Saturday, June 30, 2007

Techno-trauma...


Tamagotchi?

They should be called Tama-GOTCHA.

The day that school ended, Child Number Two had one of her little pals over to play... and he brought his brand spankin' new Tamagotchi toy with him. To say that Child Number Two was enraptured with the tiny piece of computer wizardry is a wild understatement. She may be mighty, but she is a nurturing little soul by nature, and the IDEA that a little "creature" could be HERS to look after all by herself... Well.

Her verdict came quickly: She HAD to have one.

I resisted madly. After all, my husband and I have declared this house a "Game-free" zone (and by that, I mean NONE of this "-Boy", or "Wii" technological brainwashing for OUR progeny). So far, we have stuck to our vow. After all, the computers that we have in this house are WAY too tempting for people to become mesmerized by, as it is.

I spoke to the little pal's mother, who is a very good friend of mine. We share a similar parenting style, and I can always trust hers to be a level-headed, well informed opinion. She said that she felt that a Tamagotchi was a fairly harmless toy... her little boy was enjoying it, but its presence in the household did not diminish his enthusiasm of other activities.

Yesterday, when we stopped off at our favourite toy store for a look around, I broke down and allowed Child Number Two to blow her allowance on a Tamagotchi. We chose a nice red one, with a pattern of little folded paper cranes all over it. I even sprung for a lanyard for her, so that the tiny piece of plastic could hang around her neck, and lessen the chance of it being accidentally dropped and lost.

Child Number Two launched into parenting that tiny little "blob" on the screen with great gusto, and with the tendency for obsessive perfection that she has with all activities she sets her mind to. She named the blob "Stela" (we couldn't fit in two L's), and she "fed" it and "played" with it and "cleaned up" after it... It was actually astounding how quickly she figured it out, even though she had only just barely glanced at the instruction sheet.

The novelty had not worn off even this morning, when Stela was brought outside to see the guinea pigs on the lawn, and then on a trip with us to Home Depot. It wasn't until the car ride home, that the unthinkable happened:

Child Number Two: (SCREECHING AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS FROM THE BACK SEAT, with all the power and emotion of Marlon Brando) STEL-LAAAAAA!!!! SHE'S DEAAAADD!!! AAAAAUUUUGGGHHHH!!!!!

Mother: (wildly gripping the steering wheel and trying to avoid going off the road) GAAKKK!! WHO'S DEAD?? What??!! Where??!! What's happening???!!

Child Number Two: (weeping tears of grief) MY TAMAGOTCHI!! She's DEAD!! A picture of an egg with wings came down and took her away!! I must have over-fed her!! Now she's DEAAAD!! WAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

Mother: (Hugely relieved) My God, child!! You didn't HALF scare me!! Put that thing on "pause" and put it away until we get home!! Right now, or I'll have an accident!!!

Child Number Two: (hysterical) WAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!! Now Stela's DEAD and it's ALL MY FAULT!!!

Mother: (Getting crosser by the minute, mostly with herself, as it was SHE who allowed the g-d toy in the first place) Child Of Mine, you put that thing away THIS INSTANT!! It is a TOY, it is NOT REAL. Put it away, and I'll take a look at it when we get home!

The irrational flood of waterworks and wailing and gnashing of teeth continued, and became so irritating to me that I promptly confiscated the cursed toy as soon as all four wheels hit our driveway. Child Number Two was sent to her room to regain her composure and clean herself up.

I was left in the kitchen, with the Tamagotchi and a set of instructions that were about as "clear" as Chinese to me...

I just pressed the buttons for awhile, until all at once, to my complete surprise, the Tamagotchi sprung back to life. The little tiny "blob" known as Stela was somehow treated with a little "medicine kit", and immediately started jumping around on the screen, smiling and waving at me.

"That's nice," I thought. "At least SHE'S grateful for something I've done around here... even if it WAS pretty much by accident."

I realized, all of a sudden, that the entrancing little creature jumping and beeping at me had HOOKED ME for a second. It was a TOY!! A plastic TOY, powered by an overly-expensive, likely irreplaceably-sized button battery!!

"My God..." I thought, "I actually FELL FOR IT!!"

And I jammed the offending toy into my cavernous purse.

When Child Number Two came back downstairs, calmer and with an absence of tear-stains, I suggested that she leave the toy in my purse until tomorrow, and hooshed her outside to the garden where her father and sisters were preparing to head down to the pool for an afternoon swim.

After she had gone, I heard a little chirp coming from the depths of my purse.

I eyed the bag, and continued the task of clearing off the kitchen counters.

More chirps ensued.

Soooo... I gingerly went over to the bag, and pulled out the Tamagotchi.

Awwww... It was hungry. Sad little eyes and everything. I poked at the buttons until the word "snack" appeared, and "fed" Stela a few pieces of what looked like sushi. Immediately, familiar beeps and whistles filled the air, and Stela did a dance of joy on the screen and rubbed her tummy. I swear, I could almost see her "grow".

This has been going on for a couple of hours, now... I've folded the laundry, cleaned the kitchen, prepared the dinner, and responded to at least eight or nine of Stela's little requests...

Tonight, though, I SWEAR, I'm going to press that pause button and stash the Tamagotchi in the depths of my sock drawer, just so that if there are any little "cries" in the night, I won't be tempted to answer them... And of COURSE, I'll have to weigh the options before I decide whether or not Child Number Two can handle the "responsibility" of caring for this little thing... And, whether it will impede on any of her other important daily activities...

We'll see.

We'll see if I can part with Stela. After all, she's the easiest to please of all the creatures that live in this house...

With apologies to Robert Burns...

Gin a guinea catch a guinea
comin thro' the rye... er, grass...

It's a beautiful Saturday morning, and what better way to spend it than with the resident guinea pigs, Cookie and Cupcake, who love nothing better than to graze on the grass. At the rate they're going today, we MIGHT not even need to get the lawn mower out...

Cupcake

Cookie and Cupcake

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mummy SOMETIMES goes away, but she ALWAYS comes back.


Tonight, my husband took me out to dinner to celebrate the fact that I've somehow managed to survive the first day of Summer Vacation with the Thrilling Three...

Actually, it wasn't all that difficult... We slept in till 8am (yes, that is considered a LIE-IN at our house. Ah, life with a preschooler...) Then, we set off for a loooong walk, and a visit to our favourite toy store. We dropped by a local farmer's market, and bought the place out of tomatoes and sugar snap peas, which my girlies and I turned into a very delicious lunch (along with a loaf of fresh bread... Nothing says "summer" like tomato sandwiches!) We then capped the day off with a long afternoon of swimming.

Well, folks, it doesn't get a whole lot better than that.

I can't complain (yet).

My girlies are, as a general rule, pretty good for babysitters, and the lady who comes to look after them when we have an evening out every once in awhile is nothing short of spectacular. In fact, Child Number Three had been looking forward to the babysitting gig all day. That is, until it was actually time for her mummy and daddy to LEAVE...

Overheard while I was doing a last-minute check in the mirror (because when you're a mum, it's AMAZING where the odd sticker, snorfle stain or sticky handprint has left its mark... Usually in my hair, on my rear-end, or somewhere on my freshly-drycleaned shirt...)

Child Number Three: (clearly worried) Mummy 'n Daddy go 'way????

Father: (reassuringly) Yup! Daddy's taking Mummy out for dinner tonight, and you get to stay with the babysitter! You and your sisters are going to have lots of fun!

Child Number Three: (still not convinced) You go 'way, but den you come BACK?

Father: Yes! Of course. We'll go out, and the babysitter will look after you while we're gone, and then we'll come home after you're asleep. When you wake up, we'll be home again.

Child Number Three: (just making sure) You go out for din-der, den YOU BRING MUMMY HOME AGAIN?

Father: Yes, sweetheart. I promise, I'll bring Mummy home.

Child Number Three: (hugely relieved) THANK YOU, Daddy...

I'm choosing to take this as a HUGE compliment, rather than worrying that my youngest daughter fears I'm secretly plotting my escape from this booby-hatch...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The New Resident in The Goddess' Garden


Can you spot our new baby?

This tiny little brown bunny has actually been sighted in The Garden a few times over the past week... but I have resisted telling the girlies about it until today, because I wanted to see whether she was actually making her home here with us. Today, I discovered her burrow under one of the Butterfly Bushes in the upper flowerbed!

The girlies and I spent a delightful afternoon outside, waiting for her to come out for a little hop around. She seems to like it when I put the sprinklers on-- with the heat being as bad as it is these days, there is apparently nothing quite so delicious for her to munch on as newly-dampened grass.

She is so teeny that I assume she must be very newly separated from her mother. We are resisting the great temptation to feed her, as I feel it is important that she learn to survive on her own. She doesn't seem to be frightened of humans, really, at all... she actually scurried right over my foot the other evening while I was out watering the flowers! We won't get TOO close to her... but it is lovely to lie on our tummies in the grass and just watch...

God Save The Domestic Goddess!!


Summer Vacation officially begins at 12.00 pm today!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"A handbag?"


Yesterday, I wrote about my daughters, pacifiers, and a particular purple-and-pink flowered purse.

Today, I write about "A handbag".

Yesterday afternoon, Canada's foremost actor quietly passed away at Stratford General Hospital. He was a great man who lived a long, miraculous life: he had "good innings", as my father would say.

William Hutt was one of my heroes. Not only was he a spectacular actor, he was a spectacular person. He was a perfectionist, and as an actor, he was nothing short of perfection.

I remember vividly the first time I ever laid eyes on the man. This is largely because he was dressed as a woman at the time. I was six years old, and my father took me to see Mr. Hutt play Lady Bracknell in the Stratford Festival's "The Importance of Being Earnest", which was staged at the Avon Theatre. As Lady Bracknell, Mr. Hutt was the essence of ferocious dignity and upper-class snobbery. He carried himself with such incredible poise, that when my father laughingly informed me that Lady Bracknell was actually a "lord", I was bowled over. Hell, he looked just like my Granny.

The pinnacle of the performance, which I shall never forget, came when Lady Bracknell reacted to being told that the young man who wished to marry her daughter was abandoned as a baby, and found in a railway station, tucked into a large handbag. "A handbag?" responds the incredulous great lady... But, unlike most actors portraying Lady Bracknell, the line was not shouted or screeched, accompanied by wild clutching of the throat... Mr. Hutt, in his wisdom, lowered his voice till it was just barely audible. He quietly uttered the words, emanating the pure essence of self-control, and pinned "Earnest" with a piercing glare. The understatement was nothing short of brilliant: he immediately brought the entire house down.

In my memory, all of Mr. Hutt's performances were like that. There was absolutely no ham-acting. Every role he played, be it high comedy or devastating tragedy, came across as believable, as human, as "truth". He could do anything, and it seems to me, he DID do everything... with such grace.

I cannot imagine Stratford without Mr. Hutt. It seems impossible to me. He has always been there, living in his beautiful house by the bridge, and treading The Boards of the three great stages. For so many years, he was one of the people who made the theatre what it was.

His is one of the voices I hear in my head, whenever I think of "home".

Goodbye, Bill. I'll miss you terribly.

"Alas, poor world, what treasure hast thou lost!"
--Venus and Adonis

With heartfelt thanks, and in loving, respectful memory...

Good-night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.


William Ian deWitt Hutt 1920-2007

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I've Been Handbagged...


I have a confession to make.

Child Number Three, aged three, still totes a pacifier.

And by "totes", I mean, she walks around with a pacifier in her mouth almost All. The. Time.

Okay, one in her mouth, and one in one hand. The one in her hand, she uses to rub just under her nose in moments of extreme emotional stress: for instance, while we're driving through the noisiest part of the carwash, for example. You know, the point where the gigantic washcloths envelop the car like enormous octopus arms? That part.

If I'm being absolutely truthful, she has a few more pacifiers on her person at all times as well. The other thirteen (YES, THIRTEEN) can be found in the little purple purse with the pink flower on it that she carries around all day, every day, every single stinkin' place we go. Whenever we're about to go out the door, one of the girls will ask the littlest sister, "Gotcher PURSE?!" and the littlest among them will nod furiously, and then we will all know that it is Safe To Proceed... because God Forbid we leave The Purse and its contents behind.

That has only happened once in Child Number Three's three-year history. And it proved to be an experience that none of us cares to repeat. Because The Purse was left behind at Grandma's house one fateful night, and THAT, people, was a two-and-a-half hour car ride straight from the Hobbes of Hell.

Of course, the discovery that The Purse, and all the thirteen pacifiers within, had been left on the bench in my mother's entrance hallway was not actually made until we were at least three-quarters of an hour into the journey home. By then, we were on a major, MAJOR highway, and there was basically no turning back. That, and the fact that Daddy was driving, pretty much sealed poor Child Number Three's wee little fate... She would be Purse-less until Grandma could make a priority post in the mail the next morning.

By the time we made it into our own driveway, the nerves of all four of the other passengers in the Loser Cruiser were frayed right down to their exquisitely sensitive nubs. The pacifier-deprivation fallout had been so catastrophic, that the Goddess dumped her family members in the driveway with strict instructions to begin the bathing of children without her, and set off immediately for the nearest 24-hour drugstore. The lineups at the casheirs were HUGE that night... and I could only just IMAGINE what my husband was enduring in my absence, so I made for the tiny, empty check-out in the swanky make-up department...

I must have been looking so harrangued and frazzled, that to this day I am amazed that the woman behind the counter didn't immediately offer me a free make-over on the spot. Maybe I just looked Beyond All Help. But, mercifully, she listened to my story, and immediately agreed to my request to check through the eight packages of NUK pacifiers I was purchasing (double-packs, of course), even though her register was for "vanity products only". SANITY products apparently qualified. That, and the fact that she had a two year old waiting for HER at home, too. She was CLEARLY frightened by the scenario I vividly described for her.

We don't leave The Purse behind anymore.

But, Child Number Three is now three years old, and I'm thinking that this pacifier addiction might be pushing the envelope JUST a little... Don't get me wrong, though. As you may have gathered from previous postings, I am NOT a mother who pushes her children to grow up. Hell, Child Number Three is resisting potty training with every ounce of her tiny little being, too, and to be honest, I'm really not that bent out of shape about it. We offer OPPORTUNITIES for her to use the potty, but if she doesn't... well, then, that's all the more chocolate kisses for ME (and I've got the extra five pounds to prove it). Like I said, if she's still in diapers when she's going off to university, well then, I'll have to up the bribe to a red mustang convertable.

But this pacifier thing... It's a bit EXTREME. There are an awful lot of them. And let's face it, it's not that great for her teeth... She talks with that thing in her mouth, too, and never loses her grip on it, amazingly. How much longer before she starts looking like a diminutive, curly-haired version of Bugs Bunny, for crying out loud?!

This year, I have to admit, we had a bit of a breakthrough on the pacifier front. She grudgingly agreed to put them ALL in her Purse, and then leave The Purse on her cloakroom hook while she was at junior nursery two mornings a week. THAT was HUGE, let me tell you. But, the split second those doors closed on us at the end of every school session, she whipped out that Purse and popped one of those suckers right back into her mouth.

Summer is here, and school is over, and there has been an AWWWWFUL lot of Purse-action around here, lately. This morning, I suggested that the pacifiers should perhaps start spending the day in her room, waiting for her to come back at bedtime. The plan is that she would put all the pacifiers into The Purse in the morning, and maybe tuck it under her pillow for safe keeping...

Well, I've been over-ruled, apparently.

Because the idea of banning pacifiers in the daytime did NOT go over well with the big sisters:

Child Number One: (HORRIFIED) You want her to WHAAAATTTT??!!

Child Number Two: (panic stricken) NO!! No, Mum!! You can't do THAT!! You can't take away THE PLUG!!!

In Unison: AAAUUUUGGGHHHHH!!!!!

It was enough to make me wish that I had two LARGER plugs to use on the two of THEM.

When Child Number Two was a baby, she, too, was a pacifier junkie. Or, rather WE became pacifier junkies, because it became quickly apparent that sticking a soother in her mouth was the most effective way to quiet her while she was impatiently waiting to be fed. Child Number Two arrived with two "settings": asleep, or wide-awake and SCREAMING FOR FOOD. There was no in-between for a looong time... until we discovered the pacifier, that is.

Child Number One originally came up with the term, "The Plug", because when you put it in the baby's mouth, the screaming noise stopped, but if you pulled it out... Well, all hell broke loose, quite frankly.

As it stands tonight, NONE of the girlies are on side with the new Purse Strategy... which means, I guess I'm no further ahead than when I began thinking about floating this lead balloon.

The whole thing brings to mind old Margaret Thatcher... It was because of HER and the formidable accessory that she famously toted around, that the word "handbag" became a verb. "To handbag" now means to bully, or to strong-arm another person or persons. Old Maggie apparently used to pull important documents out of her bag that would back up points in the arguments she was having with other people, thus trumping them and nailing her adversaries' arses to the wall. It is said that she would leave her handbag placed on the table in front of her as a Symbol of Power... the ultimate intimidation technique.

Well, apparently, tonight I've been Handbagged by my children. Or "Pursed", as the case seems to be.

Margaret Thatcher would be extremely proud of her little proteges, I have no doubt about it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Pomp and Circumstance


Today was a big day in this household. Child Number Two, aged six, graduated from Senior Kindergarten. They held the ceremony in the school gymnasium, and it was fantastic. The kids were all dressed up, and wearing little mortarboard hats. They sang "I am H-A-P-P-Y" (to the tune of which, I usually sing "I am T-I-R-E-D" under my breath), and a very inventive number called, "Grade One, Grade One", a la Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York". Extremely cute. The principal handed out diplomas, and shook everybody's hand.

Is it wrong that I was one of the only mothers there who didn't shed a tear?

What's wrong with me? Am I made of STONE? My baby, the one I had to struggle to hold on to, the one who promised me faithfully that she would NEVER grow up, is growing up. And this morning, I felt nothing but pure happiness.

I only say this because this type of reaction is odd for me. I am a deeply sentimental person. I cry (out of one eye, and only if I'm ab-so-lute-ly certain that no one is looking, but YES, I cry) at the drop of a hat. I wept copiously leaving each of the girls at preschool for the first time, and then again when Numbers One and Two began Kindergarten... The day that Child Number One began Grade One, I had a terrible, snorfling breakdown in the privacy of my car, fearing the unknown for my child-- worried that she would be exhausted, that the teacher would be too hard on her, and that the big kids in the playground would be too much for her to handle...

Child Number Two is different. She is small, but she is mighty. She lives life LARGE, and at a whirlwind pace. Both she and her older sister are bright, attentive students, but for some reason, I don't have the same worries for my second daughter that I had for my first. This is not to say that my second daughter isn't a sensitive little soul; she absolutely is. But, for some strange reason, she just seems more... READY for Grade One. She has enjoyed Kindergarten, has learned a tremendous amount, and has made plenty of friends. But... she needs more stimulation. Just last night, while reading-out-loud the book her teacher had sent home with her, she asked, "Mum!! Why do the easy-reader books have to be so DUMB and BOOOORING???!!" We switched over to "Captain Underpants" instead.

But she needs more than I can give her here at home, too. While her younger sister and I would selfishly LOVE nothing better than to have her play with us every afternoon for at LEAST another year, I know how she blossoms when she's around her school friends, and she desperately needs to have more time with them. She will also, no doubt about it, be able to handle the longer hours in the classroom. The kid thrives on mental stimulation. The wheels in her head are ALWAYS turning... That Grade One teacher had better look out, because my child is going to suck her brain dry of information, and exhaust all of her activity resources. Maybe even within the first week.

Child Number Three and I are going to Miss Her... Terribly. She has been the instigator, the catalyst for almost all of the imaginative play that has gone on around this house for the past several years. She is going to be a tough act for me to follow as Chief Playmate, that's for sure.

I'm certain that on the day that I have to send her through those big school doors, on her way to her first FULL day of Grade One ("I WANT to take my lunch, Mum!! I don't NEED to come home!!"-- yes, folks, she's planning it all out already...), I am positive that I will go back to the loser cruiser, strap on my seatbelt, turn the radio up REALLY LOUD, and have a cathartic emotional breakdown of epic proportions...

But today, I was dry-eyed. I was elated. I was ferociously proud of that tiny little girl up there-- the first one in her class to solemnly receive her diploma, and shake the principal's hand (all the while, looking him RIGHT IN THE EYE, atta girl!!!)

Because she may be my baby... But she's ready.

Overheard, and discovered in the nick of time...


This evening, I was out of the kitchen for LITERALLY two seconds (that's about how long it takes for the average mother to use the washroom, am I right?!), but came RACING back in when I heard:

Child Number Three: (softly singing) Heeeeeere, fishy-fishy!!

I discovered her, standing at the kitchen counter on a pushed-up chair, about to drop A SPOONFUL OF HER CHOCOLATE PUDDING into the fishbowl.

Mother: (grabbing Wee Three just in time to save Ruby the Betta) New Rule, everybody!! Sharing is GOOD, just NOT snacks with fish. Got it??!!

Child Number Three: (smiling sweetly) Nope!!

It's Monday Morning...


It's Monday morning... but my heart is lightened by the fact that it's the First Day of Wimbledon.

In the house where I grew up, this particular Monday morning every year is treated like the Second Coming of Christmas... When I was a child, my father would sneak off to the cable store, and return bearing the Almighty Cable Package. We did not have extensive cable hook-ups back then: my parents believed that 99% of what could be found on The Boob Tube was crap, and the 1% actually worth watching (PBS and TVO) were covered in the basic cable that we already had.

However, Wimbledon was worth it. By that, I mean, my father believed that it was WORTH paying for the extensive cable package JUST for The Fortnight, so that he would be able to receive the British feed of the match coverage. If there is anything that we BOTH still detest to this day, it is the American channels "doing" Wimbledon. I have vivid memories of old Bud Collins, sitting on his tuffet, yammering endlessly about useless statistics and "heart-wrenching" stories... ESPECIALLY the ones pertaining to his own country's players, no matter how irrelevant the information may have been. It Filled Air Time. And now there is also John McEnroe, detested by my father and myself both on AND off the court, for his complete inability to keep his fat mouth shut. WHY is it that he and his pals feel it necessary to CONTINUE YAPPING long after the play has started??!

The British feed, back then, was nearly silent. All that we were able to hear, besides the occasional repetition of the score, was the murmur of the crowd, and the satisfying "thock!" of a well-hit tennis ball. It allowed viewers to have their OWN thoughts about the match, and heightened the suspense considerably. Of course, those were ALSO the days before all the players started grunting and groaning on the courts, too...

But I digress.

Once the Almighty Cable was hooked up, it was time for my father to set the then "high-tech" VCR. My dad worked many long days and nights in his medical practice, and was seldom around to actually watch the matches live, so he recorded them. Re-runs were strictly forbidden: only the pre-recorded live play that HE had recorded would suffice (if you understand what I'm getting at). The trick was, we his family had to stay SILENT about the day's scores, until he had had the chance to watch the matches himself. The rest of the family was as glued to the tv set as schedules would allow every day, and we would be nearly BURSTING with exciting information by the time he returned home. It was excruciatingly difficult to keep our mouths shut, so as not to spoil his Personal Wimbledon Experience.

Even now, the "vcr-ing of Wimbledon" tradition continues, even though my father has retired, as he still likes the convenience of being able to catch up on his viewing when HE feels like it, rather than having a schedule dictated to him. In actual fact, I sometimes suspect that he also enjoys the exquisite strain this tradition puts the rest of the family under. Because WOE BETIDE the person who lets loose with a result, before he has had the personal delight of viewing the match himself. Whenever I phone home during The Fortnight, he always rushes to answer my call, and the FIRST thing out of his mouth is “FOR GOD’S SAKE, DON’T TELL ME WHO WON!!!” So, then I have to come up with all kinds of other crap to talk about until he’s gotten around to seeing that day’s matches. Heaven help me if he’s behind a full day or two…

Several years ago, I was home for a visit during the weekend of the Wimbledon finals. At lunch that day, I let slip that Agassi had won the show. Poor Dad nearly had a stroke, he was so agitated. It wasn’t just the fact that he has always disliked Andre Agassi (I don’t know why, I always thought he was a gentleman, and kind of cute), but the fact that his daughter would betray him and deny him the ultimate pleasure of WATCHING WITHOUT KNOWING THE RESULT made him nearly come unglued. What he DIDN’T know was that I was fibbing, and so later that night, after he grudgingly sat through the videotape with me, he was even MORE apoplectic to discover he’d been had…

I am always welcome in my parents' house, but I don't tend to visit during Wimbledon anymore... It's a little stressful.

This week is the final week of school in our house. This is the week of Kindergarten Graduations, Grade Five Festivities and endless end-of-year parties in general. Because of this, I am actually considering pushing past my "childhood trauma" and doing a little Wimbledon video-taping myself this week, seeing as most of my mornings will find me otherwise engaged, volunteering at academic shin-diggery.

So if anybody else out there loves tennis as much as I do... FOR GOD'S SAKE, DON'T TELL ME WHO WON!!

Psyche!!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Toilet Tunes


Child Number Three is STILL trying to achieve results on her new potty...

This evening, after leaving her there for a few minutes, sitting and "reading" a book, I returned from the next room and asked her if she had managed a pee.

Child Number Three: (deadly serious) Wellll... I did q-r-s... t-u-v.... w-x-y-z.....

Okay. So, do I give her a chocolate kiss for THAT??

Maybe she's been playing too much Monopoly...


This morning, Child Number Two (aged 6) and I set off for a little "Mother/Daughter" alone time. Naturally, on the list of things to do was to hit our favourite jewellery store, where we indulged in a few (make that MANY) pairs of earrings for her newly-pierced ears.

After we settled the bill, she requested to wear her favourite blue dangly pair, and commented as she admired herself in the mirror:

Child Number Two: (shaking her head to make the gemstones twinkle) Thanks, Mum... Gee, I hope I'm not gonna BANKRUPT ya!!

No problem, Kiddo... Just stick to the faux jewellery, please...

Life According To Lola


My New Mantra for the Weekend:

"It IS tidy... everything is just all spread out, for playing!"

Friday, June 22, 2007

It's a perfect day for...


Blowing bubbles!!!

The sun is shining, the wind is blowing in great gusts... and my girlies and I are going outside to blow bubbles! We use everything we can find: the regular bubble wands you can get at the dime store, tin pie plates with the centres cut out, coathangers bent into big circles, and even a long piece of string tied together at the very ends (dip it in the soap solution and then slooooowly open the string into the wind... it works if you're really, REALLY careful).

The neighbours are going to think Lawrence Welk has been reincarnated in my garden...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Trees Are Worth It. Luckily...


Well, I'm able to stand up once again, after a long, hard slog in the garden yesterday.

Yesterday, I single-handedly conquered that lower flower bed that I've been gassing on about for the past couple of weeks... You know, that horrible, messy patch down the hill at the bottom of the garden, formerly full of evil, wildly overgrown rocket junipers... Jim the Arborist came and ground those buggers to a pulp last week, and since then, I have had the tremendous pleasure (well, when I wasn't obsessing about the neighbours' air conditioner, that is) of planning and designing the fresh, new space.

Well, I was pretty adventurous, as it turns out. Wildly, optimistically adventurous.

Because somehow, I convinced myself that I would be perfectly capable of Planting Large Trees All By Myself. I had watched a grown man effortlessly haul thirty foot trees OUT of the ground... Hell, how hard could socking a couple of six-footers back IN there possibly be?

Okay, I confess, it was also about the Money. Because I figured with the money I would save by NOT taking Jim the Arborist up on his kind offer to deliver and plant whatever I chose at Sheridan Nurseries, I would have a whole lot of extra cash to blow on good plantings.

And blow money, I did. Hey, good planting specimens are an INVESTMENT, people!! Especially if they're perennials, right? My plan was designed carefully, so that I would have something flowering, or at least "coming into colour", at all times. Including winter. The gorgeous Emerald Cedar I planned to plop in the far corner of the bed would take care of THAT. I even thought we could string some lights up on it, to kind of "twinkle in the background" during the Festive Season. SO WHAT if the tree will be so far away from our line of vision from the kitchen windows, that the only ones who will actually SEE the lights will be the Garden Critters (and that's only the ones brave enough to face the polar conditions at night time). The point is, this garden is going to look GREAT year-round, even if I'm not actually able to see it without leaving my cosy, warm house in the dead of winter.

On Monday evening, I began executing my plan. Right after my husband and I did a celebratory waltz on the patio, to the accompaniment of the distant hum of the neighbours' air conditioning unit which had FINALLY been successfully re-RE-located, we left our three children with a babysitter, and set off for the garden centre, armed with The List.

A new guy named Greg steered us around Sheridan that evening, pointing out where everything was, and helping us to select just the right plants. Unlike my beloved Bill, the more mature and considerably less spry salesperson/Garden Guru who usually advises me, Greg was so full of reckless enthusiasm and "go-to-it-iveness", it almost bordered on the ridiculous. "Trees?! Get 'em BIG!! Who wants to WAIT for them to grow?!! Six feet? NO PROBLEM!! The lady looks strong and healthy!! SHE can plant these!! Hey, why should it cost ya?!"

Once I had my rather embarrassingly large order assembled in a grouping by the front till, Greg convinced my now-brainwashed husband that, SURE!! We could fit ALL The Stuff, including SEVERAL six-foot trees, into the back of our volvo stationwagon!! As long as we were planting The Stuff ourselves, why not save the DELIVERY fee as well??!

Why not? Well, for starters, the plants had all just been watered, and the trees weighed about two hundred pounds. And then there was the MESS factor, in the extremely fresh and clean automobile usually reserved for "adults-only" ventures (we can only fit all of the required car seats into the Loser Cruiser... hence the ONLY reason why the Loser Cruiser was purchased in the first place. Space, people. It was AAAALLLLL about the space. Mostly, the space BETWEEN the children, but that's another story for another day).

Anyway, we HEAVED and we HAULED these plants, boosting up root balls to fit between the front seats, and cursing at each other like stevedores, while a team of bemused teenaged boys in green uniforms looked on. SURE, they had been employed to help with the job, but none of them actually OFFERED. In the end, I figured that we were scaring them, and didn't bother to request assistance.

Eventually, we managed to fit the entire load into the car, and my husband carefully steered us back home, while I held the branches of one of the Purple Leaf Sandcherries away from the front windshield so that he could see where he was driving... Every time we turned a corner, the entire load would shift, and root balls would ROOOOLLLLL... And we would CURSE and apply the BRAKE and turn AROUND to see what had been FLATTENED...

We made it home.

And then, the UNLOADING began, which I'm sure, gave the neighbours a flashback to watching a ridiculous amount of clowns emerge from a tiny car at the circus.

I decided to give the larger plants about 24 hours to dry out, so that they would be considerably lighter to transport to the bottom of the garden, and hopefully easier to get out of their pots. Yes, a "day off" from gardening was just what was needed.

The call for a large thunderstorm hit the television on Wednesday morning, and I knew that I had better get those plants into that flowerbed, PRONTO. I phoned a babysitter to take the younger two children to the park while I got the work done, and the schedule looked as though it was going to fall into place perfectly. The weather wasn't too hot, the wind hadn't yet started, and the storm wasn't called for till evening.

One of the things that I didn't actually think about, back when the idea of planting my own trees sounded like a great idea, was how enormous the holes that needed to be dug would actually be. According to my Gardening Bible, each hole needed to be deeper than the fibre pot by several inches, and at least twice as wide. The other thing I didn't think too much about was the enormous root systems left behind by the flowerbed's previous residents. Because, while Jim the Arborist had done a magnificent job of grinding out the stumps of those forty-year-old rocket junipers, it turned out, once I had started digging furiously, that he had done a CRAPPY job of pulling out the gnarled, tangled mess of roots, deep down in the soil.

I slogged away, digging deeper and deeper, hacking furiously at those roots with my freshly sharpened spade, and hauling on them with all of my strength (which isn't much, but hey, isn't too bad considering that I'm not exactly a massive person). After about an hour and a half, I went back up the hill to the garage, and hunted around until I found my husband's secret hiding place... for The Hatchet.

My husband is a good man. He doesn't keep lethal weapons around the house as a rule, but he DID purchase a small axe that we used when we were on our more adventurous camping trips, long ago, before children, when we lived on the West Coast. The rule was, HE was the only one who was allowed to use The Hatchet-- he was convinced that if I were to use it, I would instantly hack off one of my own limbs by accident, or, even WORSE, one of his limbs on purpose.

Well, on Wednesday, I NEEDED THAT HATCHET, people. It was the only way to get the job done before storm-time. Those roots were just too much to handle without serious weaponry.

And amazingly, I didn't lose any limbs that day, even though I was over-heated and frustrated and blinded by the sweat pouring down my forehead, as I hacked and dug, and dug and hacked...

And then, once the holes were all dug, I lined them with triple mix, chose the first tree to plant...

And I couldn't get the goddamn fibre pot off of the root ball.

The instructions in the Gardening Bible said clearly: you HAVE to take the tree out of the pot, or the wire and burlap off of the rootball, or you'll wind up binding those roots, and the tree will eventually die a horrible death of strangulation.

I tried everything people, everything short of The Hatchet (I was still lucid enough at that point to know that THAT would have been a bad idea). In the end, I took my trusty hack-saw, and hacked big gashes in the sides of those pots as best I could, and when I couldn't "peel" the segments away from the soil, I just broke off the heavy, top rims and jammed the damn things into the holes, fibre pot and all. What the hell. Time was running out, and after all, there IS a two-year warranty on the trees.

By four o'clock, my eldest daughter was being delivered home from school by a friend, and our babysitter arrived home from the park, pulling the two younger girlies in the big green wagon. Our babysitter, who is a nurse, took one look at my face as I crawled up the hill from the bottom of the garden, made a small choking-shrieking sound in her throat, and hustled me into the house.

One look in the mirror made me see why. My face, usually an English-pasty-pale colour, had turned bright puce with the effort of all that damned digging and planting. It would have looked like a sunburn, had there not been white rings around my eyes and mouth... a sign of "over-exertion", apparently. Well, YEAH, I GUESS so.

She hooshed me up the stairs for a long, cool shower and a major lie-down, clucking at me for doing a job that was so CLEARLY beyond me... and I have to confess, she was absolutely right. It has taken me a full twenty-four hours to feel like myself again, I was pretty much inert for the rest of yesterday evening.

Today, however, now that I'm feeling considerably better, am rested and sweetened-up with a fresh pedicure and everything... I look down at that garden from my patio with a sense of immense pride. It looks fantastic. It is finally the way I've wanted it for the past eleven years that we've been here, and as the plants mature, they're only going to get better.

Well, so long as those fibre pots hidden deep down in the soil start breaking down in a hurry, that is... Maybe I should just run down there and put the soaker hoses on for a FEW hours more, come to think of it...

It's the first day of summer!!


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Truth About Planting Large Trees... All By Myself


It's actually a lot harder than I thought.

I'm going to lie down, now...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hey, I'm a good cook, honest.


I had just finished the "prep" work for our main dish this evening, and had a few minutes to wait while the meal cooked. So, I did the washing up, tidied the countertop, set the table... and took out the rawther whiffy garbage.

As I was coming back inside through the mud room door, I overheard:

Child Number Three: (holding her nose) EEEEEWWWWW!! Sumfin' STINKS!!

Child Number Two: (mournfully) I know... I hope it's not dinner....

I am NOT actually the "bigger person" because...


I've just sent a dozen pink roses over to "Tish", the nitwit next door.

My husband suggested last night that it might be "nice" if we were to extend a peace offering, once the monstrous beast of an AC unit had been moved back to its previous location and was growling satisfactorily next to the neighbours' porch. After all, he reminded me, I HAD actually threatened to sick our lawyer, and then the City on her (or was it the City, and THEN our lawyer??), if she didn't have the (insert many colourful expletive words here) unit removed within a MAXIMUM of one week... And, he recalled with alarming accuracy, I HAD actually given her until precisely five o'clock on the seventh day... And, truth be known, I WAS sitting at the kitchen table with a stop-watch in one hand, and a telephone in the other hand yesterday, when he arrived home early to make sure that there wouldn't be any carnage and bloodshed within the final hour... And... and... and...

Well, okay, so perhaps I came on a little "strong".

Hey, it's who I am, people. You Don't Mess With The Domestic Goddess. Not twice, anyway.

Harumph.

Well... Seeing as I'd won the day...

This morning, I grudgingly headed off to my favourite flower shop, ordered the bouquet, and wrote out a "neighbourly" message on the card.

But all the while, dear readers... The Goddess just COULDN'T STOP THINKING what a colossal waste of time and money "being the bigger person" can be.

Monday, June 18, 2007

On the other side of the fence...


If good fences make good neighbours, well then, make mine the Great Wall of China.

Early last week, after a gruelling day of ferrying the kids to-and-from all of their various schools and activities and end-of-year festivities, I swung the loser cruiser into our driveway. When I opened the car door, not only was I blasted in the face with the usual heat and humidity of a typical summertime late-afternoon, but also by an outrageously offensive squealing, grinding, growling sound. My first instinct was to look up into the sky, to see if some form of aircraft was in trouble and attempting an emergency landing in the vicinity of the back garden. My second instinct, once I had freed the kids from their car seats and proceeded down the path towards our garden gate, was to peer over the fence into our neighbours' back yard...

Apparently, during my absence that day, our next-door neighbours, in a fit of what I can only explain as selfish insanity, had employed a team of nitwits to dislodge their very large, very inefficient and extremely noisy air conditioning unit from its place over by the side of their deck, and had it re-installed up the hill and around the corner... about two feet from my patio, and about six inches from my children's play area.

People, the noise had to be heard to be believed.

The gale-force blast from the air conditioner's exhaust fan practically re-arranged my face as I took a peek at the cause of the racket, but once I had pulled my skin back into place and re-combed my hair with my fingers as best I could, I gathered my children and my wits about me, and made for our neighbours' front door.

"Tish", as my neighbour likes to be called, attempted to explain that her AC unit had been running "hot" in its place near their porch, and after careful consideration (presumably entirely about her own family's well-being, and certainly not about ours), she and her trades-person had come to the conclusion that right next to our fence was the perfect spot to re-locate the monstrous beast.

I took a deep breath. And then I took another, and when I let out the second breath, I must confess, dear readers, that the words I spoke were not carefully chosen, nor were they particularly polite. As you may have gathered from previous postings, there are a few things that I love and value above all else in this life: two of them happen to be my family and my garden. Well, by re-locating that AC, "Tish" was jeopardizing both of those things... The powerful noise blast rendered my children's play area completely unusable. My beautiful garden, creation of my own two hands and saver of my sanity, was unbearable to spend any time in, unless you were wearing wax earplugs.

I gave "Tish" notice. Notice that, if she didn't put the situation right, she would Suffer The Goddess' Wrath.

It has taken nearly a week, dear readers. One solid week of ceaseless mechanical growling and grinding... day and night. Even when we were in the house with all of our windows firmly locked, we could STILL hear the noise and feel the vibrations it caused in the floorboards. Worst of all, our bedroom windows all face out in the direction of the air conditioner, so for six nights, not one of us has been able to enjoy a solid night's sleep. Child Number One has been sleeping with earplugs. Child Number Two took to reading books when she couldn't get any rest. And Child Number Three... well, we did a LOT of rocking in that rocking chair, let me tell you. And with each swing of the chair, I silently cursed the people on the other side of the fence, who were, no doubt, sleeping like babies.

Not only that, our Garden Critters have reacted to the unholy disruption of all earthly order. We haven't seen our chipmunks in at least six days, and all five of our birdfeeders remain full of seed. Even St Francis hasn't been able to charm them out of their hiding places.

There were four very tired, and very grumpy girls sitting at the kitchen table late this afternoon, gazing wistfully out of the window at the unusable garden, when the air conditioner "experts" finally showed up to move the unit back to its original location. Once the power line to the Great Beast had been severed and the world at long LAST fell silent, we ventured outside and sat and enjoyed the soothing hum of the drills, the little hack saws, and listened to the men grunt and groan as they hauled the beast back down the hill to its (hopefully) FINAL resting place...

I've decided that what we actually need is a much taller, much more solid fence between our two properties, so that no matter WHAT those people decide to do over there, it will affect us a whole lot LESS over here... And while I was noodling this thought over, trying to decide exactly how high the fence should go...

I happened to glance up at the neighbour's house, and noticed that while their monstrous AC unit was grinding away, in a futile attempt to cool their house down in this thirty-degree weather we've been having... all of their second floor windows were hanging WIDE OPEN.

Now, I'm no EXPERT on cooling technology, but it DOES occur to me that habits like that might just cause even the newest and most energy-efficient air conditioner to run a little "hot". I wonder if our neighbours have installed their thermostat on their second floor, too?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day


Actually, to be precise... four girls, two guinea pigs, two fish and one fierce, bad cat.

You make our world, Daddy; you are everything to us.

We love you.

-- your girls xoxo

Saturday, June 16, 2007

For My Dad.


My father is an extraordinary human being.

But it is extremely difficult for me to try and convey the enormous sense of affection, admiration and gratitude I feel towards the man, because first and foremost, my father is a reserved and very proper English Gentleman. He's not a "touchy-feely" kind of guy. Talking about emotions like "love" makes him slightly uncomfortable. Heck, having "Happy Birthday" sung to him makes the man blush, and tiny beads of perspiration break out on his forehead.

However, all my life, I have firmly believed that my Dad and I are truly "cut from the same cloth". We have a connection, an understanding. I have never in my life, ever, been unsure about the enormous love and devotion my father feels for me. It has never needed to be said. The innumerable things he has done for me, and with me, speak far louder than any words ever could.

And although I will be giving my dad a nice little present (one of those high-tech gadgets from the hardware store that pops dandelions right out of the lawn without necessitating that you actually get down on bended knee and PULL... He's going to LOVE it), and a Father's Day card when I meet him for brunch tomorrow morning...

I know that the best way to convey to my dad how much I love him is to continue to try my very best to live by his example, and to pass on all that I have learned from him to my own three daughters.

You're still doing a great job, Dad. Thank-you.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My Day In a Nutshell... or rather, Nut HOUSE...


Today was a crazy, busy day. But, what else is new, right?

It's nearing the end of the school year... at last. I can't WAIT for it all to be over, and if I'M this wound up with anticipation about the end of the drudgery of routine, then just imagine how my girlies are feeling these days.

Actually, this morning was Child Number Three's last day of junior nursery. Of course, there was a "graduation" ceremony... Because, nowadays, EVERYBODY "graduates" from EVERYTHING at the end of the year, don't they?! Fortunately, the event was overwhelmingly cute, and there was good food involved. I'm a sucker for both of the aforementioned. In fact, I was up until midnight last night, baking cookies just for the event. "Disorganized!" you say? Not at all. I actually baked the FIRST batch yesterday afternoon, then made the mistake of leaving the children with my husband at home while I nipped out to run an errand... Well, let's just say, when I came home, it was evident that a second batch of cookies needed to be baked.

When we finally made it home after the ceremony this morning, and had completed all of the to-ing and fro-ing that make up my children's' multiple lunch hours, I threw on my grubbiest clothes, set up a little tent-and-tunnel set for my kids to play with on the lawn, and set off for the lower flower beds with my biggest, baddest pitchfork.

I recently threw in the towel with the lower beds, and hired an arborist by the name of Jim to come over with enormous chain saws, a grinder and a very noisy wood chipper. He heroically sawed down the revoltingly overgrown rocket junipers that had overrun the space, and then laughed wildly as I did a little jig, watching him feed the chunks of tree through the wood chipper. The noise and the mess he made with those machines was formidable... and watching him grind the stumps and roots right out of the ground made me Want His Job. It was an immensely satisfying afternoon's work... even if I was only allowed to watch from a safe distance.

So, now I've got a whole new space to plan and plant. I've got some great ideas... and I confess, I have actually bought some of the plants and small trees already. However, what I also bought were about ten enormous bags of fertilizer and triple mix... the soil in that bed was evidently last "turned" during the reign of the dinosaurs, and it needs a good deal of digging and mixing-in before anything will be able to thrive down there.

So, there we were... me, filthy, sweaty and generally horrifying to behold, and my children grass-stained and grubby and gloriously happy in their tent... When I looked over on the grass next to me, and noticed that the little red "MESSAGE" light on the the roam-telephone I had brought down with me was flashing wildly.

I dropped my pitchfork, pulled off my gloves, and listened to the message... and immediately wished I hadn't.

It was my mother. Whom I love, don't get me wrong. But today, I felt a whole lot LESS love than usual, because her message was to say that she and my father were in their car, ten minutes from my home, and they were coming for a "surprise" visit ("You don't need to go to any TROUBLE for us, dear, we'll just see the children and sit on the patio for a bit...") Fine and fair enough. The kicker was, that they had a pair of ancient and extremely high-maintenance British relatives with them, and they had ALL just been to a funeral. And I'm not kidding about that last part, they actually HAD.

"Jolly good."

NOT.

People, you should have SEEN me take off out of that flower bed. It must have been a sight to behold-- Goddess With Wings On Her Heels, no kidding. And with a trail of little children flying behind her. Because, Goddammit, no matter HOW BAD I LOOK, my kids need to look at the very least, neater and cleaner than I do.

By my calculation, judging by the time on my mother's message, I had approximately five minutes to get the garden, my kids and my SELF in some semblance of presentable order.

The kids actually co-operated: Child Number Two wiped her little sister's face and helped her put on something without mud on it, before cleaning and changing herself.

I whipped wildly around the garden, collecting things to throw out of sight, into the sheds. After I cleaned and polished the table and chairs, I galloped into the house, and gave each child their very own Secret Weapons.

In a closet on my main floor, I keep several empty white laundry baskets. Not for laundry, but for JUST this sort of occasion. It's my method of emergency "cleaning", even if it's not REALLY cleaning, but rather a sneaky form of "shit-shuffling", and my husband and I call it. That's where you don't REALLY put stuff away, you just move it from one place to another.

Anyway, each kid and I got a big white basket... and we filled those baskets with as much clutter as we possibly could, with the time we had allotted to us. Then, before anyone could catch us, we crammed the baskets, filled-to-the-brims, back into the closet, and slammed the door. By the time my parents et al sailed through my garden gate, the house actually looked relatively presentable.

And the visit was pleasant, it was actually very nice. I had tremendous sympathy for my relatives, who were close friends of the deceased, and who were holding up pretty well for the most part, under the stressful circumstances they had just been through. We sat on the patio, sipping lemonade, and chit-chatting about nothing in particular, watching the children water the flowers with their little watering cans...

Yessir, it would have been quite a successful visit indeed, had I had time for a shower MYSELF, and an opportunity to change my clothes... Because there are few things in life quite so unsettling as being in absolutely no doubt that, while you are making small-talk with people you hope to favourably impress, your entire being simply reeks of sheep manure. The pong was pungent, people, and no one was in any doubt of what I had been doing with myself all afternoon...

Oh, well. At least they didn't find the laundry baskets in the closet, right?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

An Early Father's Day Present


Today is Tuesday: one of my "hit the ground running" days. This year, there are two of these types of days every week. Tuesday and Thursday are the days when I have to ferry three children between two different schools. And, what with schedules being the way they are (WHY can't preschool, junior and middle schools all have lunch at approximately the SAME TIME??!! I can't quite remember the "logic" behind this decision...) I find that I wind up spending the majority of my day in the car, in transit, constantly to-ing and fro-ing, with a little time for feeding (other people, not myself) in between.

So, as I was saying, today is Tuesday. Tuesday, June 12th, to be precise. And it was winding up to be a doozie of a day, because today is one of my best friends' fortieth birthday. Remember Mikey? The amazing little boy who dances up a storm? Well, today, his equally amazing mother entered her forties with great class and gusto (as she does with ALL things she undertakes, I assure you). I count myself extremely fortunate to be included in her list of "nearest and dearest" who were invited to help her celebrate... We planned to make today jam-packed with Festivities.

So, I got myself organized extra early this morning... Packed up all the cups and plates and napkins and decorations I had been accumulating for several weeks, and the girlies and I wrapped up the most enormous, pungently scented Jasmine plant as her gift... The plan was, I had to get the girlies ready and delivered to their respective schools by nine-thirty at the very latest, in order to be on time for the massive "set-up" that was going to take place before all the guests arrived for The Party.

Well, it almost worked.

I got the two eldest to their school, and then screeched into the preschool with Child Number Three... only to be tapped on the arm by one of the teachers as I was attempting to sneak back out the door to my waiting Loser Cruiser...

"I wonder, could you do something for us??" Mrs. D whispered.

Crap.

Luckily, before I could make a hurried excuse, I had a little memory-flash of all the times this wonderful woman had cuddled my little daughter in her arms, reassuring her as I left each day. That image made me pause before I answered.

"Of course," I replied. "How can I help you?"

"I need a helium balloon," she said.

"A balloon? Just one helium balloon? Not a bunch?"

"Just one. I was going to get one myself last night, but I was worried it would lose its floatiness by morning, and we need it to be fresh. A Father's Day balloon, if possible," she replied.

This week, the junior nursery class has been working like mad on all of their Father's Day cards and gifts. I've been assured that they are absolute masterpieces, and the children are just bursting with excitement in anticipation of Sunday morning...

All but one child in the class. There is one little boy without a father this year... he passed away recently. It was a tremendous concern to ALL the teachers, how to handle this little boy's feelings this week; indeed, the feelings of his entire family, who are all still hurting so much.

Mrs. D telephoned the boy's mother, and asked her about it. The mother offered to keep her son at home for a couple of days, in order that the talk and celebration of fathers not upset her son too terribly.

One of the many things I admire about Mrs. D and her staff is that they are not women who "sweep things under the rug". They believe in being honest and open with children, encourage them to face challenges, and do it all in a sensitive, age-appropriate way. Bless Mrs. D, because she had a plan, and she received the permission of the little boy's mother to go ahead with it.

It was decided that at the end of today's classes, once all the Father's Day preparations were completed, the children would go outside to the garden just before the parents arrived for pick-up time, to watch their classmate "give" his father the gift and card he had made. The little package would be tied to a helium balloon, and once let go, it would float up to the special daddy in Heaven.

I was flabbergasted by the idea.

And I found myself teary-eyed in the hallway, as I pulled out my cellphone and called all my friends to delay the party preparations by one hour, so that I could run this very, very important errand.

The only store even remotely nearby that sold helium balloons at nine-thirty in the morning was in the next town. When I got there, I found no Father's Day balloons, but I did find a heart-shaped one that read "Hugs and Kisses" on it. Perfect. I added a couple of extra regular balloons in red and blue, just to round out a little bunch nicely... and for added buoyancy.

"Are you SURE you don't want to buy a weight for this?" the saleslady asked me at least eight or nine times as she was filling the balloons up.

"NO THANK YOU, " I replied, after the tenth inquiry. "We don't need one. These balloons are going to Heaven, you see."

I explained what was going on, and the woman's jaw dropped. Once the "bouquet" was completed, she followed me to the cash register.

"Ma'am, I'm not going to charge you for the balloons. Take them to the little boy. I hope he enjoys them. Tell him we made them special, for Heaven," she said.

I thanked her profusely, and whizzed back to the preschool, where the children were all waiting.

I didn't witness the release-- it was a private event, for a little boy, his teachers, and his friends.

But I'm sure it must have been wonderful.

And I'm also sure that somewhere up there, a proud, happy father is smiling.

Monday, June 11, 2007

This Means War.


We are having an infestation problem in the Goddess' Garden... Over the past couple of days, millions and trillions and zillions of tiny little green aphids have appeared. And they're driving EVERYBODY crazy.

The little buggers are EVERYWHERE. If they're not airborne, they're creepy-crawling on absolutely everything outside, including ME. They have been using me for their personal amusement and transportation whilst I have been weeding, planting, and filling up the birdfeeders. They have annoyed the entire family during alfresco meals. This afternoon, they managed to ruin the finish of the piece of furniture I was attempting to clean, sand and paint for Child Number One's bedroom.

Yuckiest of all, we have to be especially careful when we return indoors from the garden, because more than anything else, they seem to love getting tangled up in our HAIR... we need to shake ourselves thoroughly clean before daring to cross the threshold of the mudroom. Bugs outside are bad enough... but to the Goddess, bugs indoors are intolerable.

Our baby Praying Mantes are still doing pretty well out there... but I'm making the excuse that they are STILL babies, and still just getting the hang of the "hunting" thing.

The breaking point between Goddess and Aphids occurred sometime on Saturday afternoon, when I felt it necessary to weed with ipod earphones jammed in my ears. When I realized that the reason was not so much that I wanted to listen to music, but that I wanted to keep the aphids from creeping in... I knew it was time for War Tactics.

Enter the Ladybugs.

I went out an purchased an enormous bag of Ladybugs at Sheridan Nurseries... yep, the same place the Praying Mantis egg came from. Bill told me to keep them in the fridge, and each night after watering, take them out, warm them up a bit, and shake a handful or two out amongst the flowers.

Unfortunately, before I got a chance to show the girlies, Child Number Two discovered the enormous bag next to the milk jug... and ran screaming to her father, worried that Mummy was going to try and make the family eat bug casserole for dinner.

Needless to say, it took a little time to explain myself to her... but she came around when I offered to let her be the "shaker" when it came time to make the first release later that evening.

It's been a few days, now, and I have to admit, the aphids are still winning the war so far. However, it is delightful to come across the little red-and-black-spotted ladies as I make my rounds of the flowerbeds every day. The very sight of them gives me faith... faith that ONE DAY, the eerie creepy-crawly sensation I feel on my skin every time I step out of doors will fade... the green greeblies having been made into a spectacularly satisfying ladybug smorgasbord.

I wonder what a Ladybug burp sounds like? Lady-like, or an almighty belch?

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Happiness on a Saturday...


Happiness is...


  • An entire, sunny Saturday with NO commitments... nowhere to be, no-one to see!

  • An unhurried visit to my favourite nursery, and a long conversation with Bill about More New Trees for the garden.

  • The weather temperatures so spectacularly perfect, that I could leave every window open and let the cool breeze freshen the house.

  • Newly-laundered sheets on all of our beds.

  • An afternoon of digging and trans-planting... and sawing the very last of the overgrown Purple Sand Cherry trees into submission!

  • A glass of cold lemonade on the patio with my husband, surveying the beautiful results of the afternoon's work, and our children playing happily around us.

  • The distant sound of a lawn-mower, and the hiss of the sprinklers.

  • Watching the girls hand-feed our resident chipmunks, and hearing their peals of giggling echo in the evening air.

  • Releasing a bag of tiny red ladybirds among the flowers once the sun has started to set.

  • A good book, a hot bath, and a white terrycloth robe.

  • A fire in the firepit outside once the children are all in bed.

  • Lights out by ten o'clock... and a good night's rest.
(Okay, maybe that last one is wishful thinking, but I can dream, right??!!)

Friday, June 8, 2007

Let The Games Begin!


Child Number Three has a brand new potty.

I confess, as a third-time mother, I am considerably more "lax" than most first, or even second-time mothers about potty training (and I gather that the new turn of phrase is "potty LEARNING"... God forbid we should liken our children to little animals. WHATEVER...) I confess, she is probably the only kid in her preschool class still totin' diapers.

But, it's spring. We're on the cusp of summer, actually, and what with the warmer temperatures and the fact that we're spending a good deal of time outside, I figured that it might be an opportune time to introduce the idea of "no more diapers". Let's face it, it's MUCH easier to put the potty out on the patio while I'm gardening and she's playing on the lawns, than it would be if I were to start this indoors, in the dead of winter... Accidents happen, people, and it's MUCH easier if they happen in the Great Outdoors, rather than on my livingroom sofa (yes, the same sofa I scraped a tube of bubblegum toothpaste off of just the other day).

Here's the problem, though. Unlike my other two girls, Child Number Three LIKES being "The Baby" of the family. She even claims that she LIKES her diapers. That's why I haven't pushed the potty thing up till now. I don't believe in pushing my kids in matters like this. The saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink". You CAN make him DROWN if you push him too hard, though, and what would be the point of that??!!

So. The potty thing is going very, very slowly at the moment.

Luckily, Child Number Three likes running around in the garden bare-bottomed MORE than she hates the idea of using her potty. So, we're getting SOMEWHERE, albeit at a snail's pace.

This is the point at which I figured the Maternal Bribery Technique would be useful.

Come on, admit it, we all bribe our kids to do stuff. Call it what you will: "Positive Reinforcement", "Rewards"... when it comes right down to it, it's just fancy-speak for bribing our kids to do what we want them to do. I certainly have no problem with it: The Technique Works.

We use Hershy's Chocolate Kisses.

Well, we WOULD use Hershey's Chocolate Kisses, if that little shrimp would just PRODUCE something I could reward her for... As it turns out, this child is the camel of our family. She must be storing all those fluids I pump into her for the great drought season ahead, because she has yet to perform much of ANYTHING on that potty, no matter how long she sits and reads books.

She really wants that chocolate, though... This morning, I caught her gazing wistfully up at the high cupboard where all the Bribes are kept. A little while later, I was sitting at my computer, and Child Number Three appeared at my elbow clutching her favourite baby doll.

Child Number Three: (proudly) Mummy!! Guess WHAT!!! Baby did a TINKLE!! In the BIG POTTY!! All by hersewf!!!

Mother: (slightly distracted by plummeting stock market reports she is trying to make sense of... and not succeeding) Really? Hmmmm... That's great, sweetheart.

Child Number Three: (earnestly) Mummy, Baby NEEDS a chock-lit KISS, cuz she tinkled like a big girl!!

Mother: (catching on) Ooooohhhh... You think so? But Baby is too little for chocolate, don't you think? And baby's mouth doesn't open, so how would she eat it?

Child Number Three: (magnanimously) I EAT IT FOR HER!!

Mother: Oh, but it doesn't work that way, kiddo. The kid that does the tinkle gets the chocolate! So YOU use your potty, and then YOU can have the chocolate kiss, okay?

Child Number Three: (running top-speed in the opposite direction) NOPE!! I not hungwy anymore!!!

I have great faith that I will NOT be sending this kid to University wearing diapers... but if that terrible day ever draws near, I MIGHT just have to up the bribe to a mustang convertible...

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A consoling thought...


Wimbledon is just around the corner...

I don't want to talk about it.


Sigh...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Bloomin' luvverly...

In the Goddess' Garden today:

After the lovely, two-day long spell of moderate temperatures and PLENTY of rain, the first of the enormous Oriental Poppies bloomed...

The Veronica and Sweet William seem to be coming along nicely...

The Bearded Irises are so magnificent, their heavy heads are weighing down the stems and drooping them along the pathway... But they're still the Kings and Queens of the garden.

And Frank seems well pleased.

All Is Right With The World.

Wrong on EVERY level...


It's June. It's June 6th, to be exact. It's late spring here in Ontario, Canada...

And last night, at about two o'clock in the morning, I crept from my bed and turned on the furnace. Because I was ab-so-lute-ly FREEZING, even with the down duvet (and I must confess, a pair of wooly socks, much to my husband's chagrin).

While I'm enjoying the more moderate daytime temperatures and some good, solid rain on my newly-planted garden, I can't help but think...

Using the furnace in June is just Wrong On Every Level.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

WHO made you do it??!!


The resounding cry of “Blame The Mother!!”

We hear it and read it every day… on the news, in the papers, even in the school playground. Axe murderers’ motives are always traced back to the mothers, who undoubtedly owned a couple of kitchen knives, and occasionally -GASP!- used them in front of the children whilst preparing dinner. Stressed-out, workaholics-gone-postal undoubtedly had mothers who -GASP!- had to WORK to support their single-parent families, thus setting a poor example of overly-intense work ethics. And of course, children with ANY sort of behavioral issues have mothers who are whispered and gossiped about on the school playgrounds… by OTHER MOTHERS. “Little Sarah PUSHED Suzie this morning and made her cry!!! What do YOU think is going on at home??!!” (Translated, this means, “What the hell is that mother doing wrong… or, not doing right??!!”)

Our society is one that has an unhealthy need to lay ultimate blame at the feet of Mothers.

The reasons why we do this are unfathomable to me. Why do we always resort to whittling down issues to the most basic of potential causes when we cannot make sense of them any other way? Well, I suppose it’s because we are a nervous people, and our society seems hell-bent on “seeking justice”. So, we blame. We blame the very people who give us life. The constant need to Blame The Mother For Everything seems not unlike the habit a lot of unhappy people have of Blaming God for things that go wrong in their lives. It’s the “easy” way out: the “easy” answer. More often than not, it’s the ONLY answer they can come up with. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my lifetime, there are some questions that just have no answers, some mysteries that have no solutions, some disasters that have no understandable cause. We either have to learn to be okay with that, or we find a way to lay blame in order to “set our minds at rest”.

Now, this is not to say that there aren’t some mothers out there who don’t deserve to be taken to task for their actions (or inactions). Lord knows that there are plenty of examples of those women out there… for instance, that lunatic who spawned Lindsay Lohan, for example.

But, I digress.

The point at which this whole excessive mother-blaming thing became TOO MUCH for me occurred this morning. This morning, I just cracked. Maybe it was the fatigue and disappointment after last night’s hockey game, I don’t know… This morning, I had had ENOUGH.

The mother-blaming habit has trickled down to the next generation in this house. My children, ages eleven, six and three, have developed an extremely nasty habit of blaming me for anything and everything.

I’m not talking about the big stuff. You know, the “I DIDN’T ASK TO BE BORN!!” big stuff. Thankfully, my kids are still so young, they haven’t had enough time here on earth to blame me for anything really catastrophic yet… But then, to this point, they haven’t had the opportunity to do any major damage on a GLOBAL scale (at least, none that I'm aware of).

The stuff they constantly blame me for is the little stuff, the every-day stuff. Most often, THE STUFF THAT THEY SHOULD BE TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR. I’m talking serious blame-shifting here, that borders on the ridiculous.

Like this, for example:

Mother: (running a comb through her eldest daughter’s long hair) Woah!! This could take a few minutes. Hold still, kiddo, you’ve got some mondo knots in this wig of yours… Hang tough, and we’ll get them out.

Child Number One: It’s all YOUR fault, Mother!! YOU bought the wrong kind of shampoo!! And then YOU forgot to remind me to blow dry it properly after my shower last night!!

See what I mean? Or, how about this:

Mother: (while serving lunch) Whoops! I see you’ve had a milk spill, there. Here, let me get you a cloth to clean it up, and then just make sure the cup is pushed back from the edge of the table next time, okay?

Child Number Two: Hey, YOU put the cup down on the table, Mum!! YOU made me do it!! It’s not MY fault my elbow tipped it over!!

Sigh. Let’s hear from the last one:

Mother: (averting her eyes from The Horror) Oh, my Lord… WHO WROTE ON THE LIVINGROOM SOFA WITH BUBBLEGUM TOOTHPASTE???!!

Child Number Three: (popping up from behind the furniture with pink-stained fingers and a foamy mouth) Maybe E’mmy Yeung did it!!

I have to confess, I forgave Child Number Three for that last one. You know why? Because, currently, she is the ONLY CHILD who doesn’t try to pin the havoc she wreaks on ME. Not YET, that is. She’s got ears, however, and she hears those big sisters of hers. She’s also got a memory chip in that little brain that rivals the one I’ve got in my computer at the moment. She’s listening, and I just KNOW that the words spoken in this house are going to come back to haunt me someday soon…

The last of the blame-laying occurred this morning, just after I had risen from bed. I yawned, put on my bathrobe, and went across the hallway to waken Child Number One, who had managed to sleep right through her extremely noisy alarm clock.

Mother: Time to wake up!!

Child Number One:
(as cross as two sticks) MU-MMEEEE!! Now I’m in a GRUMPY MOOD and it’s ALL YOUR FAULT!!

All MY fault??! By simply waking the kid up, her grumpy mood is ALL MY FAULT??!! By simply uttering four words, and bringing her back to consciousness, I have completely shattered the child’s entire state of mind??!!

I DON’T THINK SO.

My three girlies attended a Breakfast Meeting with the Domestic Goddess this morning… during which, it was made AB-SO-LUTE-LY CLEAR that there would be no further tolerance of playing the Blame Game, either with me, or with one another. They heard about Responsibility, and Being Accountable for One’s Own Actions. About Politeness, and about Respect, both for others, and for themselves, as well.

They listened to me, and they heard me. They promised to Try.

I dismissed them for hand-face-and-teeth cleaning in preparation for school, and sank down at my desk for a moment with a LARGE cup of coffee, to peruse my email…

And wouldn’t you know it? I was SO overwrought with emotion after my major speech, so overcome by my sweet daughters’ words of remorse, that I joggled my elbow, and half a cup of scalding hot java splattered all over my keyboard…

The keyboard immediately fizzled to a standstill…

Drat those kids. THEY made me do it...

Thou hast angered the Goddess...


Okay, boys. Last night was BAD. There was precious little good about it, save your goalie, who was just trying his darndest to save YOU ALL, as well as that hockey puck that kept flying past him...

You're just toying with me though, right?! Just trying to see how far you can push me... After all, who woulda thought that you would LOSE THE GAME, with one of the other team's star players out... Out, may I remind you, for KNOCKING ONE OF YOUR OWN PLAYERS UNCONSCIOUS THE OTHER NIGHT.

How could you not be just a LITTLE ticked off about that incident? Lord knows all of the rest of us are... especially the parents of kids who "look up" to players like you to set an example of gentlemanly sportsmanship.

How could you not rise to the occasion, and take the opportunity to win the game, when it was clearly served up to you on a silver platter?!

Well, I'll tell you. The Goddess was more than a LITTLE disappointed last night as she trundled off to bed...

You'd better be able to get it together before the next game, that's all I can say. Because the only thing worse that raising the Goddess' wrath... would be disappointing Canadian Hockey Fans.

It wouldn't be pretty, boys. So, let's try this again... say, Wednesday night?

 
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