Friday, November 28, 2014

Her Dimples, So Merry!

After Novemberance Day, people really seem to get in the holiday mood. They start shopping, decorating, sending out greeting cards over a month early (hi, April!), and generally sortof freaking out. Small talk invariably turns to "preparedness" - "What are your holiday plans?" "Are you ready for Christmas?" "How is your planning coming along?" Like there's a war or a zombie apocalypse brewing rather than a mid-winter calorie-and-booze fest.

I'm generally pretty organized, so most years when people start asking those kinds of things I first carefully gauge their level of panic to decide whether or not I should tell them I finished prepping back in October. By the end of November, I'm typically left with the tasks of walking my long-completed stack of holiday cards to the mailbox and setting up a tree. (Then writing about the tree.) Easy!

This year, those folks can go ahead and hate me for a different reason entirely: this year, I'm not planning anything at all. Sure, I'll take my stack of cards to the mailbox this weekend (yup, they're already done), but other than that, nada. Instead, I'm taking the family on a tropical beach vacation.

Because I paid for the trip back in February, this has lifted the holiday planning burden from my shoulders for the entire year - there has been no stocking up on stocking stuffers, no buying an extra of anything "just in case", no warehousing of baking supplies. Why bother? We're not going to be here! This is shaping up to be the single most stress-free holiday season I have ever experienced. 

And speaking of shaping up, I know lots of folks (okay, women) who count down the weeks to their tropical beach vacations with a punishing schedule of salads and gym visits so they can lose "those last five pounds" or "look hot in a bikini". Ironically, witnessing this phenomenon has also lifted a holiday planning burden from my shoulders, one that I didn't even know I had - I am so far, so light-years away from a bikini body that there is no point in even bothering with the pretense of the gym in the coming weeks. Sure, pass the cookie tin, 'cause why the hell not? And what is this "base tan" you speak of, anyway? Turns out, I don't have to do anything to prepare for this vacation. I worked hard, I earned it, I'm going to darn well enjoy it, and no "last eighty pounds" are going to stand in my way!

Sure, I'll be hitting the gym and the salad bar again come January. But for now, it's Mele Kalikimaka to all and to all a good night.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

LoBotany? BoNotomy?

Hey, whaddya get when you put twelve botanists in a room and make them decide how to group line items in a budget?

You think I'm going to give a punchline now but I'm not, 'cause it's not funny. It's an actual thing that actually happened. To me. And what you get is the very definition of hell, plus the slow and creeping fear that you must not be a very good botanist because you don't really give a shit about whether the phone bill gets slotted under Administration or Communication, yet all these other botanists seem to care. A lot.

Deep breaths. You're a good botanist. You're a good botanist. You're just a shitty accountant is all. Yeah, that's what. Just go home and read about sedges and you'll be totally legit again.

So I read about some sedges for a while, then got bored and decided to do some baking (still good! sedges are just boring to read!) and realized in looking at my recipe collection that I actually taxonomize the bejeebus out of everything in life so I must be okay after all. I have rigorous and complex systems for recipe organization, Halloween candy sorting, sock drawer arrangement - you name it, I identify it, label it, and stuff it in a category. I just *occasionally* see the need to back on up a level and call a few relatively similar things all "cookies" in effort to stem the madness.  

I even taxonomize my relationships. I have, for instance, Close Friends, Old Friends, Neighbour Friends, Work Friends, Facebook Friends, LinkedIn Friends, Other Classroom Parent Friends, Frenemies, People I Don't Actually Know But I See Often Enough To Awkwardly Acknowledge and Talk To Friends, Favourite Relatives, Less Favourite Relatives, Plain Weird Relatives, Relatives I Don't Actually Know At All But You Somehow Do So I Will Awkwardly Explain How I Don't Know Them, Work Nemeses, Work Sisters, a Work Dad (a new one, since my old one retired), and even a Work Husband or three. Occasionally, I see perfectly good reason to back on up a level and not let people know precisely which branch of the "Relatives" tree they're on. (Suddenly starts to sound like wise management instead of poor accounting, doesn't it?)

I've asked a few of my Work Husbands whether they categorize people in similar ways (e.g., Work Wives) and the answer is, invariably, no. This could be a personality thing, a botany thing, a gender thing - I don't know for sure, but it does suggest the individual inhabiting the monotypic genus "DH" is likely to take issue with my Work Husband category. Don't worry, dear - the Work Husband category is a benign one, characterized by an abundance of bickering and a lack of sex. Just like being married! It's those darn work boyfriends you have to worry about.

Of course, I don't have any of those...

Handy Dandy

I always admire the skill and creativity that go into set design, especially in smaller venues where talented folks do so much with the limited space available. Really, it's one of my favourite things about live theatre. I was admiring aloud the set of a play DH and I were attending this past weekend when he turned to me and said, "You know, I always thought set design was something I would like to get into one day."


DH and I have known each other for over thirteen years, and while I accepted a lot of false advertising and bravado from him in the early days of our relationship - yeah, yeah, I'm sure he did likewise - I feel this kind of posturing is frankly silly around someone who has known you for so long. Maybe it was the low-grade headache I'd had all day, maybe it was his treading on my status in the relationship as 'the creative one', or maybe it was the threat to my financial stability that would be posed by such a suicidal career change on DH's part - whatever the reason, I couldn't let this one slide:

"But dear, you're neither handy nor artistic. That doesn't seem like a very good fit."

"Yeah, I'm handy."

* * *
You've heard that old adage about work, the sortof Venn diagram cum Catch-22 between cost, speed and quality, where you can pick only two of the three qualities? Years of household chores and minor home renovations have highlighted what amounts to nothing less than a fundamental difference of opinion between us on what constitutes "good enough". I am the sort of person who will happily shell out for quality and timeliness, while DH and his old buddies, Fast and Cheap, have preemptively smothered Quality in its sleep and ridden off into the sunset on Half-Assed Trail. Usually drunk.

Being a naturally skeptical person, I'm constantly reserving judgement for the peer-reviewed evidence of a given claim. So maybe DH is handy, it's just that, in thirteen-plus years, the evidence I have seen suggests that "set design" is pretty much to DH as "swimsuit model" is to me.

* * *
We stared awhile at one another across the Gulf of Mutual Incomprehension. (You what? You think what? Who are you?)

"Oh," I finally said. "Right." And texted myself a great idea for a blog post. Because creative one.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Whingey Smurf

Hey, everyone! Guess what this is!

Gotcha, you perverts! It's not a Smurf penis at all. It's a neti pot spout:

You know, one of those things people use to flush their sinuses out. Sounds like utter quackery, I know, but apparently daily nasal enemas are a legitimate treatment for some kinds of chronic nose troubles. Which I don't suffer from myself so I can't give you any examples.

But *someone* in my house does have chronic nose troubles. (Actually, more than one someone in my house might, but I don't think a neti pot is going to help Small Fry keep his exploratory instincts at bay.) Let's call this someone... ummm... Smadrian. To protect his privacy. Yesterday, Smadrian got his first neti pot - it was prescribed by his physician.

But let's back up a bit. Ever dealt with One of Those People who clearly don't have enough perspective on life? Like, mountain-out-of-molehill people, or have-never-had-a-day's-troubles people, or men, like, in general? Well, Smadrian happens to be the latter sort of person. And it is this rather fundamental characteristic of his being that results in an inherent lack of perspective in some crucial matters. He has never, for instance, given birth, had intravenous medication, had an epidural, been catheterized (all four of which sometimes occur simultaneously, in my experience), been examined with the aid of a speculum, been regularly bombarded by the amorous advances of certain fleshy male appendages... y'know, those sorts of things. Invasive sorts of things. Here are images of some those things - please take a moment to compare them to the comparatively innocuous neti spout pictured above.

Wait a minute, what the hell is THAT?

Whose lousy idea was this anyway?

WHERE do you want to put that?!

In what I view as a direct result of never having been "invaded" in his life, Smadrian is terrified of using his neti pot. Terrified. He actually yelled at me for talking about using the neti pot, which is why I decided to write this story. I mean, hide his name in this story.

I had only this to say:

All. The places. You have wished to insert your penis over the years, and you are afraid of a wee little Smurf dick resting near your nostril and gently flushing your sinuses with a small quantity of sterile saline solution?

Woman up, you giant wuss.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Halloween Feast

Medium Fry is going on a student exchange trip to France this year.

(Before the story really gets rolling, let's all take a moment to reflect on how much cooler school is now than it was Back In Our Day. Aaaaaaand... moment up. Carry on.)

In preparation for this exchange, the exchangees are doing a bit of a structured pen pal thing through their schools. Apparently Halloween isn't celebrated in France so some of their first discussions have centered around this strange foreign holiday, from the benign - 'Do you decorate your house for Halloween?' - to the unintentionally hilarious - 'When do you prepare the Halloween feast?'

Really, they should have planned the exchange itself around some unique and fun events in the host countries, such as Halloween here and - I have no idea what there. You'd think this sort of thing would be part of what the kids would get to discover. Instead, they are sending those poor French kids here in February. February.

Quick, think of the worst possible time of year to visit Calgary.

... okay, other than Stampede.

... and January.

Exactly! February. In February, no one has seen sunlight or a fresh vegetable for five months. It's tax time. Either minus 40 or a slushy mess of a Chinook, sometimes both in one day, which I guess makes it migraine season in addition to flu season, not to mention I've-officially-failed-at-all-my-New-Year's-Resolutions season. How do you pack for that?

What will we do with this kid for ten days in February? Canada is an amazing country and Alberta an amazing province, but February is pretty much our collective dirty laundry and we just shouldn't be airing it willy nilly. I can't even think of how to welcome this poor exchange student here in February that doesn't involve a preemptive apology. I've got a few ideas to run by y'all, let me know what you think:

Bienvenue au Canada! We have prepared for you the traditional gift of long johns and vitamin D supplements.

Bienvenue au Canada! Let us engage in our traditional winter sport of dangerous driving conditions.

Bienvenue au Canada! I swear it's usually hospitable to human life.

Bienvenue au Canada! We saved you some Halloween feast!

Bienvenue au Canada! At least you're not in Winnipeg!

Bienvenue au Canada! Enjoy the Great Indoors!

Bienvenue au Canada! Uh... sorry?

And seriously, if anyone has any ideas for things to do and see around town in February, particularly "weather contingency" options, please let me know. I'm stumped.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sweet Dreams Are Made of...

One time, in preschool, Small Fry's class was baking apple 'pies' (pat dough into lumpy circle; add apples, sugar and cinnamon; fold; bake) when some apple juice leaked out into the oven, causing smoke to billow, alarms to sound and children to be evacuated to the great outdoors until the firemen showed up to ensure all was well. Not one, but TWO fire trucks, chock-full of firemen. It was a beautiful day outside. The pies even turned out alright.

It was possibly the single best day of Small Fry's young life.

Come to think of it, when you distill it down to its primary component parts (Key Words: Firemen, Pie), it sounds like a pretty solid day by my reckoning as well.

More recently, he *may* have overheard me ranting to telling - well, any number of people - about a certain workplace fiasco involving a winter archaeological and palaeontological dig in a river valley with no overland access, wherein someone's fanciful solution to just fly a backhoe in for the afternoon somehow came to $30,000 fruition. And then the project was cancelled. Gah!

This scenario has really captured Small Fry's imagination. I admit I was a *leetle* irritated by the logistical nightmare it presented, the dollars wasted, the days of my life I will never get back, etc. but when you distill it down to its primary component parts (Key Words: Backhoe, Helicopter, FRICKING DINOSAUR BONES) it pretty much is the most amazing thing a little kid could even imagine. Heck, maybe I imagined it when I was a kid and... well, be careful what you wish for I guess. Now when we cuddle up at bedtime, Small Fry says to me, "Mommy, tell me the story about the helicopter and the backhoe." And I do. I even manage to write out my frustrations in the name of a good bedtime tale.

Then I snuggle right up and say to him, "Sweetie, tell Mommy the story about the firemen and the pie."

(Hmm, I wonder if they make a calendar for that?)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Optimist, Pessimist, Humourist

I love my work - I really, really do - however, in general, and as wildlife biologists have long surmised, it is not particularly exciting. Sure, there are wee bits of it that are fun (like that part where ridiculous sums of money show up in my mailbox, whee!), but no one is ever like, "Because dichotomous key! Bwahaha!"


In fact, sometimes my work is so dull that I just fall dead asleep on the prairie and only wake up because I'm snoring so loudly. (To be fair, this was near the end of a marathon field stint and I was pretty tired in addition to bored senseless.) (But no excuses for the times I woke myself up by drooling on my hand or dreaming elk were jumping on me!) Some people drink chamomile tea in the evening; I just tuck a Daubenmire frame under my pillow and pass out cold from the sheer boringtude it emits.

But I seem to have fun, right? That's because I have this superpower, you see: I'm specially equipped to have way more fun than is reasonable in a given situation. I have fun all by myself, just in my own head, in spite of all the botany I am subjected to on a daily basis. (Really, it's the only way I could even cope with it. I know some botanists - okay, well, one - who have completely zero sense of humour and I seriously don't know how they haven't offed themselves yet.) If you're specially equipped in this way, you're likely to find that hilarity is all around you. It's like how optimists see good things around them and pessimists see bad things: I see funny things. But it wouldn't be a superpower proper if just any old schmoe could do it, so let me clarify further: I see funny things like Superman sees your gotch and Haley Joel Osment sees your great-great Aunt Helen. I see... beyond.

Or maybe I'm just crazy. Who knows! Either way I'm having a ton of fun, and my Tuckeb runneth over.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Yay Crew Cab!

I won't name names here, but *some* motel in *some* small town in Saskatchewan gave away my room reservation the other night. I had had trouble booking a room in the first place, but by the time I got into town at 8pm and discovered my predicament the entire place was a hospitality dead zone - as was every town within a 2-hour radius. As more than one front desk clerk helpfully pointed out, "We're an oil town, ma'am. It's very busy here." Yes, thank you. That's why I made - and lost - a reservation in the first place. Given the constituency of the average oil town motel, I don't doubt I could have found myself some "shared accommodations" quite readily, but I'm not really in the market for that sort of shenanigans these days - particularly not with oil town motel constituents.

I had work to do so I couldn't afford to keep wasting time looking for a room. I gave the back seat of my truck a serious appraisal, then drove to Wally World to buy a pillow (yay $3 bargain bin!).

I fired off the proposal I was working on at 10:30 from the lobby of the local McD's (yay free WiFi!) and set out to find a suitable camping spot. Dark, quiet, cozy - you know, all the things one could want for a back seat adventure. And in fact, I had just settled in to my selected location when another species of back seat adventurers arrived and parked a short distance away. Then another. And then a couple of what appeared to be purveyors of illicit goods, just for good measure.

Oh. Right. Dark, quiet, cozy. I've really lost my edge the past twenty years or so - this hadn't even occurred to me. I felt almost embarrassingly straight, just standing there brushing my teeth and applying witch hazel toner with an organic cotton ball, beside my truck full of botanical guides and granola bars, while these people carried on with their shady weeknight activities. (Seriously people! On a Monday?!)

I relocated to a well-lit, bustling location and settled in for an uncomfortable night of little sleep.

I don't believe in bucket lists - I don't need another to-do list interfering with my life - but when something sortof rad and random happens to pop up, I jot it down on the post-hoc list I've got going. I call it the Tuckeb List, 'cause Anti-Bucket List and Fuck-it Bucket were already taken.

Spend the night in a parking lot? Check.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Cougar Monitor

There is something about ambiguous product names that makes me crazy. Like, baby wipes, I get it - clearly they are wipes for babies, not wipes made of babies. That's easy. But it took me forever to work up the courage to read the label on the bottle of fish sauce and see whether it was sauce for fish or sauce of fish. (Spoiler alert: it's of fish. Fermented fish. Ick.) And clam juice? Like, how the heck does one juice clams? But there it is, hidden in the fine print, presumably because that is just so damn gross that it can't be advertised directly in the name (e.g., Juice of Clams).

It seems really quite immoral that companies are allowed on one hand to advertise Made With Real Fruit Juice! in big bold print to trick stupid people into thinking that gummy candies are ever anything even close to being "fruit", yet on the other hand keep the whole "we have squeezed clams for your dining pleasure" business on the down low. Those companies probably all have some sneaky wordsmith on board, fine-printing their way straight to the bank. What kind of jerk makes a living writing weasel words to give the dubious products of big corporations a veneer of wholesomeness? I mean, not me, that's for sure...


So I was out doing some field work this past week - alone (my fave!) - when I got an emergency stand down call from the office: "There's been a cougar sighting 30 miles away - we're sending someone out to escort you around. Just wait in your truck until they get there."

Multiple ironies are woven into this little nugget. The painfully obvious: unless that particular cougar was a serial killer who planned on hitching a ride to my site to do away with me that very afternoon, the likelihood of my being eaten by a cougar had not increased at all by virtue of someone having laid eyes on one 30 miles away.

Secondly, it had only been a few minutes since I had hunkered down for a snack of celery sticks and peanut butter and pondered how pleasant it was to not be working in bear country where you have to think about actively making yourself seem not-delicious - oh yeah. Cougars too. Whoops.

And finally, who did they send out to act as Cougar Monitor for this middle-aged lady but a cute li'l 20-year-old boy.

Monitor for... or monitor of? The name reveals naught.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dance Fever

We bought Small Fry a clock radio for his birthday. It's shaped like a giant Lego brick (a two-er, if you're interested) (red) and it has since become an unexpected source of joy and consternation in our house. As is often the case with such things, the joy is his; the consternation mine.

Small Fry L-O-V-E-S his clock radio. He spends every morning dancing around his room in various stages of undress, and I spend every morning yelling PUT. YOUR. PANTS. ON! RIGHT NOW! But every song is a song he loves, and songs he loves just make him dance around naked. No amount of parental disapproval or threats of tardiness for school are going to change that. He's gonna be a hit in college.

If it was just music, that would be one thing. But there are also ads, and announcements, and news on the radio. Small Fry will come bolting into my room - usually naked - and announce breathlessly, "Mommy! There has been a multi-vehicle collision on the Calf Robe Bridge! Emergency services are on the scene!" then run back to his room to catch the next thrill coming down the pipes.

Thanks to Small Fry's clock radio, we have learned A Great Many Things at our house. We have learned that Calaway Park was opening (dammit!). That a wine festival was happening on the weekend (sweet!). That komodo dragons and a rhinoceros are coming to the Zoo. That McDonald's now offers three delicious flavours of iced frappe: coffee, caramel and vanilla chai tea. That Hooters is the ultimate Father's Day destination ("Mommy, we have to take Daddy to Hooters! My radio told me!"). That if we shop at Old Navy, we could win an incredible Brazilian adventure to the World Cup.

(Good golly. I just commissioned a Brazilian adventure expressly for Father's Day - do I really have to suffer through Old Navy and Hooters too?)

I had sortof forgotten about this Eerily Accurate Recall Stage (EARS) - Medium Fry went through it too, years ago. Seeing EARS in action again really strengthens my resolve to limit my children's exposure to advertising, because I find it seriously disturbing to see just how effective it is on the impressionable young mind. Just like smoking, I guess you've gotta catch 'em young if you want them to tirelessly campaign to go visit the new rhinoceros or celebrate Father's Day in an olde-tyme fried food and misogyny theme park, because surely no one else is listening.

But he drew a portrait - a loving, detailed, and vaguely Cubist portrait - of his clock radio on the table at Montana's the other night. With the numbers all square like digital clocks show them, and a happy stick version of himself dancing beside it. (Probably naked.) And my resolve to save him from the dangers of Hooters ads weakened.

Besides. I wouldn't have known about that wine festival if he hadn't told me.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Missed Connections > Fieldwork

Assiniboia Co-op - W4M

We made eye contact in the Foreign Foods aisle. I know I felt a connection; did you? Tell me how many bottles of SPF 60 I bought so I can tell it's really you. Hoping to hear back...

Shaunavon Frosty Treat - W4M

Thanks for helping me pick all those ticks off my clothes - you know what they say, a friend in need is a friend indeed! So message me if you see this. Tell me what colours of flagging tape I had hanging out of my pockets to weed out spam. 

Maidstone Motel - W4M

Haha, the walls are SO thin here! I could hear you belching, which means you could probably hear me farting. It's like we're already past that awkward 'polite' stage together! Let's be gassy together, shall we?

Weyburn Boston Pizza - W4M

I thought it was cute the way you laughed nervously and let me in the restaurant anyway even though I pretty much looked like a homeless crazy person - pretty sure there was a spark there. Tell me why my pants were duct taped to my ankles to help weed out spam.

Oyen Subway - W4M

We made some serious eye contact over the veggies, and you didn't seem to judge me for my sunscreen-and-dirt 'stache or for getting a footlong sub and three cookies after a hard day of work, so we could probably get along alright. Let me know whether I had my sub toasted or not so I know it's really you.

Maple Creek Laundromat - W4M

There was you, washing your dirty coveralls, and there was me, shoveling taco salad like I just made a jail break from fat camp. We made awkward small talk over the folding table and tried not to notice each others' gotch. (I hope you only noticed my good ones, not my field ones, haha!) Let me know what colour the mystery sock that ended up in my load was so I know it's you.

Ponteix Bakery - W4M

I'm not actually pregnant, I just said that 'cause you were the only place open for a hundred miles and I wanted to pee in a real toilet instead of just in a field for a change. So, like, let's hang out sometime - I'm dying to know why the apple pie tastes sortof like onions!

Unity Prairie Moon Inn - W4M

We joked about the rubbery eggs and flaccid bacon in the breakfast buffet, even though I was wearing three-day old muddy clothes and everyone else seemed to be giving me a wide berth (possibly due to the faint boggy odour). That was real civilized of you. Maybe drop me a line sometime. Make sure you say what colour my Nomex were so I can tell you're you.

Swift Current Canadian Tire - W4M

I bought a lot of zip ties, bungee cords and duct tape and made a joke about building my field bondage kit; you backed away slowly. I know someone playing hard to get when I see it, you sly devil! (Or at least I think I do - it's been so long since I interacted with humans I'm starting to wonder a little, haha!) I hope you see this and contact me.

Provost IGA - W4booze

It was sweet of you to let me know I had mud in my ear and was bleeding lightly. I mean, I already knew those things 'cause it had been a rough day, but you seemed genuinely concerned. We could get a drink or something - I could really use some this week. Like about twenty. Let me know whether I used a cart or a basket so I can tell it's you.

Lafleche - W4COFFEE!

Seriously, is there nowhere to get a cup of coffee around here? This is insanity. I would kill for a double double. KILL. Also a pedicure. Don't bother calling, 'cause I am NEVER coming back.


I'm never wearing sunscreen or bug spray again, ever.

... Until next year.

OMG I miss the field already.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

So This Is Mother's Day

DH rolled over in bed yesterday morning and said, "Welp, I guess we had better clean the house today so you can have Mother's Day off tomorrow."

Wow, eh? I'll bet you're impressed all to heck. So was I, until he announced a short while later, "I cleaned the bathrooms," then settled in on the couch for the day with his laptop.

Oh. So not, like, the royal "we" at all. Or even the sortof egalitarian "we" one might foolishly hope for when it comes to the divvying up of household duties. More like... "me."

I worked extra hard yesterday to make sure all the housework and laundry were done so the fam could "give me the day off" today. At one point - I can't quite recall whether I was washing floors, cooking, vacuuming, dusting, washing walls, bathing Small Fry, making a grocery list or cleaning the kitchen at the time - DH looked up from the couch and said, "Oh yeah. I started the laundry, too."

In case your level of impressed-ness has just jumped back up to "we'll clean the house" levels, please allow me to clarify the statistical dishonesty that is "I started the laundry." "I started the laundry" not only makes no claims as to the degree to which the laundering is or ever will be complete, it doesn't even hint at whether the intent actually exists to complete it. Nor have any promises been made regarding the quality control methods employed. (Are my clothes wrinkly as all hell because they have been sitting in the dryer for three days? Are my t-shirts nipple clamped to the drying rack? etc.) In short, "I started the laundry" is right up there with 'Up to 70% Off!' and 'Lose as Much as 20lbs!' in the annals of misleading advertising claims:

Seems pretty legit to me.

But don't cry for me, Argentina. If I hadn't done my standard (i.e., lion's) share of the housework (yes, including laundry) yesterday, I might have felt a weensy bit guilty about leveraging the bejeebus out of Mother's Day today. In fact, keeping all of yesterday's toilings firmly at the front of my mind gave me the emotional fortitude today to whine like a big fricking entitled baby about pretty much everything my heart desired: I wanna go to the peeeeeet stoooore. And also Urban Barn and Chaaapterrrs. Buy me this boooook. I want some froooozen yoooogurrrt. I wanna play Monooooopoly. I can't do yard work if I don't have any beeeeeer. Make me baked potaaaatoes for my special supper. I can't wash dishes on Moooother's Daaay! I reeeeallly need a baaaack ruuuub.

Seriously, best Mother's Day I've ever had. Ever. I'm already planning my itinerary for next year.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Awards Night

I think I do pretty well with keeping the hounds of parenting self-doubt at bay. I mean, the kids are happy, they're healthy, they're wildly attractive (hey - you can't tell me that doesn't make life easier for people) - I can't be screwing up that bad. Why worry? Nonetheless, I will confess to having a tiny, ongoing internal dialogue about them that takes the form of those "Voted Most Likely to..." quotes in yearbooks. Why? Who knows. I've never had a yearbook that featured "Most Likely" quotes and in fact, I don't even care about yearbooks. I threw mine out years ago.

Maybe it's that I sense how difficult an unfortunate personal meme would be to shake: "Oh, hi, it's Frank Jones, right? I remember you! You were voted most likely to PAAARRR-TAAAYYY! How's your liver doing after all these years?" Or, conversely, how depressing it would be to be constantly reminded that one didn't live up to an overly optimistic high school approximation of one's future potential - you mean you didn't succeed/become a model/live happily ever after? Awkward!

Whatever the reason, these little quips pop into my head whenever the kids exert one of their personal quirks at school. For instance, we already know Small Fry is Most Likely to Suffer from an Existential Crisis on a Given Day, but did you also know he's Most Likely to Cross Dress to Kindergarten? (Variously: skirts, jewelry, hair accessories.) Most Likely to Envision a Polygamous Future for Himself? (He currently has two wives and two girlfriends picked out of the kindergarten lineup - I can't imagine what's going to happen when he hits a classroom with more than ten kids in it.) Most Likely to Bring Gross Snacks? (Cottage cheese. Seaweed. Radishes. Sushi.) He's a crippling personal meme just waiting to happen.

Small Fry's class put on their spring concert last night. It was probably the best kids' concert I've ever seen - just sweet and fun and (importantly) not too long. When it was over, the teachers had a surprise for the kids: an awards ceremony. They were going to say a few words about each child.


First few kids, no problem: "Bobby is a great listener; thanks Bobby!" "Jane is very enthusiastic; thanks Jane!" "Fred is very creative; thanks Fred!" I started to relax. This was not going to be my nightmares realized after all.

Then the teacher presenting the awards speeches called out, "Next is Small Fry! Now, where are Small Fry's parents?"


This was unprecedented. I pinched my arm. Awake. Damn.

We raised our hands.

"I hope you plan to enrol Small Fry in acting classes, because he is an amazing actor! Good work, Small Fry!" He happily accepted his awards trophy and went back to his seat.

Whew. Crisis averted. "Most Likely to Make Butt Jokes" could be really tough to live down.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Day 1
Arrived at new residence. It lacks a certain level of majesty appropriate to our status, but will be satisfactory at least for the duration this short term placement. Appears to suffer from a complete and total dearth of cat hair - we have already made great strides in rectifying this deplorable situation.

We have settled in marvelously and with great dignity, and most of the humans have already grown accustomed to - and even seem pleased with - the honour of servitude. The large male human, however, retreated into a corner and commenced making deep growling noises immediately following our arrival. We are to understand that he is simply slow to acclimate to new situations and will settle down with time. In the interim, we have been warned to treat him gently and to give him space and time to adjust.

Day 2
I must commend the large female on her mastery of our preferred cuisine - the salmon tin juice was most excellent. It seems the humans even managed to craft a meal for themselves out of the remainder of the tins' contents. What could have been left after the magical elixir of salmonid was drained off is a mystery to us both, but it is pleasing nonetheless that they are so mindful of waste. They were rewarded with several head-butts and three coy tail swishes. I am certain they are suitably honoured.

We were plied today with treats, toys and extended grooming sessions with a splendid bristled implement of some sort. Overall, a delightful day! The large male was plied with a six pack each of beer and lint rollers, and seems somewhat less agitated than previously, although still less than friendly.

Day 3
A bit of a frustrating day. The large male seems to be doing his utmost to undo all of our hard work of coating each surface with a uniform layer of hair - he is almost maniacal in his use of lint rollers, and this afternoon drove madly around the abode towing a mechanical, roaring dervish. Sadly, the dervish succeeded where mere lint rolling had not and we must now redouble our efforts to mark these furnishings as our own. Otherwise, how will these poor humans remember us following our departure? A tragic circumstance. We must persevere, for their own good.

Day 7
The large male's will has finally been broken! He has abandoned his six pack of lint rollers and now simply reaches for his beers. He even petted my head briefly yesterday, for which I rewarded him with a most pleasing view of my anus. I am certain he could be fully domestiCATed (ha ha, a favourite little joke of mine there) if only we had more time to work with him, but alas, our temporary placement here is coming to an end. We are conspiring to bring the bristled instrument of grooming and pleasure with us when we depart, but are finding our lack of both opposable thumbs and pockets of detriment in this endeavour.

Farewell, human servants! I trust you have enjoyed our stay with you. May our copious shedding confound your mechanical dervish such that it eternally fails to remove all traces of our presence, and may you forever be reminded of us by occasional, inexplicable, tufts of cat hair floating gently through the air.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mercury in Retrograde

I'm sorry to hear that you don't like the maps we've provided. May I ask what it is specifically that you would like to see changed?




Excuse me a moment, I'm not entirely sure I understand. Are you are suggesting we put a symbol representing each feature on top of the actual feature?

Why, that's just poor cartography.

Because that would make them easier to see in the field?

I'm afraid I have to disagree... I think -

Okay, I'll curtsy while I think, but I can't see how it will save any time. So as I was saying, we have high quality orthoimagery presented at 1:10,000 scale, and the features are denoted directly above the alignment, so it's just a matter of drawing a straight line down from the note...

But putting a symbol on top of the imagery at the location will obscure the feature...

It is the visual cue. It's the only visual cue. It allows the person in the field to compare what is on their map against what they're seeing on the ground. That's why we use imagery in the first place.

Okay, let's try a little thought experiment: you are standing in the field. You look at your map and you see a big purple triangle that is labeled 'wetland.' Now you look at the ground. Do you see a purple triangle or a wetland?

Right. And did the the purple triangle help you see the wetland, or would a picture of the wetland have helped you more?

No, and there's no use trying. One can't believe impossible things. 

Well, it's after breakfast now so let's try to be sensible for a while, shall we?


Well, I'm not sure what good it would do you to chop off my head at this point. You'd just have to have this same conversation with someone else tomorrow.

Yes, yes, you're the client, all ways are your ways, I get it, but...


Oh, of course: yes, Your Majesty!



Wednesday, March 5, 2014


A good friend of mine was appalled that no one had told her her feet would be a size bigger after she had a baby. It seems she had been fully prepared to grow out of her pants (or as fully prepared as one can ever be for one's youth and hotness to evaporate into thin air on short notice), but to lose her prized shoe collection? Ouch. "You knew about this! Why didn't you warn me?!" she cried. I hung my head in shame - I didn't really get into the compulsive shoe purchasing thing until after I had Small Fry so it hadn't occurred to me it could be such a problem. Now every time I have a parenting revelation, I feel obligated to share it with the world lest I let someone down again.

This week's parenting revelation is the Six-Year-Old Growth Spurt. Maybe it happens at five-and-nine-twelfths, maybe it happens at six-and-a-quarter, but happen it will. And it has caught me unprepared twice over:

One evening way back when Medium Fry was in grade one, she burst into tears and accused me of not packing her any lunch, all week. This was clearly not the case, as I sent her to school each day with a lunch so resplendent with food groups and healthful choices that teachers and classroom aides alike routinely complimented me on them - in short, not only did I send a lunch every day, I sent a Grade A Parenting lunch. Setting my wounded Grade A Parent pride aside, I delved deeper into the problem: as it turned out, after eating First Breakfast at home, followed by Second Breakfast at her sitter's house before school, Medium Fry would eat her entire lunch for Third Breakfast at recess time in the morning, leaving only her intended recess snack - usually an apple - for actual lunch, and nothing at all for the afternoon. By the 3 o'clock bell, she was beyond hangry at her terribly thoughtless mother who had "neglected" to pack enough food. Uh, who knew? For about three months following, I packed that wee six-year-old girl a lunch fit for a lumberjack with a bad case of tapeworms, which was just about enough to get her through the day most days. Our measuring wall documents the associated growth spurt that occurred at this time.

All these years later, we're coming up to Small Fry's sixth birthday on Saturday. Yesterday, he came downstairs in the morning weeping hysterically, with a disturbing combination of snot, tears and blood pouring down his face. For a few moments I believed it was his cracked lip that was the issue. "It's not my lip that's the pwoblem, Mommy!" he bawled. Well, what the heck was the problem? "I don't want to turn siiiiiix! I don't want to get old and diiiieeee! Bwaaaaa!"

Ah. I see. I had foolishly tried to apply chapstick, when what he really needed to appease his wounded little soul was... breakfast. You fooled me twice, six-year-old growth spurt - shame on me.

After destroying a turkey sandwich, two kiwis and a bowl of yogurt - a volume of food that I'm not convinced I could ingest in one sitting - Small Fry was back to his usual chipper and unconcerned self. He even wore a silver Mardi Gras necklace and a paper crown to school. (If only breakfast made us all so awesome.)

So, parents of the preschool set, let my experiences be a warning to you: the six-year-old growth spurt is a hungry beast. Signs and symptoms may be misleading. Keep your eyes peeled.

But don't fret about your grocery bills just yet - it'll be over soon, and your little one will go back to violating the laws of thermodynamics with their typical diet of crackers and air.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Actually, Everyone Abhors the Vacuum

Here is some parenting advice I have taken to heart: Kids like to feel useful, so give them meaningful things to do.

In fact, I have really, really taken this to heart. So much so that Medium Fry is arguably the single most useful child on the face of the planet. (Okay, here's some other advice I know to be true: I can't actually take credit for this. The formula is something like, I attempt some parenting business x her highly agreeable nature = hey, so far so good.)

Medium Fry is so useful that when she goes away for any length of time the entire household pretty much goes to hell. Nature abhors the vacuum of her absence so something fills the void, but it is an anarchic sort of something wherein her long list of chores simply doesn't get done. It's a real tragedy of the commons, of the sort one might typically encounter in a college residence:

- The recycling bin, the compost pail and the kitchen garbage resemble Jenga assemblages in their twilight moments - the unspoken understanding being that if it is your piece of trash that causes the tenuous pile to collapse, or even if you happen to be geographically proximal to it when it blows, you are the one stuck taking the mess out to the blue/green/black bin.

- The dishwasher ran twenty hours ago, but only when some poor sucker cracks and reaches in for a clean utensil will it be emptied.

- You wanna puke into a clean toilet? Have fun scrubbing it.

However, we are not in Res - not by a long shot. We are sprouting greys and making mortgage payments on a quiet suburban street in northwest Calgary. And Medium Fry goes away roughly every second weekend. How is it we seem unable to reach a sensible solution to this ongoing, rather trivial, problem?

Welp, I for one dig in my heels on pure principle: I do enough housework and damned if I'm willingly taking on any bloody more of it. Since the rules of the game state that acknowledging there is slack to be picked up would alert other participants that I noticed the slack and beg the question of why I hadn't been picking it up myself if it's so important to me, I've never exactly asked DH why he is digging in his heels on the matter. I basically figure it's because he's a damn man, and Small Fry does because - well, he's a damn five-year-old. (He's also legitimately too short, young and/or insane to safely do many of the things Medium Fry does around the house, even if he were capable of noticing they needed doing.) (But DH? No excuse.)

Medium Fry looks at us like we are the most useless humans on Earth when she invariably comes home to our Jenga-piles and cupboards devoid of clean dishes. I have a feeling she'll be the best roomie ever one day for some lucky college students, but we sure will miss her.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Year of the Cow

We bought our first cow at Christmastime - or rather, a quarter of one. (I find the fraction changes the mental picture in a hurry, doesn't it?) We bought it from my good friends Tara and Ross down at Davidson Lonesome Dove Ranch, in case you're ever in the market for your very own large fraction of a bovine one day and don't know where to turn.

I found navigating the ins and outs of the beef-buying process to be quite an adventure, primarily because I had zero idea of what all the different cuts of meat were. Okay, I was pretty sure that I didn't want any kidneys or eyeballs but beyond that, zero. If DH puts steak on the grocery list I just pick up whatever is really expensive - it seems like that usually works out to be something he likes. Plus cow pieces aren't named quite as intuitively as, say, chicken pieces: breasts, legs, backs - makes sense to me! But if you don't already know what 'sirloin' or 'brisket' points to or what meaty characteristics that segment possesses, you're pretty much hooped.

Fortunately, Tara patiently walked me thorough it all, and just after Christmas phoned me up to say my quarter-cow had been hacked and packaged to specifications and was waiting for me in her sales barn.

"It's about 160 pounds all told. Do you have room for all that in your deep freeze?"

Have I ever mentioned that I have excellent spatial perception? It seems to work best at low speeds, which lends itself rather poorly to team sports but works beautifully for things like deciding which Tupperware to put leftovers in, packing suitcases, and...

I ran downstairs to find DH, looked him up and down, and told Tara, "Yep. It'll fit."

We hung up.

"What was THAT about?" asked DH.

"Oh, nothing, dear. Just seeing if you'd fit in the deep freeze."

(I like to keep him on his toes a little. It's good for the relationship.)

Naturally, I was correct, and the beef fit nicely into our deep freeze. Again, if you're ever in the market for a quarter cow but don't happen to be blessed with a suitably-sized reference husband, he it takes up about a third of a full-sized chest freezer.

Unbeknownst to me, the best bulk bovine adventure was yet to come: now we get to eat it. The funny thing is - and don't ask me how it was I didn't consider this when I decided to buy 160 pounds of it - we don't really eat a lot of beef. If we did, I probably would have osmosified at least some idea of what the different cuts mean over time, and I surely wouldn't have been quite so accepting of DH's expensive steak habit.

What I did consider was that Tara and Ross love and take good care of their native prairie and their bovines, and since those things (and the Davidsons themselves!) mean a lot to me I wanted to take what small action I could to support them. However, now I'm looking at the deep freeze every week and thinking, Huh. What the hell am I going to do with all of this?

But if you know me you will know I love making Resolutions, and one of my (many) Resolutions every year is related to trying out new recipes, so the timing of this adventure couldn't have been better: I have solemnly Resolved to put beef on the menu two times a week, for the rest of the year or until it runs out, whichever comes first. So if you happen to have a favourite beef recipe that you wouldn't mind passing my way, it would be much appreciated - I need the help!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Extra Pickles, Hold the Bun

'Hey,' said DH, 'I have a good idea.'
Uh-oh, I thought.
'What might that be?' I asked.
'Go pick me up a fast-food burger and fries. I'm super hungry. But get the burger with no bun and I'll put it on a gluten-free bun when you get home.'

Hmm, that is a really good idea, isn't it? Trouble is, his being gluten-free has prevented us from making a great many poor nutritional choices over the past couple of years along exactly these lines, and this good idea of his can never now be un-known. Dang.

'Dammit, that sounds amazing. But why do I have to go?'
'Because I'm... wearing pyjamas?'
'You're clearly not wearing pyjamas.'
'Because I'm really lazy and I don't want to get off the couch?'
'I'll buy that for a dollar. Fine, I'll go.'
'Don't forget french fries.'
'Yah, yah. Hey, d'you think we should let Medium Fry in on this action?'
'I dunno. Do you think she can handle it?'
'She can totally handle it.'
'Alright. Bring her.'
Thus marked Medium Fry's initiation into a closely-guarded yet oft-conjectured secret of adulthood: sometimes there really is a party going on after you go to bed, kids. We've been lying all this time.

This might not seem like much of a secret of adulthood to you, but I assure you the late night burger run is more than just the sum of its delicious parts. It's sneaking out under the stars in your pyjamas on a silly, impromptu mission to satisfy Dad's meat tooth. It's alone time in the car with Mom, chatting and laughing about whatever with no interruptions. It's another small ratcheting up of the ante, a carrot for all those sticks you've endured: yeah, it sucks that you have more homework and chores and personal hygiene requirements than your little brother, but check out the perks up here.

This made me think of something I recently saw on the FB page of a group I follow. To summarize: how does your family mark the passage of your children into adulthood? Easy. We don't. Here's the gist of the thesis around my house: the passage isn't a point in time, it's a meandering, sometimes messy, path, and it doesn't need to be "marked" - it needs to be guided, taught, encouraged, allowed to make its own decisions and mistakes, and occasionally provided a timely (loving!) kick in the ass.

Or a junior bacon cheeseburger at midnight. Depending on how things are going.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Creature of Habits

It was this last habit (um, yes, of mine) that prompted DH to purchase a housecoat for me for Christmas. Like our own personal little 'save the children' campaign, subtitled '... from Mom's excessive household nudity problem.'

To be fair, it was me who first admitted I had a problem and mused aloud that maybe, just maybe, having a housecoat would help. But then DH got that certain look in his eyes - that look that says, "Housecoat? Why, that's an item I can purchase from L.L. Bean!" (because while I *may* have a household nudity problem, DH definitely has an L.L. Bean problem) - and I knew I should keep darting around naked until approximately Christmas because there was prolly gonna be a housecoat under the tree for me.

Housecoats come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The fine folks at Victoria's Secret would have you believe there is even a possibility of looking attractive in them, if your genetic stars align just so. But the folks at L.L. Bean - and therefore, by natural extension, DH - don't want to burden you with such expectations. They just want you to be warm and ugly in your housecoat.

(And I quote:) "I bought it really big for you, dear."

What the hell is that supposed to mean? "Um... thanks?"

And really big it is. He was also thoughtful enough to buy it in my favourite colour, which is typically known as "grey" but in its more massive applications is more often thought of as "pachyderm" (and regardless of the situation is never thought of as "slimming"). I can put my children inside it with me, which I can see being useful if a house fire ever forces us out of doors in inclement weather. But in the meantime I just put them in my housecoat and we spend our days haunting DH as the Ghost of Christmas Present.

"Whoooooo!" we say. "You are never gonna live this dooooooown!"