Wednesday, 21 November 2012

On being a parent

My immediate superior asked about my visit to my nieces today. Between my gratitude to her willingness to be flexible on my schedule made it possible for me to get to Mississauga last weekend and my love for my nieces, I gave her a precis of the events, including my wonder at Maria's helplessness and my sister's inability to deduce the cause of Maria's cries. Her response was to wonder that I didn't have kids of my own. I had to stifle a number of possible responses to the mother of two. The most profound is that right now I think I would be terrified of not knowing how to help one of these tiny little beings whilst knowing that I was responsible before god, state and society for it.

Yes, I know that countless prospective parents must have felt the same way and still raised happy children, but I fear I am made of weaker stuff than most people.  My respect for parents has grown considerably in the last week.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

On biking in cold weather

The weather is getting colder, as is normal for this time of year. Once again, I am asked if I am still biking. The stock answer to this question is: "I bike until it snows." In truth, there comes a time when I start wishing it would snow so I don't have to bike! While it hasn't snowed yet in Montreal, I am frequently riding in sub-zero temperatures which affect more than I sometimes notice.

Take today, for instance. My plan was to ride downtown from work, stop at a drugstore, find some supper and go to HMV. When I my bowl of wonton soup arrived at the Wok Café, I dove into it with a relish that surprised me. Boy! was that soup nice and hot after being outside. I went through the General Tao chicken in record time for me which only reinforced my suspicion of being famished by the exercise in the cold.

After doing some work related shopping at HMV, I came home and wrote the previous post. It was only as I started this post that I remembered that I had forgotten to stop at the pharmacy!

All this to say that there are limits to how much cold weather biking I can withstand. For that matter, there are probably limits on how much cold weather biking anyone can withstand. I am increasingly of the opinion that the acquaintance of Margo's who is trying to ride to Tuktoyatuk in winter has got a kangaroo loose in the top paddock! (And I mean that in the nicest possible way!)

On my youngest nieces

Anna, my second youngest niece, is a charming cutie who, I am told by a qualified medical authority (e.g. the medical doctor known as Alice, e.g. her mother and my sister. ;-) ) is well ahead of her 18 or so months in her extensive verbosity. She unleashed her extensive (if no more than two syllables and sometimes slightly inaccurate) vocabulary on me twice in the last two months. The first time was the long (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend. At the time, she could barely string two words together, but she has come a long way since I last saw her, in August. She substituted repetition for complex sentences and generally made herself understood.

Under the relatively flimsy excuse of delivering some boxes Alice had been storing with me, I went up to Toronto on the train on the Friday before Thanksgiving with said boxes to stay with Alice, Mark and Anna, over the long weekend. Probably owing to the long weekend, the cheap economy tickets on Via Rail were sold out. However, the cheap business class tickets weren't. Consequently, as they were only about twenty dollars more than the only available economy class tickets, I booked myself in first class going both ways. In relative terms, it was a bargain as food and booze was included. It also allowed me into the "fortress" of the Panorama Lounge in Montreal's Central Station. In my many years of taking trains of there, I had always seen it, but never been in. It didn't live up to the name, which I had always suspected as it is thirty feet underground! However, it was very comfortable and let me feel smug at how "posh" I was. They also provided "complimentary" magazines which included a biking magazine, one of which I snaffled to read on the train. (Hmm, I should have grabbed a "People" magazine for Alice.)

Anyway, Alice's Plan "A" for meeting me had been to drive to Union Station from Mississauga. However, as the train was a bit late, and as this would have meant she would had to face long weekend, Toronto rush-hour traffic, so instead we went to my Plan "A" and I took a GO Train to Mississauga. The GO Train's iconic double-decker cars have fascinated me for years, but until Thanksgiving, I never had the chance to go on one. Hence, I rather appreciated the opportunity to take the Go Train.
Anna, as mentioned above, is quite the talker. She is also very inquisitive and very friendly. A cheery little devil. About her only downside is that she likes to push buttons a little too much. This resulted in her pushing the emergency call button in an elevator in the Eaton's Centre without Alice or myself noticing. It was only when a voicee from a speaker inquired if we had an emergency that we realised what she had done. We apologized to the unseen security person. I was tempted to say "No, we don't have an emergency, but we do have a button-happy toddler!"  ;-)

(In the interest of due disclosure, I must admit that I once pushed the emergency stop button on an escalator somewhere in Toronto when I was 4 or so.)

The words in Anna's vocabulary are a little garbled. More than two syllables, and a word is nearly guaranteed to come out mixed up. However, Anna has made progress in the last month. At Thanksgiving, she pronounced "blanket" as "ballat", whereas by last weekend it was "blanke".

Among the things I did at Thanksgiving was to make some calzone to stick in Alice and Mark's freezer so they might have something quick to make once Maria arrived. I also located a very nice park in a nearby ravine which made for good walks. I had been a little surprised at how little Alice knew of how the geography of Greater Toronto worked until I remembered that she had been a little under two when she left for North Hatley, that is only a few months older than Anna!
Anyway, I went up last weekend to see them do what little I could to help.  At one point, Maria started crying in her crib just as Alice was putting Anna to bed. On the theory that quieting Maria would assist Anna going to sleep, I picked up Maria and tried to soothe her with little success. When Alice emerged from Anna's room, I explained what I was doing, but that I didn't really know what Maria wanted but that I was guessing Alice might have a better idea than me. Alice replied: "I don't think she knows what she wants!" So much for the theory of maternal intuition! ;-)
 Maria is absolutely a tiny, helpless marvel. I find it mind-boggling that only 18 months ago, Anna was the same. Not to mention the fact that myself and the rest of humanity have gone through that stage. I mean, Maria cannot even smile yet!
She is quite cute, but somehow she doesn't capture my imagination as much as Anna does. At least right now.  In seventeen months, a lot can change!
 Nonetheless, Maria is still very cute and cuddlesome.
Anyway, on Friday, Mummy and I took Anna for a toddle in the ravine park where Mummy and I had chickadees feed from our hands.
We tried to get Anna to hold the seeds in hand for the birds, but she couldn't get the concept of holding them in her flat palm. She was interested in much of the nature around her including the fallen leaves, sticks and other plant material.
When we went back the next day, we were lucky enough to see fairly large white-tailed stag walking through the woods. And this was only a few hundred meters from the 403!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

On my newest niece's middle name

I had been waiting impatiently for a colleague to return to work in order to tell her about Maria, as her name is also Maria. Interestingly, one of her questions on my informing her of her namesake was "What is her middle name?" I was slightly embarrassed to admit that I didn't know but that I assumed she had one. (I have since found out that it is "Christina", in honour of Alice's best friend.)

My co-worker's question reminded me of something she has mentionned in the past. She's from Argentina. While she goes by just "Maria" behind the scenes at the Library, she has let it be know that in Argentina, she goes by "Maria Luisa" as being just "Maria" would be "low-class". And she comes a relatively moneyed background from what she says. Hence, why she (and only she) was interested in what my new niece's middle name was.

In the conversation with Alice in which I found out my niece's middle name, I also found out that Mark, my brother-in-law, doesn't have one which rather surprised me. I had assumed "everyone" had one. Shows what I know. Alice had the bon mot regarding this and Maria of: "As I [Alice] had two middle names, and Mark had none, we compromised on one for Maria."

Technically, this isn't entirely true as Alice's "second" middle name (which I share) is sort of an extension to our last name and her "first" middle name is the last name of one of our great-great-great grandfather, namely "Bond". This means my sister could introduce herself as "Bond. Alice Bond." should she so feel inclined. ;-)

Hmm, I just have had the thought that Maria's initials will be M.C. W. which might open up a career for her in hip hop music! ;-)