Homebuilding snob

You can add that to the list of other things of which I’m rather snobbish, like medieval dancing, tea, chocolate, dresses, cheese, schools, pizza, and bath products.

I’ve started to form pretty strong opinions on construction. I can’t actually do any of it, but I really think I could. I picked up this magazine called “The Best of Fine Homebuilding: Projects Step by Step” at the bookstore and was all “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE!”

It basically has every project I need to do in the house, in tutorial format. It’s brilliant. Yes! I want to build a kitchen island! Yes, I want a built-in kitchen dining nook with extra storage! Yes, I want to tile my shower right! Yes, I want an “old school path to a wide open bath” and of course it should have a linear drain!

If only I wasn’t deeply afraid of circular saws.

I hate two things about modern homebuilding so much: subfloors and drywall. I really hate them. I don’t know why the floors that support everything people put in their houses (and for some people, that’s a LOT of things) are made of this crappy, warping, expanding, stuff. Why no steel beams, people? Why no sealed floor boards under your floors? Why are we building walls out of paper and dust? It seems like a fire hazard. There has to be a better way. Doing things to save 10 cents a square foot is dumb when you risk water damage and then have to replace 300 sq feet of it. I guess no one expects things to last anymore.

Anyway, I never thought much about things like how to install windows, or leveling cabinets, but now that I’ve gone down this primrose path, I probably care too deeply about it for my skill level. I am pretty much like this with sewing too. You should have seen the zipper I put in a skirt a few days ago. Kicked off of Project Runway for sure.

The one thing I am starting to understand is how people can get obsessed with collecting tools. It seems like for every problem, there’s something I don’t have just waiting at Home Depot for me to buy it and then my problem is solved. And just like buying fabric at the fabric store for an amazing project idea you get in your head, you forget that you need all the other little things for finishing it, the huge time-suck it’s going to be, and how you are going to start cutting and go “I really have no idea what I’m doing” and want to give up.

Maybe I should just stick to painting walls. Too bad I don’t know how to give them a Level 5 drywall finish first!

Like Ikea on a weekend

Things have been busy lately, like too much to see/do, but I’m on a mission so I can’t really stop to do half the things I’d like to do. My project list is about a mile long and growing.

The projects that involve the house are dependent on job coordination, when the necessary professionals can be here, weather, how large the payments are, etc. We tried to do the things that made the most sense first, but it’s turning out that nothing really makes “sense” and certain things are just baffling. Why don’t the outlets in the bathrooms work? Who knows. But it’s so not a priority right now. Dude with a saw who showed up this morning can just use an extension cord from across the hall. Why doesn’t the front door stay closed? Something with the door plate, but door technology is apparently beyond me. Door technology. God, what is wrong with my brain?

Projects that involve my daughter’s school are pretty much done for the year. But oh wait, there’s an Art Auction this spring. And an International dinner. They all sound like lovely events and I totally have signed up for them, but I’m already mentally pinning ideas to their imaginary boards and pretending like I have all the time in the world. La la la….

Then, there are projects that involve my commitment to solving global climate change. Those should probably be at the top of the list, huh? I really should have taken a class on programing and web development, probably graphic design. I’m fairly certain that aside from material science and public speaking, we are going to solve our planet’s energy crisis with the internet. Or at least it feels like it most days. I go to a lot of events, with a lot of the same people, but at the end of the day most of what I need to do is on my laptop. I wish I was more awesome at the internet. Anyone wanna volunteer?

I have some projects that involve annoying the crap out of my state senator. Discrimination, farming practices, coal, education, transportation: my husband said I should have a standing appointment every week until March where I show up wearing a different pin. There is probably nothing I’m going to say to him that he will ever agree with; he told me his favorite Justice ever is Scalia. I think that’s legislator-ese for “go home, little girl, your progressive views are scoffed at here.”

Party planning projects are ongoing. I have the loose framework for my daughter’s fourth birthday in mind, I have an idea for a dinner party I’d like to do soon, and I promised someone I’d help them with a reception. I could go on…

Projects involving my sewing machine: omg kill me now. I have no idea. I can dream far bigger than my skill set. This is a problem.

The rest of my projects are totally boring: cleaning, sorting, organizing, things you all do and are probably just as tired of as me. I start cleaning a counter and my brain starts planning a party. This is how the trouble starts.

I know I know…

How COULD I? How could I do this to you. It’s been like 400 years since I posted and I have no excuse. It’s all my fault. I’m just not good at this.

And I’m sorry. I hope you will let me get on with it without being all “you left me here waiting for a post for 400 years. I died and was reincarnated 798 times and I don’t appreciate that during my few lives that afforded me the ability to view a website and read words, there was NO NEW CONTENT.”

Well hang on, I have content for you.

It’s been six weeks since I had a refrigerator or a bathtub. Am I camping? Nope. We moved into our temporary home and it’s a bit of a fixer-upper. We bought appliances that were lacking from a used appliance store and well the fridge did not work. So began the 6 week slog of phone calls and total radio silence over the holidays and during the “weather” before I even heard back that they were really going to exchange it. I heard that today. If they don’t fix this tomorrow, I’m taking all my wilting produce down there and stuffing into their dryers and running them on hot.

Anyway, the new place is huge to me (though not to the residents of Indiana with new homes which rival that of small hotels) and we are not really settling in because I don’t have the heart to start over packing whenever we find out where we are headed next. We are using plastic cups and utensils. And washing them. It’s quite pathetic.

The weather has mostly hovered near refrigerator temperatures except during the Polar Vortex, so we have used the shelf in the garage much like a refrigerator. This has the enormous plus of being super energy efficient and the minus of being like a giant sign that says “mice welcome!”

Our cat is retired.

But the produce does not care for the temperature fluctuations of day and night and our lettuces pretty much committed suicide when they heard about the Polar Vortex. I was giving the milk shifts inside and out a few nights.

Otherwise, the fixing is happening, new floors, new carpets, new walls, new garbage disposal (thanks mark!) etc… We managed to make enough progress that my family could come at Christmastime and feel almost like they were camping indoors: air mattresses, flashlights, and a fireplace, but with WiFi!

My daughter is dominating this school thing, learning new stuff, making friends, coming home with awesome paintings of sharks. She had her first violin recital and ballet recital and was terribly cute and only mostly distracted. It’s ok, she’ll get there. It’s all fun and participation right now.

She’s really into Legos right now. Legos and small figurines. She also asks for a costume of something daily. She pretty much has Halloween for the next 20 years nailed down. She asked me for a space suit yesterday, a “little space suit for me.” When do you have the “talk” about being an astronaut and how that’s totally awesome but you probably have to go into the navy or air force and then they still don’t let you take the space suit home? Is that like a 6 year old thing?

More stuff has happened that I can’t cram into one post, but I have a list and I’m going to get through it. Hang in there, kittens!

Three Little Years

It has been a whirlwind, we moved and settled, started school and decorated a new room, planned a party and put you, our little two year old, to bed for the last time. As I spend this first night of your fourth year, blearily frosting cakes, cooking lots of other things, trying to get through the long list I have to finish before your birthday party starts, you are sound asleep (despite me dropping things) in your bed, gradually growing up. You keep doing that, a little bit every day. It’s lovely and sad and fascinating to behold.

Last year I said that I didn’t ever think you could be a “terrible two” and I’m very happy to say you weren’t. If I had to keep you as a two year old forever, I would be totally fine with that. You started out the year quite silently, picking up new words here and there, and suddenly speaking in full sentences almost out of the blue about half way through the year. You have always had a great memory, but it’s just amazing how far back you can remember and how many new things you learn so quickly. There is very little you miss! You learned counting, letter sounds, and how to make bread dough. You can hop down the stairs. It makes me nervous. Your size 6.5 shoes have been replaced by 8s, your favorite story books are all a little longer, and your face is looking more and more like a little kid’s and not a baby’s.

I know you will have an amazing time being three, especially now that you’ve just stared preschool! You are such a big kid, walking up to school in the morning with your purple folder. You have started this whole new chapter, one of independence, of having your own thing that I’m not a part of. It’s really hard for me. Even if it’s only a half day, I still miss you. I am so very curious about what you do at school. I will always be curious about everything you do.

Thank you for continually surprising me, for always proving all those people who said “just wait, it gets worse” wrong, for being kind, patient, and imaginative. I will miss your two year old face forever. I wish I could keep a copy of you at every age, but then I’d wake up one day with 18 kids and that’s just crazy. But I know that we’re going to have so much fun this year, I can’t wait to see what is coming. When you wake up, we’ll get started.

Love and nosies,

Mama

Au revoir Montreal, Part Trois: Fin

I have counted a number of cities as home, very very big ones, and pretty small ones. Every city seems to have its own year-served requirement before you feel like you “know” it. And maybe some you never really REALLY know unless you’ve been there your whole life, but generally speaking, you know what I mean by “know.” I seem to stay everywhere just under that threshold. And it’s true for here as well. I certainly have learned a lot about the place, but we’re not really close. We don’t see eye to eye on many things. I’ve been busy. Montreal has been french (cold, inscrutable?). Okay, it’s not all bad. It drives me crazy on a regular basis, but it has its charms.

I have been here long enough to know I don’t want to live here, to be fed up and frustrated often enough with all the aspects of living here that seem designed only to make people feel fed up and frustrated. A friend of mine here once noted that Montreal’s biggest problem is that it’s a city in Quebec. And I think that’s true. I don’t know where Montreal ends and Quebec begins and I don’t mean to suggest that francophone culture is the sole problem. But there is something wrong with Quebec; I’m no doctor, but they should really have it looked at because they could lose this lovely city and many of the lovely people in it, francophone and anglophone. To be the english-speaking minority here is to feel something like judgement and hostility on a regular basis. The language politics problem is probably what I feel most acutely. It’s a shame because so much of city is made interesting and unique by it’s dual-language, multi-cultural identity. It’s not up to me to decide how things will develop here, it’s not my province, but I hope this Parti Quebecois nonsense stops and reasonable minds prevail. Seriously, you won’t let me see the Anthropologie website because of Bill 101? How can you expect me to survive?

I have enjoyed many parts of my time here. I can sing the praises of the clean and efficient STM (metro) system (it’s amazing how much you can tidy up if you stop running at 1am). The sandwiches here are really delicious. Really. I don’t know what it is, but so many places here just get sandwiches right. They don’t even have the fanciest ingredients, but they are usually pressed and warmed and practically perfect. I can’t say much for the pizza, Mexican, or Japanese food here (or even Thai, but I know some will disagree with me), but I stand by the sandwiches! The Quebecois apparently have never heard of real ice-cream, so I won’t miss standing in front of the freezer cases at the store and wanting to cry. I’m sad to say goodbye to the crepes and pastries. I don’t think anyone comes to Montreal for the fine fashion shopping, but I will miss the vast underground connected mall systems in the winter when no one wants to go outside and doesn’t want to hang out in just ONE mall but would like to select from at least 6 to wander around in. The fact that you can travel around almost all of downtown through a series of tunnels, escalators, shopping centers, and food courts is incredible. And by incredible, I mean both great and slightly unbelievable. I will miss the summer festivals and events. I will miss the random young misfits hanging out in front of Tim Hortons (the gay one) and the grad-students-gone-wild children’s educational programming at McGill, the surprising finds at the bookstore’s non-books section, and the wonderful parks and playgrounds and splash pools for children. I may even miss the random crazy people who make my neighborhood so colorful. Yeah, I mean you guy-with-yellow-dog-in-a-tank-top– it’s been real.

But more specifically, my home and neighborhood for the last three years, Sainte Catherine Est, has been wonderful. My street is a living, breathing animal in the summer months. The almost 1 mile stretch to the west of us is closed for a few months to traffic, cafes and restaurants build out onto the sidewalks and streets, and everything is busy and there are constantly people out. It’s a magical thing, even more so at night. Not many places in the world is there such a street that changes so dramatically from one hour to the next, one season to the next. It’s this leisurely lunch spot during summer afternoons, flower boxes and cafe umbrellas, and when the sun goes down, it’s this raucous bar with bachelorette parties and drag queens and lovers on dates. It’s desolate in the winter, but with little hidden gems behind window panes, a wonderful drink, a perfect pastry, a strange antique cookie jar, elaborate fetish gear, surprisingly memorable paintings in a restaurant. During the holidays, it dresses up with decorations, lights and, snow, feeling quite home-y and urban at the same time. It’s a village of so many gay men who have built themselves a lively community and some rather interesting bars. It’s a conduit between my corner and all the festivals at Place des Arts, which lies just beyond where the canopy of 150,000 pink balls strung over the street ends. It’s my long doorway to a celebration of French music, Jazz, Comedy, African music, and outdoor art. There is pretty much always something happening, always a new art installation or some event you stumble upon and go “huh, I didn’t know this was happening,” or a new restaurant opening. It has been a delightful gift to live on this street, watching it change and surprise.

It’s so much nicer in the summer, of course, I would probably not feel so affectionately in February, but even then something cool might pop up. If there is one part of Montreal that I could walk through a thousand times and still see something new, this would be it. I’m glad I’ve had the chance to walk through it a thousand times. The blocks from my apartment to Berri-UQAM have been my path to errands, my walk to lunch, my evening stroll, my baby-please-nap pacing, my I-just-need-to-get-out-of-this-apartment-with-this-newborn schlep, and my trip to the library, festivals, or downtown. You can mark my daughter’s first years of life by this street. Her early outings just to get outside were to the Belgian boulangerie or Starbucks, just a few blocks away. Going to look at all the interesting lights when she was a baby, that long first winter we were here, was a lot of trips back and forth to Rue Berri. She learned to walk almost as soon as the pink balls went up that following spring and practiced many of her early steps that summer up and down the center of the Ste Catherine. When she learned to climb and eat many kinds of solid food, we’d often pick up lunch at our various nearby cafes, sushi shop, bakery, and then we’d head over to the playground. As she got more interested in the actual things down the street, we’d stop and look at the SIDA (AIDS) memorial art installation at Amherst which she loved to wander around inside it’s tall red poles and practice the names of the letters on top. Now, she likes to go to that Starbucks herself and ask for stuff, she likes to pop into the small specialty market for their bulk-section goodies, she knows to stop at the cross streets to hold my hand, she thinks the overhead pink balls are just for her because they always magically appear when she returns to town from some trip we always seem to take in May, and she remembers the exact location of the dollar store AND that they have pooh stickers and kinder eggs. We’ve come a long way in just this one mile.

My husband, daughter and I are excited to be back in the US, near family, and starting a new chapter. But we’re grateful for all the wonderful things we’ve experienced here. We have met people from all over the world and made some friends who will be the hardest goodbyes. I can’t thank my friends enough for the extraordinary kindness they’ve shown to me and my daughter. She and I both will miss them and their children so much. I hope each of you knows that I mean it when I say that you should visit me! And I hope to be back now and then to check in on you and the city.

So, the boxes are packed, the truck is loaded, and I have to get on with it. I will say “Au revoir” to you Montreal.

Or as you prefer to say it “Bon journée.”

Au Revoir Montreal, Part Deux: Guidebook

After living in NYC, I am frequently asked my favorite highlights by friends heading to the big apple. I have to dig up the same information (what cross street is that on again?) and think of and type out all my recommendations each time. So while I’m still fresh, I thought I’d just consolidate that information right here, right now, in case in the future any of you decide to visit Montreal. And obviously, this is written by someone who does everything with a little kid in tow, so if you are here for the nightclubbing, this review is not for you.

Parks
Parc Lafontaine: in the Plateau is very nice to walk around in almost any season. It has a pond and playgrounds, and in the summer a mini choo-choo train for kids. It’s below Rue Rachel between Ave Parc Lafontaine and Papineau. Closest Metro: Sherbrooke

Westmount Park: Adorable little park with an interesting water-feature and nice playground. Some of the friendliest (and thieving) squirrels in the city. Westmount’s library is nestled in the corner of the park and has a lovely children’s section downstairs. Along Rue Sherbrooke between Melville and Lansdowne. Nearest Metro: Vendôme.

Park Wilfrid Laurier: One of my favorites in the summer. It has really tall trees and a lovely lawn for picnics. The playground is great for mixed ages and it has a fantastic pool and wading pool with fountain. I especially love the wading pool because the bottom is kind of soft and it has a sloped entrance which is really nice for babies and crawlers. It’s free on weekdays and only $4 for adults and like $1 for kids on weekends. Along Rue Laurier between Mentana and Brebeúf. Metro: Laurier

Attractions

Museum of Fine Arts: While not the largest collection, it has many wonderful pieces of European, American, and Canadian art. And there is usually an interesting special exhibit to check out. The museum is free (donation requested) but you need to have a ticket for special exhibits. There is a nice room with puzzles and things for kids, and really shallow “horse steps” going up to each of the floors. My daughter loves climbing them. On Rue Sherbrooke between Bishop and Crescent. Metro: Guy-Concordia.

Old Town Montreal and the Old Port: In the way all old adorable places get super touristy, this area has unfortunately fallen to the temptation of filling its charming streets with tacky souvenir shops and overpriced dining. But there are still a few interesting things to see and the views of the stately, old buildings of the city are quite nice. It’s nice to take a walk around this area and there are a few interesting art galleries here and there. Go on weekends or it will feel a bit desolate. Between Rue Notre Dame Est and towards the waterfront, near Rue Ste-Gabriel. Metro: Champ de Mars.

Botanical Gardens: A gigantic, sprawling garden, or rather series of different gardens, the crown jewel of which is the lovely Chinese Garden, with it’s little temples, lake, bridges, and winding paths. My favorite is the Temple of Infinite Pleasantness, it just sounds like such a nice place to hang out. The Japanese Garden is also very beautiful and quite large. Don’t miss the Shade Garden and the First Nations Garden either. You could spend a lot of time wandering this place, appreciating all the hard work that goes into all the different plants. There is also an indoor system of greehouses featuring different climates’ vegetation. In the early spring, they have a Butterflies Go Free exhibit where you can walk around in a greenhouse filled with free butterflies and their native fruits and flowers. June and July are probably the best months to see all the flowers blooming outside, but if you come in the winter, the Chinese Garden has a temporary exhibit of lit silk lanterns after sundown. It’s breathtaking. At Blvd Pie IX and Sherbrooke Est. Metro: Pie IX.

Marche Jean-Talon Our large semi-permanent, open air, farmers market and various small shops for cheeses and spices and lots of other wonderful things. Jean-Talon is the kind of place you WISH you could buy all your vegetables. It’s only really hopping in the late spring through early fall, but it gets wonderful local produce for good prices and even if you are just visiting, you are bound to find something at one of the stalls or in the surrounding shops. Grab lunch at one of the little places in and around the market and if you are here in June, grab some local strawberries. On Rue Jean-Talon Est at Ave Henri Julien. Metro: Jean-Talon.

Streets to Walk Down

St Laurent between Mont-Royal and Rue Prince Arthur Est, take a left on that and walk down to Square St Louis (so pretty) and through to St Denis, make a right and continue to St Catherine.

St Catherine between Papineau and Downtown

Sherbrooke Oest between Blvd Décarie and Ave Victoria

Ave Du Parc between St Viateur and Mont-Royal

Restaurants and Cafes

I’m not going to pretend that this is in any way comprehensive… my restaurant-ing has been dramatically hampered by the baby-to-preschooler conversion project I’ve been working on as well as income, but here are a few of my favs.

Juliette and Chocolat: One of my favorite places for crepes, actually. And their cocoa menu isn’t too shabby either. Cacao 70 is good too, but their focus is more on chocolate everything and Juliette has really good regular food too. Two locations, one at St Laurent and Prince Arthur Ouest and the other at St Denis between Ontario and Maisonneuve.

Commensal: A vegetarian buffet, lots of interesting salads and warm dishes. Two locations, one on St Denis and one on McGill College Ave downtown. I think it’s rather kid friendly.

Comptoir 21: A cute fish and chips shop, but very good food. St Catherine, just east of Amherst.

Icehouse: A southern, “tex mex,” fried food kind of place. They dump your food on paper in the center the table in sort of the most charming way possible. I like the burrito but really I go for the bourbon lemonade which is pretty much the only thing I want to drink all summer for the rest of my life. The experience/service is a bit brusque, but I’m a NYer so it doesn’t bother me so much. If you can, go on a weekday evening as early as possible as it can get busy (no reservations). Ave Roy, just east of St Laurent.

Cacao 70: A chocolate goo fest. Crepes and desserts and chocolate pizzas… it’s delicious and terrible and wonderful. St Catherine between Panet and Beaudry.

La Mie Matinale: A very small bakery, cafe, sandwich shop. This is a totally personal recommendation. When we first moved to Montreal, I had a tiny baby and no desire to leave the apartment. My husband brought me back sandwiches from here quite frequently. I fell pretty hard for them. If you happen to be nearby, go in and grab a coffee, a pain au chocolate, and a smoked salmon sandwich. It’s my favorite sandwich in all of Montreal and will probably be the one food I miss the most. St Catherine between Panet and Plessis.

I hope you have fun running around Montreal, remember to keep your metro cards until you’ve completed your trip (sometimes they check), bring your winter coats between October and April (and all year except July/Aug if you are from Florida), and yes, the paper money feels like plastic so don’t accidentally throw out stuff in your pockets without looking at it. Bon voyage!

A quinquireme is a type of Roman galley ship, FYI.

I have had this poem stuck in my head for several days. It’s one I read to my daughter sometimes and like a earworm song, it’s hard for me to dislodge. It has an interesting meter, which is hard to pin down because it shifts every so slightly between the stanzas. Anyway, it’s:

“Cargoes,” by John Masefield

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amethysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke-stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Because it’s been in my head, I’ve started to come up with random other stanzas of my own. Here’s my favorite:

Silly little rowboat on the pond of lily pads,
Floating by the cattails in the white moon glow,
With a cargo of artists,
Poets, dreamers,
Optimists, pessimists, and those who know.

And here’s another:

Silky baby kitty in his stripey pyjamas,
snoozing on the bed for six hours spurts,
With a cargo of pandas,
Pillows, blankets,
baby dolls, princesses, and unpacked shirts.

Au revoir, Montreal: Part 1

In saying good-bye to this city, to my daughter’s first home, to the place that has amused and vexed me for the past 3 years, I am writing a three part series of posts about our time here.

One area I have woefully neglected on this blog, and didn’t even REALIZE it until someone suggested I blog about it, is all the crazy people and the crazy things they say/do to me here. I can’t even remember all the bizarre things that have happened, and they happen with such frequency, so I’m just going to give you some highlights. I have titled this list of events:

“I Swear People Here Have Brain Damage.”

1. I was on the metro platform waiting for a train with my daughter. The next train came, stopped, and a guy stepped off but just off to the side, like you would do if you were getting out of the way so that others could get off but you intended to get right back on. There were two gentlemen inside the train exchanging very loud words. I didn’t even realize this until after I had stepped on and gone to the opposite side. The arguing guys were now between me and the door, being held open by the guy standing on the platform. The argument was very heated, they were shouting and acting aggressively like the fists were going to fly at any second. The guy outside the train kept motioning for them to get off. Then he reached into his duffle with his arm and pointed something in the bag at the two men. It’s hard to describe this motion, but let’s just say it was exactly the kind of thing you’d do if you had a gun in your bag and didn’t want to get it out but wanted to make sure someone was thinking “he has a gun in his bag.” Eventually, a different guy standing on the platform who had just showed up, took pity on me and stepped into the doorway and held out his hand to me. The two fighting guys were surprised for a second and that pause allowed me to get off the train with my kid and I went down to another train car. I don’t know how the fight “ended.” The train was stopped for another minute or so, but then went on as usual. This was one of only 2 times I was every really “afraid” for a minute in this city.

2. I was waiting for the bus holding my then 1 year old. She had wriggled so that the bottom of my shirt had come up and I was trying to pull it back down. A woman waiting for the bus, looked over and said “you should really lose that baby fat.”

3. We were having dinner with friends recently, and we were sitting inside a restaurant with large open windows along the street, but we were like two tables in from the windows. A passing older man saw my daughter at our table, stopped and poked his head all the way into the widow and tried to get her attention so he could “coo coo” at her. Our friends were totally dumbfounded. I was like, “this shit happens all the time.”

4. While crossing the street at a big intersection and holding my two-year-old’s hand, a woman came up behind us and tried to get my daughter to hold her hand with her other free hand. When my kid wouldn’t just grab a stranger’s hand, she looked at me and said “get her to take my hand!” And all I could think so say was “Um, why?” She angrily shouted, “I am trying to help you!” and stormed off ahead, muttering to herself.

5. I was at the playground and my daughter decided to run out of the somewhat enclosed play area to explore the small grassy area outside of it. A couple of people had their dogs there. I had set my bag on the picnic table inside the play area, so I kept peeking over at it to make sure it was ok. We were the only ones there, besides the dog owners. After a minute or two, I’m about to tell my daughter we need to go back to get our bag if she wants to explore more of the park, and I look up and see a guy park his bike along the fence. I thought he was on the outside of the play area. But when I look again, I realize he’s on the inside and he’s standing over my bag. Then, he starts going through my bag. I shout over as I start running towards him “Hey, that’s my bag!” He puts his hands up like “oh, I had no idea!” And hurries off with his bike.

6. In our apartment one day, I heard this sound like it was raining in our bathroom? I went in and there was brown waste water pouring from the ceiling vent. I sent my husband downstairs to get the building manager and they sent their handyman up. Turns out, the people above us were doing their laundry in. the. toilet. For real. They had been using the toilet. To do their laundry. And somehow, in this completely ill-advised process, they had flushed a sock and some other small things and totally clogged the water line. But did they do anything about it? Nope. So, fast forward to the poo-rain in my bathroom–the building guy sorta mopped the floor for me, because there was a lot of water at this point. But I had to spend most of the bleaching every surface in my bathroom until it hurt to breathe the fumes. There are a lot of questions I want to ask those people (who have since moved out, I think), but if I only got one, I’d ask: “why didn’t you just use the bathtub which is like 4 $%^&@ inches from the #$^&*@ toilet??”

7. I was watching my daughter play on a playground climbing/slide apparatus while talking to another mom last week. There was a group from a local school there and the older kids were not letting her go down the slide or really move around at all without bumping into her. She was mostly just standing around watching them go by and hoping for a break in the traffic so she could cross the bridge or go down the slide. I was observing all of this, but one of the monitors from the school decided to find out who’s little kid this was (mine) and then yell at me for not “watching her closely enough.” Because when your kids are knocking around a smaller child, it’s the smaller child’s parent’s fault for not hovering over them to make that stop. Right. And even after I told her that I was watching and would appreciate if she could tell her students to be more careful, she still spent the next 10 minutes complaining to every adult on the playground about me.

8. When my daughter was still very young, just a few months old, I was coming home from the grocery store. She was bundled up in her baby carrier and I had a grocery bag in each hand. I noticed at the corner before my building a very disheveled man yelling at the top of his lungs to a man on a bicycle across the street, and the biker angrily shouted back. I had no idea what they were saying, but I could tell the older guy standing on the sidewalk was a bit crazy, possibly drunk, maybe homeless. I saw the biker speed off and the guy’s gaze then fall onto the nearest passing person. Me. I avoided looking at him and calmly kept walking. He started following me. He started shouting at me. I didn’t look at him, I tried to pretend I had no idea he was following me. He got closer and lounder and I walked a little faster. I think he realized at some point that I didn’t speak French because he started fuming at me about Quebec. I was probably only 30 meters from the sidewalk up to my building’s entrance at this point, so I figured that as soon as I turned off the city sidewalk, he’d probably stop following me, but he didn’t. He was practically next to me when I started up towards our front door. So I walked really, really fast, while trying to fish for my keys. I got to the door and I didn’t know how far behind me he was but I opened the first door (not locked) and swiped my magnetic key against the wall thing for the second set of glass doors ever-so-briskly. And just as I passed through the locked doors, I caught this guy’s reflection in the mirrors ahead of me and he was coming through the first doors. I pulled the second door shut behind me and it clicked close just as he reached for it. I made haste to the elevators (of course no one was in the lobby office that day) and counted myself lucky. But as a new mom, I’m pretty sure I would have had the endorphins, adrenaline, and rage to tear this guy’s face off had he actually touched me or my baby. I have no idea what he was trying to do, but I’m glad I can walk fast.

9. A woman on a bus when my daughter was a about 18 months old, offered me her seat and I said “no thanks.” She insisted I sit down. “No really, I’m fine.” Then she says, “but you’re pregnant!” And totally embarrassed, I say, “no I’m not.” She says……. “yes, you are!” After I died inside a little bit, I just stare at her with total shock. She stares back. Then she says “Oh, I’m sorry” and looks away.

10. When I had a headache that wouldn’t go away for several weeks, I went to a walk-in clinic in my area to see if I was dying. A doctor saw me, told me I had a sinus infection, prescribed an antibiotic (that I couldn’t take because I was breastfeeding, which I told him), and as I left I asked the receptionist to give me the code for the visit that my insurance would need. She had no idea what I was talking about. I paid for the visit and they gave me a receipt for my insurance. Several weeks later, my husband tells me that our insurance rejected the claim because they need a Quebec-specific diagnosis code from the clinic. I take the form the insurance company sent with the claim rejection down to the clinic to ask for that number again, this time with the specific name of that code. The receptionist tells me that I will have to pay for another visit to have that formed filled out by them. I argue, “no, no, I just need ONE number, it should be in my file.” But she says she is not allowed to look that up, only the doctor is allowed, even though she has my file RIGHT in front of her. She insisted to have the doctor look up this code, requires an appointment, a pay-$120-that-your-insurance-will-NOT-cover appointment. I tried to explain the lunacy of paying $120 to see if my insurance would cover the previous $120, but it was at this point that she switched to french and would not speak english any more.

11. The people who used to live below us had these massive fights with screaming and wailing and shrieking in the middle of the night. It would wake me from a dead sleep. The guy that lived there would also smoke a LOT of pot. A LOT. And the smell would drift up into my apartment because he would keep all his doors and windows shut and blocked. So, our vents would be pouring out pot smoke whenever he decided to get high with his friends, which was anywhere from Saturday night to 10am on a Tuesday. We complained to the building, we knocked on his door. The building was trying to have them evicted (I believe for failure to pay rent) and the manager confessed to me that every single unit around, above, and below had complained about these people. They FINALLY moved out voluntarily, but not before one especially memorable night when I was at this guy’s door BEGGING him to stop smoking because my baby’s eyes were red and itchy and I was coughing upstairs and he tried to tell me that no one was really smoking there, only one cigarette, but not pot. Yeah.

12. My little girl and I got on the metro one night and she walked up to one of the center poles to hang on. The train lurched and she fell back, but I reached out to grab her hand and pull her back up. As I’m doing so, a man in the seats facing us gets up and grabs her other arm. He pulls her towards him. I’m pulling her towards me when he does this. He won’t let go. I give him a look of shock and he pulls on her arm again like he’s trying to pull her away from me. I snap and shout “let go of my kid!” at a volume that the entire train car hears. He yells back at me angrily, “I am trying to give her my seat!” I think I countered with something like “I don’t care, you never pull someone’s kid away from them!” I was just so pissed off. He then proceeded to bash me in french to everyone around him who’d listen for the next two stops until I got off. My daughter was pretty shaken and reminded me for a few days about the “man who pull me” on the train.

13. My daughter and I were leaving Montreal’s airport to get on the express (#747, how appropriate) bus into the city. One of her favorite things to do is ride on my rolling suitcase. She sits on the top and holds onto the pulled out bars of the extendable handle like she’s on a ride. It saves me having to carry her. Mostly people think it’s cute, but one lady decided to loudly point out to me “that’s really unsafe, you know! She could fall.” I laughed and said “you should see what she falls off at home.” Of course, I got the death-glare of judgment, because 30 inches is a really unsafe distance for a 31 inch kid to fall. Clearly.

14. The lady down the hall used to make her son play in the hallway while she was on the phone. He’d run up and down the halls yelling and sometimes thumping into the walls for 10 minutes or so. Usually while my baby was napping. Naturally.

15. My husband and I were flying a kite with our daughter in a large plaza by Berri-UQAM. I was helping her keep her kite up even though there wasn’t much constant wind. A man approaches us and says something I don’t understand in French. I say “I’m sorry I don’t really speak french.” And he says “This is Quebec, we speak french here.” (That part I understood.) I try to ignore him and turn around but he is very close, and keeps lecturing me in french. I don’t understand most of it. I keep ignoring him. Finally, I just say “I’m not from here,” and he responds in perfect english “oh, where are you from?” And my plan is to ignore him, but my husband answers “New York.” This guy then goes off on a “your city has a lot of problems…” rant. Finally, he wanders off after we both ignore him to focus on our kite that won’t stay up for awhile. Way to represent Quebec, dude.

It’s a very weird city…and this is coming from a former NYC resident who had a guy who frequently hung out in front of her building and had conversations with the traffic cones. I try to remind myself of all the strange and frustrating aspects of living anywhere, but nowhere I’ve lived or frequented seems to hold a candle to the residents of this place.

So, to all the people of Montreal who have poked me, tapped me, gently shoved me because they HAD to let me know there was an open seat on a bus or insisted I sit down when I didn’t want to, to the people who told me my kid should be wearing a hat when it was 20 degrees Celsius, the people who have conveniently forgotten how to speak english because I have a problem I need them to fix, and the insane, insensitive, or just plain idiotic people who like to harass me, I will not miss you. I hope your crepes always come out rubbery.

Hello Summer.

It was spring for like 5 minutes. Today it was “hot” by my standards. Which means there was sunlight on me and the temperature was above 24 C. There was a lot of “oh look, can we play in that shady area over there? No? You want to keep playing on this hot climbing thing? Ok. I’ll just stand here and get skin cancer.”

If you haven’t heard, we are moving this summer. Au revoir, Montreal, why hello there, Indianapolis. So, you can expect this August to be the hottest on record. Thanks a lot, climate change.

I have started to contemplate packing. I put two boxes of decorative items together and then felt like I needed to lie down. Between being hot and anemic, a champion procrastinator and easily distracted by pinterest projects, I am the perfect storm of packing-avoidance systems. I was going to get rid of some stuff this month, but I wasn’t really here for most of it. Now that I’m here, I keep finding reasons to hang onto the stuff I had, from afar, totally agreed with myself that I was going to shed from my life. Anyone feel like talking me out of trying to upcycle clothing?

We are going to enjoy our last summer living here, visit our favorite parks and pools, go to the Festivals, walk up and down St Catherine Street a million times (my daughter thinks the 150,000+ pink balls hanging overhead are just for her), and try to do a few things we haven’t done yet. I’ll try to blog about some of them when I can. You know, while I’m avoiding packing.

Dance music

This needs a little back story.

My daughter and I have random dance parties, like you do I presume. And one day she and I were in baby gap, I think she was about 20 months old, and this song came on. She was carrying something around the store, a hanger with a shirt or similar. She heard the song, dropped what she was carrying, and started dancing like it was her job. No one else seemed to notice, but it was pretty funny. When I got home, I looked up the song because I had never heard it before.

You can listen to it (and see the 80′s homage video) here: Little Boots, “Remedy”

A few months later, I made her a playlist for her random “dance parties” and she asks for her “dance music” frequently. But right now, she is newly obsessed with this song “Remedy.” She sings along with it, she wants to listen to it before bed, and she has only just discovered it has a music video (my fault), so it’s pretty much all over.

I have never heard of the artist before, but I gather she’s an English pop artist with very small feet.

Needless to say, she’s #1 on my kid’s charts. Move over Mary Poppins.