Does This Make Me a Bad Mom?

MonkeyBoy had 3 bowls of FrootLoops for dinner tonight.

I didn't plan it that way, but some Sundays are difficult. When Dean visits his daughter, he gets home at around 8 on Sunday night. I usually try to make something so I can feed MonkeyBoy at 6, then wait to eat my dinner with Dean. Tonight I have a lovely beef stew on the go.

But I got sucked in by an end-aisle display at Save-On - FrootLoops for only $3.99, and there was a free watch in every box. MonkeyBoy has wanted his own watch since Chickadee got one for Christmas and, with typical childish acuity, spotted the freebie from across the store. I don't normally buy sugar-laden cereal - Frosted Mini Wheats is about my limit - but I thought they'd make a better afternoon snack than chips or cookies. At least they've got added vitamins and minerals.

So when we got home, and he asked for a few, I figured it would tide him over until I unpacked the groceries and got his dinner ready. He helped himself to more when I wasn't looking - he was so proud of himself, too. Then he asked for a third bowl, about 45 seconds later, and I realized I'd already lost the battle - that there was no way he was going to settle for stew at this point.

I guess I can take my name off the list of nominees for Mother of the Year already.


Wildlife Photoblogging

A few of my favourite photos for your viewing pleasure.

I've mentioned my father's eagle hobby before, but hadn't figured out how to post photos of his pets, so I decided to rectify that oversight. Here's one of the pair (he can tell them apart, but no one else can) about to snatch a drumstick off the rocks:

As well as providing fresh chicken, my dad likes to scavenge the beach at low tide. One day, he and Chickadee found a dead cod, and brought it over to the usual feeding spot. It was a big fish - 5 lbs, he estimated - and the eagle couldn't make it back to the nest in one go. She (we think it was the female) rested for 10 minutes or so right in front of the cabin, providing the perfect photo opp. Dean took this one:

Another great spot for wildlife spotting is Cabbage Island - we head down there in Dad's boat on sunny days for a change of scenery. And impressive scenery it is.

I almost lost my camera getting this shot - the tide was coming in, and I slipped in waist-deep water on my way back to the beach:

Chickadee and I were building a sand castle one day when this fellow wandered out of the woods. He watched us, but wasn't at all alarmed by our presence as he wandered down to the water:

And last but not least ... Dad rescues frog eggs from a local quarry every year (it dries out before the eggs hatch) and relocates them to his fish pond, which provides a plentiful supply of little tree frogs during the summer. There are always 2 or 3 that take up residence in the rose bushes outside the front door of the cabin. I took this picture last summer, and Chickadee wrote the poem for the Mayne Island Fall Fair (and took first prize in the Under 10 Poetry Competition):

Frog in the Rose

Pinks and golds surrounding you. You and your little bright green body.

One day I walked out and saw you sitting there in the pink and gold rose. You and your little bright green body.

All curled up inside the rose, sleepy in the sun. Shadows on your face and back, in the pink and gold rose. You and your little bright green body.


Updated Tally

I had to do an errand* at lunch**, which involved screaming down the highway around Boundary Bay. I saw another eagle, a second hawk, and two blue herons, so today's avian count is looking a little more respectable.

*Had to pick a peck of snide, in a dark and gloomy snide field that was almost nine miles wide. Bonus points if you get the reference.

**Actually, it's a glorious day here, sunny and warm, with nary a snide bush in sight.

Note: I posted an earlier plaint about the lack of wildlife this morning by email, but it hasn't shown up yet. This entry would be much wittier as part of a set.

A Disappointing Commute

**My email post never materialized, so I decided to do it the old-fashioned way**

Only 4 eagles this morning, and one hawk. And I almost ran over a squirrel - no, I'm not disappointed that I missed, I just didn't need the adrenaline rush at 7:45. I like squirrels, even if they are just glorified rats (actually, I'm rather fond of rats, too).

But the sunrise was magnificent - even MonkeyBoy was impressed: "Look, Mom, the sky's all oooooorange!"


Sauron Buys the Farm

I commented back in October about the abundance of crows in the area - great flocks streaming overhead like ragged banners - and speculated that perhaps it meant Sauron was looking at real estate in the neighbourhood.

Tonight, on my way home from work, my suspicions were confirmed, and I can confidently report that The Evil One himself has purchased a chicken farm on 16th Avenue in Langley ... or at least so the overwhelming abundance of crows in the immediate vicinity would lead me to believe. The fences for a good half mile on either side of said farm were packed with black bodies, the nearby fields looked like the casting call for American Idol, the trees immediately surrounding the barns were completely enveloped, and there was an ominous black whirlwind spinning overhead.

So, if you happen to be in the neighbourhood of Lat. 49.0300586/Long. -122.52387, keep your eyes peeled.

This Is Getting Weird

I dreamt last night that the cherry trees were in bloom, and that I'd gone out to photograph them to post here. I clearly remember taking the pictures, then coming home and dragging them off the camera, cropping and tweaking, then uploading the images and blogging about them. I can even remember the kids hanging over my shoulders, watching and asking questions.

Too strange.



Something (probably me) has done bad things to this blog. My links have all disappeared, and Sitemeter stopped counting visitors as of the 24th.


Well, I guess it's time to start messing around with the template again. Can't do much harm, the thing's already trashed.


A Hint of Spring

For everyone in the frozen east who's been pining for a bit of spring colour:

MonkeyBoy and I bought these today for the flowerbox outside the kitchen window. Grandma will plant them for us tomorrow.

The Lost Weekend

I hate colds, for the record.

I have only the vaguest memories of Saturday. Sunday is a little less befogged, because I finally realized the decongestants were actually making me feel worse, adding dizziness and nausea to a nasal waterfall and rib-cracking cough.

I still have the cough and the congestion, but they have eased enough to allow me to once again count myself amongst the living. I went back to work yesterday, after missing 2 days last week, hoping to catch up a little despite a lingering fever and tubercular hack (I figured at the very least the cough would keep people at a distance). No such luck - 10 minutes after I arrived, I was asked to sit in on a 90-minute meeting, 'to take minutes'. It turned into a 210-minute meeting, and has led me to develop some rules about meetings and minutes:

Rule One: I don't take minutes. I'm not a secretary, can't read my own handwriting, and I DON'T TAKE MINUTES. Don't ask me, and especially don't ask me because I happen to be sitting closest to the boardroom when you're looking for a victim.

Rule Two: I was so out of it, it took me a good 15 minutes to even figure out what product line we were talking about. If you want coherent minutes, don't ask the chick suffering fever-induced hallucinations.

Rule Three: If you're having a conference call, don't sit Typhoid Mary and her box of kleenex next to the speaker phone.

Rule Four: If you absolutely can't find anyone else to take minutes and have to ask me, for Pete's sake give me a copy of the agenda so I have some idea what the hell we're talking about.

Rule Five: Once you've asked someone to take minutes, don't bail out of the meeting after 2 hours and expect the minute-taker to take over the running of said meeting, even if you leave her your laptop. And, 120 minutes too late, a copy of the agenda.

Rule Six: If you do bail out and turn the meeting over to your minute-taker, knowing she's sick and only borderline coherent, and people start asking her questions because you've left her in charge, you're responsible for whatever comes out of her mouth. If you can't take the heat, stay away from the fever-victim.

In other news, our balmy weather continues - 13 degrees at 2:30 today, with a little sun peeking between the clouds. And I bought a most beautiful apple on Sunday, meaning to photograph it à la Carmi, but it appears to have made its way into someone's lunch, so you're out of luck.



This is one way to lose weight, for sure.

In Praise of Naps

I had a nap with MonkeyBoy this afternoon, and I highly recommend the experience. It doesn't have to be MonkeyBoy in particular, or even your own child - any drowsy toddler will do*. Borrow one from a friend if you have to, but try the nap experience at least once in your life.

I've always loved afternoon naps (at least, since my mother stopped making me take them when I was a tyke). There's something kind of decadent about going back to bed midday, releasing yourself from the demands of the world, letting events pass you by for an hour or two. Today's nap was more of a necessity - I'm still feeling fairly wretched, although I'm cautiously optimistic that I'm finally on the mend - but instead of wrestling the wee lad into his own bed, I invited him to share mine. Once we got the requisite "But I don't need a nap" protestations out of the way, he fell asleep very quickly, snuggled up against my side with his head on my shoulder, one arm across my neck. I fell asleep with my cheek against his hair.

When I woke up, I had turned on my side, and he was nestled up against my back, curled up like a kitten. At night, I curl up against Dean in the same way.

There's something very primal, I think, about sleeping with someone. Actually sleeping with someone, letting yourself be completely vulnerable, trusting them with your subconscious self. I love it, hate being in a bed by myself. When Dean's away, I often let Chickadee sleep with me (MonkeyBoy is a hideously restless sleeper at night - naps are OK, but after 8pm he roams the bed like a marauding army, and he has a deep subconscious dislike of blankets). She, at least, can be trusted to stay on her own pillow, and leave the covers where they belong.

*I don't recommend trying to nap with a bright-eyed munchkin. They're remarkably squirmy creatures, and you'll only get an elbow to the head or a knee to the throat for your troubles.


Anyone need a fairy godmother?

He'll grant you anything you want ... as long as it's a truck.


Sick Today

Nasty, grungy cold with copious secretions - I've been coughing up oobleck all morning. And I'm running a low-grade fever so I'm alternately sweating in a t-shirt and shivering in a heavy sweater (as I am now), casting furtive glances over at my winter coat, wondering if anyone would notice if I put it on. I'm huddled over a bowl of hot soup right now, trying to suck all the warmth out of it.

Still, I'm not as badly off as I was Monday night, when I was wearing: polar fleece pants, an undershirt, fleece sweater, woolly fleece vest, fleece housecoat, socks and sheepskin slippers. Huddled under a heavy blanket, I could still hear my teeth chattering.

I came in to work because there was a job that absolutely had to get to the printers today. I finished the first proof on Monday and turned it over to the high-maintenance product manager responsible for signing off. She promised to have it on my desk yesterday at 1. Since I don't work Tuesdays, I figured it would be waiting for me so I could run through the edits and fire it off to the press.

Am I surprised that it's still in her hands? No, not really.

I'm cutting out early today - gonna go home and take a nap.


As Promised

Scenes from the flood:

Heading west on 0 Ave, which runs along the Canada/US border. Canada on the right, US on the left.

The same street, headed east, on Dec. 28th. Canada on the left, US on the right this time.

This stream's supposed to be running under the road.

A sodden field. There are quite of few of these at the moment.


Interesting Trip

Well, tonight's drive home was a little more exciting than usual. It's raining clear across the Lower Mainland, a storm about 200km wide, according to Environment Canada's radar map. Heavy rain - a torrential downpour in places. And there's nowhere for it all to go.

My commute home is mostly through farmland - gentle, rolling hills and wide, flat fields. Usually. Tonight it was past a series of shallow lakes. I drove through a few of them, too. I hit five BIG puddles - 3 of them all the way across the road and at least 6" deep. Those, of course, were the three I didn't see before I hit them. The sudden roar and loss of forward momentum was good for a few solid hits of adrenaline.

In addition to the five water hazards, I ran through 2 unexpected swathes of gravel where the better part of someone's driveway had been washed across the road, and there was a lovely stream that had rerouted itself down the yellow line.

Oh, and did I mention that it was foggy? Patches of rich, dense fog, swirling across the road. Lovely if you're a mystery writer.

On the bright side, all the salt should be off my car. And thanks to those puddles, the undercarriage should be as clean as the day it came off the assembly line.

If I can coerce a little cooperation out of MonkeyBoy tomorrow, I'm going to head out to photograph the damage.

Something to Think About

Chellee has a link to an excellent, thought-provoking essay, What You Can’t Say by Paul Graham. It’s long, but well worth the time.

He makes some very interesting points about the difficulty in separating your genuine, thought-out beliefs from society’s accepted standards. How much of what you believe is what you really believe, and how much have you just absorbed? To determine if you’re really a free-thinker or just one of the sheep, he proposes the following:
Let's start with a test: Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers?

If the answer is no, you might want to stop and think about that. If everything you believe is something you're supposed to believe, could that possibly be a coincidence? Odds are it isn't. Odds are you just think whatever you're told.
My first reaction was that no, I don’t have any opinions I’d be reluctant to express in front of my peers, which alarmed me because I like to think I’m a little better than the average sheep, that I have my own sense of right and wrong instead of accepting what the population at large believes.

But then I realized that perhaps I was defining my peers too narrowly. I was thinking of my close friends and family who are uniformly intelligent people who love entertaining ideas for their own sake. We talk about controversial issues regularly, and don’t worry a lot about the most common taboos. I realize we all have our blind spots and personal prejudices, but I think and hope that they are smaller and less entrenched than those of most people.

Further along, Mr. Graham states:
The trouble with keeping your thoughts secret, though, is that you lose the advantages of discussion. Talking about an idea leads to more ideas. So the optimal plan, if you can manage it, is to have a few trusted friends you can speak openly to. This is not just a way to develop ideas; it's also a good rule of thumb for choosing friends. The people you can say heretical things to without getting jumped on are also the most interesting to know.
Which is very much in keeping with my experience. I was lucky to grow up in a family which valued well-thought-out opinions over correctness (although table manners were more important than either of these). Our dinner conversations centred more around the ridiculous than the morally suspect, but the basic idea is the same – take an idea that is, according to conventional wisdom, patently foolish, and explore its ramifications.

So, getting back to the original question, if I redefine my peers to include people I work with, then yes, I have quite a few opinions I wouldn’t want to discuss openly. I already have a reputation for being a bit odd, for thinking too much, for not following the party line. Not an extreme reputation, because my desire to be polite and easy to work with outweighs my desire to create controversy, but I like being shocking once in a while if it encourages the people around me to think a bit.

One other thing Mr. Graham said struck a chord:
In places where great work is being done, the attitude always seems to be critical and sarcastic, not "positive" and "supportive". The people I know who do great work think that they suck, but that everyone else sucks even more.
I do, indeed, get fed up with incessantly positive and supportive environments, when they don't actually contribute meaningfully to anything. And most of my friends revel in sarcasm when it serves a purpose (yes, humour is a purpose). Although I don't handle personal criticism as well as I should (who does, really?), I understand its importance and certainly have no problem critiquing ideas, as opposed to people. Hell, I enjoy it, especially over a bottle of red wine.

So perhaps instead of worrying about how much I suck at what I do, I should concentrate on how much less I suck than everyone else. Given the feedback I get, I almost certainly suck less than I think I do, so perhaps I need to start looking at myself a little differently, and look at the peaks instead of the valleys of my performance.

And start being a little tougher with those moral assumptions ...


Winter's Last Gasp

We had a little more snow last night - half an inch or so - then it turned to freezing rain. It's hovering around 0C right now, and everything is covered in a thick coat of ice. The roads around here are nasty - heavily rutted ice with a skin of water over top. But it's supposed to warm up tomorrow, and rain, which should finish off the rest of the snow, and put an end to winter.

And here, for your viewing pleasure, some shots of arctic artistry:

An Abstraction

A Butterfly in Ice

Some Opsicles (as MonkeyBoy insists they are called)


Sunrise Update

The sky was actually more spectacular this morning, all the colours of a bouquet of sweet peas. Sadly, I didn't have my camera with me so you'll have to use your imagination. Mornings like this, I wish I could paint - watercolours to capture the subtle shadings. Toni Onley captured the feel of the West Coast, but he did fog and rain, not dawn and dusk.

I saw 5 Bald Eagles on my way to work, too. A good start to the day.


Photos for Carmi

On Monday, Carmi posted a photo of his African violet, and asked readers to let him know what the next thing they were going to photograph was, and if they'd let him know when they posted the image.

Since I know posting photos in one's blog is at least theoretically possible, and actually had my camera in the car with me this morning and was able to take advantage of a delicately lovely sunrise, I decided to put my lunch-hour to good use, and figure out how to share the view.

Et voila!

Et voila encore!

Vancouver's famous mountains, taken at 120km/h at approximately 7:06 and 7:21 this morning.


Spring is Sprung

Not really, but the end of winter is in sight. We've had almost 2 weeks of sub-zero weather, 8 inches of snow, and it's supposed to remain below freezing until Monday. It's been brutal. We haven't been able to barbeque since Christmas!

That's your basic Vancouver winter. Two weeks from now, the daffodils and crocii will start pushing their way into the sunlight, and by the end of February, the salmonberry bushes will be sporting a mist of tender greenery. We've probably got a few hard frosts still ahead of us, and many weeks of rain, but odds are very good that we've come through the worst the season has to offer.

The downside is that the lawn will need mowing 20 minutes after the snow melts.

PS. Yes, I know what we get here doesn't actually count as winter. I grew up in Montreal and have vague, harshly repressed memories of snowdrifts over my head, needing 48 layers of clothes to walk to the bus stop, and winds strong enough to suck the glass panes right out of the window frames of our aged house.


Like, I Was a Valley Girl

Lynn Valley, to be sure, in North Vancouver, but that's about as close to San Fernando as you're going to get north of the 49th. I didn't realize it at the time, and it didn't even register when I hit university and someone pinned the label on my friends and I - we thought it was a joke. Everyone knew it was the Shaughnessy and West Van kids who fit the description (although we did say "Totally" and "Gross" and "Oh my GAWD!", and I still say "Like" far too often).

But looking back, there was some underlying truth. We were children of privilege (not PRIVILEGE, like the new-money West Van crowd, or PRIVILEGE, like the children of The Establishment in Shaughnessy) because our parents bought us beaters instead of Bimmers, and we went to public school instead of private, and we had part-time jobs to help pay our university tuition. But there was no question that we were all going to university - I didn't even apply to the local colleges, just fired off the forms to UBC and SFU, and only applied to SFU because no one applied to just one school, even though we all knew UBC was the only place to go. Until I met Dean, I'd never known anyone who couldn't afford to go to school.

We weren't complete mall rats, mostly because the malls in North Van were pretty pathetic. If you wanted to hang out at a good mall, you had to go downtown, which meant taking the bus, which was so not cool. But once we were there, we could easily spend 8 hours wandering in and out of the stores, trying on everything and buying nothing (because privilege, unlike PRIVILEGE, does not include an unlimited budget for wardrobe expansion). And we weren't empty-headed twits (although I'm sure we acted like it from time to time), at least not the girls who made it to UBC. There were other girls who fit the Valley Girl mold better than we did, who worried about clothes and hair and boys to the exclusion of everything else, but we weren't cool enough to hang with them. We were the Band Kids, the Smart Ones, the ones who got along with our parents.

Just as well, really. I still like my parents, but Valley Girls are, like, soooo last millennium.



(Or neuroses - I'm not sure how many I've got.)

I was hit last night by a sudden bout of insecurity, and still haven't figured what's behind it. It was a vague but potent fear, buzzing about my head like a bird trapped indoors, and I couldn't pin it down long enough to identify it. I'm afraid it put a damper on what had otherwise been a fairly pleasant evening.

It happens from time to time. My insecurities all centre around losing Dean - because he loses interest in me and no longer finds me attractive; because he gets tired of my insecurity, my poor housekeeping skills, my aged dog; because he realizes that while he thought I was a perfect match when we met, it's really just that I look good in comparison to his first wife and that he could do much better ... 99% of the time I realize these fears are both groundless and ridiculous, but once in a while, they get away from me and my belief in my own worth collapses.

I'm getting better at identifying what triggers these attacks, and better at dealing with them, but I still have a long way to go before they cease to have any power over me. It takes work, hard work, to regain the ground I lose each time, but it's worth it.


Waxing Philosophical

Following in Dean and Diva’'s footsteps, here is my attempt to answer the question Wheelson posed on one of Diva’'s posts .

"Do you think as we grow older our years will continue to get better (with a few dips along the way) or do we max out and then start heading down hill?”

I think the answer to that lies with the individual. For me, it'’s certainly the former; my life is much richer and more satisfying now than at any time in the past. It’'s partly circumstantial -– I'’m living with a wonderful man, and we have bright, loving, healthy children -– but mostly mental. I like who I am more now than I ever have. I am starting to value my strengths and accept my weaknesses. And I’'ve found that distance and experience have allowed me to put the rough times in perspective without diminishing the joy of the good times.

I still feel anger, sorrow, and pain as deeply as I did when I was younger, but I am better at dealing with them so those feelings diminish faster and affect me less afterwards. And I am more conscious of feeling joy, love, and pleasure so I can deliberately grasp those sensations and hold on to their memory. I prefer to dwell on the highlights, not the lows.

And that was a decision I made about 10 years ago, at my 10th high school reunion. The saddest people there, to me, were the former '‘in crowd’'. Listening to them reminisce, it was clear they considered 1984 to be the best year of their lives. They peaked at grad, and were facing a 60 or 70 year slide into obscurity and faded memories of glory. And I thought, with my 27-year’s' worth of wisdom and maturity, how terribly sad it was to burn out so early. I liked high school well enough, but I certainly expected more out of life even at 17.

I still do. I look forward to growing old with Dean, to watching our children grow up, to trying new things, seeing new places, meeting new people. I know there will be pain and sorrow in my future, but I do not fear them. They will come, and I will deal with them as best I can and move on, knowing that the joys that follow will be all the sweeter in contrast.


Is it just me?

I listen to CBC radio on my way to work in the morning (I love Tom Allen - not in THAT way, Dean - and quite enjoy sitting in traffic these days). This morning, on the 8 o'clock news, they were talking about Canada taking gold at the junior men's hockey championship. My first thought was "Excellent! Way to go, guys!" But then they started talking to the team captain about the game and how they won, and he said part of their strategy, right from the dressing room, was to "take out" Russia's star forward at the first opportunity, to get him out of the game as quickly as possible. He then related how, in the second period, when the Russian had the puck, 3 Canadian players crashed him into the boards. He retired from the game with a shoulder injury that, according to the Russian coach, will require surgery.

I notice that none of this appears in the CBC article about the game, aside from a brief mention, right at the end, that the Russian forward "injured his shoulder". No mention that it was a deliberately inflicted injury. I can accept that the Canadian players didn't intend to disable him permanently, and may even feel badly that he needs surgery (giving them the full benefit of the doubt). But there's no question that they intended to injure him badly enough that he would not be able to finish the game.

Why? Why is this necessary? And what is it telling our kids about competitive sports? If there's someone you can't beat openly, it's OK to hurt them until they quit?

I realize that being checked into the boards is part of the game. I have no problem with that, or with accidental injuries. These are big boys, after all, and they know what they're getting into. And professional players, as a whole, are more than adequately compensated for the hits they take (current NHL negotiations to the contrary).

But I do take issue when a team's winning strategy includes the requirement to "take out" an opposing player, to inflict damage to the point where he is forced to quit the game.

That, to me, is rotten sportsmanship.


Another Year

The 40th year in which I have been alive, although I only experienced 2 weeks worth of 1966.

Looking back on 2004, it was a year of changes, as were 2001 (the arrival of MonkeyBoy and Chickadee starting school), 2002 (return to work after a year's maternity leave), and 2003 (loss of my job 2 weeks after Dean took a job in Vernon, 4 hours from home). The changes this year were better than last - I started a new job, working with people I really like, and Dean found a job in Vancouver and came home. But 2004 was a fairly stressful year, and so I'm hoping 2005 is a year of stability. It would be nice if Dean found an employer who appreciated him, and the children will continue to grow and change (because the alternative would be unbearable), but I'd really like it if we made it through a year without any major upheavals.

But Dean and the kids made it all worthwhile. I am incredibly lucky to share my life with them. The feeling of small arms around my neck and sticky kisses on my cheek make the stress and strain disappear. And Dean is my shelter, my safe haven, my other half. Some days I find it hard to believe we've only been together 6 years, so completely does he know and understand me.

And I wouldn't have made it through last year without my parents, who really are amazing people. Retired, they get up at 6 am 2 days a week and drive 60km (one way) to look after my children so I can work. They transport Chickadee to and from school, go on fieldtrips with her class, spend hours at the park with MonkeyBoy, take the kids swimming, skating, to the library, do our laundry, put up our Christmas lights, build shelves, cut the lawn, weed the garden, wash the car ... They stay for dinner on Wednesdays (because I insisted - my mother wanted to make dinner for us then leave without eating), but depart as soon as we get home from work on Thursdays because they think we need time alone as a family. Dean and I have tried to argue that their presence is not a burden (we really do enjoy spending time with them) but my mother is convinced that it's too hard on our relationship to have to eat with them 2 days a week. My father probably knows otherwise, but is smart enough not to argue with my mother when she gets ideas like this.

I still make the effort, but I usually lose. My mother is small, but determined.

And I love them both. I love them all - Dean, Chickadee, MonkeyBoy, my parents, my siblings, my family, my friends. They are my life.