Monthly Archives: December 2010

What to expect during the least expected

This is what life is like when you live with a volunteer firefighter.

Scene 1 – Int. In bed. 1:37 a.m.

bip bip bip bip beeeeeep

Me: Fuck, what’s that sound?

Pager: *static static garbled message I can’t understand but that gets the man lying next to me up and dressed in about 3 second.*

Me: Be careful! (To Travis’ departing back).

Me (thinking) : I hope the baby slept through that.

I am relieved the baby did sleep through that, but now am wide awake until Travis gets home 20 minutes to 2 hours later, depending on the severity of the call (wrong number, chimney fire, medical emergency, etc.)

Scene 2 – Int. Afternoon. Busy with childcare and domestic chores, etc.)

bip bip bip bip beeeeeep

Me: Fuck, what’s that sound?

Pager (voice of fire chief or deputy): *static static* This is not an emergency, this is a pager test. I repeat, this is not an emergency.

3 minutes later…

Pager: *static static* This is not an emergency, this is a pager test. I repeat, this is not an emergency.

6 minutes after that…

Pager: *static static* This is not an emergency, this is a pager test. I repeat, this is not an emergency.

25 minutes after THAT…

Pager: *static static* This is not an emergency, this is a pager test. I repeat, this is not an emergency.

etc…

Scene 3 – Ext. Afternoon. Boarding our vehicles

Travis: Meet you there! (pulling out of driveway)

I buckle the baby in her seat and following him to our destination… no Travis. No worries, I’ll get gas and come back. Driving to the pumps I pass the fire station. Doors open. Cars left haphazardly in the parking lot. Truck bay empty. Fire call. Plans delayed. Fire put out. No one hurt.


Scene 4 – Int. Evening. 9:30 p.m. Just put the baby to bed and set up the Scrabble board

bip bip bip bip beeeeeep

Pager: *static static garbled message neither of us can understand. Travis is out of the house in 15 seconds.*

Me: waiting…

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Christmas with the rural mail

A parcel arrived yesterday.

What you can’t tell by the picture is that Sylvia is way more excited about pulling herself up than she is about the parcel.

Parcel? What’s a parcel? BUT LOOK HOW I CAN STAND!!!

Shrink wrapped houses are cool.

It’s been awfully busy around the Sheds.

For starters, we now have a medicine cabinet! AND electric heaters in the kitchen and baby’s room! Also, our house couldn’t be more snug now thanks to bags of sawdust packed around the skirting on the north and east sides (it’s true, our house is a miniature NYC), as well as shrink-wrap over the windows.

I thought I had left shrink-wrapped windows behind when I moved out of student housing for good, but new windows are on our To Buy list for the new year, so shrink wrap 2010 it is.

We also finally replaced the thermostat in the living room with one made since 1970, and actually mounted it to the wall rather than letting it hang by it’s wires.

I’m still trying to clear a space for the Christmas tree, but you know, progress.

In other news, my collection of cookbooks has officially expanded to fill all available space in my cook-book cupboard. Thanks, in part, to this most excellent recent addition. Happy Birthday to me. It’s the tangible version of this website’s cooking section, and it is chock full of Tasty. I’ve never had a bad recipe from her online collection, and the print version is just so pretty, I was delighted to buy St. John’s one and only copy. (Her website is also full of excellent photography and stories, including her own true-to-life love story. Read it when you’re blue, and it will perk you right up. Except maybe not at work, because all 20 installments will take you a good hour or more.)

But first, a little baby action:

Is she... a) helping me clean out the cupboards? b) getting the cookies sheet to bake Christmas cookies or c) rattling the pans and using them as teethers?

If you chose c, you’d be right

All I want for Christmas is everything

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when stores get more crowded, flyers arrive in droves, and pages of newspapers fill up with children’s letters to Santa.

I’m an authority on this subject for a number of reasons.

1. I worked for a newspaper.
2. I have a child, and therefore spend a lot of time with mothers of other children, and I’ve met some who are planning massive toy acquisitions for their 4-month-olds.
3. Once, when I was about 7 years old, I kept stats on what toys were most popular among the letters to Santa in The Telegram. I had a pink exercise book, and each Saturday for 3 weeks or so or until I gave up on it, I would read the letters published in the Saturday paper and make a careful mark in my book every time a kids demanded a Barbie, or Pog, or Hot Wheels or Lego or whatever the must-have item of the year was. (This year, among the 4-8 set, it’s a walking, talking, furry dog, in case you were wondering, followed closely by robotic hamsters.)

But notwithstanding my childhood obsession with record-keeping, I have a real dislike of Santa letters.

No, not YOUR child’s letter to Santa. Not the ones kids write on Christmas Eve and toss in the fireplace. Not the notes kids leave next to the milk and cookies. But the letters that parents write for their kids and publish in the newspaper.

Because though there are the beacons of hope for the next generation that ask for only one or two things, the vast majority of kids are listing many, many items.

And then, the line that gets me most of all. When they finish listing Barbies, Wiis, Xboxes and laptops, they add the killer: “…and anything else you would like to bring me.” Which in my mind is immediately translated to mean the child is thinking, “the snowboard, Playstation and cell phone are OBVIOUSLY not all I’m going to get, so bring on the gifts, Santa! After all, I’ve been a good boy or girl all year.”

My friends and I are divided over this. They say the kids don’t expect to get it all, but the letter is merely a wish list, and don’t we all have long wish lists of our own? (Mine includes window frames, doors and baseboards. Just letting you know, Santa).

But when the parent is writing on their child’s behalf, when the child is not old enough to understand to even ask for anything, how is it nothing more than the parent using their child as a vehicle for his or her own consumerism? And for those children that are able to make their own list, why aren’t the parents gently suggesting moderation? And aren’t they embarrassed to have their child’s greed made public for the world to see?

Apparently not.

And as if to temper the greed, the letters invariable wrap up with a line urging Santa not to forget about the sick and less fortunate. I want to believe children are generous and empathetic. I do. But after so many, it feels like nothing more than lip-service.

Perhaps it’s a question of volume. I’ve always had a problem with massive amounts of one thing. For example, when I was in university I was helping members of the Student Union put together Frosh packs for incoming students. Maps of campus, pamphlets on the union’s services, pizza coupons, and of course, condoms. Only 2 in each bag, but 2 times a thousand is a lot of condoms, and seeing them piled on the office floor like that stripped sex of all it’s good and turned it into a pile of lubricated latex. I still remember the feeling, much like nausea, at the thought of all that sex.

(Am I talking about letters to Santa and condoms in the same blog post? Yes I am.)

Let me give you another example, more PG this time. I love chocolate-covered JuJubes. I mean, I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE chocolate covered JuJubes. When I see them in little bags on convenience store counters, I just can’t help myself. I always buy a bag for the road. And I savour those eight or nine candy. But when I go to the Bulk Barn and see that giant bin of chocolate covered JuJubes? I can’t even look at them, much less bring myself to buy them. Volume. When something becomes so common, it loses any real meaning.

All things in moderation. Perhaps I should only allowed myself to read two or three letters. After all, I can’t change the world.

So am I prosecuting the child for the crimes of their parents? Am I rejecting the Santa letter ritual just because it has become too commonplace? Wouldn’t it be nice if all these kids were listing the gifts they were going to GIVE, rather than the ones they expect to receive?

I promised myself I would never judge another parent on their parenting, so this tirade is more against society as a whole that accepts and expects Gimme-gimme-More-More-MORE. What does it say about us that we celebrate and even promote avarice during the Christmas season?

The world is still reeling from an economic meltdown, created in large part due to greed. A Santa letter may be insignificant compared to a global financial crises, but what if we could change the world by instilling gratitude, rather than greed, in our children? Wouldn’t the annual letter to Santa be the perfect place to start?