penelope and bumblebee

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Gone Fishing

Writing this makes me so so sad, but I'm going to have to retire penelope and bumblebee.

As a writer, one who finally found her voice again through this medium, and as a mother, one who found her stride alongside all of you, this hurts my heart more than you can imagine.

Unfortunately, the privilege to be honest and real and free here has been compromised.

I promise I'll keep reading; keep commenting, and hopefully, on the other side of '07, I'll be back, somewhere new.

thanks for reading.

aka Penelope

Friday, December 15, 2006

enter the grinch

Oh, week - how shit you've been.

Great way to start a post, innit? But true. So I haven't been around much; I've lurked a bit, commented less - especially with blogger beta sucking almost as much as my week; I'm not used to weeks like this and I'm exhausted by it.

No less than 3 ugly, face-to-face conflicts have arisen this week, and they have sucked the energy out of me. Which meant that I had little left to put into all of the things that needed desperately to get done, and all the things that I said I would do. To the many people that I have let down this week, I am truly sorry. I meant to do it; I meant to write that piece; to proof that letter; to bake those cookies; to go to that fundraiser; to spend an evening just the two of us.

I had a reprieve on Tuesday night - gold tickets to the Leafs game, which I hadn't been to in over a year, which was so awesome, which we won. Thank you my very best friend, for that.

But Wednesday morning my hockey high was completely destroyed by something that I cannot talk about, lest I be dooced.

I'm not sure what's going on. I feel like much of this conflict was not brought on by me, and may just be an issue of really bad timing, but still... I am the common denominator.

So I'm just going to let the dust settle a little bit longer, and hopefully the weekend will refresh my spirit and rejuvenate my soul.


It's not all bad news. There are lovely, wonderful things afoot. Please go see.

Her Bad Auction

oh, and ahem, a more positive, happy me can also be found at MommyBlogs Toronto. But I can't get the link to work. see sidebar until I smarten up.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Meme for a Winter's Day

Well, I guess I can’t ignore, refute, pretend or deny it any longer: Winter is here.

To wit – it is snowing right now, this very minute, and I am cold. Bah.

Even tho I hate winter, I already have a cute story about it; the other night, I took Bee grocery shopping. It was not snowing when we went into Loblaws, but low and behold, thick, heavy, chunky flakes were coming down as we were leaving an hour later.

(By the way, if any of you manage to do your grocery shopping in less than an hour, please let me know how. I am never ever in the grocery store for less than that, and often, for far longer.)

Anyway, Bee hasn’t really seen snow yet – at least, snow that she was aware of. Last year’s infancy snow doesn’t count. So, we leave Loblaws, and Bee is enthralled. Wide eyed and speechless, she is hurried into her carseat and out of the cold, but her gaze never waivers from the falling snow. She is silent as I load the groceries into the hatch; watching. I get in and start the car.

“What do you see, love?” I ask. She thinks about it for a moment.


Bubbles. Bee thinks that the snowflakes are bubbles.

My heart near about bursts, but I am able to drive home.

Sigh. Ok, enough of the sentimentality. Moving on, I have been tagged by Metro Mama and Cakes for a fun mother/daughter meme.

So, without further ado, I give you:

Five things you did not know about Penelope:

1. Publicly, I shun, chastize and greatly dislike McDonald’s. If asked, I will tell you that I have not eaten anything from McDonald’s in over 15 years. But the truth is, I ate a mcchicken when I was pregnant (ok, fine, it was two. I ate two mcchickens in one sitting). I couldn’t help it. And it was delicious. Don’t tell, and can you give me a hand, please? I’m having a bit of difficulty getting back up on my soapbox.

2. I have dual citizenship. Mom’s Canadian, Dad’s American. I hold two passports, and I’m pretty sure Chris only married me for the green card.

3. I have many little quirks, but some of my most endearing include stirring my coffee 40 times and being completely intolerant of crumbs. I have shoved many a plate under my husband’s errant pb&j sandwiches. That said, my house is usually a mess.

4. I write poetry. In fact, I came as close to majoring in poetry as you can in university. I will spare you my gifts and never make you read any here.

5. My first job (besides babysitting) was at Bi-Way when I was 14. Remember Bi-Way? My mother, who had 4 children to clothe, shopped there quite a bit, and helped get me the job. I made $4.25/hour and was responsible for wearing an ugly smock and folding cheap ugly clothes on big metal bin/tables. My nose and throat were constantly full of dust and lint. During the two months that I worked there, Downtown Train by Rod Stewart was big on A/C radio. I hate that song so much.

Five things you did not know about Bee:

1. She has a mullet. It is an all-natural baby mullet, but still. Oh, and the bangs grow longer in 3 places, but the sides just won’t catch up. I try to put clips in her hair, but she tries to eat them. I am too superstitious to cut her hair before at least age 2.

2. She has very, very, long fingers. Since the day she was born she has had crazy long, graceful fingers, and everybody tries to take credit for them. If you ask my mom, they are her grandmother’s hands. If you ask Chris’ grandmother, they are her hands. I must be a horrible mother, because I did not think about her long fingers until others pointed them out. Also, despite everybody’s insistence that her long fingers would make her an automatic virtuoso, I’m not getting a piano.

3. Bee is a tiny peanut of a baby (toddler). At almost 19 months, she weighs a whopping 19lbs. I don’t know how tall she is. She has friends younger than her that outweigh her by a good 10 lbs. At this rate, she won’t be out of a car seat until she is 15.

4. She hates the bath right now – like kicking, screaming, crying, major trauma hates it. This seems like more than just not wanting a bath, so we have backed off. We make do with sponge baths and less than regular hair washing right now, until we sense that her mood or fear or whatever, has changed. So, my kid is a bit of a smelly ragamuffin these days.

5. Bee runs after the cat, arms outstretched, yelling ‘Up! Up! Up!” We are not sure if she wants to pick Miko up, or if she wants Miko to pick her up. Either way, the cat’s not into it.

Now, who’s secrets do I want to know? How about the lovely Cinnamon Gurl, and her little man, Swee’pea. Her baby just started sleeping once in a while, so she should have oodles of time these days. Tag, sister, you’re it.

p.s. If you're cold, Sandra's new post at MommyBlogs Toronto is sure to warm you right up.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Losing My Religion

In my neighbourhood, Christmas lights supplant jack o'lanterns about as quickly and readily as Paris Hilton supplants her BFFs. By the first of December in Toronto, the snow had not yet fallen, but my company had already had its annual holiday bash, Holt Renfrew had already unveiled their holiday windows, and the well-meaning questions had already started:

“Have you put up your Christmas tree yet?”
“Is Bee excited to see Santa Claus?”
“What are you getting Bee for Christmas?”
“Have you sent out your Christmas cards yet?”

The answer to these questions would be a respective and respectuful no, no, nothing, and no. I ain’t no grinch, and I’m not trying to bah-humbug anybody’s good time. The thing is, I’m Jewish. The other thing is, Chris is a non-practicing realistic skeptic agnostic, tho his family is traditionally Christian. The toddling, talking, soon-to-be-asking-questions thing is, therefore, both. I guess.

My – our – incapacity to identify or declare Bee’s religious heritage has not been an issue for 16 of her 18 months of life. But in December (this being her second), the question of the religion of our child inevitably gets raised, and we realize that at some point we will have to form an opinion regarding it, one way or another. I think.

You see, this vagueness, ambiguity and haziness of the issue has always been present in our relationship. Of course, we have always been aware that Chris and I come from very different backgrounds (in so, so many ways), but we have always been comfortable with each of our level of involvement (or lack thereof) in religion. We were married by a judge. We celebrate religious holidays at our respective parents’ houses. We go to church or synagogue when someone gets married or dies. We don’t say grace. While pregnant, we of course discussed the religious upbringing of our child (or, again, lack thereof), and it boiled down to this:

Penelope – I want to continue the traditional aspects of my religion that I hold dear, like big meals, Yiddish swear words and menorahs. I would prefer it if Bee knew the actual reasons for our holidays, though we must also continue my grandfather’s tradition of filling our head with stories about how we won the war with my aunt’s matzo balls and such. She must never forget. One day I would like her to go to Israel.

Chris – I want my child to make up her own mind, and to not believe the hype. However, I will not quash my parents’ attempts at showing her how to rock it, United-style.

How’s that for direction? Fine, when the idea of a child and her religious upbringing is an abstract collage of peaceful inclusion and convictions, but somewhat different when a real child enters your real world, and time for talk of what to have for dinner is hard to come by, let alone deliberations over one’s child’s practices of faith (or lack thereof).

Happily, our parents, who are completely accepting of the differences of background, have not questioned us about our intentions one way or the other. My mother did not insist on a baby-naming, nor did his on a baptism. So she had neither. I wanted Bee to have a Hebrew name, so I gave her one. Tzipporah Batsheba. I think it’s pretty. We thank whoever we believe in that day that we did not have a boy, so that we could avoid the circumcision decision. Avoiding decisions is something we are good at. Imparting a cohesive opinion regarding organized religion – mine, his, or any other – and our child, is something we are not.

I suppose the fair thing to do is to first examine exactly what religion (and it’s less bloody bedfellows, spirituality and faith) means to us. But I’ve had 31 years to figure that shit out, and I’m no closer to understanding it than I am to understanding quantum physics or the appeal of James Blunt.

The thing is, all of this proselytizing, philosophising, hand-wringing, and ultimately, uncertainty, is based not on our desire to choose one – to check a religion off of a list and say, there you go! You are a Jew/Christian/Pagan/Druze/Whatever – it’s about the fact that we don’t really want to do that at all. Is that fair? Is it fair that it seems like her religious identity, when inevitably asked about at some point, will have to be explained with, ‘Well, my mum’s Jewish, and my dad’s family is Christian?” Is it fair to assume that she will achieve a comfort level regarding this subject – this aspect of who she is – on her own, with little guidance (Chris calls it interference) from us? Is it fair to do this without completely accepting in myself the possibility that she may one day follow a doctrine that I know little about? How would I feel if Bee became a Rasta, or Islamic, or gasp! a goth? Is it fair that Christmas is going to be something that only happens at her gram and granddad’s house?

I understand that this is a complicated issue (at least to us), and in a way, I envy those whose religious footing is steadfast and unwaivering. Because for me and Chris, and so, for Bee, our grip on religion is about as precarious as a jolly fat man trying to get his jolly fat self down a skinny-ass chimney.
But I guess we don’t have to worry about that.

Metro Mama wants to make you smarter. Go check out what she has to say at Mommy Blogs Toronto

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hi Honey, We're Home

Don’t know why I’m having such a hard time with the homecoming post, but I just am not sure I can encapsulate our trip in a witty, engaging way right now.

How can I possibly share the sublime irony with which we opened my dad’s kitchen cupboards to find that he had already bought groceries for all of his visiting children, only he forgot that those same children are no longer five and don’t really eat things like this anymore?

Except, of course, you’ll notice that the bag is almost empty, and I brought home a toddler and a husband with a newfound fondness for CocoRoos.

And really, unless you experienced the stomach ache, I cannot possibly illustrate the sheer gluttonous food-fest that is the Golden Corral buffet. Christ, that place is addictive. You should have seen our plates, loaded with such mouth-watering combos as broccoli and jello (bee’s pick), chicken tenders and refried beans, and my favorite, onion rings and banana pudding. Did I mention that we went twice and that’s only because when I rallied for a third time, I was overruled (3-5) and we went to a Chinese buffet instead?

I’m also having a hard time figuring out how to convey the week-long evolution of my husband’s early-life crisis, which began with his 31st birthday and found him driving a minivan full of kids, wearing argyle socks, doing puzzles and playing shuffleboard not two days later. By the way, shuffleboard rocks, and chris is the champion. We told him it’s because we are Jewish and shuffleboard is not a Jewish sport, like Mah-jong or eating.

Also, I can’t believe I didn’t take more pictures of my dad’s amazing new place, a very quaint gated community (don’t get all, Exclusivity! Snobbery! Privilege! on me – my dad essentially lives in a double-wide, and pretty much every community is gated – not sure who they’re trying to keep out. Maybe some octagenarians that prefer my dad’s shuffleboard lanes to their own?) where everybody waves to each other, and I’m pretty sure my 64-year old pater is one of the youngest residents. That, of course, is fine with him. My dad doesn’t move very quickly and likes the quiet life. And he’s got it. Us kids are just happy that he’s happy, isn’t renting (as he was for the first year back in the states), and that we have access to tennis courts, a pool heated to soup temp, a clubhouse with poker and pool tables, crazy-ass birds that walk around like they own the g-d place, and did I mention shuffleboard? God, I love shuffleboard. Oh, and you really have to watch yourself when you’re walking around, as there are no sidewalks and at any moment some crazed senior citizen is very likely to come whipping around the corner in their golf-cart (the preferred method of transportation within the gates).

Of course, the most difficult part for me to accurately express is how wonderful it was to spend a week with my family. There are no other people in the world who understand (and, well, often misunderstand) me better than the 7 other people I vollied for bathroom time with last week. To see my dad on the floor colouring with both of his granddaughters; to play skip-bo (our family game) with all of my sibs at the same time; to laugh about the contents of my dad’s fridge and his meticulous, deliberate, thoughtful way of doing everything; to watch my baby’s face light up when a family of egrets (florida’s answer to pigeons) cross the road; to sit in the sunshine while my neice splashes in the pool with my husband – well, you know what those moments are like.

And now? Well, Bee has finally adjusted to being home again, the laundry is done, and we are broke, just in time for the holidays. That’s ok; I’ll just get creative – and really, who doesn’t like seashell paperweights?


Don't forget to check out how we northern mamas rock it at Mommy Blogs Toronto!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Off We Go

It's been a pretty crazy week at casa penelope; besides chasing politicians off my property and figuring out what the heck to do for chris' birthday yesterday, i've also been preparing the fam for our vacation, which starts when the car arrives at 3:30 tomorrow morning. yikes.

don't feel too bad for us; once we get some coffee into us (maybe just some boob into bee), we'll be on our way to sunny florida for american thanksgiving with my american family. hooray!

this will be the first time since my dad moved back to the states almost two years ago that all of my siblings will be there at the same time. So, besides seeing my family, here are the top 5 reasons I can’t wait to shlep all the crap that you need when travelling with a toddler and get on that plane.

1. can you say ‘sleep’? with a gramps (he’s called Big Guy – my neice named him when she was about 2), two aunts, an uncle and an 8-year old cousin right down the hall to entertaintain my daugher at 7am, I’m going back to bed.

2. sun.shine. it’s 29 degree where my dad lives today. It’s 6 degrees where I live. Enjoy the rain, chumps.

3. ross. cheap, dirty and supremely satisfiying (like me!). this messier sister of winners nets the greatest steals in the history of bargain shopping. Last year I got bee and my neice similar ralph lauren tennis dresses for about the price of a grande latte in the t-dot. (ok, I exaggerate. A latte and a biscotti.)

4. the brevard zoo. This quaint destination is just the right size for bee (about a fifth of the size of the toronto zoo), has a giraffe-feeding area, and so far holds her interest so completely that we don’t even have to give going to one of the pricier, more commercial, more obnoxious, more mouse-filled attractions that the area is known for even a flicker of consideration. at least for a couple of more years.

5. southern hospitality. Say what you want about the US (and I often do), the folks where my dad lives are NICE. And they always tell me how cute my kid is, so I like them even more. I can almost overlook the fact that they all voted for george w and sport bumper stickers that say things like ‘god, guts and guns made america.’ (shudder)

so, while I’ll be thinking about y’all (see? It’s like I’m already there) while we’re gone, I probably won’t be checking in. I think you can guess why: dial up. Yep. Me and the internet are going on a break for the next 9 days or so. I might manage to sneak in the odd midnight session, so leave the window open for me just in case. If not, have fun, stay warm and we’ll build a sandcastle for you.

Monday, November 13, 2006


*edited - the results are in*

Today is municipal vote day where I live, and I don’t know about you, but I’m voting. (I hope you are too, if applicable) The incumbant in my area has gotta go. He is one of the good ol’ boys who had a nice run under mayor quimby – I mean, lastman – but it is time to see the changing of the guard.

But I gotta say – while I might know who I want for mayor, the city councillor choice in my area is not an easy one. I used to live in a riding where I helped elect in a fresh-faced, do-gooding, way left-leaning nice young man who cared about the things I do. Three years later that same young man is not so fresh-faced, and seems to have been well worn down by the half dozen committees he is on, and probably just from the gigantic amount of red tape, juvenile shenanigans and rhetoric one has to wade through to get anything at all accomplished at the municipal level. But at least I know he has tried. Hopefully he gets in again. Alas, it won’t do my corner of the woods all that much good.

I get to choose from the aforementioned good ol boy, and the second choice of the left leaning party, as their first choice decided to run elsewhere. The other candidates have afforded themselves so little visibility that I would not even recognize their names on the ballot. I have taken it upon myself to try to learn more, but they have so little faith in their chances of being eleccted that they have not even set up a website. Not even a blog. So, we’re down to two.

Should it be the good ol’ boy or the second choice? Really, I pretty much know who I’ll vote for, so let me turn this into less of a debate and more of a story. Let’s call the story:

How I Managed to Run Two Politicians Off: A Case Study

Or, if that’s not catchy enough:

Politicians Are Scared of Me

Yes, let’s go with the latter.

So, like I said, well in advance of voting day, I like to know what I’m in for. I do my homework. Sometimes, in order to get an A+ on my homework (or at least a gold star), you have to ask clarifying questions. So I do. (all questions have been paraphrased for your entertainment)

For the Good Ol’ Boy:
(asked via email, approx. 4 months in advance of polls)

Dear Fat Lazy Incumbent That Has Done Nothing To Earn His Paycheque Except Play Croquinolt With The Local Kiwanis And Maybe Judge a Pie Eating Contest At Last Year’s Canada Day Celebration,

Dogs piss where my baby plays despite no less than 6 signs touting the by-law warning that dogs are not allowed in the fenced-in park.

What are you gonna do about it?

Sincerely, someone who pays a lot of taxes in your ward.

For the Second Choice
(asked via email approx. 1 month in advance of the polls)

Dear Marginally Left-Leaning Second Choice Candidate That Will Probably Be Elected Simply Because You Are of the Same Nationality As Most of the People In This Ward (but at least you are a marginally left-leaning woman),

Subway Stations in Your Ward: 6
Subway Stations with Elevators in Your Ward: 0
Number of Times I Took the Subway with My Baby While On Mat Leave After the First Time When Not Even the Escalator Was Working And It Took 10 Minutes for Someone to Offer To Help Me Shlep the Fucking Stroller Up the Stairs: 0

What are you gonna do about it?

Sincerely, someone who pays a lot of taxes in your ward.

No, no, that wasn’t the part where I scare the politicians. It was when they came round to muster up support for their vote that I scared them.

I scared the Good Ol’ Boy when he came to my door last week. We chat for a minute, I listen to his spiel and then inform him that he never answered my email. He apologizes, and says that it is a very busy time. I tell him that I sent the email in the summer. (he backs away, to the top step leading off the porch) We discuss my issue. He tells me that by-laws are rarely enforced. So why have them? I ask. (he takes another step) As a code of conduct, he says. but nobody’s listening, I say. (one more step) Well, you have to complain first, he says. Well, I did, to you, I say. (he’s on ground level) Well, he says, I’ll look into it; we understand your problem and hear what you’re saying – goodbye! (he’s gone)

Chris is laughing at the emply porch and impressed at my prowess at getting rid of politicians. One down.

I didn’t get to scare the Left-Leaning Second Choice in person, but I scared one of her people when they called. they tried to tell me how wonderful their candidate was, and I responded by basically reciting her CV so that they know that I know my shit and tell her I already emailed. I get the ‘busy time, yada yada’ speech, and just ask her what her candidate’s plan to increase TTC accesibility in her ward is. Oh, well, she’s very much in favour of accessibility on the TTC; very much in favour! (this late in the game I’m convinced that she’d be in favour of better benefits for blind monkey fruit merchants if it would get her a vote) But what is her plan?, I ask. Well, she’s very much in favour, thank you for time, ok see you at the polls! Click.

Chris is laughing again. Two down.

I got a chance to scare the Good Ol’ Boy regime again when one of his people came to the door yesterday, attempting to leave a doorknob flyer on my doorknob. ‘Hi!’ I say, pulling open the door. He stammers a greeting, clearly not expecting to talk to anybody, and tries to shove the flier in my hand. He wants to know if they can count on my vote. ‘Well, you can count on me voting, but probably not for the Good Ol’ Boy. Plus, that’s a ‘No Flyers Please’ sign, so you can have this back.’ He leaves. Quickly. Chris laughs.

This is a fun game. Too bad it ends tonight, when I do my civic duty and decide which pussy to vote for.

*well, we got our mayor, but the good ol' boy won by a measly 20 votes.*
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