The Tween and the Death of the Landline

My daughter Hannah is 10 and a half years old. In a week and a half she will be starting grade five. And the fact that no one has a home phone anymore (including us) is killing her social life.

landline tweens home phone cell phoneWhen I was 10 I had a number of friends in my neighbourhood. I also had their phone numbers, for the family phones that sat attached to the walls in their kitchens or living rooms. If we wanted to get together to play we could call each other and find out if we were free. I remember asking my mom if I could go to my friend’s, or have my friend over. Sometimes the answer was yes, and other times it was no, but we could make plans for later. It made summer vacations, when we were bored and missing each other, much more palatable.

We got rid of our home phone about four or five years ago. Both my husband and I had cell phones, and it just made sense to cut what had become an unnecessary expense. By the time we got rid of the landline we mostly only got telemarketing calls on it, anyway. A lot of other people have made the same call and gotten rid of their landlines. According to an article from this past February more than half of children and adults under the age of 45 (i.e. – my family) live in a house without a landline, and the number is only growing.

Here’s the problem, though: I don’t want to let my daughter use my cell phone as her phone. My iPhone feels much more personal to me than my home phone ever did. I’m not okay with Hannah using my phone to call her friends. I’m not okay with getting phone calls from her friends on it. And I’m definitely not leaving it with her when we’re in different places. And most of Hannah’s friends’ parents? As far as I can tell they have the same deal.

Hannah does have her own phone – my husband gave her his old iPhone, but it doesn’t have a SIM card. It’s essentially an iPod that could be a phone but isn’t. She can use FaceTime and iMessage, which means that she has a way of connecting with other iPhone users, including me and my husband and her grandparents. However, many of her friends don’t have iPhones, or don’t have any kind of phone at all. And many of her friends also don’t have landlines, or email addresses that they check regularly. So Hannah’s “phone” is essentially useless and she has no other good way to get in touch with her friends in the neighbourhood. As a result she sees her friends less than I saw my friends when I was her age.

In a few years, once these kids are 12 or 13 or 14, I’m guessing they’ll all have cell phones of their own and be more than able to connect with each other. In the meantime, though, the onus remains on us as parents to manage their social calendars. Since the kids can’t get in touch with each other the parents have to text and email to set up play dates or arrange to meet up somewhere. By giving up the landline we’ve become responsible for keeping our kids entertained for a few more years, until they all have texting apps of their own.

It’s not all bad, staying connected to our kids. And I certainly wouldn’t want my 10 year old to be glued to a texting app. There’s plenty of time for that later. For now, though, I’m realizing how a decision you make for one reason can reverberate in unexpected ways in other areas of your life. So if you have a six year old and you’re considering whether or not to keep your home phone, you might want to hold off on your decision for a few years yet.

Poem of the Month: Ode to a Tween

poem of the month tween(Let’s just ignore the fact that it’s been, er, several months since I shared a poem of the month, shall we? Good.)

Recently I re-embraced my adolescent love of writing poetry. Many of them are written just for me, but I have written enough that are not as personal and I’d like to share some of them. And so, a blog series is born. These aren’t necessarily my deepest poems, but I do enjoy each of them.

And now, here is this month’s poem, inspired by my daughter who earned her yellow belt in tae kwon do yesterday.

Ode to a Tween

Her hair has gotten much longer lately
I noticed it yesterday as she brushed it
She is independent and private now
Her fashion sense is not half bad
Her sentimentality has reached an all
Time high because she senses that
Her childhood is drawing to a close
I sense it too filled with ambivalence

I can’t believe I haven’t broken her
But she survived my awkward first-time
Parenting, overly earnest and tentative
Here we are and she insists I am the
Best ever – does she protest too much?
I think maybe she senses my flaws and
Is reassuring herself and delaying the
Inevitable realization: I am imperfect

I want her to know my imperfection
So she knows she’s not alone when life
Sucks so hard the fight goes out of her
We all struggle and that struggle does
Not make us weak or unworthy
Every day we get up and show up we have
Won and that is the thing I admire
Most: she always, always shows up

From her early arrival heralded by her
Strong lungs to first steps to her
Own prolific writing she lives life
Whole-heartedly even when she is
Afraid always offering the best of
Herself without a second thought
This girl-child, this old soul, this
10-year-old with long honey hair

Silenced

I’ve been feeling silenced lately.

downloadFor one thing, I’m going to start full-time school to become a teacher in September. Which is neither here nor there, I suppose, except that I am feeling more conscious about what I publish. Of course, I have always written blog posts assuming that anyone could be reading them. Family. Friends. Colleagues. My boss. But teaching adds a new dynamic.

(Side note – if you’re a teacher how do you deal with your online presence? I’d love to hear.)

For another thing, my kids are getting big. So. Freaking. Big. Every day they’re a little bigger. Writing about them is harder. Hannah is 10 now. I was a 10 year old girl once. I remember the feeling of perpetual embarrassment. I hardly want to contribute to that. Or, at least, contribute more to it than I naturally will on the basis of being her mother. Obviously, given my extreme lack of coolness some level of embarrassment is inevitable here.

On top of all that, it feels like there isn’t much going on in my life at the moment. I had a bit of a rough go at the beginning of the year, between being laid off and having my car totaled and jumping through the hoops of applying to university. Before that, my life was out-of-control busy for three months. I was volunteering at a middle school three (or more) days a week, taking two classes, working from home and parenting. I got out of the habit of writing because there literally was no time. And then there was a big let-down after all the busy, and the ennui of unemployment and dealing with the car accident.

I am starting to bore myself now.

Here’s what’s going on in my life right now. I am enjoying the laziness of having a summer off with my children before I start school. My daughter Hannah has started tae kwon do and she’s rocking it. She also has grand plans to write a book. It will be the first of a series, and she says it will be fantasy/mystery/horror. My son Jacob has finally, at almost seven years old, decided that he can put his face in the water after all. He is taking swimming lessons and he is just the cutest. He reads amazingly well and he’s super-excited about grade two.

My garden is not doing all that well. It’s been very hot and dry this year. Also, I suspect that there is a rat that is eating my plants. Ugh. At some point I will figure out what to do about that. For now I’m just glad it’s staying outside. And I’m also glad that I have a cat.

I just finished another set of tap dancing classes. I love it. I’m not very good, but it’s so much fun.

I’m looking forward to school.

I had an article published elsewhere. The photo they chose to represent my husband and me slays me.

Some days I write poetry. Some days I play video games on my iPad. Some days I read.

Things are good with me.

How are things with you?

Poem of the Month: The Poetry of the Universe

poetryFor the past few months I have been writing poetry. While I’m churning them out at a slightly slower rate than a couple of months ago, I’m still writing weekly. Many of them are not fit for public consumption, but I have written enough that are and I’d like to share some of them. And so, a blog series is born. These aren’t my most personal poems, but I do enjoy each of them.

And now, here is this month’s poem, inspired by my love of math.

The Poetry of the Universe

My favourite number changes
Sometimes it’s 16
Sometimes it’s 36
Usually it’s 96
Because it’s divisible by
4 and 6 and 8 and 12 and 16.

The beautiful part: these things are
Always, always, always true.
It’s not a matter of opinion
It doesn’t change in far-flung
Countries or even distant
Galaxies as yet unseen by human eye.

3.14159265… is unshakeable
Molding the stars in their
Courses, hula hoops on the
Waists of laughing little girls,
Bubbles babies bat at
Of course lemon meringue pi(e).

I heard once that Pythagoras
Assigned mystical significance
To certain numbers and hated
Non-terminating decimals –
Impaled on his own theorem.
To me it just shows he really cared.

Sometimes You Just Have to Try Something

Sometimes you have to step out of your shell and try something new. This happened to me yesterday when my husband and I were enjoying a kid-free afternoon in a very trendy neighbourhood. I came across the Commercial Drive Licorice Parlour, which I have visited before because I am a licorice lover. This time, however, I was brought up short by a sign outside advertising ‘snorting chocolate’.

Now, I am a chocolate lover as much as a licorice lover, if not even more so, but I was puzzled. And intrigued. And puzzled. How, and more importantly why, would one snort chocolate?

Once I was inside the store buying dark chocolate-covered Australian black licorice and minty Dutch licorice chalk I had to ask. What’s the deal? Apparently the idea of snorting chocolate was conceived for a party thrown by the Rolling Stones with a chocolate theme. Which struck me as incredibly funny. And I decided that I might as well try it. So I shelled out $2 and opted for the recommended raspberry chocolate flavour. Or scent. Or variety. You know what I mean, right?

It was … not bad. The chocolate scent lingered in my nose, and hence on my palate, for a solid 20 minutes after, which was pleasant. I think I would generally prefer to eat my chocolate, though. Less sneezy, and more satisfying in the end. Fortunately, however, my husband was there to capture this one-off on video. What does it look like to snort chocolate? Watch and see.

What I Will Not do This Year

Today is my 39th birthday. Unlike previous years, this birthday actually didn’t trigger a massive existential crisis. This feels sort of ironic given the fact that I am sort of betwixt and between at the moment, cooling my heels until I start school full-time in the fall. Maybe that’s why – I’m letting myself off the hook because I know I have a plan, and I don’t have to do anything to make that plan happen right now. Whatever the cause, it’s lovely.

birthday selfie

Birthday Selfie

For the past few years I’ve made birthday resolutions. The idea was to set some intentions and bring new things into my life that I didn’t have the year before. Given that I’m in a different frame of mind this year, though, I’ve decided to switch things up. Here is what I plan not to do with this final year of my thirties.


What I Will Not do at 39

  • Eat corn.
  • Ruminate on my various shortcomings, big and small, real and imagined.
  • Go skydiving.
  • Stop loving my still-newish-to-me minivan.
  • Start drinking coffee.
  • Have a baby.
  • Slow my rate of tea collecting.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Lose my mind (I hope).
  • Write a novel.
  • Keep track of my weight.
  • Join the circus.
  • Finally manage to do the splits.
  • Start a business.
  • Stop laughing.
  • Give up chocolate.
  • Move to another house.
  • Let my hair grow out.
  • Get a tattoo.
  • Dye my hair.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Give up on my goal of becoming a teacher.

You know what the best part of this list is? I think I can manage not to do all of it. What about you? What would you like to not do more of?

FOD-What?

I am one of those people who can eat pretty much anything. That doesn’t mean I like everything. Corn on the cob is not my thing no matter how often other people urge me to give it a try. I have. It doesn’t do much for me. I am somehow managing to live a full and happy life in spite of it. But there are very few things I do enjoy that cause me any digestive issues, especially if I don’t go completely overboard. As in, I can eat Halloween candy, but I can’t eat all the Halloween candy at one sitting.

My husband, on the other hand, has to be careful about what he eats. Certain foods like dairy and tomato sauce have to be approached with caution. He has tried all sorts of different supplements and dietary solutions, from avoiding whole grains to only eating whole grains to going gluten-free. Some seemed to be helpful, others not so much, but in the end living life without pizza is just too sad so we’re not doing it.

Periodically I take to the internet anyway. Recently I did just that for an upcoming guest post I’m writing for another site when I came across the acronym FODMAP. Which stands for a very long term that I can’t even begin to prounounce. Suffice it to say it’s a group of certain kinds of carbs that nobody really digests all that well. However, some people are more irritated by them than others. Eliminating them seems to have helped many people like my husband who have digestive issues, but for whom testing has not produced any obvious cause.

FODMAP gluten celiac digestive issues IBS wheatApparently these FODMAPs may account for the growing number of cases of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. There is a lot of overlap between high FODMAP foods and foods that contain gluten. For instance, corn, potatoes, rice and quinoa are all low FODMAP foods and gluten-free. This may explain why many people who don’t have celiac disease notice that they feel better when they avoid gluten.

You can read more about FODMAPs here, here and here. Here’s what I found interesting: many of the high-FODMAP foods are foods that my husband avoids already because he has found them to cause tummy troubles. The other thing that is positive is that someone who reacts negatively to these carbs doesn’t necessarily need to eliminate them entirely. They can try eliminating all of them for a couple of weeks and then slowly introduce them back into their diet to see which ones, and in what quantity, they can tolerate. For many people having the occasional slice of pizza is fine. And if you have a flare-up you know what the likely culprits are. This isn’t a life sentence, it’s just information.

After doing all that reading I was excited and emailing my husband a bunch of links. Then I talked his ear off over dinner. Then I told my friend all about FODMAPs. My husband has spent a whole lifetime being poked and prodded and experimenting, though, so he was a lot more circumspect. I think he has just seen so many miracle solutions that were far less than miraculous. I understand that.

Food is a funny thing. Human beings, as omnivores, can choose such a varied diet. And in this day and age when pretty much everything is always available at the grocery store, the variety is even greater. Few of us are eating simply to live, or choosing our diets based on what’s available right now. We eat foods because we like them, because they connect us to each other, because of how they make us feel, because of what they cost. Our meals make personal and political statements. For people like me this means that choosing to be a vegan, or go paleo, or avoid sugar and caffeine, is entirely intellectual. We can make pretty much anything work.

When you have a history of having to be very careful, things are different. I’ve only experienced this second-hand, but I’ve seen it all the same. Comfort, nourishment and choice are all weightier things. Acronyms like FODMAPs start to blend together after a while, and it can all just feel like a lot of work. So I will print out the list and refer to it, but I won’t impose it on my husband the next time he just wants a burger. Or, at least, I will try not to.

Have you heard of FODMAPs? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with these tricky little carbs.

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