Saturday, December 30, 2006

When Mommy met Sally

Sally: I'd like the chef salad please with oil and vinegar on the side, and the apple pie a la mode.

Waitress: Chef and apple a la mode.

Sally: But I'd like the pie heated, and I don't want the ice cream on top. I want it on the side, and I'd like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it's real. If it's out of the can, then nothing.

Waitress: Not even the pie?

Sally: No, just the pie, but then not heated.


I remember the above scene from "When Harry Met Sally". I should, I get to live it almost every day trying to find things my picky Leah will eat.

God forbid she eats what I eat. Or what any normal human eats. Red meat actually makes Leah gag. Except hot dogs, bacon, and keilbasa -- I joke that she's a Porketarian. One day she'll love Granny Smith apples, until I buy a huge bag, and then she doesn't like them. One day Cheerios are the best cereal in the world, the next, you'd think I was poisoning her by putting them in her bowl. Then there's the hot dog bit, and this is what reminds me of Meg Ryan:

Me: You and Rae are having hot dogs tonight. With carrots and peas and a cut-up apple. Do you want your hot dog in a bun, or cut up like Rachel's for dipping?

Leah: If you have a bun, I want it in a bun, but cut the ends off the bun. If you don't have a bun could I have it in bread with the crust cut off?

Me: I have buns. Do you want ketchup or mustard on it?

Leah: I changed my mind, could I have it cut up like Rachel with ketchup and mustard mixed to dip the pieces in? And if the carrots are cooked can I have them big (she means whole baby carrots) but if they're raw, could you cut them up in long sticks? And I want butter on the peas, and salt but no pepper. Well, just a bit of pepper, but not too much. [pause] Actually, no pepper.

I wish you could just get Purina Child Chow.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

More Frostys than you can shake a stick at

Just when I was ready to get the girls into bed last night, one of my houseguests made the classic mistake of switching TV channels and lingering for a millisecond or so on a children's Christmas special. The girls' finely honed spidey senses picked up the flash of colour and merry music that scream 'cartoon', and it was all over. They were watching. Now I don't have cable or satellite -- we get CBC and CTV clearly, and Global and some channel out of Hamilton all snowy, so my kids have learned to get the cartoons when and where they can; and at this time of year I find I can't begrudge them the annual CBC cavalcade of Christmas specials.

The one that they started watching was a Frosty cartoon. But it wasn't *the* Frosty cartoon, you know, the one with Karen and the bunny in the hat and Frosty going to the North Pole by freight car -- it looked fainly Peanuts-like and I was unfamiliar with the plot. So I checked out Wikipedia and found that there were several Frosty cartoons (well, who knew?):

* Frosty's Winter Wonderland - In this 1976 sequel by Rankin-Bass, also written by Romeo Muller, narration is provided by Andy Griffith. Jackie Vernon reprised his role as the voice of Frosty.

* Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July - This 1979 Rankin-Bass sequel was filmed in stop-motion animation in the style of their classic 1964 Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Where Rudolph was 60 minutes, and all of the other Frosty specials were just 30 minutes, this ambitious special was feature length, at 97 minutes long.

* Frosty Returns - This 1992 half-hour special is not truly a sequel to the 1969 classic, as it was produced not by Rankin-Bass but by CBS. The characters, setting, and voices are different and the animation (by veteran Peanuts director Bill Melendez) is vastly different. Despite this, it is shown with the original special every year on CBS and was even included as a bonus on its DVD release.

* The Legend of Frosty the Snowman (2005) - Frosty returned again in 2005 with a made-for-video animated film produced by Classic Media (the current rights holder for the original Rankin/Bass special and the remainder of their pre-1974 library). This movie has also been bundled with the original 1969 Rankin/Bass special and the CBS sequel.

I'm just waiting for the next one -- Frosty Balboa.

Not a highly scientific study

OK, this is going to sound kind of bah humbug this close to Christmas, but see, I've been doing more driving than usual lately, what with all the Christmas shopping and other errands. And frankly, a lot of drivers really suck in the courtesy department.

I'm a nice person. Really, I am. When I drive, I always signal lane changes, I signal before I brake for a turn, and I will slow down to let a car into my lane in front of me. What really pisses me off are people who are not courteous, who view turning on their turn signal as meaning that they can merge blindly into your lane by Divine Right when really all a flashing turn signal signals is the intention to change lanes -- you know, like if there is *a space* between cars? Oh, and people who blithely change lanes without signals, trusting that since *they* know where they're going, that you should be able to figure it out too. Or the ones who stop dead in the middle of the road and *then* put on their turn signals. If they'd just reverse the order of those two actions, I wouldn't be screeching to a halt behind them wondering why they had suddenly stopped.

But, the people who annoy me most are those who don't wave or acknowledge it when you slow down or brake to let them into your lane, whether it's from another lane or from a side street or driveway. Really, is a little wave too much to ask? I wave. I wave every time.

So, this morning, on my fairly lengthy commute to work along March Road and Carling Avenue, I decided to conduct a little experiment. I would let people into my lane ahead of me, and I would keep track of how many gave the little 'thanks' wave. Here are the results:

Number of cars let in ahead of me: 10 (9 cars, one bus)
Number of waves: 5
Number of women wavers: 3
Number of men wavers: 2 (including very nice and enthusiastic wave from bus driver)
Number of men who didn't wave: 4
Number of women who didn't wave: 1

So, I'm going to conclude from this admittedly very small sample population (and no control group), that about half the drivers on the road this morning can be thought of as courteous, and that women drivers are more courteous, as 75% of the women waved, while only 33% of men waved.

I think I'm going to take the highway home tonight. The drivers may not be any nicer, but I'll get home quicker.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Things I will not do next Christmas

1. I will not spend all afternoon making a new and bragged-about recipe for my best friend's potluck Christmas party, and, after negotiating the icy, slippery, and long forested driveway safely, let my impatience to get into the house and have a beer cause me to try to twist open the front door knob while still holding the 9 x 13 pan of enchiladas, causing said pan to slip from my hands and land upside down on the front porch of the party house and ruining the dish.

2. I will not proceed to try to make myself feel better about the enchiladas and the presence of my ex and his girlfriend at the party by drinking a few too many beers.

3. I will not put up the Christmas tree the day after the big Christmas party after 3 hours of sleep and with a hangover.

4. I will not use the big yellow bucksaw to make a fresh cut on the bottom of the Chrismas tree trunk with a bad headache (see 3. above), the sawing motion and need to hold the trunk steady does not make the headache any better.

5. I will not put up the tree lights without paying attention to which end of the first string of lights plugs into the lighted star on the top of the tree. I will not spend 40 minutes carefully draping multiple strings of lights on the tree only to get to the bottom and go to plug it in and find that the end I'm holding has the little slots in it, and is not the plug end (see 3. above).

6. I will not say a lot of bad words without first checking that Rachel is out of earshot (see 5. above).

Friday, December 15, 2006

Girls' night

One of my sisters-in-law (ex-sister-in-law actually, but always and forever a good friend) forwarded me one of those e-mails that go around periodically. You know, the ones that let you know that you're a good friend and that you're appreciated, and usually come with animated gifs of kittens or angels. I usually read and delete, but this one, I hung onto. It was about girlfriends.

The text went like this:

Time passes. Life happens. Distance separates. Children grow up. Jobs come and go. Love waxes and wanes. Men don't call when they say they will. Hearts break. Marriages collapse. Parents die. Colleagues forget favors. Careers end.


Girlfriends are there, no matter how much time and how many miles are between you. A girlfriend is never farther away than needing her can reach.

When you have to walk that lonesome valley and you have to walk it by yourself, your girlfriends will be on the valley's rim, cheering you on, praying for you, pulling for you, intervening on your behalf, and waiting with open arms at the valley's end. Sometimes, they will even break the rules and walk beside you. Or come in and carry you out.

When we began this adventure called womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible joys or sorrows that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other. Every day, we need each other still.

And I was struck by the truth in that. I had always enjoyed having girlfriends, but had relegated them to the back burner, consumed with my husband and children, career and home. Surely *those* are the important commitments in your life? Marriage is supposed to be the rock you build your life on, your island, your home, the most important relationship you have. Until it isn't.

Now I'm sure most of you reading this have wonderful supportive marriages and will be happy for many, many years. But I didn't. And I didn't realize how important my girlfriends were (including my mother and sister) until it all unravelled. Some were my relatives and ex-sisters-in-law; some were friends in town, whom I see often; some were friends from places I used to live; and some were online friends, whom I've met once, or not at all. They were the ones who listened, and cried with me, and encouraged me, and formulated outlandish revenge scenarios to make me laugh -- they sent cards, they phoned, they e-mailed and posted, they came to visit and brought wine, they circled the wagons because one of their own was down. And there's no way to measure the worth of that.

Some of them are probably reading this now, and I want to tell them again how much it meant to me and still means even now, when life is good again. And I won't lose the lesson in all of this. Friends matter. Girlfriends are pearls beyond price. I won't forget that.

I've been thinking about all this because tonight is girls' night at my place. It kind of evolved organically. A friend is arriving from out of town today to spend Christmas at my place. She's just getting out of a bad marriage. Another couple of friends are at loose ends and needing some distraction, and so might be joining us. The beer is cold; there's a bottle of red wine on the counter; a fire is laid in the fireplace, waiting to be lit; a giant pot roast is in the slow cooker; and there's tons of extra bedding if a sleepover ensues. We have cards and movies, and plenty to talk about. We have each other. Sounds like the perfect evening to me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What to say?

So this morning was the normal scaled-down panic that weekday mornings usually are at our house -- Rae needing help putting on her tights but insisting on putting her toothpaste on her toothbrush herself (half the friggin tube, of course) and I'm ironing a pair of jeans (drying them in the dryer makes them shrink up that critical half inch too much, so I hang them and then iron them) when Leah, the only one ready, tugs on my robe and says to me, "Mom, is Santa fake?".

And the world slowed to a stop while I processed this and tried to answer quickly enough that it wouldn't look suspect, while desperately trying to figure out what to tell her, and still finish the ironing job. She's only 6. Well, almost 7, but I figured I had a good couple of years yet before Santa became an issue.

And so I answered, "Well, some of the Santas are fake; you know, the ones at the malls? They're just pretend, but Santa is real. Why do you ask? Did someone tell you Santa was fake?"

"Nope, I was just thinking." Leah is too analytical for her own good sometimes.

Now I'm worried that I might have planted the thought in her head accidentally. This morning at breakfast, Leah discovered that another one of her teeth is loose. While we were finishing breakfast I was saying that wouldn't it be funny if the tooth fairy and Santa ended up coming to the house on the same night? That maybe they'd bump into each other outside the house and maybe make a date for lunch. I should learn to shut my big mouth. I now think it's probable that the kids at school have told her there's no tooth fairy, and, following the logic through, she decided that Santa was probably fake too.

I hope I managed to reassure her. I would hate to think that she stopped believing in Santa this early. Do your kids still believe? How do you keep that up?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

It's very early

And already today is not going well. I'm trying to brew a third pot of coffee -- the first two failed, the filters bent and grounds got into the carafe. And I really, really need coffee today. I'm taking the girls to see their grandfather in Phoenix. They're thrilled. I'm a nervous wreck.

I'm not a good flyer at the best of times. And this isn't the best of times. An ice storm blew in yesterday -- freezing rain, ice pellets, snow, the works. So now I not only have to be afraid of vital pieces of the aircraft falling off, I have to worry about de-icing and bad weather. All while keeping up the facade of isn't-this-fun for the girls. Don't get me wrong, I love to travel, I just don't like flying. It doesn't stop me though, I figure I'll get used to it one of these days.

So, for the next week I'll be enjoying the warmth and sun of Arizona. It's my dad's 70th birthday, and my sister and her family are flying out too. Maybe having them on the plane will distract me some.

See you all next week, I'm off to see if there's coffee.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mommy, Eric's head came off

When you have little kids, you are omnipotent. You have God-like powers in their eyes. It's wonderful to be the centre of their lives and to have them trust that you can do anything, absolutely anything. Unfortunately, you can't always do it. Some things that are broken cannot be fixed. Three years ago, when we had to have Bogie, one of our beloved cats, put down due to a malignant tumour, I couldn't fix that for Leah, and it broke my heart. A year and a half ago, when my marriage crumbled, I couldn't fix that for the girls either, and it hurt. Because you want to be able to fix everything for your children, you want them to be happy, and whole, and content.

So, when something comes along that you *can* fix, and make right, like broken Nativity scene shepherds, you grab the chance to be there for your kids. Like when your four-year-old comes running crying into the kitchen when you're fixing dinner, and says, "Mommy, Eric's head came off!"

Eric is a boy Barbie. Not a Ken, mind you -- Kens were always kind of 50s-looking boring guys. I don't know what this one's actual given name was, but Rae named him Eric (probably because Leah named her boy Barbie Derek). Eric is buff. He's a blond surfer dude wearing a white tee shirt and surfer trunks. Rae was crying. "I was just trying to make him bend, and his head came off."

"Don't worry, I can fix that", I said, remembering the ease with which I had re-attached girl Barbies' heads in the past. You merely had to push and twist the little mushroom-shaped protruberance at the end of the neck back into the hole on the body. Simple, no?

Well, no, actually. It seems that with the boy Barbies, there is a hard disc that comes out of the mushroom-shaped protruberance, which is (and this is the important part) *larger* than the hole in the body. The disk slots into a groove in the inside of the neck-hole and allows Eric's head to turn. How Rae managed to get the head out of there, I'll never know. The front of the body and the back of the body are two separate parts that are joined together somehow. (At the factory, they must put the head on one half of the body before attaching the second half.) After a bunch of futile pushing and twisting, I realized that to get Eric's head back on, I would have to pry the two parts of the body apart a little in order to get the disc back into the slot. Steak knives didn't work. Thin pieces of plastic didn't work. Eric and his head went up on the shelf for a couple of days while I thought about it.

Then, while getting some tools to put together an IKEA tv table I had bought, I found the needle-nose pliers. Aha! Maybe if I put the pliers into the neck hole and then opened them up, it would force the two sides of the body apart enough to pop the head back in. The trick was to push hard enough to separate the two halves without breaking them apart entirely. It was a tense 15 minutes, but I'm happy to report that Eric has made a full recovery.

Rae was happy to have Eric back in one piece, but wasn't very effusive with her thanks and was quite matter-of-fact about the whole thing, which put me off for a minute -- until I realized that it was because all along she expected that I could do it -- I'm her Mommy and I can do anything. It's a hard rep to live up to, but it feels good when you can pull it off.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Me and Ursula? Who knew?

I love James Bond. Yup, the tuxedos, the martinis, the exotic locales, the double entendres, the fast cars, the chase scenes, the nifty spy gadgets -- what's not to like? And the Jameses -- all of them a little different, all with their pros and cons. Sean Connery with his sexy Scottish accent and more rough-hewn charms, Roger Moore's suaveness, Timothy Dalton (who I rather liked) with his athletic build and good looks, and now Daniel Craig, the newcomer -- I'll reserve judgment until I get to the movies to check him out.

And the Bond girls. Always so beautiful, accomplished and deadly. What woman hasn't wanted in her secret heart to be a Bond girl? I know I did. Then I stumbled on this quiz "Which Bond girl are you" and found out that I'm Honey Ryder from "Dr. No". Cool.

Which Bond girl are you? Take the quiz from the link (Take this Quiz!) below the picture, and drop me a comment to let me know.

Which Bond Girl Are You?

You are Honey Ryder -- free-spiritied, nature-loving, and adventurous. Your response to "you can't do that" has always been to do it, and you're way to smart to get caught. You're a bit of a loner, but that just makes you more mysteriously attractive.
Take this quiz!

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Scenes from the salon

I went to get my hair cut on Thursday evening. Now, I'm not one of those people who return religiously to the stylist every 6 weeks to keep the cut looking good. I'm much more the person who lives with the hair for months until the moment when it starts to drive her insane, and then wants an appointment Right This Minute. And I do enjoy it when I go. It's a little bit of adult pampering -- I arrive, and while I wait, they bring me a cup of coffee, and then there's the gossiping and catching up while my hair is being washed and cut, and sometimes coloured. It's a little oasis from being a mom, a bit of me time.

Until last Thursday. I had arranged for my next-door-neighbour, Connie, to take the girls for the hour or so that it would take for me to go to the salon down in the village. Thursday morning, Rachel woke up with a weepy, crusty case of pink eye. Connie runs a home daycare. She was more than happy to take Leah, but couldn't risk having Rachel around. So Rachel came with me to the salon.

And all in all, she was pretty good. But it really was not the same experience that I usually enjoy. I brought crayons and a colouring book to keep her amused, and one of the stylists gave her a manniquin head with long hair, a bunch of clips and a hairbrush, which kept her occupied for about 20 minutes. She kept up a constant monologue while she was doing this and entertained the other stylists to no end. And, in listening in while I had my hair cut, I learned some things about my daughter that she hadn't told me.

"Ginette, who drives the school bus to school, says that we're little monkeys. But Aiden says we're just humans. Then Ginette said we're human monkeys."

"I really like Anna and Sierra in my class. But they are just so small. Compared with me. I'm pretty tall, you know, for a girl. But not so much for a boy."

"I have a pink eye. That's why I can't go to Connie's with Leah. I wonder if I could get a green eye next."

"My favourite song is on one of Mommy's CDs and it's called 'SomebodytoldmethatyouhadaboyfriendthatlookslikeagirlfriendthatIhadinFebruaryoflastyear'. Really, that's what it's called."

"I like to walk around with my eyes closed. Sometimes it's not a good idea."

"Sometimes, when I'm sad, Leah gives me a hug. She's a good sister."

It's funny the chances you get to learn about your children if you'll just listen.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Now that I'm back from San Diego and have finally gone through all the photos I took while I was there, there were a few I'd forgotten taking. They made me laugh in one case and roll my eyes in disbelief in the other. They were photos of signs. I present them to you now without further rambling.

OK, so this kind of makes sense. Warning pedestrians to beware of vehicles. This sign was posted where the pedestrian walkway crossed over the laneway to the underground parking at the hotel.

Then, there was this, where the driveway crossed the sidewalk:

Now that just cracked me up. I could see "Caution, pedestrians" or maybe "Watch out for Pedestrians", but "Beware"? Like pedestrians were going to leap suddenly from the bushes and throw themselves onto the windshields of passing cars while screaming and brandishing machetes, lol.

Oh, and the one below, which was posted on the wall of the room where we had our banquet:

Yeah, that's really going to whet your appetite for the Mexican buffet. I can only surmise that California is such a litigious state that hotels and restaurants post signs like these to cover their butts in case of lawsuits. Either that, or I had a nice asbestos sandwich and didn't notice.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hypothetical dating question

Ok, so if I hypothetically had a date, and had decided on a hypothetical sweater which clings to my hypothetical curves and is low cut enough to show some cleavage (actual rather than hypothetical); and if I had 2 hypothetical bras to choose from, one of which is kind of a push-up bra that pretty well makes those puppies defy gravity (which considering 2 pregnancies and 2 years of breastfeeding is tantamount to false advertising) but is kind of plain looking; versus one that is pretty and lacy and mesh-y and lets a tantalizing glimpse of lace peek out of the neckline but doesn't lift the girls quite so high; which one would you pick?

Yes, I know that was a run-on sentence and I don't care. Hypothetically, I know which one I picked, um I mean would pick, hypothetically. Which one would you?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

It's just a pie

One of my girlfriends was asking why my blog is called "Party of 3' but the URL is Well, when I was deciding to start writing a blog, I was trying to decide between the two names, and came to the conclusion that "Party of 3" described my life with my girls more accurately. "But where did 'it's just a pie' come from?", she asked.

It comes from a story about Leah, and how she loves to surprise people, and how she always wants the best things to happen to the people she loves. And she loves a lot of people.

My friend Shell and her husband had to travel out of town, and their two daughters, Maggie and Becca were staying with me. Now, Bec is 16 and Mags had turned 19 the day before, so they didn't need babysitting per se -- what they needed was a chauffer to drive them to and from work and social engagements. Also, Mags had spent Thursday, her 19th birthday, getting her wisdom teeth taken out. And therefore she hadn't had a special dinner, or a cake, or the rite of passage for every Ontario nineteen-year-old: going out drinking legally for the first time. Instead, swollen-cheeked like a chipmunk, she was ensconced on my couch with an ice pack and a Vogue magazine.

On Saturday, Becca was at work, and I took the girls with me grocery shopping to give Maggie some quiet time. While I was pushing the cart around the store, Leah was unusually quiet. "What's up?", I asked. "I was just thinking, Maggie didn't have a cake for her birthday. Can we buy her one and surprise her?", she said. I thought that was a great idea and we went to the bakery section where Leah picked out a cake covered in bright red icing roses and we had 'Happy Birthday, Maggie' written on it.

Pulling into the driveway, we were discussing the best way to get the rather distinctive looking cake box into the house without Maggie seeing it. Leah thought for a minute and said, "what if you held it behind your back and then I could walk right behind you and help you carry it and no one would know." I pictured it for a moment, but knew it would end badly, so I said, "Let's just get it inside without saying anything and hope she doesn't see it." This plan was pretty well ruined when Maggie came out the front door to help bring the groceries in. I saved the box til last, and brought it in and put it on the counter behind the bags of groceries. I knew Mags had seen it and was smiling.

Then Leah had a stroke of genius. She decided that misdirection was the answer. Pushing the grocery bags aside, she pointed to the box and said, "Maggie, see this box? Don't worry! It's just a pie. Just a pie." The earnest expression on her face and the dismissive hand gestures just cracked Mags and I up. We managed to hold the laughter in until Leah ran off to her room, but then laughed so hard that "don't worry, it's just a pie" has entered the lexicon of in-jokes that our families share. And to this day, Leah loves to tell the story of how she fooled Maggie and surprised her with a birthday cake.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

La casa del estrogen

We live in an all-girl house. The toilet seat is never up, except for cleaning the toilet. Every last one of us knows how to replace the toilet paper roll, and does it without complaining or being reminded. We dance a lot, and sing very loudly and badly to vintage 1980s Madonna songs. We tend to wander around half-dressed if we feel like it, and I'm sure that modesty is something that I'm going to have to teach the girls, since they will shuck their clothes in the living room if the mood takes them.

I was saying yesterday to Rachel that wasn't it nice to live in an all-girl house, and she replied, "But Elvis is a boy". Well, maybe chromosomally the cat still qualifies, but that's about it. She then went on to tell me, "You know, you don't really need a boyfriend, you have Elvis." Where did THAT come from? Advice from a four-year-old: date the cat.

Hmmmm, species aside, he's small, furry, toothless, and neutered. Not exactly what I was looking for in a boyfriend.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Back home

It's official. I have now had enough Mexican food and margaritas to last me, oh, say 3 years. Or til the next time the group from work decides to go to Feleena's in the Glebe. Whichever comes first.

Cali was awesome! I loved every minute of the trip. Seeing my friends, rooming with Evelyn, talking shop with colleagues, spending time sitting outside in flower-strewn courtyards (in November!), eating Mexican food and drinking margaritas -- what's not to like?! The conference sessions were interesting, and amazingly enough, presented ideas that we can use here at work.

My talk went well, but since I had a bad time slot, right after lunch, a lot of people came in late while I was talking and it put me off a little, but other than that, I was satisfied with how I did.

We went on a great geology field trip on a boat. Normally our field trips are by bus and we are always getting off to look at the rocks, then back on, repeat, repeat, repeat; so it was so different, and great, to just stand on deck and have someone tell us all about what we were seeing -- wave-cut terraces, mesas, ancient river deltas -- very cool. Also cool was seeing the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz which was anchored in the harbour, and a bunch of (well, 2) submarines.

We also got up close and personal with some sea lions and pelicans on a floating dock in the middle of the harbour. I kept expecting the latter to start speaking like Geoffery Rush, lol. And after all that, they opened the bar and then served us a truly spectacular Mexican buffet aboard the ship while we cruised the harbour and went under the Coronado bridge.

The only drawback was that the hotel seemed to have the most, ummmm....intellectually challenged front desk staff of any place I've ever stayed. Honestly, they were friendly enough, but not very smart -- like a litter of slow Golden Retriever pups. I had made reservations more than a month ago; a single non-smoking room for Linda, my supervisor; and a double smoking room for Evelyn and me. Ev smokes, and it doesn't bother me to be around it for the few days we would be together. So we arrive at the front desk, tired after flying Ottawa-Chicago, then Chicago-San Diego, just wanting to flop on a bed and decompress for a couple of minutes, only to be faced with Roy the Wonder Clerk. He gave us our key cards and a map of the hotel, which is actually a compound of white adobe, tile-roofed buildings connected by walkways, galleries, and courtyards, and off we went, dragging our luggage behind us.

Ten minutes later we arrived at our room on a second-floor gallery. Front and centre was the no smoking sign on the door. We bumped our luggage back down to the ground and through the walkways back to the lobby. I explained that we had reserved a smoking room. Roy looked like he was thinking very hard. (Roy was about 22, kind of punk-looking, and his name tag said he was from New York.) Without so much as a 'sorry' he took the key cards, searched the computer and gave us a new room. This one was on the second floor of a building without an elevator, so we bumped our wheeled luggage up a steep flight of stairs and then down another gallery to our new room. It was a lovely room. It was a smoking room. It was also a single room. So I left Ev to have a smoke and I went back to the front desk to try to straighten things out. When I told Roy that it was a lovely room, but it was a single, he just looked at me. I'm not sure that anything was going on behind that blank face. I explained that since there were two of us that two beds would be a nice idea, and once again he turned to the computer for a bit, only to tell me that a) there were no double smoking rooms available, and b) there were now no double rooms at all available since he had given them out to other guests checking in while we were on our wild goose chase.

I pointed out that we had just been given a double room not 20 minutes before, and could he please check if it was still available. Giving a sigh like I had just asked for a kidney or a testicle or something instead of asking him to, I don't know, *do his job*, he looked again and grudgingly gave us back the key cards to the first room we had been given. Ay caramba! We were soooo ready for the margaritas!

The scenery was beautiful, and I never got tired of seeing these gorgeous plants, plants that in the past I've paid a fortune for, just growing in people's yards or in giant pots in the courtyards of the hotel. I was slightly tempted to never come home, but you know, I'm Canadian enough to miss the winter. Oh, and my daughters. Yeah, I'd miss them too, of course.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Going to California with an aching in my heart

Well, not really. (Apologies to Led Zeppelin.)

I *am* going to California, tomorrow morning, and I have to be at the Ottawa airport at some ungodly hour of the morning. But my heart will definitely not be aching. Nor will I be posting to this blog for a few days.

I'm hoping everything will be OK on the home front, where a friend of mine and her daughter will be looking after my girls. And I'm so looking forward to a few days of talking to colleagues, catching up with old friends, going on a really interesting coastal geology field trip, and eating at restaurants where you pay for the food *after* you eat it (and where no clowns are involved in the process). I'm not even nervous about giving my talk. Well, not too nervous. It's almost finished, and I've been practising, but could always use another guinea pig to listen to it...

Anybody interested in public access to government-gathered geological information? Anybody? Hello?

(See you next week.)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Happy Birthday to me

It's my birthday today.

I'm a big fan of birthdays. I like my birthday, and I see no reason to stop liking it just because it's coming with bigger and bigger numbers attached. Not that I have much planned for tonight; nothing, in fact, except dinner, homework, bath, and stories with the girls, but that's OK, spending my b-day with my favourite people in the whole wide world is an evening to look forward to. I've had a few e-mails, a couple of phone calls, and a shout-out from the mommies in my online mommies' group to commemorate the occasion. I feel loved.

It's a blessing to mark another year going by and realize how good my life is right now. My girls, my job, my home, and my wide and ever-increasing circle of friends are all things to be celebrated and cherished.

That being said, there are still a few things I would like to have in the coming year:
  • I would like never to have to be trapped with Rachel in full tantrum mode in the changing room at Walmart ever again. (We were all in there for Leah to try on a pair of jeans, when Rae, at the end of her tiny little rope with boredom, pitched such a fit that I fully expected to see Ottawa City Police, the SWAT team, and the Children's Aid Society waiting for us on our exit from the cubicle.)
  • I would like to purchase Leah a pair of girls' jeans that *does not* come with those idiotic adjustable elastic band/button deals for adjusting the fit at the waist. The buttons chafe, and if they become unmoored, her pants slide down her skinny hips.
  • I would like someone to decree that sparkly/glittery eyeshadow is out, and matte is in. Please do this soon, I'm almost out of my lovely matte Estee Lauder makeup.
  • I would like the powers- that-be at CTV to decide that the icky bodies and gore of C.S.I. are less damaging to small children who might still be up at 8 p.m. than the wonderful smut of Grey's Anatomy, and switch the air time for the two shows. That way I won't keep missing the first 10 minutes of Grey's taking Rachel in one last drink of water/finding the missing toy/general small-child stalling tactics.
  • I would like more time for blogging.
  • I would like Rachel to stop with the semifrequent and always-in-the-right-context use of the word 'damn'. (Wonder where she heard that.) Telling her it's a bad word just seems to make it more alluring.
If you could help with any of these things on my wish list, I'd be happy to share my cake and ice cream with you.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Where's Greg?

I work from home on Fridays. It's a good thing. This morning I was emerging from the dark basement where the computer lives, and where I work when I'm at home, to visit the bathroom. While going past the living room, I realized that I had left the TV on. It was Good Morning Canada, and the Wiggles were on. The first thing I noticed is that they're looking kind of old. Anthony has a fair bit of grey in his closely shorn hair. But then, I looked at the guy in the yellow shirt and

It. Wasn't. Greg. WTF? Who was this guy, and what have they done with Greg?

My family's relationship with the Wiggles goes back 6 years when Leah was a year old. My sister gave us a Wiggles video, and though I failed to see the charm in these four strange men, Leah was enchanted. The "Fruit Salad" video could ensure me 20 minutes to make dinner, or fold a load of laundry. When she was 3, Leah told me that Greg was her boyfriend. I always had my doubts about these guys -- have you ever seen the bizarre puppet video on "Fruit Salad"? The song is "Can you point your finger and do the twist" and it's the Wiggles puppets, these scary-looking paper maché guys that bop around with their little fingers pointed, against a bad psychadelic multi-coloured background. The whole thing looks like a bad acid trip flashback. Rachel won't watch it 'cause it creeps her out.

My online mommies' group once spent a giggle-filled week posting back and forth on the subject of "If you had to sleep with a Wiggle, which one would you choose". (A digression, I know, but I'm desperate for enough Wiggle-related material to fill a blog posting.)

Anyway, I consulted Wikipedia, and apparently he has a 'mystery illness'. Poor Greg. I hope he gets better soon, 'cause the new guy.....not cutting it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Well, that explains it

Newsflash: according to the next-door neighbour, the neighbour across the street was seen cleaning up a smashed pumpkin from the street at the end of his driveway at about 8:30 p.m. on Halloween night. I guess I know what happened to my jack o'lantern.

Now it's time to gear up and get things in order since I'm attending a conference in San Diego (!) starting next Wednesday. I'm very excited, since I've never been to California before, and this conference, which I attend almost every year, is more often in such exciting locales as Troy, NY; Tulsa, OK; Sudbury, ON, Shepherdstown, WV; and Whitefish, MT.*

An amazingly good friend and her 16-yr-old daughter are moving into my house for a few days to look after the girls so that I can attend and present a paper at the conference. Note to self: get going on writing presentation.

*No offence meant to people who live in any of the above places, I myself lived in Sudbury for 5 years and it's a lovely town, but, damn, San Diego! The Pacific Ocean, the beaches, the palm trees, the non-requirement for heavy sweaters, the people who've never heard of snow tires. You have to admit it's a cool destination (Way cool, my friend Norah would say), especially taking into account Ottawa weather in November. Now all I need is a leopard-print silk scarf and some wicked sunglasses and I'm all set.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I wonder if this ever happened to Rodin?

Last night's trick or treating went very well. Unexpectedly warm weather made the annual round of the neighbourhood a pleasant outing instead of the usual sleet/cold rain/occasional snow flurry extravaganza, with all Halloween costumes hidden under snow suits. In the rush to get home from work and pick the girls up from daycare, get supper and get everyone costumed up and ready to go, I neglected to take any pictures of the girls in their costumes or of the lit jack o'lantern. Around 6, we set up the jack o'lantern out on the front porch and put bowls of candy out ready for the goblins (hoping that the first kids by didn't just empty the bowls into their bags) and set out.

We were home by about 7:15 with bags bulging with chips and candy. After the kids were in bed, not too badly sugared-up, I went out on the porch to blow out the candle in the jack o'lantern, only to find it gone. Gone! And I hadn't even taken a picture of my masterpiece. I looked around and the neighbours' pumpkins were still all there, merrily flickering away, but mine was gone. Damn.

I'm trying to console myself with the thought that someone was so overcome with admiration for my carving abilities that they were helpless to stop themselves making off with my truly stellar flaming skull jack o'lantern. Well, that and the fact that now I don't have to store a decomposing pumpkin in my garage til next garbage day.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

It's certainly fitting that it's Halloween today, seeing as I'm staggering around work like a zombie. I was up waaay too late last night preparing for tonight and I'm tired. I don't know why it is, but I always seem to seriously underestimate the length of time it's going to take to carve a pumpkin. And honestly, it's not one of my favourite pastimes. The kids always want to help, and there are just too many knives involved for my liking. So I bought a pumpkin carving kit at the dollar store which consists of several spooky stencils, a little serrated saw/knife, and a thing for poking holes in the pumpkin that you use to outline the lines on the stencil once it's taped to the pumpkin.

Well the first stroke of luck was that Rae fell asleep during dinner so I was spared the battle over helping use sharp implements and the bedtime battle. Yeah, I could have woken her, but she'd eaten most of her dinner and hey, she can have a bath tonight. So I carried her into bed and began to eviscerate the pumpkin. (Leah: Mommy, what does eviscerate mean? Me: to pull the guts out of. Leah: Oh. So when Elvis pees outside his litter box, you get so mad you'd like to eviscerate him? Me: Ummm. Something like that.) That was the thickest-walled pumpkin I've ever met. I swear, it was 4 inches thick all the way around. So Leah and I chose a stencil and taped it on and she began to punch the little holes through the stencil into the pumpkin.

Suddenly it was 8 p.m. and time for her to go to bed with the stencil only half picked out. As I was tucking her in, she said sleepily, "Don't forget the treats for school tomorrow." Treats? School? Tomorrow? CRAP. That's right, it was in the newsletter, I knew that. Rae is off the hook for contributions for the JK Halloween party, but Leah is supposed to bring something to share. "Don't worry," I tell her, "you'll have treats".

So, long story short, I was up til past 11 carving a flaming skull into a pumpkin and making a batch of ginger cookies while listening to the Tragically Hip way too loud and wondering if I should break into the bottle of home-made red wine I was given as a souvenir of last weekend's wedding that has the bride and groom's picture on it.

I didn't. But I'm feeling so tired today that I wish I had. I couldn't feel any worse.

Monday, October 30, 2006

My dress ate my pantyhose. Seriously.

Well, the wedding was fun. It was worth the nine-hour drive, with me just getting over Rachel's stomach flu, to be with family and friends at my ex's niece's wedding. The bride was radiant and so, so beautiful. The hall was elegant, the food delicious, the music, well, it was fun to dance to. Everything was perfect except for my carnivorous dress.

When I was invited to this wedding I realized it was time to buy a new dress. I thought back and realized that the last nice dress I bought myself wedding dress. Yipes! So I found this beautiful sheath dress. Two layers: a bright red shiny satin with a black net overlay with beaded designs on it. It was elegant and different and made me feel gorgeous. It has only one drawback. It ate my pantyhose. No, really, it did. You see, when I sat down, the shiny underlayer rode up on my thighs, leaving the net layer, with its glued-on beads (prickly dried glue) to rub against my knees. After the church, it was just a few annoying pulls. By halfway through the dinner the ladders were starting (heading upwards, thank goodness), but were hidden when I stood up. By the time the reception was over and a bunch of us were back at the bride's parents' house to continue the party, I no longer had knees in my pantyhose. Now *there's* a ladylike look to strive for -- white knees poking through torn black nylons.

This is me, and my knees, sitting with my ex-brother-in-law and father of the bride.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Alison to Universe: enough already!

It's official: you win. I'm totally waving the white flag.

Did you ever get the feeling that something bigger than yourself was toying with you for its own amusement?

It has not been a good week in our household. Some kind of Norwalk-type virus has taken up residence at our house and the girls and I are lurching around like reanimated corpses (and looking pretty bad too) to and from the bathroom. Rae started it first. She had the amazingly good judgment to have the first phase of the virus, the projectile vomiting phase, at her dad's house last Saturday night. (Love that kid.) Sunday she was pale and tired, but OK, and I let her go to school Monday to go on her very first field trip to a pumpkin farm.

Tuesday she wasn't feeling well again, and though I took her to her caregiver, she didn't go to school. Tuesday evening, I'm trying to get a bunch of things done at once. See, we're driving 10 hours tomorrow to go to a family wedding, and I've been so busy with work and the girls and trying to have a little fun on the weekend when the girls were at their dad's that I didn't do the grocery shopping. And the girls needed haircuts. So the big plan was to pick them up from daycare, drive to Stittsville to get haircuts, eat at McD's and then groceries and home. Sounds easy, right?

It was a dark and stormy night. Seriously. By the time I had picked them up, it was raining heavily and very windy. We get into town and to one of those walk-in hair places. Leah tells the lady she wants her hair cut to her shoulders (it was 3 inches past). I said, "Are you sure you want it that short?". Leah: "yes". Leah 10 minutes later (sobbing): "I don't like my hair, it's too short". So I'm trying to comfort her and she's complaining her tummy hurts. Rachel is being pretty good.

We go to McDonalds and I'm not hungry so I get a coffee and a happy meal for the kids and though Rae is doing pretty good, Leah is picking at her food. "My tummy hurts", she says. The hardest thing about being a single mom is that sometimes you just have to bring the kids with you, even when they're sick. I said, "do you think you can hang on for a quick grocery shop? Then I'll bring you right home, I promise". So off we went. And she did hang on. Right up until we were at the checkout, and she looked at me all stricken and leaned over and deposited her dinner on the floor in the checkout aisle. Poor thing. When we got home and I put everyone to bed, I started feeling kind of off too.

Then yesterday I went for my first-ever mammogram. They called me last week to set up an appointment. "Wednesday, 10:30, General Hospital, second floor, module X", the lady said, and I very carefully wrote down in my work agenda: Wednesday, 10:30, Riverside Hospital, second floor, module X". So I'm so proud of myself for arriving nice and early at the Riverside and when I ask at the information place for the directions to Module X, the lady looks at me all pityingly and says, "Dear, that's at the General." CRAP. I race back out to the car and drive like a maniac to the General, which is only a few kilometres away, but has possibly the world's worst parking garage. It has absolutely NO signs inside telling you how to get into the hospital. I was only about 10 minutes late, so they show me into a cubicle and tell me to take off everything above the waist and put on a robe. I pick up the robe. It has 3 armholes. Three! Great, they are apparently using so much radiation that I will be a mutant when this whole procedure is over. Then I see the little sign explaining how to put the 3-armed robe on. Whew.

The procedure was uncomfortable, but not the horror story I had heard about. It was now lunchtime, so I decided to do a bit of shopping before I went back to the office. I went into the mall through the Zellers and found myself gravitating to the underwear section. Hmmmm. I need some new undies. Pretty undies. (You know, the dating thing.) Sometime, someone might be seeing me in undies, and the stretched-out white cotton 'Hanes her way' just aren't going to cut it. So I grab some pretty, lacy, sexy bras and head into the change room. I found the perfect one. Just as I'm heading out of the change room with my slightly slutty new underwear (they had matching lacy boy-cut tap pant undies) what do I hear from the store's stereo system? Bruce Springsteen wailing, "...tramps like us, baby we were born to run...".

OK Universe. You win. But stay out of my private life.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Missing summer

Now that Thanksgiving's over, and all the warm and fuzzy cravings for cooking turkey and pies and home-made soups and pulling big sweaters out of the closet have lost their newness; and now that rain has beaten most of the leaves from the trees so that they lie on the sodden grass like colourful litter; and now that the trees are assuming the faintly threatening, witchy outlines of winter bareness, I find I'm missing summer.

It was a good summer -- one of the best. The girls and I spent time at a beautiful cottage with family and friends, and I got to revel in some of the things and people that I had ignored or overlooked or missed out on in the waning years of my marriage. It truly was a season of renewal for me and for my girls. I'm sad to see it go. Autumn and winter seem so busy and full, and in good a way, but missing the lazy magic of the summer.

I'm so glad I took pictures. Lots and lots of pictures to keep me going til next summer.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dating is weird

I've been on my own now for 15 months. I'm starting to dip my toes back into the dating pool. It sure feels weird.

The last time I was dating, I was 17. Now I'm almost 43. Things have changed. And I don't even know if I can still buy Bonne Belle lipsmacker lip gloss (strawberry flavour, please). Or get tickets to see a Humble Pie/Blue Oyster Cult show. Or go parking down by the salt mine. Or any of the myriad things I used to do waaay back when when I was dating my ex those 25 years ago.

I don't know how to date as a grown-up. I sure hope it turns out to be as fun as it used to be.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Inappropriate songs

Living with kids means a certain amount of sacrifice when it comes to music. At first it's such fun, the kiddie CDs, the Disney songs, the Sharon, Lois and Bram songs (is anyone else flashing back to the Peanut Butter and Jelly song?) that start out sweet and fun, but repeated listenings morph them into a torture worthy of the Inquisition. Even Singing in the Bathtub by John Lithgow, possibly the best children's CD EVER, gets a bit scream-inducing after 18 consecutive plays. Generally, I've given in and played the girls what they want to hear around the house -- lately, though, I've just been playing my own CDs. And one in particular that the 16 yr old daughter of a friend made for me.

It's got some fun stuff on it: KT Tunstall, the Fray, Broken Social Scene, Ben Folds, Kathleen Edwards, and a couple from Great Big Sea. I like to play it in the car, and the girls 'woo hoo' and 'no, no, no, no" along with KT on 'Black Horse and the Cherry Tree'. The first song on the CD is Great Big Sea's cover of the Spirit of the West classic, 'Home for a Rest'. It's rousing and vaguely Irish sounding and a lot of fun to sing along to. And I tend to, in the car. And the other day, as we drove home from daycare, I was in a good mood and singing the lyrics of the chorus:

You'll have to excuse me, I'm not at my best,
I've been gone for a week, I've been drunk since I left.
And these so-called vacations will soon be my death,
I'm so sick from the drink, I need home for a rest.

And then I noticed the sweet, piping voices of my girls in the back seat, singing along. Word-perfect at singing this lament of a misspent booze-filled jaunt to London. Crap. That's going to go down well with their dad if they sing it when they're at his place on the weekend. Yep, mother of the year here. I moved pretty damn quickly to turn the CD player off before the next song came on: 'I Kissed a Drunk Girl' by Something Corporate. Let's not make things worse, people.

But, I guess it *could* be worse. A friend of mine has an angelic 3 yr old and a taste for Johnny Cash. There's nothing like seeing this little girl, fine brown hair cut in a bowl shape, big blue eyes, belting out, "I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Blog weirdness

So I finally inch my toes up to the edge of the abyss and, well, if I don't exactly leap out yelling 'Geronimo' as I launch my blog, then at least I have a quiet sense of satisfaction. Now I have one as well. Like those Saturn jeans I wanted in Grade 7 (dating myself, I know, I know), and now maybe I can be one of the cool girls too. Maybe.

I've been reading another blog lately, Postcards from the Mothership, and enjoying it. (Pardon me for being too much of a newbie to make a link here in the text; Google it, it's a fun read.) I've even been commenting on the posts. The little comment box that pops up ask for a name, an e-mail address, and a URL. My comments have so far been posted with only my name. Looking at the other comments, I noticed a blue 'homepage' next to the names of the commenters. Interested, I clicked on a few and was connected to another bunch of interesting blogs.

"Cool", I thought and then, "Hey, I have a blog now", and I commented on yesterday's entry in Postcards from the Mothership, merrily entering the URL for my brand new blog in the little window. I posted my comments, and then being the sort of person I am, I clicked on the 'homepage' beside my name and.......was somehow redirected to an Ebay feedback page for someone called Longheart 130. WTF?

I have no idea what form of Internet juju caused that to happen. Clicked on it a few time, but the same redirect happened. On the bright side, Longheart 130 seems to have a stellar rep. Guess I shouldn't have tried to, in effect, say to those other bloggers who are all posting to each other's posts, "look at me, look at me, I've got a blog too!", cause I look pretty silly.

Krazy Glue is not my friend

A short list of things that I have krazy glued to myself:
  • the broken handle of a Brita water pitcher
  • a Nativity scene shepherd
  • the kitchen counter top
and, most recently
  • a black cat Halloween pendant with flashing red lightbulb eyes, and, at the same time,
  • my right middle finger to my right ring finger.
The shepherd was probably the most traumatic -- for the girls, that is. It was last Christmas and we were decorating the house for our first big holiday without their dad living with us.

Both girls wanted to put the Nativity scene up on the mantel. I got it out and arranged the figures. It's not an expensive set, the figures are a hard plastic that looks like ceramic. I turned my back to get some candles out of the cupboard (because nearly every freaking Christmas ornament for my mantelpiece needs a tea light in it), and turned back just in time to see Rachel on the stool from the bathroom teetering on the tile hearth, trying to rearrange the little people. Two shepherds hit the hearth and their feet broke off. Both girls were in tears. It's OK, I told them, Mommy has Krazy Glue. I'll fix those shepherds and you won't even know they were broken.

Carefully, I figured out which pair of feet went with which shepherd. I performed the first reattachment with all the skill of a surgeon. Perfect. The second operation needed a bit more fiddling to get the ankles to line up on the feet, but, finally he too was in one piece, ready to adore the infant Jesus. Or at least he would have been, if he hadn't been stuck to my finger.

Well, after a little hot water, some nail-polish remover and some brute force, shepherd number two was back on the mantel with his co-worker, not looking too worse for wear except for the little curly piece of skin stuck to his leg.

Fast forward to the latest run-in. This was considerably more traumatic for me. I read somewhere that a second marriage is a triumph of hope over experience, but in my books second marriages are not nearly so foolish as repeated usages of Krazy Glue. Leah brought her dollar-store Halloween necklace to me. The pendant part had parted from the little eye screw that held it to the neclace part. Out came the KG with nary a sinister chord sounding in the background to warn me that this was A Very Bad Idea.

I glued the little eye screw back into the pendant. I also glued the pendant and my ring finger to my right middle finger. And the ring finger was bent while the middle finger was straight, resulting in finger cramps. Hot water and nail-polish remover did not work this time. So, against my better judgment, and in total desperation, out came the exacto knife. Did I mention that I'm right-handed? You do realize that this means that I was attempting to sever the glue bond with a very sharp instrument being held in a hand that doesn't have the motor control to scrawl my name on paper with a crayon. It was a tense couple of minutes, but I'm glad to report that Leah is wearing her necklace, and I'm typing this with two hands and ten separate fingers.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It's quiet. Yeah, TOO quiet.

You know that part in the movies, where the hero and the sidekick are sitting around the campfire in the jungle/hostile Indian territory/alien planet, and the sidekick looks around apprehensively and says, "It's quiet"? And then the hero says, "Yeah, *too* quiet", right before the tiger/Indian raiding party/horrible alien monster bursts into the clearing?

Well there I was in the kitchen Sunday, trying to release my inner Martha (I had a triple batch of bean and ham soup simmering and I was peeling my way through a pile of apples for pie) when I noticed it was very, very quiet in the house. TOO quiet. Then I heard a noise, a sticky noise, the noise that one of the little rubber duck cutouts makes when it's being peeled off the bottom of the bathtub. And I thought, "what the hell?" and went off to investigate. I slid open the shower doors to find both girls and assorted stuffed animals and a set of keys (?!) sitting playing in the empty bathtub. Leah was fine, but Rae's hair was all sticky-greasy and plastered to the side of her head. She had all but emptied the pump bottle of conditioner that was sitting on the corner of the bathtub and smeared it into her hair, sweater and pant legs. They KNOW they're not supposed to play in the bathroom. I think they do these things to drive me crazy on purpose.

Well, on the bright side, Rae's very shiny and manageable now, lol.