Saturday, December 20, 2008

Past Deadline: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, 2008

Here's the Christmas column offering - published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Dec. 17. Ho ho ho!

’Twas the Night Before Christmas, 2008

Well, it’s that time of year again – the time when I join legions of other people who take a perfectly good, classic poem and turn it inside out to serve their own selfish purposes. What would Christmas be without that? So here we go again, with apologies to Clement Clark Moore….

’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Was chaos! And mayhem! And anarchy! And grouse! (Grousing. It should be grousing – but that doesn’t rhyme with house – or housing, for that matter.)

Groom-Boy and MomMomMom Ineeda were scouring the shelves
Hoping to find batteries – and maybe some elves.
“It’s hopeless!” he cried as he eyed all the papers,
“To assemble these toys will be quite a caper!”
“I know it,” she said, as she collapsed in a heap,
“And there’s not much time left – boy, we’re in deep!”
She recalled last year’s promise to start her preparing,
In advance of the season becoming too wearing. (Is that even possible? I mean, really. When you’re working and have kids….Maybe "despairing" would be a better word.)
When what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But a tiny old woman with a sack at her rear.
“Hurray!” Mom Ineeda cried. “I was hoping you’d come!
“I’ve done it again and I’m feeling quite glum.
“Despite every one of my very best intentions
“It IS the last minute – which doesn’t need mention.”
“Who’s this?” Groom-boy asked, with concern in his eye,
“She doesn’t look much like that Santa Claus guy!”
“It isn’t!” Mom Ineeda said, all light and airy,
“Fear not, for this is the Stress-Free Holiday Fairy!”
(I’m always saying, “Fear not!” around the house, you know.)
With a wink and a grin the fairy did scold,
“You haven’t improved much from what I’ve been told.
“The baking, the wrapping, the decorating I see,
“Has all been last minute and comes with no glee.”
(Yeah, it’s the glee I miss.)
“Now pass me those toys,” she with a smile
“And I’ll have them ready in less than a while.”
In a flash she assembled a number of things
Like trinkets and baubles and stuff that will collect dust and be forgotten under the couch in very short order.
(Sorry. Again with the no rhyming. It’s hard to get good poets, isn’t it?)
And next she set to the rest of the house,
Removing clutter and dust and the occasional grouse.
She tidied and vacuumed and mopped and did jigs
And she managed to do it without waking the kids. (Er, kigs. You know what I mean.)
She finished so quickly they both were amazed
But the fairy herself was really unfazed.
“’Tis nothing,” she chuckled as the pair looked around.
“It’s spotless!” they cheered, barely touching the ground.
“Now listen,” said Fairy, “don’t make this a habit,
“When you have time to prepare you really must grab it.”
With that she was gone, and left in her wake
A sparkling clean house and a yummy fruitcake.
“Oh, yay. Fruitcake,” groaned Groom-boy.
Licking her lips, Mom Ineeda heard her sweet cry,
“Have a stress-free holiday, dearies!” Fairy called. “Goodbye!”

Oh, wouldn’t that be so, so nice! The fruitcake, I mean. Well, whether a stress-free holiday fairy shows up at your house or not, Groom-Boy, Boychild, Girlchild and I, Mom Ineeda, wish you a very Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year!

Do you suppose the fairy would jump into the Tay for me on New Year’s Day?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Past Deadline: What? Christmas is WHEN This Year?

Hey, look! Me, on the verge of annual panic! Hurray! Here is the latest "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008.

What? Christmas is when this year?

Did they move Christmas up this year? No?


I’m not ready. I won’t even have a chance to start feeling remotely ready until the week before Christmas. Why? Work-life balance. Balance schmalance.

From about the end of October until mid-December is Silly Season for me and, ironically, it has very little to do with Christmas. For whatever reasons – planets aligning, fates a’calling, lords a-leaping (who knows?) – my work-from-home schedule goes psycho bananas. So in an effort to sort out what’s left to do between now and Dec. 25, I thought I would share my list with you.

1. Christmas cards. I haven’t sent mine out yet. The problem is I’m still waiting for my friend (former supervisor) to send me a picture of his family so I can accidentally attach it to a Christmas e-mail and send it out to a whole bunch of friends, family and clients. Just to make sure everyone is paying attention. Like last year.

2. Christmas baking. Several weeks ago Girlchild and I were on a baking spree. Every other day she would ask if we could make cookies together and I would opt for the handy-dandy peanut butter ones on the back of the Kraft jar: quick, easy and superb with some chocolate chips added. I got to thinking, if I’m going to be baking this often I should get the Christmas stuff done. I went shopping for all the ingredients: peel for the fruit cookies and real butter for Grandmom’s shortbread and ginger and icing for the gingerbread men. I told people about my clever plan, which is always a dumb thing to do because then your cleverness will never see the light of day.
Baking? What baking? Who has time for baking? Besides, my assistant has changed hobbies and has taken a fancy to making bead necklaces and paintings, which is what everyone we know will be getting for Christmas (see below).

3. Christmas gifts. For months when I’ve thought of a clever (there’s that naughty word again) gift I would write it down. Despite some feeble efforts to go shopping, mostly the list has stared at me balefully while I’ve been working like a lunatic at my desk. All I can do is stare back, count the necklaces and paintings and think, “Maybe next week.” When it comes to Christmas you can only say “Maybe next week” so many times before it’s too late, not like those diet and exercise resolutions that can be put off indefinitely despite the typical Jan. 1st start date.

4. Speaking of Jan. 1, have I mentioned how utterly freaked out I am about the Polar Bear Plunge? It’s keeping me up at night in breathless anticipation – or something. Have I mentioned I’m in the market for a wetsuit? Deep breath. Okay – back to Christmas.

5. Christmas decorations. Groom-boy, who has a light fetish, has draped sparkly luminaries over everything that isn’t moving, and the tree was set up on the weekend – hurray! Boychild waited patiently (ha!) for the Tall People to string the lights and garland while Girlchild diligently removed Every Single Ornament from its container and piled it on the couch. This got me a bit twitchy because I am Type A – I mean because I feared some of the breakable ornaments would not survive the “help” of a three year old. Fortunately I found the bag of breakables before she did.

Christmas is so relaxing.

As soon as I can remove a layer of dust and a mountain of clutter from the horizontal surfaces in my house I should be able to finish the decorating (just before the people come over). That is assuming I get that balance-schmalance thing under control.

As much as I wish I could have had more accomplished by now, Christmas is a bit like weddings – there’s only so much you can do in advance to prepare. Some of it, like putting out the deli meat at the reception or making the gravy for the turkey dinner, just has to wait.

That said, ideally I would prefer not to have to wait until Dec. 24 to get things finished.

At least I have until Jan. 1 to get the wetsuit.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Past Deadline: Please - Convince Me I Wanna Jump

At last. Real evidence I am nuts. Here is the lastest edition of "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Dec. 3/08.

Please – convince me I wanna jump!

Groom-boy figures it will be the end of me. I hope he is wrong because that would be a shame.

I have the privilege of being the president of a local charity: the Friends of Murphys Point Park. With that privilege comes the inability to say “no” – I mean, the dubious honour – I mean, the exciting prospect of participating (fully!) in the 16th Annual Perth Polar Bear Plunge on Jan. 1.


The Friends have a truly awesome archaeology program called “Archaeo Apprentice,” which will be the beneficiary of funds raised from the plunge.

The plunge itself is terrifying – I mean is a fun and exciting way for folks to raise money for different programs in the community. Each year a different charity is chosen to be the beneficiary, and I sincerely thank the plunge committee folks and the Perth Legion for giving groups like ours the opportunity to take part!

When one of our archaeology committee members proposed getting involved with the plunge, I ran screaming from the room. Okay, I didn’t, but I thought about it. Jumping into an icy river in January is not on my bucket list – although it could prove to be the bucket. So vivid is my phobia of jumping into cold, dark water that I haven’t even been to the Polar Bear Plunge before. This does not make me an obvious candidate for jumping into the Tay on Jan. 1.

Alas, [deep breath], apparently I’ll be [gulp] doing it. Aaaaaah!

What is compelling me is not just my inability to say no nor my stubborn sense of duty as president nor the fact I should be committed. I’m doing it because of the excitement I have seen on the faces of students, teachers and parent volunteers who participate in the Archaeo Apprentice program.

Since 2004, more than 500 Grade 5 students from across Lanark County have taken part in this annual archaeology program. They come to the park for a day, learn the history of the McParlan House and Burgess Saw Mill site on Hogg Bay and then get to work excavating with real, professional archaeologists. Over the years students have excavated thousands of artifacts – many of which date back to the mid 1800s. They have found construction materials, evidence of the existence of a blacksmith shop, household dishes, pieces of 100-year-old toys, animal bones and farm implements. It is a way for them to grasp – in a real, tangible way – how the pioneers lived. It helps to bring meaning to the things they learn in school about pioneers.

I could go on and on about how wonderful this program is, and if you see it for yourself you would understand what I mean. After each excavation the archaeologists submit a report to the provincial Ministry of Culture that outlines their findings. These reports are invaluable to the park in terms of interpreting local history. We now know volumes more about the people who settled the park area than we did a few years ago. That local history resounds with the students who visit the site, too.

So, you can see, I am committed. You will not, however, see me in a bikini on New Year’s Day. No one sees that, especially when there are cameras around. I am getting better at telling myself “It’s only cold water” and “It’ll only be for a few seconds,” but I still haven’t ruled out some form of wetsuit (does that make me truly a chicken?).

Rest assured (and this is ironic), this whole thing keeps me up at night.

Raising more than $500 in pledges would make all this terror and angst worthwhile (sort of) for me, so I hope you’ll support my bid to be a nutbar on New Year’s Day.

If you’d like to pledge me, drop into the Courier office and sign my sheet. Or pledge some other crazy – I mean devoted – person you know who is plunging. You can even join me in my quest! Pledge forms and information are available at You can also find forms at the Courier office and at other locations around town.

In the meantime, please think warm thoughts for me. Shiver.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Past Deadline: Finding Quality Time in the Bathroom

Here is the latest "Past Deadline," published Wednesday, Nov. 26/08 in The Perth Courier. Yep, it's kinda bathroom humour....

Finding quality time in the bathroom

One day my mother-in-law passed me a little newspaper clipping, as she is wont to do. Although I cannot currently find it amid the clutter (I am pleased to report that earlier this fall I started my spring cleaning from 2002), the gist of it was that once a child turns three, a mama should stop catering to her every need and encourage her to do more for herself. You know, drive the car, carve the roast, chop the firewood – big girl stuff.

I’m not sure whether the article was useful advice or a subtle observation that I live with HRH Bossy McBossypants. Either would be true.

I remember the period with Boychild when I suddenly felt less like Important Provider Mama and more like Cinderella. He would have been about three. I also remember the feeling of immense freedom when Boychild could do more for himself, which gave me time to do blissful, luxurious things like, say, go to the bathroom by myself. Sometimes I could go in there and no one would even call my name!

My name, incidentally, is: “Mom? Mom! MOM!!” My middle name is “Ineeda.”

With baby number two those glorious minutes of solitude disappeared like so many dust bunnies rolling under the couch when someone walks through the living room. Now she’s three, and we’ve returned to Cinderella time. Girlchild has Attitude. Half the time she can darned-well-do-it-myself-don’t-touch-me-thank-you-very-much, but the rest of the time she’s in full blown diva mode, conveniently unable to put on socks or pants. (Who could blame her, though? Why wear socks and pants if you don’t have to?)

Like any exasperated – I mean patient – mom I try not to scream – I mean I try to encourage her to hone those skills and be a big girl. Sometimes, though, you’ve just gotta get out the door, which means cramming flailing legs into snow pants and showing little interest in whatever Tragedy Has Befallen Our Heroine, be it that Mars and Jupiter are not aligned or she doesn’t want to wear those pink mittens but, rather, the pink ones with the silver hearts on them.

First child and second child also develop an interesting little conspiracy. Suddenly there are a lot of things first child forgets how to do because he sees mama doing them for second child. “Apple juice, please!” Sometimes it takes a while for a sleep-deprived mama to catch on to this.

So, whether you call me Cinderella or MomMomMom Ineeda, I want to know – if the shoe fits, do I get a prince or just another shoe to clutter up the place?

In my spare time which, I assure you, is not spent in the bathroom because that is most certainly when I will be needed urgently for something, I find myself wondering about the olden days of child rearing. I know other people think about this, too, because it says so in Sunday’s Ottawa Citizen.

I have a newspaper clipping on my desk (not actually from my mother-in-law) called “Listen to the ‘suck-it-up lady’” by columnist Elizabeth Payne. It details how popular Ottawa clinical psychologist Maggie Mamen (author of The Pampered Child) is a proponent of parents regaining control of their families and learning to say “no” to kids. Her theory is we have become a “child driven” society and that many parents feel the need to keep their children happy at all times and to meet their needs immediately. This leads to many parents behaving like servants.


Ms. Payne suggests this need for immediate gratification and the inability to wait for things is part of the reason we now have a global financial crisis: people have been going out and buying things they want right now even though they can’t afford them. People have lost the ability to save, and wishing for things, Ms. Mamen says, is one of the joys of being human.

Again – hm.

Patience is definitely something little folks I know need to practise. Perhaps one of the first new house rules I’ll impose is “don’t disturb MomMomMom Ineeda in the bathroom unless there is carnage or mayhem.”

A few quiet moments in the bathroom! Dare to dream, Cinderella.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Past Deadline: Confessions of a Waste-Management Junkie

Call me trashy, but here is the latest "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Nov. 19/08. Someday I hope to find a few minutes to scribble down some regular posts here again!

Confessions of a waste-management junkie

“This is so exciting!” I said to my six-year-old son as I pulled our brand-new shiny GreenBin into the kitchen. I prattled on at some length about how thrilling it is to be able to sort garbage again. “We can do this as a family!” I bubbled, explaining some things won’t go into the trash can anymore.

For a moment Boychild looked horrified, probably because it dawned on him his mother is a bit odd. “But I’ll never remember all this!” he moaned.

“You’ll get used to it,” I reassured, “and if you don’t know where something goes, ask me.”

He wandered off, undoubtedly trying to push worrying thoughts of his waste-management junkie mama out of his head.

See, back when I was a reporter for The Perth Courier one of my “beats” was the county’s now-defunct waste management committee. I was immersed in trash – and not of the tabloid journalism variety. It left me with opinions.

When Perth announced it was launching a GreenBin (curbside organics) program in an effort to divert smelly waste from our almost-full landfill site I was delighted. After all, everyone knows landfill sites are easily offended and don’t appreciate smelly stuff. When the town said it was bringing back our depot so we could recycle more items, I actually did a little dance in my kitchen. I can sort! I can divert!

Yes, I am just that odd.

Sure, it’s not perfect. Change isn’t always lovingly embraced. There’s more to remember, such as what goes into each bucket, bin or bag and when it goes out to the curb. We have to drive farther to the depot than before. The GreenBins may get stinky on hot days. Garbage is only collected every two weeks.

But this is good stuff on so many levels! First of all, the town’s educational materials are first rate. The lists and the handy dandy schedule are on our fridge. Secondly, this will become routine eventually. Now I scrape my plates – even meat – into the kitchen pail instead of the garbage can. I have to look at labels to determine whether an item goes into the blue box, the depot bag or the garbage. I’ll learn.

Yes, the depot is farther away, but it’s open every Saturday morning so you don’t have to think about when to go. Besides, family trips to the dump are, er, great fun! As for the messy smelliness of things, it’s a fact of life. We’re consumers and our landfill is going to have to close in not so many years. That’s gonna be a whole new kettle of stinky, expensive fish. I’m happy to have a new use for my newspapers as bucket liners.

In terms of garbage collection every other week, I’m all for it. For one thing, it shouldn’t be too smelly since all the ickies are in the GreenBin. Diapers would be an exception, I reckon, which certainly makes one understand why moms of days-gone-by had their children potty trained before they left the womb.

The whole thing also helps me to think about what I am buying and how it is packaged. There is still a lot of stuff going to landfill! The relaunched depot doesn’t accept as much as the old one did, but perhaps that is a sign (I hope!) that the town has found actual markets for these recyclables. I always wondered whether all our sorting work resulted in the material being landfilled or dumped in the Pacific or a rainforest somewhere.

It’s not easy to change one’s habits, but there are things we can do to reduce what waste we bring home. Ultimately, though, we need some help at the other end – less packaging at the source. It’s not always easy or possible, as the consumer, to make perfect choices.

Congratulations to the town for taking some proactive and interesting steps to help us manage our waste. There are some other nifty waste-management ideas at – check it out!

Now, if I can just convince my kids I’m not a nutbar and make this a truly exciting family affair, wouldn’t that be great? Dance of joy, dance of joy…

…and people backed away slowly.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Past Deadline: Witches and monkeys and wizards, oh my!

Here's the latest "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Nov. 12/08. You gotta love the theatah!

Witches and monkeys and wizards, oh my!

There are so many good reasons to go and see a Perth Community Choir show. For one, you’ll see lots of people you know dressed up in strange ways. It’s a chance to expose your children to the arts. You can see people you haven’t seen in weeks/months/years because a) they don’t live here anymore but come back for PCC shows or b) you just don’t get out much.

I’ve been trying to remember how long it has been since I’ve seen a PCC show. Was it Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 2001? Could it really have been that long ago? Well this year it was finally possible for us to make it a family affair. No babies nap in our house anymore, so we made our way to the Sunday matinee to see The Wizard of Oz.

Now, before you gasp and shudder at the thought of us taking Boychild, 6, and Girlchild, 3, to “that scary show,” don’t forget that in my official capacity as Mother of the Year I have already frightened the bejeebers out of them with scary witches and flying monkeys. No, not me and Groom-boy!

A couple of months ago I purchased the DVD of the 1939 version featuring Judy Garland as Dorothy – you know, the one we used to watch fearfully once a year as children when it was on TV, covering our eyes and ears for the scary parts. I inflicted the movie on my kids. A certain boy in our household is fascinated by tornadoes, so he was quite intrigued during that potentially scary part. He laughed about the flying monkeys, too, and called them “ninja monkeys.” Later, though, as Dorothy sobbed through what might have been her final moments in the dark and spooky witch’s castle, I had to talk a couple of people off the ledge.

“I don’t want to watch anymore, Mom!” they beseeched. I laughed (because I’m Mother of the Year), and said, “But you HAVE to see this next part! Everything works out. Watch what Dorothy does to the witch. It’s soooo funny!”

It’s all in the marketing, you see. They waited and watched and then they laughed as [Caution: spoiler!] the witch melted away into a puddle of dry-ice goo. Phew! And then we watched the DVD over and over again – to the point I was almost thinking back fondly to the Teletubbies. Almost.

Needless to say, the short people in the house were quite excited to go to the play. Girlchild was warned in advance that this particular venue would not favour dancing in the aisles. She would have to remain seated. Not a problem. For two and a half hours they were entranced by a show that was both familiar and not, offering some enticing new snippets. In particular, the Jitterbug number was exciting. Anytime you combine tap shoes with singing and glow-in-the-dark jewellery you’ve got a showstopper.

My munchkins were also well prepped for the scary parts and had their hands over their ears in anticipation of scenes they knew would be loud. As the kids sat enraptured by all the activities onstage – including set changes – Groom-boy and I enjoyed seeing familiar faces dressed up as, well, familiar faces. Some folks lost accents and others gained them, some made mighty fine trees and others were projected onto screens in entertaining ways.

It was great! Well done, everyone!

What a treat to peek at Girlchild as she watched the show and see her face glowing with happiness – a huge grin and eyes wide with wonder. Boychild was able to take an intellectual approach in his review, comparing differences and similarities between the movie and the musical. It was good suppertime banter. We discussed our favourite characters, and we all have different ones. I was particularly impressed with Toto. What an awesome dog! You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn Girlchild loved Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, who looks remarkably like a pink princess, after all.

If you have a chance to see this classic show in its final week presented by our fantastic Perth Community Choir, I say run, don’t walk, down the yellow brick road to get there!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How Do I Loathe Thee, Time Change

Let me count the ways:

1. Sunday, Nov. 2. Girlchild, who usually sleeps until between 7 and 7:30, is up at 5:30 a.m. Boychild up at 6:30 a.m.
2. Monday, Nov. 3. Girlchild is up at 6 a.m. Has a huge tantrum about not being allowed to go downstairs yet. Boychild has adjusted to the time change. Lovely Boychild.
3. Tuesday, Nov. 4. Girlchild is up before 6:30 a.m. This may not be early for some folks, but I'm a 7:30 girl.
4. Wednesday, Nov. 5. Girlchild is up at 6:30 a.m. Huge tantrum ensues about something trivial. Her, not me. I'm now certain she is trying to kill Groom-boy and me.

Boychild has adjusted to the switch and is now sleeping to his usual 7 a.m. He can also tell time and knows there's no point in trying to get us up before 7 a.m. Girlchild, however, cannot tell time. When you suggest to her it is too early to get up she peeks through the blind and looks at you as if you are crazy. "No, Mom. See? Night's over."

I never used to mind the time change, but I never used to live with people who didn't need an alarm clock to wake up and needed my supervision. (This excludes my parents, who are crack-of-dawn people but didn't force me to get up with them.)

I know the whole notion of moving the clocks an hour ahead and an hour back is to take advantage of the daylight and save energy, but if I've got to brew two pots of coffee in order to wake up, how much energy am I really saving? Hm?

Past Deadline: Halloween Is Like a Bump on the Head

Here is the latest "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Nov. 4/08. And my head feels better, thanks.

Halloween is like a bump on the head

A couple of weeks ago I bent down to scoop something up off the kitchen floor and knocked my forehead on the knob of a wooden chair so hard that I staggered upstairs to weep for a bit.

The similarities between that incident and Halloween are noteworthy.

With Halloween, although the moment of impact (trick or treating) is far less physically painful, the subsequent bruising and aching (begging for treats from the bag) goes on for days or weeks. There are people in my house who have a wicked sweet tooth. Lots o’ people, actually. Some folks manage to avoid sweets easily because they are not presented with the temptation. Others are constantly tempted.

In other words, if I’m doing the shopping, I probably won’t buy that sinister box of mini chocolate bars. If said box is brought home by some other household shopper, though, those chocolate bars – along with my hips – are doomed. Not only that, but when small people spy treats in a cupboard, it always sparks a “Can I?! Can I?! Can I?!” kind of debate, to which I, as Mother of the Year, respond, “It’s ‘May I.’ Now go away.”

Then along comes Halloween, when there is not only our own leftover candy with which to contend, but whole new bagfuls supplied by the urchins. This means I must now navigate a daily barrage of candy begging from the short people. Pre-Halloween, I have sometimes looked in our cupboards and thought [cue old-timer voice]: “In my day, we used to go to our grandparents for treats and junk food. At home all we ever got was fruit and vegetables and healthy stuff.” Now, though, I sometimes think they eat better away from home.

Okay. I’m exaggerating slightly. But there is so much C.R.A.P. (Cheap Rotten Atrocious Product – how’s that for an acronym?) on store shelves that it’s hard to escape it. On top of that ongoing hazard, once a year we go begging door to door for more C.R.A.P. “In my day, Halloween was a time when we could get the candy we never got to see at home.” Now we just add it to the C.R.A.P. that’s already in the cupboards.

What’s wrong with this picture? Why can’t Halloween be a time to go door to door collecting fresh, locally grown organic fruit and vegetables and a year’s supply of toothbrushes? Oh, and gold bullion. Boy, do I ever sound like a parent. Or a dentist. Or a pirate.

So now I’ve got a few weeks’ worth of extra C.R.A.P. to navigate. In past years I’ve rationed the stuff, doling out a select few morsels a day, but some moms suggest letting the little urchins gorge on it immediately so they’re sick of it right away. Short-term pain for long-term gain? I’m considering it.

Groom-boy and I used to cull the bags a bit when the kids were too teeny tiny for most of the stuff. We can still thin out Girlchild’s collection, but Boychild is much more adept at inventorying. So long, mini chocolate bars for mama. An added “thrill” this year is removing the “Made in China” products from the bag (sorry, China, but I’m a little spooked) in addition to looking for razor blades, damaged packages and stale dates.

Last year I opened a bag of chips for Boychild and didn’t notice until I took the first bite that they were a full year past due. Fortunately I only sacrificed my own mouth. It’s good to have a personal taster on staff. I threw out the bag and spent the next half hour gargling.

Good times, Halloween. If it wasn’t for the sheer glee observed on the faces of my little Spiderman and pink fairy princess (can you believe Girlchild dressed up as a pink fairy princess?) as they went door to door happily collecting “treasures,” I’d probably suggest a family vacation somewhere remote until it was all over. Actually, that sounds good anyway – Halloween or not.

All I know for sure is my forehead still hurts and I think I should wear a helmet for the next couple of weeks as I continue to symbolically smash my skull into hard objects while doling out candy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Past Deadline: She's Three and Has the Pink To Show It

Happy birthday, Girlchild! My babies' birthdays are always such a sweet, nostalgic time for me. I go back through my journals so that I can savour what I believe to have been the most powerful and beautiful experiences of my life - their births. I was hoping to write more this week about my big three-year-old, but time ran away on me. So for now, here's "Past Deadline" from the Wednesday, Oct. 22 issue of The Perth Courier.

She’s three and has the pink to show it

Girlchild celebrated her third-going-on-13th birthday over the weekend. There were two events: a small party with good friends on Friday and a big family dinner on Sunday. Each event was pink.

On Friday we prepared pink cupcakes – cherry chip cake mix with extra pink, vanilla frosting with extra pink, a variety of sprinkles (mostly pink) and cherries on top. The cupcakes were inspired by the book Pinkalicious by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann, wherein a little girl eats so many pink cupcakes that she wakes up the next morning and has turned (egad!) pink! It all works out in the end. By eating green vegetables she is restored to her beautiful self.

Girlchild assured me she would not eat that many pink cupcakes. She’s no dummy. Everything in moderation. Not only that, but one wouldn’t want to have to eat so many green vegetables. Certainly not.

Boychild and our friends’ two boys hardly scowled at all about the pink cupcakes and the pink loot bags. I suspect the distinct lack of dolls in their loot bags was a relief.

For the family affair Girlchild wore a (surprise!) pink dress. She requested pink, purple and red balloons. She was so into her birthday this year that we’ve been able to use it as a threat or a bribe for weeks.

“Girlchild! Get back into bed or there will be no birthday party.”

“Yes, birthday party!” she says as she runs back into her room and climbs into bed.

Now that the party’s over our next bribe/threat is Halloween. Yes, Halloween! You’ll be shocked to learn she will be dressed up as a pink princess for Halloween.

Speaking of princesses, her majesty had a princess cake at the family birthday. I probably would have gone looking for the (darned!) Disney Princesses on Cake or a reasonable facsimile, but my mom was at Hendriks one day and the sweet bakery lady tracked her down and said, “Tell your daughter we have princess cakes.”

I ordered ours with extra pink. Get rid of that pesky blue and yellow trim – only pink will do! Girlchild loved it and has squirreled away the four Disney princess decorations – after licking all the icing off, of course.

Ah, girls. It was pretty exciting for us when baby number two turned out to be a girl. It’s fun to have one of each, and Girlchild injects a good dose of girlishness into a sphere of friends who have boys. This birthday in particular had “GIRL” written all over it – in pink 254-point font. Stand back Tonka and Spider-Man; Polly Pocket, Barbie and Baby Alive are here! Boychild takes it in stride by occasionally attacking Polly Pocket and her cats with an action figure. If he’s in a more domestic mood, Polly might hang out with Uncle Spider-Man.

Just when I thought I was done with changing diapers, along comes Baby Alive with her freaky space alien purr and her propensity for wetting her pants. I suspect the idea is to teach little girls to be good mamas. That said, I’ve gotta say the “off” button is a nice feature.

Speaking of off buttons, does anyone know if three-year-old girls scream less than two-year-old ones? The only other three-year-old I’ve ever had hardly screamed at all, at least not in a tantrummy kind of way, so this is basically uncharted territory for me.

If hitting age three means we can kiss the terrible twos goodbye, I will definitely throw a party with pink, purple and red balloons and invite all the princesses I know. I’m sceptical, though. A few weeks ago a neighbour mentioned she thinks Girlchild is outgrowing the tantrum phase (read: screaming less). I tend to think we’ve all just had our windows closed against the cooler fall air.

I do take a little chill when I remember what many folks have told me: that the way a child behaves as a toddler is directly proportional to how he or she will behave as a teenager. Do you suppose the Baby Alive people make dolls that shriek like banshees but are quieted with a stern look? Maybe I’d better start thinking about my future bribes/threats instead.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Past Deadline: It's Not Nice To Fool the Tooth Fairy

Here it is, the Wednesday, Oct. 15/08 edition of "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier. I had that old Chiffon margarine commercial from the 1970s in mind with the title: "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature."

It’s not nice to fool the Tooth Fairy

Grade 1 is probably the only time one is truly applauded for having one’s teeth fall out. A possible exception may be when one is a professional hockey player.

It’s a badge of honour, really. One day Groom-boy jokingly asked Boychild’s teacher if she could teach him to grow some teeth. “Oh, no,” she laughed. “That’s how we know they’re in Grade 1!”

Indeed, most of Boychild’s chums have big holes in their faces. This can make eating apples and corn on the cob very difficult. That said, all the hardship comes with a cash bonus. The Tooth Fairy is certainly paying much better these days than when I was kid. Inflation helps. In addition to his earnings from the Tooth Fairy, a good chunk of the coin in Boychild’s wallet is courtesy of all the grandparents slipping him loonies for his gummy smile.

I betcha Groom-boy wishes someone would pay him when he loses a tooth.

We almost had an International Incident here a few weeks ago when Boychild lost another one.
As is becoming customary, when ye olde tooth comes out Mama prepares the body by rinsing off any gore as necessary (moms get all the glamorous jobs) and wrapping the bedraggled thing in a tiny makeshift envelope fashioned from a folded square of paper and sealed with tape. I then label the paper with the child’s name, the date of the loss and the particulars of the tooth (e.g. top left front) in case the Tooth Fairy has a penchant for filing the teeth in some sort of, ahem, tooth repository or jewellery box for later review and nostalgia. Yeah. I’ve heard the Tooth Fairy is cute that way.

Anyway, whilst Boychild was in the bathtub, I was in my spacious office (read: tiny dormer window) in the upstairs hallway preparing the latest specimen for deposit under his pillow. In a random fit of idiocy, I tipped my teeny envelope too far to one side before I had sealed the end and the tooth fell out onto the carpet.

Plop. A tiny white thing was lost in a speckled beigy-white, medium-pile carpet. Fantastic.

So there I was, down on my hands and knees, running my fingers through the carpet. The tooth had, of course, fallen near a bag filled with files and loose papers, and I couldn’t be sure whether it had fallen into the bag or not. For several minutes I kneaded every inch of carpet in the vicinity, but the only tooth-like objects I turned up were (and this is the part that’ll make you wish you lived here) bits of kitty litter. The litter pan is located several feet away but, clearly, the fur children manage to track bits of grit from one end of the carpeted hall to the other. Sigh. Note to self: Either replace the carpet with hardwood (yes!) or vacuum more carefully.

After fruitlessly searching the carpet and the contents of the bag, and with Boychild’s departure from the bathtub imminent, I did what any other Mother of the Year would do. My fingers had been fooled several times by the kitty litter, so I snagged a tooth-sized piece, put it in my homemade envelope, sealed it with tape and labelled it.

When it was presented to Boychild to place beneath his pillow, he felt the package and said, “Is this my tooth?” I averted my eyes, broke out into a tiny sweat and fidgeted slightly, but the fraud was successful and the item was appropriately placed.

We didn’t have to find out what would happen when the Tooth Fairy discovered our deception because not long after Boychild went to bed Groom-boy stepped on the tooth on the stairs. We figure it must have flown out of some of the papers I pulled from the bag while I was frantically searching. We made a switcheroo before the Tooth Fairy arrived.

I shudder to think of what might have occurred – there’s nothing worse than an angry pixie, I hear. Would she have smashed up Boychild’s room? Awakened him and called him names? Deposited something unpleasant under his pillow? Spread kitty litter throughout the house as some sort of revenge?

Disaster averted. Phew!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thanksgiving - Or Something Like That

We Canadians are celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend. Thanksgiving here comes earlier than in the United States because the day after our holiday it starts to snow, so we have to get the crops in before then. Or something like that.

At our crazy house we will be delaying the traditional turkey feast until next weekend, when it will be combined with a family gathering to celebrate Girlchild's third birthday. What this means is it will be a turkey supper with all the fixin's, except that instead of having yummy pumpkin pie, we will probably have a chocolate princess cake with pink icing. Or something like that.

There will also be balloons to go with our Thanksgiving Turkey Birthday Bonanza. Pink and purple, if you please. Shocking, I know, but it was requested by her majesty. Boychild thinks we should be inviting some of the few girls we have encountered over the years, such as the one we see when we drop him off at school, but I'm thinking I'm happy to keep this a family gathering with balloons and a birthday turkey. She's three. She'll be thrilled about the balloons and presents alone. She can bring home throngs of princesses for a birthday turkey when she goes to school next year. Or something like that.

The meal plan, by the way, hinges on whether Groom-boy goes for the turkey idea. On the one hand I'm thinking, "How could we not have turkey? It's Thanksgiving!" On the other hand, I remember that in my more adventurous days (whatever the heck that means) I used to court danger and buck all the trends - making homemade Chinese food for Christmas dinner and such. Crazy, I know! This year, though, I'm already thinking of gravy and mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, but he's pushing for ham. I dunno. I may have to challenge him to a game of pure strength and willpower to decide this matter. Maybe we should do a triathlon. Or climb a very tall cliff. Or speed walk around the block while doing a crossword puzzle. Or something like that.

I'll let you know who wins. No matter what, I think I'll get us some pumpkin pie to go with the princess cake, too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Past Deadline: Armchair Express(TM) Seeks Parking Space

It's another political blog - but this'll be the last one for a while because our election is next week. Here is "Past Deadline" from the Wednesday, Oct. 8/08 issue of The Perth Courier.

Armchair Express™ seeks parking space

I can’t help myself. I have to comment on the federal leaders’ debate. It’s the last hurrah for the Armchair Express™ before the election, after all.

I watched most of the English debate last Thursday, quelling the urge to make some popcorn and wear a chicken hat. I have no idea who “won,” really. Do you? There were lots of winning moments, though, and here are a few:

Sincerest-Looking Politician: Stéphane Dion (Liberal). There is no doubt about this. When he looked into the camera with those soulful eyes and spoke earnestly about things, I truly believed he meant every single word of whatever it was.

Politician Who Looks Most Like Batman’s Joker: Stephen Harper (Conservative). When he tries too hard to smile his lips go kinda funny – they get really long and slippery looking. That probably explains why he doesn’t smile much. Couple that feature with his iron-on hairdo and voila! The Joker. Except I think the Joker has more fun.

Award for Looking Slightly Cagey: Stephen Harper. Probably this goes hand in hand with the Joker look. Someone really should tell Harper to look into the camera more and work on that weird smile. Sweaters won’t help you if you look cagey.

Politician Bringing the Most Credibility to a Party: Elizabeth May. Hey – the Green Party isn’t a one-trick pony! May spoke intelligently on all subjects. And to think Harper and Jack Layton (NDP) almost didn’t let her play in the sandbox. The debate wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.

Most Likely to Be a Caricaturist’s Dream or a Spitting Image Puppet: Elizabeth May. I think it’s the teeth. She’s got a great face for political cartoons.

Topic Most Likely to Make the Armchair Express™ Feel All Warm and Fuzzy: A green economy. The first 30 minutes or so when everyone except Harper made it clear they believe a strong economy and new green initiatives can actually go together were darned near musical. They used words like “new economy” and “modern economy” and “reality.” I’m just not convinced Harper’s don’t-worry-be-happy approach is a big seller.

Award for Best Hiding Spot for a Platform Plank: Stephen Harper. He was asked several times to produce something concrete on the economy, but didn’t seem to have much beyond “tax cuts” to offer. May wondered why he asked for extra time in the debate to talk about the economy. Layton accused him of hiding his platform “under his sweater,” which is particularly funny if you find the overuse of sweaters and sweater vests in this campaign to be a bit nauseating, and possibly disconcerting. I do. I don’t care what the prime minister wears to look casual.

Best Dressed: I have no idea, really. At least no one was actually wearing a sweater.
Grace Under Fire Award: Stephen Harper. I don’t think Harper loses his cool much. Perhaps warmth just doesn’t come naturally to him, which is why he is forced to wear so many sweaters. In any event, he was relentlessly attacked by his opponents and his head didn’t go spinning off of his shoulders or anything, even when the questions were decidedly anti-Harper. It did seem a little odd for the moderator, Steve Paikin, to ask the other candidates if Harper and the conservatives are barbarians due to their cuts to arts and culture programs. Although I like the word “barbarians,” I would have rephrased the question: “So, Mr. Harper, not a big fan of galas I hear?”

Best Lines of the Night: One of my favourites was Dion’s disgusted, dismissive wave at Harper with an emphatic, “Do not believe this man!” I also liked when Layton commented on there being many successful provincial NDP governments in history, adding (to Dion), “Well, Rae is with you guys now,” with reference to the much-maligned Ontario NDP government under now-Liberal Bob Rae. Gilles Duceppe (Bloc Quebecois) provided comic relief for the Beavis and Butthead set by repeating the word “turd” over and over again.

Most Restrained Leader: It’s a tie between Elizabeth May and Stephen Harper. Sometimes, as they sat elbow to elbow, I suspected they were kicking each other under the table. I bet they at least wanted to push each other out of the sandbox.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

It's Just. Not. Fair.

The sleep thing with kids is just just just...arrrgh!

I think my daughter is trying to kill me. Most nights are pretty good, but the nights that aren't are like torture: just as you start to doze off someone bursts in and wakes you up and makes you get out of bed and complete tasks like blowing a nose or turning on lullabies or going potty or aligning the planets or moving the Earth or doing cartwheels or whatever.

On Friday night the kids went to bed about an hour later than usual because we were out with another family. They got up only fractionally later than usual in the morning (7:30 instead 0f 7). That meant Girlchild, in particular, was quite tired Saturday night. We got her to bed in good time and, instead of her usual array of stalling tactics, she fell promptly to sleep without a peep.

Bliss? All is right in preschoolerland? You'd think. As I stumbled into bed (too late for my own good) hours later, I nervously considered the very real possibility she would wake up early because she fell asleep so quickly. "Surely not," the optomistic voice chirped. "After all, she's pretty tired from Friday night."

Can you see where this is going?

Ladies and gentlemen, she first awoke at 5:30. Five thirty! I wasn't surprised, but I was annoyed. We are not morning people. Girlchild usually sleeps until after 7. Besides, we encourage our prisoners - I mean children - to stay in bed until at least 7. This is all fine and good if they can tell time, which Girlchild cannot. She was in and out of bed like a yo-yo several times until Boychild, who can tell time, staggered into my room mere moments after 7. Then we all "merrily" went downstairs to commence our day. By "merrily" I mean mama put the capital G in "Grumpy" and the kids fought like, well, cranky, sleep-deprived people.

Naturally, late this afternoon after we all stumbled home from a birthday party for an eight-year-old friend, Girlchild fell asleep for an hour on the couch. If you were to go by the Handy Dandy Baby Rule Book whereby "sleep begets sleep," you would not be alarmed by this. She needs to catch up, right? You don't want her to be overtired, right?

You'd think. Yet as I write this little Miss Catch-Up McCatchypants has been springing out of bed for an hour and a half past her bedtime, just like I figured she would. I'm running out of viable threats now that today's birthday party is over. For now we've left it that I will be calling the Birthday Fairy (did you know girls have a birthday fairy?) and cancelling her third birthday in a couple of weeks if she doesn't stay in bed.

Sigh. It's just. not. fair.

P.S. Incidentally, the Birthday Fairy also refuses to grant third birthdays to little girls who do not poop in potties. Y'all remember Vernette? She who has regressed? There has been one successful potty moment (featuring a bribe of Smarties) from a few days ago, but now she's overdue and her mama is afraid....Sigh. It's just. not. fair.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Past Deadline: I have to do WHAT to my cat?

And now a little something about cats...published in The Perth Courier, "Past Deadline," on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008.

I have to do what to my cat?

The cats used to be the babies.

When the short people came along, though, the universe tilted a bit and our focus shifted slightly away from the fur children. We love our cats, except for the furry tumbleweed, the regular gift of hairballs and the smelly litter box. We’re just not as attuned to the subtle messages they send us as we once were.

Our big friendly tabby, MacGregor, is pretty good at telling us when his periodic urinary tract issue flares up. He doesn’t like stress. In particular, he has never appreciated (at first) when a new baby comes into the house to live. He responds with a flare-up and lets us know he’s in trouble by doing his business in inappropriate places, such as cribs and clean laundry baskets. I can’t tell you how much I love this.

Filibuster, our loud fluffy cat, has lived his first 11 years with no serious health issues. Unlike MacGregor, he has saved us from large vet bills and expensive special food. (Can you guess where this is going?) He makes up for this by occasionally biting small children that annoy him, by yelling his head off continually and by having charming litter-box-versus-long-hair issues I won’t describe. Other than that, he’s a very nice cat. Just ask Groom-boy.

When Buster recently ran into some health problems, it crept up on us. He didn’t leave unpleasant signs around the house; he was far less vocal. Far less vocal? Indeed, that became a clue. He also started to look a little thinner and scruffier.

Another sign of ill health we didn’t immediately recognize was an odd stench. “Why does the litter box smell like funky cheese?” we wondered. We blamed the manufacturer. They must have changed formulas. We tried a new brand, but still that funky cheese smell overpowered the usual stink. It was enough to make me briefly contemplate my strict cats-should-stay-indoors philosophy.

The clincher was the fact the cats’ drinking water was disappearing faster than we could fill the dish. When we had to replace the small dish with a horse trough, we started to scratch our heads a little.

Call us perceptive, bright, intuitive, and attuned to our pets’ every need….


Buster’s “subtle” messages could not compete with the din of day-to-day needs of a houseful of noisy small people. Clearly he should have tap danced on our faces. Eventually a little light bulb popped on above our heads. Buster is quiet, looking thinner and drinking like a fish. Oh oh.

The vet confirmed Buster has diabetes. He needs special expensive food and insulin twice a day.
I have to do what to my cat? Needles? Twice a day? For the cat that chews off your arm if you pet him the wrong way?


Suddenly the uncomplicated cat just became a lot more complex. As the very helpful and friendly veterinarian explained the chemistry of and care for diabetes to me, I could feel my eyes starting to pop out of my head. There is math involved with this. I did not sign up for the math.

Although I’m math-challenged, my parents did provide me with whatever genetic material and common sense is required to prevent squeamishness. With the exception of prolonged discussions about broken teeth, I can handle most “icky” things fairly well, including reptiles, amphibians and, apparently, administering needles.

I’m pleased to report it has been going okay so far. Buster’s chemistry is back within the normal range. He looks better, is back to being annoyingly loud, is drinking less and the litter smells as good as one would expect it to smell – without the funky cheese. I also know he’s feeling better because now he sometimes growls when I needle him.

The groovy thing about cats (yes, there is a groovy thing) is that, unlike in dogs and humans, we may be able to control the diabetes through diet and eventually forego the needles. Fortunately both cats absolutely love the new diabetes/weight control food, which the vet calls “mouse in a can.” It’s a good thing, too, because it’s coming out of their allowance.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Poop on Poop

I wouldn't want to be one of those mamas who writes about her kid's potty-related activities on the Internet but, um, surely there's nothing wrong with soliciting advice on behalf of a, um, friend, right? Yeah.

So my friend has a lovely daughter, let's call her Vernette, who is almost three. She was a stellar student in the potty department once she decided the time was right. She day trained quickly and night trained immediately. The only glitch was in the #2 department, but after some struggling, cajoling and a bit of bribery, she caught on to that, too, and all was blissful. The last packs of diapers were given away to folks with younger children, there was an all-night street party to celebrate and fireworks were set off throughout the neighbourhood. Okay, everything but that last bit.

And then, after several wonderful weeks, the Regression. Yes, Vernette's parents know this sometimes happens with kids, but the mama is ready to turn her nose inside out and run screaming from the house if she has to clean up one more slimy mess in a pair of Dora panties. "Why? Why? Why?" she can be heard calling into the wind. Who has seen the wind, anyway? (You can smell the wind....)

Vernette now refuses to do her dirty business on the potty. She will do the poop dance for hours before having an accident. This, then, leads to much wailing (on her part, and sometimes her mama's) because she doesn't like the mess and, yet, she will no longer take the less-messy, pretty-potty route.

What is Vernette's poor mama to do? I'll be certain to, um, pass on any suggestions you may have.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Past Deadline: Invasion of the Disney Princesses

Here is this week's instalment of "Past Deadline," published in the Perth Courier on Wednesday, Sept. 24/08. Any of you have this "problem"? ;)

Invasion of the Disney princesses

I’m not sure how it happened, but we have been infested by Disney princesses. In a way, it’s worse than ants.


I only turned my head for a second (which is something you hear on the news a lot), and suddenly Cinderella, Snow White, Belle and bunch of other skinny-waisted, ample-chested pretty girls festooned in gowns and bobbles found their way into Girlchild’s life.

It can be a bit nauseating by times.

The whole thing started innocently enough. I think the first item that sneaked in the door was a bright pink pop-up storage bin/hamper that is now loaded with stuffed animals. It was a handy gift. Then one day Groom-boy innocently enabled the addiction by bringing home a little mounted (on vibrant pink, of course) poster of a triumvirate of the princesses. It now adorns Girlchild’s wall.

Then she received a pale blue flannel nightie adorned with the babes. This became her “princess dress,” and for a while I was afraid it was all she would ever wear. Serves me right, I guess, for trying to stick her with her brother’s old pajamas for too long.

Tucked amid some gorgeous hand-me-downs from a friend were a few more clothing items bearing the lovelies. You would have thought she’d been given a pony when she saw this new-to-her clothing adorned with her favourite girls.

The collection grows. She’s got a Disney princess cup, a toy phone, a magnetic sketch pad, a cutlery set, a backpack and a pencil case complete with pink pencil, eraser and pencil sharpener.
When she moved from her crib into her big-girl bed it was a tough sell at first, so we marketed it as a “princess” bed. At that point there was nary a princess on the bed, except for Girlchild, of course.

Not for long. When we let her pick out a set of sheets for her new bed she shunned beautiful flower patterns and even Dora the Explorer for, you guessed it, those Disney princesses. Lest you were worried – fear not. The sheets have a pink background.

I’d also like to point out Disney princesses are more expensive than run-of-the-mill, no-name princesses. You can’t stick a crown on just anyone, I guess.

Except for the personal nausea factor, I’m not really worried about this phenomenon yet. For now the attraction seems to be more about the colour pink and the pretty ladies and less about the fairy tales. Besides, we spend lots of time ambling around the backyard investigating toads, bumblebees, dragonflies and moths. Girlchild likes to let worms crawl in her tiny hand – she calls them “her pets.” Sometimes she’s more into “gross” stuff than her six-year-old brother.

When she does hear the stories behind the pretty princesses I wonder if it will dawn on her that these girls spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for princes to do things like investigate feet, kiss a sleeping girl or hear lovely voices before being swept away to live in enchanted castles amid all manner of riches and blah blah blah.

Yes, dear, life’s a fairy tale. For sure.

Before the vibrant pink girls traipsed into our lives, Dora the Explorer was queen. Someone said to me recently they would prefer the princesses to Dora, but I disagree. Dora’s voice can be grating after a while, but she’s all about adventure. She wears a backpack. She’s bilingual. She reads a map. She uses her brain and solves riddles. She’s a team player and she knows how to drive a bunch of different vehicles. She hangs with a talking monkey.

Sure, she may not be able to clean a castle like Cinderella, but oh well.

That said, even the Dora people seem to have bowed to the girly girl pressure and have come out with a fairytale Dora – complete with long flowing hair and a blue (not pink) gown.
We have the fairytale Dora doll. We also have a regular backpack-toting, short-haired, T-shirt-wearing Dora doll. Sometimes the two dolls get packed up in the Disney princess backpack which, I should add, is bright pink with shiny gold trim.

I’m starting to think my issue may be more about the pink than the princesses. Or maybe not. Go, Dora!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Past Deadline: Armchair Express(TM) is environmentally friendly!

Jeepers. Seems all I have time to post here these days is my column. Not for lack of ideas.... Anyway, here is this week's "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Sept. 17/08.

Armchair Express™ is environmentally friendly!

With the high price of gas and all, it’s a darned good thing my armchair runs on hot air.

Since there are only three newspaper issues left before the federal election, I figured I should dust off (as IF it needs dusting) ye olde Armchair Express™ and make a few mundane observations about silly season in Canada.

With election fever rising across North America there is plenty of fodder to be had for armchair pundits. Political junkies here and in the U.S. are treated to election highlights 24/7 if they so choose – including everything from pontification on policy to reflection on hairdos and motherhood.

As much fun (fun?) as it might be to contemplate the various purported character flaws of the newly crowned Republican superstar and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, this armchair is going to sail in Canadian waters for now. How’s that for a mixed metaphor? A sailing armchair. Can you imagine? Why, everyone knows the Armchair Express™ is a big election-style bus with a picture of me wearing a sweater vest plastered on the side!

Anyway, it seems a bit early to make any grand announcements about who is most likely to emerge victorious in this election that wasn’t legally supposed to happen until October 2009, but I can at least point out some of my favourite moments from the campaign so far.

First of all, I’m a little disappointed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NDP leader Jack Layton flip-flopped so quickly on the whole let-Elizabeth-May-join-the-televised-debate fiasco. I was looking forward to the opportunity to ask in this column, which I’m certain is read by all the leaders and their key staff, “What the heck are you guys afraid of?”

Instead of looking like prehistoric buffoons and giving May an opportunity to pounce on the sexism card, they could have welcomed her to the debate and exploited her weaknesses – just like they do with all the other candidates. Weakness is everywhere, I daresay.

Instead, Stevie and Jackie packed up their pails and shovels and said they weren’t gonna play no more ’cuz the new girl is ganging up on them with that Liberal buddy of hers, Stéphane Dion.




Now that everyone has decided to play together in the sandbox after all, we can look forward to some interesting television viewing.

Also filed under “interesting” is Stephen Harper comparing himself to a fruit during a campaign stop at a Winnipeg produce terminal last week. When a reporter asked him what kind of vegetable he would be, he likened himself instead to a fruit – “sweet and colourful.” Oh, yeah. When I think of our current prime minister, “sweet and colourful” is the first thing that comes to mind. (Shudder.)

This finely honed image of Mr. Harper (not necessarily the “sweet and colourful” one) is certainly not helped when his head communications guy is developing bizarre website content featuring a puffin pooping on Stéphane Dion’s shoulder, followed later by an inappropriate e-mail remark about a dead soldier’s father. Sure makes it hard to maintain that never-do-wrong image.

It’s probably all the media’s fault, though. After all, the national news media have been at war with the PMO since Mr. Harper moved in, so we probably hear all of the bad stuff and none of the good. Or something. Darned press. So, what was the good again?

Jeepers. I just realized I’ve spent most of this column dishing snark about the Tory leader. Dear me! After all, we all know elections aren’t about perception and image, they’re about issues.
So which issue in this campaign is driving the bus? Is it environment? Health care? Or has the economy hijacked the whole thing?

Are Canadians in the mood for a Green Shift carbon tax? Are Canadians ever in the mood for more taxes? Does Jack Layton look okay in orange? Should Steve and Stephane lose the sweater vests and just stick with being smart guys in suits? Does anyone really want to invite these “ordinary-looking guys” over for dinner or would we rather they just lead the country?

These are truly cerebral questions. At least the Armchair Express™ does not burn fossil fuels, so I can ramble around the campaign relatively guilt free.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Past Deadline: A joyful season...sort of

Here is the latest column offering, published in The Perth Courier, Wednesday, Sept. 10. Oh, and to answer the question posed partway through the column, Boychild was home sick for two days. Sigh....

A joyful season…sort of

It was hard to tell when the “unofficial” end of summer arrived if you weren’t looking at a calendar because that’s when the rain finally stopped. We rubbed our eyes in the bright sunshine, went outside to play and basked in the warmth like turtles on logs. Then we went to the Perth Fair, another great traditional signpost marking the end of summer holidays and the start of school.

The Tuesday after Labour Day means different things to different people. For some it’s just another workday. For retired folks it may be another day to reflect upon the joy of not having to rush out the door in the morning.

For school-aged kids, that Tuesday is frequently greeted with reluctant enthusiasm – or something. For their parents, well, there is usually lots of skipping and singing and frolicking in dew with lambs and such.

This seems like a good time to share the top five things I like about this time of year.

1. The return to routine. Gone are those lazy days of summer when the work-at-home-mom could roll out of bed when sleepyhead Girlchild decided to awaken. I mean, who needs that? I’d much rather give up those extra few minutes of sleep and wake up earlier to the robotic sound of my alarm clock beeping in my ear. Indeed.

2. Character building. Although sending one’s eldest child to school every day this year would seemingly open up huge tracts of time in a work-from-home-mom’s day, don’t be fooled. With an I-hardly-ever-nap-anymore almost-three-year-old still at home, it’s important to remember there will be no extra time during the day to get things done. Nope, the night shift continues its wearying reign. Coping with this truth is character building in a sleep-is-for-the-weak kind of way.

3. Land of the midnight lunches. With the big kid now going to school every day, this year brings with it the exciting new prospect of daily creativity in terms of developing and packing nutritious and delicious lunches for a picky eater. Exciting times, I tell you! Since this mom is not even remotely a morning person, this means dragging myself into the kitchen every night while Lloyd Robertson drones on in the background to assemble something edible for the boy.

4. Exposing character in the community. Going back to school gives this family an opportunity to shine. We live close enough to walk, which means Boychild is escorted daily by Girlchild and me. This gives all of us a chance to mingle with lots of folks before the bell rings and the prisoners – I mean students – joyfully commence their day of studies. The first day was particularly fun. What seemed like thousands, but was probably merely hundreds, of children, teachers and parents were treated to the sight of Boychild sadly expressing his displeasure about the idea of staying at school while Girlchild threw a magnitude 9.5 screaming fit because she couldn’t stay to see her brother’s classroom. Before you assume she is sad because she’ll miss Boychild, let me assure you the frenzy had more to do with the possibility of missing out on a dollhouse with which to play. What a good morning that was.

5. Strengthening immune systems. In junior and senior Kindergarten Boychild managed to resist bringing home any seriously nasty ickies until after Christmas. Except for a couple of colds, he emerged from autumn mostly unscathed those first two years. Consequently, the thought of an early sick day wasn’t even on the radar in my world, which is just silly. The first week went too well, after the first drop off, that is. The blip came along as a fever on the weekend, as I write this. Will he go to school on Monday? Only time will tell….

Yes, there are definitely pros and cons to the back-to-school thing. With the excitement about returning to routines and hearing the phrase “Mom, I’m bored” a little less often comes, well, a string of nutty stuff.

At least so far the homework has been light. I live in fear, by the way, of the impending doom known as math homework. I practically have artsy fartsy emblazoned upon my forehead, after all.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Past Deadline: Communication 101 - Your audience is loopy

Hey y'all. Since the mid-1990s I've been writing a "humour" column called "Past Deadline" for a weekly newspaper in my town called The Perth Courier. It's a dandy paper. Many years ago I worked there as a (gasp!) reporter.

For years the newspaper has had an accompanying website and my column was also published online so it could be read by my (seven) adoring fans spanning the globe. Well, the mothership company that owns the paper has recently redesigned the website and hasn't gotten around to linking up the columnists. So I, being inclined to share (self-absorbed), decided I would post my columns in this space so my many (seven) fans could find them here - assuming they know where to look and all. Clever me, it also guarantees that I will have at least one post per week on my blog so that my legions of (seven) fans won't wander off and forget I exist, assuming I remember to post it and assuming those folks haven't already wandered away.

Anyway, here is last week's column, published in The Perth Courier, Wednesday, Sept. 3:

Communication 101: Your audience is loopy

Something I’ve learned over time is the importance of knowing one’s audience. Assuming you have one, that is.

In general, though, it’s good to think about how a person is going to react to the things you say or write.

You don’t have to dwell on it. I mean, if I’m e-mailing Groom-boy to ask him to pick up milk on the way home, it shouldn’t require a lot of strategy – unless there is peril associated with the task.

If Groom-boy has rage issues with cows or if he finds the journey to the corner store to be fraught with pianos falling from the sky, I may have to work on that e-mail a little and word my request carefully.

This is called taking an indirect strategy and using persuasive writing.

“Dearest Groom-boy: Have I told you lately how much I appreciate your home-delivery service? Your family can always count on you to bring us the things we need. On such a fine day as this, free from falling pianos of any kind, couldest thou fetchest some lovely moo juice from ye olde corner store? Pretty please?”

Most of the time, though, a direct strategy works just fine: “Hey, Groom-boy. Please bring home milk. Thanks.”

The direct strategy is probably the most frequently used and most efficient form of relaying a message in our busy world.

Sometimes, though, just when you think you’ve got your audience pegged, they up and take something the wrong way.

Here’s an example.

My mother-in-law sometimes sends us clippings of newspaper articles she thinks we might find useful. Usually she scribbles a little note at the top such as, “In case you didn’t see this” or “Read this!!!!” Even when there isn’t a note it’s usually fairly obvious why she thinks we might be interested in the topic.

Because they live close by, we often find these clippings just inside the back door in the sun porch. Last week I retrieved a clipping called “Manners A,B,C: Instilling good manners early sets up children for success as adults.” There was no note with it.

In a nutshell, the article was about a woman who teaches modern manners to kids ages four to seven. It reflected on how television and lax parental discipline over the last few decades have led to bad manners and a lack of civility in young people, and this poor etiquette is actually jeopardizing their chances at things like job interviews. It said reinforcing good manners has to start at an early age.

It was an interesting article, but my gut churned as I read it.

“What are my in-laws trying to say?” I wondered. I mean, I know Boychild and Girlchild have some issues – interrupting and occasional mouthiness among them – but I thought we were doing a decent job with please and thank you and how do you do and excuse me.

I fretted about this for a whole afternoon. Groom-boy came home and I waved the paper in front of him and raved about the meaning behind the message. He got kind of a glazed look in his eyes and decided it would be a good time to go for milk. Again.

The next day my mother-in-law was outside. She smiled and waved and we chatted and she said, “Oh, you know that article I sent over yesterday? I just thought it was interesting how you folks are reinforcing the very things that woman was talking about.”

Phew! “Oh, I’m glad to hear that!” I exclaimed. “I thought you were trying to tell us our kids are rude!”

A look of horror crossed her face. Obviously it had never occurred to her the clipping might be taken the opposite way.

Arguably, sending a clipping implying rudeness would be just, well, rude!

Just goes to show you, though, you should always consider that your audience may be sleep-deprived, overly sensitive and slightly loopy. Some might say cynical, too.

By the way, I should mention Groom-boy has no issues with cows, pianos or retrieving milk. He’s very good at it. I wouldn’t want to leave the wrong impression….

Hello? Hello? Where did I go?

Wow. It's September. What the heck happened?

In June and July in this part of the world it rained and rained and rained and rained and rained. Then, part way through August, the sun came out. And so I went outside to play with the kids.

I'm back again and life is busier than before, but I've been lurking in the blogosphere as much as I can and I plan to post more consistently now that we're getting back into the non-summer routine. So stay tuned!

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Simply Dazzling Breakfast

We had a bit of a brain hiccup the other day that is a little embarrassing, so I thought I'd write about it on the Internet. Of course.

We spent a few days at a hotel in the Very Big City to take in some sights and visit friends. I was deeelighted not to have to cook or clean for four! whole! days!

The night before our last day Groom-boy and I thought it would be a nice treat to order room service for breakfast. The kids would get a kick out of it, we thought. So we perused the menu and filled out the form for a continental breakfast - $15. It boasted juice, coffee, fruit and a basket of baked goods with preserves. We chose danishes and muffins. It asked how many of us were in the room. We said four. We hung the order on the door before midnight, as instructed.

We don't get out much, truly, because we thought we would get our $15 continental breakfast with a few baked goods and enough glasses for the four of us. I expected I would be cutting muffins and danishes in half to share amongst us.

Do you see where this is going?

An enormous tray showed up for us promptly the next morning. Four continental breakfasts, ma'am, $77 plus tip.


Duh. What could I do? We said on the form there were four people. (Call me a picky communications-type person, but I do think they should reword that part so you can say how many "breakfasts" you want, not how many "people" are in the room. It would be helpful for those of us who are sleep-deprived, math-challenged parents.)

The Most Expensive Breakfast We've Ever Had consisted of a large jug of coffee, four glasses of orange juice, four oranges, four danishes, four muffins and various condiments - $77. Naturally the kids weren't interested in anything except for the orange juice. They opted for the Cheerios we had brought with us.

Groom-boy and I ate as much as we could and drank so much coffee we were floating - and still there was a third of a pot left. We wrapped and packed every food item except the butter.

Danish anyone? I still have some.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Charlie Brown Mwah Mwahs

The other day I was sitting in the backyard with Groom-boy's mama (Grandma). In a few short minutes I managed to bark out a series of commands/reprimands to the short people milling about - typical stuff. It dawned on me, though, how much I've started to sound like that grown-up voice you hear in the Charlie Brown cartoons - the mothers, the teachers, any adult authority figure.

"Mwah mwah mwah mwah mwaaaaaah mwaaaaaah."


Those cartoon folks had it pegged. I'm even tired of listening to myself!

So I thought I'd share with you some typical "Charlie Brown Mwah Mwahs" from our house. These are things you're likely to hear every day, at least once a day and often more:

1. Just a minute.
2. I'm coming.
3. Leave your sister alone.
4. Leave the cats alone.
5. Stop that right now!
6. Do you want to lose your computer privileges?
7. Boys and girls, what happens every time you goof around on the couch?
8. I don't want to have to call the ambulance!
9. D'ya hear me?
10. Stop kissing my butt, you weirdo!
11. How many times do I have to tell you?
12. Do you have to go potty?
13. Come here right now!
14. I don't know.
15. I don't know.
16. I don't know already!
17. No more snacks - it's too close to lunch.
18. No more snacks - it's too close to supper.
19. Boychild! What have I told you about leaving your wet swimming shorts on the hardwood floor?!
20. Do you want me to come in there?
21. Close the door.
22. Open the door.
23. Don't stand there with the fridge open!
24. Don't spill it.
25. Who spilled this?
26. What do you mean you don't like [insert food item] anymore? You liked it a few days ago!

Man, some of these are echoes from my childhood! Gulp.

Okay, now tell me some of yours.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Jail: Where the Cons Outweigh the Pros

As the summer at home with the kids in the &*#@#! non-stop rain drones on, I've found myself pondering upon a nice little mama vacation.

Don't get me wrong. We're having fun with trips to the library, walks around town, visiting festivals, having play dates and so on. It's just that after two years of surprising mutual respect and caring, my darling children have now officially learned how to push each other's buttons, which means there are predictable small explosions of fury and screaming occurring frequently throughout the day and my last nerve is wearing a little thin. My mom and dad laugh about this. What goes around comes around. Only 43 days until school starts.

Also in the No-Fun Category: the rain. It, too, was predictable. You can't very well escape the Winter of 10,000 Feet of Snow and expect an immediate shutting off of the precipitation faucet come Spring. Apparently these things take time and, lo, we now have the Lovely Wet Summer of Bugs, which means we're cooped up a little more than I would like to be.

And, we can't forget that even when we get away from it all, we don't really get away from it all. People must still be tended. And their laundry. And their dishes. And their fishing rods. Etc.

So maybe mama needs a solo holiday in order to recharge. On the grocery list on the fridge I requested a 10-day spa holiday. I'm thinking we're unlikely to find that in aisle seven.

The other day I heard myself saying to someone, with only a bit of sarcasm, that in jail the prisoners get three square meals a day and someone does their laundry. Of course the cons of going to jail outweigh the pros. (Snort! Guffaw! Cons - get it?) I think I'll do my level best to avoid jail. I'd probably end up on laundry or kitchen duty anyway.

My cyber friend Andrea just returned from a fabulous visit to the BlogHer conference in San Francisco. It sounds as if it was loads o' fun. She posted a picture of her beautiful hotel room on her blog at BabyCenter. Biiiiiiiiiiig siiiiiiiiiigh!! (The green I chose for that link is a metaphor for my thinly disguised jealousy. Did you catch it?)

This mama's gotta get me a few days away. Not in jail, though.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I Can Hear Them Whispering....

Mama knows they are there.

We thought we might have the opportunity to make s'mores when we went to a cottage for a few days last week. You know, melted chocolate squares and roasted marshmallows smushed between graham crackers? Yum.

We didn't make the s'mores, but we had all the ingredients. We brought them home. They are in the cupboard. Downstairs there are two extra big Jersey Milk chocolate bars. I can hear them calling me.

And then I think of the charming photos of me in my bathing suit on the dock, which I will not be posting here, and I remember why I must not eat those chocolate bars.

If you need me, I'll be quietly weeping and sighing.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Overheard on a Dock at an Undisclosed Location

We just returned from a mini holiday at a lovely cottage on a lake.


While fishing one evening with Boychild on the dock, Mama observed some aquatic movement, which was remarkable because for the first two days we were starting to think perhaps there were no fish in the lake. Prior to the following discussion, we had figured out the fish du jour (largemouth bass) preferred to receive their worms close to the lake bottom, so we finally started catching and releasing them. No more wussy bobbers for these fishing folk.

Mama: "Hey! I just saw a whole school of fish swim by - way down deep!"

Boychild, after a short pause: "I think they must be at least high school, but probably university fish."

Mama, considering: "Oh, you mean because of their size?"

Boychild: "Yes." A pause. "And the minnows would be the Kindergarten fish."

Mama: "Of course."

Kids are awesome.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Holy Milestones, Batman!

Dear Internet,

I apologize. Between deadlines and weather I have been having a hard time keeping up with the blogosphere. For a while the weather was nice and it distracted me. I went outside and blinked into the sunshine and soaked up the warmth like some sort of prisoner recently freed from a snowy jail. Then it started to rain. And it rained and rained and rained and rained and rained...well you get my drift. Drift! Hahaha. Ahem. It rained so much the ants started to come inside. The sun came out again today so I'm back to being a blinky former inmate of my ant-infested house.

I haven't told you about the ants in my den. "Infested" is, for the moment, an exaggeration, but I have no doubt those little critters are regrouping as we speak and planning a massive frontal assault on my kitchen, at which point I will run screaming for the hills because, in addition to my
tooth phobia, I also have a little "thing" about bugs. I'm okay with snakes, though. And frogs.

This posting is not about the ants, however. THIS posting [cue trumpets] is about milestones! Hurray!

Here are just a few things that have been happening lately. I would like to write about each and every one of these things in great wordy detail but, by gum, I have to run off to do dishes and squish ants in the den, so here is a brief summary:

1. Boychild finished Kindergarten on Monday. I walked away from dropping him off that morning thinking, "This isn't so bad. I'm not going to cry." Then it rained and rained and rained in the afternoon, not to mention the continuous thunder and lightning that seemed to be some sort of portent from the gods foretelling the woe of moms at home with kids for the whole. entire. summer. (melodrama, much?). Due to the yucky weather and my lack of a vehicle at the time my friend kindly went to pick up Boychild and her boys after school. That meant - GASP! - I did not get to pick him up one last time from Kindergarten! I did not get to say goodbye to his teacher! (Do you think the two cards, garden-picked flowers and gift certificate sent in the morning were enough to express my sheer gratitude for all she has done for Boychild?) I still didn't cry, but it was close. Finished Kindergarten. Wow. That's huge. I may cry later. Like on Day 54 or so of the long old summer. Especially if it rains every freaking day like it has been.

2. Just to make sure I was paying attention to the fact he is growing up faster than a hummingbird sucking back caffeine (what?), Boychild goes and loses one of his front teeth the very evening he finished Kindergarten. Now he's a goofy-looking Kindergarten graduate who will be seven-feet tall by tomorrow afternoon. At this point I will just, again, refer to my tooth issue and indicate I very nearly had to stop killing ants to run screaming from the room when he wiggled that tooth wildly and agreed to the suggestion that we pull it for him. Fortunately it didn't come to that - it wiggled out with a little help from Boychild. And I'm still here, dutifully killing ants. Did I mention we have ants?

3. A certain Girlchild in our house decided on Sunday that, yes, she would at last like to wear her Big Girl Undies. And, lo, potty training began in earnest. I will be so enormously grateful to be finished with diapers FOREVER! Girlchild is performing beautifully and is so pleased with her progress - she beams like the sunshine she is. She even stayed dry on the second night! And she will love me for raving about it on the Internet!

That's all the milestones I've got for now. In other news, I bought new denim capris pants that fit even better than the old ones, which have not turned up in any of the heaps of junk in my house so far. I'm still going with the stolen-laundry theory, unless the ants carried them away. Regardless, I'm not sure if I will ever be able to hang them outside.

Please accept my sincerest apologies for being so delinquent in my mutterings - I mean postings. Did I mention I have been distracted by ants? and rain? and sun? and my pants? and my toes?

Yours truly,

Crazy Ant Lady

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sisterhood of the Stolen Pants?

I'm not a fashion diva by any stretch. That's part of what makes me lovably frumpy. I don't live for shopping. Every once in a while, though, I am inspired to look for something in particular.

One such item was denim capris. I had been keeping my eyes open for a few seasons to find a pair I liked - without much luck. They either didn't fit quite right (my usual problem) or had too much stitching or too many embellishments or were too acid-washy.

Finally I stumbled upon a pair a couple of months ago that fit, looked okay and were reasonably priced. And I had a gift certificate - yeehaw!

Those were comfy pants. I wore them lots and really liked them. I'm talking about them in the past tense - did you notice?

We had a hot spell recently and I stopped wearing them. Today I went looking for them because now we're having a cool spell (damned weather). Do you think I can find them?

I have looked everywhere. I've checked every hamper and every basket of clean clothes. I have checked my closet and drawers and shelves several times, then I checked everyone else's in case they were misfiled.

They. Have. Vanished.

Then my excitable brain starts recalling an incident a week or so ago when I noticed some empty clothespins on the line. I think at the time I chalked it up to Boychild pulling off a towel, but now I am wondering...did someone steal my friggin' pants? Seriously? A pair of run-of-the-mill denim capris you can buy at Mark's Work Wearhouse? What's up with that?

I'm really hoping they turn up in a pile of clutter somewhere in the house because who wants to be on high laundry alert?

So let this be a warning to you all. Don't be hanging your Chanel or Armani or Versace-wear on the line. Ahem. Or your Mark's Work Wearhouse, apparently.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Little Crayon With Your Pasta?

My favourite part of the day, by far, had to be when Boychild accidentally flipped his bowl of Chef Boy R Dee Pasta and Shells with Meatballs (yes, I'm one of THOSE mothers) into the big red box that is home to our collection of crayons, coloured pencils and markers.

So Mama, working on not enough sleep and fighting a nasty headache, had the distinct pleasure of picking through cold, slimy pasta and little grey balls, rinsing oily tomato sauce off of dozens of crayons, coloured pencils and markers and then spreading them out to dry all over the kitchen counter.

Such. Fun.

I'll be posting something about sleep deprivation soon. For now? It's jammy time.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Canadian Idol - Here We Come?

I've long alluded to Girlchild's singing, um, prowess. Well here, ladies and gentlemen, is a sampling LIVE! from our house.

It's an exciting video that features a baby monitor. Indeed. And it's grainy. My favourite parts are:

a) when I blip to the left to focus on the "Little Princess" picture beside the monitor, which features the singer, only to discover it is blocked by a candle

b) when the camera shakes at the end and I snort because she is hopelessly, hopelessly stuck in an endless loop

The song is "Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies," which is an old folk song I learned a million years ago when I worked as a student at Murphys Point Provincial Park and it's one of a repertoire of songs I have sung to the babies. Here is a version of the lyrics that is fairly close to what I know. Girlchild keeps messing up the last line of the verse she is singing, which is preventing her from moving on to her big finish. This is unfortunate because then you would be treated to her quavery voice thing and she holds the last note. Sometimes she follows up with "Thank you. Thank you. Good night. Thank you" because apparently there is an audience just outside the crib, you know.

Oh, yeah.

By the way, she was singing this song for a good five minutes before I took the video and continued for a good ten minutes after. Same loop. Then she sang a bunch of other songs. She was supposed to be sleeping, of course.