Monday, March 31, 2008

Home Improvements

I've come to realize that renovating or improving or refurbishing any part of one's house is sort of like having a baby; the process is painful, but the results usually are good enough that you forget how awful the process really was, and blithely decide to go through it all again and then remember about half way through how much you hated it the first time.

We are "re-doing" the main bathroom in our house. It's a tiny room, only about 6x8 feet, but it's huge in terms of my sanity.
We "re-did" a bathroom in our first house, where we quickly discovered that we could only take on such a job and stay married if, and only if, each of us made no comment whatsoever on the other's performance. Any remark was likely to be taken as a fierce challenge, and was better left unsaid. (My mother always told me that you could tell a lot about someone when you hung wallpaper with them.)

When we moved in, almost 12 years ago, one of the very first things we did was take down the "duck and goose" border and repaint. The floor wasn't very nice, but at least we had been lucky enough to avoid some of the more egregious, belligerent 70's tile that our neighbours had been forced to endure. We were the unwilling possessors of some lamentably creative bathroom tiles this side of the Carter administration, however. (I have to admire the plucky soul that envisioned this arrangement and said to themselves, "yes! that will be a motif for the ages! I will be immortalized forever!") The hearts are bad enough, but the little squares are actually sparkly gold, and even if you are thinking "it's not that bad", let me assure you, it is. This tile only comes up to about chest level, and the walls above are painted to match the pink. (I know, I know, but I was three months pregnant and crazed with hormones when I made that decision.) The baseboards are more pink tile, and the toilet paper holder, soap dishes and cup holders are all pink too. Amazing we've lived this long with it, really.
So, the Mister went out and got some fairly neutral marble-like, beigey/taupey tiles for the floor (like, a year can't rush the Mister.) and decided to get on with it this weekend. Of course, when he took up the old linoleum, he naturally found that the sub-floor needed a bit of work, which means that a two-day job is now about a two-week job. (He tossed the old floor, which I didn't think was that bad, out into the trash, and I am weak with self-reproach to realize that in daylight? it was appalling.)
We are going to paint out the dreaded pink tiles, and get a new shower curtain. (Why do shower curtains cost so much money? I mean, there are hundred dollar shower curtains available. Why???They don't do anything....they have no moving parts, they don't perform any valuable service other than to act as a barrier. For a hundred dollars, my shower curtain had better be made of cashmere and clean the bathtub.)
The walls will be the same sort of beigey/taupey colour as the floor. Not because I love the colour or anything, but because it will match and I am a very lazy decorator. (Also, I am terrible at choosing paint colours. Once we painted a bathroom green, and although it was a very pretty shade of green, it tended to make everyone who entered that bathroom look as though they had just come off a three-day bender and was hours away from a painful death. Another time I chose what I thought was a nice beige with a bit of pink in it for our basement family room. When Himself and I put it on the walls, it was quickly apparent that instead of "Bourbon Cream" for it's name, it was far more suited to "Corpse of Pig". ) Whatever the colour, it has got to be an improvement over the vomitous pink we've been living with for the past 11 years.
In the meantime, I will live with the mess and the noise and the smell, and will wait for the day when it will all be worthwhile.
Sort of like having children.

Friday, March 28, 2008

I'll Take Your Word For It.

Yesterday, I happened to be standing at the front window when Thing 2 was coming home from school. (Our kids school is only a couple of hundred yards from our house. Very handy for for all the girls' friends who have "forgotten" their lunches. Happens all the time.)

Now, the weather yesterday was not great. By the time the kids were let out of school, it was pretty cold, and there was wet snow/freezing rain falling. (By this morning, we had about an inch or so of fluffy, prisine snow which would have looked really beautiful if it hadn't been so painfully awful to have it at all.) I noticed that Thing 2 was walking pretty slowly, not skipping and jumping and galavanting as is her wont. Hmm.

By the time she got up to the front of the house, I noticed that she was carrying things in both hands. Things that looked suspiciously like her boots. Because it was her boots. And she was barefoot.

I went out to meet her in the driveway (mostly so the neighbours and other mothers who had come to pick up their kids didn't see her and call the Children's Aid Society.) and asked her why, for the love of all that is holy, was she in her bare feet?
She calmly replied that her boots had gotten wet at recess.

Because, walking home in your barefeet, in the winter, is more comfortable than wearing wet boots. Go figure.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Mrs. Loudshoes Soundtrack

The past 24 hours have been torture. I have a song stuck in my head, on a loop, playing over and over, endlessly, until I am pretty sure it will soon drive all rational thought right out of whatever is left of my brain.

This happens to me all the time; I seem to perpetually have some sort tune providing a soundtrack to my life, whether I want it to or not. And it is in no way a relevant or even welcome commentary on what I am doing or how I am feeling, (Unless there is some sort of deep, hidden meaning about my existence in The Beverly Hillbillies theme song that eludes me.) It's just usually some random, catchy melody that takes up residence in my head and lives, rent free, until something else supplants it, and I start all over again.

The song providing today's anguish is (and I am warning you, it is likely to spread like a virus if you click on the link) is Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham. It was on the sound system at work yesterday when I arrived, and it's been going around and around in my head ever since. Now can you sympathise? It's a horrible, irritating, torment of a song, specifically designed to lacerate one's psyche.

Last week it was Georgy Girl, which was excruciating. ("Hey therrrrrre! Georgy girrrrrl! There's another Georgy deep inside!") I seriously thought of exploring pharmaceutical intervention. It went on for days.

When the song You Spin Me Right Round first came out, a guy I worked with and I used to sing it like Elmer Fudd. ("....wight wound, baby, wight wound, like a wecord baby...."). Now, when that song sticks in my head, it is that version, and no other. Pure misery.

Last summer, the kids and I were lamentably introduced to The Llama Song, which is possibly the most horrible of them all. Seriously, it's the herpes of catchy tunes; once you've got it, it will never, ever go away. I finally managed to get "doorknob! ankle! cold!" eased out of my brain, with some effort, and then we went to the Toronto Zoo, and what did we see? A llama. Right back at square one, I was.

When the kids were very small, one of the ways to keep them sane in the car was to play music from Barney the Dinosaur, which just about killed me. (They used to see the car as some sort of toddler torture device specifically designed to dismantle their sanity. The only problem with that theory was that I was right in there with them.) There was one song, in particular, that was impossible to wrench from my consciousness once it got in there, and I'd even find myself singing it in my sleep. ("Never talk to strangers, that's very good advice! 'Cause you just don't know if their good or bad, even though they may seem nice!") It's been years since we've had to listen to Barney the Dinosaur, and I can still sing the whole frigging song without hesitation.

Christmas is especially horrible, because I hate Christmas music at the best of times. When I get a Christmas song stuck in my head, I get no relief whatsoever, because it is, the mall, work. It's unbearable. Even now I sometimes have "just hear those sleigh bells jing-a-ling, ring-ring-ring-a-ling too!" hanging around on the edges of my brain, must waiting to hop right in an drive me crazy.

Once I had this rattling around in my head while I was cleaning the bathroom, and now every time I clean the bathroom, it comes back for a visit. Gahhh! (Another reason to avoid cleaning the bathroom.)

Why don't I ever get Vivaldi running through my head? Or James Brown? Or The Clash? No, it's always the Spice Girls or "The Macarena" or, God help me, that song from Expo '67, Canada, which, seriously? is loathsome. (Although you have to admire the song writer who managed to fit "it's the hundredth anniversary of Confederation" into any lyric at all.)

Welcome to my hell.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How To Make A Cup of Tea

How An Adult Makes A Cup of Tea:
1. Fill kettle.
2. Boil kettle.
3. Pour over tea bag in cup. Wait a minute or two.
4. Take out tea bag.
5. Add 1 package sweetener, 1 dollop of milk.
6. Stir, drink.

How An 11-Year-Old Makes A Cup of Tea:
1. Fill kettle to brim.
2. Dump out half of it.
3. Plug in kettle, set it to boil.
4. Get interested in computer game, forget all about the kettle, come back to it 15 minutes later.
5. Dump out water, start all over.
6. Make sure kitchen is awash before proceeding.
7. Choose mug.
8. Choose another mug, because first one is "too blue".
9. Choose tea.
10.Choose another kind of tea.
11. Ask everyone in the vicinity what kind of tea you should choose.
12. Choose tea.
13. After kettle has boiled for the third time, pour over tea bag in adequately blue mug.
14. Stir furiously for about 3 minutes.
15. Rummage vigorously in cupboard overhead for anything good to eat.
16. Decide there is nothing worth eating in cupboard overhead.
17. Go downstairs to see if anything good is lurking there.
18. Decide that peanuts and licorice go well with tea.
19. Go back upstairs and stir tea again.
20. When tea is approximately the colour and consistency of crude oil, take out tea bag.
21. Add 4 or 5 heaping teaspoons of sugar, with a clean spoon.
22. Taste, and add a little more.
23. Add enough milk to barely change tea's colour.
24. Add a bit more.
25. Pour out a bit of the tea into the sink to allow for more milk. Make sure you get a whole lot of it all over the counter. Do not wipe it up.
26. Add more milk. Stir with an entirely new, clean spoon.
27. Taste, and add more sugar.
28. Decide that you should probably just bring the sugar bowl down to the family room with you.
29. Stir tea once more, prefrerably with a clean spoon.
30. Bring tea, sugar bowl and snack of choice down to family room.
31. Complain that your tea is cold, and leave it on the coffee table to be knocked over by the cat.
32. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Do You Want To See Me Cry?

After the faintest, subtlest, most tenuous signs of a change in the season, I was actually beginning to let myself believe that perhaps, perhaps, spring was on it's way.
And then, this afternoon, I was greeted with this view out my dining room window. How cruel can Mother Nature be? (Answer? Way cruel.)
I blame my mother. She recklessly, and with wanton disregard, put away all the winter boots this past weekend. And in doing so, she has condemned the rest of us to this kind of retaliation. (When I asked her what she was going to do if it snowed again, she defiantly declared that she just wouldn't leave the house until "all of this nonsense is over".) I will give you her e-mail address if you would like to berate her yourself.
When the kids came in from school, they were irate with the sudden change in temperatures. (Like it was my fault.) As Thing 2 said, with anguished exasperation, "I'm tired of talking about the weather!"
Tomorrow is supposed to be a bit better, but we've heard that one before. I think I know a tiny little bit how prisoners of war know it's got to end sometime, but when?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bye Bye Bunny

This weekend marked the end of forty days without chocolate. And although I hadn't missed it all that much over the past six weeks, I certainly was happy enough to say "well, hello!" again.In anticipation, I bought a Lindor bunny a couple of days ago, and it has been calling to me from the top shelf of the cupboard ever since. It was all I could do to tell that bunny what he could do with himself until I was ready for him.

My sister-in-law has her own chocolate company, Cocomira, and she makes some incredible stuff, for which I alternately love her and despise her. (When I have Hazelnut Crunch in the house, it is impossible to resist, and I have been known to eat an entire container in one sitting, without sharing.) She has shown me the difference between good chocolate and mediocre chocolate, so at least I am enjoying my path to ruination so much better.

The kids Easter chocolate poses no threat to my well-being whatsoever, I can leave that crappy stuff alone without any problem. But the Lindor bunny? That is an entirely different matter.

Here is a short history of it's speedy demise:

Worth every calorie.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Easter

Today is Good Friday, and I know it is one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, but around here, any Friday off is a good Friday. Of course, having a four day week preceding it is pretty okay, too.

This is Thing 2's egg from yesterday's art lesson at school. She was mad that other some of her classmates liked her idea of sticking on whiskers and ears so much that they did so too. She seriously was asking about copyright infringement laws when she got home.

We went to the Mister's family for dinner today. They live about 40 miles away in a smaller city than ours, but they like to think of it as a big small town. As usual, we were fed large quantities of very good food, with high quality left-overs to take home. My sister-in-law made some spectacular lemon-cream cheese cupcakes, of which I had about 3 and snuck home with 3 more. I guess I'm all set for breakfast tomorrow morning.

As per our Good Friday tradition, the girls and I dyed some Easter eggs this morning. I love dying eggs, and I'm delighted that my kids are as interested in fussy, artsy-fartsy stuff like that as much as I am. We passed a very agreeable hour or so messing about with dyes and eggs and differing techniques and the like.

First of all, we had to boil the eggs. Of course, we don't care about the taste here, we just want them to be less fragile than nature intended. In fact, bulletproof is our goal here. And, naturally, there being such a concept of "too much of a good thing", and us being the kind of people we are, the concept had to be explored thoroughly. Here are a few of the more unfortunate eggs, which quite literally had the snot boiled right out of them.

Now for the dyes. We had a hard time finding egg dying kits this year, for some reason. We ended up getting some ourselves, which were terrible, and some that my mother found at the dollar store. (The crappy ones were pale and didn't dissolve properly, and here at the Loudshoes house, we like things intense.) Here are the dyes, ready for their subjects. Note the prophyllactic use of newspapers under the dyes, because one year we did actually dye the table. (As funky as we tried to see it, it still looked like we had vomited Easter egg dye all over the table. Not an image you want in your head while you're eating.)

The nice thing about dying eggs is that there is no wrong way to do it; any way you want is okay. (Except if you get some of one colour dye into another colour. Apparently, judging from the sound dressing down I got when I did it, mixing colours is a crime justifiably punishable by death in some Third World countries.)

Also, dying eggs is all about the process, and not so much about results. Any results are good. Luckily, these were very satisfying: Now all I have to do this Easter is hide some eggs, (which will be tough, since my children go to bed later than me) and massacre a Lindor bunny.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Signs of Spring

Today is the first day of spring. The calendar says so. And as much as I would like to believe the calendar, the evidence presented to me by stepping out the front door is incontrovertable. There are piles of sludgy grey snow which have compacted themselves into random, bulletproof speedbumps . The ambient temperature has a nasty, vindictive streak. One has to have the nimble footsteps of a Sherpa to negotiate the sidewalk to school. Yep, still winter.

So I am scrabbling for the merest signs of spring. I'll admit, I'm reaching here, but I've got to have something, anything, to remind me that the day will come when I will not have to suit up for 10 minutes simply to put the garbage at the curb.

1. It is Easter weekend starting tomorrow. Easter is about as early as it gets this year. (For those of you who don't know, Easter Sunday is calculated by finding the first Sunday after the first full moon after the 21st of March. Not as complicated as it sounds.) Usually, Easter is the first really nice weekend of the year, but I doubt that will happen this time. I think the Easter Bunny will keep the hunt strictly indoors this time around. (Once, when Easter fell very late in April, my mother had the kids' egg hunt outside in her yard, with foil-wrapped chocolate eggs. The squirrels stole most of them. That was a very harsh Easter.)

2. I signed up the kids for summer camp today. The kids go to a drama and dance day camp the last week of July and the first week of August. Last year, the temperature hovered around 30°C for the entire two weeks, and Thing 2 went to bed at 6 pm every night for the first week. (If you do not have children, you cannot appreciate the desperate clamor to get your children signed up for their various summer activities before everything is full. It's like those English boarding schools where you have to put your child's name down as soon as you realize you have concieved them.) Another rite of spring.

3. The soles of my boots have begun to disengaged themselves from the tops, and I have to walk as if I am wearing flippers so that I don't trip over them. It is very graceful. Happens every year about this time. Of course, there are NO winter boots in any retail establishment north of the equator at this time of year, because their shelves are full of flip-flops.

4. Asparagus and rhubarb in the grocery store. Both very welcome relief from broccoli and grapefruit. I like asparagus okay; I think I really like it just because it is one of the first foods of spring, but I adore rhubarb, even the pale, pink hothouse version. The stuff we grow in our own backyard packs quite a whallop, let me tell you, and will rearrange your neurons. I love it, even if it does compromise my vision temporarily.

5. Toby gets lively. It must have to do with the amount of daylight or something, but right about now Toby rouses himself from his customary sloth, and starts tearing around the house as if he's had 8 double espressos, and has taken to leaping out at us as we pass his cagey hiding spot. Scares the shit out of me every time. We call it his "Jackie Chan Mode."

6. The little girls with the cornrows. At this time of year, all the kids who have more money than us went down south for March break. And most of them had their hair cornrowed. They'll keep it in for another week or so, until their head get itchy. Little girls don't look so bad with all-over cornrows, but grown white women look a lot like Q-Tips with that hairdo.

Now, if I could see some of the signs of spring like, you know, warmer temperatures, grass and sunshine, I'd be very happy. But I'll take what I can get.

How Do You Spell "Nagorno-Karabakh"?

I thought I would be pretty good at this. Until I tried it.
How Many Countries Can You Name In Five Minutes.
Even with help from Thing 1, I still only got 72, at best. (It doesn't help that I can't spell and can't type.)
Good luck, and don't forget Tuvalu.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I took the girls to see the Hannah Montana movie on Sunday. (No wonder we never go to the cost the three of us 40 bucks to get in, and another $11 for one bucket of popcorn and a large pop to share. I might have had to go check with my bank manager if the Mister had wanted to come.)
The movie is in 3-D, so they hand you the glasses as you walk in the door. While we were sitting in the theatre, waiting for the movie to start, Thing 2 puts on the glasses and looks around for a minute or two, before declaring "Nothing looks any different".
After a pause, Thing 1 laughs and says "That's because we live in 3-D all the time. Jeesh."
Not sure what Thing 2 was expecting.

Hear, Hear.

I found this article from McLean's magazine today: What's Eating You, Mother Nature?
Pretty much sums up my feelings, too.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Wearin' o' the Green

It's St. Patrick's Day today. Not that we take any notice of it around here. People seem to assume that, because I'm Irish, that St. Paddy's day is a big deal for me, and that I weep with longing for the "ould sod" at the mere mention of the Guy in Green. I have to remind them that I've been in Canada since I was four months old, and as fond as I am as the next guy for an excuse to knock back a brew, this doesn't mean much more to me than that. I don't wear green, I don't go out drinking and I never say "top o' the morning to ye!".The Mister's family is mostly Irish, despite their Scottish last name, and I think they're more into it than anyone I'm related to.

When my parents came to Canada in the early 60's, they were gobsmacked by the way St. Patrick's Day was celebrated here. In Ireland, it was a religious holiday; everyone got the day off school or work and they went to Mass and thought about What They'd Done. The pubs weren't even open. Imagine their surprise that in North America it was seen as an excuse to drink green beer and dance on tables and otherwise break out of your WASPY penitentiary. It was like if you went to Singapore or somewhere and found out that Good Friday, or Christmas Day was the biggest party night of the year, and everyone made like it was a "Girls Gone Wild" video.

We work on a busy street in the middle of town, which has a number of bars very popular with the university crowd. This year, since St. Patrick's Day falls on a Monday, last Saturday was "St. Practice Day", and many people started the celebration a few days early. There was some action on the street; scantily dressed revellers in various states of inebriation staggering from bar to bar, and the occasional well-meaning soul who wandered into our salon, thinking it was a bar. ("Hey, check it out! No lineups! Let's go!") Last year, since the day fell on a Saturday, it was like somebody let all the animals out of the zoo..... The Tattooed One kicked a couple of guys off of the salon's rooftop, who saw it as the perfect venue to smoke a joint, and we saw a line up at an Irish bar when we went into work at 9:15 in the morning, and the whole day the show just got better and better. It certainly enlivened an otherwise mundane day at work, let me tell you.

I once asked my mother why we didn't eat more of the food she and my dad grew up with, like colcannon, and champ, and she said that one of the reasons she had moved 3,000 miles a way was so that she never had to so much as look at that stuff again, let alone eat it. So much for tradition. We did eat plenty of brown bread , which I will happily make and scarf down all by myself without sharing. My parents liked their smoked salmon, and had it occasionally as a rare treat. I was assured for many, many years that it was awful stuff and that I'd hate it and they were doing me a huge favour by not letting me have a taste. I think I was about 16 before I ever got any. My dad liked to eat something called "black pudding", which is a traditional Irish sausage, and like all sausage, one is better off not exploring it's contents too closely. (It's not bad, once you put you mind onto not thinking about what you're eating.)

We get some nice cards and greetings from our family overseas every year, which is nice. It makes St. Patrick's Day a little less like a festival of debauchery and a little more like a cross between St. Valentine's Day and Christmas.

The girls' school will occasionally have something about St. Paddy's day, a special theme in music class or an art project. (I wonder what the Muslim and Korean kids make of the whole thing.), but all in all, it seems to be largely an excuse to liven up an otherwise boring month.
Even if I'm not a big fan, I can't argue with that sentiment.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Today was the day I have been dreaming about for months. The temperature went above 0°C, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the very welcome sound of dripping water was like a symphony to my ears. (Except for the water dripping into the basement. Not so welcome.)
I know it may not last; I'm not putting away the winter boots just yet. But this was the light at the end of a very wintry tunnel, and I am grateful.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

There's Always Room For Jell-o

Thing 2 was at a bit of a loose end this afternoon. Thing 1 had gone off with Grandma to scout out dresses for her upcoming Grade 8 graduation. (And I cannot thank my mother enough for taking on that job. Thing 1 and I get along pretty well, but for some reason a shopping trip puts us both on the business end of a hissy-fit in no time flat. The delicate diplomacy required for such an important outfit is quite beyond my abilities. I'm doubly impressed because my mother had to deal with a 13-year-old me, and totally knows what she's getting herself into.) And, in case you hadn't heard, the Loudshoes are the only family in the entirety of our neighbourhood that has not gone away this March Break, and Thing 2's social opportunities are nil until they all come back.

Thing 2 has always loved to mess about in the kitchen, and I figured it was a good way to while away the afternoon.

She has wanted to make layered jello since we saw it at our friends, the McDonald's, house a few months ago. Layered jello involves making many separate colours of jello and waiting until the last layer is firm before adding the next. It takes hours, requires unwavering patience and a steady hand. Plus, you are going to have an ungodly amount of jello in your fridge when you are done. But Thing 2 was thrilled with the results:
The glass on the right was a result of our wild experiment of tilting the container while the jello cooled. Thing 2 looked at me like I had just invented teleportation or something when I suggested it. I think she thought I was the coolest I was ever going to ever get at that very moment.

We also experimented with our very successful homemade marshmallows of a few weeks ago. We tried making chocolate marshmallows, which didn't set up quite as well as the regular marshmallows, and although they taste very nice, they are deeply unattractive. There are no pictures of them because they look a bit, well, fecal. Can't win 'em all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pet Names

I'm not sure how it came up, the other day, but the girls and I were discussing what we would name a dog, if we had one. (We have no intentions of getting a dog, so I really don't know how the topic came up.) We decided that the hypothetical Loudshoes dog would be named Diego, if it was a boy, and Juanita, if it was a girl. (I guess we are getting a Puerto Rican dog.)
Part of the fun of getting a pet is naming it. And we've had our share of creative names, over the years.

When we were kids, the first pet my brother and I had was a blue budgie, named "Aquarius", being "the age of" and all that. (It was the '60's.) Then we got it a companion, and named it "Shannon", because we had been to Ireland for Christmas just before that, and we the colour of the bird reminded us of the colour of the grass when we were landing at the airport. (I smell the heavy-handed suggestion of a parent here.)
This has made the "stripper name" game much more fun that it would have been otherwise: to find your "stripper name", take the name of your first pet as your first name, and your mother's maiden name as a surname, hence I am "Aquarius Holland". "Shannon Holland" does not sound lacivious enough. (A girl I worked with at one time came up with the hilarious "Nibbles LaFleche".)

Then we had the most neurotic cat I ever saw, and her name was Mehitabel, as in the cat from Archy and Mehitabel, a column in a New York newspaper in the 20's. (My dad is an English professor; our lives were heavily influenced, whether we liked it or not.) Mehitabel was too much of a mouthful, so we just mainly called her "the cat". As in, "the cat just peed in the corner. Again."

Puca was our next cat. Puca is the Irish name for a ghost; a calm, quiet, gentlemanly ghost, as opposed to a poltergeist. She lived up to her name, admirably, for 18 years. She was very agreeable, and her idea of lavishing one with affection was to sit 2 feet away and purr loudly. As one of my cousins remarked about Puca, "you have a very inoffensive cat".

When I got married, we somehow ended up with two kittens, Luther and Sophie. Thing 1 was born while we had those cats, and we were mad that we had used up "Sophie" on a cat when we could have used it on a baby. Luther had about 8 toes on each foot, and made an enormous racket as he walked across the hardwood floors. He's the only cat you could hear coming from two rooms away. Luther also had the IQ of a carrot, and his named suited him entirely.

Toby came to us already assembled. He had a name, he had been fixed and he had all his shots. Since we were Toby's fourth owners in about a year and a half, we decided not to change his name because he had already had too many to remember. If we could have named him, though, we would have called him "Vinnie", because he has an air of a two-bit hood about him.
If we ever get a female cat, she will be "Phoebe".

I once heard of a friend of a friend who had two Jack Russell terriers named "Rico" and "Lola", and someone else who had two cats named "Lucy" and "Ethel". I also knew a guy with a fabulous dog named "Bob". ("Bob the Dog", if you were being formal, "Robert", if he was in big trouble.) I've also known dogs named "Quick", (Quickster the Lickster!"), "Nod" as in "Winken, Blinken and", a Scottie dog named "Angus McBigpipe", and a cat named "Meathead".

You know how weird kids have weird names? Turns out animals grow into their names too.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March Break

This week the kids are off school for March Break. I love March comes at just the right time, as the combination of weather and routine have pummelled me into a defenseless mass of acquiescence. I am just about at the point of throwing in the towel and saying "okay, Winter, you win.". And then along comes the March Break, when we get a week to do whatever we like and make no apologies for it.

This year, the March Break dovetailed neatly with the onset of Daylight Savings Time. It has meant that we can get up as late as we want for days after having lost an hour of sleep. Whoever came up with that idea should get a medal.

There is some entertaining of children during this week, but the Things are getting old enough to be in charge of their own social lives, plus they are fairly easy to please. There was a time when I had several other children to look after for the week, and sometimes finding one activity that would keep everyone happy could present a challenge. They were troopers, though, all of them, and never groaned once when we went out to the sugar bush yet again. (For those of you not familiar with a sugar bush, it is where they make maple syrup. You get to eat pancakes and syrup and bacon and sausages, but for this you have to pay the price of hearing the god-awful presentation of how the maple syrup is made. For reasons unknown, the presenters are hell-bent on you hearing the story of The Evolution of the Syrup, from it's aboriginal origins, to the pioneers to the present day outfit. The speech never varies, from presenter to presenter, and it's given in an unenthusiastic, dirge-like fashion. It's only just worth the bacon and sausages.)
Yesterday we took the girls up to the lake where we rent a cottage every year. They've never seen the lake in the winter, and we thought they'd enjoy the contrast.
This is the point where we bike to most evenings to catch the sunset over Lake Huron.
It was considerably chillier yesterday than when the picture on the right was taken.
March Break is a welcome reprieve from the routine, and I'm enjoying it very much. Now, if we could get another week to sleep in, that would be great.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Global Warming, My Ass.

We've just been walloped with another late winter snow storm, and I am really quite exasperated with the whole winter thing. I get that global warming is happening, but right now it's very hard to see a down side to the whole thing.

It started snowing last Friday evening, and didn't stop until early Sunday morning. I'm not kidding, we got a good 20 inches of snow, which is perfectly ridiculous for March. If there was a Customer Service Department at the Bureau in Charge of Weather, you know I'd be writing a scathing letter of complaint.

Here is the side of the Loudshoes house, complete with Winter Snow Sculpture, for those of you into art.

Thing 2 had a sleepover at a friend's house scheduled for Saturday night, and she had no intentions of missing it. Thing 1, her friend and I walked Thing 2 to the friends house, slogging through a good foot of snow most of the way, because there was no way I was going to drive anywhere. We went down one street which clearly hadn't been plowed since the last storm, and there was a poor pizza delivery guy stuck half way down the street. He had driven as far as he dared, and walked the couple of hundred yards to the house to give them the pizza. (What kind of person makes the pizza delivery guy go out on a night they wouldn't go out themselves??? And not even tip him?) To make matters worse, the poor guy was clearly not from around here, what with his dark skin and Jamaican accent. He probably regretted emigrating more than ever that night. Anyway, we helped push him out and and saw him on his way, and joined him in soundly cursing the bastards that made him deliver a pizza and didn't even tip. Nice bit of cross-cultural bonding, there.

We have had a pretty snowy winter here this year; the driving has been consistently bad, and I've been shovelling the driveway every couple of days, it seems. One of my friends, who has grown up around here and really should know better, complained the other day with an air of righteous indignation that she's "had to wear boots every day this winter", like it was some sort of absurd imposition on her. ("Welcome to a Canada"I said, where there's 9 months of good snowmobiling weather, and 3 months of not so good snowmobiling weather.")
Toby has had enough, too. Here he is on the windowsill of the kitchen, desperate to come inside.
(The Elvis stickers are new. I think they add a fairly jaunty air to our kitchen, as well as Toby's plight.) If you didn't know better, you would think that he's been left to freeze to death in the breezeway, instead of having just gone outside about 3 seconds ago.

I'd be very happy to see the sun, not have to take 10 minutes to prepare myself to go outside, and have my feet be warm for once. Remind me of this in August, when I'm sick of being hot. If that ever happens.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Skills I Have That Are No Longer Needed

I've realized, recently, that a lot of the skills that I have painstakingly acquired over my 46 years are now completely useless. Like the universe and technology have declared "thank you, darling, but we won't be needing you now". Such as:

  • Writing a cheque- Since the advent of the debit card, I only write a cheque for the couple of dollars I end up owing Revenue Canada every spring. (On which I write "choke on it".)
  • Changing a typewriter ribbon- A messy business under the best of circumstances, but which became a tussle to the death of one was not. I got to be pretty good at it.
  • Rewinding a cassette tape using one's little finger- Cassette tape players had a vindictive streak, in which they would eat the tape, and when you pulled the cassette out, the guts of the tape became unravelled. I was very good at coaxing the tape back in, using my little finger and some kind words.
  • Loading a film in a camera- Very tricky. If you didn't get the 35mm film in just right, you would think you were winding the film as you took the pictures, but you were not, and you'd end up coming home from you cousin's wedding with the pictures in your head and the film pristinely nestled in the wrong end of the camera housing. My brother was very good at this, too.
  • Counting back change- There was a time when you had to figure out the change you were giving back to a customer, right in your head, without the cash register telling you what to do. Even though I am completely useless when it comes to math, I could do this.
  • Using a credit card imprinter- Back in the day, we had to make a hard copy of the customer's credit card using that little machine that goes "ca-chunk!" We still have one at the shop for the odd time when the Interac machine goes down, and some of the younger people I work with have to ask "what's that?".
  • Lettraset- Before computers, the only way to get any sort of display writing was to use a stencil set or Lettraset. Lettraset was a sheet of rub off letters which you lined up on the page and rubbed off using a popsicle stick. They were an absolute bitch to get straight or perfectly spaced, and it was fantastically impossible. My hand/eye co-ordination was pretty good, so I would do it for my classmates for a price.
  • Loading a fountain pen with ink from a bottle- I used to do a lot of calligraphy (because it was still easier to learn that than to use Lettraset), and most of the pens were fountain pens that did not use the little cartridge full of ink, you had to load it from a bottle. I don't even know if you can buy that stuff anymore. You probably shouldn't because, oh, my, even a couple of drops of that stuff made an unbelievable mess. Once I dropped a whole bottle of it, and just about ran away from home.
  • Making popcorn with oil on the top of the stove- Before microwaves, making popcorn involved heating oil in a big pot on the stove, adding the popcorn and shaking the bejesus out of the pot until the popping stopped. It took forever, your arms fell off and there was considerable skill involved to pop all the corn, but not burn it at the very last second. It was exhausting.
  • Making a carbon copy with real carbon paper- Many an essay had to be typed using messy, smudgy, soul-destroying carbon paper. (I once had someone younger than me ask what did "CC" mean on an e-mail, and I said it stood for "carbon paper" and she asked what that was and I replied "Satan's plaything.") For those of you who have never had to wrestle with carbon paper, it was this black paper you put in behind the page you were typing, and you made an copy while you typed. Of course, getting it properly aligned was impossible, and every single mistake was cast in stone. And? Your fingers would be permanently marked with black, signalling that you were either a typist or a criminal. Or both.
  • Adjusting the tracker on a VCR- When VCRs came out they had a little knob called the "tracker" that had to be constantly adjusted in order to get the picture to be viewable. Often several times within the same movie. It was fussy work and quite a job to get it ju--u-u-ust right.
  • Use a rotary phone- My children saw one of these at my husband's aunt's house, and they asked where the "talk" button was.

Several skills that I do not possess, but which others do are:

  • My brother can develop film in a darkroom. Just try to find anyone who even knows what a darkroom is anymore.
  • My father can speak Latin. Very handy in this day and age.
  • I had a friend when I was a kid who had two older sisters who went to all sorts of desperate measures to make their hair perfectly flat and straight. (It was the late 60's) This was before blow driers or flat irons, and the two sisters used to actually iron their hair with a clothes iron (wool setting!) to achieve this. The real skill was making sure you didn't leave a dent at the top where you first set the iron down. One of them had a boyfriend who was actually pretty good at this, and they liked for him to do it. He was mortified that he was pressed into service in this manner, let alone good at it, and threatened my friend and I with all sorts of bodily harm if we ever told a single soul.
  • my mother knows how to use a ditto machine.

Even if I am the old fart in the room, I'm happy enough to never have to wrestle with at typewriter ribbon or fuss with the tracker on a VCR ever again. Technology does have it's advantages.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

How Are We Still Married?

The Mister has informed me, recently, that there is one more thing I do that he hates. Apparently, I throw out the toothpaste tube before it is completely empty, and this entirely unacceptable and wrong-headed of me, and Not To Be Borne. (He informed me by retrieving the empty-enough-tube-by-my-standards from the wastebasket in the bathroom and pointedly leaving it on the edge of the vanity.) While there is still one or two more blobs of toothpaste left in the tube, one cannot possibly throw it out.
This brings me to the inevitable conclusion that the list of things my husband does that I hate has yet another entry. That is, he is physically incapable of throwing anything away, even the things that every sane person would consider trash, and therefore leaves it to me to throw away and then complains about it. (I guess, technically, that would be three things.)

Himself has many, many fine qualities, and I am really quite smitten with him, but if I have to justify pitching one more piece of crap around here, I am really going to have the mother of all hissy-fits.
He has various reasons for not throwing things away:
1. "We might need that". Really? You think we are going to need the kid's high chair again? Because I think your new wife will probably want to buy her kids a new one. And the broken patio umbrella? Perhaps we can use that for a tv antenna, or lawn art. And how about all the jars in the fridge with a smidgen of jam or mustard or hoisin sauce on the bottom...we keeping those for a special occasion?
2. "What if we have to return it?" This excuse is for boxes. We keep every box we ever got anything in, even if we no longer have the thing that originally came in the box. "You can always use a box", is the other reason. (Well, Toby can always use another box.)
3. (And my personal favourite)"It might be worth money someday". The Mister is still mad that his mother threw out a whole whack of baseball cards he had as a kid, and assuredly would have paid off our mortgage by now. So, I have to fight to the death to throw out anything that could possibly be of any value in the future. I'm confident that tossing the Freddy Fender album and the cowboy boots from the Carter administration were still a good idea, but Himself is ready to hold it over my head when I am proved wrong.

So, this morning, I thanked the Mister for showing me the error of my ways, and for teaching me a Very Valuable Lesson About Thrift and Economy. And then I threw out the toothpaste tube when he had gone to work.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Not The Answer I Was Expecting.

When I went to hairdressing school, back in the mid-80's, I got a bit more of an education than just how to cut hair. My hairdressing school was in a bit of a rough area of town, and we often had people come in who I did not usually encounter in my day-to-day life in the north end suburbs of my white-bread and Velveeta city.
In the morning, we had class time, whereby the teachers lectured, and then we had practical, hands-on training in the afternoon.
One morning, the topic under discussion was how to talk to clients in a professional, mature manner. We were cautioned not to talk about religion or politics, and to keep the details of our latest breakup/eviction/"Girls Nite Tequila Shot-a-Thon" to ourselves. We were encouraged to ask the client open-ended questions, to get them to talk about themselves and also, to keep the conversation geared to innocuous, benign, lily-white topics.

That afternoon, my first client was a young man, about my age. Taking the morning's advice to heart, I asked him if he grew up locally, and he said yes. Trying my best to keep the conversation going, I asked where he went to high school; this city's not too big, and since we looked to be of the same vintage, perhaps we had some acquaintances in common. He replied that he hadn't gone to high school.
I said "really, I thought everyone had to go to high school.".
To which he flatly replied "Not if you killed a guy, you don't."

And I stopped talking after that.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Things My Husband Does That I Hate

A few days ago I posted a bit about Things I Do That I'm Pretty Sure My Husband Hates. Lest you think that he is some long-suffering martyr who puts up with the most selfish, slovenly, surly woman God ever created, let you in on something: he's not exactly Prince Charming himself, sometimes. Although he is very easy to get along with (most of the time) and so laid back that he's been known to scrape the back of his head on the ground sometimes, he has a few habits that render me senseless with rage. Some of these he can't help, but by God, some of them he can and I know he chooses not to!

1. He has trouble with spacial relationships. "Beside" the hamper is not "in" the hamper. This also is the case with the dishwasher, the closet and the garage. For some reason, he seems to think that putting things close to where they need to go is good enough. Not so, because it is me who ends up completing the transaction.

2. He is stupid like a fox. When asked why things are where they are, which is not where they are supposed to be and usually in my way, he feigns complete idiocy and pretends he has no clue whatsoever as to what I am ranting about. He does not mind that anyone may take him for the resident moron, and knows full well that whatever it is, it is not his problem any more.

3. He never fully completes a project. If the Loudshoes family had a motto, it would be "Ut Mos Operor" ("That Will Do"). He starts a project, he gets most of the way through, until things are at least functional,(if I am lucky) and then just..... stops. (Drywall seems to be the Mister's kryptonite, because that is usually where the project comes to a complete and utter halt and remains, in suspended animation, for another couple of years.) Sometimes, the project only gets to the "buying all the new stuff" phase before being ignored completely. I have no doors on a cupboard in the kitchen and several large sheets of maple in the downstairs hallway for about eight years now.

4. He sniffles. I know the poor man has allergies and can't help the way he feels but OH MY GOD the sniffling in the morning enrages me to the point where I find myself thinking, seriously thinking, of where I could reasonable hide the body.

5. He hates rice pudding, bread pudding, coffee and Kalamata olives. Now, you would be hard pressed to find a easier person to feed that Himself. I mean, he's eaten almost every single thing I've ever put in front of him, even stuff I couldn't choke down myself. But he hates four of the things I love most in the world.

6. He cannot be early for anything. I grew up in the House of the Hyper-Punctual. If you were late for anything, the hounds of hell would be unleashed on your head. This has rendered me a mite particular about being on time. The Mister has a much, much more cavalier attitude towards punctuality, and it makes my head burst into flames. I've cured him of the most egregious lateness (i.e. stepping into the shower at the precise time we were supposed to be arriving somewhere), but he still cannot seem to get himself out the door with any margin for error. We arrive everywhere at the last possible second, me in a funk and him clueless as to why. The concept of actually being early for something is completely out of his imagination.

He does have many, many positive attributes (he can do math in his head, he can open jars, he is kind and doesn't spit and he makes a very good show of listening to me), so if this is the worst I can come up with, I think we're doing okay. You may need to ask him about that, though.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Christmas Gifts From Kelly

Kelly has the dubious distinction of being by oldest friend. Not that she is ancient or a senior citzen or anything; "oldest" in the sense of being in my life the longest of anyone other than my family. Kelly and I met in kindergarten, in Sister Doris's class. (Sister Doris went on to some noteriety after having taught us. She left the convent and wrote a racy autobiography. I'm sure we had nothing to do with either decision.) I moved away in Grade 6 and we met up again in Mr. Wilson's Grade 9 geography homeroom, and have been unable to leave each other alone ever since.

Somewhere along the line, we started to give each other ridiculous presents for Christmas, and Kelly and I have maintained an enthusiasm for this tradition all these years. (Kelly does have an unfair advantage, because she goes to Tennesee once a year, and the shopping there is like nowhere else.)
Among other things that Kelly has given me are:

-A vial of dirt from Graceland

-An inflatable Mona Lisa

-A bust of Henry XIII that sings "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am!"

-A little statue of a lady made out of a lobster shell. Someone had taken apart a lobster, and then put it back together as a Southern Belle. Why, we will never know.

-A coffee mug with pictures of all the U.S. presidents on it that plays "The Star Spangled Banner" when you expose the bottom of the mug to light. In other words, every time you pick it up.

-Bob Hope's head made out of popcorn. (At one point, Kelly and her sister decided that I was a closet Bob Hope fan, and from then on I got all sorts of presents consistent with my alleged ardor. Once they even made a huge Bob Hope head out of paper-mache and then made a friend of theirs wear it around their place and then took pictures of it and made a scrapbook entitled "Bob Hope Visits the Farm". I cannot begin to tell you how spectacularly wonderful that book was. I still have it, somewhere.)

-A Mister T. soap-on-a-rope. ("I pity the dirt!")

This year we were not able to exchange gifts until recently, because the weather had thwarted us continually since Christmas. But this past weekend, it was Christmas all over again! This year, I got:

-A poster of all the First Ladies, starting with Herbert Hoover's wife, Lou, and ending with Barbara Bush. Presumably, they'd update it if given the chance.

This beautiful sewing pattern for a men's leisure suit, straight out of 1973. I could make it for the Mister!

-A book about the history of "Air Force One", the plane, not the movie.

-A book made up entirely of front pages from various newspapers around the world from the day the Pope died,

This charming box of Christmas card, inexplicably featuring
drunken monks. (How festive!)

This book, entitled "72 Sure-Fired Ways of Having Fun" and then the subtitle is "The Life of the Party". It is filled with suggestions for groan-worthy party games which were clearly intended to make your guest go home as soon as possible. The activities are likely designed for a pre-technological age, because I cannot imagine anyone else putting up with these unless there was absolutely no television to turn on. You can see from the woman on the cover's near hysteria that these games are not for the faint of heart.

Just for the record, I gave her a can of "Ninth Symphony Bean Mix" ("Eat and music will follow!" the can suggested, jauntily.) and a mouse pad with a picture of her sister wearing a cactus hat we had made her for her birthday last summer. Also, some picture books about some shows that were bad in the '80s and no better now, and folk music. Her sister got some excellent slippers that were obviously made for an elf, complete with curled up toes and bells, and a CD of "truck-drivin' hits!" that we had to play in the car on our way to dinner.

Merry Christmas.