Monday, January 31, 2011

On Saturday night I had big plans. It involved a mountain of laundry and my two boyfriends: Alan Rickman and Chris Pine.

I told my husband he could watch.

The movie that is.

I had "zipped" (my new favourite verb, meaning "borrowed from") Bottle Shock.

This is a good movie. The plot is tight. The dialogue is sharp. The characters were (mostly) complex. The acting was laudable. The scenery was amazing. However, it's set in 1976. Which means there were some unforgivably bad (but authentic) outfits and hair styles.

So instead of seeing Alan Rickman and Chris Pine looking like this:

I saw Alan Rickman and Chris Pine looking like this:

Rickman wore a shiny three-piece polyester suit in almost every scene! And the mustache? It's just so wrong.  Chris Pine's wig is the worst wig in all of wigdom!

Of course my husband -- who unlike hypoglycemic me could luckily indulge in some wine drinking while watching this movie -- got to feast his eyes on these two:

It made for a very, very unfair evening.

But it was a good film AND we did get the laundry folded so it wasn't a complete waste. Unlike that wig.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Not The Kind of Tea Party Where Sarah Palin is Welcome.

Last year I read a book whose main character frequently made a cup of tea while deep in thought. As the woman1 mulled over her circumstances, her internal monologue would be interlaced with descriptions of how she chose a variety of tea, retrieved a mug, turned on the faucet, filled her mug, put the mug in the microwave and "zapped it" till it was "hot" and then plunked in the tea bag. IN THE MUG. THE MUG WITH "HOT" MICROWAVED WATER!?

At least 10 times in the course of this 250 page novel (whose name now eludes me, thank heavens) the woman made tea in this manner.  Every single time, I would grit my teeth and think, "Do people really do this? Are there people in the world who don't know that you should use a kettle and a teapot to brew up a cup of tea? If the answer is yes, I hope to hell I never wind up in their house and watch them make me a cup of tea in the microwave because my head will explode."

So for the benefit of those who are new to tea drinking, or whose ancestors are not from tea-producing nations or the British Commonwealth, or who haven't had my mother as a customer in their restaurant, here's how to brew a pot of tea for me:

1. Fill the kettle, and put it on the stove and bring it to a boil.
2. Scald the teapot and your mug(s) with some of the boiling hot water. Dump out the water in the teapot.
3. Put your teabag(s) in the teapot. Use one teabag per cup of water. If using loose tea, use 1 teaspoon per cup.
4. Pour the boiling hot water into the teapot.
5. Put a cozy on the teapot.
6. Wait five minutes while it brews.
7. Retrieve the teabag(s), throw it away.
8. Dump out the water you've used to temper your mug(s).
9. Decant the tea into the mug(s). If you are only serving several mugs, fill the first one halfway (this tea will be the weakest bit of the batch). Then fill the other mugs. Return to the initial cup and fill it the rest of the way (this tea will be the stronger).
10. If you are having black tea, you can add milk, cream, sugar or honey. If you are having a green or herbal variety you may add a miserly amount of honey.

As I'm writing this post I'm sipping a properly brewed mug of Spicy Chocolate Rooibos. It's one of two delicious teas (the other is The Earl's Garden) I bought yesterday at the David's Tea shop in Big City:

I'm very impressed that Big City is supporting a tea shop. Sure the ratio is one tea shop to 12 pawn shops, to 38 tattoo parlours, but it's progress.  And it's just another reason for me to force Mr Wrath to go to the mall in Big City.

Anyone else a fan of David's Tea? What do you suggest I buy next time? I was so overwhelmed yesterday I had a tough time making up my mind. I'm happy with both choices (the Rooiboos is nice and smooth, chocolatey and light). The online description for Honeybush Lemon Ginger sounds a lot like a Tazo tea blend I use to buy at Starbucks, before they reinvented/ruined that line last year.

• • •
1 -- possibly relevant descriptors: white, middle class, American, lawyer, in her 30s, single.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Do You Admire My Fecundity?

ATTENTION MEN: please do not read this post.

I'm not trying to be sexist. It's just that this is a post that falls into the Too Much Information category. I really don't think that men (especially men who I know in real life and who I might one day wish to make eye contact with) will appreciate today's topic or the personal details I mention.

Alas, if you are of the male-persuasion and are wondering if you should read this post, I suggest you watch the following video to ascertain whether or not you will find the content  enjoyable, educational, and/or mildly disturbing:

The post shall now commence:

• • •

Back in July I went for a pap smear.

It's advisable to go for a pap smear 10 to 20 days after the start of your most recent menstrual cycle. This proved kind of difficult for me, because my period is a kind of flakey. It hates schedules. It likes to be impetuous and spontaneous. It's brash and sassy. Yes, my period is the very embodiment of the stock character of a wacky, red-headed female on a sitcom.

In anticipation of my appointment I wrote down the dates and times of my cycles back to the previous December. I put the list in my organizer and, for some reason, kept noting when my cycle started.

And here's where the TMI-part comes along...

In November, I took a close look at that list of dates. I was trying to guess when I'd be getting my next gift from the Menses Goddess. I was really hoping that it would not coincide with our vacation to Mexico. Firstly because I was planning to spend a lot of time in the pool. Secondly I kept thinking, "What if our plane is forced to land in the United States for some reason and I have to go through those creepy scanners. Is someone going to see my Diva Cup...up there?"

While I was looking at the list of dates I noticed a weird trend. While the dates of my Lady Moon Cycle fluctuate there is also a seasonal shift. Last December-ish (2009) I had a 60 day cycle. In January (2010) my cycle went back to 33 days. By July (2010) it was down to 28 days. Then it slowly began to creep along in length. In October it was 38 days. Then there was a 50 day wait until it reappeared in December (2010). Oh Period, you sure do keep me on my toes.

So here's the question: is there a correlation between length of a human female's menstrual cycle and seasonal changes? In particular, is cycle length related to the amount of sunshine that we receive up here in the northern climes?

I'm not actually expecting any of my regular readers to know the answer to this. I haven't had any luck entering this query into search engines. I'm hoping that someone who knows the answer will make their way here. To me. And to my lady garden. Down there.

And now since it's just us ladies, I'm going to post some photos of hot Star Trek men:

What can I say? I might be a little bit sexist. Down there.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Who Are You? And How Did You Get Here? AKA, Fun With Sitemeter.

Prior to last week, I averaged about 20 readers per day.

Since I wrote the Trekkie Mother post, my blog stats have jumped. Significantly. I'd like to thank everyone who commented, sent me encouraging words or linked to the blog. As of a few moments ago that post has been viewed 617 times. I find that number both mind-boggling and flattering. Mostly flattering, but that's because I'm pretty egotistical.

Until then the most popular elements of this blog were not my words, but two photos that I'd posted.

In November I used a photo Portia De Rossi from O Magazine. People arrive here by googling a phrase I used: Portia, eat some meat. I have developed two theories about why (at least every other day) people are doing an image search for this phrase:
a. others agree with me that this supposedly-recovered-anorexic, vegan-activist is disgustingly skinny and she needs to eat some protein, or
b. this is some lewd commentary about Portia's sex life.

I'm hoping it's a. I'm completely okay with mocking a woman for looking malnourished and unhealthy, but I'm NOT okay with calling into question someone's sexual orientation.

The second most popular search involves this photo:

(Photo manipulation credit: Gilly H of

Who are you people (mostly from eastern European nations) who daily enter some combination of  Chakotay, Robert Beltran, tux, AND sexy beast into a search engine and wind up at my Trek TV for Beginners post?

I attempted to answer this question myself earlier this week. The answer I came up with isn't all that revolutionary: fanfiction writers. Initially I scoffed at the notion, because it's been a while since the various Trek series were broadcast. But I was wrong. Fanfiction is very much alive on the interwebs.  Voyager fans in particular are still very active.

Here's the MOST surprising thing: a lot of it's good. Especially the smutty stuff. Oh, yea. It's really good.  Looking at the screen and blushing good, but also good in the sense that people (usually women) have crafted narratives that surpass the things you'll find in published works (and not just that dreck produced by Stephenie Meyers, but by writers who have talent).

So if you're coming to my blog and using the Robert Beltran is a sexy beast photo (which I don't own, but merely found on photobucket) for some non-slash fanfiction, let me know. I'd like to read it.

Is anyone looking for inspiration for some Neelix fan-fiction? Because I've got a doozy for you, my pervy, probably-Vegan friend:

(Photo credit to Gates Hepburn)

Oh. That's just so wrong.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mites vs. Worms vs. Me.

[Please note: there are no pictures of bugs accompanying this post. You're welcome, Mom.]

I am not an animal activist.

I eat meat.  I wear leather.  I'd wear fur if only I had the lifestyle to warrant it.  I don't hunt, but have no qualms with hunters.  I fish. Well, I GO fishing, I've have never caught anything.  I support the Canadian commercial seal hunt.  I love our dog, but if some day her quality of life is severely compromised I am prepared to make a decision about euthanasia.  When the boys' goldfish was slowly dying from a months-long swim bladder infection, I gave it a final good-bye swim in a glass of vodka.  I squish any bug that touches me.  If an insect contravenes the Insect Non-Aggression Pact and enters my domicile, I will kill it. Especially if it's an earwig.

So you can imagine my surprise that I'm currently feeling very guilty about the state of my vermicomposter.

Back in November we purchased a multi-leveled worm composter and 800 worms. Things were going well until three weeks ago.

That's when the mites showed up.  Thousands of mites. I made a good show of it.  I removed what mites1 I could see. I trapped some on moistened dryer lint. I set out melon rinds to tempt them out of the soil. I tried drying out the bedding. I added crushed eggshells. Nothing works.  They keep multiplying. And they are no longer interested in eating just leftover food scraps. The vile little creatures are now eating the worms. WHILE THE WORMS ARE STILL ALIVE.

I'm a big nature lover. And a big proponent of evolution. But watching natural selection play out in front of your very eyes? It's really disturbing.

I'm now faced with a dilemma: do I continue trying to rid the vermicomposter of the mites or do I humanely put the worms out of their misery? I'm also puzzled by the soul searching this has inspired. Why does it bother me to consider killing my worms when I have killed thousands and thousands of mites over the past three weeks? Surely if I can kill mites without guilt, I should be able to off the worms?

Are my feelings of guilt about killing these worms the gateway drug that begins my descent into the madness that is veganism? Because if so, I'd like someone to euthanize me. RIGHT NOW.

• • • •

1 the mites are only in the bin. They show no interest in migrating elsewhere. Thank heavens for small mercies.

• • • •

Update: Since I first drafted this post a few hours ago I've worked up my courage. I decided the humane thing to do was to put the worms -- and the blasted mites -- out of their misery. I won't go into too much detail, but I will just mention that it's -10ºC  out right now.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mapping Your Course.

Last week we learned our neighbours are moving away.

This is sad. For me. For them? Well, it's a good thing for them. They have long planned to escape this town and with our local economy picking up (The mine is expanding! Logs are being logged! The mills are sawing and pulping! House prices are now SIX figures!) they might be able sell their house. I hope they sell to nice people. Nice people with nice children, who don't like to listen to death metal music at 3 AM and who don't expect us to mow our lawn more than three times a summer.

I'm getting use to people moving away. I still don't like it. I wish it didn't happened. But after eight years I've come to accept that this town is a waypoint not a destination for many people. Including myself and Mr Wrath.

Eight years ago I didn't think we'd still be in this town in 2011. And while I love this lifestyle, I sure don't want to be here in 2019. The logical conclusion to this line of thinking/daydreaming is the question, "Where do we want to be?"

I don't have an answer to this question. We have found no other community that makes me think, "I could see Mr Wrath and I living here quite happily until such time as we are met by the Blessed Exchequer and welcomed to the Divine Treasury like all good Ferengi." It would appear that in addition to having no firmly held religious beliefs that aren't endorsed by Gene Roddenberry, we have no great master plan for our lives.

Mr Wrath and I have two amorphous scenarios about our future, ideal lifestyle.

Scenario 1: We live in an older, fully restored house, in a beautiful tree-filled, mature neighbourhood in a small town or smallish city. Everything we need is within walking distance: the library, grocery store, doctors, dentist, city parks. We seldom use the car to run errands, preferring either to walk or bike or use public transportation. There are wonderful restaurants and cafes in our neighbourhood. Every weekend, Mr Wrath can walk to the Farmers' Market and shop to his heart's content while I -- a long-time HATER of Farmers' Markets -- go to garage sales or thrift stores.

Scenario 2: Our house is on a huge parcel of land. There is no one around for kilometers and it's a 20 minute drive to the nearest town/settlement. The house is big enough that friends and family can come for extended visits. Our property is on a lake or river or the ocean and we have our own dock and can swim every day. Our dog will roam free, chasing squirrels to her heart's content. We'll have a vegetable garden. Mr Wrath will have a wood-fired clay oven that he will use to make me rustic pizzas every Friday evening.

If you are trying to visualize either of these scenarios, I'll give you two prompts:

For Scenario #1, picture Jessica Fletcher's house in Cabot Cove from Murder, She Wrote.

The mental image I have of Scenario #2 is this:

Southfork, the Ewing house on Dallas. In case you are wondering, that is NOT Mr Wrath posing topless in front of the Southfork gates. It's me.

[Please note: as soon as Mr Wrath and I decide on our long term goals, I'm going to set myself the short term goal of watching a few television shows produced in the last decade]

There are limitations to both of these scenarios:
-older houses are seldom found in northern BC
-we like winter, and don't want to move too far south
-homeschooling will necessitate my being out of the workforce for the foreseeable future
-living in the countryside will probably only exacerbate my natural tendencies toward misanthropy
- we I would also like to live close to a university or college for the boys first years of post secondary schooling
-we can barely keep up with the maintenance of our current lawn, could we really manage a larger property?
-not all rural areas have high speed internet access -- this is a deal breaker
-I don't want to own a rural property if we are still living in the land of killer blackflies
-it's only a matter of time before I contract some kind of illness from the foods Mr. Wrath will buy from those dirty hippies at Farmers' Markets.
-constant access to thrift stores might be my undoing, and could earn me an appearance on A&E's Hoarders

What about you?

Do you have an ideal place where you want to live? Is your current home the place you will live in until you retire? Are you planning on moving to a different  house or town or city? Do you want to be my new neighbour?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why Trekkie Mothers Are Superior.

This parody was composed in response to a Wall Street Journal post called "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," by Amy Chua.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A lot of people wonder how Trekkie mothers raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder how we produce kids who keep their basement bedrooms so tidy. What is it like, they wonder, to raise a child whose memory is so highly refined he can remember minute details of television shows produced 20, 30 or even 40 years ago? How can I ensure my child will live with me forever, even after achieving advanced degrees in computing science and molecular biology?

Well, I can tell them because I'm doing it.  Here are some things my sons are never allowed to do:
• attend playdates with villains, ie Romulans, Klingons, Andorians, or Brannon Braga and Rick Berman (aka the Franchise Killers)
• play computer games that don't relate to Star Trek or space exploration
• watch any television show that doesn't have "Produced By Gene Roddenberry" in the credits
• play a sport not referenced in Star Trek
• complain that Parrises Squares in not a real game
• achieve anything less than a perfect score in our weekly Star Trek trivia quiz
• dress as anything other than a Star Trek character for Halloween
• complain about dressing up as anything other than a Star Trek character for Halloween.

I'm using the term Trekkie mother loosely. I know some Star Wars moms, Doctor Who moms, Stargate moms, and Browncoat moms who qualify, too.

Oh sure, some other types of moms might think my parenting style is too extreme. But that's just because they are jealous of the awesome children produced by the Trekkie mom. The Trekkie mom knows that by making everything in the child's life revolve around Gene Roddenberry, the Trekkie mom looks good in front of her peers. That's what counts.

There are three big differences between the Trekkie mom and those other moms:

Firstly, other mothers let their kids choose their own clothing. Not for the children of the Trekkie mom. She knows that colour-coordinated jumpsuits are key to making her children look like they are members of a futuristic, progressive, space-faring society.

Secondly, Trekkie moms know that the sooner their child learns the maxim "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one" the sooner the kid will give up independent thought in favour of earning parental love.

Finally, non-Trekkie moms just don't see the value in memorizing and regurgitating trivial information and mastering worthless skills. But the Trekkie mom knows better.

All three of these in combination are guaranteed to make the lowly, non-Trekkie moms jealous.

Here's a story in favour of mothering the Trekkie way. When my youngest child was 5 he was working on memorizing the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. We worked for a solid week. I made flip charts, flash cards, invented an interpretative dance routine, but STILL the child could not recite the rules.

"What's Rule #31?," I would ask.

"Nature decays, but latinum lasts forever."

"NO! That's Rule #102!"

"Employees are the rungs on the ladder of success. Don't hesitate to step on them!"

"NO! That's Rule #211! Rule #31 -- TELL ME NOW!"

 "I HATE THIS!" He yelled as we entered hour 13 on the tenth day of our study session. "I don't even like Star Trek. Why won't you let me watch Reality TV? Why can't I wear jeans or t-shirts? This year for Halloween I want to dress up as a Clone Trooper!"

He ran to his room. But I dragged him back to 10-Forward (that's a living room, to you other moms). I threatened to take away all his toys. I called him lazy. I told him he would never amount to anything better than a liquidator with the Ferengi Commerce Authority.

My husband took me aside. He told me to stop what I was doing.

"But he needs to learn this." I said.

"No. He doesn't. He's five. Let him play with his toys."

"If he doesn't learn these rules he is doomed. Sure, he'll live long, but will he prosper?" I asked.

"There's no talking to you when you are like this," he said and turned to go.

"We wouldn't have to talk at all,  if you would agree to mind melds!" I yelled.

Then I returned to 10-Forward, and was greeted by my 5 year old as he recited, "Rule #23: Nothing is more important than your health -- except for your money. Rule #203:  New customers are like razor-toothed gree-worms. They can be succulent, but sometimes they bite back!"

His face was the picture of utter joy as he announced, "Rule #31: Never make fun of a Ferengi's mother."

He got. He finally got it. It was as if faced with my own Battle of Wolf 359, I had emerged victorious. Those other mothers would not assimilate me into their mundane ways of "free choice" or "independent thought" or "nurturing."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Someone is having a baby! AND IT ISN'T ME!!

Edited: In the comments, a reader pointed out that I've gotten my Wilsons1 confused. This is what I get for blogging before I have my coffee.

• • • • •

I'm unreasonably pleased to learn that Luke Owen Wilson is going to be a father.

Even more exciting: the mother is not Kate Hudson.

This kid is going to be really popular when he/she gets to be school age and tells their peers "My dad's the voice of Lightning McQueen!"

I have got the perfect name for Owen and his girlfriend (her name is Jade Duell, but I just like to call her NotKate) if they have a son:

Klaxon Duell Wilson. 

Why Klaxon? Four reasons:

1. It ends with -N, which is a very popular trend with boy names right now. Have you looked at birth announcements lately? Every other kid is a Landon, Logan, Hayden, Colton, Nathan, Ethan, Aidan, Jayden, Caden, or Roman.

2. It has not one, but TWO of the low frequency consonants (-K, -Q, -V, -W, -X, and -Z) that are highly prized.

3. It's a noun. Using a random noun for your child's name is the universal symbol of coolness for celebrities.

4. It's a lot of of fun to impersonate a klaxon. Ah-wooga! Ah-wooga!

But if the baby is a girl, what should Wilson and NotKate name her?, you may now be asking. The answer is simple:

Klaxon'lee Nevaeh Grace Duell Wilson.

It's beautiful, isn't it?

(BTW, Did you know that Nevaeh is heaven spelled backwards??!!!11!!)

 • • • • •

1The inseminator is Owen, not Luke (as I originally wrote). Honestly -- this is just a shameful oversight on my part.

Turns out there are three Wilson brothers! Did I know this? Did anyone? That's Luke (who is not Lighting) on the left. Owen on the right. The other brother (in the middle) lives in the cupboard under the stairs at Owen's mansion. No one is allowed to speak of THAT Wilson brother. Or so I assume. Please don't make me do any more fact-checking. It makes me sleepy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Of Milestones And Doorways.

We bought this house eight years ago. Despite being horrified and mystified by the doors for the children's bedrooms:

Yes, there is a window/pass-through in that door.

I described them to my friend L, who responded "What kind of effed up behavioural and trust issues did the previous occupants have?"

"Replace doors" was added to the list of renovations we wanted to undertake. It went far down on the list. After:
-replace dingy carpet in living room
-remove all cedar paneling from living room, kitchen and hallway
-install new windows
-pull up ugly carpet in laundry room. Ask Caesar's Palace if they want their carpet back
-install screen doors
-try and remove all brass accents and thematic light switches from the house

With all the above projects -- and a few dozen more -- completed, Mr. Wrath tackled the door project this weekend:

I love them!. They are so pretty!

But alas, I miss the old ones.

Yes, they were ugly. But it turns out they weren't JUST creepy, they were functional.

Once the boys transitioned from the crib to toddler bed we would shut their doors at night. The windows meant that light and heat could get into their rooms, and Mr Wrath and I could hear if they needed help. Yes, many a night "Mommy, I threw up!" could be heard wafting down the hall.

We never had to deal with a child wandering into our bedroom at some ungodly hour under the mistaken impression that 5 AM was a time for non-shift working, sane people to get out of bed. "When the clock reads 8 AM you can get up," was the rule (though truthfully they are more than happy to sleep till 10 AM if we'd let them) we established early on.

Those doors served us well for timeouts: Remove screaming toddler to his room, shut door and listen until the wailing, screeching crazy person stops cursing you in Klingonese, then open the door and let him out. Worked beautifully.

But now the boys need privacy. No one wants to year 8yo play "Whip My Hair" for the 49th bazillion time. 7yo wants to role play Egyptian mummification,  and he doesn't want me sticking my head through the window to snap a photo of his efforts. Plus, they are now asking me questions about the television shows that I watch after they've gone to bed. "Does Beckett like Castle? She sure yells at him a lot," the eldest remarked a month ago. 7yo nodded, "And how come you don't watch Dollhouse anymore?"

Of course, their need for privacy doesn't extend to closing the door while on the toilet. But I'm hopeful.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Regrets of a Stay-At-Home Mom Whose Only Real Regret is Reading A Truly Insipid Salon Article About A Woman Who Regrets Opting-Out.

Dear Ms Read,

I just read your Salon article from January 5, 2011, and felt compelled to comment. Rather than take up your churlish offer to "the 5 million [Stay-At-Home Moms] who are alive and well and reading this [and] may already be clicking indignantly to the comments section to defend their choices. Go ahead and vent, stay-at-home mothers" I'm going to point out the errors and fallacies of your article here in the cosy confines of my blog.

I don't agree with your assumption that your dire financial and professional situation is a product of leaving the workforce for 14 years. Nor do I think that had you remained in the newspaper industry you would be earning as much as your ex-husband.

You were never a Stay-At-Home mom, but rather a Work-At-Home mom doing freelance writing. This isn't a minor semantic detail, Ms Read. The crux of your article is that staying out of the workforce was a liability for you (and likewise the young SAHMs whom you now counsel), but then you say "my work history is long enough to be a liability, making me simultaneously overqualified and underqualified." Which is it? You are at a disadvantage because you didn't have a career or you are at a disadvantage for having a career? Seems to me you DID work, just not very successfully.

Secondly, it's possible that you could have continued writing (professionally and successfully) for the past 14 years AND still wound up in financial peril.  For one thing, you got a divorce. Divorces spell financial ruin for women and men regardless of their job history or earning potential.

Point #3: in today's job market seniority and experience doesn't translate into job security.  "With the newspaper industry that once employed me seemingly going the way of blacksmithing" why wouldn't you struggle? Even people with established professional, full-time writing careers have fallen on hard times. The Salon article that follows yours, My Blessed Budget Christmas, is authored by Josh Max. He's a professional journalist who has (I assume) never been a SAHM, but has (according to the article) been unemployed for two years. I wonder if he's second guessing choices he made in the past, and creating overly rosy alternatives to his current predicament?

Ms Read, do you know what's obsolete? Yes, yes, the idea of getting paid to write, but what else? No, not choosing to be at home with your children. The correct answer (and Point, the Fourth) is: the notion of having a single career track for the duration of your working life. Retraining and reinventing yourself are hallmarks of the new economy (such as it is). It isn't naive to decide to step out of the paid work force to raise children. It is naive to think that you can return to the marketplace (one or two or 14 years later) and take up where you left off without taking at least a few night courses.

Finally, are you REALLY trying to convince mothers to remain in the workforce? Or are you trying to convince women not to breed?  I'm wondering because the studies and articles you cite (including a book by Anna Crittenden, a study by the ASA, a Cornell University paper, a document by the The Institute for Women's Policy Research, and a blog post at the Center for American Progress) all focus on how being a mom (regardless of whether you have a paid job or do not) is a financial and professional liability.

Maybe on some level that is the message you are trying to convey. It would explain the inclusion of this passage:
At work, I lost choice assignments as I dashed out before the stroke of 6, when the daycare began charging a dollar a minute. My editors, probably well-meaning, set me on what suspiciously resembled a mommy track. While an intern handled the tragic late-breaking news of an honor student murdered by her mother's crack dealer, I yawned through meetings where citizens complained about potholes.
Unlike you Ms Read, I don't "have mixed feelings about my choices." Because I don't regret being a SAHM, I -- not you -- am the one who is qualified to offer advice if "some young woman with a new baby were to ask me about opting out," to wit:

1. Don't marry an asshole. If you do marry an asshole, and then decide to divorce the asshole, hire an even bigger asshole to be your lawyer.

2. If you are getting a divorce, don't ask for the house. The house is a liability. Sell it and split the proceeds. If you do divorce, negotiate for tuition for job retraining. Use the incentive that after the completion of the course/degree/program, your former spouse's support payments will be decreased because you will have the means to better support yourself.

3. If you go into marriage (or any venture) planning on what to do when it fails -- it will fail. Failure is a self fulfilling prophecy.

4. Be nice to your husband.

5. Ms Read was wrong to think "who had time for long-term financial planning amid the daily demands of two small boys?" SAHMs MUST contribute to their own retirement accounts (in Canada these are called spousal RRSPs) even if it's just a pittance.

6. Start saving for your child's university or college tuition right now. Even if this means their taste for "high-end consumer product" goes unsated.

7. Take night courses.

8. If you are going to play the "What If" game and second guess your decisions, please don't fool yourself into thinking that the path not taken would have led to a land of lollipops, calorie-free chocolate, fulfilling careers and frequent orgasms.

9. Don't hang Anne Geddes prints in your house. This is actually a bit of advice that is applicable to everyone.

10. There are as many good reasons to remain in the workforce, as there are to opt-out. None of these reasons should be given any weight if they come from random strangers on the internet, ie me, or Ms Read.

Yours Truly

Nan | WrathOfMom

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Last Post I'm Going To Write About Mexico. Maybe.

To conclude this series of posts, I'm going to list off random tidbits:

-If you learn no other Spanish, learn to count.

-The lazy person's conversion is 10 pesos equal 1 Canadian Dollar.

-Bring a small towel with you, for drying off your feet after you've been strolling on the beach.

-Before you start negotiating ruthlessly on a souvenir ask yourself, "Am I just haggling because I honestly don't think this product is worth the suggested price or am I doing this so I have a cool story to tell my friends about the great deals I scored in Mexico?" In short: don't be an ass, you rich gringo.

-Bring your own Gold Bond lotion. They don't sell it in Mexico.

-If you are going to use a new brand of hair chemical depilatory (because your usual brand is in an aerosol can that you can't pack in your luggage), give it a test run before leaving home. Otherwise you might suffer a chemical burn on your Lady Garden Area and then discover -- to your great ITCHY horror -- there is no Gold Bond lotion in the whole country except for the bottle belonging to your 20 year old nephew who will cover his ears and scream in horror when you explain why he needs to give you that GOLD BOND LOTION RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND OR I WILL START WEEPING!

-A trip to the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens is a great way to spend the day. The food at the restaurant was wonderful. But there's a mariachi band that serenades patrons at their tables, and I found it very, very awkward. We followed the website's instructions about catching a local bus and had no problems.  It took almost an hour.

-We only packed one swimsuit per person, which I now regret. It would've been less of hassle for organizing daytrips that required suits if we'd had extras. DRY extras. Plus we could have worn them TO places (ie the Pirates of the Bay, the Botanical Gardens) and not have worried about finding changing facilities. And to make things even easier for me (in terms of using the ladies' room) I should have packed one regular swimsuit and one tankini style suit.

-Careful when getting a cab. That cold puddle you sit in might be vomit.

-If you are looking for religious themed souvenirs (and really who ISN'T?!) then make your way to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe:

It's two-blocks off the Malecon, and the neighbouring streets have many shops selling Church-y things.

-Tip. Yes, it gets exhausting after a while, but consider tipping a form of tourist tax and stop fighting it.

-My husband says "Old buses don't die, they just wind up in Mexico." What the buses lack in aesthetics and floor boards, they make up for in speed, convenience, and cost. The bus' destinations are written on the front windscreen. Look for bus stop signs or people who look they are waiting for the bus and as one approaches make eye contact with the driver. He'll stop if you look like you mean business.

-Don't buy a sombrero. Just don't.

-Teeth whitening seems to be very popular. Going rate is $50 USD. But the blood poisoning? It's FREE, baby.

-There is no ginger ale in Mexico. This is just wrong.

-If you want to book day tours you have a few routes. You can contact the supplier directly (via phone or website). Or you can ask at your hotel's guest services counter, and they'll direct you to their employee who arranges excursions. Or you can go to these small hole in the wall travel agents on the streets who book your tickets and usually get a commission. Personally I'm deeply suspicious of the latter, and did our bookings online.

-We booked with WestJet Vacations and they were excellent.

-When you get off the plane, you will collect your baggage, head through customs & then step out into the arrivals lobby of the airport. Do NOT make eye contact with the guys in the airport carrying placards with the name of your hotel or airline. These are timeshares salesmen and they will promise you ANYTHING to get you to one of their presentations. Follow your tour rep outside and on to the buses.

-What Hemingway is to Cuba, John Huston is to Puerto Vallarta. The guy slept and ate in every little hotel and bar from Los Arcos to Bucerias to Guadalajara.

My Completely Biased, Completely Personal Review of: Vallarta Adventures' San Sebastian Tour.

When this trip to Mexico was initially arranged (as a reunion of my husband's parents, his siblings and their families) I was less than thrilled. Not because I wasn't excited for my husband to spend time with his brothers:
(That's Mr Wrath in the middle)

But because I was still not over our last vacation in Mexico.

In 1999, Mr Wrath (who was not yet legally bound to me in wedded bliss) and I went to Baja California (northwestern Mexico) for a Christmas holiday. It was the worst vacation we ever endured. The fault was ours because we wanted to be spontaneous, so we made no firm plans and did no research. In the end we wasted a lot of time hoping the other person would make decisions about where we'd stay or where we'd go.

The highlight of the trip was seeing Preston Manning (a Canadian right-wing, anti-federalist, senate-hating politician) at the airport in San Jose Del Cabo.

The lowest point of the 2 weeks came when we sat through a time-share presentation so we could get a good rate on a VW Bug rental. We were three hours into the presentation, when I finally asked the sales guy to leave us alone for a moment. I turned to Mr. Wrath and said, "What the hell are you doing? We do not have $24,000 to invest in this scam. So at some point you need to decide who you're going to piss off. Me -- who you supposedly love -- or the guy in the pleated slacks who wants to sell you a hotel room for 2 weeks of the year in a place you don't even like." In the end Mr. Wrath decided to placate the person with whom he was having sex (aka, me).

This time around one of the stipulations of visiting Mexico was that we pre-book a few excursions. One was the previously reviewed Pirates of the Bay, the other was a trip to San Sebastián del Oeste with Vallarta Adventures.

I'm really glad we took this trip. Firstly we learned a lot about Mexican history. Also we saw the Sierra Madre mountain range (and not once did I yell "Badges? Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!" even though I'd been rehearsing my delivery for months). I think the trip gave us a more authentic view of Mexico's culture and biodiversity. Plus we drove by a federal prison, which our guide referred to as "the kind of Mexican all-inclusive you don't wish to visit."

The stops on the tour included the Hacienda Jalisco, which is a small inn and museum that dates from the 1800s.

From there we drove on to the small town of San Sebastian. We visited a coffee plantation with a wonderful orchard of local fruit trees. We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant called La Lupita. Mr Wrath is STILL raving about his meal.

Then we walked through the town while our guide (Gustavo) supplied us with details about life in the town since it was founded in 1605.

Here's the funeral home:

It's open 24 hours a day! For all your 3 AM embalming emergencies!

The town plaza is very charming:

As we approached classical music was being piped in from speakers affixed to the gazebo. It gave a wonderful classy, timeless feel to our visit. Alas 40 minutes later as we were walking back to our bus, the music selection had changed to Guns 'N Roses. Total mood killer.

The final stop of the day was at a roadside micro-distillery. We sampled some wares, and bought a few bottles to bring home.

• • • • • • •
Hints and suggestions:

-We booked this trip on-line and the process went smoothly.
-When you check in at the Vallarta Adventures they offer you breakfast of cereal, yogurt, coffee, juice, and fruit. Don't get too excited about the coffee -- it's a 90 minute drive till the bus makes it's first stop at a washroom.
-I was a bit worried that the boys would be bored on the trip, but they had a good time.
-Our guide (Gustavo) was very knowledgeable and very funny. The driver (Valentin) did a good job negotiating the often crowded, always twisty roads.
-At the end of the trip, people were tipping the host and the driver. I think we gave them 100 pesos and 50 pesos, but most people were giving more. BUT WE'D SPENT ALL OUR MONEY ON TEQUILA! AND COFFEE!
-If you are looking for silver jewellery (silver was the main economic industry in the town until recently) ask Gustavo for instructions to a small shop in the town.
-There's a big cooler of bottled water on the bus and guests are encouraged to help themselves. Remember to bring the empties back so the company can recycle them.
-We also brought our own snacks because I get snippy if I don't have protein every 2 hours.
-When you start the trip, let Gustavo know if you have allergies (a girl on our trip had peanut allergies, and La Lupita were able to accommodate her diet)
-There are public washrooms in the jail, located in city hall.

My Completely Biased, Completely Personal Review of: Canto Del Sol, All-inclusive Resort, Puerto Vallarta Mexico.

Reviews -- I've decided -- are just a socially-sanctioned way of being judgmental. I think reviewing may be my forte. Now I'm judging  reviewing Canto Del Sol, the all-inclusive resort we stayed at in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico.

When it comes to vacations, I generally rate them based on two factors:
-how much I like the place I lay my head every night, and
-how much I liked the things I put in my mouth.
Canto Del Sol was a winner on both fronts.

The food was excellent. There was lots of variety for all the meals, with dinner selections being guided by a rotation of theme nights (ie Japanese, Italian). The key to the buffet's success was the make up of the clientele which was about half Canadian and half Mexican. This meant that a lot of the items at the buffet were traditional Mexican fare, ie tacos al pastor, tamales, champurrado, churros, etc. And while I could never muster much enthusiasm for soup at breakfast I really did love the lunch and dinner options.

I'm not truly on vacation if I don't eat fish at least once a day. And between the cooked  fish options at dinner, and an always changing offering of ceviches at lunch time, I was happy.

There was also just enough "safe" things for the kids to eat (yogurt, melon, scrambled eggs, cucumber slices, roasted chicken, cubes of cheese) to sate their appetites, and also be adventurous and try some new food. Granted most experimentation revolved around pastries, but still. The restaurant had ice cream tubs in the cooler, and the kids could help themselves to this treat in the heat of the afternoon.

The rooms were pretty standard hotel fare. However they were kept spotlessly clean. The only bug I saw was a dragonfly that flew in through the open door of our balcony. Our room overlooked a public access walkway to the beach, and we could (if we leaned out far enough) see the water. The adjacent hotel's air conditioning unit was across the way from us, and I personally found the white noise to be kinda soothing. 

The resort is older, but they were doing constant work to upgrade and repair things. There is fresh paint throughout. The fixtures have all been updated. Our beds were new. The tv was very swanky. Some of the king-sized rooms had little mini-kitchens which I would have enjoyed.

Here's an aerial shot of the resort:

And here's a photo of me lying next to the pool:

As you can see, I really liked the pool. Almost as much as I like coordinating my bikini with my hair accessories. Mr Wrath also liked the pool. Here he is just stepping out of the pool so he can take an important phone call on his cellular phone:

Don't you love his chest hair?

Since we were there over Christmas, the resort had some special events planned. Many of these were variations on Mexican traditional activities and were held on during the day of Christmas Eve (when we were on the pirate ship), which is the more important holiday for Mexican citizens. We were back in time to watch the traditional Posada procession (complete with burro!) on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day the resort held a sand/snowman building contest. Here's the winning entry:

Later on Christmas Day, Santa came for a visit:

I think I'd rather travel by a magical sleigh than a parasail, but that's just me.

Six nights a week there is a dance revue on a stage near the beach. It's a lot of fun, and we were very impressed with the quality of the dancing and the costuming. My boys went every single night. Anytime there was a call for audience participation, the 8yo was up on stage.

We definitely enjoyed our time. If we did return to Puerto Vallarta, I would definitely stay at Canto Del Sol.

• • • • •

Hints and Suggestions:
-The hotel's water supply has been purified and is safe to drink.

-We ate at the two a la carte restaurants in the hotel. Neither was as good as the main buffet.

-It's customary to tip at the restaurant and at the bar. We usually left 10 or 20 pesos (1 or 2 Canadian dollars) at every meal.

-In the evenings, after the dance revue, people gather in the lobby and the bar area in the hotel. Lots of people had computers and were using the hotel's wifi (get the code at the front desk), while others played games or chatted. There is a bar there, but it didn't have a bar-vibe. It was very cozy and casual with lots of young kids around.

-During the day there was always stuff going on by the pool, ie water aerobics, water polo, yoga. Evidently this is quite common at all inclusive resorts, but I was surprised. It's loud and hectic, but people were having fun.

-Overall the hotel guests were very social and people were very friendly.

-Canto Del Sol is associated with the Villa Vallarta across the street, and guests can use the pool at either location. People told me the Villa Vallarta poolside was very quiet.

-People get up very early to reserve their sun chairs for the day. And people take it very, very seriously. Don't mess with someone's towel unless you can run fast.

-Here's an overview of the resort:
The lobby is located in the upper left hand corner of the diagram where the two wing meet. We stayed in the northern/left-hand wing, facing outward. If you want a quiet room, you really don't want to be overlooking the pool. The southern/right-hand wing wasn't very quiet when we were there, as there was a new building going on in the lot next door. Two women we met told us about the friendly and attentive the workers on that project. The ladies found a few…admirers peeping into their room.

-The two bars shut down at 11. Or was it 12? Either way, it gets quiet at night. I was pretty happy about this. Especially once I talked to people staying at the Riu Jalisco. All their facilities are open 24 hours, and there are drink dispensers IN THE ROOMS. One woman told me there were fights and vomiting in the hallways and another person told me there were scores of unsupervised teens staying at the hotel binge drinking.

-Employees arranged nightly excursions for younger/drunker guests who wanted to go out dancing at clubs in Puerto Vallarta. I'm not sure that I would want to go to a foam party, but it did seem to be pretty popular.

-There was not one single staff member I met who was surly. Not. One. They were all very nice and welcoming and helpful.

-Tip your maid.

-There was a chronic towel shortage because the laundry facilities couldn't keep up with the demand. It's not your maid's fault. Tip her anyway. 

-To get your towel card, you need to got to a desk that doubles as the timeshare sales office. It's not a big deal to listen for the 5 minute (or less pitch) and then say no. We did this and were not approached again.

-The resort's clientele was really mostly families (with teenagers or little kids) and old (leathery) people.

-The English language tv stations are around Channel 70. They stream from New York and Los Angeles.

My Completely Biased, Completely Personal Review of: Pirates of the Bay Day Trip in Puerto Vallarta.

Majahuitas Cove is a pristine wilderness reserve located south of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico. Accessible only by boat, the private cove features thick virgin jungles, beautiful azure waters, a gorgeous beach, and small lagoon.

If you want to experience the peaceful splendour of Majahuitas Cove you could stay at the boutique inn located there. Or you could -- as shown in the photo above -- rent/buy a multi-million dollar yacht (with a staff of 10, two sea-doos, a motorboat, and a few kayaks) and anchor off shore.

Or you could show up with a hundred other people on a replica pirate ship, blaring classic rock at full volume:

What this outing lacked in refined dignity, it made up for in pure unadulterated fun.

Setting aside the fact that I got horribly seasick (NOTE: to the nice woman on the December 26 excursion who gave me two Dramamine: Thank you from the bottom of my heart and the bottom of my queasy stomach), this was a highlight our vacation.

When you first arrive at the dock for the Pirates of the Bay excursion you are assigned a Personal Pirate who is your waiter/assistant/host/buccaneer for the day. We had Senor Fish. He was charming, and helpful. He was great with our boys and handled our over-excited 8 year old (who would not abide by the rules of sword fighting) with good humour.

We went on-board the ship (at 9 am), sat for commemorative photos (at the end of the tour you can buy these for 250 pesos),  then Fish served us breakfast in the ship's galley (eggs, fruit, cereal, milk, juice & coffee). Once underway (at about 10 am) the crew led us through a series of audience participation games. As we got closer to our destination, the pirates put on a play.

I'm not sure "play" does justice to the entertainment level of this affair. There were sound effects, canon blasts, sword fighting, swash buckling, plank walking, and Star Wars references. It was great.

The cove was gorgeous. Though I spent most of my time there asleep. My husband and the boys swam and road a banana boat (a long inflatable dragged behind a motor boat) and I was blissfully unaware of this occurrence. Beverages were supplied. The crew organized games and activities. The children were led through a treasure hunt and were rewarded with gold/chocolate coins.

When we got back aboard the ship, lunch was served. Senor Fish suggested I eat on the deck and so I ate my excellent lunch (a version of beef stroganoff served on a bed of noodles with coleslaw) while looking out at some gorgeous scenery. I saw a pod of dolphins (being chased by a small boat filled with tourists) pass by a few times and they even dove under the Marigalante. There were more games on the return trip.

Look at those guys standing up on the railings. I couldn't even walk across the deck without stumbling! And they were up on those railings, two meters above the deck, DANCING!? AND SINGING?! It was crazy.

Hints and suggestions:
-pack your camera in a waterproof case. To get from the boat to the shore, you ride on a motorboat and then jump into the water and there's risk that your gear is getting wet.
-you should probably wear your bathing suits when you arrive at the ship. Otherwise you need to change in the ship's washrooms as there are no change facilities on the beach
-breakfast and lunch are served on board, and drinks are available on board and on the beach. But you should probably pack snacks for on the beach.
-Tip your Personal Pirate. The information we received with our booking recommended tipping 50 pesos per person in your party.
-The pirates sell tickets to a fundraising raffle. They cost 50 pesos each. The proceeds go to a local orphanage the company helps support. The prize (t-shirt & bandanna) is drawn as the cruise winds down.
-In addition to your Personal Pirate, you'll be asked to tip the entertainment crew (the pirates who perform in the plays, host the games and dance for/with you). Most people were tipping at least 100 pesos.

-bring dramamine. Even if you don't think you'll need it, there might be some pushy, nauseated women who might really need to be medicated for the sake of everyone on board.
-if you are going to vomit overboard, first check which side of the vessel the motorboats (which are lashed to the back of the Marigalante to ferry passengers to the beach) are attached.
-the toilets in the ladies' room are hysterical:

They were obviously designed by a man -- because the skull's teeth keep the lids from staying up. Yes, because it's not hard enough to answer nature's call on a rocking and roiling boat, you need the added difficulty of holding up the toilet lids while answering nature's call?
-We booked our trip online and there were no hitches -- just make sure you bring along a copy of your email confirmation.
-This company also does a nighttime cruise, as well. Another tourist told me it's a complete booze-fest and not appropriate for minors. She did speak highly of the staff for her nighttime trip, but said the audience members who participated in the skit were so vulgar she was embarrassed for them. They were three young Canadian women.