Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Touristing in O-Town

Wrapping up the maternity leave experience, and also having talked too much about the wonders of Ottawa for the past three years, the kidlets and I headed downtown for some out-and-abouting, while we could.

Mostly photos follow.

Though still a far cry from the Best Tulipfest Ever ("I love you, Shawn Desman!")(were there, possibly, too many slushie drinks?)(NEVER!!!), we managed to go three times over the two-week festival to partake in tunes, tulips, and tiptoeing.

There was music, people, and grass statues, most notably, a Very Hungry Caterpillar. And on the last day of the festival, it had sprouted butterfly wings!

During a pause in the live music (I believe it was India's Nomadic Orchestra of the World that day), Ailsa considers a future in politics.

She decided it was more fun to dance with Daddy.

The scene of the crime; where it all began. That's Vaughn, checking out a tulip statue. God, he is soooo clingy.

Ailsa is happily oblivious to the giant spider behind her. Vaughn is just realizing...

Actually, we looked through wedding photos a few weeks ago, and he was very interested in seeing this statue.

On the way up Murray Street, he told a man that he was going to see a giant spider, and the man said, "Do you know what it's name is?" Vaughn said, "Maman." Silly man, you are speaking with no mere mortal!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Karen vs the Dandelions (aka Little Yard of Horror)

I. Hate. Dandelions.

As a lawn-owner for less than 2 months (lawn under snow doesn't count), I was very excited and happy about the idea of nurturing millions of wee little grasslings to their full, green, lush, grassy potential.

As soon as the snow was all melted, I surveyed my smallish backyard, and got prepared. "I will have a beautiful lawn within 2 years!" I vowed. I avidly googled "spring lawn care", raked up the thatch, applied the right kind of fertilizer at the right time, and researched nifty little push-mowers* that we could buy.

So imagine my consternation when I first noticed a few innocent dandelions popping their unassuming little yellow heads out of my lush-green-carpet-to-be.

No worries! I grabbed a great big edger and dug them up. I threw them into the garden patch, to deal with later.

The next day, I noticed a few more. Unsure of the wisdom of digging large holes in the lawn for every dandelion, I took a nice little garden trowel, and dug up some more. And the next day, more. Everywhere I looked, there was a little nest, with one sleeping little bud, ready to take over the entire planet.

Dandelions are insidious things. They play nice, with their cute yellow flowers and fun, fluffy tops that are oh-so-delightful to blow, make wishes on, etc. However. They're tricky. They pull out very easily, as if to say, "Ok, ok, you got me." But the ones that don't put up a fight at all have just broken off, leaving inches of root below the surface, which will spawn a new plant overnight! Grr.

Have you ever pulled out an entire dandelion root? Most of the ones I've gotten are at least 6 - 10 inches long, and those ones often still look "broken" at the bottom, meaning that I didn't get it all.

I once spent a full day trying to dig up a bed of day lilies, and by the end of the first hour, I was convinced that they were aliens - the far-reaching length of the roots, the ease with which they just break off, happy to start again, the clusters of little alien-like pods... I still shudder to think of it.

Dandelions are like that, to me. The greenery blends in to my lawn perfectly, which means you can only see them if you comb through the grass like a lunatic (which I do, now) while your children... well, I don't know what my children are doing: I'm looking for dandelions, dammit! The little nests remind me of little Audrey Twos, all getting ready to grow and grow until they're big enough to eat me and ruin my Somewhere That's Green. I have filled bucket after bucket of dandelions, with as much root intact as possible, to throw into my composter, and do you know what? When I open the lid, there are hundreds of dandelions still growing. In the dark.

Now perhaps I'm a little off-balance to take this as a personal vendetta, but I was lucky enough to be able to convince one of my P.O.W.s (Prisoners of Weeding) to tell his side.

Dandelion Representative: Me not tipe good. Littel redhed try to kill us with shuvel and buckit, but we win! Ha ha ha...ha! Take over plannit! Ha ha ha!

That's quite enough of that. I suppose that, if I must, I could follow some culinary advice from Doug Green:

Treat the young leaves of dandelions as you would spinach. It can be used fresh or stir-fried and I'm told they taste best when they are grown in the shade and are blanched. Slice the roots and peel them; they can be eaten raw in salads or roasted/fried as part of a vegetable dish.

The yellow blossoms can be eaten fresh, fried, mixed into breads or made into wine.

Dandelion leaves can be made into a health tea and the roots dried and ground up for coffee (like chicory).

Just to make your day, the plant is a fine source of iron, copper, potassium and half as much phosphorus as spinach and twice that of cabbages. It has the same calcium content as spinach and is an excellent source for Vitamin A and C. The roots are said to be a digestive stimulant.

Dandelion representative
: Um, wait... Redhed frend?

*A note on push-mowers: not only are they cheaper than gas or electric, but you get a light workout, and the thwack-thwack-thwack sound is oddly satisfying, as is the feeling of moral superiority one gets when one uses a push-mower. Hey, I search out moral superiority where I can.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Well, That's an Odd Thing to Say

So, I've been thinking a lot about Alanis, recently (see blog title, above).

She's of my generation, and of my city, but removed. That is, she went to high school with some of my friends, and that was my link to her. I heard that she sang at every talent show. I didn't see her stint on You Can't Do That on Television (somehow; I must have seen every other episode), I didn't get or like "Never Too Cold", or whatever song that was, didn't think she was that special, and, frankly, was horrified that she was chosen to play God in Dogma.*

Once, in university, in the middle of the day, four of us drove to the Hershey factory, and Adam, who was sitting in the back seat, said, "I'm the Alanis in the green sweater!" We all laughed like maniacs.

I took some yoga classes from her mother, which was kind of cool to say, and I knew that she had bought a condo in a new highrise, which I called "the Alanis building" (later to be rebranded "the Belinda Stronach building" when US-worthy political scandal occurred). I also followed, with some interest, her engagement to Ryan Reynolds, and pictures of her on a beach with Matthew McConnaughey.**

All this to say is that she had some relevance, some kind of background presence throughout my teen-and-university-and-beyond years, but nothing of much admiration.

So, nobody was more caught off guard than me that I wanted her "new" Jagged Little Pill album. I had bought her original album way back during the BMI years, and it was probably a last-minute-I-need-an-eleventh-album choice. But I was surprised at how much I liked it, and how it's stood up to the test of time, in my playlist, anyway.

Ok, give me some rope here. If I may, I'd like to call it one of the defining albums of my generation - it has soul, it has history, it's catchy, it's raw, and it's relatable, despite its being allegedly inspired by a relationship to Dave Coulier.***


What kind of delusional self-importance could she possibly have, to release the exact same songs, only ten years later -- but this time played acoustically! -- and expect people to pay for them?

And what kind of chump am I to have walked into her little trap?

The kind with a gift card, of course.

Despite all that, I have to admit that I LOVE it. The songs, the lyrics, the sounds still resonate with me. It's a brilliant re-imaging of her earlier work, and it comes across as sadder, wiser, but still torn inside. It's beautiful.

And to me, that's ironic, don't you think?****

* Really? Of everyone on the planet, they chose Alanis? Really?

** Note to self: never get photographed in a bathing suit beside Matthew McConnaughey. There is nobody that could look good standing beside that man.

*** Really? Dave Coulier? Really?

**** Well, more ironic than Ironic, anyway.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Halifax Huffs

We managed to get away for a "last hurrah" before my dreaded/anticipated* return to work, to visit my extended family (and a few good friends) out East.

The birdbaths in the background are dedicated to my grandfather and great-grandfather.

We were so lucky and grateful to be able to impose on our good friends, Cathy and Aaron, and their beautiful son, Chase, for two days of room and board, and my Aunt Chook and Uncle Ron for the other two.

We managed to get to the Halifax Public Gardens (which was designed by my great-grandfather, dontcha know) the first afternoon we were there. It was a windy walk there, but we had a good 40 minutes or so to stroll through the starting-to-burgeon grounds, chase some birds, get told to stop chasing the birds by a guy in a golf cart, and drink a nice cuppa before the skies opened up and we were absolutely drenched in a raining-sideways-so-you-can't-even-see way. We dashed/squelched about halfway back (all three kids were in strollers, so they were fine), then the weemen and children took shelter while the menfolk ran the rest of the way home and returned with their respective Subarus.

We had a nice dinner with a wee bit** too much wine, and got to bed late, but able to join my Aunt Mary Jean for a Cora's breakfast the next morning. We met up with Lisa and MISTER MADER! for dinner, and Aaron and Cathy were gracious to invite them back to continue the shenanigans, after a crazy tubtime with Chase, Vaughn and Ailsa. Poor Chase did not get the relaxing bath he was expecting... I think it was probably the loudest, most exciting bath of his life, in fact!

Move over, Schroeder.

Saturday morning, we headed over to my grandmother's new place for a nice little visit, and somehow, it was still standing after the Vaughnster's explorations! We then took a lovely walk in the sunshine (FINALLY) to a playground, where we met up with Aaron's little brother and his family, and Amy and her family too!

After we packed up and gave effusive thanks to Chase for his hosting-with-the-mosting, we headed out to Prospect to begin phase two of our vacation: Karen's family. (dun dun dun) Chris, of course, was all aflutter with anticipation, as he gets.

It was just as lovely - a warm welcome from Aunt Chook and Uncle Ron, a good dinner (Vaughn finally got the pork chops that he'd been asking for, for months!), and a nice bit of catching up with Aunt Mary.

Sunday was cool, but we took Vaughn for a walk down to the lake, then to peek over the hill at the A-frame (when we win millions, it will be mine, all mine!), before the cold wind raced us back.

The influx of family started around 3, and soon the house was full of aunts, uncles, cousins, and cousins' kids, which was amazing - Vaughn was so proud to be able to play in the basement with the big kids, and without Mommy and Daddy (he sent us back upstairs) - it was so wonderful to catch up with everyone. A delicious potluck followed, and before we knew it, the kids were in bed, and we were packing up to leave the next morning.

It was a whirlwind, and I can't believe we actually saw almost everyone we had planned to see. I also can't believe how well-behaved our children are when they're not at home.

*depends on the day, natch.

** wee bit, in this case, is defined as "more than 4 bottles, causing one to be too hungover to drag oneself out of bed in time for the Royal Wedding".

Monday, 9 May 2011

Ok, it wasn't THAT bad, but...

... the idea of that cake has had me laughing for about 4 days, so I had to do it.

Saturday night, Ailsa went to bed (after vomiting her entire day's worth of food as well as two large men's) with a high fever. How high, I don't know, because I am not about to get an "accurate" read on a baby, if you know what I mean. I put the thermometer under her arm, and it registered 101, which means it was at least that. Woo. Tylenol, fluids, fluids, fluids.

And not much sleep for either of us, again.

Mother's Day morning was fine. My gift to myself was a full day of disposable diapers! Yaaaay! Vaughn requested toast, so we all had a nice breakfast, and Ailsa, though a little dopey (and sneezy and sleepy and grumpy), managed to put away half a piece of raisin toast as well as her cereal and banana. Well.

While she was "napping" (much like her "sleeping", it involves brief stretches of unconsciousness, with intervals of coughing followed by screaming in indignation and anger that she feels so lousy) (she gets that from her father), Vaughn and I went head to head a few times, with him ending up sobbing, "I want to be a good boy, Mommy." Rrrrr...he knows what to say, that's for sure.

We packed snacks, headed out to Walmart, and I noted that Ailsa, though still cute, now sort of looks like E.T. at the end of the movie, when he's all pale and sickly. It's those big eyes, or something. Anyhoo, I had decided that we'd have a nice lunch somewhere. The lineup at Cora's was crazy (this was at 12:30), so we headed to Swiss Chalet.

The kids were absolutely angelic, and Vaughn was true to his word. He ordered his lunch from the pictures on the kids' menu, and was a perfect gentleman. Well, except for the repeated attempts to drink his dip or eat it with a spoon. Anyhoo. Ailsa ate shared bits from my plate, and was wan, but cheerful. Despite having the best-behaved children in the whole chalet, I could tell that the waitstaff felt a bit sorry for me, especially when I ordered myself a glass of wine. Hey, it was after noon.

The rest of the day was pretty good; they played well together, my 20-minute nap was enjoyable (kaff), dinner wasn't bad (Ailsa wasn't really into my gourmet baked-chicken-with-salsa-and-cheese and steamed peppers, but ate her baked potato and a bunch of pineapple), and the cake was a hit with the Vaughnster. He even got to eat a flower!

Bathtime was as fun as always, with added bubbles for excitement. Ailsa was thrown into bed immediately, and was quiet for almost 20 minutes before the screaming re-started, leaving me with the dilemna: screaming child calms down when I put my hand on her, but then I can't fold laundry/do the dishes/take out the garbage/recycling/green bin/compost/eat more cake.

This has been a really rough week. After Thursday night's ER visit, and no more than a few hours of continuous sleep every night and a maximum of 20 minutes of a nap since, I'm totally falling apart. I'm tired. I'm cranky. I'm trying hard to be a good mom, but I really don't feel like it. I'm sick of the screaming and crying, the snot and vomit and poop, the constant battles with a two-year-old.

But Ailsa is still delightful and has a few new tricks (will post later) and Vaughn is incredible, when he's not being a stinker. He got a handful of skittles as his treat after lunch, and he held one up and told me it didn't have an "s" on it. WHAT THE...??? This afternoon, he took his rubber boots and tried to blow them up, just to make Ailsa laugh. They ARE really great kids, and just love each other, and me, so much, but I need a break.

Cake for breakfast? Yes please!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Hey, thanks, karma.

Ok, so lesson learned: never call a challenge out to the universe, such as ending a blog post with "what's next?", which I did yesterday.

The universe, of course, responded with LOTS AND LOTS OF VOMIT! Take that! Ha!


Friday, 6 May 2011


Imagine: just last night, I was sitting down to the computer, deciding that I needed to add an entry to the blog, and considering the many topics I could write about -- our recent and wonderful trip to Halifax (such good times with good friends and family), the fun I've been having with Chris away (not rinsing the dishes before they go in the dishwasher), the election (the results of which we actually sat and watched all night...granted, we had dark-and-stormies in hand...), or my gardening efforts, which are enthusiastic but uneducated -- before I decided that I was just too tired to be creative and threw myself onto the couch with a mug of hot chocolate until bedtime.

At 11 (darn Mentalist drags me in every time!), I turned off the tv, put the mug (unrinsed! ha!) into the dishwasher, and headed upstairs to brush my teeth and put on my jammies. And fell into bed.

Not to sleep, however; I was too thirsty. I had taught Attack at 5:30 while a babysitter (score!) watched the kidlets, and still wasn't adequately rehydrated. But I was tired enough to debate the whole rolling-over-to-pick-up-my-water-glass question, followed by what-if-I-drink-too-much-and-then-have-to-pee deal. Important issues, indeed.

Before I know it, in my dozy, semi-conscious state, it's about 2 minutes to midnight. I think I hear Ailsa breathing, which is odd, because her door is closed, and her white noise machine (aka broken clock radio) is on. And also, hearing her breathing? But at exactly midnight (this may explain the freckle behind her left ear), she woke up loudly, with a very odd-sounding cry.

So I drag my self dizzily out of bed and stagger in to confirm that yes, I CAN hear her breathing, and that's really not a good thing. My first thought, of course, is asthma attack. Bad. I pick her up and can feel the wheezing, as well as an odd barking cough.

Mommmmm! Oh right, she's away. On a cruise. Again. Waaaaa....

To Telehealth! Luckily, the computer is still on (see Chris is away, above), so I pull up the number in seconds, and I'm transferred to Brad, a very helpful RN who hears some of her noises and tells me to run a hot shower and sit with her in the steam. Almost immediately, her breathing gets easier.

Croup, he says. He also says that she should be fine, but, since it's her first time having it and she's under a year and I'm all alone and it's past midnight and Vaughn is sleeping which means not just taking one kid into the emergency room, but waking a dragon and bringing it along too, well, heck! Go to the emergency room.


We pull into CHEO at about 12:30, then sit in the waiting room for an eternity.* Eventually, a nurse comes in and gives Ailsa an oral steroid (good for building baby biceps) (and anti-inflamm-ing bronchial tubes), that will kick in "in about 4 to 6 hours".**

Finally, we get led to an examining room, where first a resident and then a fellow poke at my less-wheezy-but-eerily-delightful baby. Vaughn is his usual personable self, despite it being now 3 am. I know that I will pay for this tomorrow.

We're home by 3:35 am, the kids are unceremoniously dumped into their beds, and I drink a full glass of water before wiping out into my big, lonely bed (snif)... to sleep, perchance to dream...

Vaughn let me sleep till 7:05. What an angel!

Ailsa's a bit fussy today, and has only had short little naps, due to her little seal cough, but is otherwise coping. Vaughn's a bit more of a Vaughnster than usual, to the point that he was whisked out of his bath before he was fully scrubbed. But they both did amazingly well last night, and I guess one day of punishment for Mom isn't too bad.

But tomorrow's another day....what's next?

* I'm not exaggerating. YOU sit in a hospital waiting room, past midnight, and watch Hannah Montana, followed by Cory in the House, and then Phil of the Future (or something), and see how quickly time passes. It doesn't.

** Note that this is still shorter than a single episode of Hannah Montana.