a teen Gatling gun.

"DAWN!", he bellows.


"We need to talk about this Dawn!", he glares.  "Yes, I know we do...", I concur.

He hustles me into the bedroom.

"what is all of this? Did you tell her she could go? You need to discuss these things with me first."

I turn and look at him.

"I did not say Yes. What I said was that I didn't think we had anything planned for Saturday, which is not a Yes."

"well SHE said you said Yes!"

"Terrance, I didn't say Yes. Perhaps she understood my answer to mean Yes, but it wasn't a Yes. It was merely a statement of fact."

He stews next to me.

"well, I need to know how each child is getting to and from the Mall, because I am not comfortable with them taking the bus."

I lift my eyes up and look at him again.

"You Do understand that these children don't belong to YOU, right? As in you are not responsible for them. That they have parents who get to say if they take the bus, and if their parents are fine with it then you have no right to say it isn't."

He actively glowers at me: "Well! If I don't like the way they are getting to and from the mall, then Emily can't go. I can't be responsible for something happening to those kids if they are on the bus."

"You aren't responsible Terrance. That's the point. They have PARENTS who get to decide that - and those parents aren't YOU"

"Dawn! Are you saying that if something happened to one of those girls on the bus on the way home that you wouldn't feel responsible! That's the problem with the world, right there - No one feels responsible for anything."

"Terrance, that is ridiculous. Of course I wouldn't feel responsible. Why is it your job to check the travel arrangements of every child against your personal internal check list to see if they meet your approval over and above whatever their parents want and are all right with having them do? That is insanity. You bitch and moan that our kid isn't independent enough with friends she goes out with and now you are making it impossible for her to do Anything because of your anal retentive need to control every facet of every kid's travel?  Are you planning to call every parent and request their agenda? Do they get this heart-warming lecture too?

And did you really just say that Emily will have to be excluded  from an outing if YOU aren't comfortable with the parenting decisions regarding bus travel made by other people, because that is really shitty."

We both simmer. At an impasse.

I put my earphones back in, and turn away.  I believe he may sit a moment and call me names like irresponsible and uncaring, but I can't hear him.

I drift away to Patty Griffin in my ears.

"As I row row, row, going so slow, slow, slow, just down below me, is the old sea. Nobody knows, knows, knows, so many things, things so, so out of range, sometimes so strange, sometimes so sweet, sometimes so lonely. The further I go, more letters from home never arrive. And I'm alone, all of the way,all of the way, Alone and Alive."

You don't know from Picky

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

(or How I feed a kid with Sensory Integration Dysfunction)

Foods currently on her acceptable list – (Green light):

  1. Chicken fingers – but only those from fast food chains. No homemade all meat chicken fingers will be accepted – no matter how hard you try.
  2. French Fries.
  3. Chips
  4. Hot dogs – beef or pork – no soy
  5. Chinese Spareribs and pork fried rice
  6. Salami – both Genoa and Regular
  7. Cheese, American only.
  8. Corn
  9. Pasta with butter. Nothing else. No cheese, no sauce, no herbs.
  10. Ice cream or anything else made with 80% sugar.
  11. Butter, in any form
  12. Mayonnaise
  13. Bacon
  14. Popcorn (see butter)
  15. Nutri-Grain Bars – Apple only.
  16. Blueberries - but not strawberries
  17. Balsamic Vinegar

Foods currently on the Yellow list – meaning “Sometimes I eat them, but you’ll never know when or why, so when you buy a bunch thinking I’ve added something to my diet, I will announce that I hate this food. This will make me scream and cry until I throw up.”

  1. Yogurt
  2. Mozzarella Cheese sticks
  3. Macaroni and cheese – but only Kraft. Do not try to slip in the homemade crap.
  4. Applesauce
  5. Bananas
  6. Peaches
  7. Pears
  8. Peas
  9. Goldfish crackers
  10. Mandarin Oranges
  11. Hamburgers
  12. Pork (Other than bacon)
  13. Eggs
  14. Pancakes
  15. Rice – only white
  16. Bread
Foods on the Red List, meaning “I will actually gag and puke on the table if you force me to put these in my mouth. And I’m not above doing this in a nice restaurant. You've been warned, bitches.”

  1. Carrots
  2. Broccoli
  3. Cauliflower
  4. Squash
  5. Mashed Potatoes
  6. Green beans
  7. Plantains
  8. Beans– any sort
  9. Steak
  10. Any thing that comes from the sea
  11. Tomatoes
  12. Herbs de Provance, or any green herb like substance.
  13. Any non American Cheese
  14. Any food I have not eaten before, no matter how much you tell me “it’s just like….”
  15. Any food that has touched another food on the plate.
  16. Anything that has touched a garnish of any sort. No green parsley. No fruit. Nothing.

You might think we've spoiled her. That if we just MADE her eat the food that she would. It doesn't work like that with a child who has SI.

Emily's brain functions a little differently. Her needs for and sensitivities to texture and taste run to extremes. Our Occupational Therapist calls it the "beige diet" of SI. I actually wept when she told me this for the first time. You mean LOTS of SI kids eat this way?  It isn't my crappy parenting?

Nope. It is who she is. It doesn't mean we stop trying to introduce new foods. I know from research that a typical child needs to be exposed to a new food a minimum of seven times before they will even put it in their mouth. My kid just takes 70.

Originally published May 16, 2006 at The Gimlet Eye


And here is the best news. At 13, Emily now eats like an almost normal human being. She still has some gag reactions to some things ( broccoli, for instance) but the beige diet has given way to being able to eat with us in restaurants, ordering not chicken fingers, with pleas for no garnish on the plate and for the love of all that is holy do NOT let the food touch - but real food. Ask her about the Korean place she loves above the others, or Thai food. Or her love of French Onion Soup with Smoked Gouda.

It was a long, hard road in those intervening years, but we made it. So, other parents with SI kids, it will change. Ever so slowly, but it will. 

The one Talk I failed to have

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Running into my bedroom on Monday night:

Emily: "Mom....I think I have a bead up my nose."

Me: (Sitting bolt upright in bed) "What do you mean - you THINK? Do you have a bead up your nose? Yes or No?!?!

Emily: (trying to blow her nose and shaking her head)" I don't know - Maybe...."

I grab the bridge of her nose and pinch so she can't force it up higher.


Emily tilts her head down and blows.....

A bright orange bead rolls out her nose onto my bed. We both stare at it. She looks up at me, sheepishly.

Emily: "I had a bead in my nose. Don't tell Dad, Ok?"

August 15, 2007 Gimlet Eye

Satin is not my master

Thursday, October 20, 2011

So in the last two weeks, Emily and I went to Boston to see my brother and his family for his 5 month old sons christening.

My brother and I have often joked that in order for two of the three siblings to be in the same place at the same time, the third sibling must be forced out into the ether in a triangular manner. We are like the Highlander. We do not exist at the same time in the same place so one must observe closely when we are, as it is a rare and special sighting.

In addition to the rarity sighting of more than one of my siblings in the presence of another is the humor factor...which gets ramped up into the stratosphere. If there is one person who "gets" me, it is my brother. I did, after all, send his newborn son a "Punisher" onesie... which freaked his wife out a little - the giant skull and all, but my brother was overjoyed.

So there we are. Me, Donnie and Emily, all looking less comfortable in church than the other. Emily is watching the statues carefully since she is convinced they plan on coming to life and touching her, I am looking up at the ceiling, hoping not to catch the eye of the priest who is going to know of my religious ambivalence and start throwing holy water on me....and then there is my brother who is clearly desperately trying to appear vaguely interested...especially as he has been seated with wife and child in the very front pew.

Having come in late, Em and I sneak into the side pews. I throw some holy water on Em as we walk into the church and do a pathetic attempt to bless her and me as we skulk down the aisle. There is deep affront on her part: "WHAT DID YOU DO THAT FOR?" she whispers fiercely.

"JUST COME ON!" I whisper back. We get seated and catch Donnie's eye to let him know his family has arrived, versus bursting into flames at the front door - which we had even money on, really.

Donnie's wife, Keri, is a gracious and lovely woman. She beckons us over to where they are sitting ( in the front of the freaking church). Donnie is looking pained.

Em - being an 11 year old - leaps up at being beckoned and hustles ACROSS the church, crossing from the extreme left of the church, across center aisle to where Donnie et al are seated. Since my child has abandoned me, I now must follow - apologizing to everyone she has trampled over to get to the front while trying to keep that hunched over stance as we are in the MIDDLE of a religious service.

I sit. Emily grabs my arm. In her rush to get to the front, she has failed to assess the potential statue strategic positioning. We are now MUCH closer to the statues in all their bloody, open heart, pained expressioned selves.

I lean into my brothers neck and whisper "Are all these people here for you?" because there are ALOT of people in this church. I mean, I assume he is a popular guy and all, but there are WAY more people at this christening then I think came to the wedding. Plus, leaning into his neck and whispering has the added benefit of not having to make eye contact with the priest who is very very close to me.

Donnie whispers back that it is a group baptism. I was unaware that the Catholic church has gone all Sams Club with it's baptisms. 7 babies for one low low price! But hey - I got the kid who is offended when I fling holy water on her, so I am no religious parenting icon.

I lean back and resume my careful examination of the ceiling and the fans. The priest, a jolly Ted Kennedy looking kind of guy decides to mix it up - get the youth involved in the service. He gives a speech about welcoming the babies into ye olde Holy Catholic family, yadda, yadda , yadda - and then he breaks this little unexpected request out.

Can the older children come up and put their hands on the baptismal font and pray over it to help make it holy water?

And he points at my daughter. Directly at her.

She is a heathen deer in the headlights. She doesn't know WHAT to do. She half stands, then sits. I am whispering to her "You don't have to go up there!", while the priest continues to point and stare at her, and she stands back up...then sits, and does this TWO MORE times. Her uncle and I are both looking at her saying "You don't have to go up there, its OK" as the nieces and nephews of my sister in law watch with astonishment.

Emily moves to her game closing move. Sit down and hide her face in my shoulder. That will teach Lord Voldemort the priest to point and stare at the agnostic kid in the pews.

From here on out, the priest stayed mighty close to my brother and I in the front two rows. I resumed my ceiling watching, as the priest talked about rebuking Satan - which frankly seemed a little excessive to me.

Wasn't it a bit late to be stating allegiances? I mean we WERE in a church and all. Wasn't this something that could be safely assumed? Lots of Satanists jumping up mid baptism ceremony? I now study my choice of shoes. A lovely deep brown leather slingback, stilleto heel and pointed toe. More Satan talk in front of me. Voices Rebuking behind me. Emily in my shoulder. "Aren't you glad I never subjected you to this?", I whisper.

"Those statues are creeping me out", she replies.

I hear ya sister. Kind of how I feel about all this unnecessary Satan rebuking. Now if you want to rebuke Satin, I could get behind you. In this summer heat, Satin is completely unneeded. And frankly frivolous.

We stumble towards the end of this never ending Satan rebukation. Father Voldemort decides to start the Lords Prayer - which I know having been well indoctrinated in Catholicism before I had the wherewithal to flee. I look around at the congregation thinking, "I'm pretty sure I never taught any of this to Emily" and glance down at her. She is fake mouthing words - perhaps to a Jonas Brothers song?

"What are you saying?". I whisper. She shrugs her shoulders and continues to fake mouth words.

Aw, thats my girl. Fake it till you make it, baby.

This was in brother welcomed another son into the world this past month...which means, of course, we are going to have to go back to the church. A fact which Emily knit together today, saying:
"I don't think we should sit so close to the front this time". 

Head Band

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

When Em got in the car yesterday, she gave me a funny look.

Now this isn't so out of the ordinary. Since I left the world of the full time employed mom last June, I have some odd outfits. About 50% of the time I am going in to McGill, so I look like professional Dawn. The other 50%? Well, some days are better than others. Yesterday I had a Yoga Top and silky lounge pants on.  Of course, I was in the car so I figured no one would see me.

I saw the look and discounted it. Hell, I still give my Mom the same look I was now getting.

About an hour later, I was doing something when Em sidled up next to me.

"Mom", she said.

This was said in the voice which usually means "I am about to hit you up for something that you will say No to, and this will prompt me to a) Argue with you b) Burst into tears or c) stomp away shouting about how unfair my life is".

I inhaled.


"Um, the headband you're wearing?"


"It fell into the toilet the other day, but I dried it off...."

I turn and look at her. "Are you telling me that I have the toilet headband on my head - that you didn't even put it into the laundry to be washed?"

She starts to smile, while also trying to suppress the smile.

"Thanks. Now I have toilet hair. How long were you going to let me wear the toilet soaked headband before you told me?"

Her smile disintegrates into giggles.

"Just put it in the laundry next time", I say - as I walk to deposit the headband into the laundry.

 Yep. This is my life. Unwittingly wearing the toilet headband.

June 16, 2007 Gimlet Eye

Preferring to

Sunday, October 16, 2011

93% of my email I ignore.

It is a terrible, terrible habit - made worse when I am not feeling up to par, or when my confidence is low. And My confidence, we all know, wavers between:



"what? me? Avert your eyes, I'm HIDEOUS."

Sometimes both in the same day. Hour even.

But I also have a somewhat gender typical issue with praise - insomuch as I don't always understand how to process it without suspecting that I don't really deserve it. Or that it isn't sincere. Or I am about to be hit up for something that I will feel guilty about saying no to, but should because I really should be doing something productive. Like making a rug.

And compliments? I have been known to burst into tears at compliments...Seriously. Part of me wants to inquire what excellent drugs you have ingested when I am paid a compliment. I also don't think you really mean it. Or are saying it to be polite. Or you want something.

Ergo, Avoidance.

Crossed with this is the one year anniversary of the great grief tsunami that swept me up and under, dragging me far, far from my home.

As I have begun my awkward dog-paddle to shore, my simple survival of the grief is, while predictable, also something which leaves me flabbergasted and at a loss. I can only ascribe it to my unerring survival instincts, a left over from my childhood. Survive. At. All. Costs.

Being a quirky hermit means that I also have very,very few friends. Opening to friendship is not terribly different in my mind to opening to love.

It is dangerous. It must be avoided. It must be denied.

In both cases I can not be disappointed when the inevitable hurt comes if I simply eschew the opportunity. In so many ways, a fail proof scheme.  Beautiful in it's simplicity and elegance of design.  I am the Bartleby the Scrivener of the Blogging world; I would prefer not to.

Yet, this year....I have not preferred not to.

I have stretched - slowly, inexorably slowly - out. I've made a friend. Maybe two!

I work on saying Yes when saying No is so much easier, so much safer.

I force myself to write academic articles, that ever-so-slowly, become something more. I have pushed through my research plan and ethics so that I am actually nearly at the Research phase ( interviewing sites now). I am writing abstracts for conferences because I realize that while safe in my insular world, it is also not enough.

Not enough for me to lie in this tepid bathwater offering no resistance, no opinions, no anything.

I was content to do this for the past few years, at my own expense. Deeply at my expense.

And while - even as I push myself Out - I occasionally have panicked thoughts and want to retreat, I no longer can. The protective part of me is frantically building walls Up...Around....Over...Everything, Anything that feels exposed or vulnerable, while the other part of me walks behind and kicks the walls down, speaking soothing words of calm logic.

I can longer not prefer not to.

What do Tomatoes, J Depp and my Hair have in common?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Do you need a moment?

Really, take as long as you'd like.  Because I don't think you are going to get this one.


They are all featured in the series of successively odd dreams I have had this week.

Woah. Hold on there. It's not turning into that kind of blog:

("And now let me show you picturez of my prezchus bunniez!") 

Which is (sadly) not a euphemism for anything expect that Yeah, I really do have rabbits.

Since I stopped taking melatonin to help me sleep this summer, my dream life has been much quieter. For which I have been grateful. The melatonin works like a charm for inducing sleep, but the trade off is that my dreams became literal Tim Burton-esque sideshows. Ones where you wake feeling slightly concerned and mightily confused.

Since I have been off the 'tonin, the dreams this week - which had all the characteristics of the 'tonin dreams - were puzzling.

In the first, I cut my hair off. All of it. All of my beautiful, lovely, luscious hair. The hair cut I gave myself looked very much like the 16 year old Dawn - all spikey short angles. A feminine hedgehog.

When I came to, I was panicked.  I love my hair. Truly. There must be a biblical edict against the amount I love my hair.  And while I don't fuss with it much, or style it up into fancy coiffures, it gives me a Sampsonesque feeling of strength and feminine beauty.

After reassuring myself that I had not shorn myself during sleep, I was puzzled. "That was weird", I thought.

Until the following night, when I found myself in the backyard of a house that looked very much like my grandparents house, where the gardens were being turned under for the winter. With the exception of the tomatoes...which were being left exposed to the elements ( even as I was cautioning that they should be picked and allowed to ripen on the windowsills)

While that dream did not leave me quite so panicked, it did leave me quizzical. Huh? Tomatoes? Gardens? Houses? Back Yards? ( and my mother was lurking in this dream too)

Bah. I need to drink some peppermint tea before bed and stop reading philosophy.

But last night? The real piece de resistance in the Dream Trilogy?

I was on stage at a concert. I was wearing some kind of mesh/transparent face covering. And Johnny Depp was doing some kind of singing/interpretive dance. I was sitting on a couch on the stage watching this performance. An audience in front of an audience. And because this was not odd enough from my subconscious?

Someone splashed ketchup on Monsieur Depp, leading him to believe he was bleeding. He freaks out and stops the concert/performance. Leaving me on the couch.

Since I have no uncommon affection for the Depp, I was curious as to why he got chosen to star in my On-stage performance. I mean honestly, there are LOTS of other fancy boys I would go for before Depp.

( Why Yes, Jensen Ackles, I AM looking at you...even though I am vaguely sure you are shorter than me and couldn't keep up your end of the conversation with a complicated series of pulleys and levers.)

Of course, I could stop watching things like American Horror Story before bed...but where would the fun be in that, I ask? (Oh, my love for this show is new and unbounded...give me more Jessica Lange as crazed, poisoning cougar...Yes, Please, Yes!)

I need a job.

Once upon a Time

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I do not know what creativity feels like to other people. I suspect, of course, but who can know really?

Just as I know what sweet tastes like, or what warmth feels like, I only know it from within my own body, using my own senses. For you it could be entirely different.

When I am considering a new rug, the idea has to present itself...nearly fully formed. Like Zeus giving birth to Athena, my ideas simply come forth. Never before they are ready and they will never be forced.

Because of this, I listen to myself when I know I am ready to create.  The window does not stay open forever.

Tonight, I sketched the base of the next rug - based on Snow White and Rose Red  - but more-so on Tender Morsels and my still reverberating reaction to the story.

Some of you have asked me about how I make the rugs, so here are the first sketches of the pieces that will become a full five foot long rug.

This is the bear. He'll be big and shaggy and many-brown toned and take up a fairly large part of the rug. He will have a forest, quite dark behind him. I am not sure yet if you will see sky at all, or if I can simply make the perspective of being very deep in a very old forest.

This is the cottage - stone wall with flowers. The tree might have a branch cutting across the roof...I haven't quite mapped it all out. I was thinking of a muted but warm yellow for the cottage. Very eastern european.

There will be two flowers, a Red and a White, and the girls will have to be incorporated too. I might hide them peeking behind trees. Or the bear might be following one.

Those things will come as the rug emerges.

I don't worry too much about knowing every single detail in advance, since I have learned to trust that they will come if I give them time.

I have decided to do a whole series of rugs based on Fairy Tales that I loved. This will be the first in the group.

And here is a bonus sketch I did tonight: An Octopus. He joins the other ideas waiting for their time and place ( if ever) to emerge and be created.

Hermeneutics of Bein' a Playa

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

You know your life has become some Faustian maze of sad and lonely academia when you see this as a saved pdf file on your laptop:

"Gadamer Hos.pdf"

And it makes you laugh for like ten minutes straight, because it is really Gadamer's : The Hermeneutics of Suspicion.....

But the idea that you are reading about all of Gadamer's Ho's delights you beyond subversive giddiness - (Oh Hans-Georg...I bet you say that to all the girls -*wink* ).

Oh, my head.

Speaking of Oppression...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Can Someone tell me what the in the bread and butter knives happened here?

I open the silverware drawer and it's like an angry toddler poltergeist visited in the middle of the night and threw everything in there helter skelter.

Or, my daughter was tasked with putting the clean dishes away.

In that case, it is simply a moody 13 year old girl doing a pretty typical half-assed job of her "chores".

A Moody 13 year old made more moody by the fact that she now owes me $80 since she "lost" her Geography Textbook and I am having to secure her a new one.

Well, she - vociferously -contends that it was "stolen".

However, since I have yet to see roving bands of other 7th grade students stealing Geography books because their love of Geography is so great  that one book is simply not enough to satisfy their all encompassing need for more geography information.

Not to mention there are only 16 students in the Whole English-speaking-and-textbook-using 7th grade in her school.

Ergo, despite our vast gulf in opinions on how exactly the book met it's ultimate fate of not being in her possession, the fact remains that she is working off her book debt with labour.  And since eye rolling, and indignant stomping and are not yet accepted as currency in our still capitalist society - she works.

Half assed and poorly, but still.

Can you pass that dish of Oppression?

Sunday, October 09, 2011

A Classic from my Archive: 10/10/2005.  See, I was Always like this......

It is no secret that my politics are.....quite left. I AM that left wing bleeding heart liberal that gets demonized in the press. The fact that my spouse is a bit more left than I am makes for an interesting parenting experience.

Now, aside from the lack of godliness in the home ( which I am sure indicates a lack of "values" or whatever the hell else won the republicans the last election)- there is a decided "anti-establishment" theme to many of the books in our home. Look, there is the Marx/Engels reader, See there Alfie Kohn's books on the failings of the American educational system, Behold "Lies my Teacher Told Me" on my bedside.

Our child had no regular alphabet posters in her room - she was looking at the "Alternative Alphabet" - featuring "P is for Peace and Y is for Yoga". You get the point.

So when our daughter comes home from public school with a cut and color Columbus day ship and asks us if we are going to have a Columbus day feast to honor Columbus - you get two dumbfounded adults scrambling for a response.

Terrance's response: "Daddy isn't into Columbus. I don't do Columbus day."

Oh, very helpful. Thanks ever so much. That was quite illuminating.

I bring out the children's book "Encounter" by Jane Yolen- which we read, and re-read at this time of year.

Being an early childhood person, I tend not to answer my daughter's questions with the same cut and dry responses my husband uses. I want to engage her thought process and get her to think critically. Terrance thinks that this is a bullshit approach.

So we talk about what the experience of the Native People's must have been like. That discovery isn't the same when you discover something that belongs to someone else. It would be like me walking into her room and "discovering" her Playmobil house and claiming it as my own. Not very heroic.

"That's stealing.", she says.

"Yes it is, honey. That's why daddy and I are uncomfortable with Columbus Day. He may have been very adventurous to sail over the ocean to find and see new things- but he was very unkind and unfair to the people he found living there already."

And Emily - as always - absorbs this information to the best of her ability. And says:

"Can I stay up late and eat popcorn?"

Fight the power, honey, fight the power.

Boys will be Boys

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Upon beginning my career in education,I took the banning of all violent imagery from my classroom very

I screened all books for what I perceived to be gratuitous or disturbing imagery. I carefully explained my “no toys from home” policy to incoming families, using my well-reasoned arguments against guns, media, socio-economic leverage and other injustices. If that didn’t work, I would use the veiled threat that I was sure that the toy would get broken and I couldn’t be responsible.

During the initial reign of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the Power Rangers directly in back of them, I stood firm. No war play, no toys from home, no pretend guns.

During my fourth year of teaching, I had a particularly rambunctious group of four year olds – mainly
boys. They had no intention of going along complacently with my rational adult way of thinking. My first inkling that my ideas were being challenged was when I watched one little boy walk awkwardly
into the classroom one morning. “Good Morning Sam!”, I greeted Sam and his father as they arrived. 

I pulled Sam’s father aside and asked him if Sam was all right – that I noticed he was walking kind of funny. Sam’s father was puzzled and called Sam over. Sam slowly revealed through his conversation ( and his awkward, waddling gait) with his father that he had smuggled several toy tigers out of the house in his underwear and was waiting until his dad left and I wasn't watching to bring them out.

While initially I found this to be simply a humorous anecdote, as I later reflected on it ,I wondered what would
drive this generally very honest child to think up a fairly elaborate ruse to get around a solid classroom “rule”. 

I began watching the boys more carefully. When I would come upon them building with any number of manipulatives, conversation would stop if I lingered to ask what it was they were building. I watched these boys’ faces struggle. They knew they were building weapons and I knew they were building weapons. They also knew that my rule was “no weapons”. Therefore, they had to lie to me to comply with my rule. I had unwittingly created a situation that forced children to lie to me in order to sustain their play. 

This was not the teacher I wanted to be. This was not the classroom I wanted to have.

The children in this classroom weren’t engaging in sustained play, simply because I kept interrupting them
to insure they were following my “no war play or weapons” rule. I never stopped to ask them the context or the “rules” of their play, I simply assured myself that they were following my agenda and reminded them I was monitoring them.

So I began to ask – Why not? To what do I object in this play? What am I afraid that will happen? What
message are the children getting when they play with weapons? Have I asked them why they like this play?

My eventual stance on war and weapon play softened. I backed off my exclusionary stance. I began asking more questions about the play – non-judgmental questions – Could they explain how this game is played? What were the rules? Truthfully, it took the children some time to trust my interest as sincere. Slowly, they began explaining the context of their games, and I began to understand the complexity behind the war/weapon  play happening in front of me.

Once I understood the child dictated rules of the games, I could assert my needs and negotiate with the players. Sticks could be weapons, but should never be pointed at a real person. Likewise, manipulatives could be weapons, but again, not pointed at any living people. When they were playing a game, I would stay close to assist with rule clarification if I was needed. 

Someone could not be designated as the “bad guy” or “monster” without that persons explicit consent. They needed to agree to play and were free to walk away from the role when it was no longer fun for them.

One of my most memorable game experiences was one in which a group of five year olds boys decided
to have a snowball fight after a lovely blizzard. We suited up and hiked outside. I gathered the group to clarify the rules of the snowball fight. Each child had the opportunity to add a rule, or clarify the terms of the game. 

They were pretty standard – no ice balls, if you threw a snowball, you were agreeing to play the game
and that meant you could get hit by a snowball…. when Devin came up with a new and unexpected request. 

“Let’s do whitewashes”, he said. 

The group considered this. 

“Does everyone understand what Devin means by this? Devin can you explain a whitewash so we all

Devin explains to his peers that whitewash means you can rub someone’s face in the snow, or rub snow in someone’s face. The boys readily agreed.

I clarified “So, I hear that we are agreeing that it is Ok to rub snow in people’s face as part of the game”. 

Again, the boys all eagerly agreed.

The game lasted about 4.5 minutes with everyone in tears at the end. We re-grouped and agreed that whitewash was not a part of the game anymore. The game, now revised sans whitewash, went on until it got too dark to be outside.

Had I warned them or forbidden whitewash as part of the game would the issue have ended so suddenly and completely? I seriously doubt it. 

Part of the value of play is to negotiate socially acceptable limits agreed to by all the players. Had I forbidden whitewashes, I would have spent all afternoon trying to squelch the urge to whitewash by 15 boys who were dying to rub someone else's face in snow. Letting them experience the consequences of a non-fatal decision allowed the players to discard something that didn't work and quickly move on to a much happier game that wore them ( and me) thoroughly out by the time it got too dark to be outside.

We cannot hide human nature from children. They already know more than we imagine. We can, however,
provide avenues for safe exploration of feelings of power and powerlessness. I never want a child to have to lie to me to sustain their play. Rather than deciding, as an adult, that a child’s explorations of violence, power and death were too disturbing to me, I choose to look at the value of this type of play for the child. 

What were they working out? What were they testing? How could I guide without imposing my adult needs and views onto play that was essential to the child?

When that door opened in my mind, I was able to live more comfortably with the gamut of violent characters.

The boys in my classrooms did not obsess so intently on specific games or images. Once they had explored a topic, they dropped it. I accepted the games as they came along, and asked to have the rules explained to me. We would negotiate anything that I considered to be out of bounds as the teacher ( hitting, or other overtly aggressive physical contact) and the boys followed my guidance. They were even allowed to wrestle in the classroom - and we had a mat where they could do that, as long as they took of their shoes.

My little wolf pack calmed down. I accepted them as boys. They, in turn, accepted me as their Alpha Wolf.

June 2007, Gimlet Eye


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

It is an argument I have had with Terrance since I began blogging in 2005.

The nature of being exposed here, on the other blogs, and in general.

I don't harbour a naive belief that I am magically invisible here. Or that somehow I am immune to judgement or manipulation using my own words or images or pictures. I do not think that everyone would look at my blog(s) and love me, or them.

It isn't that I don't care, either. I worry ( plenty) about not being able to find a job or having an unknown person use the things I write and share as ammunition to belittle me, or not hire me, or do some as yet unimagined damage.

Some of this, I think, is an act of courage, to show myself as truly and honestly as I can.

Some is an act of ego - I would be lying if I pretended it wasn't. I like knowing that others find value in what I write, or share.

Some is my way of connecting with other people external to myself, since my Bartley the Scrivener  instinct runs strong ( I, too, would prefer not to) And some is a reaction from a childhood steeped in secrets, my need to testify for others.

However in all of this, all of this what ever is distilled into some essential Dawn-ness is the knowledge that I say or show nothing here that I wouldn't say to you, or most people, in conversation.  Yeah, people who have met me will tell you - I really AM    just.       like.             this.

Yet - and here is the real kernel of truth for me - I do not feel that I am all that important.  The people who may find this blog by google? Accident. Happenstance.  People who I may have known ages ago who have wondered what became of me, people who like me, people who don't like me, and the rare people who love me....all the same Dawn.

I've had very little troll behaviour since I began blogging in 2005, and for that I consider myself lucky.  No one has photoshopped my child  into tasteless photos ( partly because there are very very few pictures of her here) or otherwise pursued me with any kind of malignant intent. Not that this is an invitation.

Maybe that will change someday. Maybe when I get a job ( sigh, I wish) I will have to look at my blogs and consider if they are still serving the purpose that I want them to serve, for myself more than anything else, or if they are harming me in a way that I can't yet imagine.

I don't know. I would miss them, but not at the expense of feeding myself and my daughter.

So until that day, I will continue to believe that I am just not that important here in my utility closet of the internet, with all my bits and bobs, goofiness and photos.

Distilled into essential Dawn-ness.

My Babies, My Self

Sunday, October 02, 2011

I loved working with Infants and Toddlers. Truly. 

Professionally, it may have been the happiest I was - despite the incredibly poor salary and penchant for having to go to the doctor and confess that I was pretty sure I had Croup, or Ear Infections or whatever else was marching through the classroom. 

It may amaze some that caring for the youngest children was where I found my professional calling, but it really shouldn't. People who work, successfully, with Infants and Toddlers tend to be the best all around teachers in the long run. Our crucible, you see, is one in which there can be no ego - no moment when we aren't willing to throw it all into the bin and begin again. 

There are no harsher judges of character than a room full of Infants and Toddlers. They see through adult facades. They, frankly, don't care who you think you are. They are all about the integration of Deed and Action and as such are like sniffer dogs in their ability to detect and react to Fakes.

In fact, I used to rely on specific children when I would interview assistant teachers during my time teaching. I knew that certain children would intuitively express preference for "authentic" adults. Children who would normally never approach strangers might sidle up to the people with the right attributes and offer them a book or toy. That was an excellent sign, in my book.   

You must de-center with infants. Since so much of their care depends on highly attuned observation and continual assessment, the central question cannot be “Why aren’t they following my script?” but rather “What do they need that they are showing me through their behaviors and reactions?” It is a highly reflexive style of teaching that asks the Teacher to move from “expert” to “active participant” in the classroom. 

When it isn't about Me, but all about Them, they learned learned to trust me, implicitly. People who didn't see it would scoff when I would describe how infants would ASK to be put in their cribs for nap, or when I would explain that I didn't serve breakfasts or lunches until the Infant or Toddler Told me they were hungry (Usually by crawling to the meal table and patting the top)...or how children as young as six months could start using the "all done" sign to indicate they were ready to wash up and get down after a meal. 

Partly it was my sense that I wasn't going to ask them to do something - like eat or nap - if they weren't ready to do it.  I was never trying to get "rid" of them by putting them down to nap.

(Obviously VERY young infants are a different story and rely on adults to help them. I am not talking about infants under 5 months or so, when they become very different people as the synapses get myelinated and things start to really kick off. Up to that Point, consistent anticipatory care is the cornerstone of the trust relationship between adult and child.)

Partly is was Me.  I get the desire to have what people say and do match up. Infants and Toddlers rewarded me for my honesty and transparency. Adults don't always feel the same way, I'm afraid. 

I get the need to have Time to figure it out, even if it takes me a bit longer, or if I need to do it six more times than the other kid.  I understand the desire to make mistakes and be comforted by a warm hug and someone to brush me off, asking if I am all right, but not negating my feelings of sadness or disappointment.  

I understand the desire to have a giant tantrum, rolling around and kicking and screaming, because it is all too fucking MUCH - and when I am done, to be snuggled and accepted for being human. 

I miss working with Infants and Toddlers - more than I can bear, at times.  My dream would be to be in a place where I could work in a centre in direct care for part time, and teach/research the other part time - but it doesn't really work like that, I fear. 

Maybe one day. I can dream.

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