Friday, October 19, 2012

Well it's done.

I've done it, I've rebranded myself. is up and running.  I'll be blogging over there now.  This blog will stay here as a record of my years of super happiness.  I might even add an entry or two if I have ranting to do that doesn't fit my professional persona.  But for now I'll be concentrating on that site.  Oh, and writing my novel, always writing my novel.

I plan to post every Wednesday.  With more posts whenever I feel like it.  Go check it out now, and then again next Wednesday, and then again on Halloween, and then the Wednesday after that.  Basque in the awesomeness of the site until you are so excited about the release of my novel that you simply must buy copies for yourself and all your friends the moment it comes out.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Re-branding Myself

This summer my book is coming out.  Wardroids by J M Filipowicz.  I decided to go by my initials for a couple reasons, not the least of which is that when writing genre fiction being female is not necessarily an advantage.   Not that I plan to hide my identity (in fact, a photo of me will be included with my bio on my publisher's website).  But how much of myself should I show to the world?

My husband recently redesigned my mom's professional site. Her blog appears on the front page.  "I need a site like that to promote my book!" said I.  My initial thought was to transfer this blog to my new domain, but no, this will not do.  J M Filipowicz is a serious professional.  Super Happy Jen's Super Happy Blog has too much stuff about my kids and not enough writing-related wisdom.

The logical thing to do would be to keep two blogs.  This one, for personal stuff, and a professional one for writer stuff.  But the line between Super Happy Jen and J M Filipowicz is not so clear cut.

If I am researching for my book about lizard-like aliens and I discover an interesting fact about how turtles mate, is that worthy of a professional entry? Or is the type of silliness that should be branded Super Happy?

If I take part in an improv show, is that personal? Or should I promote it on my professional site?

Should I mention my art on my professional site?  Am I completely barred from mentioning my children? Should I keep my opinions to my personal blog, or will that leave my professional blog wanting substance?

And seeing as I can barely keep this blog up to date, how will I be able to maintain two blogs, and two distinct personas?

I've been Super Happy Jen since 2004.  J M Filipowicz is brand new.

BTW: Everyone like my facebook page!!!!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Telling Tales

That's right, I attended 2 festivals in one weekend.  I'm just that kind of crazy town.  Yesterday, my children and I headed to Westfield Heritage Village in Rockton, Ontario for Telling Tales, the festival that makes me miss the Eden Mills Writers' Festival every year.  Honestly who schedules two literary events on the same day?  Telling Tales wins because it's closer, free, and has more stuff for the kiddies. Sorry Eden Mills.  Change your dates!

Even though I love Telling Tales, I do have some suggestions for improvement. First of all the schedule is insane.  There's zero time between talks that cater to the same age group and in some cases the two talks are several buildings away.  And in between there are trains and chickens that you can pet and a black smith and historical and literary characters.  As a result, we only managed to catch two talks in their entirety.  Those would be Ted Staunton and Ruth Ohi.  I thoroughly enjoyed their fabulous high energy presentations.  Ted sang about chickens and Ruth drew us pictures based on children's scribbles.  Both were enthusiastic and entertaining readers.

If you enjoy the talk you can purchase books at the book sellers tent way back at the entrance.  The authors go there to sign for about fifteen minutes after their talk.  This means you can't get your book autographed and also watch the next author's talk.  I did get two of Ruth Ohi's Chicken, Pig, Cow books signed (to William and Jadzia, so I can pretend they are for them).

So here's what I propose.  There should be at least a fifteen minute buffer zone between talks.  In addition to the main bookseller's tent, there should be a small selling table set up at each venue that features books by the authors presenting at that location, so you can buy and get your book autographed right then and there. Then you can have a little time to travel between venues, or get kettle corn, or pet chickens, or whatever. Simple right?  I'm going to write them a letter suggesting it.

My other suggestion: trays for the food sellers.  Children cannot carry their own grilled cheese without dropping it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Supercrawl 2012

What better way to enjoy a crawl than with your babies? Hamilton closes a portion of James Street every year so they can celebrate art, music, and other creative ventures.  We walked the length of the street, danced past the bands playing on stage, browsed through the various street vendors, saw some art and even created some of our own.

The kids were well behaved and so I assume enjoyed the festival.  When we reached the end of the street though William pointed out, "We haven't actually done anything that I want to do."

"What do you want to do?" I asked.

"I want to get ice cream."

So we back tracked and went to the ice cream truck.  Both Will and Jadzia ordered popsicles and became a sticky blue mess. By this time it was almost five.  We decided to meet some of my Staircase friends for dinner. I asked a police officer where the restaurant was and he said it was a five minute walk.  It took us half an hour.

We enjoyed some tasty German food at the Black Forest Inn. The kids were on their best behaviour (minus some crawling under the table) despite a long long wait to be seated, then they dazzled everyone by eating large quantities of bread and spaetzle.

It was a good day.

Monday, September 10, 2012

All my little birdies have left the nest.

 Today is Jadzia's first day at school.

William rode his bike and I held Jadzia's hand on the short walk.  Both Adam and I had our cameras at the ready. When we got there it seemed the whole neighbourhood was on the blacktop.  Three maxed-out kindergarten classes together with their parents and teachers.  Jadzia had the biggest smile on her face.  She's a big girl now!
I gave my daughter hugs and warned her teacher that she was wearing underwear.  It's hard to say who was more excited, but it was probably me.

William's class went inside and the other class did too, but Jadzia's stayed in line at the door and Adam and I watched as her teacher took attendance. A senior kindergartner, Reagan, was chosen to take the attendance binder to the office. Since Reagan is one of Will's friends from last year and from soccer, she knows Jadzia and picked her to be her special helper.  Jadzia wasn't paying attention at first so I called her name, but Adam stopped me and said "you're not her Mom until 3:15." Sigh.

Reagan and Jadzia made an adorable pair, carrying the binder together. Adam and I left after that, but we forgot William's bike, so I was able to snap one last picture of Jadzia, waiting for the trikes to be released from the shed.

On playdates I'm used to seeing her with William's friends, next to them she is still the baby, always a bit shorter, often with her thumb in her mouth.  Today, standing alongside her classmates, she looked like a big kid.  She fit right in, not standing out as the youngest (though based on her birthday she probably is).  She's ready.  She knows her letters and how to print her name. She even knows how to use the washroom when she feels like it. My job here is done.

(Okay, I know that my job is not really done.  I'm still her Mom.  But things are definitely changing.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Au Revoir à Montréal

My Dad's cousin lent us their house this Labour Day weekend so we could visit my Nana in the hospital.  (Thank you!) This way we could ignore the cost of food and gas and pretend the trip was totally free.  Nana was a delight to visit, rather than a chore.  Such a contrast from visiting Omi in the Alzheimer's ward.  If you can, I highly recommend maintaining all your faculties and your sense of humour right to the very end.  Though bed bound, Nana seemed in good spirits, and was delighted to see my kids.  Jadzia and William were timid around their great grandmother at first (they've only met her a couple times) but were soon climbing all over the bed, scratching lottery tickets together, showing off their toys, and giving hugs.  At one point Jadzia told Nana, in her sweet mousy three-year-old voice, "We're here to say goodbye to you because you're going to die soon."  Classic!  Nana found her honesty hilarious.

Of course, we also took full advantage of being in Montreal, the city I was born into but barely know.  The first day (not including the driving day) we saw the Science Centre (our Ontario Science Centre passes worked) and a rather sparse army festival (though it did include a skydiving show), then we wandered the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, ate at a pirate restaurant, and had ice cream sweetened with maple syrup. It became a running gag that Adam (who doesn't speak French) would ask me to order for us and then I would just order in English. Montreal is fully bilingual after all.

The next day we went to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which is like the AGO only you don't have to pay to get in (as you can tell, we targeted free museums).  A crowd favourite was Tony Matelli's "Old Enemy, New Victim", a frighteningly realistic silicone sculpture of two skinny chimps attacking a fat one. I was amazed at how well behaved my kids were.  When they got tired of all the art-viewing, they sat on the museum steps and gave me a cuddle (instead of running around giggling like crazy fools, screeching bathroom words and having hair-trigger activated tantrums). Our plan was to go see the Redpath next, another free to enter museum but with dinosaur bones. Unfortunately, it was inexplicably closed.

Though we were all exhausted, we stopped at Fairmont to buy a dozen of their famous Montreal bagels. Then we went to Lac Aux Castors to have a bagel snack.  The lake wasn't there (no really, it was under construction) but we had saw a fabulous view of the city from Mount Royal.  Then went out for dinner for rotisserie chicken at Côte Saint-Luc BBQ.

Since it was our last day, we pushed our tired kids to the limit and went back to Mount Royal after dark so Adam could take night photos of the view.  There, we saw a frightening amount of not-timid-enough raccoons.  Maybe I still smelled of bagels and chicken because some of them were pawing at my leg.  Definitely a cute meets creepy experience.

Still what made the trip worthwhile was how our visit seemed to brighten my Nana's day.  I hope we get the opportunity to visit her again.  Or maybe one day we'll be going to Montreal to visit William, who told us "I want to live here when I'm a grown-up."

Friday, August 24, 2012

Family Camping Cancelled

After coming home from a wonderful week of camping just the two of us, it was time to take the kids for their vacation.  According to their Babcia, they were very excited to go, telling everyone they met that the whole family would be going camping even Worf! The day before we left we made last minute preparations. Adam bought the kids new sleeping bags and I bought some food for campfire dinners, as well as the ingredients for S'mores.

On Wednesday we packed up the car and drove three hours through farm country. At a restaurant bathroom en route, they kids were loudly yelling "poopy!" despite repeated requests to stop. They giggled when I got annoyed and continued to egg each other on (3 and 5 are exactly the wrong ages for impulse control).  Finally I said that there would be no stories.  This usually gets William to stop.  He loves his bedtime stories (Jadzia doesn't care).  In this case, they both kept going.

We arrived at the Pinery in the afternoon, a provincial park that for me is the setting for many happy childhood memories. After setting up the campsite we went to the beach. We had a pleasant time in the water, then built a sand castle together with each child adding their own creative touches.  I made thrones and a table for the king and queen and Jadzia put small handfuls of dirt on them saying they were the people.  

William was hungry and it was nearly dinner time so we washed the sand off our bodies and prepared to leave.  At this point William had a massive freak out. Not because we were leaving the beach, oh no, because I asked him to hold my hand and not crawl in the sand.  William told me I was the stupidest person in the world and that he didn't like me. Finally I told him that we wouldn't be fishing after dinner like we'd planned.

After eating fire-roasted fish, Adam drove into town to get some things we'd forgotten and to avoid being tempted by S'mores. I sat the kids a safe distance from the fire and put marshmallows on very long sticks for them. Neither of them actually like roasted marshmallows (they prefer raw) but they delight in the roasting process.  Especially Jadzia who got seven marshmallows to catch on fire and let them them drip into the flame. I made us some S'mores with my new S'more maker while re-mallowing sticks and frantically trying to avoid a third degree burn scenario.  I told the kids the "stop, drop, and roll" rule but they just laughed and turned away.  The only burn suffered was my own.  I now have the imprint of my S'more maker on my inner forearm.

Far from salvaging the camping experience, the sugar got the kids riled up and I finally had to institute a walk to the washroom in order to keep from killing them.  To avoid malicious pee accidents, we recently instituted a one-pair-of-underwear-a-day rule for Jadzia.  She wets her underwear, she gets a diaper.  Jadzia responded to this by pooing in her diaper, something she hasn't done for months.  Well, when we got to the comfort station I discovered a poop in her diaper.  The kids giggled and exclaimed "poopy!" "poopy!" as I wiped the excrement from my daughter's butt.  I told them to stop, but I felt less like an authority figure and more like the victim of schoolyard bullies, whining "stop it!" as they taunted me.

Finally they brought me to tears, not that that's hard to do when I'm stressed.  Anyway, witnessing their mother have a nervous breakdown in the campground washroom was a wake-up call for them and they finally stopped.  Ha!  So not!  Jadzia had to walk back to the campsite bare-bummed because I hadn't brought an extra diaper with me (because she's a big girl, not an infant for Spock's sake!)  William pointed and squealed "vagina!" and "naked!" the whole way back.

Adam got back at that point and he "put the kids" to bed.  Without stories, there wasn't much to do besides put them in the tent, give them a lecture about treating Mommy better, and tell them to go to sleep.  Surprise, they didn't.  They screamed and giggled.  Actually, it was more Jadzia screaming while William, in a low voice, told her what to yell.  I really regretted not bringing any alcohol with me.  We threatened to cancel the whole trip.  They yelled "Stupid Mommy!" "Stupid Daddy!"  Our plan had been to wait until the next morning to see if their behaviour had improved, but at that point the idea of getting in the tent with them was so repugnant to me that we packed up the campsite.

I went for a last washroom break as Adam put the tent on the roof.  Looking in the mirror I thought "boy do I ever look tired, even my hair looks tired."  I could hear the kids wailing all the way from the comfort station.  I hoped this was because they were upset about the trip being cancelled (up until that point they hadn't seemed to care).  Nope.  They had got hold of the dog food (measured out for four days) and emptied it inside the car.

We drove three hours home and thankfully the kids fell asleep in the car, seemingly unaware of the gravity of the situation. The next morning, they were back to demanding snacks and screen time as normal.  We limited the snacks (no matter how annoying they are we do have to feed them) and instituted a ban on screen time.  At first it looked like they were going to have another stellar day, but by the afternoon William was being a little angel, building whimsically-engineered tanks and segways out of Lego. By dinner time, even Jadzia was behaving.  So we decided to take them fishing.

We went to Burns Consevation Area, which has a sad-looking pond whose water-level looks about five-feet lower then it should be.  But there are fish!  Both Jadzia and William are better fishers than I am.  William caught one fish all by himself, and Jadzia caught 4 or 5.  We fished until past bedtime.  I finally caught one sunfish and declared it time to go. Despite getting more mosquito bites on my ankles than I did an entire week of camping, it was a perfect evening.  The kids protested leaving only minimally and, at William's prompting, Adam told us all stories of his childhood on the way home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Our trip in paintings

Adam and I just got back from camping sans enfants, a decadent trip back to the old days when it was just the two of us. We ate what we wanted, slept when we wanted, and did whatever we wanted without the constant threat of whining and boredom.  This also means I had the opportunity to carry some tiny canvases and paint with me and create artistic renderings of scenic vistas.

First we stayed a couple nights at Cyprus Lake in Tobermory.  As you can see, the water was turquoise, giving it the feeling of a tropical paradise.  A few steps from where I painted this is a waterside cave called The Grotto.  The Grotto is the most beautiful place I have ever swum.  With water so clear that you can see the bottom far below you. The white rocks have a bluish tinge, reminiscent of a swimming pool. The icy water will forever be our benchmark against other swimming temperatures. As in: "The lake is cold, but at least it's not as cold as the Grotto" or "This pool is way warmer than the Grotto." We got used to it very quickly and had a beautiful and refreshing swim.

Next, we took a glass-bottom boat to Flowerpot Island, named for the bizarrely-shaped rock formations.  On the way, the boat passed some sunken ships.  Our boat didn't sink though, and we made it safely to the island for a nice hike.  I regret not taking more time here. We booked the boat back after the recommended 2 hours, but next time I would bring my bathing suit and stay the whole day.

We said goodbye to Tobermory and took a Ferry and then drove to Killarney Provincial Park. Above is a painting of Killarney at night.  As you can see, the night sky and trees looked gorgeous reflected in the water. I needed a flashlight to paint in the dark, but when I had it on some of the stars would disappear. Light pollution in action!  Adam took some breathtaking star pictures.

We did a lot of hiking in Killarney.  The hiking "trails" were actually just mountains with trail markers on them. There would always be a nice easy meandering path to your right, but the trail marker would point to the left, up a cliff made of jagged boulders.  The most difficult of these was the Crack, which I'm sure was named because you could easily crack your head open if you lost your footing.  6 kilometers, culminating in the aforementioned jagged-boulder mountain.  At the end of our climb, we were treated to a breathtaking view (above) which I painted quite accurately even though I almost lost my canvas and brushes to the wind.

We rented a canoe and explored some of the islands in the area.  Once we got out into the bay, the water became too rough, and we were afraid that we would capsize and destroy our expensive electronics.  So our  canoe trip was brief, but we stopped on one of the pink rocky islands to eat lunch and paint a picture of the view.  Later, we took a longer canoe ride and went fishing on the water.  I couldn't catch anything, but Adam managed to snag a trout, a small-mouth bass, and a catfish.  As usual, nothing was large enough to keep.  We stayed until dark, when the fish stopped biting and bats began dive bombing our heads.

And now we're home.  Just for one day though and then we're off to Pinery Provincial Park to camp with the kids.  I don't think I'll bring my paints this trip.  Maybe some crayons and paper.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Why I love (and hate) the laundromat

There are reasons for coin laundromats.  They are for people who live in small houses, or apartments, or who do not wish the expense of owning two large energy and water guzzling appliances. I have a washer and I have a dryer, and I do laundry often enough for my family and I to be wearing clean clothes on most days.  And yet, it doesn't take long for the laundry to flood, overflowing its various hampers and creating a vaguely-mold-and-urine-smelling ocean that encompasses the upstairs hallway, the bedrooms, and the washroom.  The ocean even has fish, of the silver variety.  It stands as a symbol of our slovenliness for all to see.

So every so often we cheat.   We splurge on coin laundry and wash all our clothes at once.  I did this a few days ago, packed the ocean into six garbage bags and drove my overstuffed car to the laundromat next to that free toppings pizza place, and Produce Planet.

It was after nine, and the humid strip mall location had only one customer (fortuitously already using the dryer) and no staff.  Three of the washers were out of order; I filled the rest with my ocean. I felt a little guilty when a woman (who legitimately needed the coin laundry) came in and had to wait, but she only had one load and only had to wait five minutes.  Besides, chatting about her six-month-old baby was the highlight of my experience. That, and of course reading Love of Her Lives on my ereader.

After about an hour the humidity had become stifling and my throat was parched.  There's a vending machine in the laundromat, which I assumed was a trick to get you to spend coins on non-laundry, thus having to break yet another twenty in the change machine.  Eventually I gave in.  I ordered a water, then an ice tea, then a flavoured water.  All three were sold out though, so I had to endure my thirst, as the ocean churned around me.

When I left I checked all the machines for forgotten clothes, flummoxed that I had somehow compressed my laundry haul to five bags instead of six.  No matter, I was happy to get out of there.

Fast forward to today.  The kids had their last day of soccer in the morning and I could find one pink soccer sock and that was it.  On a normal day we would have dug through the ocean, but the ocean was gone.  Everything was clean and sorted and in drawers.  Where were the soccer uniforms? While the rest of us ate breakfast, my husband went back to the laundromat.  I had low expectations, having seen a sign on the wall of the establishment proclaiming "WE EMPTY THE MACHINES EVERY NIGHT".  In retrospect, I think they meant that they empty out the money, leaving the almost-a-week-old laundry to mold in the washer where I miraculously left three loads worth.  I say miraculously because I checked, double checked, and triple checked.  Turns out, not only did the washer contain the soccer uniforms, but also a whole bunch of clothes that I would have eventually missed, likely when it was too late. In a month or two I would think to myself, where is my favourite pair of jeans?  What ever happened to my bathing suit top?  But they would have been gone forever if not for soccer.

And that is the story of how the soccer uniforms saved the laundry!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Harold in the Hammer

For the past seven weeks, I've been attending a course in long-form improv, under the wise tutelage of Scott Lloyd of Flint Improv Co.   As you might have guessed, long-form improv is just like short form improv only longer.  I've learned a lot, set painting, building relationships, some other stuff that I forget at this moment. I've also had a lot of fun (I always have fun when I learn).

Well tomorrow night the long-form improv classes are putting on a show. My four classmates and I make up the improv troupe HUGE Pimpin'.  The other two teams, Know Konsensus and JJJAWSS are made up of highly talented people I know from boot camp. (A lot of them have been in shows already and they are all sure to provide oodles of awesomeness).

I wish I could pick out the best scenes from the past few weeks and put them in the show, but improv doesn't work like that.  No, everything will be made up on the spot (which is easier than it seems, and yet requires more preparation than you'd imagine). We are all capable of greatness, and we've gotten better and better the more practice Harolds we perform. I'm a little nervous, but I think we'll kick butt together.

If you are in the Hamilton area and want to come and see the show (and you do, trust me), then call Staircase and reserve your tickets.  They are a steal at $10 ($8 if you are a poor student).  The big production starts promptly at 8 and should go for an hour, hour and a half, something like that (I dunno, it's improvised).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Everyone loves a good zombie.

I've done it again, achieved proof of my writing prowess by winning another weekly flash fiction contest.  This tells me two things, #1 I really need to update my twitter profile pic, and #2 I should start entering contests that award cash prizes.

Three prompts for this one, the above photo, the phrase "survive this" which must be included somewhere in the piece, and the following scenario provided by judge Karen DeLabar:
"You woke up… ten days later. What do you do? What do you remember? Where are you? How do you piece everything together?"
 No rhyming couplets for this one, just your average zombie tale.  Le voici:

My Last Meal
By J M Filipowicz

I wake in a rainbow glow, the aurora borealis casting its light over the parking lot. If I believe the date on my wristwatch, ten days have passed. My suit and stockings are caked in black mud, my new black pumps missing. My head throbs. Touching my hair, I find it sticky with blood. A pool of it stains the pavement, footprints running through. They left me for dead, took my shoes and kept running.

Hunger gnaws. I think of the last thing I ate, yogurt from the break room fridge. No time for proper breakfast. If I survive this, I’ll have a steak, juicy and rare. I can taste the salty sweet blood.

I limp across the parking lot. A shadow darts under a flickering street light.

“Wait!” My voice groans. I don’t recognize it.

A man steps into the light, wearing the olive green of a security guard. He approaches cautiously, holding his broken flashlight like a weapon. He reeks of sweat and fear. An animal inside me takes over. I know how to satisfy my hunger.

As the man swings his flashlight I grab his arm, pull it towards me, and take a bite. Salty and sweet.


200 words on the nose. Woot! Woot!  Here's what judge Karen had to say about it:
"As much as I love romance, I love dark and mysterious even more. I loved how it started out with what was a seemingly ordinary girl, other than the fact she can’t remember the last ten days, she’s caked in mud and her hair is sticky with blood. My favorite part of this story was the connection between the steak she was going to treat herself with when she found her way again and what her actual meal ended up being. It’s little twists like those that make me want to read more."
Thanks Karen!  Also thank you to Cara Michaels for hosting the contest.   And congratulations to honourable mentions Daniel Swenson, Quil Shiv, and H. L. Pauff and to the "judge's pet" Mark Ethridge.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Trekking with the Next Generation

How important is it to see in theatres something I have watched countless times on television? I can close my eyes and picture the scenes in my head.  In fact I have. As a kid I would invent new episodes, played in my mind for my own amusement.  Of course, none of these were in high definition; none of these were on the big screen.

How important? Very.  Important enough for me to cancel all my other Monday commitments.  Important enough to do laundry for the specific purpose of washing my Star Trek shirt.  But, for some reason, not important enough to enlist the help of a babysitter.  Yes, I made the mistake of bringing my children. To be fair, I wanted them to come.  I wanted to share this thing I love with them.  I wanted my offspring to experience the awesomeness that is Star Trek.

The show began with a behind the scenes look at how the show was remastered, how they had to go through warehouses of film footage to find the scenes needed to recut the show.  I drank it all in, while William whispered "When's the show actually going to start?"

William seemed interested in the first episode, watching wide-eyed as the Enterprise sped to the edge of the universe, pointing out the Traveler's chubby fingers. Though while the second episode played he was preoccupied with his "hunger".  Adam eventually bought the kids some candy, and William pouted because this was rationed, and we didn't let them have the entire bag.

Jadzia didn't even pretend to pay attention.  Though she was quite good at pretending to be a cat.  She also spent a great deal of time fiddling with her broken arm rest, hunting for bits of stale popcorn on the floor, and finding creative ways to position herself in her seat.  She had three bathroom breaks during the show.  Her brother had one.  My husband and I took turns escorting.

William wore light up sandles, which bathed the theatre in flickering light whenever he kicked the chair.  I took them off, but we kept accidentally jostling them anyway.  And, of course, he needed to put them on to visit the washroom.

I've seen the show enough times that I wasn't worried about catching plot points, though during one washroom break I missed most of the completely redone 3D rendering of the crystalline entity. Also I got pee on my Star Trek shirt.

If you've ever been annoyed by young children in the theatre, take solace in knowing that they are annoying their parents 100 times more.  And sadly, I now have to spend $700 buying the complete Next Generation series remastered on blu-ray.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I'd rather dream about the circus

Last night I dreamt that my family and I were preparing for the funeral of my grandfather. In reality, both my grandfathers died quite some time ago, but I believe this was for my grandfather on my Dad's side, who died when I was five.  In the dream, my Dad asked my Nana "how are you holding up?" I don't recall her response.

Anyway we were in a house that had the same layout as my parents' house but the decor was different. In each room, there were family members getting ready.  My Omi was there, alive and with all her faculties intact, and I believe my sister was too.  The rest were women who I accepted as cousins in my dream, but I don't think I know them in real life.

I spent a lot of time trying to puzzle out the layout of the house, trying to figure out which room was my room, where I could find my clothes. When I couldn't, I rummaged through my diaper bag looking through Jadzia's extra outfits, until I found a top that would fit me. It was a white ruffle top with violets on it.  My cousins encouraged me to try it on in the washroom.

I got the top on and looked in the mirror. Only instead of ruffles, I was wearing some kind of armored chest plate, which fastened at the back. I knew that the pretty top was somehow under the armor and spent the rest of the dream fiddling with a buckle behind my back (which may or may not have been padlocked).

This is the second time this week I've dreamt about death.  A few days ago I had a dream that kept me up most of the night.  My Mom called and told me she was dying and was hoping I would come over and say goodbye.  At the same time my Dad burst into my bedroom all teary eyed and told me that I had better go be with my mother.  I was trying to wake up in my dream, succeeded in waking myself up for real, and had trouble getting back to sleep.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Circus Afro

So William has been wanting to go to the circus ever since he saw the preview of Madagascar 3, which involved a Chris-Rock-voiced zebra dressed in clown make-up and singing about his circus afro. Today my ever-resourceful husband found two for one tickets to the Shriner Circus.

We crossed a field from the parking lot to an impressively large and colourful tent. I bought a program and got some clowns to autograph it.  A booth outside the entrance sold used action figures and stuffies.  William chose a batman and Jadzia a stuffed dog.  Adam bought the Hulk.  There was no Wonder Woman.

Once inside the sweaty tent we chose seats in the front row, partially obscured by a support pillar. The kids were "hungry" so Adam bought them a popcorn and a snowcone to share. Later, he also bought them some large annoying balloons which they swung in the faces of their fellow spectators.  Every treat left them wanting the next.   There were so many things that we didn't partake in, cotton candy, light up swords, Dora balloons, face painting, elephant rides.

The show itself was good.  It had all the things you'd expect and want from a circus: trapeze artists, clowns, various trained animals.  I enjoyed the guys who did flips through the air off this giant seesaw thing. Also the elephants. Jadzia had to leave to use the port-a-potty twice during the performance.

The allergy pill I took left me exhausted and the heat didn't help, nor the whining, but all in all I'd call this a successful family outing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Canoodling in the Tulips

So yesterday I entered the Tuesday Tales contest over at Glitterword, a weekly flash fiction contest based on a couple prompts.  The prompts were the above photo and the word 'canoodle'. Now I don't typically write poetry, but the combination of tulips and canoodling just begged to be made into rhyming verse.

Well I won!  I get to display this badge on my blog:
I'll also be judging the contest in two weeks which should be a prestigious addition to my writing resumé. It was a bit of a challenge getting the right number of words and the right number of syllables (still not sure about the rhythm of the last verse), but I got it to exactly 100 words. Boo ya!  Without further ado, here it is:

Canoodling in the Tulips
by J M Filipowicz

Darling I love canoodling in the tulips
The sunshine is warm and the ground’s not too hard
Dewy and moist and caressed by your two lips
Canoodling in tulips in the neighbour’s yard.

They’ll never catch us hidden in the tulips
Canoodling gently without making a peep
They might catch a glimpse of your hips or my hips
And they’ll think through the weeds a creature does creep.

Exhausted then canoodling in the tulips
We’ll fall fast asleep ‘cause the ground isn’t hard
Awake in the night we’ll crawl through the tulips
And climb the fence naked into our backyard.

Thanks @theglitterlady for hosting the contest each week and @AngeliqueRider for judging. And congrats to honourable mentions: @KelseyPotter13, and @Rowanwolf66.

I know some of you might be imagining that my poem is based on personal experience (I'm talking to you, Columbia).  Rather than confirm or deny anything, I shall leave you with this winky face.  ;)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The ice cream man cometh

We were just clearing the dinner table when we heard the tinkling melody that signals the approach of the ice cream truck. My children begged and even though we've been trying to eat healthy, and even though a couple years ago the ice cream man served us rancid chocolate, I barely hesitated.  The ice cream truck is a part of summer, a part of childhood.  The frozen yogurt and homemade popsicles in our freezer are pale substitutions.

My children donned their shoes faster than they ever had in the history of their lives, I grabbed my purse and we headed out the door.  My wallet had cash in it, unlike every other day, proving that this was fate, destiny.  We were meant to have ice cream today!  Unfortunately, the ice cream truck was already driving down the street.

My son booted it down the street until he was a fleck in the distance.  Still he couldn't outrun a moving vehicle (surprisingly).  When I called him back, he promptly sat down in the grass and burst into tears. When my daughter and I caught up, we gave him hugs and I lamely offered the aforementioned frozen yogurt.

Just then we heard the truck again.  It was around the block, on a street parallel to our own.  We were only a few paces away from an alleyway connecting the two streets.  William and I wanted to run, but Jadzia was being slow.  At some point during this adventure she peed her pants, which slowed her down while decreasing my desire to carry her.

The walk through the alley was agonizingly slow and that repetitive melody taunted us.  Finally, we reached the next street and saw the ice cream truck parked just around a bend. I told William to run ahead and make him wait. This time the truck stayed put.

I wasn't going to order myself a cone when the ice cream truck was parked in front of my house, but at this point I felt I had earned it.  All three of us enjoyed a small soft serve.  William's rainbow sprinkled, mine chocolate sprinkled, Jadzia's cherry dipped.  We took our time walking home, savoring the sweet taste of success.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Happy Canada Day

I just got home from the Canada Day fireworks.  We met up with some friends, with kids who have known my kids since infancy and marched down the street singing Happy Birthday to Canada.  When we got to the park we laid out our blankets and were joined by more friends, and my parents.  It was past the children's bedtimes but they stayed awake by eating oranges and popcorn, wrestling and giggling together, and dancing to Ashley MacIsaac's enthusiastic fiddle-playing.

When the fiddling was done, we stood up as a woman in a red dress came on stage and sang O Canada.  The end of the anthem was punctuated by the first fireworks.  Every colourful explosion was followed by squeals of "more! more!"  The display was just as gorgeous as my husband's fancy dancy photo would have you believe.

On the walk back to the car, we glanced across the lake and saw another fireworks display in the distance. Dispite their exhaustion, and in fact because of it, the kids attempted to climb a fence to get a closer look. By the time we had had our hugs, said our goodbyes, and brought our tired children home to bed, it was almost July 2nd.

Just enough time to post a blog before the stroke of midnight. Good night, Canada.  Happy Birthday.

Update: Our group made the Burlington Post Canada Day slideshow.  Check out #22, #28 and #35.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I spy a desk (somewhere under there)

World renown author Sylvia McNicoll (who happens to be my mother) recently posted about her efforts to clean her office. She was inspired by fellow author Arthur Slade, who posted a pic of his treadmill desk on his blog.  My Mom wasn't so much impressed by the treadmilling (she has a treadmill of her own) but by the cleanliness of Art's work area.  Mom, don't you think he cleaned before taking the pic? 

Anyway Mom's post inspired me. Not to clean of course (let's not get crazy), but to post this pic of my desk:

And if you want to have extra fun with my hoarders-style work space.  I shall pay homage to Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick, creators of the I Spy series that my kids enjoy so much. 

I spy a lamp
A handprint, a gun,
A bear in a hoodie
And a Dalek for fun

I spy a pink laptop
A Scattergories game
A newspaper clipping
And my son's first name.

Bonus: What other interesting things can you spy in this picture?  If you can make them rhyme you can even write another verse, which is not as easy as it looks by the way.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Battle of the Haircut

My first born's hair was getting rather shaggy and he inherited from his father a tendency to sweat profusely at the slightest rise in temperature and/or physical activity. Thus, today I took William for a haircut.

He asked if he was going to the place where you sit in a car while your hair is being cut, but that place is twice as much money as the cheap place on the corner, so the cheap place on the corner is where we went.  He got in the car without protest.  He happily entered the establishment and began playing with their bucket of broken Power Ranger Zords.

When his turn came up he doddled at the toy bin. Jadzia came right up and said "I want to do it" so her turn was first.  I'm growing her bangs out and she likes pony tails so we kept the back long too.  In other words her hair ended up looking exactly the same. If she didn't have a brother, Jadzia would never enter a salon of any kind.

William's turn, take two.  He refused to sit in the chair because "He didn't know how he wanted it."  I got out the boys haircut book and went through it with him.  He answered "No" and "I don't know" to every selection.  He repeated over and over that he just didn't know what he wanted and started to cry.

The stylists tried to help by offering a lollipop and telling him it wouldn't hurt.  He knows it won't hurt.  He's had hundreds of haircuts.  He did fine every other time, including his first cut when he was a baby.  Why the protest?

We let four people go in front of us.  William stopped crying and seemed calm, but he exhibited passive-aggressive-on-the-verge-of-tantrum behaviour; rocking in his chair, stomping his feet, evil-glaring at me.  I told him I wasn't going to leave until his hair was cut.

Finally I dragged him kicking and screaming to the chair. Since he was fighting, the stylist had limited options.  I held his arms while she buzzed him with #2 clippers.  This was one of the worst experiences of my life, right up there with treetop walking and childbirth. He behaved as if he was being tortured.  Even though we all know that haircuts don't hurt, he screamed "Ow!" over and over.

The result was perfect for an army private or prison inmate, and actually kind of cute on my brown-eyed little man.

The fight didn't end there.  He tantrumed while we went to buy toilet paper (because I need to wipe bums more than I need to avoid making a scene in a store).  He told me he didn't like me no less than four times. By the time we got home, the fit had become about him wanting to have a bath.

Alas, to get to the bathtub, William had to pass a mirror, which set him off again.  "I don't like my haircut!" "I don't want to go to school with this haircut!" "I want my hair back right now!"  Jadzia enjoyed his bath while he tantrumed, only getting in when the water was cold (and probably peed in).

Later, I messaged my husband to tell him I would never ever ever ever take William to get his haircut ever again.  It should definitely be a father-son thing.

Friday, June 15, 2012

It's Sound of Music Time Again

As we drove down to the waterfront for the Sound of Music Festival, Adam and I chanted a mantra to the children:

"We will see rides.  We will not go on rides.
We will see sometimes food.  We will not buy sometimes food.
We will see toys.  We will not buy toys.
We will see treats.  We will not spend money on treats.
We are there to listen to music."

Our oldest offspring got a bit teary-eyed listening to our chant, but surprisingly we managed to stick to our guns without much fuss (especially for children up well past their bed time). 

We didn't plan what bands to see.  I rarely recognize musicians by name, and only occasionally by music.  So we traveled from stage to stage, catching the middle of one show, the end of another, the beginning of another.  Joined by our friends Columbia, Garrett and Zoe, we enjoyed the banjo stylings of  Old Man Ludecke, the rocking punk TheGoodFridays, and the popular-because-they're-on-the-radio Big Sugar.  

It didn't matter what the music was.  I had a great time dancing with William and Jadzia.  I held their hands and spun around, I picked them up and hugged and swayed, they moved to the music in crazy kid ways.  At one point, we were on the big screen.  By the time Big Sugar started playing it was well past the kids' bedtime and the crowd left little room to dance and spin.  So we went home.  

We'll likely go back tomorrow after soccer.  Maybe we'll see you there.

Lightbulb Jokes?

From William:

How many elephants does it take to screw in a light bulb? Fifteen hundred!

From Jadzia:

Once upon a time there was a jaguar and he went to the store and bought a light bulb.  And then he went to the store and bought some blueberries and strawberries. And then he went outside and it was red outside.  And he couldn't find his zoo.  "Why do I have to go to the zoo?"  And then it was sunny again and the sun was red.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Managing the Silence

So I've worked at the art store for about a month and my boss has gone on vacation and left me in charge of the whole operation. Fortunately, it's been raining constantly since she left, so I haven't needed to bother with her outdoor plants. Other than that, my responsibilities are limited: serve the handful of customers that come in during the day, sum up the cash register at the end of my shift, and keep the books up to date.  Still, of all the retail positions I've had, this is the first time I've been given a key and an alarm code.

I've also been making an excel database of all the artwork in the store.  My goal is to be finished that project by the time she gets back.

Sitting in the empty store, accompanied only by the sound of a ticking clock and humming laptop, I sometimes think fondly of my less mom-and-pop employers.  Like the late great Blockbuster video, which had an endless lineup on Saturdays, or Old Navy, where the music was so loud that I couldn't hear my thoughts, let alone the customers. Most of the time, however, I'm glad for the peace and solitude.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

I'm thinking about my friend today.

Today I'm thinking about a friend who is totally awesome (you know who you are). Unfortunately, she has to go through some sucky stuff in the near future.  I won't blog about the stuff (she wouldn't want me to).  Instead, here are some videos that remind me of her:


Monday, June 04, 2012

Preventing my blog from becoming a facebook digest

When I first started this blog it seriously derailed my face to face interactions. I would meet with friend that I hadn't seen in a while, begin telling an amusing anecdote about my life, and she would stop me and say "I already read about this on your blog."  This would happen so often that I would open with "Do you read my blog?" which unfortunately made me sound like one of those people, the ones who spam messages to everyone they know, saying "Visit my page! Like it! Increase size of member!"  (As a side note I'm going have to train myself to be one of those people, at least when my book comes out, if I ever hope to get any sales).

Despite my social awkwardness in rl, there are several things I enjoy about blogging.  So many, in fact, that I shall indulge you in a bulleted list:

  •  I like when some random relative/acquaintance who I would never assume would read my blog tells me they identified with some post or the other. I often imagine just one person I know who would be interested in what I'm writing, and it delights me greatly that I reach a marginally wider audience.
  • Getting comments.  Especially from people I don't know. The more comments, the more I feel like a celebrity someone with valuable ideas to share.
  • Meeting people. I've gotten to know some frequent commenters and bloggers, their inner most thoughts, who they are at their very cores, without even knowing their real names .  That's huge.  That's what makes the internet beautiful. 
  • Having a record of my children's lives. It's fun to look back and read about them growing up, in the words of my former self.
  • Leaving my mark on the abyss. I occasionally fantasize about future historians reading my blog.  Hey there future historians! How's the colonization of Andromeda going?
  • As shy as I am, I like being on stage.  It's why I love improv and karaoke.  My blog is just another way of shouting "look at me! look at me!"
But alas, just as my blogging derailed my face to face interactions, my blogging has been derailed by another social interaction.  That's right, I'm talking about the Faceboooks.  Posts like this one are basically just half-hearted Facebook digests.  If you're on my Facebook friends list, you've already seen the photos of my kids, read the news bulletins.  You already know what's going on in my life, in the much more quickly and easily digested form of status updates.   And I'm not delusional, I know that my Facebook friends make up 99.99999% of my reader base. 

The other day I was ranting about something, when my husband told me "This should be a blog entry." I don't know if he thought what I had to say was genuinely amusing and interesting, or if he just wanted me to shut-up in that moment.  Whichever it was, I thought maybe that's the ticket.  I should rant more on my blog!  After all, most people don't actually care that my kids and frickin' adorable.  They want to read my amusing tangents on toilet training.  So this is me ranting.  You likes?

In conclusion, I must say.  Like this page.  Share this page.  Tweet this page.  Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!

(Leave rant suggestions, virtual hugs, and hi, how are yous in the comments below.)

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Three things. Cute, mildly amusing, and somewhat serious.

First, my kids are cute and they take soccer:

Second, yesterday it rained so hard that union subway station was flooded.  Some people created some amusing memes about it, so here are my favourites:

Third, and more seriously, there was a shooting in Toronto at a mall I've been to about a thousand times. It's a safe place. In fact, pretty much every time I go to Toronto I wander through the Eaton Center.  Today somebody did that very thing and was killed. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Devlin Monologues

I went to the Devlin Monologues not really knowing what to expect.  I knew that my improv teacher's one-man show was going to be autobiographical so I went wanting to learn a little more about my instructor, a theatrical equivalent of facebook stalking. Not only did I get my voyeuristic insight into Devlin Bishop's childhood, I got a funny, heartfelt, emotional tribute to his parents. I'm not doing it justice here, so let me first say this:

I was blown away.

Devlin left too seats in the front row symbolically empty, reserved for his military dad and east-German mother, both dearly departed. He jokingly said that if they were sitting there they would be embarrassed by the stories he had to tell.  Indeed many of the tales--garbage picking in the middle of the night, inadvertently parking a car in a bird sanctuary, a Christmas corsage re-purposed from a stripper costume--would have been enough to make a less reserved couple blush.  And yet by the end I felt as if I knew this family, felt the love they had for each other. I could picture his mother knitting him barbie clothes for a doll he didn't dare ask for, I saw the last moments he had with his dad, when his father said I love you for the first and last time.  Devlin teared up at the end, as did most of his audience.

I can't imagine his parents being anything but proud at the pure courage that Devlin displayed, opening up his soul and sharing it with us. It was beautiful.

So five very bright stars, supernovas even, and two thumbs way up.  Not that you guys can see it.  One night only. Though I'm told that he does another one every year.

Since I met Devlin in November, I've come to know him as a talented improviser and a genuinely sweet man.  Though I don't know him well, he told me that it meant a lot to him that I wanted to be at his show, and I could tell that he meant it. I admire the way he keeps his emotions close to the surface, laughs easily, cries unashamedly, loves freely. Now that I've seen his one-man show, I admire him all the more.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mommy-Daughter Weekend

While the boys are enjoying a weekend of loud cars and eating junk food around the campfire, Jadzia and I enjoyed some Mommy-daughter time.
In an effort to make the weekend special, I began by giving her a Dora nail polish set and taking her out to lunch at our favourite sushi restaurant, August 8. Jadzia is partial to edamame, so long as I squeeze the beans onto her plate for her. Even ordering what I thought was a modest amount, I was stuffed by the end.

After the restaurant, we headed to the garden store to buy some flowers for our front lawn.  I'm not really a gardener, but my reasoning was that if I plant store bought flowers in my front lawn, it would look like I didn't mow on purpose and the neighbours wouldn't call the bilaw police.  Anyway, Jadzia helped me pick some random perennials, a couple shrubs, and a tomato plant.  I planted them randomly about the lawn.  We had a watering can and after every plant was in, I sprinkled it with water and told Jadzia that was to welcome the plant to our yard.  "Welcome to our yard, little plant," she said.  Later she lost interest and played with potato bugs while I dug, planted, and hauled rocks from the backyard.  Jadzia quote of the day: "Awe! A potato bug, the cutest animal ever!" It amuses me how she can be such a tom boy in such a girlie girl way.

On Sunday we lazed about in the morning, then went to Bronte Creek for the afternoon.  Jadzia and I both wore red dresses and pigtails but, since it was just the two of us, there was no one around to take our picture together. No matter, she's cuter than I am 

There were adorable baby ducks in the pig pen (pigs were MIA), but Jadzia's favourite was the large snapping turtle in the nature centre.  Normally content in his aquarium, the staff took him out for a run and he promptly fell asleep in the grass.  Note, I say "he" without actually knowing if the turtle is male or female. Jadzia, on the other hand, uses "she" as her default pronoun when talking about gender ambiguous creatures.  
That evening, we went to a barbecue potluck at my friend Cara's house.  Everyone chipped in for fireworks and we had a really nice display.  Lots of Jadzia's friends were there and without William it seemed a lot more quiet and subdued.  Not because Willliam is overly rowdy compared to other kids, but because for some reason William and Leyla become insane when they are together.

 Anyway look, I used the fireworks setting on my camera:

So my sweet daughter was up way past her bedtime (by about 3 hours), seeing as the sun refused to set early.  She was still awake at the same time in the morning though.

 On an unrelated note, this is what our robins look like now.  When the boys come home, I'll have to get Adam to set up his camera again.

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