Saturday, December 29, 2007

Holiday travel*

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a child in possession of a bladder must be in want of a bathroom stop -- even if the child in question peed 32 minutes previously at the last rest stop and you are cruising along the 401 through Toronto doing 120, just passing Avenue Road in the far left fast lane of the express lanes which necessitates crossing the 12 or so lanes of express traffic, merging into the collector lanes, crossing the 9 or so lanes of collector traffic, finding an exit, finally exiting at Weston Rd and finding a McDonald's in the dark, in heavy traffic.

Holiday travel is so. much. fun.

I am posting from my sister's in Belle River, will be posting from home again by January 2nd. Happy New Year, everyone!!

*Apologies to Jane Austen

Monday, December 24, 2007

On the first day of Christmas

My true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear birch tree.

At least I think it was a partridge. It looked like a partridge. It might have been a ruffed grouse, maybe. I'm sure about the tree, though, 100%. But as I was sneaking around the house early in the morning in my bathrobe (back in October when I took this picture) I only managed to snap it in silhouette before my across-the-street neighbour came out of his house whistling, and the bird flapped away before I could get a better picture.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy the holidays however you celebrate them. Be happy and safe.

Now where do I find turtledoves?

Friday, December 21, 2007

All she wants for Christmas

4:17 a.m. this morning:

Leah [calling]: "Mom? Mom, can you come in here?"
Me [struggling out of bed]: "What's wrong? Are you OK?"
Leah: "Yeah. I just lost my tooth in my bed." [grinning an extra gap-toothed grin]
[A short search turns up the tooth in question.]
Leah: "Cool. Put it under my pillow!"
Me: "Umm, I think we missed the Tooth Fairy. It's almost morning, my alarm will be going off in an hour. How about we put the tooth under your pillow tonight instead?"
Leah: "OK."
Me: "Goodnight, sweetie."
Leah: "Goodnight." [Then, trying out her new mouth] "Crithmith. Merry Chrithmith. Hey Mom, I sound just like the song!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sorry I'm late

I think it's the U.S. army or marines or somebody who has the tag line: we do more before breakfast than most people do all day. I'm thinking that just for today I'm appropriating it and changing it to: my life sucks more before breakfast than most peoples' suck all day. Seriously.

The backstory. I've been late a lot lately. I've been really tired in the evenings and instead of preparing for the next day (laying out clothes, making lunches) I've been going to bed and doing the chores in the morning. So my leaving-the-house time has been severely affected and my arriving-at-work time has been creeping steadily later to 8:40 instead of 8:05. So last night I set my alarm half an hour early, so that I could do the chores I didn't do last night because I was at book club, and still have time to shower and fix my hair before work.

For your viewing pleasure, I present the anatomy of my morning:
  • 4:35 a.m. - Alarm goes off. I stumble to the bathroom and shower.
  • 4:50 a.m. - I'm in the kitchen. Tea is not going to do it this morning, I make coffee. While it is brewing, I open the girls' backpacks which I didn't do the night before because of book club and I start making lunches.
  • 5:07 a.m. - Coffee's ready. I bend over to get the cream out of the fridge and I seriously misjudge the overhead clearance (possibly due to wet hair flopping in my eyes) and bang my head against the freezer door hard enough to see stars (Hey. Look. The Pleiades! Aren't they pretty?).
  • 5:08 a.m. - I carry the coffee to the living room and sit for a moment. I turn on CBC and watch the rerun of last night's The Hour, drooling a bit. But whether that's a result of the blow to the head or my strange subconscious fascination with George, I can't tell. I mean he's probably young enough to be my son if I were a twisted Appalachian stereotype. (I had myself figured for more of a Colin Firth kinda girl. Minus the reindeer sweater, of course. But I digress...)
  • 5:40 a.m. - The lunches are made. I'm back in the bathroom to dry my hair. I flip the wet strands out of my eyes, look into the mirror, and recoil in horror. You've heard of death warmed over? Yeah, well I'm looking at death straight out of the fridge. Still in the Saran Wrap. Maybe 4:30 was a wee bit too early to be getting up considering that I was in bed late and that beauty sleep isn't a myth.
  • 6:00 a.m. - The girls' clothes are laid out, and they are sitting at the table eating the first of the 37 pieces of raisin toast they will consume for breakfast.
  • 6:45 a.m. - The girls are dressed, washed, combed and teethbrushed. I have started the car so it will warm up and I'm loading it with backpacks and bags*. (*foreshadowing)
  • 7:00 a.m. - The girls have put on snow pants, snow jackets, neck warmers, boots, mittens and hats. We pull out of the driveway. Yay! Half an hour earlier than usual.
  • 7:07 a.m. - Have dropped girls at daycare and am setting off to work.
  • 7:09 a.m. - I notice that I'm almost out of gas.
  • 7:18 a.m. - I pull into the Mr. Gas on March Rd and fill the tank. After replacing the gas cap, I lean back into the car to get my purse. IT'S NOT THERE. I have forgotten my purse at home. I explain to the gas guy, hand over my work I.D. as collateral, and drive back home (at least I'm not going to run out of gas).
  • 7:28 a.m. - I return home and grab my purse. I have a moment of panic when I realize my keys are not in my hand and fear that I've locked them in the house (it's been that kind of day), but I find them in my coat pocket.
  • 7:42 a.m. - Intent on getting to work, I drive right past the gas station and go a couple of kilometres down March before I remember that I owe the Mr. Gas guy $50 and I need my work I.D. Perhaps I am brain injured from whacking my head on the refrigerator.
  • 7:50 a.m. - I arrive back at the gas station and pay for my gas.
  • 7:52 a.m. - I attempt to make a left-hand turn out of the gas station onto March Rd. in the midst of the hellacious traffic that I originally left early to avoid.
  • 7:56 a.m. - I pull out successfully.
  • 8:00 a.m. - I reach down to grab the travel mug of sweet, hot, delicious coffee I made when I went back to the house. It's not there. It is on the counter in my kitchen. Damn.
  • 8:05 a.m. - I pass a Timmie's and gaze longingly at it. I don't have time for a coffee now, as this is the time that I should be unlocking the door of my office.
  • 8:50 a.m. - I get to work. Five minutes later than the latest I've been all winter. After getting up and leaving half an hour earlier than usual. I think this might be ironic. I am not sure. I make a mental note to check with Alanis.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Enough with the snow already *updated*

Yep, we got dumped on. Bigtime. I think the final amount was 57 cm which translates to about 23 inches. Then the blowing and drifting started. It started around midnight on Saturday night. I went to a Christmas party Saturday night at Shell's place, and her daughter Becca was at my house babysitting. I drove the 20 or so kilometres home around quarter to one in the morning very slowly, since the snow was blowing all over the place. By the time we woke up yesterday morning, in the midst of the storm, it was clear that Becca wasn't going anyplace. Fortunately, news of the coming storm had started on Friday, and the girls and I spent Saturday going to the grocery store, the library and the video rental place.

We watched a bunch of movies, made cookies, and when cabin fever set in, we went and played in the snow for a bit. I spent a sweaty hour with Murray around 3, but as you can see, the snow just kept right on coming.

This is a picture of my back deck. You can use the height of the counter for scale:

Erm, the bottle of Grand Marnier is also strictly for scale. Honest.

The picture below is either my barbecue or a baby Alp.

The house across the street. The snow has drifted up as far as the windows, which are about 3-4 feet above ground level.

Update: Apparently, much like some of the other men in my life, Murray has let me down. After starting and blowing about 10 feet, he quit and I haven't been able to start him again. Why am I not surprised? So I tackled Mt. Plow Ridge the old-fashioned way.

I'm very tired now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

And in other news...

I'm really swamped right now.

That gentle I'm-all-ready-for-Christmas-well-kinda glow that I've been cocooned in has vanished like the mist and I realize I'm not nearly as prepared as I thought I was. So it's bullets for you today:

  • Shell and I made 11 tourtières the weekend before last, 4 regular ones (beef and pork) and 7 venison ones, for the Christmas party. I always go over and trade labour (rolling out pie crust and fluting edges) for a pie to take home. This one was mine:

I took a venison one. That's some damn fine Bambi, I tell ya. Mmmmmm.

  • Our family has its own version of pig latin that's been used for generations for discussing things in front of the children. Handed down from my Mom's cousin Pat, (and thus called Pattish) it has proved useful in talking about birthday presents and so forth. Until the weekend, when I was asking my Mom if she had been able to track down any Junie B. Jones books for Leah. I had to repeat myself a couple of times, since my Pattish is rusty, and Leah, who was sitting nearby, soon had a knowing look on her face. Later, she came up to me and said, "I know what you were talking to Nana about when you were talking in cursive. You were talking about Junie B. Jones." I was amused. First of all that she understood. And second of all her word for it: cursive. She figured that if fancy printing (writing script) is called cursive, then fancy talking should have the same name.

  • I finally wrote a Christmas letter. I put a few photographs in, but not nearly as many as I would have liked. So I'm presenting you with a few that didn't make the cut. Or just ones I liked. With captions:
"One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong...." A cauliflower from the Farmers' market, August 25, 2007.

There really is no place like home. A view from the end of our driveway, September 11, 2007.

7 adults, 8 children, 2 dogs, 1 really good time. September 2, 2007.

Jackie O. drops by for a visit. November 17, 2007.

Showing their true personalities. November 4, 2007.

  • And that's it for now. I can put a checkmark beside 'post on blog', and get back to finishing shopping, cleaning, and baking. Oh yeah, and working.

  • Oh, almost forgot. Rachel's oh-so-classy take on a much-loved Christmas carol: "Deck the halls with boughs of farts. Fart, fart, fart, fart, fart. Fart, fart, fart, fart." Yeah, I'm sure Santa's much amused. Better trade the wood-burning fireplace for one that can use lumps of coal.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Snow day or I love Murray

I was inexplicably back in my old apartment in Sudbury, wearing babydoll pajamas, and having a stuffed-animal fight with George Stroumboulopoulos from The Hour, who was ducking and winging teddies and bunnies back at me while simultaneously trying to interview Kingsley Amis over the phone.

Which is a pretty good trick, considering he's been dead since 1995. (Kingsley, not George.)

(I think I need a boyfriend.)

Then, of course, the alarm clock went off. Five o'clock. I stumbled to the kitchen and put the coffee on. I'm teleworking today, since Leah and I both have doctor appointments this afternoon. I sure picked a good day to stay home. This is what it looked like earlier this morning. I can't see my driveway. Can you?

What you might be able to see, if you look carefully, is the plow ridge. I live on a corner. This is not an advantageous place to live during snowplow season. Plows turning the corner scrape up more snow than they do on a straightaway, and once they straighten out, incrementally more (or magnitudinally more) snow gets dumped across the end of your driveway than in driveways farther down the street.

I was standing at my front window with a coffee in my hand watching the snow falling and the chickadees at the bird feeder when the plow went by. It dumped 456 cubic metres* of snow across the end of my driveway. Not being satisfied with this, the driver backed up around the corner and plowed again, uncovering part of my lawn and depositing a further 1276 cubic metres of snow onto the pile (*all amounts are approximate). I was very visible in the window. He studiously avoided meeting my eyes as he slowly drove past. I sipped my coffee and resisted the urge to wave to him using only one finger.

In order to get to the doctor's later, I'm going to have to get the car outta the garage, down the non-existent driveway, over Mt. Plow Ridge, and out onto the nice clear street. This was a job for Murray. I love Murray. I can always count on him. All he asks is a drink of gasoline and a plug-in start, and he's good to go. Murray is my snowblower. Now, I'm Canadian enough to enjoy shovelling my driveway when it's a light couple of centimetres, but when it's a dumping and there's a plow ridge that hardens like concrete 5 minutes after it's been deposited, you pull out the big guns if you have them. And Murray is my big gun. See?

George is pretty hot and all, and probably pretty strong too. But I bet he can't clear a driveway like Murray.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I want my sweatpants

I wish I was at home right now. I don't want to be at work in these pants. The kind with a waistband and buttons and a zipper.

I am bloated. I am so bloated I feel like I'm retaining Lake Superior. In fact, I think that sharp pain I just felt was the Edmund Fitzgerald lodging under my ribs.

Send chocolate. And sweatpants.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Portrait of the artist as a young girl

Leah looks like her dad. Just like him. She has his chocolate-brown eyes, his distinctive family nose, his height and long, lanky frame. Other than that, though, she's all me, through and through. Her matter-of-factness, her easy-going personality, her willingness to go along to get along, her love of reading, and, most of all, her twisted sense of humour -- me.

So, when she asked me if she could take a couple of pictures with my digital camera, and I said yes after making her promise to wear the wrist strap so she wouldn't drop it, I wasn't sure what to expect. She and her little sister hurried off into her room and there was loud giggling from the two of them for a while. She returned the camera and told me very gleefully, "I took some cool pictures of myself. You should post them on your blog."

As requested, Leah's self-portraits:

As you can see, she doesn't mind making a fool of herself to make people laugh. Wonder where she got that from.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I blame Walt

I have mice. Yep, mice in my house. Mice in my house. We've been in the house for 5 years, and this is the first time it's happened. It's also the first fall/winter that we've been without a cat, as we lost Elvis last February. A coincidence? I think not.

Anyway, I was cleaning the kitchen, moving aside some of the appliances that sit on the counter, when I found them. Mouse turds. Crap! (In all senses of the word.) Then I made a really bad mistake: I told the girls the truth when they heard me exclaim in the kitchen:

Me: Oh no!
Rae: What's wrong, Mom?
Me: I just found mouse poop. We have mice.
Leah: Cool! I like mice.
Rae: Can I see the poop?

See, thanks to Walt Disney and the horribly cute vermin in his movies, the girls are moved to hysterics at the thought of baiting a few traps with rice krispies and peanut butter to get rid of the little critters. According to Disney (and now my brainwashed daughters), mice are cute! And sweet! And adorable!

I guess if the mice at my place were like Jacques and Gus, and helped around the house and made me couture dresses, I could cut them a little slack, but they're not, and seriously, don't you think that Cinderella occasionally found a pile of mouse poop under her toaster oven and wondered what the hell she was doing encouraging the mice to live in the palace?

So the upshot of the situation is that either I shell out for a live trap and then release the mice far far away from our house (where hopefully they will be a good source of protein for hawks), or bait the more conventional traps and leave them out when the girls are in bed, making sure to dispose of the evidence before they get up.

Too bad Walt isn't still around. Either way, I'd ask him to empty the traps. I figure he kinda owes me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A day late...

Two weeks ago, I made an appointment at the garage to have the winter tires put on my car.


This is what greeted me when I woke up this morning:

I am not known for my good timing.

Yesterday, when it was chilly, but still fall-like, greenish brown grass and leaves still covering the ground, Rae looked up at the Christmas lights that I had put up on Sunday and asked, "Mom, is it winter yet?".

I guess I can safely say: it sure is, Rachel. It sure is.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A word to the wise

Don't put a thick layer of cherry Chapstick on your chapped lips and then eat Bits & Bites. And especially resist the urge to tip up the foil packet and pour the last few crumbs into your mouth. I'm just sayin'.

Oh, and Meanoldmommy took me up on the bad hair dare. Check out another 80s iconic do here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

DVD generation

We don't have cable or satellite TV.

We get about 5 channels with the rabbit ears, and of those, 2 are French and one is kinda snowy. But that's OK, the shows I like to watch are all carried on the 2 channels that come in clearly.

There are a couple of reasons for this. One, I'm cheap. I don't watch that much TV (Grey's Anatomy, Law and Order - SVU, the Tudors, Rick Mercer Report, HNIC and the local news is about it) and I refuse to pay $50 or more a month to waste more time in front of the TV. I read a lot.

And two, I like that my kids aren't bombarded with the endless advertising, especially toys and junk food, that seems endemic to any of the kids' specialty channels. It's nice for me to choose what to get my girls for Christmas, instead of having Mattel and the other big toy companies brainwash them into wanting what the companies want to sell me. The girls get some kids' programming on CBC, and that's commercial-free.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fanatic. If they watch The Cartoon Network while over at their Dad's place -- cool. And don't think that they spend all their free time playing with educational toys or hooking rugs for the homeless either -- they get their fair share of screen time. We have a fairly large collection of childrens' movies on VHS and DVD, and that's what they watch.

Our TV is older, which necessitates a complicated series of hook-up cables, but both girls can set the TV and its peripherals up to watch a tape or a DVD when they want. Rachel seems to confuse the two technologies though -- asking where the Special Features are on the tapes. Leah patiently explains that only the DVDs have those. They are masters of the pause button and the scene selection.

They truly are children of the digital age, though, in the way their thought processes work. The other day they were playing together in the living room while I was making dinner. It was some complicated imaginary game involving Barbies, small toy cars, and randomly cut pieces of coloured paper. They were quite happily playing when Rachel stood up suddenly, started hopping from one foot to the other, and said to her sister, "Leah, pause the game for a minute. I have to go to the bathroom."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bad hair decade

Last weekend, my friend Lori drove up from Windsor to visit. We've known each other since grade nine and our friendship has encompassed many drunken escapades, lots of barbecued food, several camping trips, the invention of the Ball Scorcher (1.5 oz. of vodka, E.D. Smith's vegetable cocktail, 7 shakes of Tabasco sauce, combine and serve in a brandy snifter), countless multi-hour telephone conversations, and a whole lot of being there for each other.

It was great to see her again. She brought along her two wolfhounds and a picture of the two of us taken circa 1982. It is very scary. It is very 80s.

Seeing as I'm decades a bunch of years lots a tad older than most of you reading this, I can only hope that you were young enough to be spared the worst of the 80s fashion-victim carnage: the curly perm. Second only to shoulder pads, iridescent green eyeshadow, and maybe headbands, the curly perm was an abomination that had its roots far back in history but only reached its full flower of awfulness in the late 70s and 80s.

How far back in history, you ask? Well, when Lori handed me the picture, and we were both convulsed with laughter, the first words she could get out were, "Geez, Al, you look like Louis the Fourteenth". I replied with the lame comment that at least I didn't have Satan's eyebrows, but she definitely won that round. In my defence (and echoing Grampa Simpson), it was the style at the time. And lots of famous people had that same hairdo:

Like the aforementioned King Louis XIV:

Olivia Newton John:

Sir Isaac Newton John:

Robert Plant:

Diana Ross:

All the members of Poison:

the Twenty-Minute Workout chicks:

And me (me and Sir Isaac -- separated at birth, don't you think?):

There you have it. Total 80s vileness. And I'm challenging anyone else who's old enough to have bad 80s hair pictures to post them. I dare you. I double dog dare you.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Things I learned last night

  • If your daughter says she isn't feeling well, and you cuddle up with her on the couch, make sure that she isn't totally pinning your legs so that you can move quickly to get her to the bathroom if she starts to throw up.

  • If you are half pinned under your daughter and she starts to throw up, instinct will make you cup your hands under her mouth to catch the throw up so it doesn't splatter on you, her, and the couch.

  • Cupped hands can only hold the output of about 3 heaves.

  • Children rarely stop puking after only 3 heaves, so vomit containment quickly becomes an issue.

  • If you yell to your other, younger, daughter to run to the kitchen and get Mommy a bowl so that you can unload your cupped hands of the vomit, it's a good idea to specify that you want a big bowl, otherwise your helpful child might return with a small glass bowl -- the kind you'd see on a cooking show holding the quarter cup of corn starch.

  • When the total insane absurdity of the situation hits you, don't laugh, or the puking child will think you're laughing at her, and not at the absurdity of the situation, and she will start crying as well as puking.

  • Once you have cleaned up the sick daughter, yourself, and the couch, and convinced the other daughter to put her clothes back on (for she has taken advantage of you being, ummm, distracted to strip to her underwear and get into the Halloween candy while watching TV) and got everyone into the car and have driven halfway to the after-hours clinic, your sick child will perk up and say her head and her stomach don't hurt anymore and that she just wants to go home and can she have some pizza please.

  • You will take her to the clinic anyway, even though you know they will tell you it's just a virus, because if you don't, it will turn out to have been a brain tumour or something.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Thursday, November 01, 2007

No princesses allowed

When the subject of Halloween, and more specifically Halloween costumes, came up at our house, Leah was very clear on one thing. Halloween is a time for being scary. "Why would anyone want to be something cute or pretty, Mom?", she asked, thinly disguised scorn in her voice. "I want to be a vampire. Or a werewolf." Rachel, still recovering from the indignity of last year's fuzzy pink unicorn costume (we waited too late to pick costumes, and ended up with one that very definitely didn't suit Rae's personality, all, really) chimed in that she wanted to be something scary too. A ghost. Or a vampire.

This decision went back and forth over a couple of days. Vampire. No, ghost. No, vampire. Until, in a flash of brilliance, Leah suggested that Rachel be the ghost of a vampire that died. I thought about going into the whole "undead" thing, but then decided just to tell them that it was a great idea.

So here are the scary vampire:

And a scary vampire ghost:

And a selection of pumpkins that the girls' father carved for them:

Pretty cool, I think.

A bit of sad news though, Halloween marked the loss of a family member. R.I.P. Steve.

Oh, and one last thing. It is a Really. Bad. Idea. to stay up late on Halloween night reading a Stephen King book alone in bed when you're the only one up in the house, and the wind is rising and all kinds of creepy noises are coming from Outside Your Bedroom Window, and the girls are muttering and tossing in their sleep, and you're sure you heard something moving in the garage. Seriously, don't do it. I think it was after one this morning before I fell asleep, with the Daily Show on the TV up loud to drown out the sounds of possible zombies/axe murderers/alien monstrosities/Steven Harper lurching, stalking, oozing, or waddling towards my bedroom.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ms. Attitude

It's hard to remember she's only five years old sometimes.

I had ripped my thumbnail opening a package of pancake mix, and I was nibbling at the nail.

Rachel [indignantly]: Mommy, stop biting your nails.

Me: Oops, you're right, I better go get the clippers.

Rachel [sounding very teenage snotty]: Hah! So, who's the mommy now?

I figured I had another nine years til I had to put up with this level of snark.