Monday, 27 July 2015


There is something so unnatural to me about the way humans live in the rich and developed nations. Me, for example. I arise at a ridiculous hour, rush to a sterile office, and sit on my ample behind all day, staring at a screen. And for what - so I can move a raw material from A to B, so that people in far-flung places can manufacture an unnecessary and ecologically damaging - if convenient - product? I think many of us have lost all meaning in our work. I know I need a career change.

Maybe that's why I love vacations so much - it is a time to leave the inanity of everyday tasks behind and just live. I don't mean the kind where you hop on a plane and rush off to another city to file through museums and . Nope, I'm talking about the kind where you slap on the sunscreen and slap at the mosquitoes while attempting not to spill your sangria on your four year old.

A few weeks ago, S and I loaded up kids, beach toys, and not nearly enough snacks and made our annual trip to a little cottage resort on a little lake in Ontario. (Okay, we've only gone twice. But that is half of the years that Pickle has been alive, so it counts.) I seriously LOVE this place. The cottages are (mostly) ant-free, the beach is sandy, and the water is warm and shallow. There are always about four thousand other kids around, and they run free all day like little wild animals.


Well, I guess there was some supervision.

beach fun!

On one slightly rainy day, we took the kids back to the Bonnechere Caves. Pickle has been talking all year about how he wanted to go back and see the whirlpool and the bats. There is no actual whirlpool, and there are no bats (at least, not at this time of year), but his imagination is so vivid that when we visited last year, he took in every word of the guide's recounting of how the caves were discovered. He's now pretty much convinced that he was present for the whole thing.

Bonnechere Caves - secret passageways and alien eggs
Fast friendships are made, and seven year old-sized crushes are developed. No phones, TVs, or computers intrude on family time, and even cell service is spotty. Everyone is so friendly, and relaxed, and in a sharing and giving kind of headspace. A week there always restores my faith in humans. This year we met an especially lovely family with children ages 2, 4, and 8, and had a blast sharing food, drink, childminding and memory-making. I didn't want to leave.

Then, on our way home, we stopped in a sweet little town and found this scary spiked-skull church.

Vacations are awesome.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Fantastic Friday Fotos

at the street fair
Can I just say I love vacation? And I get to go one next week, and sit on a beach by a lake, with a book. There might be sangria involved. And possibly a mojito. Or two.

In the meantime, a recap of events from the last month or so - they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are some - which I am terrible at posting, so if there are any BloggerGenuis people out there, drop me a (life)line.

someone graduated daycare...
and someone passed her swimming level after only 7 tries
Someone was so tired, he slept like a baby. Okay, two someones.

gigantic  pirate ship being built as a climbing gym at the Old Port. It looks ah-maay-zing!

 Facepaint! Always a favourite around here.

 Jazzfest! Hanging out, catching some live music, chowing down the Chinese buns. Being mortally offended that the fountains are not working and therefore cannot be run through, and tearfully insisting to be taken to the swimming pool.


Thursday, 9 July 2015

Exit Stage Left

 “If you're being bombarded with information, the act of looking for patterns – not necessarily finding them – is what going to give you psychic refuge, a sense of sanctuary.” 
― Douglas Copeland

Decisions decisions…elusive decisions. I hate making them. S is no better at it, and if there were an international procrastination Olympics , we’d take gold in Fence-Sitting.  (And a silver in Retirement Planning. Possibly in Photo-Organizing as well. Hell, we’d OWN that Olympics. And now I want someone to plan one, just not me, because it wouldn’t take place until 2050.)

 If  every exit is an entrance somewhere else, as Tom Stoppard would have it, then an exit means a closed door behind me. Making an entrance elsewhere  and I might never get a chance to walk through any of those other doors I can see off down the corridor. I am much better at thinking about making decisions. I can spend many soothing hours weighing risks, making lists, MS Excel-ing my brainwaves into an alpha-state somnolence. Which is stupid, because not deciding anything is itself a paralysis, a fence. But stepping through that door? Uh uh. No thank you.  I'll just stand out here and ring the door bell, thanks. Maybe peek through the windows.

But every so often, doors open in front of you whether you will or no, and something pushes you through. First, circumstances led us to decide  to move back to western Canada . Having got that far, we needed to pick an actual destination.  No problem! Easy peasy lemon-squeezy! After all, there aren’t actually that many cities to choose from out west. Somewhere not too far from family, said S. There must be a Costco, said I. S wanted a  decent economy. I wanted decent restaurants and a French Immersion school. S insisted on a shorter commute and lower housing prices. You’re darn right, I agreed, because if it’s somewhere with a high cost of living and a long commute, I am staying put right here, where I'm happy.

So we made our checklists, perused the maps, and googled extensively. After many hours of debate and discussion, we stuck a pin in map and called it good came to a well-thought through and reasoned answer. In late August, we will arrive at our new home; a place where we can grow fruit in the summer and ski in the winter,  send the kids to école, and still get to Costco in about 15 minutes.

I just have to buy a Vietnamese cookbook and I’m all set.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015


Footie! Soccer! Football! Whatever you call it, my kids love it. To watch it, anyway, playing it is a bit more problematic, as Pickle doesn't understand the rules and Panda doesn't like all those people crowding her, and would rather sit and investigate the ants in the astroturf* than fight for the ball.

 Every year, the school board here gives parents a chance to buy reduced rate tickets to a pro match. Last year, my kids were a bit put off by all the noise and bustle, and Pickle begged to leave before it was over. But this year,  they loved it. The excitement, the hotdogs, the cheering, the hotdogs, the people-watching, the hotdogs, the stamping of the feet to encourage the team; it all entranced them. (Hotdogs may or may not have had a lot to do with that.) 

And we won too!

Add caption

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

...Catching up to myself

Oh wow.
I really didn’t mean to take such a long break from blogging, but life has been more insane than I expected. Like, newborn-baby-in-the-house insane, but without the baby part.  Still, there have been many late nights, an abundance of tears, and a whole tonne of poop to get through (luckily, the metaphorical kind.)

But  of course there were bright spots as well, one of them being our tenth wedding anniversary. We got away for the weekend, sans kids.
That bears repeating.  We, who in seven entire years have never  been away overnight and out of the house together and without kids,  went away for the weekend.  I love my kids, but I could have happily stayed away for a week.

We didn’t go anywhere too fancy; we just rented a hotel in Kingston, (Ontario, not Jamaica. Unfortunately.) Kingston is a picturesque town, which served as the first capital of Canada and was home to John A McDonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada.  It also has the distinction of having no less that NINE ‘correctional facilities’ in the area, seven of which are within the city limits. (Yep, that’s right, we went to Canada’s jail capital for our anniversary. ) There is also a large military base there, and I can’t help but think that maybe the two things are related – insurance in case of chaos, as it were.

View from hotel
Old church buildings
It was delightful. We had grown up talks that (mostly) did not revolve around bodily functions or who was in whose personal breathing space; we investigated the local pubs and walked for hours, sightseeing and shopping in little boutiques without breaking even one piece of merchandise. We may have indulged in few too many glasses of wine and beer and slept late in the morning, but I’ll never tell.

We checked out the pharmacy which doubles as a museum of things pharmacological, and wandered the flea market. I found this, which anyone in who has been in the former Soviet bloc will recognize.

A Trabant! And with shinier paint that the ones I remember, which were matte off white/grey/cream and looked like they were made of paper maché (it was actually a plastic). It had a 2 stroke engine. 

The perfect weekend- at least, right up until I suddenly developed a horrible cold that I later learned (once my son had contracted it from me) was actually viral pneumonia. But I sucked back the cough syrup, popped a few Advil, put down the wineglass and we STILL had fun. It was entirely rejuvenating, and I needed the break to fortify my temper and equilibrium against the next few weeks.

Friday, 1 May 2015

April in Pictures

With cross country moves to plan and extra duties at work (as colleagues quite rightly jump from a sinking ship), kids activities to attend and packing to accomplish, time is at a premium around here. They say pictures are worth a thousand words, so here goes!

First, a trip to the cabane à sucre to see the maple syrup collected , and eat maple syrup candy. If you've never been, it basically consists of paying a set fee to sit in a huge room at a long table and  eat as many plates as possible of scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, cretons, pancakes, beans, back bacon, potatoes...well, you get the idea. Then you try to mitigate the arterial damage by chasing your kids as they run screeching on the playground, beg for face-painting, wagon, and pony rides; and terrorize the animals in the petting zoo. It's most fun in a large group, where you can chat with your girlfriends and let the men wrangle the kids.
Showing of the pace paintings, and S being silly on the wagon ride

It's playoff season! In my house, this means a lot of begging to stay up late to watch hockey, and then bombarding the adults with questions. "Who are the red guys? Who are the blue guys? Who's winning? What are the rules? What's that guy's name? How about that guy? Why did they stop playing? Is that guy a bad guy? What are the rules again?"  Usually, we make them a bowl of popcorn to keeps their mouths too busy to talk,  and then S escapes to the office while I try to explain offside rules to a four year old.  Of course watching leads to doing, so they put two Crazy Fort pieces together so they could whack a ball around. And since whacking a ball around leads to losing an eye to a pointy Crazy Fort piece, I broke down and bought them each a little hockey stick.

We also went to see "Home" in the theatre. They weren't too sure about the first part of the movie, but loved it once everyone made friends. Now Pickle wants to be a Boov. They had a blast playing in the arcade after the show - in fact, I think that is why they like going to the movies. I wish I'd taken a picture of them in the bumper cars, but I was too busy smashing into Panda and her friend G to get a good shot.

Panda Smashysmashy and Pickle riding the roller-coaster simulator

And this is Panda's drawing of a fly. It's so darn cute that I am half-considering getting it as a tattoo. 

And that's it. My April in pictures!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Panda Plans

I have been having this conversation with my daughter a lot lately.

P: Mama, I want a sister. We don't have enough kids in our family. A's family [our dear friends] has three!
me: I'm not having another baby, honey.
P: Well, can't you just get a kid? Isn't there, like a place you can go to for one? Lots of kids don't have families you know. We could adopt!
me:'s not so simple....It's not like it's Target, sweetheart.
P: But--
me: I'll talk to Papa, okay?

She's had the same discussion with her father. I know, because one night S came rushing into the bedroom, adamantly wishing to know if I had promised Panda that we were going to get her a sister. (I hadn't.)

 The thing is, we've never mentioned adoption to our kids. I suppose they may overheard one of our late-night chats, but I think that Panda just has a heart as big as Ontario. She needs to help. She's fascinated with the idea of rescuing people/pets/random spiders. Also, she may or may not have watched 'Oliver and Company' on repeat once too many times on a long road trip. She is convinced that she needs a new sister exactly her age who loves Frozen as much as she does, who could be the Anna to her Elsa. Each time she brings it up I am treated to a righteous little lecture on how there are kids who need families because their mommies and daddies are mean, and like, pull their hair and stuff. And each time I try to explain that yes, there are kids whose mommies and daddies - for whatever reason- can't take care of them properly and keep them safe, it is true, but it is a loooong process to adopt a child, and anyway, does she realize she'd have to share her toys? And her brother?

But it doesn't put her off. She's determined. I'm worried that when we do finally tell them -we are holding off  in hopes of avoiding as long as possible the adoption version of the question "are we there yet?", incessantly repeated at regular intervals - anyway, I am worried that when we do finally tell them, she will think that we are doing it because she talked us into it. And if the transition is rough with the placement, or the kids fight a lot, I am worried that she will blame herself. 

Of course, she might just be mad at us, because are hoping to adopt someone a year or so younger than Pickle. Our daughter has never held the opinion that her executive powers should be less than that of adult, and  I can just hear her sighing deeply and patiently explaining to us that we were SUPPOSED to get a girl. Her age. Who likes Frozen. And then giving us that eyebrows-slightly-raised 'are we clear now?' look, and expecting that we'll obediently toddle off back to the placement worker and put in a request for a proper sister.

And if we ever decide on place to move to, and get through the application process in that new province... who knows? Maybe she'll get one. Is four that much more work than three?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A Post About The Weather (no, really)

It's spring here, and it has been for the last three days. Four days ago it was winter, because Canada changes seasons like a sixteen year old in a Mustang changes lanes.

I always learn a lot about strangers at this time of year. The optimists stroll about in regular shoes, with a light spring coat or a hoodie (or if you hail from Saskatchewan, a 'bunny hug') The more cautious among us switch to regular shoes, but keep the down-filled coat just in case of snow. Those with trust issues not only bundle up in parkas, but add a light scarf and winter boots for good measure. Then there are the crazy people (or 'college students', as I like to call them) who have stripped right down to shorts and sundresses, ballerina flats and sandals.

It's also pretty easy infer what a person's daily schedule might be. Wearing a scarf and carrying a heavier coat? Early morning commute, when it is still chilly. Long sleeves, no coat? Left the house around ten. Short sleeves, no coat? Headed out for lunch, or early cocktails. Sundress and heavy sweater? Wandered out at noon, and plans to be out partying until three in the morning.

Me, I am sticking with a spring jacket over my regular winter outfits for now. I'm an optimist, but I'm also too darn lazy get the summer stuff out of the closet. Also, I've seen snow fall in every month of the year in Canada, so maybe I do have some trust issues with Father Winter. Poor Pickle is an optimist too, but he doesn't even own a spring jacket, so it's goose feathers and bunny hugs* for him. I looked for one online, but apparently they are all already sold out. Normal people a) plan for spring, b) the season arrives on time in other parts of the world.

So here's to Spring, with the hope that she sticks around long enough for us to make it out to the cabane à sucre before the summer heat kicks in.

*I'm not from Saskatchewan, I just really like to say 'bunny hug'. Because seriously, how cute is that?

Monday, 13 April 2015

Sweet or Chicken? You decide! - (1/2) a Guest Post by S

Evidence as submitted by S:
"How I saved myself from humiliation in front of my children and a school friend.
Easter Monday: I have the kids home because school is closed and my wife has to work. I invite one of Panda's Gr 1 friends over because, as any parent knows, it's significantly less work to entertain your own kids (and keep the damn TV turned off) if one of their friends comes over for the day.
Around 11am, I corral them together to bake cookies, and they have a blast scooping, measuring, cracking the egg, mixing with the electric beater, etc, etc. Cookies are formed, fired into the oven, and I send them on their way. This, this, is my glorious day to catch up on housework. Oh yes, we've long reached that level of parenting glamour where you actually get excited to have time and energy to clean. But, I multi-task too much and burn the damn cookies. The timer was on but I ignored it. Might as well try one.. Hmm, just the bottom is black, still sort of edible...should I serve them? I consider this and immediately reject this dark path. She already never lets me forget the time that I biked her around on the child carrier seat without remembering to buckle her in. She'll never let me live this one down. I can hear her delighted voice at school for the next ten years: "...this one time, I had my friend over for a playdate, and my silly dad burned the cookies..."
HELL NO, am I going through that shit! The evidence of my crimes are quickly hidden away from view. Taking pains to keep them occupied outside of the kitchen, I made an entire second batch of cookies from scratch. Whipped by hand of course, the electric beater is too noisy and would certainly expose my sins... Lunch and subsequent cookies were served without incident, and my reputation was saved once again..."

As related by yours truly:

Panda had made a sign for our door on Easter, so that the Easter Bunny would know whose house he was at. She was very proud of it and wanted to show it off at school, but it had been kicking around the house for a few days (okay, fine, it was on the floor) and when it came time to put it in her school bag last night, it was of course nowhere to be found. After we'd reassured her we would look for it and tucked her up snug in her blankets, S shamefacedly admitted that not only had he recycled it, he'd crumpled it up in a ball, too. Once the kids were safely asleep, he fished it out and I ironed it - with mixed results. So this happened:

Yes, that is my husband painstakingly making an exact copy of her poster, so that she isn't crushed in the morning. Or to evade her wrath, I'm not sure which.

I can't decide if our kids have the sweetest Papa ever, or the most chicken. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Just Breathe

You might remember that I was laid off  from my job a while ago? 

Yeah....That hasn't changed. The excitement has worn off and life is so complicated right now that sometimes I feel like I can't breathe. S is looking for work all over the western provinces, but it's hard to get someone to look at you when you're three thousand kilometers away from a prospective job (that's 1864 miles, for anyone who doesn't speak metric.) I've already put my CV in for consideration for transfer to our western location; we said we'd give it until May, but we feel it is better to get it all on the table now. I haven't heard anything yet.

Our lease ends June 30th, and our landlord has declined to extend it until the end of August (they were nice about it, at least) so we need to be out of our apartment by the end of June. I can't leave my job until August 28th, or I lose the severance deal. I'm sure you see the dilemma. We  have two kids that need to be in school by September 2nd and we don't yet which province we are headed to, much less which city.

No pressure.

I guess it's like labour, I just need to breathe through it....

Monday, 6 April 2015

Hippity Hop Hop, here comes the Easter Bunny

I love holidays - all of them. We celebrate every holiday that we have any connection to in our home - Chinese ones, North American ones, Hungarian ones; and if I knew of any Icelandic holidays, we'd celebrate those too. Nothing makes more sense to me than celebrating life- and nothing makes less sense to me than lining the pockets of corporate interests to do so. We tend to try to keep things small at our house, and for Easter, that always means a whole lot of hard-boiled eggs.

Panda and Pickle, making remarkably little mess.

 It's tradition. We did it with my mom, and  and for all I know she did it with hers. In fact, I did it even before I had kids - before I was even married, with room-mates and whoever else I could coerce into it. (Luckily for me, when almost everyone you know attended art college, it isn't too hard to find people willing to draw on stuff.) So, every year on the night before Easter Sunday, we gather our supplies: Wax crayons (washable ones won't work), egg dye (food colouring, vinegar and boiling water), drop cloth, smocks (in theory -we couldn't find any) and hard boiled eggs. Stickers and temporary tattoos are good too.

Finished product
 Once everyone is in bed, the Easter Bunny comes and hides all the eggs around the house. He brings a basket (well, bucket) for each child as well. Bright and early on Sunday morning, happy little bodies tumble out of bed and rush around screaming in delight and trying one-up each other on how many eggs they have found. When all are accounted for* and several have been breakfasted upon, at last it's time to tuck into the Easter basket; chocolate, jelly beans, and a new spring outfit.

the baskets
And that's it, Easter in an eggshell! Now, does anyone have a recipe that calls for sixteen hardboiled eggs?

*Do not forget to count the eggs before the Easter Bunny hides them. A late night and a glass of Cabernet have a way of turning an overlooked egg into a nasty - and stinky - surprise a few weeks down the road. That's also I lesson I learned from my mother.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Yay for Science!

There isn't much that gets Panda's brain-wheels turning faster than a scientific problem! That kid loves to know exactly how everything works and why, an attitude that will serve her well in her quest to be the first person to travel to the end of the universe and find out what's on the other side, and what the rocks there look like. (Pickle maintains that he is going to be race-car rocket driver, so maybe they can team up.)

So, a few weeks ago we headed out to the science centre to get their brains moving and give Netflix a rest (don't judge, it's been a long cold winter, and there is only so much McDonald's Playland that any one human being can tolerate. Even if they do have palatable coffee nowadays.)

Checking out the displays, and asking a million questions
 There were a thousand things to do there, even though the temporary exhibits were closed (probably a good thing, since we could see that one of the ones coming was a rather racy one about sex and sexuality. Complete with toys. I am not yet ready for that talk with the kids!) They had a blast running from station to station and learning about sound waves,  vacuums, wind tunnels, and hydro electric power. They made roller coasters and steered robots, and learned about density and magnetic force. There was a circular platform which they could stand in the centre of and pull a rope to raise a soapy ring, thus creating a giant bubble around their bodies. Pickle would invariably stick his bum out too far and pop it.
Pickle testing out the rollercoaster building blocks                                    Can you see a Panda hand?                 

There was a computer program which we could use to build a face by choosing from hundreds of different features. It didn't ;end itself well to building children though, so we tried to make ones that would show what Panda and Pickle might look like as adolescents.

They had a marvelous time. Places like this are one of the things I will definitely miss when we move to a small city!

Monday, 30 March 2015

Some of all of the things

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday. ~ Don Marquis

Or last week. Or for that matter, the last entire month.

Procrastination is something that I am very good at (or bad, depending on your point of view) and a multitude of things are affected by it; Mt. Laundry, filing, unpacking, this blog....

So let me see if I can rectify that - the blog part, anyway. (My propensity to never fully unpack has come in handy, since we've only been in this house three years and we are already moving. So I'm now ahead of the game.)

Also, I've decided not to be so damn paranoid about privacy, so here is a pic or two of the kids, celebrating Panda's 7th birthday. She was pleased as punch with Pickle's gift of a singing Elsa doll, and all we've heard for a week now is "Mama, can I press the button?" followed by the chorus for "Let It Go." She has started using it as a reminder for herself and everyone else not to get upset by the little things - most notably when lil' bro is following her around imitating her. She just 'lets it go.'

Pickle is still working out the whole 'smile for the camera' thing

Friday, 20 March 2015

Finding Home

There is just so much to say about Canada's relationship with her First Nations that it's impossible for me to begin to even address it all here. It is something that S and I are both pretty passionate about though, and something I have been trying to find a way to write about for a while. So here goes - a short primer, a win, and a loss.

A Primer in Parable*
Imagine that you live in a lovely big house, with a clear sweet well and a big garden. It has everything you need to live. You have a pretty large family and while you don't always get along with your cousins, there is generally enough to go around. Life is sometimes hard, but overall it's good.

Then one day a stranger moves in. He doesn't ask permission, he just walks through the front door and decides to stay. He's got quite a few technological gadgets you haven't seen before, and some of them look pretty dangerous, so you cautiously accept him. He graciously offers to let you stay (jerk), but asks that you don't really talk to or come near him and his family. Unless he needs something, of course, like that time the neighbours decided to have a barbeque on your front deck and he wanted your help to chase them off. Or when he didn't know how to get to the attic, but was really curious to see what was up there.

 It all works okay for a little while; not great, but you can manage it. Then you notice that more and more of his family are moving in. It starts to get crowded. Sure, he knows he made a deal with you about who would take which rooms, but the bedroom you are sleeping in has a really nice view. So he one day he bursts in, waves his techie gadgets in your face and tells you to go sleep in the spare room. Which you do- you remember all too well the day that your grandma stood up to him and he turned her into a puddle of green goo. But he still isn't satisfied. Before you know it, his whole family has taken over the best parts of the house, and yet they can't understand why you are complaining about living in the back basement storage room, where there is no bathroom, water, or heat. 

The longer he is there, the worse it gets. He calls you names, and pretends you are stupid. He decides he doesn't like how you raise your children, so he kidnaps most of  them.  You aren't allowed to see them any more, and for all you know may never see them again. You keep getting really ill, too, because he seems to bring every little cold, bug and germ into the house. He gave your wife lung cancer with his relentless smoking, and your little niece died of measles. Not to mention that he wouldn't stop hitting on your sister, and he cornered her more than once in the pantry. She got really scared, so she ran away and now you can't find her. He won't help you look though, he just says it's her own damn fault and whatever happened to her, she probably had it coming. But it's all good, he insists, because, dude, you guys can use his Xbox. Except your family has never owned a gaming system before and now all your one cousin wants to do is sit and play Call of Duty all day - so much so that it cost him his job, his wife, and his health. 

You continually protest this treatment, and your roommate eventually says he's sorry. Which, okay, you hope he might mean it, but nothing changes. You try to get the police and the courts involved, but most of them are his relatives, and they won't do anything to help you. Often it just makes things worse and you are left with a smaller corner to live in than before. In fact, he just moved his garbage can into the storage room where you sleep, the only space you really have left. He says it won't really take up much room, and he'll give you a dollar a month for letting him leave it there.

He thinks that money makes up for everything; for sickening your family and for scattering them, for moving into your home and wrecking it. The place is filthy now, crumbling; the walls full of holes and the appliances missing. The foundation is cracked. The garden has been poisoned and the once-sweet well water catches on fire when it comes out of the tap. He says don't worry, I'll pay for your kids to go to school, because I am such a generous guy. All they need to do is catch the school bus at the corner. But the garbage is so deep on the floors and the rooms so thick with people that your remaining children can't push through to find the way out. He says, I'll give you money for fresh water, for good food - but it's never enough, because he is the one who sells you the food from your own pantry and he's the one who sets the prices. Then when you are cold and hungry, when your children are struggling to read the simplest of books and do the simplest of sums, he blames you. Why can't you be more like me? What is wrong with you? Why does I always have to give you grocery money and buy your clothes -what did you do with the last fifty bucks, buy more Xbox games?

You've both lived like this for long now that he's forgotten whose house this is. He thinks that because he changed the wallpaper and added a chair, it belongs to him. He's forgotten the truth, and his children were never taught it. They are brought up to believe that this has always been their home, and they can't understand why you're so angry. You know he's never going to leave,  but you'd sure as hell like for him to honour the original agreements - you just want your bedroom back. You want him to clean up the garden and get the garbage bin the hell out of the storeroom. Every time you bring it up though, he brushes you off, saying he's misplaced the papers, or that the dog ate them, or that you're clearly crazy because he never said he'd stay out of the living room in the first place. He never listens to you.

A Win and a Loss
Today, a homeless Ojibway woman won the right to live in the small one room home** she had constructed herself on ancestral lands. Not because the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry thinks she actually has the right to live there, mind you, but because the Crown Counsel for this case felt that "in this case the public expense of a lengthy trial does not appear to be justified when weighed against the gravity of the offence." And on that, my friends, I call bullshit. They just don't want to go up against her in court and lose. A landmark decision in the favour of First Nations rights is not acceptable to Canada's government at any time, and certainly not to the  Harper regime.

So Ms. Necan can live in her house, and that is a win. Hopefully others will draw strength and hope from her victory.  But her win, while important, could represent a larger loss; the loss of a judicial decision that would force a long-over-due recognition of First Nations right to govern their own affairs on their own ancestral land. It'd be a start.

*I apologize if this offends anyone in the First Nations communities; it is a parable  and only meant to illustrate the spirit (if not the history) of the relationship between Canada's government and people and the First Nations people. I don't mean to presume to put words in your mouths or appropriate your experience, this is only my attempt to get the larger public to understand some of the issues by trying to get them to a sympathetic place. Please feel free to contact me with constructive criticisms. For those who think I am going overboard with this parable, I encourage you to read Thomas King. 

**I suppose I don't need to warn you about the comment section, but I will anyway. Remember, don't feed the trolls.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Westward, Ho!

On a cold and snowy Tuesday afternoon several weeks ago, our family got a much-needed and not wholly unwelcome kick in the ass. 

I and all seven of my departmental colleagues were called to an unexpected meeting with the VP. The company had decided to restructure, and our (clearly sales) department would now report to the VP of Logistics. Our entire department would be moved to our American location. The move itself isn't that surprising - they merged with a US company eight years ago and are gradually transferring everything there. The timing, though.... the timing sucks. First, we all thought we had a few more years. Second, they are closing our department at the end of the summer. Because no-one will need to move and no-one has kids starting school then <eye roll>.

My first thought was "I'm free!" My second was that I felt like I was back in high school, at 3:02 on a sunny summer day... "will he just shut up already and let us leave?" But Mr. VP droned on, and on, and on, explaining the reasons that everyone had, just five minutes prior, ceased to give a damn about. He seemed to be looking for absolution.

But's where the silver lining shines.  S and I have been talking about moving west, but we were held here by my job and our daycare situation. We weren't quite ready to leave stable ground and leap into the unknown without a safety net. With my severance package, we have a safety net. We can leap...but leap where?

Our current plan is for S to get a job in his field and I will follow, and we will use my severance for a down payment.. That plan needs to locked down by the end of May, or we need to move to plan B, which is to look into the possibility of my company transferring me to a position out west. It's already been raised to me by two separate managers, so it is a distinct possibility- I'd get a paid move, a job I didn't particularly want, and no severance package. So bye-bye house ownership. Plan C would be to stick a pin in the map, polish our resumés, and rent a moving van.

So...yeah, that's where we are, with every thing up in the air. I HATE it when everything is up in the air. I like to have it all neatly laid out on a colour-coded spreadsheet that I will probably never refer to again once I enter a value in the final cell. Most of my big decisions may be emotionally-driven and somewhat sudden, but I like to trick myself into thinking I am being logical and well-informed. I hate that I can't even start lying to myself about this one until we know where we are going!

Of course, Panda is devastated. She doesn't want to leave her friends, her school, her life here. I don't either - I finally have some fantastic girlfriends and I'd like very much to keep them. Pickle, who's four, might be a little young to process it all, but he definitely doesn't want to go kindergarten next year (here he would have one more year at daycare, in any other province he will start school.) S is pretty excited, I think.

I guess am too. Nervous about the logistics of it all, but excited. We are long overdue for a change, and this will our last upheaval until the kids are grown.

Well, except for that whole foster/adoption thing! 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Imprimatura and Talk-back Tuesday

I'm sorry.

I suck at consistent effort, and if I don't want this little corner of babble to go the way of the dodo, then I need to make some changes. I need to take off the filter and write whatever comes to mind, whether or not I think it will be marginally interesting to others (or even readable.) It's like 'blank canvas fear', sometimes you just have to slap an imprimatura on that sucker and go for it.

I realized last week that my son's year has approximately 260 more days than everyone else's year. He is certain that he sleeps overnight at the daycare every weekday, and nothing we say will convince him that it is just a nap. I would be so much more productive if I had 260 more days in my year! Wait, no I wouldn't. I'd probably just complain that winter was even longer now and spend all my time surfing Netflix and cuddling kids.

(Belated) Gung Hei Fat Choy, everyone! I wish you all a happy and prosperous Year of the Sheep. We bundled the kids up warmly and took them down to Chinatown to watch the lion dance last weekend. I swear that Panda got so close a couple times that she might as well have joined the troupe. She is fascinated by the dancing and drumming, and I love that she gets so into it.

And of course no day in Chinatown in complete without indulging in a huge lunch or wheedling of a cheap toy out of the parents. Pickle chose a Chinese fan, and now he runs around constantly asking everyone if they are too hot, because what else would we be during the frigid February frost? But he loves fanning us all so much that we just go with it and try not to get our noses swiped off while he developed his notion of relative distances between fan and face.  Panda chose Digimon cards, because she so obsessed with that show that she solemnly named our TV cabinet "The Crate of Destiny." (Which is awesome, and it shall henceforth be referred to as such.) I get her point - special, predestined kids without parental oversight who have cute, furry little animal BFFs that talk and kick serious ass, what's not to like? (I mean, besides stilted dialogue and terrible animation.) But I think the aspect that really draws her is the idea that friendship and teamwork triumph over all evils, and that everyone is redeemable. And that just makes me want to hug her sweet little self until she squeaks.

Panda's birthday is approaching, and our gift to her is Frozen on Ice tickets. Her little brother gets to go as well, and she can choose to either have both parents or one friend  - I'd totally choose the friend, but she is big on family outings, so we'll see. She also seems to be having a bit of a hard time deciding which friend to ask. She's narrowing her choices by criterion of who would enjoy it the most, and not by whom she most wants to spend time with- which is a bit worrisome. Don't get me wrong, I love that she is so empathetic. I just worry about the future implications of that when she hits teen-hood.

This will be her third 'no-gifts' birthday party. The rule is she can invite as many friends as she wishes, but they won't bring her gifts (she still gets presents from family.) What do you think? Would you do a giftless party for your child, or do you feel that opening a mound of presents is an integral part of the childhood birthday party experience? Do you feel awkward showing up without a gift, even when it's requested? Talk to me this Tuesday!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts for the week.... I had some, but the ol' brain just isn't working so well right now. Too many late nights I guess.

My phone was stolen on the métro on the way home from work Friday. It was really crowded, and I was being jostled a lot, and I think whoever it was just unzipped my purse and took it right out. I know, right? I KNOW. Apple-picked. (Well, more like kimchi-picked. Or bulgogi-picked. Dammit, now I'm hungry.) I was so oblivious I didn't even feel it, but I sure felt the six-hundred dollars needed to buy out the contract and replace it. What bothers me most is my own negligence in not putting a tracking app on it, and not having backed up the photos. Good-bye, Christmas 2014.

We have no land-line, so  I couldn't text my husband to get his thoughts on buying a ridiculously high-priced bundle of happiness for Panda's birthday gift. Can you believe that I waited up until after midnight just to get his agreement for Frozen on Ice tix? Yeah, me either. It's not like there would suddenly have been a  rush on seats at 11:07 pm on a Tuesday, but I get these things stuck in my head and I have to do them NOW. I'm glad I got on it though, because that daughter of mine eats, breathes, and sings Elsa.

Of course there is always a silver lining to life's small setbacks, and losing my phone is no exception. I'd no sooner activated the new one than some pre-installed app popped me up on an old friend's Google+ feed.  G and I go back almost twenty years, and have a surprisingly uncomplicated history considering we once lived together as a couple for two of them. We always remained good friends, but with the curve balls life likes to throw, we've gone long periods without emailing. Last night I got to chat with him for over an hour.

We are moving apartments. I think. I don't know. I really need to sit down with S, decide our course, and make a blood pact to keep it. We can waffle on any decision, I tell ya. If we do move, we need to stay in the neighbourhood so Panda doesn't need to move schools. We need a four bedroom, so we can apply to foster. And we need a yard. All that adds up price-wise, and I find our neighbourhood isn't that reasonable to begin with. So, for the price of a rental, we could own. We could have a nice yard and get a dog. Settle down. But what if the market crashes? What if S gets a dream job in another city and we have the hassle of selling a house? So I guess we are better off renting.
See? Waffling. Belgium's got nothin' on us.


Friday, 23 January 2015

My Mother

Four years ago today, my mom died.

As the youngest child of Icelandic immigrants raised in rural British Columbia through the Thirties and Forties, she was resilient. She saw the privations of the Great Depression echo in her small farming community and saw the Second World War sweep her oldest brothers off to the Pacific Theatre. She lost her father at fourteen, and her mother at twenty-one. In a time when most women were homemakers, she worked in shops through her teens and by twenty, had completed college and taught her first elementary class. She would continue teaching for the next forty years. In an era when most women were married by nineteen, she didn't settle down until she found a man that she "couldn't push around." She was thirty. She didn't have children for almost another decade. And in all this, she saw nothing remarkable. Maybe because of her Icelandic roots, maybe due to her natural humility.

Mom was a true lady. Perhaps she was just a product of her era, but she never complained and I rarely heard her speak ill of anyone. Mom didn’t believe in raising her voice. She stood straight, dressed well, and had lovely handwriting. When she spoke she sounded straight out of a movie from the Fifties. I only once heard her drop the F-bomb in a heated argument- and when she did I dropped my glass of orange juice in shock. (She was prone to saying "oh, shit!" though, whenever she forgot something, which was a lot.) She was an avid reader, and by the age of three we knew that the best time to ask for and receive permission to do just about anything, or go just about anywhere was when she had her nose buried in a good novel.  She instilled a love of reading in her both her children, and now that I have my own kids, I understand – we book-addicts will say anything to get the kids to leave us alone long enough to finish the chapter.

She was stubborn, too, but arguing with Mom was like punching a pillow. She would listen calmly and attentively, then go do her own thing her own way regardless. The only time she could be swayed was when the argument was political or social in nature, and throughout her life I saw her let go of a lot of outdated notions about race and sexuality. One misconception that she held onto for a really long time was that all police everywhere were entirely good people, and she wasn't able to let that go until she herself was bullied into putting down her pregnant dog, which under provocation had snapped at a child. "I didn't think the police would ever be like that, be so threatening," she said to me. I remember giving her an incredulous look and telling her that I had known it since I was twelve. "I know," she responded a little sadly, "I guess you grew up faster than I did." She was sixty-seven.

Of course, no one is without her  faults. She was almost aggressively absent-minded and chronically late. She  forgot to pick us up from Girl Guides on more than one occasion, and only noticed when my father came home and asked where the kids were. We never panicked though, because we assumed she was just later than usual. Her parenting style can best be described as benign neglect – I don’t remember her ever helping me with my homework, or even checking that I’d done it at all.. She never asked to meet our friends’ parents. She often skipped our school events. Part of me thinks that as a primary school teacher, she was just exhausted by little kids by the time she got home to her own. But we never questioned that she loved us.

She drank too frequently, although she was never  drunk. In the long and quiet unscheduled days of retirement, it became clear that the two beer she’d always had when she arrived home in the evening was not a choice, but a need. She did eventually conquer it though, and her smoking habit as well.

She could tell a long rambling story about nothing for hours, and get snippy when we tried to get her to the point. She lived most of her life in a styrofoam bubble where nothing bad ever happened, and if it did, it had better have the good taste not to let itself be discussed in her hearing. I have slowly come to the realization that she found the experience of moving through a violent and unpredictable world to be profoundly upsetting.  She was about as far from sex-positive as one can possibly be, and the only time I ever heard her say anything on the subject was to say that she “tried it twice and didn’t like it.” I have one older sister.  (Which was fortunate, because I had a whole lot of bizarre notions about the birds and the bees that needed dispelling.)

What can I say? She had a lead foot on long drives, occasionally smacked me for sassiness, and gave advice like “Sometimes it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.” She taught my nephew the phrase “ass over teakettle” and never forgot a birthday. She had the same three best friends since eighth grade until her death, and she could beat anybody’s ass at Scrabble or cribbage.

She was the best mother I could have had. Maybe she wasn’t perfect, but she was more than good enough. Being motherless is a particularly unmooring experience. I find I still need to ask her something almost daily. Who is that person in this old photo? Did I eat as slowly as Panda does? How much homework did we have in elementary school, and what grade did it start? And am I doing okay at the mothering thing?

Eventually you find a new normal, but it's never the normal you knew. And I guess it has to be this way, has always been that way. I'll be raising a glass of red to you tonight, Mom; I miss you.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Thursday Thoughts

A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work.
-John Lubbock

And it's been a one of those weeks. One of those weeks when I would have sold off Panda to the travelling high-wire act just to avoid the homework drama, except Cirque Du Soleil is no longer returning my calls. Then the child came home with a note in her agenda that 'she said she was too tired to do her classwork.' Which is complete nonsense, since she got her regular amount of sleep, and even if she were feeling tired, is still not a valid excuse for slacking in class. Also, SO not my problem, lady, you are the one with 'classroom management' in your job description. I'd have been surprised, but it lines up completely with the intrusive and passive-aggressive notes to replace her headband because the school feels it is too large for her or that short sleeves and a cardigan are not appropriate winter attire. They're helicoptering the living daylights out of that girl and I do not appreciate it.

Also, I may not have completely outgrown my dislike of authority. (It's hereditary.)

It's been one of those weeks where our whole future feels like a high-wire act. We have vacillated between S retraining, working away, looking for a job-job here, or staying with freelance work so any times now I'm beginning to feel dizzy. There are just so many damn variables! If and when we finally nail that one down, we need to decide if we will move apartments, neighbourhoods, or not at all. Not at all means we can't move forward with fostering for another year at least. That's very much not okay with me, since we have been working toward this first step for a year already. Sometimes it sucks being a fence-sitter. Life would be a whole lot ...faster...? ... if S and weren't the type of people that will put off procrastinating until tomorrow. 

But there were some fun,  funny bright spots too!

overheard conversation....
Panda: Papa, I need another hooker.
S: A hooker?
Panda: yeah, I want another hooker. I don't have enough.
S: (totally nonplussed)
Panda: Hookers, Papa, HOOKERS! You know, for my closet? For my dresses?
S: ah... You need more hangers, honey?
Panda: Hookers, hangers, whatever. 
S: Actually, this is a pretty important one. It's 'hangers', alright?

And Pickle on the crowded bus...
(Points at lady beside us on bus) 'She has a baby in her belly, Mama. How did it get there? Did she eat it? When will it come out? But she didn't eat it, because then it would be poop. Panda says babies come out a mama's vagina. Does that Mama have a vagina? How did the baby get in there? Did she stuff it up there?" 
Et cetera. For five minutes or more, because that child's mouth-motor has one speed and it ain't neutral. He didn't pause for breath long enough for me to get a word in edgewise, much less answer a question. And he is LOUD, good heavens is he loud. A word of warning - this is what happens when you give honest scientific explanations to your children. I should have just busted out the stork story and let them sort it out at puberty.

How is your week so far? Are you a procrastinator too, and if you are, how do you talk yourself into making life's big decisions?

Monday, 12 January 2015

I wonder what Sesame Street is like these days?

Because children's programming sure has changed.

And ...

Luckily, the Rescue Bots didn't have any call girls in it, and the kids were able to watch Monster Math Squad on my profile (which now keeps suggesting I enjoy an episode of Animal Mechanicals or two.)

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Thursday Thoughts

Is it just me, or is the first week back to school after holidays always a complete mess? Meal planning has totally gone out the window, laundry is piling up, even with the fancy new large capacity washer. This is partly because I don't have enough whites to make a full load, unless every piece of white clothing in the house needs washing. The house is a total tip, but on the plus side, I think the fleas are gone. It dropped to -36 C last night so it's possible that they all died of cold.

Ah, homework, that dastardly scourge of modern education. Nothing puts parents and kids more at loggerheads than studying for spelling tests, except possibly the science fair. (S was the one who signed Panda up for that, so I am just going to hide in the bedroom with a book and box of chocolates until it's over.)  I am not sure how we are going to make it through the next 10 or so years, if spelling 'play' is so traumatic. I have never heard a child wail so desolately over remembering the order of four little letters.

Turning four has somehow reset my sweet Pickle's factory default from 'amiable' to 'auto-argue'. Nothing in the world will convince him that yes, orcas are indeed whales, and no, there is no such sport as skate car, where the object of the game is to kick a soccer ball through the window of a car (apparently no skates are actually involved.) He insists on being signed up for a weekend league. Yeah, I'll get right on that.

Speaking of misconceptions, there is clearly still some confusion regarding how the whole God thing works. We may have to take a trip back to Church to let the authorities weigh in, since she is  convinced that kids can increase their chances of getting awesome gifts from Santa by praying to him. She's already working on next year's list.

My thumb is finally healed from my mishap with the wineglass! Technically, at least. Yesterday the surgeon removed the 'button' stitched onto the top of my thumb that he. Oh, how I hated that button! The tendon is  reattached but still stiff  enough that it is frozen in position. It is still all swollen and weird. It looks like a fake thumb. Next time, I will drink the wine first. Then my reflexes will be dulled and I won't be able to catch the falling the glass.

Why hasn't anyone invented snow tires that have little retractable stud crampons that pop out and stick in the ice when you push a button? Like cat-claw tires?

I guess my heads not that full this week, because I've run out of things to say. I have no real way to end this post though so I'll do it with punctuation.

the end.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

"Should I stay or should I go? If I go there could be trouble...

...If I stay it could be double." Thank you, Strummer et al for that elucidating argument.

So, S and I are contemplating a move, and we are having a hard time getting our heads around things.

A really hard time.

We currently live in the one of the most economically depressed provinces, and the only one that has a language barrier to overcome. We  will always be outsiders. Taxes are insanely high, infrastructure is post-apocalyptically bad, and S cannot find a decent, steady job in his field. Or really any steady job. Housing prices keep rising, and since we are working with my salary alone, we might eventually manage a mortgage on a little three bedroom home in a sketchy area. But we can’t quite get to the four bedroom we’d need to move forward with foster/adoption, and I don’t want to live in gangland, even by Canada’s milder standards.  I suppose we could find something on the edge of nowhere, but the commute already eats up a good two hours of my day, and we only live ten kilometers from my work.

We could move back west.  Right now we are far from our families, not that we’d necessarily be close, even if we lived next door – notably excepting our fathers.  And possibly our siblings, since the break between is less lack of love than lack of commonality. Okay fine, we miss our families. We’d like to be closer, in all the layers of meaning that phrase holds. S should have a much easier time finding work- his field is still very specialized, but at least there would be no language barrier. Taxes would be lower, and with two reliable incomes we could possibly buy a house, have a yard, make the commute  more manageable. We could foster.  Life could be rosy…. But yet….We’d need to start over. Housing could be even more expensive, and daycare would be forty to fifty dollars per day, per child. The kids would lose their bilingualism, even in immersion school. Life would be grayer, more culturally homogenous. I’d miss my friends, and making new ones does come easily to me. Not to mention all the hassle of moving a family of four across this ridiculously large country – finding housing, jobs, pediatricians, dentists, family doctors.... And then there are the moving expenses.

On the (infamous) other hand, we could stay here.  I have a decent, secure job. Maybe S could learn the language, find a way to retrain in a more secure field. We adore this city, with its plenitude of parks, festivals,  and free outdoor pools. The culture is diverse and vibrant,  the food is fantastic, and the public transit system is extensive and generally reliable.  It’s politically left-leaning, which suits us well. Daycare is seven dollars a day per child. Seven dollars. The school system is decent, and my children will grow up fully bilingual. When they eventually get to higher education, tuition costs for residents are about half what they are in the rest of the country, and we have some of the finest universities.  We've built a life here, surrounded by amazing, supportive friends.

I think …I think…I think... I need help with this one. On one hand, this:

“And the danger is that in this move toward new horizons and far directions, that I may lose what I have now, and not find anything except loneliness.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

And on the other, this:

“I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.”
― Judith Minty, Letters to My Daughters

 What would you do? Throw up your hands and head for possibly greener pastures, knowing that they could be full of gopher holes? Stay put and pour your energies into a better life here, and if sometimes you feel your pouring it into a pit, the rest of the time you are happy?

Tell me what you think in the comments!

Friday, 2 January 2015

It's 2015! We made it!

We made it! We made it to 2015!

Which is a great relief to me, because the last quarter of 2014 was hard. Not crushing-my-spirit hard, but grinding. "I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread," as Bilbo Baggins put it, sometime around his one hundred and eleventieth birthday. Now, I'm nowhere near that old, but you'd never know it by the way mornings feel these days.

So, Twenty Fourteen, let's tally up a little. You were well behaved for the first nine months (and I thank you, don't think I don't appreciate it) but then you threw this at me:

  • 1 smushed front bumper and 1 misaligned frame on the car 
  • 8 weeks of weekend-only husband, meaning 8 weeks of solo-parenting Sunday afternoon through Friday night - and he didn't get the permanent position
  • 1 injured thumb, 5 stitches and 3 weeks healing time
  • 1 thousand pantry moths
  • 1 broken clothes dryer
  • 1 more smushed bumper (same side) and 1 expensive garage door repair (thanks, winter ice. We'll reciprocate your love with a tonne of salt, next time!)
  • 1 operation to repair nerve and tendon in thumb, resulting in x amount of stitches, 12 weeks healing time, 14 Occupational Therapy appointments, and 1 thumb and 1 wrist that have lost most of the mobility
  • 1 insurance company that refused to pay for OT appointments
  • 2 cats with fleas (How? They've never been outside!)
  • 4 constantly runny noses (okay, now I'm nitpicking. But still....)
I'll forgive you though, because you balanced it out with a long visit with my dad, a lovely week at a cottage, S and our two amazing kids, and the love and support of a fantastic group of friends. So we'll call it even, okay?

And hello, Twenty Fifteen, you fresh-faced innocent! Come on in and let's have a look at you. We welcomed you with lots of good companionship and laughter and joy, but I have a feeling you might put me through the wringer a bit, too. So my promise to you, Twenty Fifteen, is to take better care of myself, both mentally and physically. That is going to mean less bad food and more good exercise. It's going to mean refusing to let the petty little tearer-downers into my headspace, especially at work. It's going to mean making some hard decisions about our future, and sticking to them. I don't expect a perfect year, or a prosperous one, but I hope it is a fulfilling one. I hope I can find my feet and lose my fear, love and be loved, support and be supported.

And I wish the same for all of you out there as well - May your year be fulfilling, replete with love and with clarity.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Image courtesy of Liz Noffsinger at