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.