Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Hopes for 2009

... that I would worry less about bad haircuts and scheduling of activities

... that I would would enjoy more adorableness, treasured utterances and whispered secrets with S

... that I would appreciate J's passion for celebrations, affinity for spookiness and love of power outages

... that I would savour J and S and their own unique world

... and that S would finally conquer the sparkle in her bum.

2008 in Review

A Year of Blogging

I am just past my first year of blogging.

I did not, as I feared, run out of things to say.

I found it a great creative outlet to be able to write and took a big leap of faith in letting other people read it.

I made my goal of 100 blogs by the end of 2008, but did not have 2 blogs every week, having lapses of a few weeks when things were very busy.

Thank you friends for reading.

Here is a list of the most popular blogs:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

24 Hours of Christmas

Our Christmas festivities are jammed into 24 hours. Christmas eve with my family, Christmas morning with our family and Christmas Day dinner with Husband's family.

Christmas eve highlights included the traditional meal, not suitable for low carb diets, of cheese fondue (with fresh sour dough bread) and chocolate fondue (with bananas and mandarin oranges). There was a certain amount of climbing on uncles. We were all happy just to be together

Christmas morning highlights
include Santa finding us at our new location.

Here is a live action shot of S opening her Barbie Mariposa Bath Play Set (she is well trained to smile for photos!)

J Boy wanted my oversized to be the first opened, even before his own. He didn't even seem to mind that he had the fewest presents to open, the result of his own generousity in wanting to be the giver of so many gifts.

Christmas Dinner highlights include finding out that Husband's niece made it to her intended destination. She did need 36 hours, 4 airports, a bus, a plane and a car to get where she was going, but she made it. Her luggage is still making the trip.

We enjoyed enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner, the traditional present stealing game and, as always, lots of laughs.

Husband thought an iPod shuffle might fill the bill for J in terms of giving him an outlet to mellow out. And, it seems, husband was right. Amid the lovely, loud and lively gathering at Husband's parents, he managed to find himself in the most comfortable chair and mellowed out with some tunes.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ho Ho Snow

Boxing Day, as we Canadians call it. The day after Christmas. When I was growing up I thought it was the traditional day for boxing matches on TV. I now realize it's the time when the grownups spend an entire day trying to find a place for all the newly acquired boxes (and the things that came in them).

We've had a bit of a snow event as the meteorologists call it. Actually multiple events. We stuck close to home (as in either inside the home or outside shoveling the white stuff) on Sunday and half of Monday. We figured early in the week we might have to be flexible with our Christmas plans as another foot of snow was expected on December 24th. We had conversations on both sides of the family that the celebrations might have to be deferred to a less snowy day as another dump of snow was expected in the greater Vancouver area.

We woke up on the 24th to about 4 inches of snow on top of the 15 or so previously accumulated inches. And it was snowing hard and not expected to let up till sundown. We know our only hope of making it to West Vancouver, where both of our parents live, was to make a hasty exit once our road was plowed.

We doubted we would be able to make it home, so our plan was to pack up everything we'd need for 36 hours, which included one overnight, Christmas celebrations with both families plus our own Christmas. So in addition to bags and boxes of gifts, we packed an overnight bag with two "good" Christmas outfits for each of us, play clothes for the kids and enough snow gear to outfit the Olympic ski team. I packed up ingredients for food dishes we had committed to bring to both Christmas. Oh and we had to telegram Santa to let him know we were moving locations.

So Husband and I madly raced around the house packing up things and stuffing them into the van, taking care that certain items were hidden. We even managed to remember the Pillsbury cinnamon buns for our traditional Christmas breakfast and in a moment of divine intervention, I remembered my camera and battery charger.

We were about 80% of the way completed when Husband reported that our street had just been plowed. Husband thought that meant we were doomed not be meet this window of opportunity but I thought we were close enough we could work faster and get out the door. So Husband and I abandoned personal hygiene (no time for showers) and redoubled our efforts and were out the door in 20 minutes. Conditions were manageable with our pricey snow tires and we made our way across town. We knew, and were right, that once we got the 4 blocks, we're on major routes.

We who grew up driving on the prairies frequently make fun of Vancouver drivers as incompetent. We see them slowing down or stopping as they try to climb a hill, spinning their tires and shining up the ice or not applying brakes in time to stop at intersections. But Husband, who grew up driving in Vancouver, earned his Prairie Driving Badge as he negotiated hills, snowy roads and even incompetent Vancouver Drivers.

We had some additional drama as Brother 1 and Brother 2 had to negotiate further deteriorated road conditions in the afternoon. But despite warnings of highways closures and veritable gridlock both managed to get to the parental homestead (by which I mean suburban home). Brothers 1 and 2 of course had long held Prairie Driving Badge having both spent a couple decades driving in Alberta.

And so we survived the snowiest Christmas on record.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!


For your re-reading enjoyment:

Joy to the World: about the real meaning of Christmas.

Our Christmas Mistake: about something that almost spoiled Christmas.


The Santa Conspiracy: about what to do about Santa!

My Own Cabbage Patch Craze

I remember from 25 years ago the Cabbage Patch craze.

I was in my early 20's and didn't know many people with small children. But every night on the news there was a story that someone had heard from a friend of the aunt of a coworker who had overheard a loading dock worker from the Sears across town say that a load of Cabbage Patch dolls were due in. Within hours the parking lot was jammed and hundreds of parents, decidedly short on Christmas spirit, who pushed and shoved their way into the store to find only 10 dolls have arrived and had long been sold.

There were stories of tearful children, distraught parents and frazzled store managers. Heartbreaking stories of sick children who just wanted a cabbage patch doll under the tree that Christmas.

Many Christmases since then a hot item eludes parents, and I think is completely responsible for the growth of eBay and Craig's list. I think Tickling Elmo had his turn in the spot light. Some years it's been gaming consoles for the bigger "kids". All the while I have quietly been thankful that we are not part of that craze.

My kids have never really asked for a lot of things. This suits my semi-control freak nature that makes me want to pick their gifts. And they certainly haven't asked for the things that I can't get. Until this year.

In about September, my kids started, quite without my noticing, watching channel 50, Teletoon. It's a kids' channel but it has advertising. And you can just bet that they are advertising toys ALL THE FREAKIN' TIME. I then realized the reason my kids didn't ask for a lot of things is they watch TV with no commercials and I was kind of fastidious about hiding the Toys R Us flyers and the Sears Christmas catalogue.

S saw this Mermaid Barbie that she had to have. I have Barbie issues and have, until this year, avoided Barbies. She has a few princess dolls that look like Barbie, but Barbie, was not on the packaging, so not, in my judgment a real Barbie. For her 5th birthday though, I relented and we bought her a Mermaid Barbie. I justified it as a bath toy. I have since realized that while it is a bath toy, Barbie's locks really need a lot of detangler and I have spent way too much time trying to untangle her hair.

About a week after her birthday S informed me it wasn't the Mermaid that she wanted but the slide. J joined in her crusade. Every time the commercial came on I was summoned to the TV to see "what she really wanted for her birthday". S was willing to wait until she turned 6 but her brother was kind enough to point out that Christmas came a lot sooner than her next birthday.

The pair were steadfast in their requests and so in about early November I decided I better try to make this happen.

So a few google searches told me two things. First it is called the Barbie Mariposa Mermaid Bath Play Set. Second it is not available in Canada.

And so began my daily searches for the BMMBPS. I could find it listed at Target, Toys R Us in the US (but not in Canada) and a handful of other smaller sites. But it was "unavailable" "not in stock" or "sold out" everywhere. Who knew that Teletoon has such influence over the buying public?

I actually checked out a number of toys and department stores in person just in case they were secretly hoarding inventory but either I met a bunch of clerks with fabulous poker faces, or it really wasn't available.

Husband, who fully supported me in this endeavor, suggested I try eBay. And I did find a few of our precious commodity. But it was listed for $50, highly inflated over the list price of $15. And that was in U.S. dollars. Earlier in the year that would not have made much difference but those that watch the world currencies will know that the Canadian dollar sunk in November to the lowest in a long time. Add to that handling, shipping and potentially a $15 UPS Custom's broker fee, we were pushing $100 for a $15 toy. My in borne cheapness all but eliminated this option. But I did decide I would check the reviews to see if it just might be worth it.

The reviews universally came in at one star out of five. It is cheap, does not stick to the side of the bath tub as advertised (so Barbie can slide into the tub) and the consensus was it was not worth the $15. Certainly not $100.

And so I began my Christmas shopping in earnest. If I couldn't get the Girlie Goo what she wanted I had to get her something fantastic (not necessarily expensive) which would make her forget about the BMMBPS. And while I was at it, I'd better get the J Boy something great as well. Within days I had a list mapped out.

One morning, I was doing a routine search for something else and guess what popped up on the Toys R Us Canada site?? The BMMBPS!!! It showed "unavailable", but at least it was listed. I called the toll-free number and the attendant told me it was not available on line this Christmas. Hopes dashed.

"Are you near a Toys R Us location? We will be selling it in stores".

Oh happy day. As it happens, the Toys R Us I had just visited days ago, had the BMMBPS in stock. Seventeen of them to be exact. And one of them is already under our tree. (But I think S has entirely forgotten about it, which is another lesson to me for next year.)

Monday, December 22, 2008


It's a snow day. Actually, it's the second snow day in a row. S has had about 2.3 giga-gallons of hot chocolate. J played 2.3 giga-hours of a computer games and Husband and I got some exercize shoveling (appear to be the only way we get it these days).

My first photo essay

Looks like Christmas!

J Boy

Girlie Goo

Child Labour

According to J, snow too "dusty" to make a snowman, so we got creative!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In Defense of Christmas Letters

I don't think a day goes by in this season when I don't hear a criticism on reproduced Christmas letters. The slams come in two forms: a lament about the demise of the fine art of letter writing or a disdain for bragging.

I am here to publicly stand up in favour of Christmas letters. As you might have guessed, we usually send one.

Objection #1: Demise of Letterwriting:

While I would love to write long handwritten (or even typed) letters to our 17 sets of aunts and uncles and and the two dozen or so friends we make a point of making contact with at Christmas we have other things we are doing in December: Christmas concerts, family get togethers, shopping, baking, celebrations, singing carols, church services, gift wrapping and let's not forget about the decorating and the related negotiations. The only available hours are the ones after the kids are in bed, which in December is about 10:00 p.m. And we do need to do some of that wrapping then.

If we did any kind of handwritten note, it would probably be something like "Merry Christmas, Best in 2009". I admit that I have stopped even signing our letters. It's December 21st and the next thing to do address Christmas envelopes so signing and personalizing 40 or so letters would mean these would be Easter cards.

Objection #2: Disdain for Bragging

I know that for all the mockery that goes on, there must be people that write letters that goes something like this:
We couldn't be prouder of Davey for earning 17 Cub Scouts badges this year, the most in the Province of Ontario. He also won the district science fair and the judges all told us personally that it was the best project they had ever seen and they fully expect Davey to win Nobel prize for Physics within the year. Of course you will all know about his painting that is hanging in the National Gallery. We are sure you all saw him interviewed by Peter Mansbridge on the national news. For those of you that missed it we enclose a DVD of it. He is also being Scouted by 3 NHL teams plus for the national swim and ski teams.

Meanwhile Janey continues to excel at ballet. We had to decide on which of the 13 offers we should accept for her to play Clara in The Nutcracker, all from international ballet companies. She is also modeling on weekends and we expect her to be on the runways of Milan when the spring collections are released. She had 3 books published this year and we enclose a copy of one review that compares her to Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. At age 6 she has completed high school and her Bachelor of Arts with concurrent majors in history, sociology, english, economics and political science.
Either the people we know are much less accomplished, less prone to exaggeration or more modest. Regardless, my heart jumps when I open a letter and see a 2 page single spaced letter with newsy tidbits about family vacations, children's activities, job changes, house changes and increasingly the illness of parents or family members. Call me crazy, I want to hear the news from people I care about but I no longer see or hear from during the year. I brashly assume that our circle want to hear simliarly from us.

My Rules for Christmas Letters

1. I will write nothing that will embarrass anyone (except maybe my kids).

2. I send them to people we don't see regularly. So we don't hand them out to coworkers, neighbours or friends from church. The only people in town that get them are our immediate family and that is just so when an Aunt says "that is quite something in your daughter's letter" my parents won't have to pretend they have read it.

3. We don't send them to people we barely know, like someone I met in the Starbuck's lineup in 1996.

4. After a few years of not receiving a letter back, people are crossed off the list. But our list never gets any shorter as some in town friend will move away and they will be added to the list. Some friends I have been exchanging letter for 15 years and have not seen the whites of each others eyes in that time.

*** *** ***

With that great buildup, let me just warn anyone reading this that happens to be on our Chrismtas list. You already know our Christmas greetings are coming late. But I actually did not write a letter this year. It's a photo montage with captions. So this may actually be more bragging than our regular letter, but our kids are adorable and we want you all to know it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

From the Mouth of Our Girlie Goo

S: Daddy, if you want to play with me, please sign this contract.


S: Daddy I told V she was my best friend.

D: That was nice of you.

S: And she said "same here".

D: That's nice honey.

S: Daddy?

D: Yes?

S: What does "same here" mean?


S: Mommy, what country are we in?

Me: Canada, you know that honey.

S: Then why is there a princess's castle here?

Me: That's a Sikh Temple. It's like a church.

S: I thought we were in China.


Me: Do you have any boyfriends?

S: No Mommy.

Me: Good, I don't want you to have any boyfriends until your 30.


S: Mommy?

Me: Yes?

S: Do I really have to wait until I'm 30 to have a boyfriend.

Me: No, I was just kidding.

S: Good. I want to have a boyfriend.

Me: Who do you want to be your boyfriend?

S: Daddy!!


S: Mommy, some kids don't have a Mommy and a Daddy, right?

Me: That's right honey.

S: Like N.

Me: Yes honey, N doesn't have a Mommy.

S: Mommy?

Me: Yes?

S: Did N grow in her Daddy's tummy since she doesn't have a Mommy?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Embracing Christmas

Having only just put the Halloween decorations and accessories away, we thought we were entitled to a break. It was about mid-November when J Boy started asking about when we were going to put up our lights, trees and decorations. He approached the task with his usual single-minded fervor.

Thanfully, Husband was already finalizing (in his mind) the outdoor lighting plan so he and J were able to have some planning sessions. But one day after school J insisted that the lights go up. NOW. Not only was Husband at work but he had an after work dinner so would not be home until after bedtime.

And so we began protracted negotiations. I had my limits. I refused to get up on a ladder and hang lights and I refused to commit Husband to putting up all the lights when he got home that night. J Boy also had his limits and his starting position was that all the lights be hung up right now. I began to wonder if any middle east peace brokers might be available for a quick session to get us past our impasse.

One thing I have learned from more than one such negotiating session with J, patience is a virtue. He will eventually yield to a reasonable compromise. Eventually can be hours though. In the end I committed Husband to putting up one string of lights the next day after dinner. J boy agreed he would cease pestering me. Win win win. Husband obliged J (and me) and put up the obligatory string the next night and seized on mild weather the following weekend and executed his entire lighting plan.
Next, J wanted the trees up. We put up two trees. The kids' tree and Mommy's tree. The kids tree is about 4 feet high and they cover it with as much of whatever they would like. They have a large accumulated decoration collection to choose from as well as an ample supply of stale candy canes. Mommy's tree is all matchy matchy. Silver disco balls and red matte and red shiny balls adorn our prelit tree. It's the most Martha Stewart I can be.

The problem was when the pleading-for-tree started, neither J's birthday (November 23) nor his party (November 28) has occurred. I have a firm rule that I want J's party done before we start hauling out the Christmas rubbermaids.

We had another tense negotiating session that had J threatening NOT to go to bed unless we put up the tree (another night Husband was not home). He finally relented when I said we could put up the Christmas stockings if he would talk in a civil voice.

On December 6th we decorated the whole house. Well, we haven't got the Rubbermaids back to the basement yet which kind of takes away from the look I was going for, but we're getting there.

J is now working on getting presents under the tree. He has been surprisingly mellow about wanting gifts. He did write Santa at school and asked for a few things including a Wii (which I very much doubt Santa will bring) but overall not alot of wanting stuff. He is however, wrapping up everything that is not nailed down and putting it under the tree. I think S will be regifted most of the gifts that he got for his birthday. I don't know what I'm getting from him but I have it on good authority that Husband is getting {Husband, if you are reading STOP now} chocolate pudding.

It warms our hearts to see J embrace the giving rather than the receiving this holiday season. Even if we'll need to sell a kidney to pay for all the paper and tape.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Toothy Milestone

J Boy lost his first tooth this week. Atypically, it was a top one. His smile has changed which makes me want to both burst from excitement at his growing up and to hide him in a room so he can't get any bigger .

This tooth has been loose since February. In fact I took pictures the day I realized it was quite loose as I was sure it would dislodge very soon. I wanted to capture his last smiles with baby teeth. Little did I know I could have (theoretically) grown another human being in the time it took to get that took separated from the gum.

I found out something about my son. He doesn't like to wiggle his tooth. While some of his classmates wiggle their teeth every waking moments, J didn't like the pain or sensation of wiggling, hence the 9 month falling-out period.

I also found out something about Husband. He cringed when I asked J if I could test how wiggly his tooth was. I offered to pull it a few times and I met with resistance. I was the wiggle-all-waking-hours type of kid. Husband was apparently the type that let it dangle until he sneezed it out.

J is definitely in the dangler camp. Despite being the last in his class to lose a tooth in his class, which he saw as a source of low grade embarassment, he was not inclined to wiggle it much.

On Wednesday night, the poor tooth was literally dangling from one corner. I suggested J could probably suck it out (but told him not to swallow). He declined. He gave half-hearted effort at pulling it out. He finally relented and let me try and with the downward force of a feather, that puppy just came right out.

I should have warned him about the blood though.

Post script: He declined to leave the tooth under his pillow as he wants to keep his first lost tooth. He may try writing a letter to the tooth fairy to request that he be able to keep his own tooth.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Laid Back Mom

There are a lot of words that might be used to describe me, laid back are not two of them used together. On the laid back / control freak continuum, anyone who has read my blog for more than 8 seconds knows which side I lie nearer to.

Which makes an experience I had last summer all too amusing. We were at a park on a Saturday afternoon. We call it 'bike camp park' because, and you'll never guess this, it's the park where the kids take bike camp in the summer. It has a mega parking lot (bike track) a mini soccer field, great climbing apparatuses (spell check says that word is right, but I want to write apparatae) and a forest where mysteries are concocted and solved. What is not to love?

On this day, we just got to park when S pointed out that we had forgotten the soccer ball at home and on this particular July day, that is what she desperately wanted to play. Husband obligingly went home for it not because our kids call the shots (though they often do). We wanted the kids to burn a lot of that summer weekend energy and if a soccer ball will be an aid to accomplish that task, then we are on board. I took my post as playground monitor.

The kids were climbing on the structures and slides and having a good time, pretending to be barely hanging on, as they must because below them is hot lava. For some reason I had a magazine to read. I pretty much never have a magazine to read while I am at the park hoping to prevent head injuries and broken bones. It's not that I don't like to read magazines, or have any concern that I couldn't watch out for my children's safety while reading what Oprah's favourite things are. I'm just not organized enough (a) to remember to grab one or (b) to be able to find one. Don't ask me how my disorganization broke down that day and I happened to have one.

We had the bike camp park to ourselves for a while when another Mom arrives with two like-sized kids in tow.

"Twins?" I asked, seeing a bit of resemblance.

"No", she shudders and points to one of them," the neighbour's kid".

I turn back to my magazine trying to divine just how many more kids the Jolie-Pitts will have when S grabs onto a bar and takes her feet off the platform and dangles. Her feet are 12 inches from the 6 inches of wood chips, I mean lava below. She is fine.

Mother-not-to-twins puts her hands protectively around our adorableness and says to her:

"Wow, your Mom is laid back".

I look up from my magazine and inwardly smile. It is the first and likely last time I will hear that (and I finally found someone even less laid back than me).

And if you happened to be a fly on the wall at the kids haircut place this morning, you would have borne witnesses all my naked-unlaidbackness.

I noticed the new kids 'haircut store' earlier in the week. I've already tried 2 local ones and mostly given up on them. I was thrilled to find a new one. So this morning after pottery/hip hop classes we set off to get Christmas haircuts.

There are 2 hair cutters which I don't like because I cannot watch them both at the same time, which, portentously, turned out to be the problem.

S was first in the race car chair. I said to hair cutter #1 "an inch and a half". S has a pretty simple bob with bangs. I just needed to come to a common agreement on what an inch and a half is. Hair cutter #1 picks up S's hair and showed me her version of an inch and half. By my eye is was more like 3 inches. I showed her what my 1.5 inches looks like and she gets to work.

Meanwhile J boy has climbed into the go kart chair. His haircut is a little more difficult to explain. I should add at the risk of being considered xenophobic, that Hair cutter #2 and I do not share our mother tongues so clear communication was another challenge. I said to Hair cutter #2 "short, but not a buzz cut". She had the electric clippers going before I was finished my sentence. I had a few more phrases to add that will surely be needed to fully understand the look I am going for, like "not super short" and "cut a bunch but not all of it". I interupt the buzzing to clarify that she wasn't going to buzz his entire head.

"No, no, scissors for the rest" she says as she adds paradoxically a different blade to her clippers and buzzes some more.

"Just to blend" she says.

A few more sized blades (or whatever you call those) and she indeed whipped out the scissors and did a creditable job.

Meanwhile I redirect my attention to the girlie goo and she has more bangs then when she started!! They are thicker and wider and I am not happy.

So I said, "I am not happy".

Hair cutter #1 looked shocked.

"You added bangs" I point out.

"Her face is so small, she needs more bangs" is followed by a denial that there has been added bangage.

"No more bangs. No more bangs.", she attempts to persuade me.

"I'm her Mother. I know she had more bangs before" I said venomously.

After a long back-and-forth between Hair cutters #1 and #2 which is in a language I don't understand, Hair cutter #2 issued the final edict "no more bangs". I think she meant to reassure me.

So I reached to the pile of adorable hair on the floor, and picked up a piece and fit it like a puzzle into place where there are now bangs. "See" I say rather smugly.

Hair cutter #1 is at a loss for words. It may have been that she was embarrased at being proven wrong. More likely, she has never had a parent pick up a piece of cut hair from the floor when it was not destined for a baby keepsake album.

"I'm sorry", she said and meant it.

She's just lucky that S is adorable in any hairstyle.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Daily, I marvel in the adorableness of our girlie goo. It doesn't hurt that her adorableness quotient has increased exponentially recently as she is in a sweet behaviour phase (in S's case, that is Mommy code for not many temper tantrums, pouting fits or general grumpiness).

And she wants to spend time with us. On the my mornings I am at home (half of them), she wants to cuddle and read a book, watch TV, play on computer or just have a chat.

But you know what she likes best??? And here I realize that I hit the Mommy jackpot. The girl LOVES Starbucks!! Most Friday's after we drop J boy off at school we head down the hill to our Starbucks. S gets us a table after securing my promise that I will order her the usual breakfast: banana chocolate chip loaf and a glass of water with no ice. I get a coffee and we chat and connect and I soak up every morsel of adorableness because I know from experience that we are at the peak of adorableness and it will fade as she enters grade 1 and spends 6 long hours under the influence of other people.

Today, she wanted to sit on my lap and cuddle while we had our Starbucks and I obliged. As we left I told her "Wow I got cuddles and coffee together, those are my 2 favourite things in the world."

S asked me which I liked more. Not even close, girlie goo, not even close.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Party at 7!

It's Party Day and I, uncharacteristically, don't spend a lot of time thinking about the party. S and I have our Friday Starbuck's date after dropping of J boy. We have some errands which include returning a pair of J's pants or we’ll be beyond that 14 day statute of limitations and I will have a pair of corduroys that J will be wearing next summer.

S and I accomplish our mission and we head home where I other things that must be done (that do not include emptying dishwasher or in any way tidying the house).

I dropped S off at kindergarten and I would have been well served to go home and empty the dishwasher or tidy at least one room in the house or even just relax with a cup of tea. But I cannot resist the 90 minutes of alone time and decided to head to the big mall for some errands/Christmas shopping. I shouldn't have bother was most of what I wanted was not available and head back to school to pick up kids.

It’s in the kindergarten parental waiting spot that I am already having this nagging feeling that I should be more worried about the party. Then I learn that a ferry route has been completely shut down for hours as a car drove off a dock. This means traffic, which is already nightmarish on a very rainy Friday rush hour,will be much worse for our trip to the movie theatre. The main alternate route for the ferry commuters will be the same bridge, and only route, that we will take to theatre.

A huge ball of stress grows in my stomache as I envision sitting in traffic lineup for hours with excited kids bouncing off ceilings. I am briefly relieved from my anxiety when I hear that ferry will reopen shortly only to hear that report was premature and the ferry would not be running for hours. I wondered if anyone would make it to the party on time, including my carful of party goers.

I race home with the kids and, not with a great amount of foresight, give them each a candy-covered cupcake - I am about to be locked up in a minivan with the sugar twins. I pack them a small supper and load the car with party accoutrements.

To heighten my angst, I noticed as we backed out of the driveway that the gas tank almost-empty indicator light is on. I debate whether time or gas is more precious. Do I spend the time to fill up or run the risk of running out in a lineup. Though the smart money was on gassing up, I bucked the odds and headed directly for gridlock.

But the traffic, though worse than normal, was not near as bad as my doomsday scenarios. We arrived at train station just in time to pick up Husband and head to theatre. We were early as were most other partiers.

The excitement over the movie and no doubt the freedom from the car for the long commute made the kids as excitable as Democrats on election night. Fortunately the party room was indestructible, though I think the kids pushed it to the limit.

The movie was fabulous and held the kids’ attention for almost 2 hours. We had some brief trauma as we had a lot of kids who needed a simultaneous bathroom break and the movie theatre at 7 on a rainy Friday night resembled Walmart on a 'everything is 80% off' sale. Somehow we seemed to keep track of the 9 kids and herded them back to camp indestrucible for cupcakes and presents and at 7:30 it was all over for another year

It feels good to have J boy 7. Once S has her birthday in September, it feels very much like unfinished business until J boy reaches his new age. So ends the birthday season for another year, though S is already talking about her sixth birthday. She says she wants it to be a surprise.


As previously whined about, just coming up with party idea and date/time for J's 7th birthday party was an ordeal. In what I was hoping would be a forecast of good luck, most of our invitees could come. We had a party of 9 kids going to be BOLT the new Disney animation movie. To do list for party:

1. Get favours and candy for kids
2. Make cake

In stroke of genius, I conjured up idea to buy BOLT books for the kids to take home. In even greater stroke of luck, mega bookstore next to my office had the 10 copies I need in stock.

Husband and I had been happy with the scheduling of the movie on a Friday night as it left the rest of the weekend open. We had a start time of 6:15 p.m. but were told that the movie times could change so we would be contacted the Monday before the party with the exact movie times.

When the call came the movie was scheduled to be 45 minutes later that scheduled. Which means the movie would end at 9:30, a little late even for 7 years olds, never mind the two 5 year olds invitees. Party scheduler did tell me we could switch to the early movie time at 5:15. But I knew several people had busy after school schedules on Fridays so I wasn’t sure that would work. So I suggested that we might be able to make the early movie work if we could have the party room after the movie. I told party scheduler I would email my peeps and see what better suited the majority.

Most families replied that they could make either work (taking pity on a birthday’ed out Mommy, no doubt) or that they preferred the early show. So I called movie theatre and they told me that no, the party room was to be before the party. As I got wound up into apoplectic state, party person realized that he either had to agree to my scenario or find a way to give me a tranquilizer dart over the phone. He opted for the former option.

Husband has been not so subtly trying to secure my agreement that the fancy cakes were over now that we were spending our retirement savings on birthday parties for the kids. I did toy with the idea of making a simple BOLT cake of a dog tag, but as the day drew closer I did not have the stamina to make a fancy cake. In fact, I decided that cupcakes would make it altogether easier as no cutting, knife or plaintive requests for that part of the cake. I thought I might make individual cupcakes with the kids initials but honestly, it was a busy week at work and at home and I didn’t spend much time thinking about it.

On Thursdays, Husband works from home. I was having one of those work days where finding time to pee was a challenge. While I drafted crucial letter to client, I called Husband and mentioned that I was going to make cupcakes from a mix. There was silence on the line and I believe that Husband either fainted or was on his knees thanking God as he knows I’m a bit of a make-from-scratch Nazi when it comes to birthday cakes. I did mention that I would have to top the cupcakes with candies to make up for other deficiencies and he said he would take the kids to get an assortment of candies.

As I walked home from the bus, Husband is driving J to tae kwan do and pulls over. As he rolls down the windows, the kids are simultaneously excitedly telling me their good ideas about how I can put the face of Bolt, who is a dog by the way, on each of the cupcakes. I have definitely created this monster.

Husband and kids come home with various candies and we broker deal where cupcakes will have candy faces on it, which J boy has convinced himself looks just like Bolt. Done!

Ah, Birthdays

For all the fuss and bother of birthday parties (and I will be blogging about the latest), there is something sweet and satisfying about getting the kids through another year of life.

J turned 7 last week. As is our custom, birthday child gets to pick the birthday meal. J boy picked Chinese food and we feasted at home. Well, the girlie goo not so much as there isn't a Chinese version of grilled cheese, mac n cheese or pizza. But the three of us did enjoy our meal.

S perked up when we had CHOCOLATE for dessert, but as it apparent from the attached clip, she may need a lung function test.

But as we enjoyed our quiet family celebration, I couldn't help but be amazed how that squishy newborn we marvelled at 7 years ago, is now reading, writing, riding a bike, playing on the computer, making friends, conducting experiments, concocting potions and most vexingly having his own ideas about things.

Happy Birthday Bearsy Boo!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Seriously, Is This Too High a Price to Pay?

I, like other global citizens, have accepted my role in the war on terror.

I have paid extra security fees on flights.

I've joined long lines for airport security.

I have removed my shoes, opened my bags and removed my belt at the airport.

I've quietly accepted randon fondling at airport screenings.

In all but one case, I have left all liquids behind and subjected myself to drinking airport water.

I have endured long lineups at border crossings and one interrogation where I was all but accused of smuggling migrant workers into the country.

But the new rules for passport photos, are really too high a price. Does everyone need to look like they should appear on America's Most Wanted?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Power to the People

We had a severe wind event last night and the power went out. Here is what I learned from that experience:

1. No matter how predictable an event, Husband and I will be unprepared for it. We have many candles, boxes of matches and flashlights scattered aournd our house. With the arrival of the wind we did nothing to prepare for it even though we knew a power outage was likely. This was the extent of our discussion on hearing the wind:

"Wow, that wind is strong"
"Yeah, that's amazing"

2. Our kids are well-suited to frontier life. When the power went out they had no fear. Since the sun starts to set around 4:30 these days and the power went out about 7:00 it was dark. Like really dark.

"Kids, stay where you are, Daddy and I will get flashlights. Don't be scared."

I needn't have wasted the perfectly good oxygen with the reassurance as they were running around saying "THE POWER IS OUT!!!" with about the same enthusiasm as we'll hear "SANTA CAME" in just over a month. They could hardly believe their good luck at the incredible gift of entertainment.

As Husband and I tried to converse over where flashlights might be and divided the house into zones (as in, you check the kitchen, I'll check the laundry room) the kids were running around and we were more fearful than them, but of injury to themselves, each other or us.

3. Dust is not flammable. All those decorator candles I have littering the house were gathered and congregated on our two fireplace mantles to provide a small amount of ambient light. Unbeknownst to me, dust collects on candles. It may in fact be attracted to candles as there was an inch of dust on them. Note to self: dust candles annually.

4. Our kids are well able to make do with no electricity. Despite not having the TV or computer, which are their frequent playmates, particularly on a Friday night when Husband and I are worn out from the week's events, they had no lack of things to do. Shining flashlights in each others eyes was high on the list. J Boy was fond of going outside to see if the wind would blow him off the stairs. Their primary enjoyment was running around the house holding hands and making up games that ended with their doing some version of ring around-the-rosie in the semi-darkened room.

5. Husband and I are too dependant on electricity. With the power out, we were at a loss for what to do. Computer and TV were out so we had to satisfy ourselves with holding our hands over the sharp corners of the furniture so the hyper active twins didn't have to make a trip to the ER running on a generator.

6. Let Husband do what Husband does best. The power came on after a couple hours. It flickered off again an hour later but by then I had obsessively checked my email and all the news sites to realize nothing important had happened in our hours off the grid. The power coming back on was a great source of amusement for the kids until they realized the cable was out on the TVs. But eventually we all settled into bed for night.

The activities of the week caught up with all of us as I awoke at 8:47. While I'm hardly one to complain about a decent weekend sleep-in, the kids had activities and we had to be out of the house in under 30 minutes. J Boy was just up and uncharacteristically already dressed. S was somewhat predictably still in bed. I brought the sleepy headed Girlie goo downstairs amazed that at almost 9 she should still be so tired. Husband made his way downstairs uncharacteristically last. I deposited the Girlie goo in his lap with her wardrobe and headed to the kitchen to get breakfast for the 3 of us. Husband threw me a familiar "why are you rushing?" look and I double checked my watch and saw that it was 8:01. Apparently, I should have left Husband to reset the time on the clock beside my bed.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Birthday Portfolio

Birthday parties are part of the Mommy portfolio, like keeping track of library books and registering for swimming lessons. In most families the Dads are often willing walls off which the Mommies bounce the gymnastics vs. swimming debate, but it's generally the Mommies who are calling all over the town to get quotes on magicians and comparing the prices per head and minimum guest requirements at eleven different party venues.

The Dads may be willing and able party assistants but it's the Mommies finalizing the guest lists, managing the RSVPs and price-checking favour bags.

This year is the third J will be having a party where we don't have to clean up after ourselves. We eased our way into the party mania and had a small bowling party when J turned five. He invited his sister, two cousins and a couple of friends. We did have some tension over keeping our guests on our own lane and trying to loosely enforce the concept of turns but overall we were happy with the party and leaving the mess for our party attendant.

Last year after having spent several years mocking people who have gigantic kid birthday parties, we had a gigantic kid birthday party. For the 6th we invited most of his class and a few extra friends for a gymnastic extravaganza. It was one of the most economical parties for a small herd of children and well worth the money. An hour of playing in the foam pit, bouncing on the trampoline and the kids were ready for pizza and cake. A chaotic few minutes of present opening, a couple rounds of 'what time is it Mr. wolf' and bingo party was over. A bit hit except for the mound of presents which seemed excessive by anyone's measure.

With J's past two parties and even S's party this year there was not much discussion about where we'd have the party unless you count the two month of internal dialogue in my head. I presented my idea to Husband who wisely agreed. I pitched it to the birthday child who did not know they really had a choice.

That changed this year.

I did not want to repeat the GKP (gigantic kid party) so my idea was to go small and splashy: a climbing wall party. They are more expensive but for a price similar to last year we could have in intimate party with J boy and 4 or 5 buddies and not spend the equivalent of a car payment on loot bags.

I didn't really spend a lot of time thinking about selling the idea to the soon-to-be birthday boy as I thought he'd jump at the chance. I did float a trial balloon around the time of S's party and he seemed amenable. But as they say, the devil is in the details.

October was a nutty month for Husband and I. I tried a few times to engage J in discussing the party and guest list. I knew I needed to reserve the party. But I needed to secure his formal agreement on the party venue. As we creeping into November, I was starting to develop that nervous tic.

I finally laid out the options clearly: very cool wall climbing party with 4 or 5 good friends or lame bowling party with more friends. In retrospect I should have spent a little more time on my marketing plan.

Neither option got the nod. Climbing too small and bowling by my own advertisement was lame. And, as he told me "I always have bowling parties". Right, that one time when you were five.

I waited a day thinking that he might be manipulated into my way of thinking, i.e the climbing party, but the boy is not always as pliable as I would like. He steadfastly maintained that he wanted a bigger party than 4 or 5. And that a bowling party was a no-go.

And so in between dental appointments and ballet classes I mused party options. Occasionally, I'd flip an idea over to Husband who would give me his on-the-fly assessment. In a moment of either desperation or brilliance I thought of a martial arts party where J takes tae kwan do. I really thought I was doing well when they had openings. But was disappointed when the 'junior leaders' led the party at an extortionate party rate. And that didn't include food. Or drinks.

I started seeking out ideas with a few colleagues who have kids the same ages. I did feel some sisterly compassion when one friend told me her 7 year old also rejected the intimate party scheme. She suggested a movie party as a new Disney movie will be released the weekend of J's birthday.

Buoyed by the brilliant new suggestion, I checked into our local 15 theatre complex where surely they could handle our modest party. Not until Christmas.

Husband bravely wandered cross-portfolio and found a long list of party possibilities within 50 kilometers. I gamely went through the list and eliminated most on grounds of gender or geography. I was neither interested in a spa party for the J boy nor one that took more than a tank of gas to get to.

With the martial arts party as the back-up, I kept searching. I found a circus party where the kids could learn trapeze and juggling. The price was not bad, well about the same as martial arts but way cooler. And no party slots available until 2009.

Parties to the space science centre, aquarium and sport hall of fame were about double a car payment before the loot bags.

In a move that reveals just how great my desperation was, I briefly considered a home party and checked the price of having a scientist (other than Husband) come and do tricks.

Husband sensing both my ineptness and my desperation suggested that we try another movie theatre a little bit further away. I did and secured a spot for the weekend after J's birthday. Big score. Now just to sell it to the J boy.

I had all kinds of movie trailers lined up to pump up the movie. He, perhaps sensing my tension, agreed that it would be very cool party. I did momentarily get heart palpitations when I realized HIS party conflicted with a party S had been invited to. She doesn't get invited to many and complains about the number of parties J get to go to that she doesn't. But in an uncharacteristic stroke of good luck they had another party opening so we are set for Friday November, 28th in the evening. Stay tuned for the post-party dissection.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Looking the Part

It was the mid '80's and I was in my 2nd year of law school. I, along with my fellow 174 classmates, started interviewing for jobs at law firms. You know what I discovered? People who "looked the part" had a better chance at getting the job.

By that I mean if you were a white man who looked good in a suit, your odds of landing a job were good. That wasn't the only factor. Marks were the best indicator of getting jobs, volunteering in the legal clinic was a help, but to my careful yet admittedly anecdotal observation, so was looking the part.

Now I was 22 at the time I started interviewing and I could easily pass for 16. And I was just over 5 feet tall. Not exactly cutting the figure the law firms were looking for. My marks were above average, I volunteered at the free legal clinic and I more or less could string a sentence together. I tried to compensate for my inadequacies (i.e. not having a Y chromosome) but developing a firm handshake and wearing dark conservative suits.

My number one choice of law firm was looking to hire three students, but declined to offer me a job even though I ranked third in the interviews. They had already hired two women and it was simply untenable to hire three so they hired a man in my stead. I know this because the lawyer who had interviewed me, and knew my interest in the firm, wrote me that in a personal note on my rejection letter.

I am by no means saying that the challenges of practising law as a woman in the mid to late '80s was overly burdensome. Almost half of my class were women. The path had largely been cut the the decade before by women who sacrificed much to prove that the quality lawyering skills had no correlation to gender. And I did get a position with a firm that was a good fit for me. I am saying that even in a time when things were supposedly were equal they weren't.

And I think it's fair to say doubly true for those with apparent physical limitations or a skin colour other than white, though I am obviously not able to relay any experiences.

I think that many people around the world think the same of President-elect Obama for precisely the same reason. He doesn't necessarily look the part. He has dark skin, he's skinny and his ears stick out. I heard two people interviewed in the closing weeks of the campaign that stated rather emphathically that his name alone should disqualify him as it 'sounded too Muslim'. So even with the wrong name, he managed to find himself in the top job.

But he had a message, a manner and a mind that won over half of the votes in the U.S. and it didn't matter about that other stuff.

So for those who don't "look the part" of the whatever they might want to be, take heart. By carrying too many or too few pounds, by being too plain or too attractive, by having bad hair or no hair, by having skin colour other than white or by having the wrong last name, it might just matter a little bit less.