Friday, December 21, 2007

Thanks to Faye and Charlie Brown

As I sit here at 4:19 at work, after a day of receiving holiday cheer (some of it quite yummy... limoncello rocks!), it is nice to remember what is really important in life. This came to me from Faye, limoncello maker extraordinaire and sender of good comics:

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just read the e-mail straight through, and you'll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America Contest.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and
actress
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. They are not second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

Easier?

The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are NOT the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones who care.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My kind of place



Every day I drive home through our "infamous" neighbourhood known as the poorest postal code in Canada. 90210 it is not.

Every day I am confronted by one of my favourite buildings smack dab in the middle of it all. 380 Main Street.

Bruce Erikson Place is a residential building built as a tribute to Erikson, a long-time community activist, city councillor and downtown eastside resident.

From what I know, the building has 35 residents for low-income singles and there is a roof top garden where residents can grow their own food.

But the reason I love this building is its face. The concrete facade on the front is a life-sized, inspirational poem, with a single word etched into each balcony facing the street.

Trust.

Vote.

Hope.

Faith.

Destiny.

As I drive by I can't help but think this building has to be inspiring for the neighbours who live on the street, sleep on the street, work on the street. It is inspiring for me, even with all my fortunes, for my life has been very fortunate.

I am reminded by a woman I met who had the word "STRENGTH" (yes - all in bold caps)tattooed on her back as a constant remind of her inner strength and abilities.

Strength.

Dignity.

The Erikson building is public art, creature comforts, nourishment, home and hope for many.

Share.

Courage.

What a legacy indeed. Pure poetry.

Now I've really screwed him up

I came home yesterday to my youngest son.

"Merry Christmas Mommy," he said.

"Christmas was yesterday," I said, "and next week. So today is boxing day and there are still 7 more days until Christmas."

That's the trouble when you disrupt the natural order of things. So far, we have had two Christmas dinners and there is one more next week. I guess you could say that would be the real one... sort of.

Oh, but that night we will be having roast beef and yorkshire pudding.

Chaos I tell you, absolute madness.

I love it!

Friday, December 14, 2007

New BC Blog

As you know, I work for British Columbia Magazine, a great publication with a great new editors' blog. Check it out!

In case you want to know what kind of nutballs I work with, check out their profiles on the right - who likes fact-checking? Hee hee.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My Report Card

Further to my last post, I just checked my "Resolution Book" to see how I have been doing this year with my New Years Resolutions. Thankfully, I have been doing okay as there is only a mere three weeks of the year left to tackle any gaps. Not enough time to make a significant effort.

Needless to say, I won't be hitting my healthy weight goal this year. Unless I stuff the turkey down the toilet and ring in the new year in the hospital after a day of cosmetic surgery. No problem, I've had happy days over the last year saying "yes" to another glass of wine with friends. (And don't even get me started on the chocolate - yum!!)

Usually, I hit about 80% of my goals. This year, I have hit 10 of the 12, missing the healthy weight and the goal of hiring a cleaning lady. Oddly enough though, the house has been cleaner, in our creative clutter kinda way.

What did I achieve?

My writing goal: over 157 blog posts on tunicate, and many more at work. I joined a writers group and would have had a story published if the diving magazine didn't decide to shut down and get out of Dodge.

My photography goal: finished a course at Emily Carr, 4 photos published in magazines, more published on the web, photo books and most importantly, a vast collection of family photos I love. The best part of the year was making a family photo book for my mom and dad.

Go on a trip by myself, for myself: okay, so speed-touring through the Kootenay Rockies with 7 of my co-workers might not be going by myself, but the end result was the same - a little adventure, a lot of fun.

Ride bike to work at least once: thankfully I added at least once, as I made it twice. Whew!

And my personal favourite, spend good quality time with the kids and Tony: checked last night, they still like us and still think we are fun, exciting parents. Yah!!

I won't bore you with the rest. But if there is anything in life you want to do, but just can't find the time or inclination to get started, I urge you to write the goal down. There is something about writing something down and sharing it with a friend or loved one, that eventually leads you to getting it done.

Comments to myself: Good effort and achievement. Good enough for this year!

Fully Meeting Expectations

I always loved getting report cards. There is something very satisfying about getting feedback and showing progress. I still have all my report cards from elementary school, thanks to my mom for keeping mementos.

Well, we just got the first report cards of the year from the kids - both excellent. Paris got 97% in Business Ed, no surprise there. And the little guy (who is fast becoming not such a little guy anymore, even wearing his brothers jacket from last year) got a bunch of "fully meeting expectations" and "exceeding expectations."

But as a parent, it is the comments that I love best, and I take them to heart as a report card of how I have been doing as a parent:

  • Interacts cooperatively with others - is friendly, kind, and helpful
  • Follows safety rules and displays proper behaviour in class
  • Stays on task when working independently
  • Identifies foods that contribute to healthy living
  • Describes the difference between individual needs and wants

As for Paris (not as many comments for the high schoolers, sad but understandable):
  • Words hard and has a good attitude
  • A pleasant and positive participant in class
  • Excellent effort and achievement
  • Homework has not always been completed (oops, maybe I need to start asking about homework again).
Words to make any parent proud, regardless of marks.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Hands&Feet

So, mere months after Paris and Michael stopped blogging on Funnymunny, they finally received their first $100 paycheck from Google (not an easy task), and wouldn't you know it, decided to start up a new blog.

This one is called Hands&Feet, and I must admit I like the content better, so far.

Arguments about McDonald's, discussions on trans fat, Facebook, Spice Girls, and even a blog about a $7 million Rolls Royce, for those of you liked the Ritchie Rich side of Munnybagz.

I like this line from their first post: "But sometimes while I'm walking, I can almost hear my feet saying, give me a voice!"

So there you go.

Let's see if they can keep on walking this time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Stress Break

I just read this and kinda like it:

Take stress seriously.
Take a break.

In this case, a blog break.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Friends in need

Last night, at 11:15 pm, I came home from a great Christmas party to a message from a few friends who needed help moving today. After multiple trips to their public storage locker yesterday, they realized they just weren't going to get everything done in time without a large van, which we just happen to have.

Of course I could help, but I hesitated for a few minutes. It's pretty late, I thought. Should I call and wake them up? My husband assured me that they would be awake, and he was right. (Moving kinda screws up the sleep schedule.)

So today, after dropping off the first load, returning the cooperative network car, feeding her baby, and packing up the second load, my girlfriend and I had a chat about friends helping friends. Turns out both of us have friends that don't want to call us to help because they think we are too busy, which drives both of us nuts.

The reason you call people friends is because you get along and because you help each other out . I want to help my friends. It makes me happy. Call it Mother Theresa syndrome if you must, but helping people with their lives helps me fulfill mine.

So, to all my friends out there, if you ever want help, even if it means you want a friend to help go for a walk, or drink a bottle of wine, or bake cookies, or babysit the kids, or mark tests, or paint walls, or fly to Vegas, or cry on my shoulder, or drive boxes to your storage locker, or talk until 3 am, or go dancing, or whatever, please call!

I'm not as busy as you think.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christmas the way it was meant to be

Every year, for the last decade, I have been getting a bit more sceptical of Christmas, and a bit more appreciative and traditional. Sound contradictory? You bet - welcome to my life.

I loath Christmas for it's commercialism, and cringe at the commercials that tell us it's all about "getting", so get one for yourself, NOW, before all the mad Christmas shoppers get a bigger, better one for you.

But slowly, over the years, as I have traded bought presents for made presents - or even better, made presence - I have come to like the holidays more and more. This year, so far at least, Grinch be damned, I feel that the good side is finally taken over from the bad side. Whoville is in the house! The force is with me.

Here is what I like about the holidays:
- my husband's annual birthday party, which is all about getting together with friends and just happens to be before Christmas
- donating to our favourite charities, a family affair
- writing letters to our sponsored children in Mongolia and Tanzania
- the first snowfall when we meet our neighbours on our local sledding hill. Yes, we can walk there, and it's fabulous walking in the snow at night
- being invited to holiday parties to spend good time with good friends
- our annual staff parties - time spent with friends away from the boardroom
- grrls gift exchange - homemade presents under $10
- the kids and cousins running around the house before turkey dinner
- memories of Christmas eve on Gordon Street - what Christmas will always means to me
- rye and ginger, my holiday drink since I was 12
- my mom's crescent moons, lemon tarts, sugar cookies, rum balls, nanaimo bars, chocolate covered cherries, etc, etc
- quiet Dec 24 dinners with the inlaws - picnic style in front of the fire
- opening the stocking and finding a mandarin orange, a magazine, and chocolate
- making presents for the all the kids in my life
- old t.v. specials - Frosty, Rudolph, the land of the misfits, the Grinch, Charlie Brown
- wrapping presents
- hugs when all the presents are open

So here is what I have figured out. If you just keep everything about Christmas, but remove the buying, it is a wonderful event. Which leads me to this...

A list of things you can choose to replace the buying.

But don't get me wrong. I am all in favour of buying the RIGHT things. As written by Chicken-Scratch about the Adbusters Buy Nothing Christmas campaign, "Buy Nothing Christmas is not really about refusing to spend a dime over the holiday season. It’s about taking a deep breath and deciding to opt out of the hype‚ the overcrowded malls‚ and the stressful to–do lists. It’s about reminding ourselves to really think about what we are buying‚ why we are buying it‚ and whether we really need it at all."

I love what I bought for my youngest son - a $6.95 present he has wanted for months, and will love, no, really, LOVE! And I equally love what I picked up for free for Paris. I love what I made for all of my nieces and nephews and grrlfriends. I love what I have picked out to buy for my mom.

Every year, I try to add a bit more meaning to Christmas and a bit less buying. Last year, we added a toboggan party on Mount Seymour. The year before I donated a bit more to local charities. The year before I stopped sending Christmas cards, but phoned friends instead.

This year, I will try my hardest to not watch any commercials on t.v., listen to commercials on the radio, read advertisements in the papers, or flip through any holiday flyers. Christmas is so much nicer when you pay attention to friends and family and select gifts for them, as opposed to reacting to advertising.

A little bit here, a little bit there.

Ho, ho, ho, off we go!

Squamish Valley Wildflower

This was once my favourite photo:


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Today

Some days you are the pigeon, and some days you are the statue.

Today, I feel like the people in the piazza watching the antics.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Elvis is in the house!

I bumped into another mom from my younger son's school the other day. She said that all the girls just love him...

"Yep, the girls love it when he gets on the back of his dad's motorbike for a ride home. They think he's hot," she said.

"The other day," she continued, "while he was leaving the parking lot, the girls chased him down the street, shrieking like he was the second coming of Elvis. Eeeeeek! Ha ha."

Oh dear. Elvis is in our house.

Kinda also makes me wonder what all the moms think of my husband (yes it's true - there are still way more mom's picking up than dad's). I wonder if they watch him ride off too. I'll wait to see if he sports a pompadour any time soon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This is juicy

Found this yesterday. I kinda like it. Make-at-home JacksonPollock art. Just move your cursor and click.

Here is my "painting."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

All about the shiny, shiny

"Stop Mom, there is a wish on your cheek." My younger son gently lifts my stray eyelash onto his finger and tells me to blow.

"What did you wish for?" he asks.

Of course, I believe in wishes coming true. Especially if you share your wish and allow others to help you make it come true.

"I wish that we will be the happiest family for ever and ever," I reply.

"Oh, shiny, shiny. I just need shiny Pokemon," he says rather excitedly, the water in our bathtub swirling and threatening to spill onto the floor.

"How will shiny Pokemon make our family happy?" I ask

"Well, shiny, shiny makes me happy. And if I'm happy, you're happy, right Mom?"

Hmmmmm.... he's got a point. Shiny, shiny it is then.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

7,700 computer viruses

A friend recently brought her computer to the doctor only to find out it was infected with 7,700 viruses. I must admit I laughed loudly at this. 7,700 viruses! That's a lot.

Later, I thought about the human body, and it's capacity to be inflicted with viruses, and well, other stuff. Here's what I found. According to Wikipedia, the human body is estimated to contain 500 to 100,000 different species of bacteria. Of which, each species can have millions of occurrences. That's a lot too.

Many of these bacteria live in the intestines and can be referred to as gut flora. I kinda like that. Makes me think of little Dr. Seuss plants living inside me. And maybe even little Dr. Seuss people, like from Who-ville in "Horton Hears A Who!"

Yesterday, I took our inside bowl of compost to our outside bucket of compost, which I then emptied into our backyard compost bin. The buckets had turned liquid inside. Gut flora indeed! Those little bacteria buddies have been busy! Forget gut flora, let's talk about gut rot. I barely managed to get away from the stench before heaving my 100,000 bacteria species onto the lawn. Okay, so I didn't thrown up, but my insides were more than ready for the launch of lunch.

Moving rapidly away from bacteria, I have been having trouble figuring out just how many virus strains are evident in flu vaccines, and therefore, injected in humans every flu season. But I did read this morning (again, Wikipedia) that the flu vaccine is usually grown in fertilized chicken eggs. Gut flora, again, and a strong enough visual to make me not want to get eggs benny for brunch.

So appetite gone, I am going to go brush the 40,000 bacteria on my tongue, then sit down with the 100,000 species of bacteria in my body, to see how many thousand of viruses are on my computer.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lego, Playdough, and Paint

Earlier this week, both my boys needed help with homework.

Grade 1: read out loud in french...mais oui!

Grade 8: build a Lego structure, cover it in tinfoil, paint it with bright colours, make a few playdough eyeballs and worm looking things, paint them too. Look Mom - it's a biological cell!

Hmmmm... makes you think doesn't it.

Please write for what's right

I wrote this letter today (below) and sent it to both David Emerson, MP and Stephen Harper, PM. I thought if you had time and inclination you could take a few minutes to copy and paste it into a few letters as well. A simple and easy present for people around the world. I was inspired by attending a recent conference where Mia Farrow spoke about her eight visits into Sudan / Chad. As she said, "things are getting worse, not better."

For more information:
Mia Farrow: http://miafarrow.org/
BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3496731.stm
MSF / DWB: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news/2007/10-25-2007_2.cfm

*****************************************

Hon. David Emerson, P.C., M.P,

I write to appeal to you, on humanitarian grounds, to put forward every effort Canada can muster, to:
  • put an end to the genocide in the Sudan and neighbouring countries
  • support displaced peoples with food, shelter, and health care
  • shelter women from rape, children from violence, and all victims from indignation
  • support NGO's in the good work they are doing now to provide care and comfort like no other organization can
  • ensure we no longer tolerate another Rwanda
As a member of your Vancouver Kingsway constituency, I assure you the importance of stopping senseless violence against innocent people around the world is as important as stopping the senseless violence happening on Vancouver's streets today. We are all people of this world, and I request the Canadian government do more for the people of Sudan.

Sincerely,
Me

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Don't call child services

This morning, my youngest son declared that he would not be going trick-or-treating tonight.

"I don't want to get any candy because then I will get cavities," he said.

What is a parent suppose to say to that? "Oh hogwash, you HAVE to eat candy - it's Hallowe'en!" or "Don't worry about cavities, everyone has them these days." or "Why don't you just go get the candy and then Daddy and I will eat 'em up for you. We like cavities."

No, being a good parent, I tell him he can stay home with me and hand out the candy. Meanwhile my inner voice is shouting to him "Are you crazy? Go get the loot!!"

Upon hearing this story, my coworker says he is going to call child services on me. "What kind of parent has one kid that likes to give out financial advice and another that doesn't want to go out on Hallowe'en? There is obviously something wrong in your house."

Okay, so that was not a direct quote, but you get the point.

Really, we are not bad parents. We like Hallowe'en. We LOVE candy. We think it's strange for a kid to not want to indulge in candy. We also think it's a bit odd for a 12-year-old to give out financial advise (but truth be told, Paris has given that up...sort of).

Really, our house is normal. We play on the computer too much and wrestle in our p.j.'s. We eat too many cookies and stay up too late. We trade Pokemon cards and don't clean up our rooms. Just don't take our kids away - we will force the candy on them.

I promise.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Crying ball

After a week on the road, I came home tonight to the open arms of my younger son.

"I missed you more than a crying ball," he told me, arms wrapped around my back.

Hmmmm... that's an interesting one.

"How much does a crying ball miss me?" I ask.

"Oh, about 2,000 hours."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Green fish, brown fish

Further to my last post, I was just checking some web stats I haven't looked at before and they say that there has been 2,334 unique visits to Tunicate from 43 countries/territories around the world since January. Top 10 countries: Canada, US, UK, Australia, India, China, Malaysia, Germany, Brazil, Chile.

(Full disclosure: there have only been 5 visits each from Germany, Brazil and Chile, and only 17 from Malaysia. Who the heck is in China???)

Talk about being a wee, wee fry in a gigantic blue ocean of 1,244,449,601 internet users (according to internetworldstats.com). But you know, Tunicate is for me and my faithful reading community of 9 (hi Mom!) and I'm not trying to leave any legacy.

I like my spicy community of 9 ville just the way we are.

Big Fish, Small Fish

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.

So the conversation came up today as to whether I would want to be a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond.

I have always believed that it would be more interesting being a big fish in a small pond. Or even better, a medium fish in a well stocked, well lit, warm pool of vibrant yet laid-back, easy going life. The kind of place that still takes volunteer librarians and fire fighters but can dish out a mean curry and a spicy chai.

For some reason I have thought that life would feel more relevant if I had the opportunity to do something great in a small community. Like build a new library. Or start a new festival. Or launch a new tourism plan. Something that everyone in the community knew about and felt it was benefiting their life. A legacy to the history of Volunteerchai Village.

For some reason I have thought that the same activities in a city of 600,000 (in a region of approx. 2 million) wouldn't seem to be as big of a benefit. There are lots of libraries, festivals and plans.

Tonight, my friend Faye rightly challenged my thinking and changed my mind.

She has been working for years on building the new facilities for the Phoenix gymnastics club in Vancouver. Turns out that 6,000 people now use the new Millennium Sport Centre, including indoor bowling, kickboxing, cheerleading, "wee gymnasts" and more. It is now recognized as the best facility in Western Canada with Olympic calibre programming.

So, what makes a greater difference, helping 2,000 people in Volunteerchai Village or helping 6,000 people in Vancouver?

Red fish, blue fish. Same same but different. 6 of one, 1/2 dozen of the other. Call it what you will. The important part is contributing to your community, regardless of size, colour, or specialty. The greater difference is only make when people like Faye step up and do their part.

What have you done to step up and help your community?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Happy 12 1/2

In Canada, the big wedding anniversaries are 10, 20, 25, 30, etc, etc. Tin, china, silver, pearl...rock, paper, scissors.

In Holland, 12 1/2 is the big deal.

The theory, according to my friend William, is that 12 1/2 is half-way to 25. Supposedly, they celebrate by renting out big boats and having a dance-cruise-party with friends and family.

I kinda like that.

My husband reminds me every month (almost) of the anniversary of when we met. We are on month 146, or something like that. I kinda like that too.

I kinda like him too!! :)

Problem is, when I think of 12 1/2 years, I think of 9 1/2 weeks. Hmmm...

If you check the traditional wedding anniversary gift list, 12 is silk and 13 is lace.

12 1/2? Based on today's day and age, I don't think a steamy, hot video wrapped in lace and delivered in silk is too far off.

But just maybe not on the boat.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cars, 'Coons and Cotton

Last week I pulled a copy of Tom Wolfe's The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby off my bookshelf and sank into my Smoky-Blue Cotton-Shredded Oversize Couchy-Wouchy Smoochy-Pie for a little read.

As usual, I was sucked into Wolfe's electric descriptions of life in the 60's (I have read this book, oh, just a few times) and sank into his essay "The Last American Hero" about Junior Johnson and stock car racing, whiskey and 'coons. Real Dukes of Hazzard stuff - bootlegging moonshine, shaking off the police, and gunnin' it at dirt tracks in North Carolina before hittin' it big in NASCAR. Yee-haw!

So today I am in Oklahoma, (hey all y'all) which I know is a few states over from North Carolina and the legendary whiskey runs of Junior. BUT, wouldn't you know it, I am on a bus today heading out of Fort Sills and into Albus (huh?) and come smack dab into the middle of rural southern America with its stock car loving culture. A black Ford F150 promoting a tattoo ink shop pulls out from behind the bus and passes us in the left lane while pulling a Coke sponsored banged-up mean machine. A few more miles along three race cars rest in a yard next to a chain-link fence and a cotton field. A few minutes later we pass a Speedway promoting their crash-up next weekend. We pass lots of 'coon roadkill.

I love it when little elements in my life connect in unexpected ways. Like an omen. Like fate. Like I need to hit the racetrack. Vrroooommmm!

Then again, maybe being behind the wheel of my mini-van is just finally getting to me.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Surprise thoughts

While I was in the bathroom this morning a little sneaky boy was leaving me a surprise outside the door. He giggled, ran and hid.

I opened the door and there to my "surprise" was a pair of flip-flops.

Hmmmm...... considering it is getting colder and colder outside by the leaves-falling-off-the-tree, I-am-already-dreading-winter minute I guess you could say the love offering (for that is what I consider it) is a surprising choice. Especially since the sneaky boy went shopping with me last night for a cozy-lined pair of winter boots.

But the idea of walking around in flip-flops is a good one.

And it's the thought that counts, right.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

My favourite photo: Master 35

This was once my favourite photo.



Monday, September 24, 2007

Investor Alert

Some kids spend their weekends playing soccer, watching tv, or building forts. Paris does all this, but then also spends his time creating business opportunities, writing business plans, soliciting investors, and scoping out the best real estate to invest in.

This weekend, things got a bit serious. Along with his friend Michael, he managed to secure three investors for the purchase of an apartment. After a few days of looking at mls.ca they found a perfect apartment for sale in Tumbler Ridge. Hmmmmm...

The plan is to continue to save money until they are both 14, when they can get real jobs with real pay. Then, after six months of "hard labour" they will take their savings, finalize funding with their investors, and buy a rentable apartment. Hopefully one they can walk to.

When I was 13 I was saving money for a box of chocolates from Shoppers Drug Mart. I perhaps also saved enough to build a fort in the wooded area a few blocks from my house, provided I found the lumber and took nails from Mom's toolbox.

Yes, I fully expect one day that Paris will own at least a few homes, and rent out a few more. In the meantime, if anyone knows anyone that wants to rent an apartment in Tumbler Ridge, give us a call.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Worth the change

A friend of mine wrote this cool post about Park(ing) day in San Francisco. Very, very cool idea!!

Language tidbits

Every once in a while, I receive a folio from Masterfile, a stock photography agency. This month, a page on language, with the following facts, was included;

  • There are 6,912 living languages.
  • 516 of those are nearly extinct.
  • There are 820 living languages in Papua New Guinea (hate to see the translation guide for that country.)
  • Khmer, the world's largest alphabet has 74 letters.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been translated into 321 languages.
  • The English language has 250,000 distinct words.

The last tidbit I thought interesting was a quote from Carl Sandburg:

"Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands, and goes to work."

Friday, September 7, 2007

Sit. Stay. Good Boy.

It just started wrong.

In our haste for food, I made some easy spaghetti and called everyone to the table. Our youngest son took one look at his plate, pushed it away and said, "I'm not going to eat this." Immediate frown on his face. Immediate frown on mine. He slid around on his chair, half off, half on.

"Sit still please," I said calmly, "feet forward."

I responded to his plate maneuvering by reading out an update about the impoverished community in Ulaanbaator, Mongolia that we help sponsor (perfect timing that our update came in the mail today). The kids are happy to have a home. They are happy to have parents. They are happy to have food.

And they are thrilled when they get a nice plate of spaghetti for dinner. (At least I think they are...)

Of course, that didn't work.

Then, we began negotiations on the eating of the spaghetti and I threaten immediate retreat to the bath and bed. Off to bed for you! He complains some more and his whining voice trembles. I threaten to revoke the Pokemon cards he has been working so hard for all this week. Tears come to his eyes.

He slips out of his chair, puts his grouchy head on the table, moves around a bit more and declares that none of this would have happened if I had just made him a hot dog.

"Sit still please, feet forward." This time a command.

He squirms and slides around.

Thinking that this is just going downhill fast, I retreat.

"Okay," I say quietly, "I'll make you a hot dog." I get up and move to the kitchen.

And then, while the water was boiling I very calmly asked him to come talk to me on the couch. And then, I helped him understand how none of this would have happened if he had been polite from the beginning and just asked nicely for a hot dog, and then maybe offer his spaghetti to his brother.

He seemed to get it, but he still squirmed and slid in the couch beside me.

My philosophy on parenting is that if you get angry at your kids, and don't take the time to calm everyone down, listen and understand, explain things and then compromise, all you have done is teach your kid how to get angry. Some say I'm too easy on my kids. I say I'm raising people that know how to communicate, compromise, and keep the peace.

We said sorry and I went to finish his hot dog. We started dinner again.

This time, he said thank you for making dinner, and smiled while we talked about cats and tea, and he said thank you again, and then said thank you again. And he said yum, this is good, and pulled his plate closer.

And then he squirmed some more and slid one leg off the chair. I screwed my face up into a half smile, half frown.

"I'm just not stayable," he says, a tiny grin on his face.

Ah, the sweet sound, the sweet look, of the way things should be.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Small spaces



Paris is now in grade 8. Greatness, really. In grade 8 you get cafeterias, bus passes, cell phones, home rooms, schedules, home ec, business ed, and most importantly, lockers.

I remember my lockers. My own space, independent of my home.

I have always needed my own space. When I was 6 it was on top of a square shelf inside my parents closet. I would sit on top of the square, tuck myself in between my mom's blouses and hide. It was the seventies and peasant blouses and silk swirls of colour made my memories. My mom wore her hair permed like an Afro then.

A few years later my space became the inside of the "games" closet. I removed everything from underneath the last shelf and put my stuff in. My own phone, a suitcase that held my important stuff and was decorated with my surf stickers (not that I surfed back then, but I did see the Beach Boys live in concert when they came), my favourite big pink elephant, and my best books. In the evenings I would light a birthday candle and celebrate being me. And then chat on the phone for hours. On the shelves above, Lego, snakes and ladders, light bright, paint, rummoli, and my ice-cream-bucket collection of bottle caps kept me company.

My bathroom with its red towels and blue tiles. I would sit on the counter with my feet in the sink and indulge in a book for hours. Space.

Then came the lockers. And the lock.

My lockers were always dressed up in me. Stuff that meant something. Pictures of people, places and things. Notes. Photos. Stuff. Colour. Mood.

Small spaces grew. I moved out and into my own room in a shared house. What a big space to make mine. An old trunk in the corner, a home-made quilt on my bed, my paint on the walls. A candelabra. Bigger candles.

One room to 5 as I bought an apartment, to 10 as I moved into a townhouse. Plus an office, plus a car. More space. But in some ways, less meaningful.

It seems so much harder to make a large space yours. We have been in this house for 5 years now and there are still parts of it that belong to the old owners.

I set up my own space in a corner of this room for this computer, so I can write this blog. But it gets crowded with the paperwork that comes from being an adult in an adult life. It's also a little too exposed. I can't really hide here.

Every time I move to a new office, I promise I will make it mine. Currently, I have only managed to get a few pictures on the wall and a few plants on the desk.

Perhaps my space is now the front of the fridge. There is a lot of stuff on it. Family and friends. Places we have been, places we want to go. I even wrote a blog about it once. Notes and photos and colour and mood.

It's kinda like a locker, sort of.... Isn't it?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's all about the hardness


All alone. I often think I will be happy when I have the entire house to myself, all alone, just me.

Well, the boys packed up and heading north, pilsner and pork ribs packed up along with the mighty ax and the fire stick. I overheard my husband joking with a friend, "You aren't a man unless you have an ax," he said, laughing. But then not.

He is most manly with the ax when cutting firewood after we have been visiting my parents for a few days and we haven't had any privacy for um, well, you know...private moments. The ax is a great way to relieve energy. But, um, well, I'm not suppose to be blogging about him... Did I mention he has a machete?

24 hours all alone. Just me and the cat. And the suckerfish.

And my pack of Pocky.

Yep, Pocky. A perfect little biscuit stick dipped in dark chocolate. Yum! That is my indulgence for when the boys are away. A pocket-sized box of goodness.

Did you know that they have Pocky named for men? Men's Pocky. A dark green box filled with dark chocolate biscuit sticks. That's the difference - darker box, bittersweet chocolate.

If you know anything about me, you will probably know stuff like that doesn't sit well with me. What the *bleep* does bittersweet chocolate have to do with men vs women? Were women in Japan, where Pocky originated, not allowed to eat bittersweet chocolate? Is it one of those scotch and cigar kind of things? Or, as I read on a Japanese forum, is Men's Pocky all about the hardness of the biscuit? I suppose they expect us women to prefer the Strawberry Pocky or the Green Tea Pocky (which, I might add, is also delicious)?

I think I will spend my second night of solitude celebrating the advances of women. I will wear pants, cut my hair short, swear, hit the pub, drink scotch, light a pipe, wink at some energetic ax-owning men, and discuss politics and corporate life with a Pocky eating pal of mine.

You go grrl!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Haida Gwaii

I am still finding it hard to get back into work mode after being on the road. One road trip always leads to another, I say. Time to plan another.

Here are a few of my favourite photos from Haida Gwaii.

Sitka black-tailed deer


glowing on the dock


catch.... and release


from the Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum in Masset


from our campsite

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Let's Go for a Ride


Paris showed me this site, and then he created an incredible "line movie" around the theme of ice cream. Some people are just so damn talented. Check out of few of these.

I just went to the Monet to Dali art exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery. It was good, sure. But I know I would enjoy a Line Rider exhibit more. Wheee....

Monday, August 13, 2007

On The Road

After a few weeks on the road and after a few days of being back at home, the trip just keeps getting better and better. It's amazing how repeating the same great stories over and over helps you to forget the not-so-great stories.

"Happiness isn't something you experience; it's something you remember." Oscar Levant

I used to think that I was an easy-going positive person who loves to face adversity and adventure on the road. I am happiest when travelling with my backpack on my back waiting for the next crazy scene to show itself.

But perhaps that happiness is just a manifestation of my failing memory. Heck, if that's the case, fail, fail away.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Merily Merily Merily

I love road trips. You get to see the most interesting things. Like this Jesus bus in Washington, USA. The owner held out a can for me to give him a donation to take a photo.

I felt like I was in Asia.

I didn't give him any money and managed to get this picture.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Canditerian

Once upon a time I used to call myself a vegetarian. But really, I was the lowest of the low on that totem pole. I was a pescetarian - someone who eats fish. But really, I was a ovo-lacto-pescetarian, which means I ate eggs, milk products, and fish.

I found I had to defend my eating preferences to people all the time. I didn't really like that. I don't challenge you when you say you don't like tomatoes, do I? Nor do I get irate when I find out you don't like yams, which I adore. Eat and let eat, I say. Unfortunately, there are many a steak-eating arses out there who define themselves by the size of their steak knife and the shade of red from the blood dripping off it.

One day, I will tell you about the time I spent an entire weekend on a working dude ranch with the deli department managers from the Midwest division of Safeway, USA. These people make a living slicing meat thin.

Then, I came across a great plate of agnolotti with bits of chicken sauteed in olive oil and garlic sauce. It was actually part of my job to eat this, and after a few tries - hey Mikey, she likes it! Sshhhh...don't say that so loud.

I became a closet chicken eater. Boneless, skinless. Two words that describe my chicken of choice and also reflect back on my inability to tell anyone for the longest time. (To all of you in the closet out there for whatever reason, I understand!)

Now, 18 years later, my vegetarian ways have digressed to ovo-lacto-pesce-pollo.... heck, you can't add vegetarian to that.

I must admit I was thrilled when I heard about the word flexitarian, which I thought meant "you try to eat a vegetarian diet, but...oops...let it slip everyone once in a while and eat what you want, when you want." Basically, a picky eater. But it is a bit more limited than that, and I don't think I apply.

All I can say is thank goodness for kids. My younger son looked up at me today and said, "Canditerian."

He then giggled.

"Canditerian, canditerian, canditerian."

I don't know what brought it on, we weren't even talking about food, but out of the blue he decided he was a canditerian.

I think I am going to use that one from now on. It might be a bit easier to explain.

Forget about the steak and potatoes, pass the lollipop and licorice.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Involved in Criminal Activities

I read this today and kinda liked it. When I have more time, I will think about it a bit more.

"Our journey is about being more deeply involved in life, and yet less attached to it." - Ram Dass

When I found out yesterday that someone was once again trying to break into our house, I must admit I felt pretty attached to my home, my life, MY STUFF, and my family. Clearly, our old creaky farmhouse with its 20 year old, 400 lb t.v. and other big, bulky junk and collection of teeny worthless mementos like barnacles, bottles of sand, and books is a big attraction for someone.

I think I will think about how to more deeply involve the police and protection into my life.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Retreat Reminder

I was talking to a friend this morning about cabins. He has one. We don't.

I would love to have a cabin. A private retreat on a small warm lake that I can swim across. Complete with fire pit, treehouse, rowboat, tall cedars, swing set, bicycles, and neighbours to hang out with. Candlelight Scrabble. Kick the can in the dark. Moonlight skinny-dipping.

The problem is that we like to travel alot, and we kinda like to explore new places each time.

The other problem is that we don't really like to look after our house. The Joneses we are not. So we assume that looking after two houses (well, one house and one cabin) would just be twice as painful.

This morning my friend told us how he was up at his cabin a few weeks ago and spent 7 hours one day mowing and working on his lawn. Repeat: 7 hours.

Then he told us how recreational property in B.C. has gone up in value so much that the property taxes on his cabin now cost more than his house.

Then he told us how his wife wants to travel the world, but they feel obligated to visit "Camp Huxtable" as they call it. Granted, they do love it there.

It is nice to be reminded every once in a while of why you believe what you believe.

And I believe we will continue to enjoy our tent, rented cottages, back deck, hotel rooms, and "Camp Mom and Dad." All perfect cabins for us.

Free free to invite us to yours. We will bring the Scrabble.


p.s. Andrea & John - we still linger over thoughts of last summer at your cabin. Bliss!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It's complicated

At first, I didn't want to have anything to do with Facebook. I prefer the old fashioned way of communicating with friends. Email. (Or for those really old fashioned days, phone...and for the truly ancient traditional times, a good knock on the door and a chat on the porch.)

But now, Facebook is divulging good information, and I'm starting to like it.

Take this for example:



Sometime last night Paris's Facebook profile went from being "single" to "it's complicated with Melanie Ly" to "it's complicated."

Verified by a neighbour. Verified by Paris when I mentioned her name. Ah, that sweet summer smile.

And so life as we know it begins again.

Not so complicated after all.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

O Canadian Worms


Last week was Paris's grade 7 graduation. Of course, the ceremony opened with the singing of the national anthem. O Canada, a muffled, drawn out affair I'm sure my new-to-Canada neighbours don't enjoy singing (but translate our home and native land in to Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Hindi and I'm sure we would all make a fantastic choir).

It's a proud song, but not as proud as this new song by the Arrogant Worms that the graduating class chose to sing back in their classroom. They didn't just sing it, they belted it out with gusto, like a hockey rink on the last night of the Stanley Cup playoffs. I find it intriguing that the next generation is proud of this new, folksier ode to Canada. No thee, no thy, no glorious or guard.
Just big and brass and, well, singable.

Canada's Really Big

When i look around me, i can't believe what i see
it seems as if this country has lost its will to live
the economy is lousy, we barely have an army
but we can still stand proudly because Canada's really big
we're the second largest country on this planet earth
and if Russia keeps on shrinking, then soon we'll be first!(as long as we keep Quebec)
The USA has tanks, and Switzerland has banks
they can keep them thanks, they just don't amount
cause when you get down to it, you find out what the truth is,
it isn't what you do with it, it's the size that counts

most people will tell you that France is pretty large
but you can put fourteen Frances into this land of ours!
(it'd take a lot of work, it'd take a whole lot of work)
we're larger than Malaysia, almost as big as Asia
we're bigger than Australia and it's a continent
so big we seldom bother to go see one another
but we often go to other countries for vacations
our mountains are very pointy, our prairies are not
the rest is kinda bumpy, but man do we have a lot!
(we've got a lot of land, we've got a whole lot of land)
so stand up and be proud and sing it very loud
we stand out from the crowd, cause Canada's really big.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Neighourhood

Three days of no work.

Three days of no car.

Three days of walking to the library, showing up at backyard parties 20 doorknobs down, sleeping on the back porch lit with white lights, batting the badminton birdie in the back yard, spinning Frisbees at the local park, eating Canada Day cake a barefoot walk away, scarfing sushi around the corner from our front door, sharing dinner with the next door angel, playing with the roving kids fresh out of recess, biking to the elementary school playgrounds, renting movies and running home with them tucked under our arm, savouring picnics in the sunlight on the porch, pushing movers, chatting with block friends, walking around the hood, and discovering new candy stores with 10 cent rainbow sticks.

Simple, simple, simple life.

Three days of suiting me just fine.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sam I am

A friend of mine adopted a baby boy named Sam, who is now 5-years-old and loves to kayak.

He said to her the other day:

"Mommy, I missed you so much when I was in that other ladies tummy."

I love that. Any parent gets teary-eyed when their kids say the cutest things.

But to an adoptive parent, this one takes the cake. With the icing. And a cherry on top. Add a few rainbow-coloured sprinkles, a dollop of whipped-cream, and a sparkler.

Make that two sparklers.

Heck, make it a whole room full of sparklers.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Brands

Paris, 13 years and 4 months old:

"I don't just want a hoodie, I want a hoodie with a brand on it."

First trip to American Eagle Outfitters.

First time wearing Tommy Hilfiger (no, I did not buy the $80 shirt. I'm talking about wearing it inside the change room).

Thankfully, I haven't lost my memory and I still remember when I would only wear Keds.

I can relate.

Let's just hope I can relate for another 4 years and 8 months.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Darth Vadar, Roller Derby and Divorce

Sunday morning. Blog time. But no real inspiration. That's what happens sometimes after watching movies like Blood Diamond (my wedding band has no diamonds, whew) and the Last King of Scotland where the subject matter is more important than my safe, Canadian blog. But I still feel like writing. Instead of diving in to a dissertation on African history and economic policies, I mindlessly wander into the internet (yes, I recognize just how awful that sounds).

Today I googled "learn something new" and came across a website called How Stuff Works. Intrigued, I moved in.

I searched for "Africa" and initially was presented with safaris, photos and maps. Not very useful at all, far below the ratings I would give to the movies I watched last night. And way, way below The Covenant, a favourite book by James A. Michener on the history of South Africa .

Then I got malaria (not me, the website results), AIDS, poverty relief, Bono, Unicef, African elephant crisis, foreign aid, and Kwanzaa, which is a holiday celebrating African traditions, so we are told.

That sounds a bit more like the Africa reported in the media.

I then searched "Susan," thinking perhaps this site can help me understand how I work. My results came up as flowers, cookie recipes, teenage bedroom decorating tips, and roller-derby.

Obviously, this website knows nothing.

Search for "Life" and you get Darth Vader.

Search for "Family" and you get a blood disorder.
Search for "Friends" and you get an exercise health guide and a guide on how to raise capital by borrowing from friends.
Search for "War" and you get The Learning Channel's Junkyard Wars.

Search for "Peace" and you get car magnets, posters, the United Nations, and a Few Good Men.

Search for "The Universe" and you get language translators.

Search for "Meaning" and you get divorce.

Oh boy. I am trying to find something witty and smart to say about this. But obviously, our world is full of stuff that is just plain stupid.

Search "Stupid" and you get "Will a turkey really drown if it looks up during a rainstorm?"

Here is a real kicker, search "Diamonds" and you get precisely that, down to the right cut. A clear, concise description of everything you need to know about diamonds. But keep reading down to the bottom of the "Cutting Diamonds" section and there it is, an overview of how diamond marketing really work, Africa, cartels and all.

Now, that is some good stuff.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Tigger's a Wonderful Thing

This post may be a bit wobbly and venture off course. You see, I get motion sickness and I just got back from Playland. You do not know this, but I have already made 10 spelling mistakes while I have been writing this. My fingers are still dazed and confused, stumbling around the keyboard that just won't sit still. Back and forth, left and right, you would think I was on a schooner rounding Cape Horn.

But of course, tonight I couldn't even go on the Pirate Ship, an all-time favourite on the midway. No, by the end of ride two, the new roller coaster, my stomach was ready to give up... literally. Thankfully there was a beer garden in sight to ease my land-loving legs.

After songs from the Go-Go's and Johnny Cash (Folsom Prison Blues, no doubt), I was ready to make one last foray into the seven seas. Or at least the old roller coaster.

About 18 years ago, according to my memories, Playland was full of tight jeans, slouch bags, straight long hair, too much eye makeup, and teeny tank tops. Oddly, the lineups look the same today, like a bad reunion party from a high school group on Facebook. Yet retro cool, with Gwen Stefani belting it out while the two kids in front of us make out.

"You melt me down
I'm at my lowest boiling point
Come help me out
I need to get me out of this joint
Come on, let's bounce
Counting on you to turn me around
Instead of clowning around
let's look for some common ground"

Speaking of bounce, have you been on the old wooden roller coaster lately? Oh My God! I bounced like Tigger dancing to 'Whoop-de-Dooper Bounce.' Every twist and turn and roll and wave of that wood-stack is built to shuffle your queasy body around. Up and down, side to side. Did I mention I get motion sickness? Who cares! I was more worried about peeing my pants from laughing so much.

My friend Carla went to laughter yoga the other night. No bending, stretching, down dog or cobra, just standing around inducing laughter. Hmmm... seems kinda like throwing out the sun and veggies and popping a multi-vitamin, in my wobbly opinion. Make that class walk the plank, I say laughing to myself, and head on over to the wooden roller coaster. Best medicine I've had in a long time. Except Graval. And maybe hot pink cotton candy.

After the rides I was kinda looking to find something solid, straight and narrow, hence the theme through my images tonight. Enjoy and pass the mini donuts.







Monday, June 18, 2007

Solid Rock

Just a few pictures from a rock climbing adventure a few weeks ago. I like the first shot because it focuses on the rock, while the climbers are just blurs behind. Makes me feel as though the rock is more solid.



Sunday, June 17, 2007

Go Fish


I like playing cards, especially on rainy Wetcoast days in front of the fire with a nice cup of chai and a delicate Japanese bowl full of GORP. A day kinda like today. Well, not just kinda, more like exactly.

It is Father's Day. And my husband wanted to go fishing. So yesterday my younger son and I went to Canadian Tire and bought some fishing rods, a giant net, and a small box of tackle. This morning, breakfast done, we packed a picnic lunch, dug some worms up from the dirt around our compost, put on our hoodies, and set off to a nearby lake.

Fast-track to the lake. A small dock with some experienced fishers and us newbies. (By the way, did you know that my last name, Rybar, means Fisher in Czech? Coincidence?)

One rod didn't come with line. Another rod broke within 5 minutes. The line on the third rod became so entangled I spent twenty-minutes trying to unravel it before just cutting it loose and starting fresh. The fourth rod worked, then didn't, then worked, then didn't. Lesson of the day: don't buy fishing rods from a company whose name includes "Tire" but not "Fish."

The sandwiches were good. The weather was not. Needless to say, we packed up the tackle box less than an hour after the first worm hit the hook. Happy Father's Hour!

I like Fathers that care more about getting out than getting upset, and today Tony earned his fishing hat by being thankful of our chaotic, fishless excursion.

Back home, in front of the fire, cards dealt, my younger son says, "Ahhhh... this feels good."

"Do you have a two?" he asks, popping a peanut in his mouth.

"Nope. Go fish," I reply, slurping my chai.

I laugh. He laughs too.

We already did.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Early birthday present

Today, an old friend I haven't seen for a few years said she didn't recognize me... because I look younger.

Three days to my birthday and that is a beautiful present to receive.

I don't think I will cut my hair short after all.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

F***


I friend of mine told me today about the dictionary of the f-word. A historical reference guide from fuck to fuck and all words in between. I find it hard to believe there is an entire book dedicated to the history of one word, but there is.


Here is an excerpt from one comment posted on Amazon about the book:


"I know there are still those who consider themselves to be guardians of the English language (a lot of them being English teachers) who still take offense at the proliferation of the word. I'd like to see these elbow-patched, corduroy-jacketed souls buying a copy of this book and assigning a student who was misfortunate enough to be heard uttering the expression the task of reading the book and submitting a 10-page report on it. F***, I'm tempted to do it just to see if I can get it published somewhere."


In 2005, the Canadian Press added fuck to its pages, right between FTP and Fudgsicle. Last month, the CBC aired a radio show about how racial words now have more profanity power than sexual words.


I'm having one of those days when I could easily use the F-word in the wrong way at the wrong time. I'm tired and I can't sit anywhere in the house without seeing something that needs to get done. I haven't had a moment to myself since Tuesday.


Fortunately, the kids are out playing in the streets (reminds me of a previous post) and I can merrily get my f***ing frustrations out in an intelligent post about the dictionary.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Easy Bake Oven

My friend sometimes works night shifts and depending on the evening, he engages in many ways to keep himself occupied. Like taking naps. And watching movies. Reading books. Playing runescape. Whatever.

Tonight I heard that one of his fellow co-workers likes to bring in a crock pot and make "pulled pork". I have no idea what that is, and have no desire to eat it, but I kinda like the idea of a bunch of techie guys sitting around at 3 am playing online games and eating pulled pork. And then have a nap.

Another co-worker brings in an easy bake oven and makes individual cookies, one at a time, for 25 cents each. He has a sign-up list and I understand it can get long.

I wonder what would happen if the three women I work with were to all come in night after night to get our work done. I suspect we would bake cookies too, and watch movies, and read magazines. And maybe do our toenails and dye our hair and talk about boys we like and boys we don't like. We would make steamed rice and Thai red curry sauce. We would wear our pyjamas and pink slippers. We would bring our pillows too.

Sleepover would take on a whole new meaning. Work would too. I think I could sign up for that.

Martini in Black

This was once my favourite photo. But then not really, as it kinda reminds me of the eighties. And Duran Duran. I took it at Milestones in the bar.


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Seriously Though

"The one serious conviction that a man should have is that nothing is to be taken too seriously."

Nicholas Butler

G-L-O-R-I-A H-O-P-E

Gloria. She is adorable. And impacted by Aids.

When World Vision called me a few weeks ago, how could I say no when they said a little Tanzanian girl needed help. A HopeChild.

Yes, we are still paying off our minivan and the monthly sponsorship will just add to our debt. But isn't that the point? We buy a bigger van to hold our family and our toys, and Gloria is just trying to survive along with her community. We can afford to help.

We can all afford to help.

Her face on our fridge, along side the photo of our Mongolian friend Lkhagvadorj, is a good reminder on those mornings when we don't feel like packing a lunch, those days when we don't feel like walking, those evenings when we don't feel like cooking. We do it anyways, and mentally put the pennies saved in their direction.

There are currently 562 Hope children that could use help. Nelson, Sanjay, Rose, Eliana, Beni, Jean. Congo, India, Tanzania, Zambia, El Salvador, Haiti.

They all need hope. They all need help.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Gentle Reminder

For some reason these remind me of Shirley Temples. Which reminds me of the Spaghetti Factory. Which reminds me of sourdough bread. Which reminds me of the San Francisco. Which reminds me of White Rabbit candy. Which reminds me of Victoria. Which reminds me of Cowichan Bay. Which is where I took this picture.









I want some for my backyard.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Lemonade

Yesterday, my two sons worked together to set up a lemonade stand.

The youngest one loved every minute of it. That is, until his friend walked down the street and they both disappeared into the basement.

Meanwhile, I was sitting outside having a great time catching up with neighbours I hadn't seen in a while, and making friends with new neighbours I had never met. In fact, I connected with one stranger who's son will be going to the same school as mine. We might even share daycare, strangers no more.

I don't remember the good old days when every house had a porch and every evening was spent rocking back and forth 'chewing the fat' with those that walked by.

But I do know that my favourite place in my house is my front steps. Painted blue with peaks of old green where the blue is chipped away. Grass growing up from the cracks, and occasionally a wildflower or weed. Both are good.

When the sun is warm, the neighbours are out, and you have a drink to entice them to sit for a while, there is no place more human than the front yard.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Pirate Cookies

A few days ago I walked into the store and saw a box of Pirate Cookies. Despite that they were once my favourite cookie, I had completely forgot about them. (For some reason, I can not find any information on Pirate Cookies on the internet, and since my camera is currently not charged you will have to imagine the blue bag and brown Oreo-style cookies for yourself.)

According to Kraft, peanut butter made its mark in history over 3,000 years ago.

"Peanuts were first cultivated in South America by the Incas, who liked the small vegetable so much that they decorated pots with peanut designs and made them in the distinctive peanut shape. The Incas also made the first peanut butter."

But according to Peanut Butter Lovers, there are many claims about the origin of peanut butter.

"Africans ground peanuts into stews as early as the 15th century. The Chinese have crushed peanuts into creamy sauces for centuries. Civil War soldiers dined on 'peanut porridge.' These uses, however, bore little resemblance to peanut butter as it is known today."

Everyone seems to agree that peanut butter as we know it was created by George A. Bayle Jr., who processed and packaged "ground peanut paste as a nutritious protein substitute for people with poor teeth who couldn't chew meat. The physician apparently had experimented by grinding peanuts in his hand-cranked meat grinder. Bayle mechanized the process and began selling peanut butter out of barrels for about 6¢ per pound."

But really, at this point, I don't really care where it came from, I'm just glad it made its way back into my home. Pass the milk, matey. YUM!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

And Then They Hatched

If you read my post a few days ago, and managed to stick with it to #7 on the list, you know that we have a little jar with holes in it. And if you had peered into the jar with wonder you would have seen little tiny orange eggs stuck to the underside of a spring leaf. That was Monday.

Well, yesterday I woke up and the orange eggs were gone. They were replaced with little tiny black bumps. At first I thought the black was mold, kinda like the stuff you see growing on rotten tomatoes. (If you have ever watched the Magic School Bus you would know that microbes cause food to rot. In the MSB episode on microbes, those little rotters - pun intended - caused a perfectly good cucumber to turn into a perfectly good pickle. I have grown to love microbes. They are a good answer for many, many questions that kids ask, like "How come we have to clean the table?" Microbes, I answer. "How come our compost is steaming?" Microbes, again. You should try it sometime.)

Anyways, I thought that we had killed the entire lot of mini eggs. BUT, upon closer peering, I realized that the eggs had hatched into some type of little teeny, tiny black bug with legs. What a great thing it is for a six-year-old to become a parent to a brood of bugs.

To add even further interest to this story, when we woke up this morning, the black bumps had disappeared and were replaced with what actually looked like lily-white broken egg shells.

The world is a wondrous place. Something orange makes something black and then something white. No artificial colouring or spray-paint involved even.

But, where did the bugs go? I opened the hole-punched lid and peeked in. Nothing.

Oh, there you are little buggy. The sneaky little things had found their way between the lid and the jar and were just waiting for us to unleash them. They were now crawling down the outside of the glass like they were escaping for their lives, which I guess they were.

We put the jar and the lid outside, carefully.

My younger son went out alone to say good-bye to his new family that he was losing so quickly.

"I will never see them again," he said with his head hung and his longish bangs covering his eyes.

I know that the answer to this one is not microbes.

"That's right sweetie, you won't see them again. That is sad, I know."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pillows, Chins and Cheeks

This morning on the way to daycare with my younger son:

"I'm not going to be able to sleep tonight," he says.

"Why not?" I ask.

"Because my chin will hurt."

"Oh, really? How come your chin will hurt?"

"From the pillow."

"How come the pillow will hurt your chin?"

(I am already thinking at this point, that I will just have to share the story with you. I am eager to hear his response, and at the same time I am desperately trying to implant each word into my steel-vaulted memory bank.)

"Because I have to sleep on my belly, and put my chin on the pillow so it doesn't hurt up here," he says, and then takes both hands and digs into his cheek bones with his palms.

"Hmmmm." What else can I say?

"When I lie on my back it all goes up and so I have to sleep on my chin," he adds.

"We'll look at your cheeks later tonight and I'm sure we'll figure out some way to ensure you cheeks don't hurt while you sleep."

This evening, about 7:10:

"I can't walk upstairs," he declares.

"Why not?" I ask.

"It hurts too much on my leg. I'm going to have to stay here."

He cuddles up on our over-sized blue-grey couch, snuggled up between two over-sized blue-grey pillows.

Lying on his back, hands at his sides, chin in the air, he slips into a deep sleep.

I am sure his cheeks are comfortable and happy too.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Childhood and Boys Stuff

This morning in The Vancouver Sun, a columnist I enjoy reading wrote about "the days when kids once played outside in the dirt until the street lights came on" as a "nostalgic flight of fancy."

No more glass jars with air holes in the lid to keep the insects. No more pockets full of live worms. No more mud puddles or garter snakes. No more... well, boys, of the traditional Huck Finn, Stand By Me, and Peter Pan type at least.

She wrote about this loss because of a book that is selling like hotcakes in Britain and has won the British Book Award. It supposedly gives instructions on everything a boy needs to be a boy, including instructions on marble shooting, skipping stones, building a tree fort, and putting together a bow and arrow. You will notice that playing on the computer doesn't enter that list.

And then she wrote this:

"But it's also a bit sad, leafing through the pages with their unrelenting reminders that child's play was once just that, and realizing that our kids really do live in the artificial, antiseptic and often lonely bubbles we have built around them."

I wonder if she was writing about her own kids, but I hope not. I do not know any urban, computer-loving kids that fit that description. I know lots of little happy, laughing kids (and teens, for Paris's sake) that play with their neighbours, play with their parents, play with their bugs and dolls and bikes and buddies.

In fact, if I look at what our family got up to over the last 10 days, here is what it would look like:

1. Turned over rocks on the beach looking for crabs and sea stars
2. Chopped wood, whittled sticks (with a real pocket knife), lit a fire, and roasted marshmallows
3. Jumped on the bed
4. Had a tickle fight
5. Played badminton in the backyard and made up our own rules
6. Rode bikes along the train tracks
7. Looked for crickets and grasshoppers around a pond but found orange eggs under a leaf instead. Of course, we took them home and placed them in a glass jar with holes in the lid
8. Fed the ducks
9. Fished for rainbow trout, bonked them over the head, cleaned them and pan-fried them for dinner (no, I did not do this myself)
10. Sprayed each other with the garden hose
11. Had a soccer tournament in the backyard
12. Raced down the back alley as fast as our feet could go
13. Read the Dinosaur Dictionary (and pronounced all the names correctly)
14. Bounced on the suspension bridge in Lynn Canyon
15. Went for a SCUBA dive, looked for octopus and lingcod
16. Ate ice cream before dinner
17. Blew dandelions into the wind
18. Got our hands dirty picking up garbage on the streets
19. Took our socks off and went barefoot on the grass
20. Climbed on the monkey bars and slid down the fire pole
21. Raced around a dirt track on a BMX bike
22. Built a model of a motorcycle from a tool box full of mechanical pieces
23. Chased the bee around the room until it flew safely out the window
24. Smacked and killed a blood-sucking mosquito
25. Chased the black cat around the house

Okay, so you get my point. Well, I don't really have a point except that I don't like it when people generalize and then write about it in the newspaper. I think it kinda makes me defensive. (I hope I am a typical parent in that respect, and hopefully that statement itself isn't a generalization.)

And yes, our list also included:

26. Watching Peter Pan and Go Diego Go on the tv
27. Playing Runescape on the computer

But I don't think the computer makes our kids "the new isolates...whose definition of play is often a singular computer link." Even if they are on there for a few hours, they are chatting, laughing, playing with their friends online, on the phone, on the chair next to them. They are being social.

I guess if you can't even write 10 outdoor fun stuff from the last 10 days (and girls, this includes you too), you should get a copy of The Dangerous Book for Boys. Hopefully it isn't a sad book for you.

As for myself, I just wish I thought of it first. I have a feeling our family could have been able to write a few chapters, like how to chase bees and bounce on bridges and walk along train tracks. Or chop wood and get a new cloak online in Runescape.

If you get a copy, can I read it after you?

Milestone Post

When I first started this blog my objective was to write every day. In the first month I pretty much did it. The second month, not so much. Well, this is now post #102, and even though I missed acknowledging post 100, I feel pretty good that I have got this far.

Oh, and a Happy Unbirthday to you, by the way.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Just another day at the cabin

Here are some photos from our recent visit to my parents on the Sunshine Coast.

It just isn't a visit without Pilsner Urquell in the hot tub.




Doesn't every beach house have one of these?



Paris took this one. I kinda like it.



He took this one too. Big tree, little man.

Phat Fat

So, after reading Red, White, and Drunk All Over, I signed up to receive Nat Decants, a newsletter on wine from Natalie MacLean. The newsletter this week offered a new wine word: fat.

Here is what she wrote about fat:

"The first word of the week is fat. This is a descriptor that usually refers to the texture of a wine that is smooth, round and slippery on your palate. Often these wines are high in glycerine, low in acidity and generous in their fruit flavors. In the wine world, fat is usually a positive term … I like that."

I kinda like that too, especially since I have been indulging in a bit too much wine lately.

And speaking of fat, I just discovered that phat is a backronym (and for a little light mental exercise, check out the definition of backronym from wikipedia). Here is the lingo around phat:

"An adjective in African American slang used to express approval. Hence, someone or something that is phat could be cool, entertaining, intelligent, attractive or otherwise to be admired. When the word first surfaced in the 1960s, men generally used it to describe attractive, or "fine", women. This meaning of phat has been assigned numerous backronym meanings, most commonly Pretty, Hot And Tempting, but also including others such as Perfect Hips, Ass and Tits and Pretty, Hot And Thick and "Penis, Hips, Ass and Tits" for unisex reasons."

Two very positive definitions of fat/phat.

Which leads me to one of my new favourite website, Acronym Finder, where I learn that phat also stands for Peace, Honour, and Truth. And fat also stands for Faithful and True.

Fat, or phat, is turning out to be a very, very positive word after all.

It all depends on how you look at it.

Oh, and by the way, THIN stands for The Health Improvement Network. Enough said.

My Favourite Photo

This was once my favourite photo. I took it in Vancouver, BC, down at English Bay. It was my first evening date with Manfrotto.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Moto Photo

Now that air is warm again, I just want to spend all my time outdoors hiking, kayaking, SCUBA diving, taking photos, and sitting on the back of the motorcycle.

To be honest, I would love to get up front and have my own, but something about riding around car-crazy cities just doesn't entice me go out and get a personalized set of handlebars.

But if I lived here, and this was my commute, I would be all over it:



Check out more moto photos at adventure rider.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Tunicate Tidbits


My younger son and I just read a book about plants that eat animals. So now, we want a Venus flytrap. Funny, but tunicates are often referred to as venus fly traps, like this excerpt from the Monterey Bay Aquarium:

"Predatory tunicates live anchored along the deep sea canyon walls and seafloor, waiting for tiny animals to drift or swim into their cavernous hoods. If you’ve ever seen a Venus flytrap capture an insect, you have a clue as to how a predatory tunicate eats. Its mouthlike hood is quick to close when a small animal drifts inside. Once the tunicate catches a meal, it keeps its trap shut until it’s ready to eat again."

Being the kind of natural gal I am, I hate screens on windows and doors. Let nature in, I say. Which means our house is filled with flies, bees, and moths in the summer months. Unfortunately, those moths get into everything, including our food.

Our plan? To get a few Venus flytraps. But, perhaps now I should get a few tunicates as well.
Here's another thought. Not that I have ever said it before, from now on I think the kids will think it's cool when I say "keep your trap shut." I will be sure not to use it in public

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mother's Day

For Mother's Day I got:
  • To sleep in with my younger son
  • To wake up by myself and have a cup of tea in a quiet house
  • To play with my photography, no interruptions
  • To watch my son, wearing only a t-shirt and his superhero underwear, bring me his homemade gifts: a beaded bracelet, a beaded necklace, a potted flower, and a card saying "I love you Mom"
  • A little rock from my older son Paris
  • To hug Paris for a very, very, very long time
  • A simple picnic with croissants, fresh strawberries, and a fire
  • Told many times by my husband that he loves me
  • Another hug from Paris
  • A book that I wanted to read
  • To have dinner with my family: mom, dad, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews
  • To give my Mom a present she has wanted for a very, very, very long time: a photo album full of pictures of her family, sons, daughters, grandkids
  • To hug my mom for a very, very, very long time

No diamond rings, no fancy restaurants, no eggs benedict in bed.

Just time, love, a few small things, and a few big moments. Perfect.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Squamish Kite Surfing Photography

The blast forced me to sit lower and lower on the rocks, allowing the jutting spit to block the Mother of all winds from reaching my stinging ears. Despite their dry suits and wet suits, the kite surfers swore at the cold BC water, and shared their sorrows with us onlookers. And then they would soar off again, into the snow-capped mountains or Shannon Falls or against the cargo ship docked on the opposite shore. I sat and shot away, and relished in the action as they played.

Here are my favourite shots from a morning at the Squamish Spit, windsurfing haven of the world.









The day was hazy and the sun was high, not a good combination for photography. However, I wanted to show you this next shot to get a perspective on the height, and the scenery. Man, we live in a beautiful place. The spit runs out from a protected estuary, and I half expected a grizzly bear to join us for a spell.



This yellow board hammed it up for us.



I love the colour contrast in the kites, and the mandatory hoodies walking around.


My Favourite Photos

This was once my favourite photo. The white flowers are a star constellation in a sky of purple petals. I took the shot at the San Diego Zoo.



Saturday, May 12, 2007

Family Ratings

Pretty Crazy how some things catch on.

Paris has now achieved stardom by being included in a Top 5 Best and Youngest Blogger list.

Kje was #4 in his first BMX race of the year. He was looking cool in his new racing jersey.

I am #1 Mom of the day. I got a small, painted wooden heart, with a bit of dirt on it.