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.