Life on an iPhone


When Rei was born, my world got infinitely bigger. Responsibility for the survival of another human being, and all that.

It also got much smaller. I was suddenly and abruptly at home for the majority of the time. I had a lot less daily contact with a lot less people. A dwindling amount of TV. Limited range of motion. The same outfit, day after day after day after please don’t nominate me for What Not to Wear.

Also small: my screens.

I spend my “spare” time on two devices, my Kobo and my iPhone. I read on my Kobo when Reiden is nursing and napping. It would be awkward to try and balance an actual book on my nursing pillow, and if I didn’t have an e-reader I wouldn’t be flying through books like I am. I’m reading War and Peace, for crying out loud (a fairly easy read as it turns out, except Tolstoy loves referring to the same characters by their first names, last names, nicknames and titles all at once. Anna, Annie, Anna Povlovnazinski, Princess; the Count, Shinshin, Larry, Uncle Shinshin, The Hair On My Shinny Shin Shin. And there are zillions of characters. And there is no Larry, and most of those names are wrong.)

A good chunk of the rest of my life is channeled through an even smaller screen, without which things would be much different.

I don’t love technology for technology’s sake. At times I’ve hated it. I am not a gadget person. And I dislike how smartphones make us disengaged in “real life” situations. I hate being in a restaurant and seeing groups of people and couples on their phones. I hate it when I realize I’m doing something on my phone that isn’t important, that can wait, that’s taking my attention away from Reiden. I’m hunched up all the time, my eyes are probably getting worse and sometimes I feel like I’m looking at the world through a peephole.

That said, I shudder to consider life without it. Because I maybe have 20 minutes in a given day when I’m physically able to be on my laptop. Because computers, the Internet, home delivery! Because it enables many great and essential things along the hierarchy of needs:

1. Physiological

I go to website. I point at the diapers, you send them to me. A monkey could do it (could I train a monkey to shop online?).

Yes, diapers falls here. See: Excretion. And yes, I put it first.

I love you, Grocery Gateway. I love you and your mobile app and I don’t care that you charge me $9.95 for delivery; we are carless and cabs cost more than that, easy. Without you it would be Thai or Indian for every meal and we’d go broke and have to scrounge expired frozen hamburgers that inexplicably turned up in our freezer except we don’t eat meat so we would also starve.

2. Safety

Including calling for actual help, but also texting Pete to bring me coffee. See 1.

3. Love/belonging

Facebook, you drive me crazy. At least once a day, I actively hate you. All the same, it’s nice to know that other people exist, that they’re doing things out in the world and that they like my baby’s photos. (Unless none of it is real and all the posts and likes and comments are run by computers and did I just think of a great movie plot or what?)

4. Esteem

See FB, “Like” and “Comment” functions. Less used: “Retweet”. Rarely used, but a possible backup when Facebook implodes: Google “+”.

5. Self-actualization

There’s this app, and she’s called Notes. You may feel sorry for Notes, thinking she’s all lonely over there, wishing she could hang with the big kids like Springpad and Evernote. Except everyone uses Notes, because she’s easy and no-frills and comes with the iOS. And, turns out she’s great for writing.

I write exclusively in Notes. I blog in Notes and then move the posts to WordPress. I am writing a novel in Notes. There are probably easier ways, apps that I don’t want to buy or learn. I’m loyal to her because I am absolutely certain I would not be writing at the speed and volume I am were it not for her. I love her. And she doesn’t even sound like Scarlett Johansson.

Our relationship was a bit rocky at first, before I figured out how to change her font from Comic Sans. Ain’t nobody got time to write a novel in Comic Sans.

Yes, much of this would be possible using other devices, such as pen and paper; a servant bell (Pete?); going to actual stores instead of having things delivered (but oh, the delight of doorstep packages!). But for me it’s an issue not of could, rather of would. Would we have all those gratuitous cans of beans and chickpeas in our cupboards? Would Reiden be stocked with such critical necessities as suck pads and bandana bibs (thank you Etsy). Would I be writing as much as I am, producing great works of literature like this long and rambling post?

You’re welcome.


The secret to having it all


Like much of North America, this polar vortex has done a number on Toronto. I didn’t go outside for an entire four days last week. The closest I got was the doorway, when I opened it to show Rei how cold it was. Just to have something to do.

I am no wimp, but I’m not willing to subject an infant to -40 degree temperatures. So, we’ve been staying in. Over the weekend the weather improved significantly, however the temperature appears to be plummeting again soon.

Once, when I was in Las Vegas for a conference, I realized with horror that I had been inside for three days. I was staying at the Luxor, which is connected by indoor walkways to both the Excalibur and Mandalay Bay, where the conference was. I had been breathing stale, smoke-filled casino air for 72 hours.

At home, at least, I can open a window, but the square footage in our house is a tad less than three Vegas hotels. Plus, no blinking slot machines or foot-long margaritas or lounge bands here. Nope, to entertain my baby it’s all me (and Pete, of course, whose hair provides much amusement). We play in one room. We play in another room. We do a diaper change, just for fun. We have a new ritual in which we cuddle on the bed after Rei wakes up in the morning; I told Pete that I started doing it to have a bit of bonding time before the day really starts–in truth I’m just trying to stretch out the time.

Of course, I adore my child and love spending time with her. But without even a small outing to Starbucks-I-mean the LEEDS-certified green organic vegan coffee shop every day, things can get a little dull. And I’m getting just a bit tired of Raffi.

All this to say that I was ready to write a post about the ways in which being trapped inside is damaging my psyche, but aside from a few Facebook posts made while I was deliriously under-stimulated, I realized tonight with chagrin that I’ve been rather productive this week:

1. My house is extra clean (and so what if the cleaner just came).

2. I finished The Stand and am now reading War and Peace (oh yes I am).

3. I’ve been writing for two hours every day (OH YES I HAVE). Novel writing, yo.

4. I ordered groceries and made a from-scratch, vegan meal.

5. I pestered Pete enough to get him to write and send some baby thank-you cards, which was more work than if I had written them.

6. Same with putting away the Christmas stuff.

7. I washed my hair when it wasn’t even dirty.

In conclusion: As a new mom, are you wondering How, Like Me, You Can Have It All? For $9.95 I’ll send you a copy of my e-book, The Secret* to Maximizing Productivity and Actualizing Your Dreams, featuring my patented three-step program, Cut Spacial Clutter By Staying Inside**.

*The secret is staying inside

**May cause vitamin D deficiency, bed sores and inappropriate activity on social networks


The Accountant


My mom told me that babies’ hair falls out and grows back in differently, and not to get attached to the sweet, sweet curls on Reiden’s head.

I just wasn’t prepared for it to happen so fast or so evenly, in a perfectly straight ring around the Larry David.

There wasn’t even time for a combover.

Not bad, for a Monday


Occasionally, I run into people I know as I’m strolling around with Reiden. I am always thrown a little off guard, when the person I’ve run into asks how things are going, and what I have been up to. “Oh, well, this,” I say, pointing at Rei, laughing. It’s always a little bit awkward. A baby is such a monumental change that it’s easy to be struck dumb when I’m forced to step back and describe how things “are”.

If I have plans to see friends, I’ll do a little thinking in advance. How are things going, really? What else am I doing? Because I *am* doing other things, like writing and traveling and reading and seeing people and cooking and trying to exercise. (And watching a whole lot of Community.)

But some days, there’s not much of anything. When a day is made up of nursing and a bit of play time and an overtired baby falling asleep on me for hours, the most exciting things are often rather mundane. I was in my bedroom for 90% of the day today. I don’t always get out much.

Then again, sometimes the thing that you’re still excited about, at 10:00 at night, is just too weird and/or trivial to tell anyone about. Even if, as a mother, you find it fascinating.

So yes. This morning, when I figured out that I could successfully use the NoseFrida snot sucker on Reiden 1. by myself, 2. without making her cry, 3. while making her smile, in fact?


I was triumphant. I whirled around the room and whooped. “I did it!” I shrieked, grinning at Rei. “And without Daddy!”

Monday, eat your heart out.

Baby It’s (Not Really So) Cold Outside


Yesterday, the weather report announced an extreme cold alert for Toronto, and advised that exposed skin could freeze in 10 minutes. It was something like -42 C, with wind chill.

“I’m not going anywhere!” I announced to Peter. And neither was my baby. “Her skin could freeze! In TEN minutes! TEN!”

By 3:00 today I was suffering from a bad case of cabin fever. “I guess I’ll take a walk,” I said.

In preparation, I piled on:

  • two pairs of pants
  • a lumberjack shirt over my dress
  • the largest mittens I own
  • faux-Sorel winter boots
  • an infinity scarf
  • one of those Russian secret agent hats that either looks really hip or slightly ridiculous, I haven’t decided, but I put it on at least once every winter when the cold breaks me

I stepped outside and pressed my scarf up around my face. No way was I going to lose my nose. But down on College street, I was dismayed to see people out and about, in various states of weather-snubbing attire (or lack of):

  • at least eight people without gloves, including an elderly woman
  • several men without hats, including a bald man
  • a baby!

I grumbled about them all the way home. Who were these people? What was wrong with them? Did they not care about their fingers? Their ears? “Ain’t no time to be a hero, people,” I muttered to myself. “Ain’t no time to be a hero.”

I got inside and told Peter about all the weather-flaunters. “People be crazy,” I said, pulling up CBC Weather to show him how low the temperature was.

It had risen to a balmy -13 C.





Dinner a la Pete


Earlier today, we were discussing dinner. We had plans to go to an afternoon NYE get-together, and would be getting home around 7:00. “It’ll be too late to make anything,” I was saying. “And anyway, I’ll need to get Rei into bed.”

“Hmm,” said Peter.

A little while later, he returned home after running an errand. “Hey!” he said. “So I was thinking, what is really fast to cook, AND is delicious?”

“What?” I said.

“Gnocchi!” he said. “We have that gnocchi in the fridge!”

“What about sauce?”

“Remember? We bought sauce! And while I was out, I picked up some sourdough bread! I can quickly make dinner when we get home from the party!”

God bless a man who can get that excited over packaged pasta and bottled sauce. God bless his sweet, happy little heart.

NYE, 2013 Style


I’ve been thinking about New Year’s Eve. About New Year’s eves gone by, when I would claim not to care about making plans, that whatever I did was fine, hum and drum. “I’m not a big New Year’s person,” I’d say.

Except I did care. I cared that there was some kind of something, anything, as long as it was planned for. Something to look forward to. No tiresome nightclubs or overpriced dinners, but an attempt, at least, to celebrate.

The worst kind of plan was the backup, the thing you really didn’t want to do but there weren’t any other options. If you’d left it too late, say, or the majority of your friends were away. One year, when I was in college and living in Vancouver, I agreed to pay $40 for a ticket to a party (in the building that was once Graceland, and then became a ridiculous club that probably put on the Much Dance Mix ’98 CD and called it a night) in order to spend the evening with my friend and her boyfriend. A sad little threesome, we were: I hardly knew him and I was shy, a terrible conversationalist; she was eager to make sure we all had fun; he seemed bored and apathetic. Oh, the awkwardness of tagging along after a new couple. Just imagine us on the dance floor: her, being kind and attempting to dance with me and with him at the same time. I have a vivid memory of the three of us lined up in a row along the back wall near the washrooms, drunk people careening around in front of us as we just…stood there. Doing absolutely nothing. It wasn’t even the sort of situation you could try to rescue. I watched the time pass, waiting for midnight. Was it too soon to go to the washroom again? Should I buy another soda (just soda, because I’d spent all my money on the ticket)? Why did I wear this stupid dress? Why didn’t anyone want to talk to me? It didn’t occur to me that simply leaving was an option, and anyway I never would have gone through with it because, after they had sacrificed a romantic evening with me, it would have been rude.

So I stayed. At one point a girl tripped and cut her foot on some glass, and was bleeding everywhere, and I hurled myself at her, shrieking, “Are you okay??”, trying not to grin like a maniac. I was just so relieved that something had actually happened.

By contrast, I look upon the year that a bunch of us got stuck in the village at Mt. Tremblant (three miles from our condo, in -20 Celsius, bickering and then crying and then nearly walking home over a probably-but-not-definitely frozen river) with fondness.

This year, I’ll be spending the majority of the evening in a dark room, trying not to move. I am still too new-Mom paranoid to let Rei sleep without me in the room. Every night, at around 7:30 when she is done her bath, I go upstairs to nurse her and get her into bed and turn the lights off. And then I wait until it’s time to actually go to sleep, because if I go to sleep when she does I’ll wake up at 4 am and the cats will also wake up and cry until I feed them. We earned their 6 am wakeup call by pushing them just a tiny bit forward every morning for months and months, earned it, dammit. So I sit in the dark, and try not to make any noise or to buy (too many) things on Etsy. Then Pete comes to bed.

This year, we had no New Year’s plans. We didn’t even have an anti-plan, a, “Let’s just stay at home and cozy up and drink hot chocolate and go to bed at 7:30,” sort of plan. There was just nothing, because what can you possibly do on New Year’s that also doesn’t mess with your infant’s precious bedtime? (A babysitter is not an option. Yet.)

Et voila, we got invited to a party! That starts at 3:00! We can arrive early and leave early and still be home in time to celebrate the rest of the night in separate rooms, Pete on the couch with the cats, me and Reiden in the dark.

I’ll spend about five minutes feeling sorry for myself, and the rest of the time mooning over pictures of my baby, feeling grateful and amazed and sappy.

It won’t be the most festive of New Year’s eves. But, as with every other night, I will love it.