Setting My Literary Sights a Little Lower

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For the past six weeks, I’ve had this book sitting on my coffee table, taunting me with its starkly beautiful cover photo:

I’ve wanted to read this book since I first read a review of it, shortly after C was born.  The Guardian writes that it is “a magnificent account of the British assaults on Everest in the 1920s [that] puts Mallory’s adventures in the context of war and imperialism.”  I love reading magnificent accounts of assaults on Everest.  I stayed up until all hours reading Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air.  And as a history buff and political science grad, I’m even more pumped about putting these adventures in the context of war and imperialism.  World War I is endlessly fascinating to me, and this book manages to bring these themes together in a vivid and poignant narrative, or so I’ve been told by various book reviewers.  I haven’t managed to read even the first chapter.

We’ve had so much going on, including lots of company, various doctors’ appointments, and a teething baby.  And since the library is becoming impatient with my renewing shenanigans, I’ve decided to return Into the Silence and to try to read something a little lighter instead.  So yesterday, on a whim, I picked up the newest book by A.J. Jacobs:

A.J. Jacobs writes lighthearted books that are similar to a blog put to paper.  He usually lives some sort of wacky experiment and hilarity ensues.  I’ve read three of his books and loved them all: My Life as an Experiment: One Man’s Humble Quest to Improve Himself; The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible; and The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World.  I’m chuckling to myself as I write these titles.  I really enjoyed these books, particularly the latter two.  Jacobs really commits to his experiments in his books, including stoning a suspected adulterer in The Year of Living Biblically (as far as I recall, he throws a pebble and then scurries away).  In The Know-It-All, Jacobs reads the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica and becomes so frustrated with the monumental task by the letter F that he becomes enraged about Daniel Fahrenheit’s temperature scale.  It’s hilariously nerdy.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to reading Jacobs’ latest book.  His interview with Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio’s Q was great and reminded me how much I enjoy his writing.  Now the only challenge is to wrestle this book away from Pete, who has managed to start reading it first.  He has been home for two days, ill with a fever, so I think I can overpower him.

And now for a quick question: what are you reading right now?

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Challenges are Challenging

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That is the kind of insight you’re going to get around here at Bike, Banjo and Baby.  Challenges are challenging and water is wet; that sort of thing.

I’ve realized that although I’m a reasonably outdoorsy person who likes hiking and canoeing and camping and such, it’s actually quite difficult to get outside for half an hour every single day of a month when you have a little person with you at all times.  Even when the weather that month is unusually warm and dry, you still encounter days with torrential rain or gale-force winds.  Babies do not like being outside in torrential rain or gale-force winds.  Other days you just get busy with errands and baby art classes (that is messy, messy business, by the way) and laundry and cooking and you just run out of day.

For the most part, I’ve managed to keep up with the David Suzuki Foundation’s 30/30 Challenge.  I’ve taken photos (whenever I’ve remembered to pack the camera) to document our outdoor time .  Here are some highlights.

C enjoying our front garden from the comfort of her baby Muskoka chair.

C and Pete enjoying our friends’ rooftop patio (lovingly referred to as “Muscle Beach”).

Going for an evening paddle at my parents’ cottage in Cognashene. Bliss.

C’s first dip in Georgian Bay, showing off her splashing skills.

Unfortunately, I did forget the camera when C and I went to an outdoor baby yoga class, and again on Father’s Day when the three of us went for a hike on the Bruce Trail.  I’ll try to be more diligent for the second half of June.

In the meantime, check out David Suzuki’s Flickr group and all the gorgeous photos these outdoorsy Canadians have been posting.

Father’s Day

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I didn’t manage to post anything on Mother’s Day, but since I was supposed to be lounging around and getting spoiled by Pete and C that day, I don’t feel guilty about it.  I feel even less guilty because, in fact, I was doing very little lounging.

My day started when Pete handed C to me to wish me Happy Mother’s Day and she promptly stuck her chubby little thumb up my nose and gave me a nosebleed.  Luckily, the day got better from there.

Pete looked after the baby for most of the morning while I chatted on the phone with my lovely mom.  He looked completely wiped out by 9:30 am.  Babies are tiring, it turns out.  We then had brunch with some friends and their adorable almost-one-year-old daughter.  And then, I did something that I will remind Pete about for a long, long time.  I let him go for a cross-country mountain bike ride.  On Mother’s Day.  I am a saint.

I kid, though.  He earned it.  He’s a great dad.  And in honour of Father’s Day, I’m going to make quick list about his fatherly awesomeness.

  • He knows who C’s friends are.  That’s a very good indication of how involved he is in her little nine-month-old social life.
  • He only lets her watch TV when there is a downhill mountain bike race on.  See, he cares about her cognitive development, but also about her budding downhill racing appreciation.
  • He thinks C is the cutest baby out there.  Actually, he thinks she’s the cutest lady-baby.  We know a very cute boy baby and Pete thinks he holds the men’s title.
  • When he walks in the door after a long day at work and an hour-long commute, he kisses me and then reaches out for her.  I think that speaks for itself.

C and I are very lucky to have him.

I would also like to wish a very happy Father’s Day to my own fantastic Dad.  He is so amusing and quotable that he deserves his own post.  I’ll be sure to do that soon.

Happy Father’s Day!

The 30/30 Challenge

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I subscribe to David Suzuki’s Facebook updates.  I love, love, love The Nature of Things, I have tremendous respect for David Suzuki and I nearly voted for him for CBC’s The Greatest Canadian.   Unfortunately, David Suzuki’s Facebook and Twitter updates usually have the effect of terrifying me that everything in my house is toxic and will kill us all.  That’s probably true.  But I’m a worrier and often these updates just send me into a worry tailspin.  But once in a while, Suzuki cheers me up with an inspiring call to action, with some words of wisdom, or with a good old-fashioned photo challenge.

Earlier this month, I signed up for The David Suzuki Foundation’s 30/30 Challenge.  I felt a little lost after the adventure race was finished and decided that I needed another project to keep me occupied.  This one is considerably less time-consuming, thank goodness.

Simply, I pledged to spent at least 30 minutes a day outside “in nature” and to capture these moments in photos.  As part of the challenge, participants are encouraged to upload our photos to David Suzuki’s Flickr group.  There are prizes for the best shots.  I have an inexpensive camera that has been dropped a few times and very unimpressive photographic skills, so I’m not really in it for the competition.  June is a really lovely month to spend outdoors, and I figure it’s good to have a little reminder to get outside when life gets hectic.  And it’s been great for C.  She loves being outdoors, and she had a great time today at an outdoor baby yoga class.  It mainly consisted of her doing forward folds to reach for grass she wanted to eat.  But still.  Nature.

I’m not going to post all of the photos I’ve taken so far, because some of them are pretty terrible (the lack of camera skills sometimes lead to fuzzy, out-of-focus shots of our lilacs) and I don’t want to subject readers to that.  But I’ll post some of the highlights throughout the month of June.

C and me (not pictured: Pete) out for a stroll near our house.

Words, words, words

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I love reading.  I love it a ton.  I crammed in a bunch of thousand-page Russian novels before C was born because I figured I wouldn’t have much time for that sort of thing once she arrived.  I saved up some popular page-turners for after her birth because I knew that I would still want to read, but that I wouldn’t have much time or brain power.  So, since I had her, I’ve managed to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Hunger Games trilogy.  That’s it.  In nine months.  Sigh.

More than anything else, I’m really struggling to find the time to read.  I can find a few minutes to pick the banjo, I can take C out to exercise with me, and I can do some evening baking, but lately, I just can’t seem to finish a book.

I think there are a few things going on here:

1)      I like to read in long sessions.  I should try to just get over this and get used to reading a page or two at a time, I guess.  Changing is hard.

2)      I need sleep.  I know people who stay up late reading in bed and I just can’t do it.  When I’m in bed I’m sleeping.  End of story.

3)      I don’t like to speed-read or skim.  Case in point: I read the farming chapters in Anna Karenina.  Thoroughly.  I did not skim those suckers.  Ask me about 19th century Russian farming practices.

This pretty much sums it up.

4)      When I’m reading and Pete is puttering or working, I feel lazy.  And he is always puttering or working, so I end up puttering or working along with him.

I may have to just change my reading habits for a bit while C (and hypothetical second child) is little.  I’m thinking that I should just set some small daily goals for reading.

Busy readers, do you have any tips on how to squeeze some literature into my day? 

Race Goals Redux

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I will be writing about the mountain adventure race shortly, but I have to order some ridiculous, embarrassing photos of myself before I can post anything.  And believe me, they are both ridiculous and embarrassing.  The folks at Met Con Blue haven’t uploaded all of their race photos yet, so I’ll have to wait a few days before I can post them.  If the photos I’ve seen so far are any indication, they will be worth the wait.

In the meantime, I thought I should revisit my race goals:

1)      Do not get poison ivy.  Success!  I have to admit that there were several times when I was so tired, muddy and miserable that I forgot to look out for that malevolent little plant, but I managed to evade it in the end.  Yay!

2)      Finish.  I managed this as well.

3)      Get a photo with the girls.  This is where things broke down.  I did get a photo with a few of them, but I missed a few key training buddies.  Oh well, I knew this one would be tricky.  Wrangling friends for a group photo is challenging at the best of times, let alone when everyone is muddy and miserable and trying to find the beer tent.

I’m pretty pleased with that outcome.  To quote Meat Loaf, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

Met Con Blue – Mission Complete

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We did it!  We survived the mountain adventure race.  I’m sore, and my feet are still cold as I type this, but I finished the race and managed all but one of the obstacles.

I’ll write a longer post about the race later in the week, but for now I’m going to share some photos taken by my friend and our team’s cheerleader (she even made us a sign!) Laura Rice.

The aforementioned sign. That was pretty sweet of her to do.

My friend Sarah and her husband Dave racing to the finish line

The finish line! Finally. I thought I would never see you.

Tracy, Joe, me and Christa at the finish line! We lost Sarah and Dave for this photo.

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