penelope and bumblebee

Good grammar costs nothing.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Baby Ghosts and Toddling Terrors

Well, after weeks of planning, scouring the martha stewart web site, baking, decorating, pumpkin carving and hotglue-gunning, we did it.

Our first annual Baby Ghosts and Toddling Terrors Hallowe’en Party/Photo Op was this afternoon, and I think it was monster success.

My little lamb enjoyed the company of a dragon, two bumblebees, a snowman, a tomato, a lion, and a cow . As the babes arrived, we ushered them straight to the set, where photoshoots took place while costumes were still fresh and intact, and well, on.

From there we enjoyed the company of friends, a little bit of baby turf war refereeing (cakes pretty much won every round) and a buffet full of baby-friendly goodies (ok, maybe not the fudge. But it was definitely mama-friendly.) and apple cider spiked with brandy, because you definitely need the spiked-with-brandy part when there are 8 toddlers running around your very small house.

I think everybody had a great time. The babes were all so cute I could hardly stand it. Bee had been cranky all morning and didn’t nap well (of course), so she was a bit clingy, but even when she’s clingy, she’s pretty darn cute. And she was a very good sport about her costume, which I appreciated, since it took two nights to hot glue 200 cottonballs to a onesie. As the afternoon progressed, she shed more and more cottonballs, and the ones that didn’t fall off hung in dreads from her tush, so she actually looked quite authentic.

But by the end of the day, the thing was such a mess that we seriously just cut it off of her. Good thing I have a back-up for Tuesday. She’ll be giving out treats in her little pink jaguar costume (no, I did not make that one).

Anyway, we’re hoping that all the excitement will have the babes sleeping late tomorrow. And once I’m rested, I’m going to start planning our Baby Christmukkah Bash. Anybody have a good recipe for latkes?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

To My Darling Daughter

Dear Bumblebee,

I am writing this letter to you because we are approaching a very special – magical, even – event, and I want you to know just how much it means to me to be able to share it with you. While you may not be able to appreciate its significance at the tender age of 17 months, I guarantee that in time you will come to anticipate it with the same enthusiasm and joy as we do. Oh yes, I do believe that by time you are a teenager, it will provide the same amount of absolute delight as it has the potential to provide us, now.

It’s called Daylight Savings, and it means that I get to sleep in. For a whole hour. Get me?

That means, my dear bumblebee, that as of October 29, 2006, your version of 6:30 a.m. no longer exists. Because if you’ll look at the clock, that one over there, you will see that it is not, uh-uh, no way, no, it’s not 6:30 a.m. Poof! It’s gone! See? It’s only 5:30 a.m; ungodly, even for a toddler.

So go back to sleep.

Please, please, please, please, pretty please go back to sleep and let your poor tired, mother have that delicious, delightful, DESERVED extra hour of sleep. Please, please, please. If you do, your daddy will buy you a pony. I promise.

Because, ok, I see I’m losing you here. Let me try reasoning with you. When I say an extra hour of sleep, really, that’s just the technical term. That would be implying that I have already had my sleep and that this hour is truly a bonus. Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it bumblebee?

It would be so nice, and it would be true, if you didn’t wake up 3 times a night for some booby and a cuddle. And while I love giving you some booby and a cuddle, you do manage to time your booby-and-cuddling needs pretty poorly. Like, you seem to always need the ol’ b&c right after I have (finally!) fallen into a deep sleep (and for me, a deep sleep means that I can ignore the sounds of the cat’s midnight rampage and stay tuned-in only to the mildly disturbing grunts and groans our house likes to fart out all night, implying that a gas line is about to burst or a window is about to be jimmied open by a burgler – perhaps someone who got more than 5 hours of sleep a night would not be so paranoid?). And you like to interrupt my fun dreams involving dr. mcdreamy and that cute boy from work and me all sitting around on a beach, passing a hoolie and watching the waves… never mind. But um, you also love to wake up 25 minutes before my alarm goes off, then, while you sprawl back to sleep, I like in wake, trying to talk myself out of quitting my job just so that I can sleep for 25 bleedin more minutes.

And lovebug? Have you seen the bags under my eyes? They are not even black like a normal sleep-deprived mother. No, I am semitic, so my black eyes are as yellow as the desert from whence I came. It’s a nice look, bee. It makes me look like a dead person. No, scratch that, I look look like I died and someone dug me up. And I’m doing lots of dumb things that I can only blame on sleep deprivation. Like, did you know that hand soap and toothpaste are not interchangeable? I really need to move that pump farther from the toothbrushes. And how about filling the car up with gas and then realizing that my wallet is sitting on the couch, next to my lunch? Good times. And, yummmmm – that orange juice I poured on my cereal was tas-tee!

So please bumblebee, my sweet, sweet love: on October 29, let’s do what the civilized folk will be doing – let’s go back to sleep. I swear, 6:30 is the new 5:30, and you and I could both use the extra 40 – nay, 60 winks. And when you wake up in an hour, we’ll go brush that pretty pony and eat ice cream for breakfast.

I’m so glad we had this talk. Now go ask your father where babies come from.

Love, your mother.

bumblebee, in pigtails, ponders her mother's request and other mysteries of the universe.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Penelope's Reading List

I was excited to get my hands on Mary Lawson’s sophomore novel, following the greatly successful Crow Lake. Lawson had emerged as a writer who was able to paint a poignant, beautifully simple picture, replete with sympathetic protagonists and a zest for recalling small-town Canadian life.

The Other Side of the Bridge does not disappoint. Proving herself to be more than a one-hit wonder, Bridge takes readers back to small-town Canadiana, with a beautifully woven tale of a burdened farming family during two distinct eras in Canadian history.

Through parallel storylines we follow the lives of the inhabitants of the fictional town of Straun. The earlier, taking place from the 1930s through WWII, introduces us to the Dunn family, and the archetypal Cain and Abel struggle for domination by two vastly different brothers, Arthur and Jake. An unfortunate series of events befalls the brothers and sets the tone for the second, later storyline, where highschooler/doctor’s son Ian Christopherson takes over storytelling duties and begins working for Arthur following the sudden departure of his mother and an ensuing identity crisis. The story’s climactic pinnacle comes when prodigal son Jake returns home and both brothers must face the painful truth of how each of their lives had led to this moment.

Lawson’s tale offers nuggets from deep within the archives of time. The arrival of German POWs, who are immediately put to work as farmhands, for instance, offers a rich look into forgotten details of what life was like ‘on the home front’ in rural Canada during the war. It is surprising then, that with such details carefully intact, Lawson uses what I can only describe as a cheap plot device to write herself out of awkward situations. The most glaring was the glossing-over of a long-awaited reunion between Arthur and Jake. How would two characters that had historically viewed each other with animosity handle an inevitably emotional moment? Well, I don’t know either as, conveniently, the narrator looked away at the exact moment of embrace. However, that I was so invested in the character’s motivations as to be disappointed by such omissions is perhaps another testament to the overall strength of Lawson’s fiction.

The Other Side of the Bridge deals eloquently with the stuff that lies just below the surface of our everyday demeanours. I will eagerly wait for whatever Lawson offers next; hopefully she will continue to gain courage and voice as a writer, and to continue to sift ever deeper into the well of storytelling.

Friday, October 20, 2006

ok, i guess i've milked this 'sick' thing long enough

Well, nothing can get me out of my sinus-infected funk like a good meme!
Thanks to cinnamon gurl and NoMo for the motivation to check back in with the cyber-world.

1. You can flip a switch that will wipe any band or musical artist out of existence. Which one will it be?

James Blunt. You’re not beautiful, you’re freakin’ annoying.

2. You have the opportunity to sleep with the movie celebrity of your choice. We are talking no-strings-attached sex and it can only happen once. Who is the lucky celebrity of your choice?

Alex karev, come on down. I mean it.

(he was in the wedding planner. I hate to think of it, but it puts him in the running, so…)

3. You have the opportunity to sleep with the music-celebrity of your choice. Who do you pick?

Dave matthews. He’s got passion, people. Passion.

4. Now that you’ve slept with two different people in a row, you seem to be having an excellent day because you just came across a hundred-dollar bill on the sidewalk. Holy shit, a hundred bucks! How are you gonna spend it?

Cut n’ colour. Eyebrow wax if there’s anything left over.

5. You just got a free plane ticket to anywhere. You have to depart right now. Where are you gonna go?

Me and the hon are going to italy.

6. Upon arrival to the aforementioned location, you get off the plane and discover another hundred-dollar bill. Shit! Now that you are in the new location, what are you gonna do?

Italian leather shoes, baby.
($100? Maybe one shoe.)

7. The Angel of Death has descended upon you. Fortunately, the Angel of Death is pretty cool and in a good mood, and it offers you a half-hour to do whatever you want before you bite it. Whatcha gonna do in that half-hour?

We are all gonna snuggle, and someone better be playing with my hair.

8. You accidentally eat some radioactive vegetables. They were good, and what’s even cooler is that they endow you with the super-power of your choice! What’s it gonna be?

I have always wanted to be able to do super flippy gymnastics. Like, jump! And I am twirling through the air and landing on any precarious perch I can find. I know that power will come in handy.

9. You can re-live any point of time in your life. The time-span can only be a half-hour, though. What half-hour of your past would you like to experience again?

First date with the huz on the patio of the black bull. We’ve already started drinking, but we’re not quite shitfaced yet.

10. Rufus appears out of nowhere with a time-traveling phone booth. You can go anytime in the PAST. What time are you traveling to and what are you going to do when you get there?

Paris in the 1920s bebe! Call simone, call gertrude, call paul, call pablo, call ernest – I’m on my way and I’m wearing my fancy knickers!

11. You can erase any horrible experience from your past. What will it be?

Oh god. Picture it. 1987, and penelope is in music class. She has told the teacher that she doesn’t feel well enough to play her instrument – the trumpet. She has a bad cold and is very very snotty; can’t hardly breathe. Teacher says ‘play!’ penelope puts the trumpet to her lips, and purses. Someone tells a stupid joke. Penelope snorts…

12. You got kicked out of the country for being a time-traveling heathen who sleeps with celebrities and has super-powers. But check out this cool shit… you can move to anywhere else in the world! Bitchin’! What country are you going to live in now?

Back to israel. They like slutty expats.

13. The constant absorption of magical moonbeams mixed with the radioactive vegetables you consumed earlier has given you the ability to resurrect the dead famous-person of your choice. So which celebrity will you bring back to life?

Jerry Garcia. I so wish chris had experienced a show with me.

14. What’s your theme song?

The littlest bird – be good tanyas

ok; i'm tagging metro mama and scarbie doll - if you gals are not opposed, you're up.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Breaking News!

We interrupt this festival of phlegm, this celebration of snot, this marvel of mucous (seriously, where is it all coming from?) to bring you exciting bumblebee news:

She speaks! Well, ok, she’s been talking for quite a while now, but the nature of her speaking has advanced – she has uttered a duosyllabic word! Well, ok, she’s been more than monosyllabic for quite a while now, but the nature of her duosyllabic talk has advanced – each of the two syllables was different! A breakthrough for us. Up until now, bee just repeated the opening sound as many times as the word called for. You know, mama, dada, wawa, nana, baba, woowoo, nighnigh. But today – two different phonetic sounds. I knew she was capable of this; she can adeptly get two sounds into one word, providing they were monosyllabic words –get me? Like hop, more, or ball, and she can definitely string more than one word together – lately, in addition to pointing things out – a bus, a shee, a car (she gets her articles), I’ve been hearing a lot of all done, oh, no and no, mama.

But just this morning, she did it. A two-syllable word, two different sounds…


Her father will be so proud.

Monday, October 09, 2006

happy thanksgiving

back from a long weekend filled with lots of the hubs' family, lots of food and lots of snot. in fact, me and bumblebee are having a snot producing contest, and with added autumn allergies, mama may be winning. gotta go suck on my puffer for the 70, 000th time this weekend.
will blog more when the snot recedes.

Friday, October 06, 2006


I've mentioned this before, but I love Halloween. Probably more now than I did as a kid. That could be because being the architect of my own night is way more satisfying than having to wear the same clown costume for four years in a row until I finally outgrew it and could be what I wanted to be - the witch that my sister had been for 4 years until she finally outgrew her costume.

Oh, don't get me wrong - I loved Halloween back then too - filling my bag with my neighbour's loot, then driving to my aunt's neighbourhood and filling another bag with her neighbour's loot, then driving back home to sort out all the loot. There was a clear candy heirarchy going on: chocolate bars enjoyed the upper eschelons of supreme candiness, then kraft caramels, then chips, then gum, then rockets, then the assorted candies, and last - and definitely least - candy kisses, those plasticized nuggets of grossness wrapped in orange and black waxpaper with scenes of witches on them.
We would count, trade, gloat or sulk as necessary, offer my mum the requisite Caramilk and Aero bars, and let the real crap sit in the bottom of the bag until around January, when it would finally be thrown out.

I enjoyed many successes at Halloween over the years, but there were a couple of shaky moments, like when I peed in my pants at my grade 6 Halloween party, dressed in my friend's mom's old prom dress (a bunch of us gals were 50's era teeny boppers that year), because I was laughing so hard at something stupid. Or in grade 8, when I thought I was dressing up like Charlie Chaplin, that loveable tramp, but ended up looking more like Hitler. Or that first Halloween after me and Chris had moved in together - I was so excited to be living in a house again (albeit in the basement apartment of the house), and would actually have a front door that neighbourhood kids could come to. So, I decorate our door, which is really only 5 steps down, put an orange bulb in the light outside the door, which illuminates nicely my elaborately carved jack o'lantern, and buy the really good candy. And wait. And wait. And wait. And I can hear the little brats going upstairs to the main door, but no one - not a one of them venture down the 5 steps to my festive, welcoming apartment. So I go outside to give out the candy, but not for long, as this just feels a little desperate. I'm pretty sure I ate all that candy I had bought that night.

But we've just celebrated our 2 year move-in anniversary in our house, and our 3rd Halloween here is coming up. I can't wait, but it's getting a bit late and I don't have much of a plan yet. What plan? you might be asking. You might be asking why we don't just buy the candy, put out the pumpkin and bob's your uncle, right?

No way! We need a plan. We have standards, and ours have been set high. The first Halloween here I was in my first trimester and totally pukey, but we still managed to do this:

Last year bumblebee was here, and I was excited to get her in on the action, so I did this:

and we did this:

Fun, huh?

So this year, we gotta... well, we'll think of something. At least bumblebee's costume is in the works, and I have a back-up just in case. Of course, she's been wearing her back-up all week because she loves it, and at this rate I'm not sure it'll make it to Halloween if we need it. Oh well, more motivation to get the glue gun out and get creating. (there will be no sewing involved. ever.)

Anyway, I'll keep you posted, and hey! If you're in the neighbourhood on Halloween, drop by - I'll have the good candy.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's Tradition

For many Jews, this is a time of year that is marked with reflection, hope, celebration and, most importantly to me, tradition. Holidays are piled on top of one another right now, and regardless of degree of religious practice, some form of observation usually marks these holidays.

When I was little, my favourite holiday was the festival of Sukkot. It occurs 5 days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the most solemn of the Jewish year. In contrast, Sukkot is joyous, a celebration of the harvest. My neighbours would erect a Sukkah – a temporary dwelling that you eat your meals in for 7 days, decorate it with gourds and corn, and invite all the neighbourhood children in for tea and cookies. Sukkot was also the only occasion on which – besides weddings and bar mitzvahs – my family would attend Synagogue. It was fun. There was a parade and candy and funny hats, and we would go with my best friend and her family and get to stay up late.

The holiday ‘season’ for us typically begins in September (the Jewish calendar is different, so it might be pushed to October) with Rosh Hashana, the New Year, and 10 days later, Yom Kippur. Observing these holidays, for my family, meant getting together and eating. Food was always more important than prayers, and to my grandfather, the patriarch of my maternal family, prayers did you no good if there was no food. This sentiment could be widely argued by many, but nobody would ‘win’ on the basis of religious education or understanding. My grandfather knew his religion, and human nature, well. And he had known hunger well.

But he was impatient with religion, so we ate. We would take turns gathering at either my mother’s house or my aunt’s. Card tables would be pushed up against dining room tables, and the children (even as we became adults) would be happily annexed there. On Rosh Hashana, apples and honey were passed around the table, to signify the hope for a good, sweet New Year. On Yom Kippur, the plates were passed the moment the sun set, in case any of my family members were actually breaking the fast that should have begun at sundown the previous day. My mother would make a host of items that the children never ate – gifilte fish with chain, chopped liver, green beans – holding out for her chicken soup with matzo balls (always with matzo balls, even if it was months before Passover) and turkey and brisket and roasted potatoes, or my aunt’s traditional Hungarian meatballs and lukchen kugel with raisins and apples. We ate.

And we talked – or, more aptly, my grandfather yelled. About points of family history that somebody had invariably gotten wrong (‘Fanny, it was ‘76 when we went to Vegas with Helen and Lou!’), or what car had performed the most admirably in its day (‘Nothing beat my Buick. You can keep your Cadillac!’), or he would tell us, again, to our delight, the story of how we won the war with my aunt’s hard, hard matzo balls. What war, he never specified, but we put them in the cannons, and the enemy was defeated. He liked my mother’s better. They were soft. The hard v. soft matzo ball debate was a favourite at our table.

And we laughed. And sang. Our holidays were marked with full houses and arguing and noise and a dog barking for leftovers, and not a little bit of chaos. And joy.

And I miss it so, so much.

My grandparents both died the summer I got pregnant. Their death widened a crack in my mother and her sister’s relationship. The crack became a chasm, the chasm, an abyss. My parents’ marriage ended. My dad moved away. The last holiday my family spent together was Rosh Hashana, 2004. I have not seen my aunt or my cousins since the following January. My cousins are both married now, and the elder cousin and his wife have a baby. I have a baby. It is a complicated situation; more complicated than just calling someone up and saying, ‘Let’s end this.’ But probably not.

So our holidays have changed. Last year we gathered at my mum’s apartment; still ate; still talked; still laughed. But it was not the same, of course. From a table of 16, we were down to a table of 6. This year, my mother went to my sister on the West Coast. So, it was just us, and I didn’t know what to do, so I became sad, and did nothing.

I talked about it with Chris, and he tried his best to elevate my spirits. But it is not his family that fell apart (although he was close with them as well and became my rock during that time), and it is not his holiday, really, so his suggestions that we just move on and find our own traditions angered me, initially.

But he is right. It is time for us to cultivate our own traditions, which are borne of our own family. And really, we have already begun to do that. Chris and I have the traditions that we enjoy as a couple, and we have begun to see the root of family traditions take hold as well.

They don’t have to revolve around a specific occasion, or happen annually. Some do, like the way we go whole hog for Halloween, decorating the house and making costumes and buying the ‘good’ candy (read – chocolate bars). Others don’t – the spur of the moment day trips guided only by our desire for a bit of adventure and our trusty backroads map, and barbeques with whoever wants to come over Sunday afternoon and sit on our back porch. And some are things that I hope to become traditions, like bee’s birthday party with lots of friends, and going to our favourite beach when we visit my dad in Florida, and going apple-picking, and eating pizza and watching movies together on the weekend (ok, this tradition will probably end when bee turns 14, but we’ll give it a go anyway).

I guess the moral of the story is that, regardless of how much we want them back, things change. Things go away. And I don’t want bee to miss out because I can’t let go. I want her to be able to look forward to the holidays because they have become a personification of her own crazy family. I want her to know the security and joy and comfort in these things that I did. I want her to know her family by the things that we do together, and to take them and make them into her own, when it is her turn.

And so, my new year’s resolution is this: to ensure that the traditions that I have always held so dear become hers – become ours.
But I’m still not eating the gifilte fish.
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