Latest Additions to the Family

Our new babies:

One of Chickadee's classmates brought her guinea pigs and their 5 babies to class on Tuesday. When I picked Chickadee up after school she was so excited, she was practically vibrating and she spent the entire trip home trying to convince me how desperately we needed a guinea pig.

I love guineas, myself, having lived with 3* of them when I was the same age. They're good pets for young kids - very friendly, talkative, basically lazy little critters who sit around eating all day. Even MonkeyBoy can hold one in his lap. But Dean has long held the opinion that we already have too many pets (the aging wingnut dog and our gerbils, the Java Triplets), so it took a little convincing to get him to agree to one more (very little, really - he puts up a good front, but I think we all see through it).

Chickadee was over the moon all week, fretting about what to call her new pet, what to feed it, how often she'd be expected to change the cage ... and complaining that she had to wait 'til Sunday to pick it up. When the Big Day finally arrived, she had finally made up her mind which one she wanted, had a name all picked out (Neo, a combination of Cleo and Nemo because she couldn't choose between them), but was suffering a few minor pangs of remorse because there were actually 2 she thought were cutest. She went for the fuzziest one of the litter:

Then, of course, as soon as MonkeyBoy spotted the other babies (having had exactly zero interest in the entire proceedings until that point) he wanted one too. Knowing that they're herd animals (and basically being a sucker for cute animals of any sort) it took me about 3 seconds to agree. Serendipitously, the one MonkeyBoy wanted turned out to be Chickadee's second choice. He named her Carmen, because he's hugely enamoured of Spy Kids at the moment. Now he's calling her Egbee, and I'm sure she'll have another name by dinnertime tonight. The rest of us are sticking with Carmen:

I got the evil eye from Dean for a few hours after we got home, but he's almost as big a softy as I am (he just hides it better) and has actually admitted they're kind of cute. And I have promised that This Is It, that there will be No More Pets. I can live with that.

For a while, anyhow ;-)

*Over the course of my childhood, we went through 3 dogs, 2 cats, 5 guinea pigs, 5 mice, 7 gerbils, 4 hamsters, 3 rabbits, a frog raised from a tadpole, 4 toads, 3 newts, a mudpuppy, 3 hermit crabs, 2 crayfish, and a budgie. We always had at least as many pets as people, so I'm just keeping the tradition alive.


Not Much To Say

It's been a slow news week around here. Let's see, what's happened recently ...

1. We've agreed to let Chickadee get a guinea pig. We'll pick it up on Sunday. My mother is at least as excited as the kids about this.
2. I had a meeting close to home this morning so took a different route to work, one with fewer cattle but more llamas.
**Update: I took my usual route home, which added 4 eagles, 3 hawks, 6 llamas, and the big-bollocked bullocks to the day's tally.
3. MonkeyBoy demonstrated his multitasking abilities last night by playing the recorder while rollerskating around the kitchen.
4. Inspired by Trillian, I changed my photo, and may do so again. Repeatedly, if I feel like it.
5. It's hit 16C here the last few days, and things are starting to sprout. The grass will need cutting soon.

And, to wrap things up, some growing things, shot last weekend:



Nice Try

Last night, after a draining 45 seconds of piano practice, Chickadee dragged her pitifully sorry tail over to where I was sitting and said, in her most plaintive, pathetic voice, "Mom, I'm really, really tired. I can't concentrate on my music." Being a very reasonable sort I said, quite supportively, "Well, if you're too tired to practice, I guess you better go to bed."

It was 7:30.

Astoundingly, despite her obvious exhaustion and state of near collapse, she was able to muster the requisite energy for another 10 minutes of key-pounding, and an additional 90 minutes of tv-viewing and careening around the house. The child really is a trooper.


On the Wings of Eagles

So, you say, what happens when you use the sports setting on your digital camera, in low light conditions, to capture an eagle swooping in for a chicken leg?

Glad you asked.

Now you see the chicken.

Now you don't.

Here's what they (the eagles, not the chicken legs) looked like about 5 minutes earlier:


Doing My Bit For Tourism

I enjoyed a few hours on my own at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal on Friday evening, a rare occurrence (the time on my own, not being at the ferry terminal). Dean was visiting his daughter, Chickadee was with her dad, and MonkeyBoy was with my parents at their cabin, whither I was also bound. I must say that, as hubs of transportation go, the ferry terminal sports some mighty fine scenery. It doesn't hurt if you're passing through right around sunset.

Ubiquitous seagulls

Looking back at Vancouver.

Ferries: one arriving, one departing.
I tried centering this one on the catwalk, to make it more symmetrical, but the sun was in the way.

View from the passenger lounge.

A passing freighter.

Everything but the seagull shot is a thumbnail - click on the photo to see a larger version.


Avian Obsession

I know I've mentioned the number of eagles/hawks/herons/etc. I've seen on my way to work at least three times more often than anyone cares about, so I decided to give the wildlife stats their own space in the sidebar and quit mentioning them here.

It's purely for my own entertainment (hell, what here isn't, right?). Counting stuff is one of my Three Pillars of Sanity for dealing with rush hour traffic, the other two being composing blog entries which will probably never see the light of day and listening to classical music on CBC radio. It's a way of distracting myself from the idiots with whom I am forced to share the road, and a means of keeping my brain nimble and limber (OK, less ponderous and inflexible than it would otherwise be). I find I can maintain permanent memory slots for keeping track the aforementioned trio of birds, deer and coyotes (rarely used but always available) and a variable allocation for the single most interesting critter I encounter from one day to the next.

And, I must confess, no matter how many I've seen before, I get a small thrill every time I spot an eagle soaring overhead or glowering from a tree, or a statuesque heron stalking along the riverbank.


So you thought all Canadians were the same, eh?

Well, we're not. We don't even speak the same way. As a third-generation Vancouverite formerly married to a Torontonian, I have first-hand experience with the problems this can cause*. We had a long-running argument over the pronunciation of decal - he insisted it was "dee-kal" and that I was showing my complete and utter ignorance of all that was right and proper when I said "deck-ull". I finally pulled out his copy of the Oxford English Dictionary (the definitive source for pretentious English majors like my ex) and showed him that both versions were listed. It didn't convince him, but at least he restricted himself to muttering under his breath thereafter.

*It's always worse when someone from Ontario is involved, because they know that they're right and everyone else is wrong (sound like anyone else we know? (not mentioning any countries to the immediate south)).


Scenes From a Sunday Walk

We did the family walk-in-the-woods thing on Sunday, and a lovely time was had by all. It was sunny and warmish, and there was lots to see (most of it trees).

We found a great, climable stump:

And a hobbit house:

And some interesting hollow trees:

And a carving:

At one point, we had stopped walking for a moment, and noticed that the bushes around us were rapidly filling with chickadees. We hadn't brought any seeds, not expecting it to be open season on park visitors, but thought a bit of fruit leather might be appreciated. For the most part, it was - the little fellows were more than happy to help themselves, although probably 1 in 5 turned up its beak at our offering. Here's Chickadee with a chickadee:

She also got to feed a squirrel, who trailed us through the underbrush for quite a while before we realized that he, too, was looking for handouts. He wouldn't pose for the camera, the ungrateful little beggar.

All in all, a most successful day.

Parental Bons Mots

Last week, when my parents were over for dinner, they witnessed my daily skirmish with Chickadee over piano practice. She loves her lessons but, as with most kids, being forced to practice daily is the worst form of torture. I'm completely unreasonable, hard-hearted, and lacking in even the tiniest smidgeon of compassion or empathy (she hasn't said as much, but I remember how I felt about being 'made' to practice my clarinet).

So the bons mots in question came about when my mother, in what I think was an attempt to be supportive, said it was important to keep after Chickadee with the practicing, to teach her responsibility, etc. Then she said "I'm really sorry we didn't push you harder when you were growing up."

Meaning what, exactly? My insecure, paranoid mind immediately wonders "Am I a disappointment to them? Have I failed to measure up to some unspecified expectations? What is it about me that makes them regret how I was raised?"

Not pleasant things to contemplate, and I've been mulling them over, off and on, for almost a week now. Part of the problem is that I have a More Successful Younger Sibling, and I always feel that I fare poorly in comparison. Conventional family wisdom, repeated at regular intervals by my mother, is that I'm smarter but my sister works harder. And she married a very bright overachiever. They have a fabulous house in the city, a huge circle of friends (as an introvert, I'd find that overwhelming, but my mother, a devout extrovert, thinks it's very desirable), and have spent the last year and a half living in Europe. I have a townhouse in distant suburbia, a small circle of friends, and children.

But I have wonderful children, a man I absolutely adore, and no real desire for more. Aside from an occasional bout of maternally-induced insecurity, I'm quite content with my life. While living in Europe would be a great experience, I wouldn't trade it for a single day with my kids. More money would be nice, but it wouldn't significantly change my life. I would still do the same things with the same people.

I love my sister, and count her as one of my best friends. But I don't want her life. I want my life, the one I'm living right now.

And, once I've fought off the fear that I've somehow disappointed my parents, I remember another thing my mother said to me, several years ago: "We think you're one of the nicest people your father and I know."

And that, to me, is worth more than she'll ever know.


Not a Total Write-off

Despite the flat tire, my day was pretty good. My knight in shining glasses came to my rescue, kicked the recalcitrant flat off the car, and insisted on driving it home himself, leaving me the vehicle with 4 good legs.

And a couple of the pictures I took this morning turned out quite nicely.

Here was the first eagle of the day:

I also got some good shots of the mountains to the north, but they lose all majesty when shrunk to a mere 400 pixels, which is all that will fit here. So I shall try linking to one of them - you can (I hope) see it here.

I took two more, one on either side of that tree, and it looks like they line up fairly well, which would give me a panorama twice as wide. But there are some contrast issues that I need Dean's help to resolve, and my exhausted hero has gone to bed for the night so it will have to wait

In other news, when Dean picked MonkeyBoy up from daycare, all the children had had their faces painted like animals. Except MonkeyBoy, whose face was entirely bright yellow. When asked what kind of animal he was, he replied "I'm a Busy Backhoe."

At least he doesn't feel compelled to follow the herd.

Beauty Morning, Eh Mate?

(You have to channel your inner Crocodile Dundee to read that properly)

Well, it started out a beauty morning, anyhow. Sunny, clear skies, spotted an eagle less than 10 minutes into my commute, stopped to shoot a couple of shots of the scenic vistas for posting later, traffic was light and speedy ... everything was going wonderfully.

Until I heard an ominous "fwap, fwap, fwap" coming from the vicinity of my front right tire. Being a Thoroughly Modern Woman and all, I very calmly and cool-ly pulled my car off the road, unloaded the spare, the jack and the tire iron and set to work. All went well until I got all the nuts off and tried to remove the tire. No luck - I couldn't get the thrice-damned thing to budge a millimeter. Try jacking the car a little higher, tried applying a little pressure with the tire iron, to no avail. And I didn't want to take a chance on severing a brake line or something. So I lowered the car, flat tire still in place, threw everything into the back, locked it up and started walking.

Fortunately for me, all this happened about 2 blocks from the office. Considering that my trip to work covers 55 km, most of it either on deserted country backroads with no shoulder or heavily trafficked highway laden with large, speeding semis, it could have been much, much, much worse. Especially since I couldn't get the tire changed.

Still, not the greatest possible start to the morning.


Compulsion Fulfilled

Sadly, Mt. Baker, the original object of my photo expedition, was uncooperative this evening. Actually, it wasn't the mountain's fault. Last night as the sun sank, the snowy crest of Baker was a delicate, luminous rose, and I'd hoped to capture the same glow tonight. But the cloud cover was too low, and the sun's rays never reached even the highest peak.

Tomorrow is supposed to be clear, so I shall try again.

In the meantime, I captured these:

A farm just south of the border.

The border itself, with a pale and spectral Mt. Baker in the background.

Strange Compulsion

I brought my camera with me today, in hopes of capturing the same sunset view I spotted yesterday. It's clouded over now, so the odds aren't good, but I'll try.

The weird thing was that I spent the entire drive to work this morning frantically (and involuntarily) looking for something to photograph. I'm not usually obsessive about taking pictures, but this morning, by reflex, every time traffic slowed I started looking for some interesting scenery to shoot from the car. Which was more than a little futile since, for most of my commute, when traffic slows, it slows from 100 km/h to 80 km/h - not exactly conducive to quality images.


A Conversation with MonkeyBoy

At dinner on Monday, we asked MonkeyBoy what he'd done at daycare, and he said he and another boy were told to "stop swording people." When asked why he was swording people, he replied "There were three bad bears, and they lived in a apartment. And we took our swords and we sworded them, but the teacher said we can't have webbins in daycare."

We asked if he meant weapons, but he was quite clear about the correct pronounciation. As far as I can tell, webbins fall into 3 basic categories: swords, which are anything long and relatively straight (sometimes sticks can be swords, and they're allowed to be a little wriggly); shooters, which are anything roughly L-shaped; and killers, which are pretty much any other household item he can get his grubby little mitts on. When using a sword, you sword people; when using a shooter, you pow people; and with a killer, you power people. I'm not entirely sure what the distinction is between powing and powering, but I'm sure it's blatantly obvious to any 3-year-old.


Seasonal Hubris

Yesterday was a lovely, sunny day, and I was going to post a couple of photos of the plants that have emerged in my garden in the last few days. Honestly, my intent was not to brag (well, maybe just a little), but to bring a little hope and cheer to you eastern, ice-locked folks. But the monkey child failed to nap yesterday so I didn't get back out with my camera. What the heck, I figured, I'll take some shots today.

Well, pride goeth before a fall*. Never let it be said that Mother Nature doesn't have a sense of humour. At 9am this morning, it started snowing. Thick, wet flakes. We've got at least an inch now (yeah, I know, an inch isn't real snow. Keep your sniggers to yourselves!), and it shows no signs of abating.

So we went to the park.

Lovely day for a soccer game, no?

Oh yeah, and here's the inspirational shot of the garden:

*Odd. I've used and heard that quote many times before, but I just looked it up and the actual quote, from Proverbs, is "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."



Ross, over at Halfacanuck, announced last week that he is leaving his wife. It's a disturbing entry - very personal, very troubled - and I've been mulling it over a lot since reading it. I won't go into his reasons, but basically he's walking away because, while there's nothing wrong with the relationship per se, he wants to know what else life has to offer.

While I feel sorry for Ross - his anguish over the decision is obvious - I ache for his wife, who didn't see it coming. Because my husband, now my ex, made the same decision a little over 6 years ago. He wasn't happy (he was never happy for more than 10 minutes at a stretch in the entire 11 years we were together), and he needed something to blame for his unhappiness. First it was school, until he graduated. Then it was work, until he got his ideal job. Then it was where we lived, until we bought a lovely house in a great neighbourhood. Then it was our old car, until we bought a new one. And then, finally, all that was left was the marriage, and he decided that in order to be happy, he needed to be single.

Our daughter was 18 months old.

The months leading up to it were hellish - he'd go for days without talking to me, he blamed me for everything, and I blamed myself because he did. I tried everything I could think of to make it work between us. But when one person decides they don't want to be married anymore, there's not much the other person can do to save the marriage.

In the end, I'm better off, infinitely so. I have Dean, who is so very much the person I want to spend my life with. I didn't realize, until it was all over, how many compromises I'd made, how I had undervalued myself, and how much more I could hope for in a partner. I thought I loved my ex, I assumed what I felt was love. With Dean, I know. It's like living beside a pond all your life, and thinking you know water, then seeing the ocean for the first time.

And my ex? He's still alone, still unhappy, and still has no idea that it's entirely self inflicted.

Me? I got lucky. Very lucky. And I thank whatever deities or fates or karma there are for bringing Dean and me together. We took a while to find each other, but it was worth the wait.

And I hope that, in time, Ross and his wife will find their own happiness.

I hope you all find your own happiness.



We've been watching American Idol recently - Chickadee loves it, and I will admit that it holds a certain fascination for me, particularly the open call sessions. The level of self delusion is utterly amazing.

I can't sing. I know it, and I freely admit it. When forced to sing, as with family Christmas carolling, I do so quietly. But I can sing better than a good quarter of the people who show up for the American Idol auditions. And they are stunned/shocked/infuriated when a panel of experts tells them they have no talent. I can tell that they have no talent, and I am amazed that apparently none of these people have ever actually listened to themselves.

And the recurring theme of their outrage seems to be "But I really, really WANT to be an American Idol." And therefore, because they really, really want it, they are entitled to get it. Which seems to be a growing trend these days ... the idea that you don't need any innate talent, or actually have to, oh, work at something to succeed. You just have to want it. A lot. And by wanting it, you deserve. And if you don't succeed, because you are hopelessly inept AND allergic to actually exerting yourself, it's not your fault. It's the fault of the people who turn you down, or your parents, or the world in general.

And it's not fair. Or so they think.

My unemployed brother recently announced that he didn't see why he should have to compete with other job hunters to get hired. He thinks employers should appreciate him for who he is. Which is great, except that given the average level of psychic ability in the general population, if you don't send them a resume, they'll have no idea whatsoever who you are. But sending off a resume is caving in to The Man and Fat Cat Corporations. Who, while they are blatant oppressors of the working class, also provide most of the jobs.

Kind of a tricky dilemma, that.

Anyhow, my personal opinion is that if you aren't willing to work for something, you don't deserve it. And if you are a talentless hack, all the work in the world isn't going to turn you into a superstar. And if you're a lazy talentless hack who expects to be given the world on a platter, you deserve whatever the Simon Cowells of the world throw at you.

As for the whole competition thing, well, plants compete for sunlight, antelope compete for plants, lions compete for antelope ... and everyone gets eaten in the end. It's the circle of life. Yes, it's unfair. The world is unfair. Deal with it.


A Touching Post

I grew up in a family that didn't do a lot of touching - hugging, cuddling, that sort of thing. There was lots of verbal affection, but we weren't very hands-on. So for most of my life, I kept my hands to myself - I was never sure of the etiquette of social hugging, and preferred to err on the side of caution.

My first husband's family was European, and when we started dating he was much more physically affectionate than I was used to, and I enjoyed it. But as our marriage progressed (then regressed), he began to keep his distance, except when he wanted sex. He stopped wanting to hold hands, didn't like me leaning against him when we watched TV, complained if I snuggled up against him in bed. He said it made him claustrophobic (in hindsight, that should have set off all kinds of warning bells, as it turned out the entire marriage made him claustrophobic). He told me I was frigid, and that if I put out more often in bed, he'd be more willing to touch me at other times. I said I might put out more if he didn't recoil every time I sat next to him on the sofa.

So it wasn't until my daughter was born that I realized how much I enjoyed pure physical contact - touching and being touched to comfort, to express affection, to connect. That it was OK to want to touch someone else just because I loved them.

After my marriage fell apart, my parents suddenly became much more physically expressive. I don't think I ever said anything, it just sort of happened - we hugged when we saw each other, we put our arms around each other and said we loved each other. It was a wonderful change (and they are far more physical with my children, who are incredibly affectionate little creatures, than they ever were when I was a child. I love watching my dad and my son together - wrestling, holding hands, sitting together to read a story.) .

Then I met Dean. From our first 'date', I have craved his touch, both sexual and not. After 6 and a half years, it's not such a desperate need as it was at first, but I still long to feel his skin against mine on a daily basis. It's a measure of how deep the scars from my first marriage run that I'm still surprised, in bed at night, that he doesn't mind when I snuggle up against him, my chest pressed tight to his spine, my legs curled under his, my arm around his waist. My cheek nestles between his shoulder blades, and I can hear his heart beat as I fall asleep. He actually likes it, encourages it even. We hold hands as we walk, we hug while making dinner or doing dishes or passing each other in the hall, we sit with our legs entangled, his arm around me, my head on his shoulder, on a daily basis. The children join us, piling on top or wriggling in between. I find it calming, soothing, uplifting, enriching.

It's one of the many, many reasons I love him.