Thursday, January 29, 2009

"So, you still, uh, reap around here, do you, Mr. Death?"

There are many questions that roll around in my brain when I wake up in the wee hours of the morning.

Did I close the garage door?

Do I have any clean underwear for tomorrow?

What was that noise? I'm sure I heard a noise. Did the cat make that noise?

Should I be worried that the people in Rachel's artwork look like acid-fueled Charlie and Lola stick figures with giant Monty Pythonesque stomping feet?

How am I going hook up the DVD player, the VCR, and the rabbit ears to a TV with only an antenna input? I could attach the rabbit ears to the VCR, and then run a cable from the RF output on the VCR to the antenna input in the TV, but what about the DVD player? And the switch box?

The last question is a direct result of my apparent debut as the Angel of Death, Appliance Division:

Last week, the dishwasher breathed its last. Two days ago, the hot-water heater ate the metaphorical salmon mousse. And yesterday morning, when I turned on the TV just after 5 a.m. to catch the previous night's The Hour while I sat and drank coffee made lunches for the girls and fixed my hair, all that lit up was a narrow band in the middle of the screen. The audio was fine, but the video was down to one line. It has joined the choir invisible. And the other, spare TV I had stashed in the basement doesn't have any AV inputs. Sigh.

I don't think these deaths are coincidental. I'm very afraid for my toaster oven.

I'm going to need a scythe.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A 'previously enjoyed' episode

Thanks everyone for your response to my wine-filled pity party of the other day. I'm surprised (in a good way) how many of you offered support and good advice. You guys rock. I ended up sending an email to my director pointing out that the way this had been handled was less than ideal, and we have a meeting tomorrow to discuss the situation.

That's assuming that I'm back at work tomorrow, seeing as I've come down this morning with the cholera/ebola/dysentery/stomach flu that seems to be going around Ottawa right now. My brain is mush and I'm logging more time in the bathroom than on the computer. So, since the girls had swimming lessons last night, and I got to sit around a warm, chlorine-y pool and look at the *ahem* scenery, I decided that this was a good post to pull from the archives. It'll have to do for now.

Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson

I took the girls to swim classes late this afternoon. Since they aren't the same age nor are they at the same skill level, they are in different classes. I couldn't schedule them at the same time, so Rae's class is 4:30 to 5:00, and Leah's is 5:00 to 5:30. Leah and I sit together on the pool deck and watch Rae's class, and then Rae comes out and wraps up in a towel and we watch Leah's class.

I had just finished reading Robert Munsch's Smelly Socks to Rachel, when a movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention. A man had come out of the changing room into the pool area and was walking away from me. Clad only in black swim trunks and (and this should have been the tip off) a red tank that said 'Instructor' on the back -- he was stunning. My breath was literally taken away for a moment. Tall, blondish hair, wide shoulders, muscular arms, a nice back and legs. Yup, all in all, eye candy. Radiating lines of deliciousness (fans of Grey's Anatomy will get this allusion). I might have drooled. Just a little, you know, in a lady-like way.

Then he turned around. Turns out I know him slightly.

When I met him last summer at an impromptu backyard bonfire party, he was wandering around with a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows tucked under his arm and eating a Mr. Freezie. We talked about the book for a bit and he told me how he was available....TO BABYSIT so he could earn gas money for when he borrows his dad's car. CRAP. He's the son of someone in my neighbourhood, and she's younger than I am. He's maybe seventeen.

I just want to take my brain out and scrub it now.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Drama queen? Or hard done by?

OK, can't figure out how to write on my own Facebook wall, so I'm replying to those who questioned my status here. I'm fine. Blame the wine I opened for my status. In my defence, I needed 1/2 cup of wine for the chicken cacciatore I made for dinner, and somehow, the rest of the bottle was accidentally consumed. Accidentally, yeah.

Short story: I've been in my job, and my office for 12 years. I've acted for my supervisor many times, and for long periods of time. When the supervisor's job (Managing Editor) came open (due to her being promoted), I was told I would not be considered for the job permanently as I didn't have my French levels or the requisite supervisory experience. Despite the fact that I was apparently OK for the job on a temporary basis. OK, I can accept that. I like my present job, and enjoy it.

Then I was told that the person who got the Managing Editor's job was going to be given my office, and I would have to move to a smaller one. I wrote an email to my boss and her boss pointing out how unfair this was. Before I could send it, I was told by my supervisor that the new Managing Editor would take anther office, and I could keep mine. Oh, and by the way, did I want my office painted? I was so excited. My office hasn't been painted in 12 years, and the paint is peeling. I said "YES!" and packed up my office and moved temporarily to a cubicle in another area of the floor. I'm supposed to move back to my office on Tuesday of next week. Friday afternoon I was called to my old supervisor's office and told that a new manager (not the Managing Editor, but another new manager in the division) was going to be taking my office, because the Director wanted all her managers on one floor, and I would after all have to move to the other, smaller office. I can't help but wonder if this was in the cards all along, and the renovations were for this other management dude all along, rather than for me, and it was just a convenient ploy to get me to pack up all my stuff.

Now, 1) I still have a job (and in today's economy, that's a bonus), 2) I still will have an office of my own, not a cubicle, or a shared office, even though it's smaller, 3) it's just an office, not a bad biopsy or a job loss, or a major personal upheaval. So you tell me, am I being a drama queen for being pissed off? Or am I justified in feeling screwed-over? Please let me know what you think.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

To whom it may concern, I am grumpy

Dear Rogers Mobility guy,

While I appreciate that it wasn't the dinner hour when you called to offer me an amazing deal on a phone that can take pictures, surf the web and play all my favourite music, I am still not interested. I already own a digital camera, a computer, and an MP3 player to do these things for me. I also own a cell phone that I'm very happy with. And though I can tell that you think that it's really important that I sign up for a plan that will allow me unlimited talk, text and surfing on this really neato phone for only a gajillion dollars a month, please believe me (or at least pretend to believe me) when I tell you that I don't even have my cell phone turned on most of the time and only use it to let my babysitter know when I'm running late, or to order pizza from my car on the way home from work on Thursdays, and don't keep trying to sell the damn thing to me anyway. That's how people get hung up on.




Dear shuffle function on my MP3 player,

Lining up Billy Idol's "Hot in the City", Jane Siberry's "Mimi on the Beach" and Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" one after the other during the 10-minute walk from my office to the church where I park my car in a minus-freaking-twenty-degree wind chill is just adding insult to injury. Seriously, cut it out.



Dear 1985,

I'd like my boobs back. You know, the perky ones that I had before I birthed and breastfed two babies? Yeah, those ones. I really miss them. I'm tired of the ones I have now -- they sometimes get caught in the waistband of my jeans if I forget to tuck my tee shirt in when I go bra-less around the house. Oh, and if you see my waistline around there anywhere, I'd like that back too.




Dear National Arts Centre subscription sales lady,

Just because I took Leah once to see the Nutcracker in 2005, doesn't mean that I am a ballet fanatic who will shell out big bucks to see ballet on a regular basis. Quit. Calling. Me.




Dear winter,

You suck.




Dear Zellers,

I realize that it isn't your fault that the strap on Rachel's snow boot broke today. They are hand-me-downs from her big sister and have seen hard use. But it's January. In Ottawa. I expect to be able to buy a pair of snow boots for my kid in January in Ottawa. But what did I find when I went to your store this evening? Rain boots and splash pants. Rain boots and freaking splash pants. Perhaps you remember last Easter, when we still had 3 feet of snow on the ground? This shit might fly down in South Carolina, but we won't be needing the rain boots and splash pants around here until at least freaking April, and it was only through sheer dumb luck that we found one pair of size 2 snow boots in a clearance bin. Seriously. Give your head a shake. It's winter, people.

Yours in Christ,



Dear snowplow driver,

I don't know how, or when, but someday I am going to find out where you live and then dump 6582 cubic metres of snow in your driveway.




Dear Carp Ridge deer,

Leave my cedar hedge alone, or I'll sic the evil ninja assassin cat on you. I mean it.


The mean lady who throws tennis balls at you while you are eating


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Six-year-old logic

Monday evening, in the car on the way to swimming lessons, windshield wipers clearing the snow off the glass, the radio off, talking. Rachel told us about going skating at the arena with her class for their field trip. Leah was talking about Barack Obama and how tomorrow he'd become the President of the United States, which her class had discussed that afternoon in current events.

Leah: Does he have kids, Mum?

Me: Yes, he has two daughters. Kind of like you two, but a bit older, I think.

Rae: What are their names?

Me (thinking): Ummm, one is called Malia...

Leah (repeating it): Ma-Leah?

Me: ....and I can't remember the name of the other one.

Rae: It's probably Ma-Rachel

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Date night

I have a date tonight. With Murray. He doesn't say much, but I don't think that's going to get in the way of a relationship. I think we're good. At least until spring.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Po3 Delurking Day

Apparently I didn't get the memo that Monday was Delurking Day. So I'm going to take this opportunity to declare my own "Party of 3 Delurking Day", today, January 15, 2009.

I heart my readers. And I would love to know who you all are. Come on, leave me a comment, say hi, tell me what's on your mind, shower me with praise, whine about my overuse of sentence fragments, whatever. I know you're out there, really, I do, I check out the site stats obsessively once in a blue moon.

Of course, I do realize that most visits to Party of 3 result from people googling the search string "how to get a squirrel out of your fireplace" or looking for the lyrics to I'm Too Sexy for My Shoes, or instructions on how to make a kleenex box guitar, but I know I do have repeat readers...

I've checked my blog settings, and anyone who wants to should be able to comment. So leave me a comment and make my day, please?

Image courtesy of Google images

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Yeah, early French immersion is really paying off

Both girls are in the early French immersion (EFI) program at our local public school. Ottawa is a bilingual city in a bilingual part of the province, and I want my daughters to learn French now, while they're young and their brains are absorbent, rather than trying to learn it like I am right now, when I'm old and my brain is solid and cobwebby.

Both girls are doing well in the program, which starts in Senior Kindergarten. Rachel (now in Grade 1) struggled at first, but made a breakthrough back in October, going from having some trouble understanding instructions given in French, and being hesitant to speak French in class, to embracing the language at school and even speaking it at home sometimes. Like this morning.

Rachel was sitting at the table, watching me make breakfast. I had my back to her, taking raisin toast out of the toaster oven, when she said:

"Tu as une grande fesse, Maman!"

The grammar is a little off, but what she said, in essence, was:

You have a big butt, Mum!

Yep, there's nothing like learning a second language for expanding one's cultural horizons. Or insulting one's mother in a very cosmopolitan fashion.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rocker girl

We don't have Hannah Montana at our house. Sure, we do listen to a couple of Miley Cyrus songs we've downloaded, but for the most part, the girls aren't into the teen phenomena. No Jonas Brothers, no High School Musical, no Hilary Duff. That music, says Leah, is for kids.

Nope, what the small ones in the household are into is David Bowie (thanks to Leah's obsession with the movie Labyrinth), K.T. Tunstall, Nickelback, Elton John, and ABBA. On Christmas day, they ended up watching Mama Mia! with the grown-up daughters of my friend Shell. (Fortunately, the whole who's-my-dad? portion of the movie seems to have gone over their heads.) Since then, it's been all Dancing Queen all the time at my place. Well, that and a mixed CD of Canadian rock that I made for Alissa, and liked so much that I made me a copy too: 54-40, State of Shock, Tom Cochrane, Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, Great Big Sea, Colin James, Cowboy Junkies, Big Sugar, etc., etc. You should hear them singing along.

Thursday evening we were heading into Stittsville to go grocery shopping. The radio played AC/DC and then Def Leppard. I was in a contemplative mood, and it brought back memories of concerts gone by. Memories of the good times spent with friends at concerts in Detroit when I was in high school. I remember taking the tunnel bus over from Windsor to Detroit, running the gauntlet of guys trying to sell you weed and scalped tickets, and then up through the parking garage to Joe Louis Arena or Cobo Hall to see AC/DC, or Rush, or Styx, or Alice Cooper, or Bob Seger, or Iggy Pop, or Blue Oyster Cult, or the J. Geils Band. Sneaking mickies of rye past security at the door. Chartering a schoolbus to take the entire senior class out to the Pontiac Silverdome to see the Stones once, and the Who another time. Buying concert teeshirts, and holding Bic lighters up during power ballads (nowadays they just hold their cellphones open. It's the end of an era, I tell ya.) Yeah, those were good times.

The final chords of Pour Some Sugar On Me were playing. I glanced in the rear-view mirror to see what the girls were doing. Rae was gazing aimlessly out the window. But Leah, my Leah, was playing air guitar. The tradition lives on.

Friday, January 09, 2009

This wasn't what I meant when I said we should be greener

Me (downstairs on the computer calling up to Rae in the dining room): Rae, are you finished colouring? It's almost time for dinner.

Rae: I wasn't colouring, I was painting.

Me: Okay, then. Are you finished painting?

Rae: Yes.

Me: Did you put the painting stuff away?

Rae: Yes.

Me: In the art bin? Where it's supposed to go?

Rae: (Pause) (Shuffling sounds and footsteps) Yes.

Me: Did you wash your hands?

Rae: (Pause) Yes. (sounds of footsteps and water running in bathroom)

Me: Hey, make sure that you wash all the paint off your hands before you dry them. I don't want you wiping wet painty hands on the towels. And use soap, OK?

Rae (exasperatedly): Mum. I know how to wash my hands, OK? I'm not two you know.

Me: OK, OK. Sorry. Did you turn the bathroom light off? (I know, I'm such a nag.)

Rae (self-righteously): It was already on. Leah was in there first and she turned the light on.

Me: Yeah, but you were the last one in there, please go turn it off.

Rae: (snottily): It's not fair. I have to do everything around here. (Sound of stomping footsteps.)


Later, in the bathroom, I found this:

I would have taken a picture of the towel too, but as luck would have it, my towels are dark green. Apparently, remedial handwashing lessons are in order. Especially for those over the age of two.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Why Mensa won't be calling me anytime soon

You know, in the hierarchy of busiest times of the day, mornings trying to get the three of us out the door on time for schoolbus pickup at daycare/work comes second only to the first half hour that we're home at the end of the day.

It's stressful because everyone's hungry, everyone's tired, and everyone is bursting with news of the day's doings that simply must be shared with the mother at the soonest possible moment and all at the same time. So last night I was rushing around the kitchen, sadly still messy from Monday night's dinner (swimming lessons started again in Stittsville at 7 p.m. Monday night, and combined with a 5:45 dentist appointment for Leah, seriously cut into my cleaning-up time. And, to be frank, the plaque I have hanging on my kitchen wall saying "Martha doesn't live here. Adjust." isn't there just for show, if you know what I mean. Show me a single mother with 2 kids 24/7 who works full time and commutes nearly an hour [one way] to work and still has an immaculate house, and I'll show you an alien masquerading as a single mom. Or an a single mom with a cleaning lady, or OCD manifesting as a cleaning compulsion. Or a cleaning lady with OCD. But I digress....) trying to make 2 different dinners.

I'm wincing now, prepared for the onslaught of moms who refuse to make two different dinners and their kids eat what they're given. I know I should have been doing that from day one, but due to some trying circumstances, I didn't and now I'm paying the price. One of the New Year's plans is to start making one dinner for all of us incorporating some things the girls like and some new things I want them to start eating. Yeah, I know: Good luck with that. I'll let you know how it goes. Digressing again.

So, I was making chicken fingers and frozen fries in the toaster oven for the girls, with sides of baby spinach (Leah), carrot sticks (Rachel), sliced cukes (both girls), and simultaneously trying out a new recipe from the Kraft magazine, Three Cheese Chicken Penne Pasta Bake*, for me. The kids wouldn't join me in eating it because it contains such obviously toxic substances as tomatoes, basil, Parmesan, whole wheat pasta, and chicken that is unbreaded. Oh, the horror.

I checked the recipe, and turned the oven on to 375. Started the water heating to cook the pasta, and then put the chicken fingers and fries into the toaster oven. I cut up the chicken breast and started sautéing it with the dried basil, which is still in the little plastic bag it came in from the bulk store (see Martha plaque, mentioned above) and tossed the bag onto the counter as I pirouetted to the pantry to take the pasta out. I smelled plastic melting/burning. Sure enough, the basil bag was up against the hot toaster oven and was melting. I grabbed it quickly, but the smell was pretty strong. I put the pasta in the now boiling water and added the other ingredients to the sauté pan, which gave me a 10-minute window to empty and then fill the dishwasher and finish clearing the counters and the sink. The plastic smell lingered, and then got stronger. I checked all the elements on the stove for something unusual. Nope. OK, forget it.

I prepped the girls' veggies, drained the pasta and mixed the sauce and chicken with it. I served the girls, then put the chicken/pasta mix in a baking dish and opened the oven door to put it in . . . . only to be greeted by a cloud of noxious smoke and an even stronger melting plastic smell. Sitting on the top oven rack was my pizza pan. On the pizza pan were the melted remains of the plastic-handled pizza cutter and the wedge-shaped plastic spatula. Still in perfect shape outlines, just flat and oozy and very, very hot and smelly. Now I never store things in the oven, because I'm afraid of just such a thing happening, but slowly the memory surfaced, a quick cleanup of the kitchen before playdate guests were arriving. A full and running dishwasher. Where could I stash the pizza pan? I know, the oven. Just til the mom dropping off the kids leaves. I won't forget. Insert eye roll here.

I cleaned up the mess (implements were toast [literally] but I should be able to save the pan), aired out the oven, and then finally put the dish in to bake. I sat down and took stock of my day:

8:30 a.m. - attempted to open office door with house key. Took 15 seconds to figure it out.

9:30 a.m. - sent email requesting job references to applicant not being considered further for the job. Had to figure out how to recall email.

12:10 p.m. - went to eat lunch only to discover I had forgotten to bring lunch from car to office

5:45 p.m. - incinerated kitchen implements while making dinner.

Well, it couldn't get any worse, could it? I didn't think so. Until bedtime, when, half-asleep, I grabbed for my emergency mini-tube of toothpaste (note to self: buy toothpaste) and squeezed Polysporin on my toothbrush.

Not. Mensa. Material.

*This was actually really tasty.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Building up to 2009

Here's a good sane totally not crazy interesting way to spend New Year's Day morning. Earlyish. Put together an IKEA Benno CD tower. Beech veneer finish. Seriously.

We have more CDs, DVDs, videos, and now Nintendo DS games than will fit in our existing media bookshelf in our dining room. And since Santa brought the girls more, I knew it was time to expand the storage. There isn't room for another bookshelf, but I thought I could transfer the CDs from the top few shelves of the bookshelf to a CD tower and then move all the DVDs and videos from the TV stand onto the bookshelf and tidy up the look of the living room. So New Year's Eve day, we went off to IKEA to buy the tower.

The girls and I went next door to Connie's for New Year's Eve and had a great time. The girls actually stayed awake until midnight, no doubt due to playing video games and air hockey with Connie's daughters. We wended our sleepy way home about 2:15. I was wide awake at 8 a.m. January 1st, 2009. The girls were sleeping. What should I do with this child-free time?

I brewed some coffee and looked at the six and a half foot long box leaning up against the wall. Yes. I felt up to it. I slid the box to the middle of the living room and opened it. Lots of pressboard, a little plastic baggie of hardware, and an instruction sheet with no words on it, just pictures. I realize that IKEA has its instructions this way for a couple of reasons: clarity, and so that customers from Ottawa to Sao Paulo to Minsk can all be equally confused guided by the drawings of the smug little guy putting the furniture in question together. To be fair, they are usually clear, but I can't shake the feeling that I'm putting something together by playing Simon Says with printed characters. But I digress.

I fetched my toolbox from the basement and, after looking at the tool pictures in the instruction booklet, pulled out a slot screwdriver, a Robertson screwdriver, a Phillips screwdriver (because without my glasses I couldn't tell from the picture whether one of the screwdrivers had a cross-shaped or a square head), and a hammer. It didn't tell me I'd need a hacksaw, but that part of the story comes later.

The first part of the build went pretty well. I poured a mug of coffee and put Who's Next on the CD player. There's something wrong with my CD player at the moment -- the instrumental tracks play loudly and clearly, but the vocals sound weak and echoey and distant. So I pushed little wooden dowels into the appropriate holes and listened to Roger Daltrey sounding far and wee, which was kind of appropriate, since I felt a little far and wee myself after an unusually large number of beers consumed the night before.

I got to the last hole that needed a little dowel peg and reached for the last peg on the coffee table, and there wasn't one. I checked the floor. I checked under the box, under the couch and all around. No peg. OK. Let's think about this. I figured I had three choices: 1) Stop what I was doing and wait til Jan 2nd and go back to IKEA for the missing part. 2) Build it without that particular dowel -- it was holding the top together, would not be weight bearing, and the sides are held together by screws as well as the dowel pegs. 3) Try to find something else to use for a dowel peg. I dismissed 1) out of hand. I didn't want to spend 24 hours stepping over a partially assembled CD tower in the middle of my living room. Number 2) didn't appeal either, because I figured the dowel peg was supposed to be there for a reason. Which left 3).

I pulled one of the other pegs back out of the hole and looked at it. Hmm, about the same diameter as a pencil. I took the peg, and the only pencil I could find in the kitchen, and got the teeny, tiny hacksaw out of my toolbox. I sawed a piece of pencil the same length as the peg, and Bob's your uncle, I had a workable substitute. About this point I turned off the CD. When Daltrey's opening howl on Won't Get Fooled Again sounds like a constipated hamster, it's time to shut it down.

Once I had the sides, top and bottom together with these strange corkscrew-shaped thingies that catch onto the heads of screws already put in at 90 degree angles (don't you love it when I talk all technical? Mag Ruffman ain't got nothing on me), it was time to slide the thin, flexible back piece down the grooves at the backs of the side pieces. A glance at the handy dandy instructions showed a disembodied hand marking the position of the cross brace on the backs of the side pieces with a pencil, so that once the back piece has been slid into place, you know the position of the cross brace so that you can nail the back piece into the cross brace. Makes sense, I mused, walking into the kitchen for a pencil, only to realize that I had hacksawed the point off the last pencil in the house in order to construct a dowel peg. Damn. Well, there was enough of the pointy part left to scratch a couple of lines in the correct places, and Leah got up in time to help me fit the shelves in the now-standing unit, and rearrange our stuff.

I neglected to take a before picture, but here's what it looks like now, all organized and alphabetized and new and shiny and New Year's Day-ish.

And it's not a bad metaphor for what I want to accomplish for 2009. I would like to get the parts of my life as clear and organized as my CDs. Without having to saw up any metaphorical pencils.