Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zen

It can be said that I achieve inner peace in unusual ways.  While writing this I'm taking breaks periodically to have a bite of pickled tongue, all the way from Montreal.  Some can't stand the harsh vinegar taste, others don't like the idea of a snack that licks them back; for me the pork delicacy from my childhood is the perfect comfort food.

I've just come home from three hours of improv workshops.  I'm tired, but it's a good tired. I get a similar feeling from visiting contemporary art galleries, saturated with ideas and beauty and meaning. On the car ride home my friend asked me to name my favourite scene of the night, and I couldn't remember a single one.  It was as if I was trying to remember a dream.  I know I laughed, I know I played, but the details slipped away.

There are so many other things that bring me contentment, reruns of Star Trek, the smell of oil paint, sea food, hugs, a good book, a bad movie, karaoke, the list goes on.  What are some things that are zen to you?

Y is for Youtube

I know that today is supposed to be Z, but I missed posting on Saturday.  Before I get to my insightful post on Zebras or Zippers or something, here's what I'm watching when I'm surfing youtube:

vlogbrothers: a channel shared by two brothers, John and Hank.  They take turns making each other videos as a way of avoiding text-based communication.  John is an author, Hank is a musician, and both are self-avowed nerds.  They've become insanely popular, with an entire community of "nerdfighters" rallying around them.  They've spawned two other channels that I also watch; crashcourse, where John teaches history and Hank teaches biology, and scishow, a science news show by Hank.

Lindseythenerdiest: This is another vlogging-style youtube channel.  I actually found her through vlogbrothers and have been watching her ever since. Nothing fancy, just a funny, articulate, young woman ranting to the camera.

Elmify: this vlog's amusing twist is the infusion of different personalities; there's Elmify, her interrupting t-shirt-making alter ego, angst-ridden teenage Elmify, and pony-tail wearing child Elmify.  All these are played by the same woman, who provides slices of her life with a layer of humour.

TEDtalks:  I'm including this here because I used to really like it.  I would devour every video when it really was ideas worth sharing. Videos about scientific breakthroughs, advances in medicine and engineering and biology, ideas that could change the world.  A 20-minute powerpoint presentation (100 years by youtube standards) seemed to pass in the blink of an eye.  Now TED's videos have lowered considerably in quality.  Now they have talks about nothing in particular from whoever has been popular on the internet.

Sesamestreet: I may spend the most time watching this channel, although not always by choice.  All your favourite (and some not so favourite) Sesame Street skits are online.  Since the show is made up of short segments, it really lends itself well to youtube.  I'm partial to Cookie Monster and Grover, while my daughter enjoys Elmo (blech) and Abby Cadabby.

Here's one I enjoyed from Collegehumor, Dinosaur Office. I'm not sure why it's so hilarious:

And finally, one by my brother which my son and I have enjoyed for years:

Friday, April 27, 2012

X marks the spot where I met Robert J Sawyer

As you can tell from this bad cellphone snapshot, I met Robert J Sawyer yesterday at the Hamilton Public Library.  He's one of my favourite writers and what makes his work especially great is that my husband and I both like it.  Since we were first married, Adam and I have been reading Sawyer novels out loud to each other. I'm partial to the Neanderthal Paralax. His newest book, Triggers, involves a presidential assassination and memory swapping.

Robert (I assume we're on a first-name basis now) spent a good ten minutes answering my question "What advice would you give to new writers?" He basically said not to write what you know and to write instead what you can find out about. Writing what you know is only interesting to you.  Rob's books feature real places and are incredibly well-researched so it would make sense that he would be a fan of finding stuff out.  Also, I never liked the advice "write what you know." I know about raising kids and a little about art history, and I have no desire to write about either of those things.

He didn't seem very optimistic about a new writer's chance of success.  He actually said that if there is anything else that you're interested in and want to do, do that instead.  Apparently, Rob was going to be a paleontologist before finding out that it was actually more likely to be a successful sci fi writer.

After I got my newly purchased book signed, Adam and I parked on that cliff where people go to make out; only instead of making out we read the first few chapters of Triggers.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for William

I doubt in this short blog entry I can convey to you the awesomeness that embodies my son, William.  In many ways a stereotypical boy, he loves Hotwheels, swords and guns. At the age of five, his Lego-building skills have surpassed mine, and he often presents me with creatively-constructed and beautifully-symmetrical spaceships, complete with guns and spoilers.

Despite his boyishness, he's not afraid to wear fairy wings. He points out sparkly costume jewelry in stores and tells me how beautiful it is.

He excels at computer games.  Too advanced a player for educational preschool games, he uses the same sites I do.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find a zombie apocalypse shooter that also teaches reading and writing.  I suppose I'll leave those skills up to kindergarten to teach him.

He loves stories.  The worst punishment I can give him is to not read him books at bed time.  He chooses his books carefully, and is even particular about which one I read first.  When the lights are turned off I make up another story for him, or draw from my short list of memorized fairy tales.  He doesn't ever want his own name in the story, or even the names of anyone he knows. I'm not sure why this is, but if a character is named William he will refuse to listen until I change the name.

He is capable of carrying on insightful, intelligent conversations on any topic, with the possible exception of "What did you do at school today?".

He's loving and sweet to his sister (except when he's not) and he's loving and sweet to me (except when he's not).  He's polite, even thanks me for making dinner, which I don't recall teaching him.  After his bed time stories he tells me I'm the best mommy in the world.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Van Gogh

For the past three days I've been working at an art supply store, a Mom & Pop business that has been there for 35 years. Such a change from the retail stores worked in in my youth.  Everything is handwritten, from the price stickers to the records.  The owner is also a painter and her work is displayed around the store. I can count on my hand the number of customers I serve during a shift. Most of the time my boss is teaching an art class in the downstairs of the building.  Since I'm new, a former employee comes in to help me, but next week I'll be on my own.

This leads me to wonder, would my boss notice/care if I brought my laptop in and wrote?  So far, I've had more downtime in the store than even a good day at home with the kids. At the end of my first day, my boss said "You must be tired", and I had to stop myself from laughing.

Thanks to my Mom, who has been watching Will and Jadzia all this week, my friend Columbia who will watch them when Mom can't, and my nephew Hunter who agreed to walk William home from school.  I'm not going to be making enough to give a babysitter the going rate, so I'm very grateful for my supportive family and friends.

And yes, I realize that this post has nothing to do with Van Gogh, but he did paint in oils, which we sell, so he could have shopped at the store if he had lived an extra ninety years (and immigrated to Canada at some point).   

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Unicorns

"U is for Unicorn, the shyest of beasts."  The unicorn is the only mythical creature that appears in Wallace Edwards' Alphabeasts.  In the book, the animal hides behind a tapestry showing a unicorn's head. You never quite know whether it's a real unicorn behind there, or just a white horse. 

Recently, my daughter has been drawing pictures of unicorns.

If you're wondering, Jadzia confirmed that the phallic shape protruding from the pink unicorn's midsection is its penis. Our dog is male, so many of Jadzia's animal drawings are similarly endowed. Interestingly, she insists that this unicorn is a girl, even though my daughter otherwise knows the difference between male and female genitalia.  I didn't ask her why the brown unicorn has two faces.

Finally, a post on unicorns wouldn't be complete without mentioning the Invisible Pink Unicorn, the most powerful goddess in the universe.  We know that she is all-powerful because she has the magic ability to be both invisible and pink at the same time. Perhaps this is something to do with ultraviolet light?

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Television

First, Stephen Hawking's guest appearance on my all time favourite show:
Back in the days of TNG, I used to wait all week, set my watch alarm to five minutes to eight, and rush down to watch commercials and all.  If the studios decided to air a re-run, I was at their mercy. The way I watch television now is quite different. I have no idea what day and time my favourite shows are on.  In fact, I don't really have favourite shows, as much as I have shows I occasionally watch.  I catch these online a few days after they air. There are two shows I watch this way.

the Big Bang Theory.  This is one of those rare sitcoms that is actually funny.  For those of you who haven't seen it, the situation for this comedy is a couple nerdy physicists living across the hall from a pretty blond actress (and hilarity ensues). So much of nerd culture is poked fun of and made homage to in this show and, as a card carrying nerd, I must watch and enjoy.

Once Upon a Time.  The premise of this show is that Snow White's wicked queen has put a curse on the entire fairy tale world and all the characters have forgotten who they really are and are living dreary lives in the real world small town of Storybrooke (get it?).  I really don't know why I watch this.  It's more than a little ridiculous and the acting leaves much to be desired.  I guess I'm a sucker for fairy tales.  I enjoy seeing my favourite tales expanded on. I like that they made Snow White a strong character, that they made Red Ridinghood a werewolf.  The wicked queen seem less wicked and more lukewarm.

Since subscribing to Netflix, I've taken to picking a random old show that I've never seen and watching it from beginning to end. I like doing it this way because I get to experience the entire series as a cohesive story, and watch at my own pace. It's a lot more like reading a book in that way.  Here's are a few goodies:

Dollhouse. This show centres around an expensive and high-tech brothel (the Dollhouse), in which sexy women and men (dolls) have their personalities wiped and implanted with new personalities tailored to the clients specifications.  The main character is a doll named Echo, who despite having her memories and personality wiped every episode, begins to develop self-awareness.  The first few episodes look like eye-candy for boys, but give it a chance.  This show is good sci fi.

Firefly.  I don't know why I never watched this before.  It's a cult classic and very popular with nerds like me.  The show centres on the crew of the Serenity, a firefly class vessel.  They go from planet stealing stuff, and getting into gunfights.  It's a western, with space ships. Also, like Star Trek, the show is character-driven.

Life on Mars. My husband and I are currently watching this.  We're watching the British version, though we caught the first episode of the American version just to see what it was like. Identical, as far as I can tell, except with more guns.  The main character is a cop who gets hit by a car and wakes up in the 1970s. He doesn't know if he's in a coma or really back in time, but he keeps working cases.  Apparently, in the 1970s, police didn't bother looking for evidence of any kind. They just followed their gut.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

S is for Saturday and Sunday (oops)

So I've failed the blogging challenge.  I forgot to blog yesterday.  All day I was thinking of topics.  In my head I translated all my experiences into blog entries. Then after I came home from my mother-in-law's, I played games on my husband's iPad, I watched TV and then went to bed.  Of course my failure does not mean I will quit, oh no.  Even as I write this another part of my brain is composing an entry for "T" and wracking my brains for a good topic for "U".  Oh, I just thought of one.

Anyway, I shall now tell you all about what I did yesterday.  Then perhaps I will date it with yesterday's date and no one's the wiser.  You won't tell, will you?

In the morning I made waffles, because on the weekend we have a tradition of non-cereal breakfasts.  (Today my husband made cream of wheat).

Next we went back in time to 1995 and saw Babe in theatres.  Okay we didn't really time travel.  The movie theatre is showing family favourites on Saturday mornings.  This is a way of getting money out of us without the hassle of getting original content.  The movie is cheaper, but the snacks are just as exorbitantly over-priced as ever.  Anyway, Babe is one of my favourite movies and still believe it should have beat out Braveheart for best picture in 1996.  Braveheart is one of Adam's favourite movies but I find it tedious. My thoughts while watching it go like this "Oh, this isn't so bad, pretty good actually.  I don't know why I hated it so much the first time I watched it" and then, two hours later, "This goes on and on and on. Will this never end?"  Spoiler alert: it goes on for almost another hour.  How can that compare to a heart-warming story of a talking pig who becomes a sheep dog? It can't.  Babe is far superior.  I will now search youtube for a heartwarming scene from Babe to post below:

That was James Cromwell's Oscar moment. He was nominated for best supporting actor, which I find hilarious since the "actor" he is supporting is a piglet. If you want a Braveheart moment, search for the freedom speech.  If you've seen that part, you've seen the entire movie.

After the movie we went swimming at the Tansley Woods Community Centre.  Neither of the kids wore life jackets (they're big kids now), although Jadzia still wore a swim diaper.  This morning, in our ongoing effort to encourage potty usage, my husband showed her a video of a cat using the toilet, because Jadzia is constantly pretending to be feline.

After swimming, as I mentioned, we went to my in-laws' house for dinner.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Riding

Last Saturday marked an incredible event.  No, I'm not talking about the Next Level improv workshop, although that was  cool.  I'm referring to the training wheels being removed from my son's bicycle.

Adam and I took turns holding our son upright while he mastered the art of balance.  At first he was listing to one side and then the other, toppling despite his parental assistant's grip on the bike buddy.

 Once he got up to speed, however, we barely had to touch the handle.  Adam even worked up the courage to let go for a second:

William wasn't the only one learning to ride:
Of course, Jadzia rode with training wheels, but this was still a big moment for her.  To date, she's only ridden tricycles and has been quite timid about pedaling herself.  This was her first chance to really try out her newly-acquired princess bike.  She pedaled it all by herself.

Later, Adam bought William some knee and shoulder pads and that really boosted his confidence.  By Sunday, he only needed help starting.  Then on Wednesday we went to the park with his friend Aedan.  He realized that he couldn't keep up if he always had to wait for Mommy to push him, so he figured out how to get going without me.  Now he can totally bike on his own, and it took less than a week for him to learn!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Questions

As a mother, there are two questions that are always on the top of my mind.  What is best for my children?  and What is best for me?

The only way to alleviate guilt in answering the second question, is to remind myself that having a happy well-adjusted mother is exactly what is best for my children.  Not only am I less likely to scream at them for minor infractions, but I can provide a good example for my kids, particularly my daughter. Would I want Jadzia to put herself last? No. Would I want her to follow her dreams? Yes.  When I do something for myself, I'm actually doing something for a future version of Jadzia.  She will grow up knowing that she can have a life outside her family, that she can do whatever she wants with her life.  And, hopefully, she'll grow up to be proud of her mother.

That's the idea anyway.  Right now she's just learning to play computer games excessively.  I'm not perfect.  I make mistakes.  Do I want my children to know that it's okay to make mistakes?  Yes.  Then it must be okay for me too.

On the subject of questions, I'm opening up the floor to questions for me.  No topic is taboo.  Don't worry if you think your question is too silly. I love silly questions!  Don't worry if you think your question is too personal.  I reserve the right to not answer, and I promise I won't be offended that you asked.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Pee and Poo

That's right, I went there.  As most of you who are reading this know, pee and poo belongs in the toilet, where it can be easily flushed away and is unlikely to cause a painful rash or messy cleanup.  You'd think that someone who has spent their entire lives soiling themselves would welcome the new and improved method.  And you'd be wrong.  People are very resistant to change. They enjoy the comfort of being wrapped in cushy plastic.  They enjoy having the excrement lovingly wiped from their nether regions.  They even enjoy seeing their mother's frustration.

By "they" I'm referring to my daughter, Jadzia.  Yes, she is SO OLD.  I've told her.  Kindergarten is coming.  Deadline: September. She's still in a pull-up full time.

We've gone through several toilet training attempts.  I've bribed her with various forms of candy, with nail polish, with praise.  Our most successful attempt occurred a few months ago, when I let her go half naked all the time.  While our basement began to smell like urine, most of her pees and poos ended up in the potty.  She even climbed onto the big toilet by herself.

She then graduated to underwear.  I don't care how many diapers you've changed, there's nothing more disgusting than poopy panties.  You can't tear them at the sides like diapers so they must be slowly peeled from the body, smearing excrement on their legs and your hands.  If you ask my daughter, she'd tell you that poo belongs in the potty, but in practice she doesn't follow her own rules.

I have since given up all attempts at toilet training.  It causes too much frustration, and Jadzia enjoys the power struggle too much.  She'll go on the toilet occasionally, particularly when we're out.  Mostly number one.  If she has to poo, she hides in her bedroom.

My daughter is smart, which is part of the problem.  She's too smart to be tricked out of diapers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Next Level

So on Saturday I attended Staircase Theatre's monthly Next Level workshop, taught by the talented and humble Jerry Han.  There were only four of us in the class this time around (Me, Becca, Arthur and Marianne). Bad for Staircase's revenue, but great for us. We got personalized critique of every scene and were allowed to go off on interesting tangents with our questions.

The topic of this workshop was show craft.  We practiced introducing a show, getting ask-fors, and even putting on an entire show with Jerry as the audience.  For the first time, we had to decide when the scene had ended instead of waiting for the teacher to do it for us. Jerry's comments were always informative, and I helped me imagine how an okay scene could have been amazing.  Hosting was actually the hardest part.  It's much easier to imagine what a character would do, than to stand there and be yourself.  But Jerry reminded me that if I were really hosting a show, it would be completed okay to prepare stuff to say in advance. The scenes are improvised; not everything has to be.

Of course we also had a lot of fun. Through the course of the afternoon I played a sexy french maid, a stroke victim, a chicken, a fairy Mom and Super Mario. Arthur and I performed an opera about prime rib.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Museum

"I want to see a Mommy."
These were my son's words to me when he woke up yesterday morning.
"What?" I asked.  "I'm right here."
"No," he said. "I want to see a dead Mommy."
I soon realized that he meant to say mummy and became anxious.  I don't mind his enthusiasm for ancient human remains (in fact I encourage it) but the only Egyptian exhibit that I know of is at the Royal Ontario Museum.  In Toronto.  I considered it.  I even went so far as to visit the ROM's website. Then, I thought of taking the offspring to the big city, without a supporting adult, riding public transit, and herding them, exhausted, through the museum, and my lazy node turned on in my brain.

So I didn't go. I checked my e-mail.  I checked facebook.  I put away some laundry.  I talked on the phone.  I made lunch.  At around 1:30, I got the idea of going to the Children's Museum in Hamilton instead.  I checked their hours.  They close at 3:30.  Forget it, thought I, by the time we got there they'd only have an hour to play.  Then a minute later I thought, I'm going anyway, they'll have a whole hour to play. Besides, there's a park outside.

William had a mini-fit when he realized we weren't going to the "Toronto Museum with the bat cave" but once he was there he and his sister had a good time.  Will's favourite activity was playing with the plastic pipes.  You can velcro them to the wall, in different configurations, and then send a ball through them.  The boy is a natural engineer.  Jadzia wore an ill-fitting fairy princess gown and told everyone how pretty she was.  They both served me a plastic meal at the pretend diner. Before we knew it the museum was closing, so I corralled the offspring out the door.  They played in the park for a half-hour afterwards.  It was such a gorgeous sunny day.

No dead Mommy, but one very tired one.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Luck

As a teenager, I wore grey socks to all my exams because I believed that grey socks (particularly comfy ones) would bring me good luck.  This custom continued until my final year of high school, when I received a fairly bad mark on a calculus exam while wearing my lucky socks.  My socks' luck ran out.

A few years ago, my grandmother gave me a necklace with a jade elephant pendant. As everyone knows, elephants are very lucky, particularly jade ones.  I wear it around my neck when I need courage or luck (or when I'm wearing something green that matches). Since Omi's death, the elephant has new meaning.  She picked it out, she held it in her hands, she gave it to me, and now she's gone.  She's gone and the elephant remains. Whether I succeed or fail while I wear the pendant doesn't matter.  The elephant can't lose its luck.  It was given to me by someone who loved me.

Recently I've decided to re-enter the workforce. I've tailored my résumé to a few select employers who I might enjoy working for and who may or may not want me to work for them. I've had ego-bruising failures in the job search before, so the idea of putting myself out there gives me emotional heartburn.  (Also I haven't worked out the logistics of childcare).  I've decided that I only want to work for someone who would appreciate both my personality and my talents, and I'm trying to maintain a lack of desperation. Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Karaoke

As you can tell from the above photo of me singing a duet with my mother, I have a long time love of karaoke. There's a feeling of exhilaration that comes from singing your heart out on stage.  It always makes me feel like a rock star. Of course, there is a high probability that you are one of those individuals who has never been on stage, and doesn't particularly want to try.  Therefore, I have put together a list of rebuttals to common Karaoke excuses.

"I don't really know the song."
It's surprising how often I hear this one, seeing as it shows a complete lack of understanding of how Karaoke works.  The lyrics appear on a screen in front of you.  Simply choose a song that you know the tune of and read in time to the music.  Over-played radio songs are good for the first timer, or something by the Beatles. In the past, I've actually chosen songs to sing because I wasn't sure of the lyrics and wanted to read what Mumbling Rockstar was actually saying.

"I don't want to get up in front of people."
I find the worst thing about getting up in front of people is not knowing what to say, so again I must stress that THE LYRICS ARE PRINTED ON THE SCREEN IN FRONT OF YOU.  If you're worried about having all eyes in the room on you, take a look around the room while someone else is performing.  Chances are, only a hand full of people are watching the stage. The rest are looking through the book for their next song, chatting with their buddies, eating and drinking, buying things to eat and drink, or some combination thereof.  Of course, don't lose your fear completely, that's where the exhilaration comes from.

"I need to get a couple drinks in me first."
This is a classic Karaoke mistake and I see it all the time.  On a typical night, you're lucky to get two, maybe three songs in.  That's if you come at the start, stay to the end, and definitely don't wait for your buzz to kick in before handing in your song selection.  Because so many people are working up their liquid courage, the last set is far busier than the first set.  If you get your song in too late, you may not get a chance to sing at all.  Instead, put your slip in early and consume whatever mind-altering substances you need while you wait for your name to be called. Of course, you might be called up quicker than you think so be prepared to sing sober.

"I can't sing" "My voice sucks."
Have you ever seen people do karaoke? Seriously this is a non issue. Between the tone-deaf drunk and the octogenarian singing show tunes, you're sure to fit in just nicely.  Being a bad singer might actually be a plus, because no one wants to follow the vocally trained theatre kids who belt out broadway hits like they're on Canadian Idol.  You know who you are.

"I don't really like karaoke".
I don't understand you and I'm not sure how you can form an opinion of something you haven't even tried.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jadzia

If you don't know yet how awesome, talented, intelligent, and adorable my daughter is, I suggest you check out the video below.  You might have to strain to hear her. Jadzia only has two volumes, sweet and quiet, or whining and screaming (be glad you're hearing the sweet volume).  Alphabeasts by Wallace Edwards is one of her favourite books, and she insists on being the one to read it.  As you can see, she has the whole thing memorized. I've been trying to get her to do this on video for a while (she won't do two takes in a row if something goes wrong).  We finally succeeded yesterday. Being an alphabet book, I thought this was a perfect addition to my A to Z challenge.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Improv Withdrawal

I actually considered going to Ikea with the kids today so I had something to talk about for I.  I mean, it isn't as if I could blog about improv, could I?  I mean, I've written about my new passion enough, haven't I? Some of you have even seen my name in a newspaper article on the subject.  And besides, Easter Monday meant this week had no improv classes.  My weekly fix of playing pretend in the pursuit of high art has yet to be fulfilled.

Luckily, this Saturday the Staircase is running one of their monthly "Next Level" for improvisers as experienced as I (I've been at this since OCTOBER already!)  I'm told we'll be learning the art of putting together a show.  The last workshop I went to was a blast so I have high expectations.  I'll let you know how it goes when I get to N.

In conclusion, here's a scene from the once-popular improv show "Who's Line is it Anyway?" (I always preferred the British version to the Drew Carey version):

Monday, April 09, 2012

H is for Hike

Saturday we went for a hike at Spencer's Gorge, an area characterized by beautiful waterfalls and hazardous cliffs. While my children were never actually in danger of falling to their deaths, I found myself constantly shooing them further away from the cliff's edge.

We saw several waterfalls, people walking their dogs, lovely stone bridges, a pit full of leaves to play in, and a field for rolling. I'm not sure who was more tired, the adults or the offspring, but only my husband had a nap afterwards.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

G is for Games

As you see from the photo above, my kids are screen children. They know their way around an iPad. When Daddy takes his toy to work, however, they make do with a good old fashioned computer.

Jadzia's favourite games site is Sesame Street, which doesn't give up trying to get you to press a key, or pick an item from Big Bird's shelf, or choose another outfit for Grover, even hours after you've left the computer.

William enjoys many gaming sites, though he is quite partial to Armor Games, which has the most inappropriate bloody shoot 'em up zombie games. This lead to his famous line: "It is appropriate because I'm not scared."

Occasionally, they forgo the technology and we play an old fashioned board game together.  Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders are the crowd favourites, while Jadzia loves Hungry Hungry Hippo the best.  In the latter we never count the marbles to determine a winner, which makes me crazy.  Not that I care who wins, me or my three-year-old, but somehow when nobody wins it feels like an exercise in futility (I mean, more so than normal).  The other two games are better, until you realize that there is absolutely no skill or strategy involved.  Also, while both games last an average of fifteen minutes, either could theoretically continue forever if you choose to wrong card or land on a chute which brings you back to the beginning.  A game can last anywhere from two minutes to a hundred years.

Friday, April 06, 2012

F is for Friday and Family

Today was Good Friday, a Friday made good by the fact that my husband was off work and our family unit was complete. We spent the better part of the day at the Royal Botanical Gardens, which is currently having a chocolate exhibit, though it didn't have enough samples to justify our admission.

The kids had fun running around to the different gardens looking for clues for the Easter scavenger hunt. Each clue was an egg from a different animal, bird, frog, turtle, or insect. In the end they spelled a secret question: "Does the Easter Bunny lay eggs?"  Both my kids insisted that he did. I whispered in Jadzia's ear: "Bunnies don't lay eggs; chickens lay eggs." She got a look on her face like I just blew her mind. Whatever, they each still got a prize; a decorate your own paper bag filled with the very same chocolates we'd been sampling all along.

Later, we joined more family at my parents' house for a ham dinner. Luckily ham is one of the few meats my son will eat. My two-year-old niece devoured peas out of the broccoli salad. Dessert was lemon cupcakes with fluorescent icing.  Afterwards we coloured eggs, everyone attempting to create the mightiest design for Sunday morning's egg fight.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

E is for Everything

Which means I can write about anything I want.  I understand that this is a cheat, but I figure I'm entitled to at least one cheat in a 26-post blogging marathon (though I thought I'd be using it for X or Q).  This whole thing kind of reminds me of a game I played in improv, where you do a scene and every line must start with the next letter of the alphabet.  So one person says: "Underwear makes me puke" and the next person says "Vomit somewhere else please" and the first person says "X Files is on soon, I don't want to leave the television." Something like that, starting from a random letter and working our way through the entire alphabet. It's as hard as it sounds.

I was going to write about elephants, which my daughter loves to draw, and which I recently saw at the Toronto Zoo despite the fact that Bob Barker wants to pay to fly them south. "Canadian Elephants, COME ON DOWN!" I have some cute pictures of the kids and elephants, but it's too much work to track them down right now, considering my computer is currently having a sick day.  It's been behaving screwy for a little while, start menu short-cuts leading to the wrong programs, programs disappearing entirely, general slowness and crankiness. Finally I enlisted my husband's help. He has backed up all my files and is in the process of reloading my programs. I know, how romantic, right?

I've gotten up to get my daughter snack foods three four times since beginning this blog post. I just went shopping so she knows what we have and wants to try everything under threat of tantrum. My patience is a bit thin today since she woke up at 6:30 and came into my bed. Wouldn't be so bad except that she first let the dog out of his crate and both of them jumped on me. If I'm going to be trampled by a large brown mutt and blond-haired monkey, I'd like it to be at least 7:30.

Anyway, since E is also for Enterprise, I'll leave you with a terribly cheesy, awesomely retro promo for my all-time favourite show:

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

D is for Drawing

My three-year-old daughter, Jadzia, has always enjoyed putting crayon to paper. She has recently become more prolific and also more able draw stuff that looks like something.  Below are a few of my favourites.
 Elephants are probably Jadzia's favourite animal to draw. This one is standing on a Mr. Potatohead and a pretty bow.

This is a wooly sheep.

My husband feeding the ducks. She used to draw arms and legs sticking out of a head, but as you can see her people now have bodies. And this actually looks like my husband.  Also, if you look closely you'll note he is holding some bread to feed the duck with.


This is our family standing by our fridge, while our friends Columbia and Garrett hang out with our dog Worf. Columbia even brought popcorn!

Here's another picture of Columbia, which she uses as her facebook profile.  It really looks like her in an abstract way, because she is always smiling. That's the thing about Jadzia's portraits, they have childlike simplicity (of course) but at the same time somehow the people she draws are recognizable.

So as not to show favouritism, I'm also posting two of my son William's drawings below. William's art is more fantastical than Jadzia's, and most often involves laser guns, monsters, robots, and aliens. His style is similar to mine in that way and I'm delighted that his taste seems to lean toward Sci Fi.  He's not as prolific with creating, however, hence why I'm only posting two.

 The angry sun-like thing is actually a spiky monster.  At William's instruction, I added the lobster-clawed super hero shooting lasers from his eyes. Not sure what the other stuff in the picture represents, but it adds great atmosphere.

This is a robot that William drew in his reading response journal for school. I'm not sure why a book about farm animals prompted this particular response, but I find it delightful.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

C is for crush. candy. corpse.

Yesterday, I blogged about the book launch of crush. candy. corpse. by Sylvia McNicoll, who has written 30 books and birthed three fabulous children (including yours truly).  Since today is C-day in the blogging challenge and Mom's book title is so laden with C-words, I will now delight my faithful readers with an unbiased review of the novel.

The book is narrated by Sonja Ehret (Sunny), a teenager who volunteers in the Alzheimer's ward at a senior's home and ends up on trial for manslaughter. Each chapter begins in the courtroom and then flashes back to Sunny's school volunteer journal as the events unfold.

While I always enjoy my Mom's writing, there are books that stand out from the others, times when Mom just nails it and tells a story that is so real, and says so much.  This is one of those books and this is one of those times.  My mother's greatest strength is in creating memorable characters, who you can see when you read them. Every nurse, senior, teen, even the most minor of personages has a face and a voice, particularly the Alzheimer's patients.

Those of you who know me, and have read this blog, know that my grandmother recently died of Alzheimer's. Over the last few years, Mom spent a great deal of time in Omi's care facility, feeding her yogurt and watching her slip away bit by bit. There is so much of my grandmother's journey in crush. candy. corpse.   The book is dedicated to Omi and the story is so personal that Mom named the main character after herself.  Ehret is my mother's maiden name and Sonja was a name my grandparents almost chose before settling on Sylvia. This is a story from the heart, one that needed to be told, and it's beautiful. 

Monday, April 02, 2012

B is for Book Launch

Yesterday I attended the book launch of my favourite author and inspiration.  Of course I'm talking about my mother, Sylvia McNicoll. Crush. Candy. Corpse. is Mom's 30th book, so it's a big deal.  The event was held at A Different Drummer Books, a cozy independent bookstore that I fondly remember frequenting as a child. During today's visit, however, I saw no sign of the temperamental cat who lived there back in the day.

The turn out was perfect, enough people that the place felt full, but not so many that it was hard to move around. Also Mom baked cookies and squares.  She is multi-talented.  My kids spent most of the time upstairs in the children's department, with some of their friends who came to show their support.  Jadzia descended periodically to sneak a cookie, and William saw enough of my Mom's talk to proclaim loudly that it was boring.  I disagree. Mom spoke confidently, her jokes perfectly timed, and the sections she read really captured  the flavour of the book.

But you don't have to take my word for it. I filmed the whole thing.  If you watch the video below, you can feel like you were there! (minus the squares and cookies, unfortunately).

Sunday, April 01, 2012

A is for Alligator Tattoo

Today is the first day of the A to Z blogging challenge and I decided to save this moment to show off my new alligator tattoo. I've always wanted a tattoo, and when I saw this in the tattoo artist's book I knew it was right for me. Why an alligator? Well, as frequent readers will know, my family and I love going to the zoo.  I wanted to choose a ferocious animal (kind of a female empowerment thing), but not something cliché like a lion or a wolf.  I was afraid it would be painful but it wasn't actually that bad.  I gave birth to two kids, I can take anything!

Oh, and here's a fun video from Improv Everywhere.  They actually got 4 sets of quadruplets together for a gag!

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