Last week, I had my first bath in over a decade.
Why so traumatized, you ask? Because, this, my friends, was not a good bath, with bubbles up to your neck and your favourite Ernie-and-Bert-inspired Rubber Duckie.
No, no, no.
There was no lovely book or glass of wine (although I’m really not coordinated enough for any of that kind of nonsense).
Not even the sort of lovely BAWTH that one of my favourite literary characters, Eloise, likes to take.
This was the kind of bath that your mother tells you to take.
Or rather, MY mother.
Because, I’m in my 40s, dontcha know.
You’re never too old for a little vintage, motherly, health advice.
Or, for a bath.
“With oatmeal”, she said.
“Or baking soda”, she said.
“Maybe some Epsom salts”, she said.
Possibly a cocktail of all of the above.
Yessiree, I am officially a geezer.
No Bath and Body Works jams and jellies for me.
I get to bathe with breakfast cereals and baking products.
I’m like Wilford Brimley, with hair.
This was the kind of bath you take because you have been itchy for nearly a month FOR NO GOOD REASON.
And, all the icky sticky goo and chanting of OM doesn’t make it stop.
OMMMMMMM…I’m so itchy!
And not only that but, this was the kind of BAWTH where you had to decide which third of your body to dunk in the water at a time, on account of, you are possibly eleventeen feet tall and your tub is a shallow, five-foot long, jetted, vintage relic from the late 1980s.
It was a complex dance of toes-ankles-calves for a while and then knees-thighs-abdomen for another while and then chest-shoulders-neck for an encore.
Slip sliding away. It’s not as exciting as it sounds in the song.
Who, among the regular old, pre-every-bathroom-must-be-a-spa-thing-that-we-seem-to-have-going-on-now, bathtub owners, finds this fun?
You must be blessed with some short-ness, is all I can figure. Me and my eleven-teen feet of tall-ness are jealous.
Anyhoo, this was the kind of bath where Practical Man had to set a timer in order to get me to stay in there for 20 minutes, because someone–possibly me–kept yelling, “Can I get out YET?” approximately every 32 seconds.
I am a delight to go through life with, as you can tell.
This was the kind of bath where, when I scrunched down so my shoulders could get a little of the water action–and my toes were creeping ever so elegantly up the wall towards the shower head–I was exactly eye level with the toilet.
As my friend Pippi has said, “Bathing beside the toilet is not my idea of luxury.”
Toilets figure prominently in 5-star resort brochures, I’m sure.
Um, yes and this was more of a long-term-care facility kind of bath.
Nessum Dorma is the key to life, really.
Honestly, just close your eyes and listen. You don’t need to be in a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad bathtub for it to be magic.
But, after a million-zillion torturous hours, when I was finally allowed to get out, I was victorious.
I had a few hives.
Nearly a month of scratching and complaining about invisible sensations and I finally had something to show for my efforts.
I’m a little Type A that way.
Stay with me. The hives mean that maybe, possibly, I’m not imagining the itching–just having some kind of allergic reaction.
To what, I don’t know.
Or maybe…don’t you think…it might be…Nessum Dorma beside the toilet?
The basic treatment for hives is, YOU WILL NEVER GUESS:
Take a bath.
Or as I and Eloise prefer it: BAWTH.
Or baking soda.
Possibly some Epsom salts.
So says The Google.
And my mom.
Can I get out yet?
Die Hard is Practical Man’s favourite Christmas movie.
Maybe you didn’t know that Die Hard—the Bruce Willis/Alan Rickman shoot-em-up extravaganza—was even considered to be a Christmas movie.
Oh ye of little festive imagination.
We have a broad definition of “Christmas movies” at our house, partly on account of the fact that one of my favourite things to do during the Christmas holiday break that I’m lucky enough to have, is to lie around all day wearing my PJs.
Wearing PJs, as I mentioned.
Preferably brand new, cozy PJs that Santa has brought me because I’ve been SO good all year!
Or, maybe, because they were On Sale (Santa is a bit of a coupon clipper) and he knew they would make me happy and cozy for a week of lolly-gagging around.
Yes, that’s it.
When it comes to Christmas—as in many things—I don’t act my age. Give me some stickers and some gold, coin-shaped chocolates in the toe of my stocking and I’m four years old again.
Many four year olds get new PJs for Christmas, you may have observed.
Ah yes, it’s days and days of PJs and Turtle chocolates for breakfast (and maybe some Toblerone triangles and Christmas movies like:
- Elf (I love it, even though it has Will Farrell).
- The Holiday (makes me homesick for England and old movies).
- Love, Actually (possibly the best Christmas movie of all time, except for Die Hard, of course!)
Oh, I know I should be all Joy to the World and Peace on Earth about the festive season and the prospect of getting together with family and friends. I do love all the “goodwill towards men” (and women) stuff but if I’m honest, at the twilight of each year, it’s kind of more about the PJs.
Who says we can’t have good will towards men (and women) and PJs?
And, good will toward movies like:
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (I have a crush on Linus).
- While You Were Sleeping (I have a crush on the whole family).
- Prancer (I have a crush on Sam Elliott).
And, I can’t forget that whole extravaganza that is: Chocolate For Breakfast (totally legal)!
It’s a Christmas thing.
Maybe you haven’t heard about it, but I BELIEVE.
At this time of year, that counts for something.
Haven’t you seen It’s a Wonderful Life?
But, with limited number of days available for such indulgent loafing about, I have a hard time deciding. Should I watch:
- Miracle on 34th Street (the Natalie Wood version, although I cry at the new version, too)?
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the Boris Karloff version, although I cry at the new version, too)?
- Home Alone or The Santa Clause (the #1 versions only, because those are the only ones I cry at)?
Then again, why choose favourites? Someone always feels left out, like:
- A Muppet Christmas Carol (Muppets are awesome but I’m not a Dickens fan).
- Mickey’s Christmas Carol (Mickey’s voice bugs me and I’m not a Dickens fan).
- A Christmas Carol (the scratchy, slightly sinister Alistair Sims version that my dad liked to try to make us watch every Christmas eve and I did it sometimes, because I love him, but, really, I’m not a Dickens fan).
Yes, with only The Twelve Days of Sloth at my disposal and the requisite social events sprinkled throughout, it’s sometimes hard to choose which movies will grace this year’s Christmas season.
I feel the same way about Christmas socks. If I choose the red and white stripe-y ones, the green and red stripe-y ones might feel left out. Try as I might, I just can’t quite reach the level of equal opportunity movie watcher and tacky Christmas sock wearer.
As they say in that not-Christmas, famous, book/movie (although if I ask Practical Man, he may be able to put a festive spin on it):
As you would expect, Practical Man has no difficulties carefully choosing his (restrained) festive touches at this time of year.
He eschews the gregarious socks and opts for the plain grey sports variety, thank-you very much.
And, once Die Hard has been watched, it’s on to his next favourite Christmas movie:
Do you not recall the snowstorm outside the plane on the runway? It’s a Christmas movie, plain and simple.
Yippee Ki-Yuletide, everyone.
I went to Disney World, for the first time, on my 40th birthday.
As you do.
That year, they had a “Come to Disney for Free on your Birthday” promotion.
We were already going to be in Florida and it was the perfect excuse to go. Disney isn’t cheap and as you may remember, Practical Man loves a good deal, yes indeedy.
He’s just not a huge fan of Disney.
Or mouse ears.
“You’re not going to wear those when I’m with you, are you?” I could already hear him asking at the prospect of my dreamed-about Mickey ears.
I knew this would be the question he would ask because he asked it when I came home with rubber boots that had large, purple and pink flowers all over them.
And when I found the perfect artsy-hippy-dippy-trippy shirt.
He also asked it when I made the first large-ish felt flower for one of my hats.
But, 20 or 30 large-ish felt flowers later, he’s kind of getting used to me now. I think he’s realized that he can still maintain his preferred position “under the radar”, even when I’m wearing something attention-grabbing, because people are too busy gawking at a 40-something woman wearing items normally associated with 4 year olds, to pay any attention to him.
I don’t mind the gawking. Adults don’t smile nearly enough so, anything I can do to help in that area is right up my street.
My festooned, childlike street, of course.
(You may recall how much I love a bit of festooning.)
Back to my point, which is that we were going to be in Florida for my birthday, visiting my aunt and uncle.
My first hint that Practical Man didn’t really want to spend a festive 40th birthday day with his dearest at Disney was, well…okay, I married him, so I like to think I know about some of his likes and dislikes.
(I’m always studying, in case we we end up on one of those newlywed games, even now that we are 20 years into our romance.)
Anyhoo, the second clue was that for most of the drive to Florida, Practical Man kept saying to me, “Don’t you think you’d have a better time at Disney with your aunt?”
I tormented him through Pennsylvania and both the Carolinas and Georgia, but knew that, yes, I would have a great time with my aunt Feather at Disney.
She has no problem with Disney, crowds or mouse ears.
And, she encourages things like staying overnight in the Herbie the LoveBug themed Disney hotel (Hurrah!) and eating Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream bars (Yum!) and not minding when her niece wears Mickey Mouse ears all day long over her sunhat, even though she’s 40.
I am 40ish going on 4. Yep, that’s me.
As if it could get any better, the Magic Kingdom folks gave me a giant button at the gate that said “Happy Birthday Christine!” in two foot letters on it and every time there was a parade or a character going by (which was a lot), they would lean down from their stilts with a giant smile and yell, “Happy Birthday, Christine!” which Practical Man would have hated, but which I love-love-loved.
But, my favourite part was the parade that started, right after the sun went down. All the floats were lit with thousands of coloured lights and it was warm and beautiful with my Aunt Feather and there were fireworks all for me, I’m sure, on my 40th birthday.
The Magic Kingdom really is just a festooned, childlike street, after all.
Have you noticed how “festoon” rhymes with “swoon”?
Last night took me right back there. It was the Santa Claus parade in my hometown and I was invited to join Fairy Godson and his family and friends at the big event downtown.
Even though there were shades of Magic Kingdom in this festival of lights, Florida it was not. I was wearing down-filled everything with an added layer of neoprene on my feet, thank goodness.
My magic kingdom for some down-filled undies.
Even though the weather is finally turning a bit more wintery, just for the record, it’s still a bit too early for Santa.
Practical Man has rules about these kinds of things: no Christmass-y stuff until December 1st.
Or, maybe that’s the earliest date I have cajoled him into. We definitely follow the “out of respect for our veterans and their families, absolutely nothing festive until after Remembrance Day” rule.
Even though it was early, it felt like the festive season at the parade. All the kids lined up to catch their candy canes and stickers and wave at Rudolphs with blinking noses and Elves and that giant marshmallow guy from Ghostbusters.
Who knew that Ghostbusters were festive?
My friend Grover, that’s who.
Fairy godson was taking it all in, with a line of other kids his age. They were, like me, wrapped in down-filled everything, from head to toe.
Sucking on candy canes, naturally.
I was jealous of their ear flaps.
It was 16 degrees Celcius yesterday afternoon, my friends. The climate changed just in time for the parade and our recent rash of Spring-like-weather-in-November had done nothing to harden us for standing out in the festive wind coming straight up Princess Street, off Lake Ontario.
Did I mention I’d like someone to invent down-filled undies?
But, it was still as lovely as that time at Disney.
I had no mickey ears last night but, just look at all the pretty lights!
We waved at baton twirlers and gymnasts (there were a lot) and dancers and pipe bands. We yelled Merry Christmas at passing elves and tigers and snowmen. Float riders reminded us that “Santa would be coming soon” and we jiggled to the assorted Christmas tunes emanating from the passing parade. There was even a ferris wheel float!
I’ve decided I’m a night-time parade kind of a girl.
No matter the season or the location, this kind of joyous, sparkly, celebratory event is right up my street.
My festooned, childlike street, of course.
With a side of down-filled underwear.
As he does.
I am mostly sitting in his favourite chair (as I do), holding my belly button with both hands and trying to take deep, cleansing, banana-muffin-scented breaths.
My hands are cupped, as if I’m carefully holding a baby chick, but what I’m really doing is attempting to keep my belly button from making a fast getaway. It’s a task that requires vigilance and dedication, even through my bewilderment. I don’t honestly know why my belly button has forsaken me in this manner. I mean, I’ve been good to the thing, over the years.
- I’ve kept it (mostly) from being sun burned.
- I’ve kept it (mostly) from being mercilessly tickled.
- I’ve never pierced it (my sister holding the waistband of her pants out for two days after she had hers done a hundred years ago, was a good deterrent).
As in most things, I am a belly button goody-two shoes.
Yet, here I sit. In full-on Belly Button Betrayal.
I got terrible books out of the library and Olympic Golf has officially come back. This is what misery looks like, my friends.
Every once in a while, I limp into the bedroom to the full-length mirror and lift my shirt to look.
Is it still there? In one piece?
Now, I’m navel gazing.
Except, not like Gandhi or Elizabeth Gilbert (author of the wildly popular memoir, Eat, Pray, Love). Someone with important socio-political/existential/spiritual (Gandhi) or even spaghetti questions (Elizabeth Gilbert) on their minds.
I do have those questions but, tra-la-la, the Olympics are on.
So, I’ve been navel gazing for a week, on account of the laparoscopic surgery I had. Note to self: my belly button does NOT look like the ones on the Canadian beach volleyball team.
Actually, navel gazing and fussing. Lots and lots of fussing.
I don’t remember Gandhi doing much of that, do you? Maybe you lose your belly button when you’re fasting for important, civil rights reasons. Not that I’ll ever know. I came out of surgery after lunch, ready for a 3-course meal, since I hadn’t eaten since MIDNIGHT the night before!
I’m really more like Elizabeth Gilbert than Gandhi.
More foodie than faster.
Uh huh, that’s me.
By the way, do you think making banana muffins is a sophisticated avoidance technique? Practical Man is…well, practical. When there’s a problem, he usually has a very practical solution. And, making banana muffins does afford a brief respite from your fussing/navel gazing wife doesn’t it? Actually, don’t answer that. I’m not sure I care if it’s a sophisticated avoidance technique, so long as I get some banana muffins out of the deal.
Naval gazing and fussing. I feel like that might be on my headstone some day, darn it. Kind of sums me up pretty well at the moment.
And, while I am a talented fusser, as Practical Man can no doubt attest, I would like to stop.
Really, I would.
It’s just that I never thought my belly button could hurt quite this much. On account of, I am a documented ‘fraidy cat and I’ve never had a single baby and everyone knows (or at least, I knew with utter certainty when I was 6) that babies come out of that aperture thingy in the middle of our belly buttons.
YAWN. (That’s how I thought the aperture part opened, when I was 6. The doctor would tickle it a little, and the mama would YAWN and then the baby on the bench nearest the belly button door, would pop out.)
Uh huh. Inadvertent childbirth. That must be it.
That’s really the only reason I can think of that my belly button would feel like it’s had a grapefruit pulled through it.
Maybe not. As far as I know, there is no tropical fruit lurking in my belly.
I’m more of a vegetable–okay, carbs–girl, to be honest. With an ice cream chaser.
Good thing, too since I now know how much it hurts to get (what feels like) a grapefruit pulled through your belly button. All you women who gave actual birth to an actual human and not a grapefruit. Pfffffff. Sure, that’s cool. But, I mean, really.
Have YOU ever had a grapefruit pulled through your navel?
It’s almost time to head to the mirror again.
Watch for my life-changing memoir:
Last week, I traded maple syrup for mold.
What, what, what?
Yep. You see, around these parts, it’s maple syrup season. I wrote about the details of this rural Canadian pastime last year. Basically, it means a whole lotta:
- gathering of sap
- obsessively clicking The Weather Network’s website to see if the conditions will be right for sap flow
- collecting sap into barrels and piling snow from around the yard against them so the sap won’t spoil
- obsessively clicking The Weather Network’s website to see if the conditions will be right for sap boiling
- spending from early morning until evening standing over a giant, homemade, sap-boiling extravaganza while sticky steam gives you a sort of reverse facial and, if you’re me, you somehow get a sunburn on your legs, even though you’re not really an outdoor girl and you probably only helped for a grand total of 15 minutes AND you were wearing two layers of clothing
- skimming and scooping and skimming and scooping and thwacking the thing that you used for skimming to get the sludge off and then some more skimming and scooping
- and so on and so on…for about 4-6 weeks
Practical Man l-o-o-oves this time of year. He is in his element. That is, out in The Nature, that I love not quite so much, and making something out of mostly nothing.
What could be better?
He looks cute in his lumberjack shirt and he smells of yummy wood smoke after a day of boiling sap, so I go along with it.
What can I say? I am weak for wood smoke and plaid clothing.
Anyway, the whole maple syrup thing, while quaint and stereotypical for some of us rural Canucks, is a LOT of work. There are many more bullet points I left out of my list above, because I thought you’d get tired of reading them (and I know I get tired just writing them) and I definitely get tired doing more than a few of them, so I am pretty much only a sporadic cheerleader, inept and inconsistent skimmer, lunch runner and such.
I’m basically maple syrup middle management.
Luckily, Practical Man is not a complainer by nature. Even though he’s married to a person who is a complainer about The Nature.
During one of the sap boils this season, I realized I had a bonafide excuse for getting out of maple syrup work and I gleefully embarked on it.
Dressed to kill, as you can see:
We have recently met some new Boler Buddies–people who are in love with the cute, vintage, marshmallow-shaped trailers known as Bolers in Canada and Scamps in the US–and we have offered to fix up their trailer a little, so they could try camping in it this summer.
Having two Bolers on our property made me as giddy as a Practical Man, boiling sap.
So giddy, that I didn’t mind at all the first job involved with the little jewel: scraping the un-adhered interior paint, applied by a previous owner, where it had been disguising some fairly extensive surface mold.
And you thought my breathing apparatus getup was just for fun.
I was scraping with a cool, rounded scraper thingy that only a Practical Man would own. It didn’t damage any of the interior insulation (called Ensolite) but it niftily scraped off the loose paint.
From outside the little Boler, it sounded as if a very large rodent was trying to claw its way out. But really, it was just a very large rodent who was not helping with the sap boil, whatsoever.
Inside the Boler, there was lots of flaking paint. Lots of surface mold. But, the definite bonus was that I could pretend I was Darth Vader with a sunburn.
I do recall he was pasty like me, when they took his mask off.
Anyway, my arms jiggly from the scraping (yep, that’s why they’re jiggly), I then got to use one of my favourite tools: the shop vac.
Wee-whoo! I love me a shop vac.
Lady Gaga and I shop vac’d the flaking paint up a storm (and chipmunk droppings accumulated during the Boler’s 14 years bravely surviving The Nature). There may have been some gyrating hips, I do confess.
What happens in the Boler, stays in the Boler.
We were playing Old Maid and I was winning.
He was working on his PhD in engineering at the time and I think it perturbed him greatly that despite all his life experience, knowledge of standard deviation and parabolas (or whatever) and genetic predisposition (his mom–my grandma–was kind of a game genius), he couldn’t beat his eldest child at a simple, children’s game of cards.
Or possibly, it was the way his six-year old triumphantly cackled and danced around when he was stuck with the Old Maid (I’m sure I was just pleased to be making up for the indignities of a patriarchal society that thought that the punishment in a card game should be called something so awful, so tragic, so open to mockery as a SINGLE WOMAN OVER A CERTAIN AGE.)
This was before Bridget Jones, dontcha know and okay, so I might be having some slightly retro-active indignity not actually experienced at the age of six.
Anyway, sexist game name and premise aside, there’s another reason that I rarely play games these days. It’s because even though I am a delight 98% of the time, it turns out that when it comes to games, I am like my father. Since neither my father nor I appear to have inherited his mother’s game genius gene, we do, like most humans, tend to lose sometimes. A situation that leads quickly to the confirmed evidence that we are what you call Very Sore Losers.
I hope no one writes that on my tombstone.
And, I have become quite familiar with this darker side of my personality because when Practical Man and I have played Poker on holidays or Cribbage when we are camping in the Boler, he wins EVERY TIME.
And, not to put too fine a point on it, but actually “wins” is too mild a word. “TROUNCE” is more like it or maybe “WALLOP”. I sort of get it when it’s Poker (even though I’ve played since I was a pre-teen) or Cribbage in the Boler (because, how can I concentrate when I’m hanging out in the Boler that I l-o-o-ve?) but, I have the role of public wordsmith in our family. How come he always, always beats me in Scrabble and Upwords?
It’s annoying, I’m sure you can understand.
All this losing and blah, blah, blah.
So, then I act all mature and refuse to play.
But, since it’s the festive season and in our family, that is a time for games, I suggested to Practical Man that we have a couple of friendly games of crokinole on Christmas Eve.
Y’know, just for fun.
(In the interests of full disclosure, my mother’s side of the family are crokinol-ers from way back.)
Practical Man asked me for the rules, all innocent-like and then proceeded to TROUNCE and WALLOP me in game one, despite my God-given genetic pre-disposition to crokinole greatness. So, we started on game two of the best of three and suddenly, inexplicably, it seemed as if I actually stood a chance at winning.
It was practically a Christmas Miracle!
Even better, Practical Man had the unfortunate luck to hit the crokinole checker directly into one of the pegs on the board, four turns in a row. If you haven’t experienced this, let me just emphasize that when the checker hits one of the pegs on the board, it bounces back at you in a fairly humiliating sort of way.
Mwah, ha, ha!
On the fourth time, so giddy was I about the prospect of winning a game that I succumbed to a fit of giggles which quickly turned into “can’t stop laughing” followed by “falling off chair laughing” which is the universal sign in my house for “she’s about to faint“.
And so ended my magnificent path to crokinole glory. I had to spend the rest of the evening on the couch with my feet in the air, trying to get my nervous system to calm down and the blood flowing consistently back to my brain.
Nervous system: I know I’ve told you this before, but, you are seriously high maintenance.
And by the way, I WAS WINNING!
My great grandparents’ crokinole board from the farm in Grey-Bruce County lives with my uncle Gruff and his family. The original wooden board was always super polished and smooth or as my dad would say:
SmooooTH (rhymes with “tooth”).
(When he’s not being A Sore Loser, my father tweaks language in delightful ways like this.)
You could see your face in that crokinole board.
Having been thwarted at winning once this week already, I decided to press my luck at the Boxing Day festivities at my parents house.
Before I knew it, I was sitting down to a friendly game of crokinole with my two cousins and Practical Man.
I was pretty sure that with me and my two cousins SURELY all having at least a pinch of the family crokinole gene, I was definitely on a winning team.
Game one went like this:
- Practical Man and my cousin (team one) scored 80 points (we were playing to 100) in round one.
- Me and my other cousin (team two) scored 10 points in round two.
- Practical Man and my cousin (aka crokinole shark) took the game in round three.
Ladies and gentlemen: I give you possibly the world’s shortest crokinole game.
Cue my Sore Loser face.
My uncle Gruff’s daughter number two subbed as Practical Man’s new partner. Gruff’s first daughter and I decided that we were not “Losers” but rather “Points Deficient” (also – we were fond of the fact that PD is much harder for the enemy team to sign on their foreheads than L). Being only Points Deficient and not Losers, we talked the talk. We were “working a strategy” for the best of three games.
Then, she confessed that she had drunk more wine than she thought.
So, I did my best to distract the enemy team by blurting out random diversions like “German slippers” and this helped me and my cousin (aka tipsy teammate) slide to a tenuous victory in game two.
I was on a winning team! Well, at least a tied-for-winning team.
Then, it was game three. Turns out that Gruff’s daughter number two alternated between being a crokinole savant and being the Julia Child of crokinole (that is, highly entertaining while simultaneously klutzy). Her partner, Practical Man, used some of his more aggressive manoeuvers to fling checkers off the board and on the carpet but, he was often successful at clearing the board of our checkers. My partner and I patiently gathered points, clawing our way, step-by-step ever closer to the magical 100.
It took a while.
There was a round with only 5 points scored.
There was a round with ZERO points scored.
Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you possibly the world’s longest crokinole game.
Cue my Sore Loser face.
The darn posts on the board: they leap out at your checkers, not to mention, we are highly suspicious that they may be magnetic.
My grandpa and my uncles could all do some kind of Jedi-voodo-crokinole magic and bounce their checker off pegs, knock about three of the opposing checkers off the board and land snugly in the hole that is worth 20 points.
I’d like to see them beat me at Old Maid.