A Novel Idea

I was thinking about playing by the rules this morning on my way to
work, and how many people don't, and got to wondering what society
would be like if it were stratified according to a person's degree of
law-abidingness. It would have to be externally regulated, I think, to
keep the chaotic evil from taking over, so I figure it would be
sometime in the distant future, when most aspects of daily life are
overseen by some massive, benevolent computer system.

The system would classify people when they became adults, although it
would always be possible to move between strata. People would live in
enclaves according to their status, which would be defined by their

At the highest, or most luxurious, level would be the people who never
break the law even a little - the natural do-gooders who don't even
toss their biodegradeable apple cores into the bushes when no one's
watching. It would be the most luxurious enclave because there'd be no
need for police or security activities, freeing up money for bigger
homes, etc. There would probably be no children allowed, because
little kids aren't very good at following the rules. It would be able
to spend more health care money on preventative treatment and
research, since there'd be no car accidents, no drunken brawls, no
addictions to deal with.

The next tier down would be the biggest, populated by 'regular' people
- folks who drive 10 over the speed limit (20 if they think they won't
get caught), who might keep the money if an ATM slipped them an extra
twenty bucks, but would return a lost wallet with the cash untouched.
There'd be kids here, and nice homes with big yards.

Below that would be the folks who cut in line, pass on the inside
doing 40 over the limit, engage in petty bullying if it will get them
a special deal or better treatment ... and so on, right down to a
region of utter lawlessness where pretty much anything goes and
anarchy (carefully monitored and limited by The System to prevent it
adversely affecting other tiers) reigns. Given the general lack of
cooperative ability at this level, it would be an unproductive
segment, with few amenities - I'm thinking wilderness, occupied by
anti-social hermits and madmen, living hand-to-mouth.

I suspect most of the creative work would be done by the lower tiers -
terribly law-abiding folk don't tend to think outside the box. I
wouldn't want to live in the highest echelon, myself - too boring and

I think the roots of this lie in 'This Perfect Day' by Ira Levin,
which I read at 12 or 13. But this would be a less dictatorial system,
with people able to move between strata by modifying their own
behaviour. It would probably be possible to live in one zone and work
in another.

So, if anyone's looking for an idea for a novel, you're welcome to
this one. All I ask is a little mention in the Acknowledgements.

Grey Hair

And why I have it.

MonkeyBoy has recently taken to rearranging all the chairs in the
house, then leaping joyously from one to another (he says it's because
the living room floor has turned to lava). Last night, Himself caught
him jumping from the wheeled, spinning computer chair onto an elderly,
wobbly chair with pointy, eye-level finials. Since repeated falls
haven't done much to deter the chimp child, Himself said, in his best
Serious Dad voice, "Stop that, it's dangerous! I don't want to see
you jumping on the chairs anymore."

Totally unphased, Mr. Cool-as-a-cucumber replied "Then don't watch, Dad."


Illegal Aliens

I saw a furtive pair sneak across the border this morning on my way to
work, but I'm not sure who I should contact to report them.

I've altered my morning route to take me along 0 Avenue (would that be
Zeroth Avenue, or Zeroed Avenue?). It's a strange road, running as it
does about 10' north of the 49th parallel. For the first part of my
trip, there's a second road mirroring it 20' to the south, separated
by a shallow ditch. Crossing into the US here would take one
medium-sized hop. Thanks to the torrential rains we've had in the last
few days, there was a not insignificant amount of Canadian water
flooding across the border. While the Canadian road was dry, the
American one was a good 6" under.

For most of the length of 0 Ave, the land to the south is heavily
wooded – messy, second growth stuff with lots of underbrush. There's
also a largish swamp. But towards the western end, there are 3 or 4
houses on the south side, facing and equal number to the north. It's
odd to think that, for their inhabitants, crossing the street to
admire your neighbour's new rose bush is a criminal offence.

Which brings me back to the miscreants who darted across the road in
front of me this morning, heading north as fast as they could move.
They came out of a wooded stretch in the US, crossed the road and
hopped the fence into a field to the north, heading for cover in the
trees on the far side.

Deer, obviously, are no respecters of international boundaries.


Petty Woes

Himself has to work this weekend, and I am responding with my usual mélange of conflicting emotions:

  1. I’m irritated, because we have plans, and because we only have alternate weekends together as it is.
  2. I’m jealous of anything that cuts into our time together, because there’s just never quite enough of it.
  3. I guilt-ridden, because:
    1. The alternate weekends thing is what lets him spend time with his daughter. We agreed at the beginning that the children come first so it’s been part of the deal since we started seeing each other - and I don’t ever want him to feel guilty or torn about spending time with her.
    2. His job is important and has a lot of potential. Plus he’s still getting his bearings and wants to make a good impression, and we knew there’d be long hours involved when he accepted the position.
    3. it’s a hell of a lot better than this time last year, when he was working 4 hours away, and we had no time together at all during the week.
  4. I’m torn, because as much as I want to be noble and say “Your job’s more important, spend all the time you need at work.” I don’t want his job to be more important.
  5. I’m pathetic, because part of me thinks his job really is more important than spending time with me, or that it should be, anyhow. Because I don’t deserve his attention.
  6. I’m insecure, because a little part of me says “Don’t nag, he can walk out any time he wants. Be grateful for the time he’s willing to spend with me.”
  7. I’m aware that #5 is insane, because 98% of me knows we’re great together and that he’s not going anywhere (except, obviously, to work this weekend), and that this is all small stuff, not worth sweating about. In the grand scheme of things, a few hours on the weekend is no big deal.
  8. I’m lucky, because I have a man who loves me, who wants to be with me, who understands me … who will do his very best to make sure we still have a weekend together even if he does have to work, because he thinks I’m worth it.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave … although there’s no deception here. Self-delusion, perhaps, but no outright deception. Still, it’s a right old mess of tangled thoughts, ain’t it?



I work for a company that designs and distributes building supplies -
door knobs, faucets, towel bars. Most of the manufacturing is done in
China, which results in the usual problems with translation.

Today I was asked to proofread an installation manual for a faucet.
The original directions were provided by the factory, and translated
by a third party. The results were, not surprisingly, somewhat
incoherent, containing helpful instructions like "Mounting nut onto
shank underside of sink." On the detailed drawing of all the parts, at
least half the parts shown were not referred to anywhere in the
instructions. And the instructions referred to half a dozen parts that
didn't appear in the diagram (including the aforementioned mounting
nut and shank).

So I've been asked to rewrite the installation manual. I have an
unassembled faucet and a red pen to help me. The closest I've come to
actual plumbing experience is listening to my father cursing from the
crawlspace when the septic field seal blew at the cabin.

And I begin to understand why the first thing men do when they start a
project is throw away the instruction sheet.

Knitting Update

Well, I'm up to about 50 rows so far. I had knit 30 rows over the weekend, but tore them out and started over on Monday.

I decided to start with something a little easier than the fuzzy wool I bought for myself. I had a ball of red acrylic stuff I'd bought probably 10 years ago for a Raggedy Anne doll my mother and I started, then abandoned (we got as far as the legs, which I still have. They're a little creepy.), so I thought I'd make a scarf for MonkeyBoy, who is the least likely to object to wearing it. My mom got me started, showed me casting on and the basic stitch. I was merrily knitting away until I stopped to count my stitches and discovered that I'd been adding a stitch every single row. By the time I figured out what I was doing wrong, the scarf was slightly wider than MonkeyBoy himself, and looked more like a blanket than a garment.

So I started over, and now have about 10 inches of a reasonable width. I realized last night that I can actually knit without looking at what I'm doing now, at least for brief stretches.

But I can't purl, and I have no idea how to cast off. This could be a really long scarf ...

But I quite like knitting. It's very soothing, and I can pay attention to what's going on around me (usually chaos) at the same time. I try to sit with the kids when they're watching TV and talk about what's on, so they're not just vegetating, but there's only so much Quality Children's Programming a sane adult can take. Knitting lets me free up just enough awareness to pull out the Meaningful Themes and Moral Lessons from whatever we're watching and beat the kids over the head with them.


Chilling at the Santa Parade

Actually, it was the Vancouver 2004 Rogers Santa Claus Parade, but I wasn’t going to try explaining that to the kids.

I heard on the radio this morning that there were 300,000 people watching, which sounds about right for the mob we saw. We arrived 40 minutes before the parade started and were still about 8 rows back from the curb. Fortunately, we have a sturdy stroller, so both kids were able to stand on it and see over the crowd. The weather cooperated, too – it was overcast, but the rain held off and it wasn’t too cold (at least for the first hour).

Given that Vancouver hasn’t had a Christmas parade in 15 years, and that they had closed a major downtown thoroughfare for the occasion, I was expecting maybe 45 minutes of entertainment. After an hour, the kids were getting bored and cold. When it finally wrapped up after 90 minutes, they were bored, cold, hungry and whiney. Still, by the time we were loaded into the car and headed for home, it was The Greatest Parade Ever, so I guess we’ll be going back next year.

I thought it was pretty good, as parades go. A little too commercial, but that’s pretty standard these days. I do think, though, that if you’re going to enter the Panorama School of Dance, you might actually get your students to, you know, dance a little. Just a little. Ditto the baton twirlers – maybe I’m old fashioned, but I like to see a little twirling, perhaps a toss or two. Watching 60 kids wandering down the street, waving their batons aimlessly and with no relation to the music blaring from your tissue-rose-studded SUV doesn’t make me want to rush out and plunk down a couple of hundred dollars for lessons for my own budding starlet.

Kudos to the entrants for bringing a multicultural flavour to an otherwise fairly traditional Santa Parade. There was the Chinese opera society, 2 groups of dragon dancers, an excellent Sikh dance troupe, and probably several others I’m forgetting about ... and the Vancouver Pride Society proudly donned their gay apparel (MonkeyBoy liked the rainbows on their tree). Plus my old musical alma mater, the North Vancouver Youth Band performed (while I was delighted to hear them play again, after an absence of 20 years, I was quite disheartened by a significant change to their uniform. Back in my day, we wore very sharp, maroon, British military-style uniforms with white trim - sleeve braid, trouser stripes, and lanyards. And a truly hideous mustard-yellow tie. Well, someone evidently liked the ties, and all the lovely white trim has been replace with yellow. Ugly yellow. Not an attractive combination at all).

All in all, a pretty decent first attempt. They need to get a little more organized – there were more than a few 3 or 4 minute gaps between floats, which is plenty long enough for a short person to forget why we’re there – extend the parade route (300,000 people packed into 6 blocks makes for some awfully crowded sidewalks), crank up the volume a little, and shorten things up a bit (I think 60 minutes for a winter parade is plenty – and not just for little kids. I saw lots of adults heading for home an hour into the event. Cutting out the gaps would help).

Not that I’m complaining or anything – it was a great way to spend an otherwise dreary November day.


Lost Time

My ex is late. Again. Only this time he's dropping off Chickadee, not picking her up, which means he's cutting into MY time with her.

We share custody 50/50, so she spends alternate weekends with me. I agreed, several weeks ago, that he could take her to stained glass lessons on 2 weekends she's with me, on the understanding that it would be 2 hours, plus commuting time (30 minutes round trip). This morning, he picked her up at 10:30, because he needed extra time to grab a coffee before the class. She just called (he always gets her to call when he's late bringing her back, because he knows I won't show her how irritated I am), half an hour after I expected them back, to say they were running a little late but were going to stop for lunch first. So by the time they get here, it will be at least 4 hours out of my day.

In the grand scheme of things, not a big deal, I admit. And as custody arrangements go, ours is remarkably amicable.

What bothers me is that he genuinely doesn't understand why I would be bothered by this at all. He's one of those special people who thinks that if something is good for him, then it must be good for everyone. He gets so befuddled when I don't instantly agree to whatever he wants that the urge to slap some sense into him is almost overwhelming.

It is completely beyond his comprehension that when he's late, it not only affects Chickadee and I, but also MonkeyBoy (who adores his sister) and, frequently, Himself. To my ex, the 4 of us should be more than happy to do whatever it takes to make his life easier.

There are days when I hope fervently that he will step in front of a speeding bus. Not because I hate him (I'm generous even when wishing death on him, you see, because I do hope it's quick and painless) but because my life would be so much easier if he were out of the picture. And it's much more realistic to hope he'll fall off a ladder and break his neck than expect him to see anyone else's point of view, or inconvenience himself in the slightest to benefit the rest of us.

He's gotten much worse in the 6-and-a-half years since we separated, but it still amazes me that I didn't notice his self-absorption before I married him.

Still, I'm in a happy, secure, loving relationship (with regular and fantastic sex) now, and he's alone. And celibate. And probably always will be. So THERE!


Alternate Universe

We're been watching Jeopardy faithfully the last few weeks, fearing to miss KenJen's last night. There's been some whining from the larger of the small-fry, but I pointed out that since grown-ups bought the TV, pay for the cable, and own the house in which we watch it, expecting to control the remote for half an hour every night is hardly Dickensian behaviour.

It seems to be catching on: last night at dinner, we played Jeopardy, with the kids taking turns being Alex (or The Conductor, as MonkeyBoy calls him), and Himself and I being KenJen. We were presented with categories like Food, Drinks, and Animals, and awarded random points and/or dollars, depending on who was in charge, ranging from 3 to humillions for correct answers.

So this evening, in the car, MonkeyBoy asked if I wanted to play again. I agreed, and thus entered the Evil Alex Universe. My categories were Pet Animals, Bird Animals, Wild Animals or Trucks. So I asked for Pet Animals for one hundred. Evil Alex announced, in impressive tones, "Yes, we've got that one. EEEHHHN! You're WRONG! Try again." So I tried Pet Animals for 200, then Trucks for 6 and a half, Birds for 12 million, Pets again for 83 ... and got the same response every time. Apparently Evil Alex was reading my mind and knew I was going to get the question wrong before he even asked it. The buzzer got louder every time, too.

I think I finished the round at -42 billion, without ever hearing a single question. Of course, by the end I couldn't hear much of anything, thanks to some incredibly vigourous buzzering from the back seat.

Kids are strange.


Creative Endeavours

I have decided to try knitting. Until today, I had thought I would wait until my children were grown, then learn how to knit so I could be the kind of grandmother who makes sweaters for everyone. I had one of those - she turned out a sweater a year for her 2 children, 2 in-laws, and 5 grandchildren - and still have the last sweater she made for me, some 15 years ago.

But I wasn't planning on getting started any time soon. You see, I'm still smarting from a failed attempt at knitting 30 years ago in Brownies. One of the key tasks of Browniehood, requisite if one was to 'fly up' to Guides, was turning out 40 rows of 40 stitches.

I failed. Miserably. I think I managed 19 rows of between 12 and 68 stitches. With a few gaping holes. I knew I was never going to fly up. Eventually, we moved across the country, and I joined a Guide troop 3000 miles away, without ever completely that miserable woolen square.

But today I wandered into Michaels, the monster craft store, in search of Christmas ornament components - looking for something that would appeal to both a 3 and an 8 year-old. After acquiring beads and pipe cleaners in holiday colours, MonkeyBoy and I wandered around the store a bit (well, I wandered, he tried to convince me that standing up in the stroller and re-enacting 5 Little Monkeys was a good idea. For the record, it's not.). In one aisle they had a display of fuzzy wools - very trendy now for ponchos - where I was smitten by a gorgeous blend of variegated purples - eggplant, plum, dark violet. And, to clinch the deal, there were directions for making a fabulous scarf RIGHT THERE ON THE LABEL.

It was meant to be. So I convinced myself that I can learn to knit, bought a couple of balls and a pair of needles.

I wonder how many balls of wool they sell a year to optimistic fools.


Sex is a Strange Thing

It'’s one of the most basic animal urges but, like food and shelter, we humans have taken it so far beyond a basic need that there are huge industries built around satisfying it. Himself and I have enjoyed a rich and colourful sex life since the inception of our relationship, and it’'s an important part of that relationship. For me, it’'s also been the touchstone of the strength and rightness of it, of us.

As I'’ve mentioned previously, before Himself I had never had much interest in sex. It was just something I didn'’t get, along with surrealist films, fried mushrooms and scotch. I tried to be wild during university, but an inability to drink to excess and a general lack of physical arousal meant I didn'’t get very far. It just didn'’t seem worth it. So I played D&D with a bunch of geeks every Friday and Saturday night, and marveled at the poor treatment my friends were willing to tolerate from their dates because the sex was great.

In a way I was lucky, I suppose. By not falling for the wrong guys because they were great in bed, I was spared a fair amount of heartbreak Unfortunately, I did eventually fall for the wrong guy, and it took us almost 9 years of marriage to figure out that it wasn't going to work. For him, I learned to fake it reasonably well, although in the last few years when we argued, he had no qualms about throwing my frigidity in my face. I never told him the whole truth, either - that I had never been enamoured of sex with him, and that I only did it to please him. In hindsight, the whole faking thing was probably a mistake. But I was young, naïve, and trying to do the right thing, to respond the way he wanted me to. And I thought there was something wrong with me, and wanted to hide it.

When I met Himself, we were both at the end of rapidly disintegrating marriages, both had young daughters, damaged egos, and not a lot of self confidence. Both of us expected to be alone. But he took a chance and asked me out. And the first time he held me in his arms, I understood desire. It felt like there was a current running between us, setting all my nerves alight, and I couldn'’t get close enough to him. He gifted me with my first orgasm, then my first multiple, and I realized there had never been anything wrong with me. I just needed the right man. And I thank whatever deities there are that I found him. Because as incredible as our sex life is, it'’s the least important part of our relationship.

But I treasure it because whenever I have doubts about myself - and I have many at times -– I can remind myself that if I was wrong about being frigid, I can be wrong about the other flaws I see, too.

* * * * *

So why am I sitting here writing now, instead of curled up in satiated sleep?

Because I'’m feeling guilty for wanting more, and for telling Himself as much this evening. He has always been wonderful about playing out my fantasies (fantasies, I might add, that I never had until he came into my life), which generally involve being helpless and at his mercy. I enjoy feeling like I am not responsible for my own pleasure. I don'’t know why this is, what drives my desire to not be in control, but I no longer worry about it as we both enjoy playing. We have amassed a reasonable collection of toys that Himself applies to great effect, and I adore feeling wanton and desirable and slightly scandalous.

But we have children, and careers (well, he has a career, I have a job, but it suffices for now), and a household to run, and blogs to blog, and we don’'t spend a lot of time playing any more. Partly out of concern that someone short will interfere at an inopportune moment, creating the need for some potentially awkward explanations. Partly from lack of time and energy. Partly, I suppose, because we've been together for over 6 years and this is what happens. So our toys languish unused, and I miss our bedroom adventures.

It'’s not that regular vanilla sex isn'’t great -– it is, the 4 or 5 times a week we indulge. Which puts me well above average for women my age, and I shouldn’'t complain. And I'’m not, really. I could happily handle sex like this for at least another 60 or 70 years.

But I suffer from a small internal voice that nags and harangues me whenever I let my guard down -– a running monologue that threads its way through my voluntary thoughts. I'’m getting better at dealing with it, largely thanks to Himself'’s support and advice. But it pipes up at the most inconvenient of times, including when we’'re making love. Sometimes it just murmurs a running list of things I need to remember, or meant to tell him during the day -– but it'’s irritating and distracting at a time when I wish to be neither irritated nor distracted.

And the one thing I could rely on to shut it off completely was playing with my beloved, being a plaything for my beloved. Letting myself be helpless in private made me feel stronger in public; giving him control over me gave me more control over myself.

And I worry that I'’m being selfish, greedy for wanting more when I already have so much more than most.

Being Other

MonkeyBoy often pretends he is someone else - a horse, a puppy, a baby - as does Chickadee, although her fantasies are more elaborate. What I find interesting is that when he's being someone else, MonkeyBoy refers to his assumed character in the third person: "Mom, the puppy wants a snack. He's hungry." He only uses 'I' and 'me' when he's being himself. Chickadee used to do the same thing, and I cannot remember at what age she stopped. But there's obviously a conceptual leap they make at some point so that they stop thinking of that other character as a separate entity.


Thoughts on Mortality

My mother called yesterday to tell me a close friend has been told his cancer is untreatable. No word yet on how fast it's progressing, or how long he has left. He's not yet 65, and his wife will be alone when he's gone. They were never able to have children, and although each has a sister, they live in distant countries.

Chris and Toula have been a part of my life since I was an infant. My parents met them when my father returned to UBC for his MBA, shortly after I was born. They are part of the 'MBA crowd', a group of 6 couples who met at school. All were newlyweds at the time, started families together, left Vancouver to pursue careers, met up again in Quebec and Ontario, returned to BC in the 70's, picnicked and vacationed and spent holidays together ... Toula and Chris were our honourary aunt and uncle, and always made room for us kids in their otherwise orderly (and peaceful) lives.

In many ways, I'm closer to this group of people than any relatives. I grew up with their children, and now we're attending each other's graduations and weddings and baby showers. And now, in the foreseeable future, our parents' funerals.

This is harder to accept than the deaths of 3 of my grandparents (from a child's persepctive, grandparents are born old) because it forces me to confront the fact that my parents, who are so youthful and vibrant, are going to leave me one day, too. And that, some day, either Dean or I will be left alone.

I think it's the alone part that bothers me the most - while I will grieve for Chris (and am doing so already), it is the thought of Toula, preparing for the death of her husband, that causes me greater pain. They have been inseparable for as long as I have known them - Chrisandtoula, Toulaandchris, always spoken of together - a study in contrasts (Chris a reserved Brit, Toula an emotional Greek) who complement each other perfectly. How do you come to accept something like the loss of your other half? I think preparing for my own death would be easier, because it's finite and immutable. For Toula, the situation is not finite - she will suffer long after Chris is at peace - and she faces the biggest change of her life when he leaves her.

I don't know how I will manage if Dean dies first - a strong likelihood as he's older than I, and I come from a long-lived family - but I am grateful now, contemplating the possibility, that I will have my children to turn to, to live for when he is gone.



MonkeyBoy and I were running some local errands this morning on foot (well, I was on foot, he was en stroller - without an argument for a change). The furthest point of our circuitous route took us to the Milseán Shoppe to gather some info on upcoming Christmas festivities. It was a lovely day for an autumn stroll - overcast but reasonably warm, and the diffuse light made the painted leaves gently luminous.

The Milseán Shoppe makes the most marvelous buttercrunch confections - I can't recommend them highly enough - and an utterly sinful caramel sauce, but I resisted their siren calls today and settled for a Chai latté for me and a rice krispy square for the MonkeyBoy. I usually make my own, because the commercial squares are such insipid things - vaguely krispy, vaguely sweet, definitely unsatisfying - but I'd promised him a treat and it's what he wanted.

As we left the store, MonkeyBoy, a generous little soul, offered me a bite. Not wanting to be rude, I accepted with low expectations. I should have known - the Milseán folks sell nothing prosaic. Their rice krispy square is stuffed with dried cranberries and tiny nuggets of golden demerara caramel, and covered in a layer of orange-infused milk chocolate. The combination is amazing.

I offered to swap for my merely delicious Chai latté, but my son is no dummy and recognizes the short end of the stick when he sees it.

We finished it off together while standing above the little creek that runs through town, admiring the sound of the water rushing through the beaver dam, and a dew-bejeweled spiderweb.

Next time, I'm buying two.


At Home with a Not-All-That-Sick MonkeyBoy

I got a call at work today, from MonkeyBoy's daycare, to let me know that he was sick - a hacking cough, torrentially runny nose, and general malaise. So, being a dutiful mother, I packed up my desk and headed out. I expected to bring home a lethargic child, medicate him and tuck him into bed.

No such luck. I gave up on the nap idea after 3 rounds of "Mom, I just need to get ..." His energy is boundless at the moment (he's trying to convince me to let him sit on the piano, and crashing my chair with a largish truck every time I say no).

MonkeyBoy does, indeed , have a cough and a runny nose. He's had the cough for 3 days now, and it hasn't slowed him down a bit. The runny nose doesn't even qualify as an irritant, as far as he's concerned. And the general malaise? Well, it disappeared when I walked through the daycare door. I suspect it was rooted in his discovery that acting pathetic gets you sympathy from people who are not your mother (and therefore can't be expected to know better). Either that, or I'm such an incredible mother that my mere presence cured him on the spot.

He's still hacking like a Welsh coalminer, a condition not helped by rambunctious feats of physical derring-do. I tried firing up a movie, hoping he'd sit quietly on the sofa for a while, but he's recently decided he doesn't like movies with bad guys, which pretty much eliminates our entire video collection. He even rejected Winnie the Pooh, on the grounds that Rabbit's hole was a villain for trapping Pooh.

Now he's hanging off the back of my chair, hoisting himself off the ground and trying to make it spin like a merry-go-round, and shouting arbitrary commands in my ear.

I think I have to go ...


On a Rainy Sunday Afternoon

MonkeyBoy is napping, after employing an impressive array of stalling tactics; Chickadee is engrossed in Stuart Little (the movie, not the book) and working on new and creative hairstyles involving not less than a score of clips and ribbons, and copious quantities of glitter spray.

I have taken advantage of a momentary lull in my maternal duties to touch up my hair colour. Imagine, if you will, that a faint cloud of ammonia and poorly masking aromatherapy essences engulfs you as you read.

I've been colouring my hair since I was 18, when I discovered Body Shop's Extra Red Henna. That was a serious commitment, requiring 4 and a half hours of mud-encrusted hair wrapped in Saran wrap to develop it's full colour. I was in university, so the time was available. Then I discovered the temporary colours - gone in 6 shampoos - and embarked on couple of years of jewel toned coifs, amethyst, garnet, ruby ... the more unnatural, the better. After graduation, I started using more permanent colours, mostly in the auburn and burgundy range, with occasional forays into blue-black (not a good look, I must admit). By the time I was pregnant with Chickadee (and thus unable, or unwilling, to colour), my hair had an alarming amount of grey in it - far to much for my not-quite-30 ego. So colouring ceased to be a fashion statement and became a necessity. Still, I managed a run of over 15 years without ever using the same colour twice in a row. I had a serious novelty habit.

Now, I'm trying to grow my hair long, and have committed myself to a single colour for the duration: Feria Chocolate Cherry. It's a nice, dark burgundy, and I quite like it, although it has a tendency to fade to orange as it ages. But one of the woman at work showed up this week sporting a gorgeous dark plum shade, and I covet her colour.

It's taking all of my willpower not to ask what she used. And I just saw an ad for a new streaking kit, in bright burgundy, that calls out to me.

Oh, the temptation ...


Bleary Weekends

I'm feeling quite out of synch this weekend. Himself is away - he spends alternate weekends with HouseApe 1.0, who lives with her mother, about 6 hours away from here - having caught the ferry for Vancouver Island right after work. I picked up MonkeyBoy from daycare, rustled up an indifferent supper for us, then headed east to pick up Chickadee, who divides her time between our house and her father's, as close to a 50/50 split as we can manage (my ex lives only 20 minutes away, so it's a more flexible arrangement). Weekends Himself is away, Chickadee is usually here, so I spend my days entertaining the children and trying to keep chaos from completely gaining the upper hand.

It's pouring rain outside - typical November weather around here - so the park is out, as is walking over to rent a movie and acquire slurpies. Chickadee is at a stained glass class right now with her father, a birthday present from him. MonkeyBoy is napping, as is the dog, and I've just killed half an hour playing solitaire instead of doing the dishes and cleaning up. I tried to roust us out of the house earlier to run some errands, but MonkeyBoy announced quite firmly that he just wanted to play in the living room all day, and it didn't seem worth triggering a massive shrieking fit by insisting we head out into the rain.

So the rest of today's busy schedule includes a post-nap trip to get groceries, with a stop at the video store if we make it to the checkout with no tantrums. Tomorrow, I've promised to take the kids to "Uncle McDonald's" so they can play on the giant slides. I don't worry too much about the junk food factor, as between them they consume less than half a Happy Meal.

Chickadee goes back to her dad's tomorrow afternoon, and Himself arrives home shortly before MonkeyBoy's bedtime. We eat dinner together, then head to bed for a little x-rated romping before falling asleep. And I head back to work on Monday feeling vaguely like I should have done more with my time.

So I'm writing this - at least it's more productive than Minesweeper.



MonkeyBoy, who is 3, told me a long and involved story this evening about his father (or fahver, as he says it), Fred. Which is strange because I don't know anyone called Fred. Turns out Fred is his 'other fahver' who lives in 'a apartment' when he's not in the hospital because he's sick.

Anyhow, as today's story went, when Fred was a baby MonkeyBoy was his mother (or muvver) and had to take care of him (because he was sick - I'm not sure whether it's a chronic illness or just general poor health, but almost every story involving Fred has him sick or just recovering from being sick). To make Fred feel better, MonkeyBoy his muvver told him a story, which went like this:

Once upon a time there was a king. He was a very old king and they called him the Mermaid King. He was very sad because no one would be his buddy and come to play with him. One day some people came and he said "Hey, will you be my buddy?" and they said "Sure!" And everyone played together and they were all very happy. The end.

Apparently MonkeyBoy was reminded of the time when Fred was a baby by the fact that he, MonkeyBoy, now has a baby in his tummy - not a boy baby or a girl baby yet, it's just a baby. I can hardly wait, although the way things are going, I don't know if I'll be its grandmother, its grandfather, or possibly its second cousin twice removed.

I'm not sure if going into the facts of life at this point will help matters or not. I suspect not - I have yet to meet a 3-year-old who'd let the facts get in the way of a good story.

It does make for some interesting conversations, though.


A Farewell to Produce

I harvested the last of my tomatoes this morning. To be honest, I’d forgotten about them in the last couple of weeks – I don’t usually associate Hallowe’en with bringing in the sheaves – but I wandered out this morning to enjoy the frosty sunrise and spotted a few lonely fruits on the vine.

I love fresh, sun-warmed tomatoes, so I treated myself to 2 roma and 2 cherry tomato plants last spring. The romas were a disappointment – between them they produced 3 smallish tomatoes. I figure, based on the $1.99 I paid for the plants, that my romas cost me 8 bucks a pound. The cherries were a little more prolific, averaging 4 or 5 miniscule tomatoes a week (I learned this morning that MonkeyBoy had been helping himself regularly when I wasn’t looking, so they may actually have produced torrents of red fruit – doubtful, though, as I would have spotted them when they were green). Still, it wasn’t the quantity, it was the quality - and the scent of the plants, and the pleasure of picking them myself and popping them into my mouth, still warm and fragrant.

But as the warm weather faded, I forgot about the poor things. So I was most chagrinned this morning to discover that, despite my neglect, my faithful Lycobersicons were still standing. The recent frosts had killed off most of the leaves, and withered the weaker branches, but one valiant plant still sported a few hopelessly optimistic flowers. There were 3 ripe cherry tomatoes and a cluster of pea-sized green ones, half a dozen maybe, and one pale orange roma – 75% of my harvest from that plant.

As I collected my bounty and turned to go back inside, I spotted a few strawberry blossoms in the next pot. My garden is populated with brave and hearty souls – I feel humbled in their presence.


I am in pain

All thanks to the Wing of Nut, who took me on a frantic and most unwelcome run in the rain Monday morning. And the day started out so well ... MonkeyBoy and I were just heading out the door for daycare/work, and were actually running 5 minutes early - almost unheard of as he has raised dawdling to an art form. As I held the door open for him the Wing of Nut, who had heretofore been sleeping soundly under the able, suddenly decided to make a dash out to the car. WoN is completely and utterly deaf now, so yelling at him just annoys the neighbours. I told MonkeyBoy to wait inside and charged out after the dog, who was agitating at the back of the car, hoping for a ride. Just as I was going for his collar, he decided he must be at the wrong car and took off, at a full gallop, for our other parking space, about half a block away.

Did I mention it was pouring rain? A real let's-welcome-November-in-style torrential cloudburst.

So, since shouting wasn't going to help anything, I, wearing comfortable for work but lousy for running loafers, went charging after him at a full sprint, splashing joyously through the puddles in my leather shoes.

Did I also mention I hate running?

The dog reached the parking spot about 6' ahead of me, then proceeded to run in and around the neighbouring cars, staying just out of reach, then turned around and charged back to the house, me in hot (and fairly irate) pursuit. I managed to catch hold of his collar just as he reached our carport - just his collar, because The Boy was watching - and he promptly collapsed in a heap, yelping piteously (this is a new trick he does whenever you try to move him from his chosen spot - I'm sure it impresses the heck out of our neighbours). I managed to drag him into the house, sustaining a few hits to my recently pressed trousers from his sodden paws, without giving voice to the more colourful epithets seething in my head. Still, MonkeyBoy did ask me what a flaming moron was.

Anyhow, we made it to daycare and work only slightly delayed, so I figured there was no harm done. Little did I know ... I badly pulled whatever muscle runs down the front of my shins, so that any movement of my feet or ankles sends pain shooting up towards my knees. I've been hobbling around like a crippled stork for the last 2 days, getting much less sympathy than I think I deserve.

Bloody dog.

A Muchness of Flooding

I live in the Fraser Valley, which is basically one giant flood plain. The Fraser River itself has been dyked and dredged and largely contained, although it’s done some spectacular flooding in the past (the last major flood was in 1948, when 50,000 normally arable acres were inundated by early snowmelt). And pretty much all of the residential areas have some degree of protection. But there are still large tracts of farmland that lie maybe 6” above the normal level of the streams and tributaries running through them.

Monday night we had 2” of rain and all those little streams were eager to share. On my way into Fort Langley I passed a brand new seasonal lake, brought to us courtesy of the Salmon River, a-swarm with migrating ducks. There were 3 Great Blue Herons stilting their way through the sodden fields, and a few stray seagulls. The only trace of the original watercourse was a forlorn string of trees that normally lines its banks.

In 1997, the summer after Chickadee was born, the Fraser came close to overflowing in a few places. My now-ex-husband and I used to walk our Border Collies along a lovely, dog-friendly trail that ran along the outside of the railway embankment. Normally the trail ran about 6' above the level of the river - there was a 4' bank, and then a sloping sandy shore that ran another couple of feet down to the water. For a few weeks that summer, walking along the trail meant wading through waist-deep water. The dogs had to swim the entire way, which confused them a little - we'd see them exchanging puzzled glances every so often, as if to say "Didn't there used to be ground here? I'm sure we used put our feet on something ... hey, is that a duck?!?" (Border Collies are bright, but they have fairly short attention spans for anything that doesn't involve sheep.)

I haven't been back to that trail in years - I don't live in Fort Langley any more, and the Wing of Nut is too old and arthritic to do much walking (plus he went through a prolonged stretch of agoraphobia, lasting several years, that as far as we could tell arose from a fear of alien abduction. That particular stretch of trail, along with most of my other favourite walks, was apparently infested with aliens and so he refused to walk it - rather than risk abduction on the off chance he might get to swim, he'd cower by the car in hopes of avoiding detection. He only started going for walks again when my sister had her dog fitted with one of those microchip ID tags - I guess the WoN decided if the aliens were going to grab anyone, it'd be the guy with the implant. In his case, senility has been something of a blessing really.)


Who am I?

1. I'm nice. This seems to be my defining characteristic - a while ago, my parents even told me, flat out, that I'm one of the nicest people they know. Which is all very nice, I suppose, but I've always harboured a suspicion that 'nice' is a default term you use when there isn't really anything else to say about a person. Still, I'm glad my parents think I'm nice instead of a bitch (FWIW, there are no bitches in my family - not blood relatives, anyway. Nice seems to be in our genes).

2. I'm intelligent. I don't mean that in a boastful way, it's just a fact I know about myself. I get a kick out of taking online intelligence tests, and consistently score between 145 and 152. I don't know how valid those numbers are in general, but I also know that I scored 760 on the GMAT when I wrote it 10 years ago (they've probably changed the scoring system so that number is now totally meaningless), which put me in the 99th percentile. My main goal in writing it was to beat my dad's score - he scored in the 97th percentile circa 1966.

3. I'm low maintenance. I have a real dislike (bordering on phobia) of inconveniencing or imposing on people, so I go a loooooong way out of my way to avoid asking for favours. Or imposing my problems on anyone else. Or expressing any sort of need that doesn't coincide with the desires of whomever I'm with. This is not a particularly good thing, especially when one's marriage is falling apart, as mine did about 7 years ago. I'm getting better at asking for help when I really need it, but I feel terribly guilty when I do.

4. I'm an extrovert around people I know well, an introvert around everyone else. Combined with #3, this can make me seem fairly stand-offish, as I generally assume that people I don't know don't like me until they prove otherwise and so am quite poor at striking up casual conversations. I'd rather keep my mouth shut than impose my opinions on someone who doesn't want to hear them.

5. I tend to downplay my strengths and magnify my flaws to an alarming extent. I'm trying very hard not to do that here - to be objective and rational. Himself will say I'm still being too hard on myself, I'm sure. With his help, I'm working on my self esteem. I have a long way to go, I fear.

6. I'm a stickler for accuracy in grammar and spelling (although I'm a lousy typist, so my work is not without error) in my own work. Sloppy writing by others bugs me if the presentation is formal - I work in marketing, so that includes anything that's going to be seen by a customer - but I can deal with it the rest of the time. I'm a natural-born editor and proofreader, although I only apply that to other people's work at their request. I have, however, abandoned otherwise enjoyable books because they were so poorly edited I wanted to get out my red pen and fire corrections back to the publisher.

7. I'm interested in pretty much everything. I'm a fast learner, and a fast reader, so I can become fairly proficient in almost any subject (except calculus) quite quickly. I'm also not afraid to experiment - of the 18 or so software apps listed on my resume, I've had formal training in exactly one of them, but I'm more expert than 75% of the people I work with, because I'm not afraid to fool around with a program to see what it can do for me.

8. I can't draw worth beans. Every well-meaning soul who has ever told me my lack of ability was all in my head wound up laughing as soon as they saw my attempts at sketching. I'm OK with this - I make wicked play-dough animals, and I'm excellent at colouring in the lines (as long as someone else draws the lines for me).

9. Last but definitely not least: my family means EVERYTHING to me. Himself and our children, I would die for. They are what gives my life meaning, colour, and depth. But my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandfather ... are almost as important, in that they provide the background and framework for who I am. I am extremely lucky to enjoy the unconditional love and support of a large extended family, a varied and fascinating group of people.