Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Past Deadline: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (2009)

Yes, it’s time for the mostly annual ritual of me butchering a lovely classic poem. So, with apologies (yet again) to Clement Clark Moore, I present the following:

’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
We could hear Buster yowling as he killed a toy mouse.
The stockings were hung from the dining room chairs (because we have no chimney, which has been a source of consternation by times)
In the hope that Saint Nicolas would be able to find them there.
When what to my tired old eyes did appear
But a worried Boychild. “Why are you here?”
I mumbled as usual. “You should be in bed.
“But Mom!” was what the sleepy child said.
“I’m worried that Santa won’t bring me the toys
“Because at our house we make too much noise.”
“Pardon?” I hollered over the din
As Buster paraded his toy mouse in.
“Well, Santa won’t come until we’re all sleeping
“And everyone’s still up and Buster is leaping.
“Santa has so many places to be
“If he runs out of time there’ll be no presents for me!”
I heaved a big sigh and glanced at the clock
Alarmed by the time as I heard it tick tock.
Its hands were now moving into the wee hours
And I still needed some magical Christmas-preparation powers.
I took Boychild’s hand and led him to bed
Muttering about sugar plums dancing in his head.
Soon I could hear his small gentle snores
And knew it was safe to break out the s’mores. (Hey – it rhymes with snores).
As I hustled to finish some last-minute wrapping
I thought I could hear some gentle tap-tapping.
My heart skipped a beat – do you think it could be
That the Stress-Free Holiday Fairy™ has come back to me?
(Oh, come on. You can’t expect me to not mention my fairy tale dream rescue fairy at this time of year!)
Ahem. Yes. So. Where was I?
With a crash and a clatter and sparkle of light
The fairy was back! She would save me tonight
From the peril that is of my very own making:
The clutter, the wrapping and the sheer lack of baking.
“Tsk tsk,” she did say, with a wink and a grin,
“You had better pass me that bottle of gin.”
(Okay. I totally made that up. The Stress-Free Holiday Fairy™ is not a gin drinker.)
So I opened the w(h)ine and we sat by the fire…
(Stop stop stop. This is absolutely wrong. I already said we don’t have a fireplace.)
Okay. Ahem.
“Tsk tsk,” she did say, with a wink and grin,
“It looks like I have to rescue you ag’in.”
“It’s true,” I admitted, hanging my head
“I’ve done it again. I’ve sure made my bed.”
She chortled and chided, “That’s funny, you see
“That your bed isn’t made is quite obvious to me!”
With that she began to bustle around
She cleaned and she baked with barely a sound.
In a flash the house was as clean as could be
And the presents were wrapped and under the tree.
The freezer was filled with baked goods galore
With a glorious fruitcake for me to adore. (Yum. Fruitcake!)
I felt so much joy that I wanted to weep,
But remembering Boychild I made nary a peep.
And as the good Fairy prepared to take flight,
She wished one and all a joyful good night!

Ah, dare to dream. May you all have a Stress-Free Holiday Fairy help you this week, and Boychild, Girlchild, Groom-boy and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2010!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Past Deadline: Don't Believe the Hype

Mostly I don’t even want to bring this up. If it weren’t for my interest in spin and the fact the kids didn’t do anything incredibly bizarre this week, I probably would just grumble and carry on without mentioning it.

The thing is, I am a bit of a news junky. I mean, I worked as a reporter for almost seven years, for crying out loud. I write media releases for a living. My day doesn’t feel complete if I can’t sit on the couch next to Groom-boy at 11 o’clock for our nightly CTV News critique. We watch, we mock, we comment on Lloyd’s hair and make-up, we make tsking noises. Whatever floats your boat, right?

In fact, if I am late for the start of the news, I will almost always enter the room and ask, “What have I missed? Do we have to evacuate?” Almost always the answer is “no.” I take lead stories seriously. They are supposed to be about Very Important Things.

So when I turned on the news the other morning I was just in time to hear the newsreader announce there was “breaking news.” Now, when I hear the words “breaking news” I tend to want to gather up the children and pets and grab the emergency kit. Flashlights? Check. Canned goods? Check. Water? Check. Batteries? Check.

Clearly, my Spidey senses were tingling. I braced for that evacuation order or for news that someone crucial to the planet had died in a horrible way or that life as we know it was about to change.

(Yes, I think terrible thoughts.)

What did I hear on Tuesday morning? The “breaking news” was that, some six hours earlier, a woman in the Florida home of Tiger Woods had been taken to the hospital by ambulance. And, even worse than that, they really didn’t know anything more than the fact someone who looked kinda sorta possibly like Tiger’s wife was following the ambulance in a vehicle with a licence plate that was only two numbers off of Tiger’s wrecked-up SUV’s plate, so it probably maybe could be possibly one of Tiger’s cars.


Omigod. I know. I was stunned [dripping sarcasm here].

Once I got over the initial shock of the “breaking news” being six hours old, I managed to get my heart rate down enough to put away my canned ravioli, batteries, bandages and whistle and carry on with my day. It was horribly difficult, but I resisted the urge to glue myself to the television and follow this story.


I hasten to add I am sorry to hear that Tiger’s mother-in-law collapsed due to a stomach ailment. If I were related to Tiger Woods in any way I probably would be having stomach pains, too. Nevertheless, is this breaking-news-stop-the-presses kinda stuff?

Well, obviously, it appears to be. Why the heck is that? How have we become a society that needs to know – right now – about the stomach pains of the mother-in-law of an uber-wealthy celebrity golfer who got caught with his pants down a whole bunch of times when everyone thought he was a saint?

Jiminy! I know way more about Tiger Woods than I ever wanted to know – and I wasn’t even trying!

I applaud any news agency that did not lead with that story on Tuesday. Unfortunately I just don’t have time to screen them all.

Groom-boy says Tiger should have done what David Letterman did. Dave, as you may recall, got caught up in an extortion scandal regarding his indiscretions with staff on his show. Rather than trying to hide the story, he came out with it on his show, apologized, made quite a few self-deprecating jokes, and it appears the viewing public has moved on.

And, yes, Groom-boy and I discuss these things. We usually say “tsk.” The spin, however, intrigues us. (And I recognize the irony that I have contributed to the whole mess by writing an entire column about Tiger Woods.)

The trouble with being a news junkie is that, like all junk food, some of it makes you a bit nauseous after a while. We should probably stick to the healthy news from now on. Now, where does one find that healthy news?
(Published in The Perth Courier on Tuesday, Dec. 15/09. I'm a bit late getting this one posted!)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Past Deadline: What Makes a Meanest Mother Ever

I had the good fortune to attend a lovely staff Christmas party recently. There was dancing! And I danced a bit! (Not the simple round, though, and Groom-boy did not dance.) We had a great time with some really nice people, but I’m betting a bunch of them think I am horrid.

You know how sometimes you get talking (and, no, I can’t even really blame the wine) and then wonder if perhaps you should have just shut the heck up about it? Kinda like writing a column in the newspaper? I had one of those moments. A moment or two, actually.

The good news is the things I said serve to rightfully crown me as the self-proclaimed Meanest Mother Ever. I have been called the Meanest Mother Ever by the two short people who live with me. Regular readers could rightly assume that I’m fully justified in this due to my chronic lack of sleep – thanks in large part to the aforementioned short people.

The Meanest Mothers Ever Club is one I’m sure many moms would join by virtue of the fact we are told we are mean for serving vegetables or enforcing bedtimes or ensuring people are clean. You know, Crimes-Against-Humanity kind of stuff. Sometimes I have been told I am the Meanest Mother Ever when I do something completely unreasonably, such as try to prevent the short people from destroying the house. One time I had the nerve to empty the kiddie pool because Boychild and Girlchild decided to use the water to make mud pies, which they subsequently threw against the screens on the back porch.

Yeah, I’m a brute.

At the Christmas party some of this sort of thing was discussed by a few of us moms. Then I started bringing up other things, such as how when a certain child in my house decided he didn’t like soccer anymore and quit halfway through (not entirely unexpected – we didn’t think he’d want to sign up for a second year because he hadn’t loved it the first year), I made him pay us back out of his allowance for the remaining sessions.

Yes, I did.

As if that isn’t enough, some of you may recall how I have stashed all the junk food in a container in the basement dubbed “The Snack Box” because the short people were, in my opinion, munching on a few too many processed and sugary non-food items. My kids now sometimes ask their dad to retrieve “some of the good snacks in the basement.” They know I am too mean so they won’t ask me.

I know. I am completely unreasonable. Imagine – trying to feed them nutritious snacks. Outrageous!

At the party I also mentioned how my kids sometimes tell me, after they receive unwanted requests to tidy up or go to school or whatever, that they’re “not my friend any more.” I always say, “Good. It’s not my job to be your friend.” And it’s not, really, at least not until after they live in a house away from me and stop waking me up in the night. Right?

I can justify all of these actions as being ways to teach responsibility and consequences and to encourage healthy eating and respect for others. It seems perfectly reasonable to me, but when you throw all these stories together at a Christmas party it just, well, makes me sound a tad ogre-ish.

I’m not sure whether people would want to join my Meanest Mothers Ever Club, even if I promise there will be great stories and we can seek charitable status and raise funds for cases of wine (or whine) and getaway retreats to spas and so on.

Rest assured, however, these poor children have at least one good and caring parent, as demonstrated by this conversation I had with Girlchild just the other day:

Girlchild, after completing a requested task: “You’re the boss, Mommy.”

Me: “Yep.”

Girlchild: “You and Daddy are the bosses.”

Me: “Yep.”

Girlchild: “But you’re meaner than Daddy. You’re the mean one.”

Me, with resignation: “Yep, I’m the mean one.”

Girlchild: “Daddy is my superhero.”

Me: Sigh….

(Published in The Perth Courier on Dec. 8/09)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Past Deadline: Barely Speaking to My Scale

Note: This column contains an obscure local reference that refers to a provincial politician and a federal politician (by name) who have been continually poking their noses into a municipal issue, causing great consternation. Just so you know when to laugh.

Now here is a surprisingly self-absorbed topic from me: weight loss. I know. It’s utterly shocking that I would be writing about this instead of the heady subjects you’re used to, such as world peace or provincial and federal interference in municipal decisions.

Alas, sometimes the ideas don’t come easily, and at those times we’re all stuck with the old faithful “body image issues” topic.

I’ve been running now for almost five months and have achieved a remarkable milestone for me: 30 minutes straight. Three times a week I make my legs carry me for a minimum 20-minute run, but usually it’s closer to 30. A couple of weeks ago I felt particularly energetic and ran for 40 minutes. The time on that run was a milestone in itself, and the distance turned out to be as well. When I calculated it out I realized I had run my first 5K. It was 5.3 km, to be exact.

As I plod along (I am not particularly speedy) I am still frequently amazed by the fact I am doing this at all. It all started at the persuasion of my Calgary friend – who is my virtual running buddy – with a minute of running followed by a minute of walking and repeated up to the 20-minute mark. Eventually the number of minutes of running replace all the walking minutes. I marvel at how the body can build endurance.

Being able to run for 30 minutes strikes me as a handy skill to have because one never knows when one will have to flee from an angry mob. I may not be able to flee quickly, but I should be able to flee far.

Something I do find somewhat disappointing, though, is the whole weight loss aspect of this venture.

A little over three years ago I went on a bit of a health kick and lost 17 pounds – getting much closer to what is an ideal weight for me. This involved a walking program, some swimming and a lower fat and cholesterol diet. Over the space of about three months I had trimmed down quite nicely. Then my schedule went bananas and I fell off the truck and here I am, three years later, more or less starting from scratch.

Since I started running in mid-July I have lost a whopping – are you ready for it – seven pounds. The first six happened a couple of months into the program. The scale has barely budged since sometime in September and, as a result, we are barely on speaking terms.

It’s not really the scale’s fault, though. I know there are differences between this year’s efforts and those of three years ago. For one thing, I’m three years older. My body doesn’t put up with my hare-brained eating schemes like it might have once done. It sensibly resists weight-loss programs that don’t involve a more concerted effort on the diet end of things.

As my virtual running buddy says, “Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but weight loss is 80 per cent food and 20 per cent exercise. Sad truth. I know it well!”

For a while I told myself it was because I was building muscle and muscle weighs more than fat. While there is truth to that, I kinda think most of the major muscle building has occurred by now. That’s not to say I haven’t noticed some changes. I have lovely calf muscles now and I think I have lost some diameter in the thighs. The area just above my ankles seems more muscular, too, which is fantastic because everyone knows thick ankles are every girl’s dream. But it’s about my butt. The shelf is narrower, but it’s still there. The saddle bags? Still there. The hips? Yikes. Where DID my hip bones go?

This just seems unfair and I want Scott Reid and Randy Hillier to do something about it.

It’s not as if I don’t know what has to be done, but why is it so much harder to snack on an apple instead of a brownie? The fact we’re heading into comfort-and-holiday-food season does not bode well for the already-crumbling relationship between me and my scale. I sense some New Year’s Revolutions coming on.

(Published in The Perth Courier on Dec. 1/09)