Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Oooh, heaven is a place on yurt

Well, Ziggy had a trip to the vet yesterday.  We keep looking at him - the giant cone, the sad, confused eyes, the lethargy - and saying, "I'm sorry!  I'm so sorry!".  So, I bought him a new stuffy out of guilt.  Also, he finally destroyed the last one on Saturday.  They have each had an average lifespan of 2 months, but the last one only made it 2 weeks.  The chew is strong in this one.

So anyway, we pulled out his baby teeth and cut off his -- 

"I'm okay!  As long as still have my.... wait, WHAT????"

For some reason, my yurt photos have not uploaded onto Dropbox (will fix by tapping on screen and yelling, "WHYYY??" soon), but let me just tell you how and why I spent two days in the wintry woods alone and loved every minute of it.

I found it on CottagesInCanada.com, a quiet little getaway with no plumbing, no heating, and a teeny little bit of electricity - enough for LED fairy lights and an iPod and that's all.  The yurt was small but very spacious for one, warm (she had started the woodstove before I arrived), and a perfect retreat.

I drove to the owner's house in a blizzard, and she loaded me and my two bags (one for clothes, one for just wine food and wine) onto the back of her snowmobile, and drove me into the woods for about 10 minutes.  I split my two precious days between stoking/restarting the woodstove, showshoeing, shoveling paths from yurt to woodshed to outhouse to kitchen shed, yoga, starting/stoking/despairing/celebrating the victory of barrel-sauna fire, scrubbing down with snow, and reading, reading, reading.  Also, there may have been a bit of wine-drinking.  I heated the kettle on the stove for oatmeal and tea, simmered soup, and melted snow for washing dishes, all while blissfully alone.

During that time, I thought (briefly and somewhat fondly) of my family.  I missed Ziggy.  I think I came to terms with a few goals I've set for myself, as well as a few major life changes that are winding down and, of course, ramping up, because we can't possibly have a year where NOTHING HAPPENS.  

We live, as they say, in interesting times.

I also wrote a bit:  journalled, planned, and worked hard on my guestbook entry, because others before me had set the bar so high.  I thought I knew what time it was, and that I was being so decadent, staying up till midnight and getting up at 10 -- but I found out on the last day that the clock was off by 3 hours, and I was, in fact, going to bed at 9 and getting up at 7.  Such a rebel.

So, after two days of peace, playing with fire, and giddiness, I know what I want:  to write, to challenge myself physically more often (the snowshoe up Heartattack Hill was painful and exhilarating), to travel, and to have the opportunity for solitude more often.  

I have two short weeks left of mat leave, and I'm going to make some of those things happen during that time.  Tomorrow, by going to le Nordik for the day (solitude/physical connection with self), followed by date night ball hockey (aka "divorceball").  The rest will be revealed as it comes along. 

And, of course, there's this:  https://www.youtube.com/shared?ci=iiYblmJ0AA4

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Looking for fun???

So, we're flying back from Orlando, on a 6:50 am Air Canada Rouge flight this morning. We're exhausted (lights out at 11, up at 4, with very little sleep between due to sniffy, sneezy, coughy kids), so perhaps this isn't as funny as I think it is, but here goes.

Air Canada Rouge is even cheaper (read: worse) than Air Canada. There are no screens on the seat backs, or even hanging from the ceiling. The menu has about 10 items, most of them candy. Chris asked the flight attendant for a cup of water when she was passing by collecting garbage, and she responded, “You can get water at the back. If I had to remember everyone that asked for a glass of water, you'd never get it.” Ummm...alright.... I tried to reframe it as a serve-yourself buffet. With tap water. Still nope.

And they don't even wear the hats anymore.

But the BEST part by far is the card they provide in the seat pocket.

Photo credit:  Sid & Iggy's Travel Blog
Since there is no other entertainment whatsoever (see also, no hats), they give you 6 suggestions for “having fun now!” by making crafts with your air sickness bag!  Wow!  You can make a mask, an octopus, a hook hand, and, my favourite, a crown. Because obviously, if you're royalty, and you're flying Air Canada Rouge, you probably left your regular crown at home. Or forgot it in your royal carriage.  Or maybe it burned up when a dragon smashed your castle, set fire to all your clothes and kidnapped Ronald.  Either way, the Fun Card seems a bit like they're rubbing salt into the wound.  Sure, you're so poor you have to fly on Air Canada Rouge, but there's no need to make you wear crowns out of air sickness bags.  That's just mean.  "Here you go, princess. Enjoy your flight!" 

 Unfortunately, you can only pick one "fun" craft per passenger, not 6 as promised, because you only have ONE airsickness bag.  So choose wisely!  And they don't have any more suggestions for you once you make your craft. "Oh, now you're feeling a little sick, princess? Why, just take off your crown and barf into it! 

"Well, through it, I guess." 


Anyhoo, after breakfast and naps, the kids were allowed to play on their leap pads for part of the flight.  Vaughn's battery was running low, so he asked for a charger. Then Ailsa needed one, too. Chris was trying to see the outlet (down low, in shadow) and asked me if there was a USB port on it.  After a lot of manoeuvering and trying to shine my flashlight app on it, I reported that there wasn't one.  But then I had a brilliant idea.

"Hey!  Maybe you could make one from a barf bag!"

I possibly laughed for way too long.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

DG knocks it out of the park. Ish.

Thursday was a good day.  The kids are back at school, I'm feeling more like myself, and I've sort of sorted out the whole "puppy" thing, in that Ziggy has, of late, become a far more relaxed and delightful companion.

I managed to go to the gym, write for a while, paint the board that would be our travelling growth chart for the kids, finally start working on the curtains for our living room, and make a shepherd's pie from scratch.

Hold up!  The above makes me sound far too awesome to be real, so let me explain:  I had 4 months off to recover, regain my shape, finish projects around the house, and write, and the clock is now ticking loudly.  I don't want to go back to work without having accomplished any of the arbitrary goals I set for myself, and since January 1st, I've felt intense pressure while also feeling more fear of failure than usual.  It's been really, really great.

The gym is a terrible place for me right now.  I have to go.  I want to go.  But I also want to look and feel good while I'm there, and let's face it, I'm just not there yet.  I've lost 19 of the 30 pounds I'd gained, but there are still 11 to go, and I'm not happy with how I look AND with how much effort it currently takes to hold in my stomach.  Not cool.

I'm trying to write every day (obviously not on this blog), but it's hard to get started, then hard to stop, and I neglect the dog, my water-drinking, and the house when I'm absorbed in it.

The growth chart had been written with Sharpies on the doorframe between the kitchen and dining room in our last house.  Since we lived there from when little Vaughn was 21 months old till he was 7 1/2, it had a lot of marks, memories and meaning.  I was considering using tools to take it with us when we moved here, however, tools and I have a challenging relationship; I'm pretty sure that gently ripping a giant hole in the house would not have gone over well with the new owners or with Fis.  So, I took a long piece of waxed paper and a marker, and copied each and every mark, initial and date.  I have been terrified that the waxed paper would be thrown out accidentally*, but managed to conserve it.  Thursday night, I transferred those marks onto the new board, and on Friday, I drilled holes and screwed it into the wall by our basement stairs.  We celebrated by measuring their new heights...and yes, they have grown!

I started the curtains, but I am not ready to talk about them yet.  I will possibly never be.  Let's just drop it.

The shepherd's pie, or German Shepherd's pie, as we call it around here**, was spectacular.  I told the kids I made it, and they didn't believe me (full disclosure:  Shepherd's pie usually comes from the grocery store).  I added extra vegetables to the perfectly-spiced meat layer (see also, Still Fat), put lots of corn on top of that, and kept the mashed potatoes lighter than usual, adding a few cloves of garlic to the water as it boiled the potatoes, and mashing them together with only a little butter and milk, for probably the fluffiest mash I've ever made.  Delicious, amazing, perfect... a true tribute to my --

Ok, it may have slightly poisoned Fis.

I have always given him a hard time about purchasing Discount Meat from time to time at the grocery store, but hey, he sez, a deal's a deal.  So, I got a club pack of extra lean ground beef with a 30% off sticker, used half of it for Taco Tuesday.  He wasn't feeling great on Wednesday morning, but shook it off (ish), while blaming the ground beef.  A little counter to the "use it tonight!" sticker, I used the rest of it for Thursday's shepherd's pie.  On Friday morning, I agreed with him (to myself) that perhaps we were all poisoned.

Don't tell Fis, but I'm still taking it as a win.

* Silly me.  In a family with 4 packrats, my favourite activity is throwing stuff out.  The amount of paper and art these kids generate is incredible, and Fis' filing system for bills, notices, statements and every receipt ever does not include a document disposal element.  At all.  It would have been absolutely shocking if anything made its way to the garbage can or paper recycling without me.

**  German Shepherd's pie:  it's alsatianal!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Dog photography: Harder than you think

It is surprisingly hard to get a decent photo of a pet.  Mostly because all dogs sort of look the same, and who really wants to see photos of other people's pets?

Too bad.

I give you, so-cute-you-could-bite-him (back):

Ziggy with his slipper

Ziggy with his ball

Ziggy with his rope

Ziggy in the snow

Note that I have taken apart his little coat and sewed on an extra panel with snaps, as the velcro wasn't holding very well.  Also note that you only need to be concerned about me and my mental wellbeing when he shows up shaved and wearing baby clothes.  Dog clothes are fine and are perfectly normal.  As are dog boots, which he apparently needs as the salt hurts his wee widdle paws, yes it does.

Help me.

Monday, 21 November 2016

CBR: Bring back the magic!

Full disclaimer:  I loved the Harry Potter books.  I’m a total Harry Potter nerd, and have already turned Vaughn into one (he was Harry for Halloween last year) and am easily working on Ailsa (who wants to be Hermione next year) and little Ginny Weasley – I mean, Tamsin.  After reading the first four in a row, I became one with the kids who penned letters to J.K. herself, wishing, begging her to write another and tell us more about Hogwarts.  In 2006, Chris and I stood in an extremely long line at Chapters at midnight to buy the 7th book (along with young teenagers and their parents… turns out that Chris knew the man in line behind us.  “I’m buying it for my 14-year-old daughter,” he shrugged and smiled.  Chris and I:  Awkward silence).  We lined up for an hour to watch the premiere of The Goblet of Fire (and were bitterly disappointed and furious when, with 10 minutes to go, upon Professor McGonagall’s announcement that “A boy is dead!” the picture suddenly went black, and we could still hear the movie, but not see it).  (We got free passes and a refund.) (Humph.)

So, when I saw J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy in my mom’s books-to-pass-on box, I nabbed it up immediately, unsure of what to expect from a non-Harry book.


It’s no Harry Potter.  At halfway through the book, I was less than impressed.  Pagford, a (fictional) rural town in England (I had to look it up), is a far cry from Hogsmeade.  The characters are unhappy, foul-mouthed, rude, selfish, unattractive, and self-destructive.  They dabble in deceit, drug-use, domestic and child abuse, prostitution, and generally being terrible people.  They use the c-word!  (!!!)  (this is not as shocking in the UK, I suppose, but yikes!)

I’d like to think that Rowling wanted to distance herself from the world of wizards and magic, to prove that she could write something so different from the Harry Potter series just to show that she’s versatile, and a REAL author – like there was any doubt of that.  That her original books appeal strongly to – and are compulsively read by – kids and adults alike, is enough to cement her place as a writer, and on re-reading her books (as I’ve been doing with Vaughn), I am often struck by her descriptors and turns of phrase.

And then there’s Pagford. 

Up to about the three-quarter mark, I was reading it out of a fascination with the vulgar... I felt slightly ill while reading, but couldn't stop.  

And then.  And THEN!  

When I finished it, I had to admit again what I already knew:  man, she can write.  It's a gift to be able to create characters and situations that come alive, outcomes that people care about, and for me, to be able to put down a book and be so moved and impressed by its ending... wow.  (I can't even describe it as more than "wow".)

I followed it up a few months later with "her" other new book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  It's written as a screenplay, which was a bit off-putting at first, and is actually written by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne.  It has Harry only in a supporting role, with his second son as the main character, and Draco's son as his best friend.

Amazingly, it came to life with warmth and humour - I felt that the characters and personalities from Hogwarts are still there, and true to themselves as adults.  Draco's son, Scorpius, may have even replaced Ron as my favourite (though he's still top-two) wizard; he's the most endearing Slytherin ever.  And I stand by that.  The characters are goofy and flawed and real.

All in all, J.K. Rowling's story, from starving single mom to an author world-renowned for her talent is an inspiration to me, and the fact that she is still creating and producing more, branching out in different genres, knocking it out of the ballpark each time, is amazing.

(hey, I started out cranky...) 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

I'm aliiiive!

Alternate title:  Insulate good times, come on!  Install some insulation...  by Kool (in my mudroom) and the Gang


Ok, ok, I know I've been completely incommunicado lately.  And by "lately", I mean "since February".

This blog tends to quiet down when there is too much stuff going on in my life.

But!  Now that the aforementioned "stuff" is over, there will be more writing, blogging, witty-joking, and updating on my extremely fascinating life!

For example, guess what I did this morning?  I insulated the crawlspace over the mudroom!

In May, our home inspector pointed out that the mudroom was "built on a concrete slab" and "had no appreciable insulation overtop", so would "probably be extremely cold".  And it is.  It's been on my list since we moved in August.  However, due to physical issues and extreme unwieldiness, it has been impossible to do until now.

I've had 2 weeks to recover from my 2am trip to the hospital on Halloween (and subsequent, wonderful 2-day vacation), and have been venturing off my couch two to three times a day to slowly walk our newest family member.  I even tried to jog down my street this morning.

Too soon.

Introducing our newest bundle of teeth and fur:  Ziggy, with his best friends

But, DG responsibilities can't be shirked forever, so I hauled the giant ladder out of the storage room (please send email reprimands directly to Fis), lifted off the panel in the roof of our carport, and changed into fibreglass-friendly sweatpants tucked into my socks, long-sleeved shirt tucked into my sweatpants, work gloves and a festive blue bandanna to cover my hair.  No, there are no photos.

I can almost stand up in the highest point of the space...which didn't need insulating, unfortunately.  I had to squeeze between framing that was about 3 feet high (but sloping down to the floor) and 18 inches wide, balance on joists 18 inches apart, and somehow roll pink insulation along, bumping my head on the sloping roof beams and coughing up a great deal of what I hope was dust, but was probably fibreglass.

The recurring thoughts I had during the whole 45-minute ordeal were:

  • I've missed my calling!  Tiny people like me are perfect for crawlspace insulation jobs.  (Much like my plan to man the subs of the Canadian Navy entirely by people of my size, which was thwarted in 1998, 1999 and 2001 - your loss, Canadian Navy!)
  • It must suck to be normal sized.
But, now that it's done (and I'm showered), I look forward to reaping the rewards of my work by feeling an almost-noticeable temperature change in the mudroom.  The next project, of course, involves weatherstripping the front door!  SO FUN!

Also, I think I can totally justify doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Regae revaeb, aka The Family Toothbrush

Warning:  Long post.  The funny bit is at the end, but you need a bunch of background to get there.  Heh.

My eager little Beavers took me camping last weekend.  It had the potential of being the Best Weekend Ever, and definitely moments of the Worst Weekend Ever, but overall was just a nice balance between the two (such is life). 

We” packed up our bags on Friday afternoon.  I was smart enough to print out the packing list and make two piles on Thursday night:  one of Vaughn’s clothes and one of Ailsa’s.  I had stayed home on Thursday with the ongoing lingering effects of this terrible flu/cold and a wicked bad sinus headache/migraine, so didn’t do much, but felt fairly prepared when I went in to work on Friday.  The plan was that I’d work during the morning, teach my class at 12:15, then go straight home, shower, pack, pick up extra mittens at Winners, pick up the kids at school at 3, load up the car, and go.

Ha ha… ha…

I waited, sweaty and cold, for the bus to come by after Attack.  It didn’t.  The sign stated that it came every 15 minutes at that hour.  Let me be clear:  it did not, and does not, ever.  I was shivering from head to toe, and my half-hot-chocolate/half-coffee (post-Attack treat) was cold by the time the bus arrived 45 minutes later.  It filled to bursting, drove slow, stopped too long at every stop… and I got home at 2:28.  I sprinted into the house, hopped into the shower to try to get feeling back in my body (and to stock up on extra heat for a cold weekend in the woods), and raced off to pick up the older Hufflings at school, for about 3:04.

As soon as I got to the office, Ailsa said, “I have to go to the bathroom”.  The combination of Distracto and her snowsuit put us to 3:25.  And we still had to buy mittens.  Winners had grownup mittens only (on sale!  Yay me!).  We went home.  The kids emptied their backpacks while I ran around like a madwoman, packing my own back, running down the list three more times, and putting fire blankets, pillows, and the three sleeping bags I retrieved from the top shelf of the garage…with a ladder…in the cold… in big black garbage bags.  We were ready to go!  The kids were wonderfully helpful in loading the back of the minivan I had borrowed from my parents:  sleds, backpacks, garbage bags, my duffel bag, my backpack full of mittens and hats, and we were off!

To the gas station.

Filling up the tank, I recognized Rusty, the kids' Beaver leader at the next pump. “How late are we?” I asked. He was still planning on dashing home to quickly eat (it was 5 by now), so I figured we were on track, so we hit the road!

To Loblaws.  (more mittens) 

At Loblaws, the kids begged to stay in the car, so I ran in to grab more on-sale mittens (2 for Ailsa, 1 for Tamsin for next year, and 1 nice warm pair for me), plus some candy for the drive home.

At this point, it was 5:20.  Back in the car, I pulled out Mom and Dad's GPS, and punched in the address. Not found. I punched in the postal code. Not found. I gave up and used my phone. We drove until 6, in the dark, down an unfamiliar highway (I was sure that we were going the wrong way), till we found a Tim Hortons. Soup is a nice quick meal... unless you have 2 kids and are on the way somewhere, in the dark. Back and driving, my phone told me that we still had an hour and 40 minutes to go. Sigh.

At 7:25, Vaughn pointed out that Ailsa was asleep, and that it was 5 minutes before bedtime. Still 45 minutes away. And my phone had been on continuously, so was burning hot against my thigh.

We finally pulled off the last of the main roads at about 8:05. Still 7km to go, and the last bit was turny and windy, and my phone wasn't responding very well. But we made it! We pulled into the parking lot of Tamaracouda, to see Rusty, the leader from the gas station, directing traffic. “How far behind you were we?” I asked, expecting at least 30 minutes. “About 10.” Score!

After some initial confusion, the three of us got settled into Cabin 3 with 2 other moms, 1 dad, and 3 little girls. And 8 bunks (do the math). Luckily, one mother-daughter combo wanted to share a bunk. Good for them! We met at the dining hall (5 minute walk) for mug-up (nice big glass of milk and cookies), then back to the cabin (6 min) to get ready for bed. Everyone grabbed their toothbrushes and... toothbrushes! 

Somehow, even though it was at the top of the list, “toothbrush” slipped through the cracks. As did “soap”, “washcloth” and “towel”. Luckily, I am nothing if not vain resourceful, and as I had brought my makeup bag (containing a travel toothbrush and small toothpaste), we all had access to the Family Toothbrush. This was fodder for all sorts of fun jokes, like, “No, Ailsa, your day is TUESDAY,” and “I wonder what Chris and Tamsin are doing without the toothbrush this weekend”. So fun.

With everyone clean(ish, without soap, washcloths, towels, etc.) and in their jammies, everyone climbed into their bunks and fell asleep.

Just kidding!

It was about 10:30. Each kid had their own story, complete with giggling and squealing and loud shouty noises. The last one seemed to go on forever, but the light was finally turned out, and I said, “Goodnight, Vaughn and Ailsa.” And Ailsa yelled, “Mommy! I have to go to the bathroom!” (Remember that nice big glass of milk?) 

So, out of bed, into boots and coat, off to the bathroom (3 minutes in cold and dark). Back in the nice, warm cabin, the kids are still squirming and giggling. At about 5 am (I'm guessing), Vaughn has to pee. At about 6 (still guessing – it's dark, but starting to brighten), Ailsa has to pee again. I resolve to cut off liquids at 2 pm the next day. Suddenly, there's a knock at the door, Rusty pokes his head in, and our day has started.

The day was pretty wonderful, I have to admit. Beautiful, perfect, not-too-cold weather.  Breakfast was eggs and toast. We went snowshoeing (just as much fun as it had been at Brownie camp, in 1983), then went to the dining hall (7 minutes away) at 11. Good! So hungry! All that fresh air and exercise! ….for crafts. Apparently, Beaver camp does not include snacks. As a compulsive snacker (who did not realize how snacky I really was until there were no snacks), it was a rough go till 12:30, but it was worth it: deeelicious hamburgers. Two of them. Nom nom nom.

The afternoon's schedule was full of napping and much-needed quiet time. 

Just kidding! We went sledding! 

It was a long walk to the hill, and a long walk up, and a reeeeally long walk back to our cabin, where I insisted that the kids have quiet time. Vaughn cuddled up with me and actually fell asleep for about 15 minutes, but Ailsa was interrupted by two of the other miscreants coming back in, squealing and giggling. Vaughn snoozed on for another 2 minutes, till his buddy popped in looking for him. Well, it was something.

They played outside a while longer, then off we went to the dining hall (11 minutes) for another craft.  The kids were surprisingly into it, and made themselves nice little pillows. Dinner was a LOT of rice, corn, gravy, and what looked like chicken souvlaki would look like if I made it by boiling the chicken skewers without seasoning them at all. Still, I didn't make it, I didn't clean it up, so I ate it and liked it. We walked back to the cabins (14 minutes) to get dressed warmly enough for the campfire, and I bundled Vaughn's gear off with Ben's dad – they had planned a party in their cabin, and I said he could sleep over.

Once fully dressed and wearing our fire blankets over top, Ailsa had to go to the bathroom. We eventually made it to the campfire, roasted 2 marshmallows each, and went back to the dining hall for mug-up, this time, nuclear-hot hot chocolate with marshmallows, skits, and then back to our cabins (15 min) to brush our teeth with our Toothbrush, kiss Vaughn goodnight as we went to Ben's cabin for the night, and get settled in for a good night sleep.

Just kidding!

Although I had made sure that both kids stopped at the bathroom before bed, I decided to take a peek up on Ailsa's bunk just before the lights were turned out. Beside her, an empty water bottle. AAAAARGH!

I dragged her back out into the cold,out to the bathroom, amid sobs of “But I don't have to gooooo....”, made sure she went again, and went back again to get tucked in and have the lights turned out. Sleep was elusive, though, as the bed-sharers squabbled for about half an hour over who was taking up too much room, and more rustling. But I finally fell asleep for the rest of the night.

Just kidding!

At 1 am, Ben's dad returned a sad and shaky Vaughn to me. He had tossed and turned, talked in his sleep (he does that), fallen out of his top bunk, and thrown up on the floor. SO... here he was.

A good mother would instantly worry about her child. She would check him for concussion* and be concerned for his current and future health. 

None of this even occurred to me.  First, I was just so tired.  But mostly, have you ever seen the movie Airplane!? There's a scene in which Dr. Rumack, played by Leslie Nielsen, explains to Elaine that any passenger who had eaten fish would get violently ill in the next short while. The pilot (Peter Graves) overhears this, and his eyes slide over slowly to look at his plate, which holds only a fishbone.

That was me and ... the Toothbrush.

All this to say, I DID do unintentional concussion checks on Vaughn, by asking him periodically whether he felt sick or thought he might throw up again (on me).  I was mostly just waiting for Ailsa and I to throw up, as we had obviously been literally rubbing each others' germs around our teeth and gums for the past 29 hours.  However, he wasn't warm, seemed lucid, and we actually enjoyed a really good night sleep until Ailsa woke up to pee, around 7.   

The morning flew by:  breakfast (French toast!  yeah!), then sledding, then packing up to go home.  We made good time, and both kids were unconscious within 5 minutes of starting the car.  
All this to say that the days were amazing, the nights were hell, and I can't wait to go back next year!  

With extra toothbrushes.  (the soap is still optional)

*Note:  Vaughn is still super smart.  I don't think it was a concussion.  Stop judging me.