Thursday, December 27, 2007

A fun experience that I don't care to ever repeat

In October, when the weather was still quite balmy, my dad e-mailed me, Ryan and my two sisters with a crazy idea. The New York Giants were playing the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 23 in Buffalo -- was anyone interested in joining him at the game? As my mom wasn't interested in going, part of the offer included a free day of babysitting Austin.

My sister, who is as much of a Giants fan as my dad, was all over the idea -- and I think my brother-in-law ended up with a ticket by default. My other sister figured what the heck, it would be fun, which were my thoughts exactly. I'd never been to an NFL game, and although I'm not a huge football fan, live sporting events are always fun. Ryan, who is a fan of football in general -- regardless of who's playing -- also jumped at the idea.

The problem with a Dec. 23 game at an outdoor stadium, is December is not exactly known for its balmy weather. It could be 10C, it could be -10C. It could rain or it could snow. Or we could get really lucky and it could be sunny and warm (for December anyway).

We woke up that morning to a torrential downpour. The temperature was holding steady at about 10C and it poured for the entire drive to Brampton (to drop off Austin) and then for the entire drive to Buffalo. It was around this point that we all started thinking, 'what the heck have we gotten ourselves into'.

But, the weather gods appeared to be on our side as we pulled into park near the stadium. The rain let up, the clouds even started to break up and the temperature was holding steady. Yes we bundled up in winter coats, hats and gloves, but we were optimistic. And looking forward to the game.

The first quarter was fine -- with Buffalo scoring two touchdowns at our end (our seats were near the top on the goal line) -- and no rain to speak of. In the second quarter, just as the Giants were driving for a touchdown, it started to monsoon. The rain was coming down so hard that you could actually see it sweep across the field. We may have all had ponchos that fit over our winter coats, but we were still soaked.

The rain held steady, although the monsoon let up to a hard rain while the temperature dropped for the next hour and a half -- and then it started to snow.

Within seconds, the cold, hard rain turned into big, heavy, wet snowflakes. Now we were soaked to the bone and shivering.

But for some crazy reason, none of us wanted to leave -- even me, who isn't a football fan in the first place.

In the end, the Giants won -- although it was a close game right up until it started to snow and the Giants intercepted two Bills throws for touchdowns.

It was then a cold walk back to the car, but somehow, sheer determination kept my now frozen legs moving. I didn't feel the pain in my legs or hands until I started to thaw out in the car.

Needless to say, my first-ever NFL game was a fun adventure and one I don't care to ever repeat. If I'm ever brave enough to go to another NFL game it will be in a dome or in September.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Waddle, waddle, waddle

I’m a little over five months into this pregnancy and it’s been a very different experience from the first.

For starters, at only five months pregnant, I’ve already popped out to what looks like I’m carrying twins – and I made the doctor double-check, there’s only one in there. I guess it’s not a surprise really, it was just two years ago that all those abdominal muscles were stretched beyond the normal realm of natural. So now, instead of resisting, those same muscles are kicking back, relaxing and enjoying the fact that another pregnancy means another nine months of not having to do any work. But what it really means is that I’ve already started to waddle.

But the surprising factor of being bigger this time around is that I’ve gained less weight to date. I didn’t keep notes last time, but I’m pretty sure by this point last pregnancy, I was already up about 15 to 18 pounds. Whatever the ‘average’ was supposed to be for the stage, I was always at the top end of it. To date – and I stepped on the scale this morning – I’ve gained 8 pounds. So that big belly that enters the room ahead of me is all baby.

A big part of the reason for the lack of weight gain could have to do with my health. When I was pregnant with Austin, I picked up one really bad cold that knocked me flat on my ass for two or three days. Last week was the fourth (or was it fifth?) time since the end of September that I’ve been so sick I couldn’t drag myself into work for half a week or more. Last week it was a sinus infection combined with strep throat, four weeks before that it was the stomach flu, three weeks before that it was a cold and a week before that it was the stomach flu. No wonder I’m not gaining any weight – I’m too busy watching bad movies all day and barely eating.

What else is different? With Austin, I spent the first three months in nausea hell. This time around I was nauseous, but only occasionally. And I didn’t fall asleep for hours after work only to get up and go to bed every night. I wasn’t overly tired and life just carried on as normal.

I’m also not really having any food cravings – whereas with Austin I absolutely had to have McDonald’s hot fudge sundaes (don’t ask) and bacon (not the two combined though). Whereas this time around, there’s nothing I have to have. Well, except maybe salad. On more than one occasion, we’ve ordered a pizza for dinner and I’ve ordered a side salad and then only wanted to eat the salad.

But what’s really different about being pregnant with number 2 has nothing to do with the physical aspects of the pregnancy. With the first one, the pregnancy is all about you – if you want to lie on the couch all day and do nothing at all because you feel fat and ugly, you can. With number 2, if you want to lie on the couch all day, you have about 2.2 minutes (if you’re lucky) before the first one is grabbing you by the hand and saying ‘mama up’. Life just isn’t about you anymore.

All these differences and more could be absolutely meaningless, after all, every pregnancy is different. Or, then again, it could mean I’m having a girl. If number 2 is anything like its brother, I’ll find out in 4 months plus an extra 12 days.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Single mom-dom

This week, I’m playing the role of single mom while Ryan is off taking a course at some swanky resort in Niagara-on-the-Lake. So far, we’re two and a half days in and there’s two and a half to go.

The short of it is is that it really isn’t that bad or that hard – although I have a ton of respect for moms who do this on a permanent basis. Because maybe it’s not that bad because I know that come Friday at 8 p.m. or so, I go back to being a two-parent tag team.

The hardest part about it is that it’s really hard to get anything else done during Austin’s waking hours. Even a simple matter such as cooking and eating dinner can become a monumental task when your toddler keeps yelling ‘up’ (as in pick me up). I could wait until he goes to bed at 8:30 but the other baby – the one who demands that I eat more these days – says ‘no way mom, feed me now!’

At least I had thought ahead of time that yes, this could pose a challenge, so Ryan and I cooked big meals on the weekend that left me with leftovers to reheat. And well, an omelette and toast is always a quick and tasty option for dinner – and goodness knows I love eating breakfast for dinner! And there’s always Pizza Pizza or Swiss Chalet if I really want.

But honestly, unless I want to plop Austin in front of an endless loop of the Backyardigans – nothing else can be done until he goes to bed. Do you honestly think he’ll have the patience to stand around and wait for me to read him a book while I get the garbage together and put it out on the curb? (And books are all he wants these days – we’ll sit for 45 minutes reading book after book, only to get up and play with trucks for 10 minutes before going back to reading the same books again! And it’s really hard to get annoyed that that’s what he wants to do – after all, he’s learning from them.)

And forget about coming home in a bad mood and just wanting to sit and grump for 20 minutes before facing the evening tasks. In single mom-dom, when you come home with a toddler, you have to be revving to go.

It’s only for a week, and honestly, other than eating, what else do I really have to do that can’t wait until after bedtime? He’s only going to be this age for a short time…before I know it; he’ll be a teenager telling me to give him some space. So, instead of worrying about the garbage that has to go out, the kitchen that is a disaster or the laundry that has yet to be folded, maybe I’ll turn the TV off, check my bad mood at the door and read My First Book of ABCs for the 30th time this week.

One thing’s for sure, Ryan’s going to owe me at least one or two readings of that book when he gets home.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Signs that you've definitely entered your 'Carlsberg years'

I've come to three realizations in the last few days that as a 31-year-old working parent, I have truly entered the so-called Carlsberg years. These realizations are above and beyond the fact that I realize you have to be a certain age in the first place to even understand the reference to Carlsberg years.

These three realizations are:
1) It's a feat to be able to stay up until 10 p.m. on a weeknight.
2) It's a monumental feat to be able to stay up until 10 p.m. on a Friday night.
3) I'm actually excited -- yes excited -- by the fact that I just bought new carpets for the basement. Brand new, about-to-be-installed-for-me, durable and stainmaster-treated carpets for the basement.

If you've ever seen my basement, you know how badly I needed new carpets. And it had nothing to do with the pink, circa-1982 style we had going on. Although that was one incentive for getting rid of it; the stains and the odour were bigger ones.

So, yes, once upon a time, dropping a few grand on a trip was exciting to me -- now it's dropping a few grand on a new carpet.

What can I say, I'm getting old. And, on that note, it's 9:20 on a Monday night, and I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Now playing

A few months ago, as I'm so musically-challenged these days, I asked for some advice on what to put on my ipod.

So here's what's now playing:

  • Tegan and Sara (The Con, If it was You and So Jealous). I'm loving these guys right now, and wish I had found them years ago.

  • The National (Alligator). Not a bad group and definitely growing on me.
  • Maria Taylor (Lynn Teeter Flowers). Another great recommendations.

  • Liz Phair (Liz Phair). Here's a singer that I already liked, but forgot I had. Thanks to my snooping through my sister's CD collection, I've refound her.

  • Modest Mouse (The Moon and Antartica). This is Modest Mouse before their big hit days. They're not bad, but I'm not 100 % sold on it.

  • Arcade Fire (Funeral). Yes, I'm musically-challenged, someone actually had to tell me that Neon Bible wasn't their first album!

  • My Chemical Romance (The Black Parade). So far, I really only like their one radio hit, another few tries and if it still doesn't grab me, I may have to delete this album.
  • Regina Spektor (Live at Bull Moose). Another find from snooping through my sister's CD collection. I know my sister is a huge fan, so I'm giving her a try. But other than listening to the first song while ripping the CD, I'll admit, I haven't really listened to her yet.

Mix those albums in with the albums I did like on my ipod (David Grey, Jack Johnson, Blue Rodeo, Sarah McLachlan, Spirit of the West, The Killers, a heck of a lot of U2, etc.) and almost a year after getting my ipod, I feel like it's finally at a place where I can put it on shuffle and I'll enjoy what I hear -- instead of having it take me back to my Joker or Phoenix days.

So thanks. In another few years, I'm sure I'll be complaining that I'm still listening to the above list day in and day out -- and once again, I'll be asking for music advice.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It was like Christmas...for ourselves!

Two weeks ago we headed off to Buffalo for a little cross-border shopping. We felt like we couldn’t lose by taking our day at the mall two hours from home.

And we were right. Well, except for the amount of money we 'lost' in the spending spree.

We made the trip a two-day event, with the first day spent at the outlet mall in Niagara Falls, NY and the second day spent at Target and the Walden Galleria in Buffalo. We left our house right after rush hour, dropped Austin off at my parents’ house for a sleepover and headed south to shop.

It’s such a simple concept – but since our dollar hasn’t been stronger than the American dollar for 30 years (which is longer than I can remember); the idea that the price you see is the price you pay is almost a difficult concept to wrap your head around. I’ve been to the U.S. many, many times over the years and I’ve always had to do the quick math in my head when deciding whether something was worth the price on the ticket.

Now suddenly, we were at an outlet mall, where not only the prices were good to begin with, the fall sales were on.

Needless to say, we made off like bandits.

I managed to snag a pair of Gap maternity jeans for $30 and a really nice sweater, and Ryan bought three or four pair of pants that Eddie Bower was practically giving away. And shoes! We went to this Sketchers store, where we got three pairs of shoes – one being a pair of boots – for $100. Even Austin made off with four pairs of Baby Gap pyjamas that retail for $25 each. We paid the whopping price of $9 a pair.

The next morning (after a nice evening of a dinner for two and a movie – things we never get to do anymore) we decided to hit Target where we found the biggest deal of the day in the baby aisle – a Bumbo baby chair (because the one we had when Austin was a baby was a loaner) for $40. In Canada, that same chair is still priced $60.

By the time we hit the Walden Galleria, we were almost shopped out. But I really wanted to visit a few stores that weren’t at the outlet mall – mainly Victoria’s Secret. Without sales and outlet prices, the mall wasn’t such a steal, but it was nice buying a $45 bra that was actually $45 and not $60 or more in Canadian dollars.

Finally, at the Clinique counter at Macy’s. I wanted to check out the price of foundation – which I pay $24.50 a bottle for at The Bay.

I asked the very friendly woman, who responded $19.50. I responded, “I’ll take two.” As she was ringing up my purchase, she smiled and said “you must be from Canada because all the Canadians are asking the price and then buying two!”

Monday, November 05, 2007

Not so skeptical anymore

The week off has come and gone by a week, but it’s still worth a few words.

For the first time since I started working full time, I took a holiday with no plans to go anywhere. And I’ll admit; I was skeptical. I was afraid that by not leaving the city, I wouldn’t be able to turn my brain off from work. In other words, I may not have to go into work every day, but I’d still think about what had to be done when I got back.

Previous holidays have always involved going somewhere – either far away (like Europe) or closer to home (like camping or a cottage) – or going through the mandatory rounds of Christmas visiting (a whirlwind trip to Montreal, followed by a drive back to Toronto and then a whirlwind trip to London). There’s nothing less vacation-like than coming back to work exhausted after spending a week visiting as many family members as possible.

And the only other time I’ve taken time off to not go anywhere was when we moved from the apartment to the house. But that was more out of necessity. There were rooms to paint and boxes to unpack and furniture to rearrange. And I think, even then, I only took a day or two off.

So, as the Monday of this vacation started, I dropped Austin off at the sitter’s house, as usual.

That meant we had about 9 hours a day to get stuff done. Ryan immediately started tearing down walls in our front hall (and for the record, is still working on getting the finishing touches back up) and I started on yard work I wanted to get done before it got too cold. My front yard is now ready for winter and my backyard is well, raked and swept at least. There wasn’t much to do to it really, since we never finished redoing it in the first place (that’s next spring’s project).

I also got my car fixed (I needed a new muffler), and spent the better part of a day cleaning out our basement. In the coming months, our basement is going to become a much-more used living space, and since it hasn’t been used that way since we moved in three years ago, a lot of areas in the basement have been a place to put everything that we don’t know what to do with. So now, I have boxes of stuff that would be better stored in the garage (i.e. baby clothes); two huge green bags full of garbage and a large pile to go to Goodwill. (This is after, may I add, I took a carload of stuff to Goodwill in early October.)

All in all, it felt really good to accomplish all that in such a short time, without having Austin pulling at my legs, getting into things he shouldn’t, or me squeezing in what needs to be done in the two hours he’s sleeping every afternoon.

Despite all my skepticism before the week began, I think I could persuaded to take a holiday like this every year. It was an awesome way to get things done around the house in a stress-free way. Life’s busy these days – raising a kid and being gone from the house Monday to Friday from 8 to 6, (6 to almost 6 for Ryan) and often the last thing I want to do after we all get home, make dinner, clean up from dinner, play with Austin for awhile and maybe throw a load of laundry on, is think about tackling a project like clearing out the basement.

Of course, I have to add, my 80-year-old retired neighbour who, cuts his lawn twice a week in the summer, shovels his driveway at the first sign of a snowflake in the winter and is rushing out the door five minutes after the garbage truck goes by to move his bins into the garage, thinks otherwise. On the Monday afternoon, as I was raking dirt into the front lawn to fill some of the potholes, he came over to say hello and ask how come I didn’t have to work that day. I said I was on holiday and was taking the time off to get things done around the house.

His response? “When I was your age I could go to work all day and get everything done around here as well. You go out too much.”

I smiled and nodded, but here’s what I really wanted to do: stick my tongue out and say “PLLLAAAAATTTTT”.

Friday, October 26, 2007

For Rob, with love

It's official, you -- and everyone else your height (Ryan included) will never, ever hit your head on this stupid, ugly, (fill in blank here of the explicitive you used last time you hit your head) lamp.

Along with the lamp coming down, the wall has also come down and a new one is going back up. And, as I wrote before, the new one is less than two feet away from where the old one was. A lot of work on Ryan's part for two feet, but it'll be worth it in the end. Will post before and after pictures when there's an after to post.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Too busy, yet feeling like I'm doing nothing much at all

I haven’t written in awhile, because there hasn’t been much to write about. This is funny really, because my other excuse would be I’ve been too busy to write. Over the last three weeks, Austin’s been sick with a cold, I’ve been sick with a cold, then I’ve been sick with the flu then Austin’s been sick with the flu. Brings sharing to a whole new level don’t you think?

What else, we were in London for Thanksgiving and had house guests the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, all last weekend and again last night. No wonder there’s been no time to write.

But here are some quick bullets of life to date:
· Ollie had his surgery last week and he seems to be recovering nicely…now my Mastercard just has to recover from it. The important point is that he’ll no longer be in pain all the time – which should mean he’ll no longer pee wherever the heck he feels like.

· Home renovation time is upon us. We have big plans over the next few months – which I hope aren’t too big that they all get half finished. Next week the front hall closet is coming down and moving two feet to the left. Sounds like a lot of effort for two feet, but there’s a silly gap behind our front door which is useless space and Ryan has big plans on how to make our front hall not constantly spill into our living room. Of course, once that’s completed, the front hall will need to be repainted. And then the living room. And then the dining room. Because, you see, it’s really all one big room.

· Starting late November or early December we’ll get to work on what really needs to be done – getting Austin’s new room ready and painted. To do so, we need to move everything from the office to the basement. But before we can do that, we plan to get new carpets for the basement. All big projects, but all worth it in the end.

· We’re taking a holiday next week – just for the sake of taking a holiday. Austin will continue to go to the sitter’s as usual, so that we can actually get some work done around the house. Although, we will be taking off for two days for some shopping in Buffalo – I guess I should get around to booking a hotel soon.

· It’s almost Halloween and the annual Halloween party, which means we should really get our butts in gear and get costumes together. Have I mentioned how much I hate thinking of costumes? Geez, my kid is going to hate me when he gets older – I’m going to be the no-fun-mom that says, “here’s a sheet kid, go cut two holes in it.”

· I’m at that stage in the pregnancy where some days I actually forget I’m pregnant. The nausea’s gone, the tiredness is more-or-less gone, I’m not big and whale-like yet and it’s too soon to feel the baby kick. So some days, I just forget – well except when I try to get dressed in the morning. A five-day work week is really long when you only have one pair of pants that fit properly. Hence, the shopping trip in Buffalo.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The worst-kept secret

A secret is really only a secret if you don’t tell anyone. But when you share the so-called secret with one person and then another and then another and another and another, it’s not really a secret anymore, is it?

But for those of you dear readers who don’t yet know, I’m officially ready to make the secret not a secret anymore. I’m pregnant. Twelve weeks along now – meaning that even if I wanted to still keep it a secret, the speed at which I’m growing out my clothes would put an end to that idea.

Although planned, it still came as a bit of a shock in August, when honest to God, I grabbed a calendar and counted, twice, before I realized I really was late. And when I told Ryan, he grabbed a calendar and told me I must've counted wrong. At which point, I decided to go to Shoppers and pick up a pregnancy test. I figured there was no way it would be positive, so I actually bought a two-pack. The second test is now collecting dust at the back of my bathroom cupboard.

So far, this pregnancy has been very different from my first – in a good way. With my first, I spent the first three months living with nausea; day in and day out. I even went through a period of a few weeks where I couldn’t sit up in bed without first eating a few saltine crackers.

With this pregnancy I haven’t completely escaped the nausea – but it hasn’t been an all day every day for three months kind of thing. When it hits, it hits hard – and usually at the most inconvenient times, such as when we were driving from Toronto to Montreal and are between rest stations. I also discovered how great the anti-nausea bracelets can be. (You know, the ones people wear on cruise ships to avoid sea sickness.) I wish I had discovered those the first time around.

I’m also far less tired than I was when I was pregnant with Austin. The first time, I actually had to fake sick and leave work some days in the first trimester because I was so tired. Then I would trudge home and nap for three or four hours. I would be in bed before 9 p.m. and I would nap on the weekends. This time, no need to fake sick and go home and sleep and usually I can stay awake until 10. Although I do still nap pretty much every weekend.

The only thing that sucks so far about this pregnancy is I’ve been hopped up on asthma drugs for the last month or so. My doctor told me that women with asthma get sicker when pregnant about 30 per cent of the time. Let’s hope this is just a blip and I’ll soon feel better because another six months of asthma drugs and my kid may come out high as a kite! (Kidding, I think. My doctor also told me research has found it’s better for the mom and the baby to treat asthma in pregnant women aggressively.)

So there’s my big secret that hasn’t really been much of a secret. We’re both excited about the new baby, and we keep telling Austin that he’s going to be a big brother. We even tried to teach him to say ‘baby’. (But all we got out of him was ‘waba’.) But I have to admit, every now and then, especially on a day when Austin’s being moody, I think to myself: “what the hell are we doing!?"

Monday, September 24, 2007

A post for my music-savvy friends

You know who you are. You're the ones who are always downloading music from itunes, playing cool new tracks when I'm over at your house, listening to obscure music no one else has ever heard of, or, gasp, actually still buys CDs.

I need your help.

Many months ago, I wrote about how my music collection was stuck in the 90s. With a few exceptions -- such as U2 and The Killers -- very few new CDs have entered my world in many years. That's not to say all my music is from the 80s and 90s -- but a vast majority of it is.

So, here's where I need some help. I listen to my ipod on almost a daily basis -- as it's my staple to get me through work when I don't want to be distracted. And, I'd like my music on it to not be circa 1996. So, last week, I went on a downloading binge based solely on music I've been hearing on the radio. It had been many months since I last updated my ipod and I was tiring of listening to the same David Grey, Jack Johnson, Blue Rodeo mixes. (Mixed with some other older stuff.)

Here's what I downloaded: Arcade Fire, Bedouin Soundclash, Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, John Mayer, Dixie Chicks (I know) and Chantal Kreviazuk. I haven't listened to it all yet -- but am so far enjoying what I have listened to. It's nice to have music that's new to listen to. And I'd like to have more, but haven't a clue where to start finding something I'd like. As I said, I downloaded those choices based on what I've heard on the radio.

So, my music-savvy friends, please help me answer these questions:
If I like the Killers, I'll also like ___________
If I like Arcade Fire, I'll also like ___________
If I like John Mayer and David Grey, I'll also like _____________
If I like Chantal Kreviazuk, Sarah Harmer and Sarah McLachlan I'll also like _____________

And tell me what else you'd think I'd like, because right now, I'm all ears.

Friday, September 21, 2007


So all the news that new in Canada today is that our dollar reached parity with the U.S. dollar yesterday. I think you have to have been living under a rock to not know that.

This means that when shopping at home, we truly are paying more for the same products. Look at the back of any greeting card, magazine or book where the price is pre-printed. There’s the U.S. price and the Canadian price. And the Canadian price can be up to $10 more in the case of books.

This also means that places like Disney World that like to offer ‘Canadian at par’ deals to encourage tourism will get laughed at.

But, more importantly, this means asking a very important question:

Who wants to go shopping with me in Buffalo?!! :-)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Me vs. the cat. And the winner was...

Today was surgery day for Ollie.

As directed, we starved in after 7 p.m. last night – so that this morning he followed me everywhere I went in hopes that I would fill his food bowl – and just before 8 a.m., I tried to get him into his cage to go.

Key word here is tried.

The first try should’ve been easy enough. He was lying on my bed, and I walked in with the cage, put it down, picked him up and tried to drop him in. I forgot how strong he is, and he managed to wriggle and squirm out of my grasp before he was fully in, and made a beeline for under the bed.

I tried to push him out with the broom, but all that got me was some hisses and growls and a cat who cowered even further under the bed.

So, I moved to Plan B and went into the kitchen and banged his food bowls around. He came running and I scooped him up and turned around to put him in the cage only to discover Austin playing with the cage lid. And, well, I don’t have three hands, as handy it would be, and couldn’t manage to hold the cat down and pry the cage lid away from Austin at the same time. The cat ran away.

Now he was hiding under the table. Time for Plan C. I put food in his bowl and put the bowl on the floor. He came out, looked warily at me and ran off. I grabbed him as he ran but this time, before I could get him to the cage he hissed, growled and tried to bite me. I dropped him.

By this point, almost 30 minutes had gone by and I was starting to lose it. I tried again with the food, but this time, Ollie was too smart for me and didn’t even come out from under the table. While I was trying to think of a Plan D, Austin – who thought this whole game was hysterical – tried to crawl under the table to see Ollie. Ollie, who by this point was in no mood to be friendly, hissed at Austin and then took a swipe at him. He missed him by inches and Austin came out from under the table screaming.

I hate to admit this, but a 14-pound cat managed to outsmart me this morning. At 8:45, I dropped a now-calmed-down Austin off at the sitter’s. At 9:30, I finally got into work. Right now, my cat is probably still cowering under the table and the cage is still lying in the middle of the kitchen floor.

And the surgery; it’s been rescheduled for next week.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The vet sure gives my Mastercard a workout

I love pets and I love having pets. My two cats are truly members of the family, even if they can be pains in the butts from time to time. But when getting these cats, as kittens, so many years ago, I never really stopped to think how much money they may cost me as they reach old age.

And they’re not even that old yet.

It’s terrible to talk about your pets in terms of money, I know. But it’s a fact of life. Medical treatment costs money. Money you don’t always have or money you definitely don’t always want to spend.

Our cat Ollie, who is 8 years old, has been to the vet so many times this year, I don’t even bother taking his name tag label off the cage anymore. No point putting a new one on every time he goes in.

The first time was in the winter, when we woke up one morning and discovered him walking on three legs and moaning in pain when he put any pressure on the fourth. A trip to the vet and $400 later found he had torn a ligament. Surgery was suggested to slow the progression of arthritis from developing. We opted against it, because surgery would only SLOW the progression, it wouldn’t stop it from coming on. A few weeks of pain meds and he was back to normal. He will likely develop arthritis, and we'll have to manage his pain then.

I wrote about the second and third times earlier this summer. Technically, he only went the third time, because we assumed the ‘urination problem’ was the other cat – and therefore tortured her with a trip to a vet, only to torture our wallet with another trip to the vet with him a few weeks later. He was diagnosed with crystals in the bladder and given medications.

It's less than two months later now and the problem is back, so I called the vet. She recommended a return trip – because, given his age, maybe it was something more serious. She took x-rays yesterday – another $500 – and discovered bladder stones. Several large ones, in fact, meaning they've been growing for up to a year. The treatment? Surgery. The cost $1,500. The consequence if we don't do the surgery, a cat who is chorinically in pain and who will likely continue 'forgetting' where the litter box is when he's in pain and has to go.

I guess the answer is pretty easy. I can forget about some of the home reno projects we had planned.

Monday, September 10, 2007

We were ‘those’ people

This past weekend we flew, with Austin, to Fredericton for a friend’s wedding. It was our first time taking Austin on a plane and although confident that he’s a pretty good kid, I’ll admit, I was a little apprehensive about the whole thing.

The trip down on Friday afternoon was fine. Other than wanting to get up and explore for a bit, he was perfectly content sitting on one of our laps when he had to and colouring with crayons in his colouring book or playing with one of the other new toys we bought especially for the trip. (There’s nothing wrong with a little bribery every now and then.)

The weekend was great and went by way too fast. And before we knew it, we were back at the Fredericton airport on Sunday night waiting for our flight home.

When we booked our flights, we had two options for the flight home: 9 a.m. or 9 p.m. Since the purpose of our trip was to go to a wedding on Saturday night, the idea of being at the airport for 7:30 a.m. the next morning was not exactly appealing. So we chose the 9 p.m. flight, hoping and praying that Austin would sleep. Bedtime is after all between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

What I learned from this experience is you can hope and pray all you want, but when you have a strong-willed 18-month-old, neither work very well.

He was fine running around the airport waiting area, but screamed and squirmed when Ryan picked him up to stand in line to go through security. The meaning of that screaming – ‘I don’t want you to hold me, I want to run around.’ In other words, ‘I’m really tired and only want to do what I want to do.’

He stopped screaming as soon as we put him back down and let him run around.

We hadn’t bought him a seat – because kids under two are free as long as they sit on your lap – and thankfully, when we got on the plane, we were in the second-to-last row, and the last row was empty. So we spread out. One of us sitting with Austin, the other one sitting in the row behind. Austin was happy as long as he could climb on the seats. But when the seatbelt sign came on it was another story. I spent the next 10 minutes physically holding him down while he screamed so loud you’d think someone was torturing him – officially making us ‘the people who bring the screaming child on the plane to drive everyone else crazy.’

I managed to calm him down by getting him to look out the window at the lights and singing songs. And for the next two hours he played with one of us – exhausted as could be but refusing to sleep. And a few of the people around us were really nice, talking to us or playing with him.

Landing was worse than takeoff. This time, 10 minutes felt like 10 hours as I used all I had without hurting him to hold him down while he screamed so much a few people turned to look – maybe to see if I was torturing him. And he kicked and kicked and kicked. I kept trying to hold his legs in, but he kept escaping and kicking the seat in front while screaming – and the guy in the seat kept turning around and giving dirty looks. He screamed so much that as soon as the plane landed and started taxing to the gate and I loosened my grip, he jumped over to Ryan and then fell to the floor and closed his eyes. Had taxing taken even one minute longer, he would’ve been asleep on the floor.

I felt terrible. Not only was I exhausted from the experience and wanting nothing more than to go home and have a really big drink, I felt terrible for, in my son’s eyes, torturing him and I felt terrible for being ‘one of those parents’. Everyone hates hearing a screaming kid. Even as a parent, I find a screaming child grates on my nerves when I’m in the mall or a grocery store. But there’s nothing worse than a screaming child on an airplane when you can’t escape from it. And there’s nothing worse than knowing that that screaming child is yours, and you can’t make him stop and, at the moment, you’re the one that everyone is giving dirty looks to.

Needless to say, it was an adventure. And unfortunate too, because aside from the fact that Austin woke up in the hotel room when we got back from the wedding reception and wanted to play for awhile, the weekend adventure went off without a hitch. It just ended on a particularly rough note.

So, if I ever fly with a toddler or small child again, I'm going to do one of three things:

  • buy a portable DVD player -- although it can't be used at takeoff and landing, it will help with providing entertainment for the rest of the trip
  • drug my kid before we take off
  • both

Or then again, maybe we'll think twice about travelling with someone who doesn't yet understand reason.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Would you vote for a party promising a holiday in February?

I usually stay away from news commentary on the blog, but this one just begged to be commented on.

Yesterday, the Ontario Liberals kicked off their election campaign for the Oct. 10 election with the promise of a holiday on the third Monday of February – calling it Family Day.

For years and years and years, people have been whining that there’s nothing but long dreary days between Thanksgiving and Easter. Sure there’s the two days off at Christmas and the day off at New Year’s but if you're like me, although they’re welcomed, they’re usually too busy to be considered ‘days off’. Days off are knowing you can go out on a Thursday night because Friday is a holiday. Or you get to go away for an extra-long weekend because Monday is a free day. And after Thanksgiving, there’s nothing that can hold claim to a ‘day off’ until Easter.

That being said, what kind of low form of blackmail do the Liberals think they’re playing at? Forget about real political promises, like money into schools, or social services, or heck, even roads and public transportation. No, the Grits idea of an election promise is to dangle a carrot in front of our faces and say, “if you vote for us, you can take a day off work in February. We promise." (And don’t forget, the ‘we promise’ is probably said with their fingers crossed behind their backs.)

Sure I want a day off in February, who doesn’t? A day of doing nothing but snuggling up in front of the TV while it storms outside sounds like the perfect way to spend a day. But this kind of carrot-dangling is nauseating to me.

I’ve been a Liberal supporter for years, and it’s almost, almost enough to make me think about voting NDP.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Backyard project, at a standstill

I’m finding it really hard to believe right now that the summer is over. It can’t be Labour Day weekend already, wasn’t it just Canada Day camping weekend?

But it is, and although there’s so much we have done this summer, despite the fact that the days are the longest of the year, there never seems to be enough days to do everything you want to do in these two short months.

We did go camping – twice – spend a week at a cottage, play in a baseball tournament (two if you count the fact that our tournament ate up one weekend and Ryan’s men’s league tournament ate up another) and made a quick, beeline trip to Montreal (by car, without Austin) for a wedding last weekend. And next weekend, we're making a quick, beeline trip to Fredericton (by plane and with Austin this time) for another wedding. No wonder there never seemed to be enough days, we were away or busy more weekends than not this summer.

But what didn’t we do? Well the backyard project is still in the Part II phase, having not been touched since we rushed to finish the patio in time for a BBQ party at the end of May. We’ve been too busy enjoying our summer to work in the backyard, which is fine, but the lack of work being done may have set us back to Part 1.5. You see, the large area of dirt left behind by the old cedar hedges, and never covered in sod, have sprouted a couple of weeds. Well, actually, there are enough weeds covering the area that it almost looks like I planted ground cover! At least the weeds are green, which is better than I can say for the lawn.

The old patio stones are still there – but the grass growing up between the stones is so thick that if you stand at a distance, you can almost imagine that the stones are gone.

Needless to say, I don’t have any pictures, because it’s not a pretty sight.

But the new patio is great, and we did use it and our new patio furniture several times over the summer. Some weekday evenings it was really nice to sit outside and eat dinner while Austin ran around in the backyard. I mean what kid wouldn’t like playing in piles of dirt!

Hopefully this fall we’ll get back on track. A few days off work with Austin at the sitter’s is all we need to get it finished. Lift the old stones, rototill the entire backyard – the sad, old grass and all – spread some dirt and lay some sod. Then, next spring, we can buy a sandbox, other toys and maybe some flowers and we’ll have a nice little oasis right outside our back door.

That is, as long as I remember to turn on the sprinkler every now and then.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Playing hooky

Last Thursday was an interesting day. It started out like every other day…busy, busy, busy. I had a report due by the end of the day but I was determined to get it done by noon so that I could start on the bigger report that’s due this coming Wednesday.

I worked my ass off all morning and, at 11:30 I finished it, printed it and dropped it on my manager’s desk.

At 11:45 the power went out. Talk about timing.

Ten minutes later we were ordered to evacuate the now dark and quiet building. After milling around for a bit in the park across the street a bunch of us went for lunch, having been given no indication of when there would once again be light. When we returned to the office, we were handed flashlights, told to go upstairs, get our stuff and go home. The emergency lights didn’t work, the phones were down, the servers were down and well it was getting awfully hot in the building because the A/C of course was down too.

Immediately, people started stressing. Because not only could things no longer get finished from the office, but taking work home wouldn’t help either because with the servers down – webmail and remote access were down too. Heck, the phone lines didn’t even work so we couldn’t leave or receive voice mails either. In other words, nothing worked and nothing could be accessed for God knows how long.

But suddenly I had a thought. Remember when you were a kid – say in elementary school – and something like this happened (and I have a vague memory of this happening to me). Either the power would go out, or a snow storm would be making a beeline for the city, or there might even have been a small fire. Whatever the case, the school board would decide to call the buses, call the parents, call whomever, and all the kids would be sent home early.

Heck, remember Ferris Bueller's Day Off?

It was like a getting a free day. Kids would be yelling and screaming with joy, because suddenly that lesson that just wouldn’t end was over, and instead of three more hours of school, the day was done and there was nothing left to do but play outside (or watch TV, or whatever).

So why is it that we can be so overjoyed at the idea of a ‘free day’ when we’re kids, but so stressed about the same idea as an adult? The work will still be there tomorrow, and if files can’t be accessed, they can’t be accessed. We all need to learn to enjoy ourselves from time to time – not stress over everything. Goodness knows I need to be reminded of that lesson more often than not.

With that in mind, I called my sister-in-law, who at that very moment happened to be at the CNE with Austin and my father-in-law. A little over half an hour later, I was feasting on Tiny Tom donuts while walking with the three of them around the Ex.

A free day is a free day and I decided I wasn’t going to miss out on it – and by extension on the opportunity to spend it with my kid. And shocker of shocker, the work was still waiting to be done when the power came back on.

And it still got finished on time, even after playing hooky for an afternoon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Rogers Rant

Explain to me how one of the largest multi-media companies in Canada can be so completely and utterly useless when it comes to customer service.

Of course, I'm talking about Rogers. A Rogers rant is nothing new in the blogging world, but here's my two cents.

In mid-July, I called customer service to cancel Ryan's phone and put my phone on a pay-as-you-go plan. Ryan had recently received a Blackberry from work, so we no longer needed his phone. Which meant, because we had already finished the terms of our contract, we could cancel our family plan and I could drop my phone to the bare minimum of usage -- knowing full well that I rarely use my phone and making this switch would save us about $50 a month.

After getting a few attempts to pursuade me to keep both phones and the plan that I had, the customer service woman cancelled Ryan's phone. But then offered to put me on a plan that cost only $5 a month (for 40 minutes), and, if I agree to it for a year, she'd wave the system access fee for the first year. I thought about it for a minute and then figured, why not, it's cheaper than pay-as-you-go, and honestly, no one but Ryan ever calls my cell.

So, I was told, effective July 31, Ryan's phone would be no more, and my phone would cost $5 a month.

On Monday, we got our first Rogers bill since the switch. Ryan's phone was no more, and mine cost $20 plus the system access fee. Hmmmm, curious.

So I called and complained and was told although my plan had already switched over to the new one, I had to pay for the old one on the Aug. 1 bill and then it would be credited back to me next month. Heh? So what you're telling me then is I have to pay $20 now to receive a service that only costs $5. This after the first woman told me the plan couldn't change at the time of my original call because it was mid-month.

It's not about the $20 that I have to pay today to only have put back in my pocket on Labour Day. It's about the fact that in the five or six years I've been a Rogers customer, I've never been able to make one change, or add one new service, without having to call back at least three times to complain. A few other small rants:
  • When we moved in, we signed up for a digital cable promotion that gave us four extra cable outlets in the house for free (avoids having to splice your cable). When the guy showed up to do this, his workorder only indicated he was to set up one cable outlet. Despite the fact that he 'called the office' to confirm what I was telling him, he wouldn't do it. Which meant I had to waste another afternoon a week later to wait for another cable guy to show up to hook up the service I was paying for.
  • When we bought our cellphones, we were already Internet and Cable subscribers. We filled out an extra form at the store to get the bundle discount on our phones. It was three months before I realized that our phones weren't being bundled with our other services, and we weren't getting the discount. The switch was made, but not even an apology, or a cent in refund, was offered.

So, I've now called twice regarding the cellphones -- once to cancel, once to complain. One more call next month and by October, I should be receiving and paying for the service I wanted in July.

Friday, August 03, 2007

It's time to do nothing at all

I'm officially on vacation!

Tomorrow we leave for a cottage on a lake in Sundridge, where aside from chasing Austin all over the property and swimming with in him the lake, I'm going to spend the next week, reading my book, catching up on watching some of the DVDs we got for Christmas, maybe work on my scrapbook, napping, and oh, did I mention reading my book!

Well in all honestly, the day time hours (aside from Austin's nap time) may be a little more productive -- but all by doing fun stuff. We may go for a hike, we may go to the nearby petting farm; or then again, we may sit by the lake.

In other words, we're going to do a whole lot of nothing...and I've never been so excited about it!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bras (bathing suits) and boobs Part III

Guys have it so easy.

Shopping for clothes consists of seeing something they like, picking through the rack for their size and heading to the cash. This seems to apply to everything from t-shirts to dress shirts and jeans to shorts. It even seems to apply to bathing suits – which are really just shorts that can go in the water.

Women don’t have it that easy, especially with bathing suits.

A few months ago, I thought that bra shopping was difficult – after being properly fitted with a $140 bra. But bathing suit shopping was a whole new experience – and a whole new frustration.

On Saturday, I decided if we’re going to spend a week on a lake next week, I should really have a bathing suit that fits. The thought of wearing my pre-pregnancy bathing suits are laughable – if I had to throw out all of my pre-pregnancy bras, why in the world did I think I could keep my pre-pregnancy bathing suits?

And the one I did have (from last summer) that was supposed to fit, fit so terribly when I took Austin to the pool a few weeks ago that I spent as much time pulling it up as I did making sure he didn’t drown.

So, it was off to the mall for me. My first stop was Sears, hoping I could find something on the sale rack. Ten suits and who-knows-how-long in the fitting room later; I was still bathing suit-less. The problem was, once again, finding something that fits the boobs. And since I’m not a heavy girl, anything that did fit the boobs made me look like I had put on at least 20 pounds. And anything that looked ok on the rest of me, well, wasn’t exactly appropriate for a family day at the beach.

So, I headed for the Bay – still in hopes of finding a bathing suit on sale. But once again, eight suits later and who-knows-how-long in the fitting room; I was still at square one. Here I had already tried on 18 bathing suits, and only one was ‘ok’. But it was $70, and the thought of paying $70 for something that will do, and not something that I actually liked, kind of made me feel sick.

I then popped my head into La Vie on Rose Aqua, but quickly discovered without, thankfully, trying anything on, that their bathing suits aren’t designed to fit anyone over a C cup.

And then I remembered the Bikini Village in the mall. For years, I’ve always avoided that store, because I never felt the need to overpay for something I’m wasn’t planning on wearing much. But I was desperate and my options were to try there or to go home sans bathing suit.

So when the salesgirl asked if she could help me find anything, I replied, “all I want is something that fits.”

She laughed because, I realized when I looked at her, her body type was similar to mine. She found me a few options, saying “these should fit, and they’re quite slimming as well.”

I tried all three on without even looking at the price.

They all fit well, meaning, I actually got more than just “something that fit”; I also got to choose something I liked.

And for that, I paid $91. I guess that officially puts bathing suits on the same list as bras – one that fits ain’t going to be cheap.

Monday, July 30, 2007

'Klutz' strikes again...ouch

For anyone who’s ever wondered why the nickname on the back of my baseball jersey says ‘Klutz’, here’s a brief sampling:

  • One day in high school, I ran head-first into a wall playing some stupid ball game. I was maybe 15 or 16 and my mom spent the rest of that evening (and probably all night) worrying about whether I had a concussion.
  • In university, while swimming in the pool of a friend’s apartment building, I swam head-first into the wall (notice a trend here) while playing Marco Polo. No concussion to worry about this time, just a really bad headache.
  • About five years ago, I tripped over who knows what (my own two feet probably) while walking with some friends to the bar. I rolled my ankle and spent the next few weeks on crutches – having torn a couple of ligaments. Now, note the wording of the above sentence, I was on my way to the bar. In other words, I had not yet had a drink and I can say that with absolute certainly because I had DD’d us all there from an earlier party.

Yesterday, I thought it would be fun to try falling down my basement stairs. I have no idea how I managed it, because I’ve walked those stairs at least 500 times in the last three years. I just slipped, I guess.

Thankfully, I only fell the four stairs to the first landing, but four stairs were far enough. Today, I’m sporting a rather large bruise on my ass, another large bruise on my forearm, and a hip that is so sore I’m having to walk around like an old lady. I guess it could’ve been worse – I could’ve broken something or really messed up my back (since I already have problems with a couple of discs). But oddly enough, my back doesn’t even hurt today.

But I still freakin’ hurt…and I still feel like a freakin’ idiot, or at the very least, like the klutz that I am.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Playing Scrabble, one move a day

Scrabble has always been my favourite board game. I find it challenging and always interesting, while, at the same time, occasionally frustrating. The fact that I love the game may not come as a surprise to many, as I did major in, and now work in, an English-related field.

But, no matter how much I love the game, I’ll be perfectly honest; I’m not very good at it. I’m not a puzzle kind of person – crosswords and other type puzzles are too complex for my brain’s way of thinking. But for some reason, I still love playing Scrabble.

Very rarely, Ryan and I will play – and I mean very rarely. Occasionally, I find a free download online that lets me play against the computer. But those are usually timed trial offers, and after 60 or so minutes of play, you have to buy the product to keep playing. Something I’ve never been terribly inclined to do because, playing against the computer is like playing video games – something many may like, but I quickly bore of.

So, when among the invasion of vampire, zombie and food fight applications on Facebook came an invitation for ‘Scrabulous’, I jumped on it.

And before I knew it, I was playing Scrabble with my sister in Brampton. And a few days after that, another game was started, this time between myself, my sister in Brampton and my sister in California.

Playing Scrabble on Facebook is a lengthy process. With time zones and the fact that most normal people aren’t logged in 24/7; you usually only get to make one play a day. And a game seems to take two weeks or more to play.

But regardless, it’s fun. It’s fun to not have to play against the computer; it’s fun to not have to convince Ryan to play with me; it’s fun to be able to play for only a couple of minutes a day – which in all honesty, some days that’s all the time I have. But most importantly, it’s fun to be able to play against my sisters, neither of whom live in the same city as me.

The three of us have always been close, but the miles (and time zones) between us make it difficult to talk or see each other often. But now we get to play Scrabble together, and regardless of the miles between us, it’s as if the three of us are sitting around my parents’ kitchen table again.

And, like usual, they’re both kicking my ass.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Camping trip number two

For all my rants and raves, whines and worries, I will now stand up and admit it – I like camping.

I like sleeping in a tent; I like just sitting around with nothing much to do; and I like the fact that it can be a quick and cheap little weekend vacation.

I’m always all about taking vacations – I love to travel and don’t like staying at home when taking time off work. Staying at home means ‘getting things done’ and worrying about the things that need to be done. Going on vacation, means scrambling around before leaving, but then leaving all the ‘things that need to be done’ behind.

For many of the last several years, vacations have almost always been visiting places far and wide – in the last five years, Ryan and I have been to Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, Panama, and New York City. But now, with Austin, vacations are a little lower key and closer to home. And that’s ok with me.

And that’s what’s so nice about camping. It’s going on vacation only a couple of hours from home. But even though we’re so close to home, it’s remote enough and different enough from my real world, to really feel like a vacation. In other words, I’m able to relax, even if it’s just for a short time.

Here’s how we spent the weekend at Presqu’ile (aside from eating and sleeping at the more or less appropriate times):

  • Discovering, by reading the little paper the park guys give you on the way in, that ‘gourmet VanHoute coffee’ is served at the park store and then strapping Austin to Ryan’s back and all five of us making the 1km or so walk to the store…yes, just for a cup of coffee
  • Napping
  • Hiding from the rain – yes camping trip number two saw just as much rain, if not more, than camping trip number one. Thankfully our friends have a screen room tent that we quickly converted into a snazzy rain shelter tent. Undoubtedly, during the 4 or so hours that it rained, we all got a little cranky, but we survived!
  • Chasing Austin around the site and down the roadway.
  • Eating really good food – again I say who says camping means hamburgers and hotdogs!
  • Watching Catherine jump into Lake Ontario, fully clothed (we dared her to and she did!)
  • Watching Austin absolutely love standing knee deep in the water.
  • Sitting around the campfire drinking beer and/or polishing off a couple of bottles of wine.
  • Roasting marshmallows.

In all honesty, I’m almost a little sad that this is the last camping trip for the year. I know there’s lots of summer left, but, for the most part now, our weekends are all booked up until mid-September. And although we could camp then, it may be a little too cold to do so – and besides I wouldn’t mind using some of the weekends in September to finally get back to work on the backyard project. (The weeds are starting to take over the backyard again, and well, there's still no grass.)

So for now, I’ll dream of my next vacation – a cottage on a lake near North Bay for the first week of August. It’ll be a nice change from camping, because when it rains, we’ll have a real roof over our heads!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Two cats, one problem

The problem with having two pets is it's sometimes difficult to know which one is sick.

About a month ago, we started noticing that one of our cats was leaving us presents in inappropriate places. (Read peeing in places other than the litter box.) We assumed it was Chloe because we had a problem with Ollie doing that a few years back and, after many tests, it was determined to be behavioural and he was put on medication (Prozzac) to make him stop. It worked.

So we packed Chloe off to the vet and after a 24-hour stay, a bunch of tests and $300, it was determined that there was nothing medically wrong with her. So we took her home and debated whether we should put her on Prozzac as well.

But then the problem stopped for a bit so we decided to hold off, which is a good thing, because Prozzac for cats isn't cheap (about $1.10 a day). But hey, if it keeps my cat from peeing on my carpet, I'll take it!

A few days ago, the problem started again, this time much worse than before -- trust me you don't need all the details. So, on Saturday morning, I called the vet. I explained that I didn't know which cat was the problem -- the 'present' was in places that Chloe usually hangs out in, but the extent of the problem (now, not last month) was something normally associated with male cats.

So we brought them both in. Two exams, two unine tests, a 24-hour stay for Ollie (because he wouldn't give the vet a urine sample during the exam) and $350 later, and it was determined that Ollie has crystals in his bladder.

But, what I gather from the vet report, is that he's in pretty bad shape -- probably because it's been going on for over a month, which makes me feel just a little bit guilty. Not only did we torture the wrong cat with tests, but we left the other cat to suffer for the last month.

So now, Ollie's daily dinner routine consists of a drug concoction...Prozzac, a pain killer and something else, all mixed together in a tablespoon of wet food. And, we have to keep him separated from Chloe for the next 7-10 days because we have to make sure he's peeing. Which means, he has to have his own litter box. Apparently the vet said he's in bad enough shape that she would've recommended that he stay for a few days, but he was too freaked out and stressed in the cage that she felt he'd recover better while isolated at home.

So that's the story. Hopefully things will get better now and once Ollie's let out of the family room (which we blocked off with a big foam board) we won't find 'presents' all over the house. And hopefully next time one of them gets sick, it'll be more obvious which one it is and then we'll know which one to take to the vet.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Campfires, rain and bed hogs

The Canada Day long weekend camping trip consisted of sleepless nights (because the youngest member of the family takes up the most amount of bed space), cold days (because I doubt the temperature peaked above 20C all weekend), even colder nights (because it was a whopping 7C or 8C overnight), a lot of dirt, fantastic food (who says camping means only hot dogs and hamburgers?) and good company.

All that to say I enjoyed myself and you’ll likely find me at the same time and the same place next year.

What I liked most about camping was the idea that the most difficult thought of the day is when to hold a bocce ball tournament. Spending a whole weekend like that is something I don’t take the time to do often enough. Weekends (and weeknights) are always so full of trying to ‘get things done’ that there’s often so little time to put the mind at ease and do nothing at all. And that’s what I liked about camping. There was very little to do and that was fun.

It may have only been three and a half days away, but it felt like a real vacation. It was far enough away from the world I live in and the life I normally lead, that I forgot about things like chores, ‘to dos’ and work. So much so, that when I got back to the office this morning, I felt relaxed and forgetful – in the sense that if I hadn’t left a to do list on my desk last Thursday it would’ve taken me awhile to remember what needed to be done today.

In the time we were there, I accomplished the following things:
· following Austin around the site (I think a large part of my time consisted of this)
· napping
· reading
· going for a hike with Ryan and Austin (to the waterfall pictured above)
· playing bocce ball
· eating pretty fantastic food
· sitting around a campfire
· hiding from the rain

All but the last point were what made camping fun. And all of those are what will make camping fun again. The thing I didn't like about camping were the things I couldn't control – like the weather. And the weather gods definitely weren’t on our side this weekend. On Saturday, we learned the true definition of scattered showers – as it rained three different times, and on Sunday it rained once. The rain meant we were often damp and cold and very good at cramming as many chairs and people (there was afterall 13 of us) as possible under the shade tent.

And it was cold. Shorts and t-shirts were a rare sight. Instead, a more common sight was adults wearing track pants and hoodies and kids wearing dirty clothes -- because dirty was better than wet.

And I didn’t like being cold at night. I’m the type of person, that in the middle of winter with my furnace blasting, I’ll be wearing flannel pyjamas and hiding under layer upon layer of covers every night. So, sleeping in a tent when it’s only 7C or so had me actually waking up because I was cold. And that was while wearing a track suit and hiding in a sleeping bag topped with 2 flannel blankets.

But then again, maybe I was cold and waking up because Austin kept hogging the bed. We had a lot of trouble getting him to sleep in his crib at night, which meant every night we ended up bringing him into bed with us. And every night, he’d toss and turn and kick until we were both practically rolling right off the air mattress.

But the cold and the rain are stuff that suck at the time and then fade to foggy memories over time. I figure by the time we’re getting ready to do this again next year, I will have forgotten how cold I was and will remember how much fun it was.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Either the best idea or the worst idea

I've been over the fact that I’ve never really camped before – or more like the few times I did, I didn’t really enjoy it. And I’ve been over the fact that the gods drenched my tent last week while it was set up in the backyard and that maybe, just maybe they were trying to tell me something.

Still I haven’t been listening to the gods or the little voice in my head and have remained excited for this weekend’s camping trip.

But the gods – or at least he weatherman – is at it again. Suddenly visions of bathing suits and lakes are being replaced with sweatshirts and campfires. I didn’t think of that when I thought of camping on July 1. I’ve been mentally planning what to bring so that Austin doesn’t get too hot – not once did I think of what to bring to make sure he doesn’t get too cold, especially at night.

Let me stress, I'm still looking forward to this trip because regardless of the sun, the rain, the heat or the cold, the sleeping on an air mattress or the getting really dirty, we're going to be hanging out with good friends all weekend long. But that said, this is definitely going to be the best idea or the worst idea we’ve ever had. I’ll be sure to share which one it turns out to be.

Oh well, at least it doesn’t look like I’ll need to worry about my tent flooding, so far, no real calls for rain. But knowing my luck…

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I sure hope this isn't a 'sign'

On Sunday, we set up our brand new tent in the backyard. We figured that since it was still in the original packaging, before we arrived at the campsite we’d better make sure that a) all the pieces are there and b) we have some small idea of what we’re doing when setting it up.

It turns out it’s a heck of a lot bigger than we realized. (Hey, it was on sale at Canadian Tire – that’s how we chose it.) This is not necessarily a bad thing, because if we like camping, we’ll have it forever and there’ll be room for our family to ‘grow’.

So we set it up, but the only thing we didn’t do is tie down the top cover – or whatever the heck the thing is called – because we were too lazy to, and there really wasn’t a lot of space left in the backyard.

Then, the afternoon flew by and before we knew it, it was dark out – and who wants to take down a tent in the dark!

Then Monday flew by and the tent continued to take up space in the backyard.

Then came the flash storm on Tuesday afternoon and we came home to find the tent still standing (that’s a relief) but full of water. Ryan had to use the wet/dry vac to dry it out.

Now I know it’s because we didn’t tie the top thing down, so it just blew back during the storm, but maybe, just maybe this is a small sign that someone’s trying to tell me I shouldn’t be getting myself into this camping thing. I mean, I’ve already been pretty honest in saying that I’m not a camper, and never really enjoyed any of my previous camping experiences.

Although I am still looking forward to the trip – so I’m just going to hope it doesn’t rain, and maybe, just maybe, we should take the damn tent down, because it’s still taking up most of the space in the backyard.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wedding bells sure ring a lot

Last night, Ryan and I were trying to figure out how to swing a quick trip to Fredericton for a wedding in September. The problem is, is that Fredericton is not a cheap place to fly to -- in fact I think we could fly to California to visit my sister for cheaper -- and it's not an easy place to drive to either -- 13 hours each way is not high on my list of things to do for a weekend, especially with Austin.

And to top it all off, this wedding is two weeks after we're driving to Montreal for my best friend's wedding. (We did lament the fact that if they had been back-to-back weekends, we could've made a week-long driving trip out of it -- since Montreal is about a third of the way there.)

All this talk got us no closer to figuring out whether we can go or not, but it did take us on a tangent -- we've travelled to quite a few weddings over the years. In the past (read pre-Austin), we managed to find ways to travel to Halifax (2001), Germany (2005) and on a Carribean cruise (2005) all for weddings. All of those were pretty amazing trips -- especially the last two, which turned into entire trips, and not just quick fly-ins for the wedding.

But this led us to yet another tangent. In the 10 years we've been together, we've gone to at least one wedding every year except one. That's a lot of weddings! There was 1 in 1997, 1 in 1998, none in 1999, 1 in 2000, 1 in 2001, 3 in 2002, 2 in 2003 (that does include our own though), 1 in 2004, 4 in 2005, 2 in 2006, 2 (planned) in 2007 and one's already set for 2008. I think that sums them all up. And this doesn't take into account the few we had to decline for whatever reason -- sorry, you know who you are.

So, that being said, if you read this blog, and you got married in 1999, and I was there...remind me please. Because that's the only year I can't think of one!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Backyard Project Part II

Part II of the backyard project is now complete.

Over the May long weekend, Ryan, two friends of ours and I, broke our backs ripping out weeds and digging out the grass in a 186sq ft section of our backyard to build a new patio.

The weekend started with a 9 a.m. trip to Home Depot -- which was probably the busiest store in the city on the Saturday of the first long weekend of the year.

After an hour an a half, Ryan and I had made our purchase -- 85 stones and 20 bags of construction sand. Oh yeah, and some new tools and gear (of course) and a pretty new patio set.

We had to rent a Home Depot van to get everything home and as the guy was loading an entire skid of stones into the van for us, we both suddenly realized 'what the heck are we getting ourselves into'.

But it was too late now.

The rest of that day was spent working away. Hugh and Catherine showed up as we were unloading the van -- or Ryan was, I was keeping Austin away from everything -- and as soon as Austin went down for his nap, we all got to work. Ryan and Hugh started to take the grass up while Catherine and I started ripping the plants and weeds out. The patio was going on top of what was once a garden -- but since I didn't plant the perennials that were there, I felt no love towards keeping them. So everything, except two day lillies (which were transplanted to the other side of the yard), were chucked right into a lawn bag.

After that, the rest of my day was spent keeping Austin out of the way, while they worked. All I know is that it took all day to dig down, pack the dirt and lay the sand beneath the patio.

All day Sunday and all day Monday, Ryan lay patio stones. And every time Austin napped, I pulled weeds from the dirt, from the grass from the trees...wherever I could find. All in all, I filled three lawn bags with weeds.

A lot of cleaning up every night after work followed and by Saturday night the patio set was set up and we had our VERY FIRST backyard party!

Two weeks have gone by now, and we've done nothing but look at the backyard, or lounge in the patio chairs and watch Austin run around the grass or play in the dirt.

So there's still a lot of work to do. There's a large pile of dirt at the end of the patio which needs to be spread out over the yard and there's still the matter of the old patio stones which need to get out of here. And then, finally, we can get grass. By the time we get to it, it may be too late in the season to lay sod -- but that's ok. The point is, whether I grow it or I lay it....there will be grass!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I agreed to what?

A funny thing happened this spring. I easily agreed to do something I never thought I’d agree to – at least not without a fight. And not only did I say ‘yes’ without a second thought, but then I said ‘yes’ to doing this thing a second time before the first time even happened.

What I’m saying is I’ve agreed to go camping…twice.

I’ve never been a camper. In fact, except for my childhood trips to summer sleep-away camp (where you sleep on bunk beds, in cabins for two weeks) I have been camping a grand total of three times.

The first was when I was 15 and my parents decided we were going to take a family trip to Algonquin Park. So, not only were we camping, but we were canoeing with a guide all day long, hauling all our stuff with us and setting up our tents in the middle of nowhere. I remember it being fun, sort of. Well, I remember it being different and a lot of work for a vacation actually. And in hindsight, I realize it was really not my family’s type of thing.

The second and third times were car camping – each for one night only. It was while car camping that I discovered that camping’s not really all that bad, but well, I can’t say I had a great time either time. No particular reason really, but I don’t have many memories of either trip – good or bad – and haven’t felt like I’ve been missing out on anything in the seven or eight summers that have slipped by since the last trip.

In fact, when previously asked to go camping, I’ve always found reasons why not.

But then, something funny happened when it was still too cold to think that summer would ever arrive. A good friend of ours asked us if we wanted to go over the July long weekend with a group that would include 8 adults and 5 kids, and before I realized what I was agreeing to, I found myself at Canadian Tire shopping for a tent.

And I’m actually looking forward to the trip. So much so, that when another friend of ours suggested a camping weekend – I was the one sending the e-mails to get a date pinned down to go.

Maybe it has to do with being older (although I don’t know why age would have anything to do with it). Maybe it has to do with being relatively sure that Austin will really like the idea of ‘being outside’ for three days straight. Or maybe it has a lot to do with the company we’ll be keeping. Whatever it is, I’m really looking forward to our first (and second) camping trip of the season.

Who knows, maybe I’ll start to want to vacation like this more often. It’s certainly a cheaper way to travel.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Time goes by...

Call me sentimental in my old age. Whatever. It’s my blog.

Time seems to fly by so quickly these days and more often than not, I find myself taking a double take at how the days have actually turned into years.

I know I’m not making much sense this morning. I’d better grab another coffee.

What I mean is: wasn’t Austin just a newborn who did nothing but eat, sleep and poop? When did he start motoring around the house and yelling cat every time one of ours meanders into the room?

And this photo:

was taken four years ago today!

Yup, today is our four year anniversary. It’s hard to believe that four years ago we were standing in the chapel to say ‘I do’ and then partying the night away. Although everyone says ‘I’ll never forget’ about their wedding, but I bet not too many can say “I’ll never forget how we ended the party at 2 a.m. at Fynn’s, still dressed in our gown and tux, with some of our closest friends.’

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Clean up time is here today

I’m so excited right now. As I type this someone is in my house.


Yup, three months after heading back to work, we gave in and hired a cleaning woman.

When I first returned to work, we figured we’d try it out and see how we managed. Well three months later, I can honestly say we didn’t manage very well. Maybe we didn’t really make an effort at it, since our fall back plan was always “well if it doesn’t work out we’ll hire a cleaning woman.” So, when you know your fall back plan is to do what you wanted to do in the first place, why try very hard at making the so-called Plan A work?

I’m sure we could have managed to keep our house clean if we really tried. I mean how hard is it to mop the floors, clean the bathrooms and kitchen and vacuum the basement? Pretty hard really, when you’d rather spend time hanging out with your toddler on a Saturday morning. And even if we’re not lazing about with Austin, but getting stuff done (like running errands with him in tow) we’re still ‘hanging out’ with him and not dumping him in front of the TV to scrub the bathroom and dust the shelves.

But it can get expensive having someone else do the work for you, so here’s the compromise we made with ourselves – once a month, we’ll have someone else come in and give our house a good clean. In between, we’re perfectly capable of sweeping up and doing other minor cleaning here and there.

Now all I have to do to best make this arrangement work is to plan to have people over soon after she cleans and not soon before – because that means I’ll have to do it!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Too much TV

We got our PVR about a year and a half ago and honestly, I wonder what the heck we did without it. I mean I know WHAT we did – we recorded shows on our VCR – but I don’t remember recording very many shows. Because these days, it seems that our PVR is perpetually 90 per cent full.

You’d think maybe we’d learn that we watch more shows than we’re able to regularly follow, but no, because at least once a week, we’re scrolling through the list of recorded shows, hoping to find something to erase so that we can squeeze in just ‘one more show.’

A lot of it has to do with the fact that, because of Austin, we don’t have as much time to watch TV as we used to – before he was born, and when he was newborn, we used to flip on a previously-recorded show at 7 p.m. while we ate our dinner, just because we could. These days, there’s no time for that. Instead, we’re rushing around to get his dinner on the table, and then our dinner on the table and then maybe give him a bath and actually spend a little time playing with him before bed. So it’s usually 8 or 8:30 before we sit down and relax in front of the TV.

So there goes the 7 p.m. timeslot to catch up on shows. But at least, thanks to the PVR, we can watch a show that began at 8 p.m. by starting it at 8:30.

Then there’s bedtime. Shows that started at 10 p.m. never used to be a problem, but now, it’s practically unheard of for either of us to stay up that late on a weeknight (or Friday night for that matter – but that’s usually a result of falling asleep on the couch and then stumbling down the hall to bed.)

So anything that’s on at 10 p.m. just goes straight to the recorded list of the PVR. And it sits there for weeks and weeks and weeks. Along with anything else we hadn’t gotten around to watching.

Throw in the fact that the Raptors were in the playoffs so we were watching the games instead of our regularly scheduled programming, and you have one full PVR right now.

The advantage to having all these shows sit on there is come June, when every show has gone into reruns, we’ll still have episodes of CSI: Miami, among others, from March, April and May to watch. Much to Ryan’s dismay I’m sure, this means a few extra weeks of not having to watch the Blue Jays every night. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m a baseball fan – but six nights at week?!)

I think next TV season, I’m going to cut down on the number of shows I religiously follow. I mean do I really need to watch three incarnations of CSI? And as much as I love 24, this season is not sitting well with me – so if it doesn’t show signs of improvement next season, it may be time to consider moving on.

And when it comes to moving on, for every new show I want to take on, I should be willing to give up something else. Right?

This sounds good now, but for some reason, I think that come October, my PVR will be 90 per cent full again.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Backyard project

Last summer, like the two summer we spent in the house before that, my backyard looked like this:

Notice the overgrown cedar hedges across the back fence line in the first picture. And notice how the neighbour’s tree has swallowed up the fence and is nearly touching my lawn. And in the final picture, notice this little corner by the edge of the house that has been totally and completely consumed by weeds – four of which are six-foot high thistles, and a ‘so-called’ plant that smells like celery, spreads like wildflowers and grow so tall the stalks eventually fall over across the patio stones.

Not very pretty pictures, that’s for sure.

The jungle doesn’t end at what you can see, here’s what you can’t see – the lawn is a mess. Aside from the weeds with root structures that probably go all the way to China, the lawn is not even close to flat. Scattered throughout the grass are potholes, some of which are so deep that when you step in one, you could twist an ankle. Ryan describes the potholes like this: “it looks likes someone has been practicing their short game for the last 10 years.”

The other thing you can’t see is the hedges are so overgrown that they spring out almost five feet from the fence line. But once you step into them, they’re nothing but a fa├žade – the inside branches are dead, so you can’t even trim them back.

For the record, we may have neglected the backyard for our first two and a half summers, but it didn’t fall into such despair because of us. It was in this state when we bought this house – although because we purchased in early May, it hadn’t started to grow for the season, so we didn’t realize the extend of the misery until we moved in at the end of July. The people we bought the house from had lived there for 10 years, and honestly, I think the backyard has been neglected for the last 10+ years.

Well, we’ve been talking and talking about it and now we’re finally ready to do something about it. Austin is up and running at full speed now and we want a safe place for him to play. That had always been our plan, and although the backyard won’t be perfect in the first summer, we’re in the process of deconstructing in order to make some huge improvements.

The process started last fall thanks to my dad, and was then put on hiatus over the winter. A few weeks ago we got at it again, and yesterday, with the help of Ryan’s sister looking after Austin for a good part of the afternoon, we really got to work.

Here’s what it looks like today:

Note the complete lack of hedges across the fence. (And by extension, notice how much more backyard we have!) Notice, as well, how the tree no longer consumes the fence and, in the third picture, how there’s nothing but a single shrub in the corner by the house. Honestly, I didn’t even know it was there until I spent hours and hours last fall de-weeding that area – how it survived being smothered for years, I’ll never know.

These pictures show nothing but a work in progress. Obviously there’s a lot of work left to do.

The roots and weeds need to come up in places, the ground needs to be levelled and sod needs to be laid. As well, the plan is to pull the patio stones up and then put new ones down along the fence (the area of yard that used to be consumed by the neighbour’s tree). The fence needs to built up a bit as well, to create a little more privacy from the back-door neighbours. Later in the summer, or even next year, we may build a few gardens and do some other plantings. That’s all cosmetic changes, which will seem easy once the heavy lifting work is done.

There’ll be more pictures to come, but by the end of June we hope to have a backyard that can be used – a place where we can sit and watch Austin run around (once we buy patio furniture of course), a place where we can have summer parties, and a place that doesn’t look like a jungle anymore.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What to wear (or what not to wear)

The warm weather is finally here and with it brings sunshine, flowers, leaves on the trees and my realization that I have absolutely nothing to wear.

I’m not really exaggerating either. It’s been two years since I’ve had to wear spring clothes to work, and in those two years I’ve somehow managed to lose, misplace or wear out pretty much every spring-like shirt that isn’t a T-shirt that I own.

This becomes a bit of problem, when even on casual Friday, I can’t find a T-shirt that’s clean and doesn’t have a hole in it to put on with my one and only pair of jeans – which, by the way, went by the ‘they’re clean enough’ theory.

Since it got warm last week, every morning has been the same routine, rummage through my closet and pull out a pair of pants then desperately try to find a shirt that isn’t a sweater that fits and looks presentable. Because, you see, that’s the other problem I’m having with many of my old clothes – as I’ve written about before, I wear a larger bra size then I did two years ago, which means that shirts fit differently than they used to. They either become too short, because well, I use up more of it on top, or they plunge too low, showing off an amount of cleavage that isn’t really appropriate for a workplace – at least not my workplace! Or else, they just don’t look right anymore – after putting on and taking off 25 or so pounds in the last almost 2 years, the weight sits differently on me now. The scale may read the same number it did 2 years ago, but my body shape isn’t the same – and some things just don’t fit the same as they used to.

I seem to be doing ok with pants, and I barely wore them last year while on maternity leave so I didn’t wear them out. But skirts are out of the question. All my spring/summer skirts have certain colours or patterns to them – and I either wore out, or can no longer wear, the shirt that matched the skirt. So now I have a bunch of skirts with no shirts that go with them.

So tonight, after work, I guess I’ll do the required shopping trip. I need capris, cute short-sleeved shirts, jeans (because one pair really doesn’t cut it) and even summer shoes. It may sound like a fun evening of shopping, but if there’s one thing I hate more than anything, is shopping because you have to – because you have nothing to wear.