Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Go big or go home

It's not that I didn't know that Hallowe'en is bigger over here. I did, really. I guess I just didn't have a concept of how much bigger.

Last night I realized that I hadn't prepared a veggie platter for Stu's school party today. We've had a lot going on between my reunion and Marc's birthday yesterday, and Stu was up most of the night before (okay maybe most is a bit of an exagearion - but from 2:30 to 5:00 am felt like most) and stayed home yesterday.

Marc said "just don't worry about it"...?????? So just before 9 I was driving like a madwoman cursing myself for promising a veggie platter - why a veggie platter? Why did I offer one of those?? Why not something simple like chips - that at least the kids would be likely to eat?? WHY do I do these things? (answer: teacher asked for a veggie plate, and as a SAHM I felt I needed to meet expectations).

This morning I hit the dollar store between dropping Stu off at school and taking Julia to gymnastics to rustle up a Hallowe'en platter for the veggies poor Marc had to help chop on his birthday and bowl for the dip that I (don't tell) BOUGHT. Marc thought I was going over the top with buying a special bowl for the dip - and couldn't completely understand why I didn't just leave it in the container it came in (I can hear you all gasping - go for it).

I felt vindicated when I saw all the treats in Madame Lynne's class after lunch - perfectly iced cupcakes, smiling pumpkin cookies... you get the picture. And I have to kiss my son - he wasn't interested the fancy cupcakes beause he wasn't sure what "the brown stuff was".

I wasn't so thrilled with the sugar high he bounded out of school on... if he hadn't been dressed like a teenage mutant ninja turtle I would have sworn I was walking with Tigger in a bouncy mood.

Julia's nursery school had asked for dollar store items instead of candy. What they asked for, to quote, was "dollar store items to put in our lootbags for the children". So I bought a little novelty eraser for each kid and figured that they would make appropriate loot bags.

Which they did. ONLY... there were some mothers (several it would appear) who made their OWN loot bags. Little computerzed tags proclaiming "Happy Halloween from Sxxxx!" and "To Julia from Axxxx. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!".

Please don't think I am a scrooge - I am the least scroogiest person I know a lot of the time. But I found loot bags with:

1) two small pots of play-doh, 2 sheets of stickers, 3 foam stickers, and a pencil
2) 1 cat stencil, one notebook, two really funky stickers that I can't describe, one sheet of stickers, one pencil, one eraser and something else I can't remember at the moment

a little over the top - no?

I came home feeling like a serious under achiever in the loot bag category (come one - they said "OUR lootbags" - I just followed instructions).

Then tonight our neighbour came over with goody bags for the kids (we were trick or treating with their daughter). Each one with a spider or snake toy tied to the outside. I thought I felt bad handing their daughter a couple of mini chocolate bars from our huge bowl of candy (see? HUGE bowl. We didn't run out. I am so not a scrooge).

I felt even worse when we opened the bags when we got home. 2 packs of gummi candies, 3 hard candies, 3 small plastic insects, 5 stickers, 4 foam shapes, two small skeletons and some other stuff that is no longer registering (see? If I am overloaded by these things how are my kids feeling?).

Is it just me, or are we just giving kids TOO much these days? WHY do my children need all of these things? And where are we supposed to put all this stuff (yes, I am still feeling the effect of donsizing to a smaller house).

Maybe I am mean spirited, but I don't think my 3 year old daughter needs 6 new pencils just because it's Hallowe'en. And while I am thankful to have such generous neighbours I will be cursing all the plastic insects which will litter my house for weeks to come.

I am fighting the urge to pick up my toys and go home. This is way too much in my humble opinion..

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

should old acquaintance be forgot...

We were in Montreal over the weekend for my (gasp) 20 year high school reunion.

I have to admit that the evening was tame in comparison to some of the banter going back and forth on facebook in the weeks leading up to the event. I was picturing people swinging from chandeliers (granted there were none) and partying til the wee hours. In the end only a few people stayed up until the sun was about to rise.

Marc and I arrived on Saturday afternoon after dropping the kids at my mum's (she's the best, this is such a plus to moving home) and then visiting the accountant to sign some papers for my dad's estate. It was pouring - absolutely dumping down - but Old Montreal is so pretty that it almost (almost!) didn't matter.

The reunion was held at a a new(ish?) hotel that was a few old banks renovated to make one really nice hotel. It was quite - well, quite upscale. While I liked the room and the shower (it had one of those shower heads hanging from the ceiling the size of a dinner plate that felt like rain) and I was thrilled to spend time in Old Montreal... well I couldn't help but feel that we were all dragged down there to show how cool someone (who helped organize the event naturally) had turned out.

We walked around Old Montreal, met up with Arian, my best friend from high school, for a quick coffee (she was also one of the organizers). I haven't seen Arian since my wedding - she moved to the States not long after and then to Calgary. We met Janet and Andre for dinner later and had wonderful Montreal Style Smoke Meat and greasy fries at a little hole in the wall deli - that is one thing I love about Montreal, the tiny restaurants with great food.

The "event" started at 8. There were a few people there early, and by about 10 the room we had was packed and people were spilling over into the bar.

All in all, nothing shocking. A few people looked a lot older than I feel. A few others had turned out really well and were people I would want to hang around with now. There were also people there that I had been to elementary and nursery school with, so it was a long trip down memory road. There were a few who had yet to mature (one who announced at 1:15 am that he was going to be calling his mother to pick him up - it's a 35 minute drive at least!) ans seemed to still be stuck in 1987.

My only complaint would be the venue - it just felt a little pretentious to be in what is supposed to be one of the Montreal hotspots (so proclaimed by Mr.Cool of course - he was strangely evasive when asked what he does for a living and by the end of the weekend the rumour was that he is a drug dealer). I guess I am getting old, but my premature deafness seemed to reach a new high - it was difficult to hear over the blaring music and announcements (there were at least 2 for someone's 20th birthday... I was not alone realizing the irony).

I may be an old fogey (I am after all pushing 38) but I would have liked to have actually been able to talk to people without screaming.

Oh - and the effects of long term smoking were apparent on a few people - pretty girls who looked way older than me, sleep deprivation and all... there's an ad for not smoking somewhere in there.

Leaving on Sunday morning we had trouble getting onto the autoroute because of construction and ended up driving around a bit - along Cote St Antoine to Atwater near the old Forum (I was appalled that there is a Future Shop where the Canadiens used to play!! Wrong, just wrong I tell you!) It was a bright sunny morning and I saw places I haven't seen in almost 15 years. I had forgotten what a beautiful city Montreal is - and how much I love it.

Now if they could just resolve the whole ridiculous separation issue once and for all... it would be a great place to live.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

and in today's news

Two things on my mind:

1) on my way home from nursery school I got stuck behind a bus. A van pulled up (going the other way) to talk to two of the teenage boys who got off the bus (it's a nice day my windows were down).

"Is Hillcrest in lockdown?" she asked.

There is a serious (in my opinion) problem in Ottawa at the moment. As of last Friday (and I haven't looked into it since) there had been 17 anonymous calls to 9-1-1 saying that there were armed men entering a school in the Ottawa area (the first one seem to have been the Ridgemont episode 3 weeks ago). There were 5 last Thursday alone.

The emergency services are overloaded. Paramedics are sitting at schools that have not been "cleared" (as safe, that there is no intruder) and having to listen to calls that they can't take because they are waiting for the all clear. That's people caling 9-1-1 for an ambulance and not getting one - because of a prank call.

Apparently the stress level at the schools, at the police stations, with the emergency response teams is terrible - I can only imagine. Last week Stuart had an emergency lockdown test at school... while I know it's a good idea and proactive, I can't help but think all we ever had was fire drills.

Someone has a very sick sense of humour and it's just not right.

2) My father's house is for sale. Yup, you heard me right. The house that I sold to his neighbour's sick daughter who had dreamed of living next to her mother for 20 years and was finally moving home from Florida to be with her family - that house.

Apparently her husband didn't tell anyone (this is from my mother who spoke with her father about the $3800 Hydro bill she got for said house, even though it was sold 5 months ago) but he was in meetings for a job in Florida the whole time - and got it. The dream job, once in a lifetime chance. So the house - and it's thousands and thousands (and THOUSANDS!) of dollars of renovation - on the market. They never even moved in.

I have no clue how I feel about htis (I had wanted to keep the house but it didn't make sense financially). Just weird. It's just not the right week for this I guess - or maybe it is, since the whole thing is rather prevalent in my mind anyways.

can't see the forest for the trees

Sometimes I need a good kick inthe pants. Seriously - there are times that I am concerned by the huge resemblance between me and an ostrich with it's head stuck in the sand.

I had the pleasure yesterday of a call from a friend in Luxembourg - a Canadian who wanted to know how it was to be home, and see how we were doing (those who do not read this blog may think we've fallen off the face of the earth, but you can only lead a horse to water...)

Anyhow, the conversation started off with me being a bit down on being back - there are parts I love, and parts I don't.

"But how are you feeling?" was one of the first questions when I expressed that we're feeling a little up and down. "How's your health?"

Um. Good point. It's MUCH better (so far, touch wood).

"And how's Julia? Is she still coughing all night? Is she able to get a little more sleep?"

Um. NO, she's not coughing. She is sleeping (for the most part - now we seem to have some - ahem, digestive trouble - oh whatever, she has gas, got to get her off the cheese!).

"You must be so relieved."

Wow. As little as 5 months ago I would have given my eye teeth to not listen to Julia hacking her poor little lungs up all night, every night. No cough syrup (and we tried soooooo many) helped much.

And, while I had to concede defeat to one sinus infection, I am much better. MUCH better (where's that wood again...) I seem to have broken the non-stop cycle of antibiotics. I can sleep most night without gasping for air. This is a definite improvement.

I think back to the night in early May when we started to seriously talk about coming home. I was up at 3 am and running a bath because I couldn't breathe, gasping for air with a pounding headache- hoping the steam would help. Marc came in and sat with me - and whatever I said scared him to death, I was so tired of being so sick all the time, so tired of having a sick little girl. I would have given my eye teeth to be as healthy (note I am not saying well rested!) as I am today. I still have some way to go (and a lot of exercise to fit into my schedule) but it's so much better than where we were.

So I am going to try and put aside worrying about where we are headed and when my house will be finished, when my dad's estate will finally settle, when will Stu fit in at school (okay, i don't promise on that one) and just enjoy this beautiful sunny crisp fall day. Because I am well enough to take my daughter to the park, and Stu to soccer and this time last year I would never have know what was in store for us and this bad year has to have served some purpose.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A year

365 days - sounds so long. And can go so fast.

On October 23rd last year I saw my father for the last time. 365 days ago - it seems so long ago, and yet it feels like yesterday.

It was a shock to see him - I knew that his lifestyle would evenutally bring him down. I knew he had been in the hospital with heart problems. I knew, and yet I was not prepared for the man himself.

It had been close to 2 years since I had seen him. We hadn't been home in that long, and I was home alone - a last minute trip.

He was worse than I expected - he looked so old and frail. I saw him at my grandmother's house - he was staying there. They looked more like an old husband and wife than a mother and son.

I have not been comfortable with my father's health in years. Nor with my father.

I remember him hobbling out to the porch of my grandmother's duplex. Determined to see me leave. It was at rush hour, my grandmother was disoriented, trying to get her in the car was difficult... she was focused on putting her recycling boxes off the curb, my mother was concerned about being rear-ended - need I say more? I was a little distracted. And disturbed.

I got in the car, waved a cheerful goodbye and left. When i spoke to Marc the next day I told him I couldn't think about it yet, I would when I got back to Luxembourg - he was so diminished, this man who had such a difficult place in my life.

4 days later he was dead. And the time on the plane home, the time I was planning to be alone and think - well the flight got cancelled. New flights booked. Funeral arrangements made. Urn to choose. I left the funeral to head right to the airport to catch a flight (not as callous as it sounds, the funeral got delayed by a day after I had booked my flight). The whole thing is a blur - I was on autopilot, trying to get through.

And here we are a year later - no further along in a lot of ways. Estate not settled. My feelings obviously not settled.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

This week's resolution

Remove the sentence "Come on guys, or we're going to be late" from any part of my speech.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I can't think of a title for this post - maybe because I have just flown up the stairs at the library to see if there was a computer free for me to use for a few minutes while Julia is at her ballet class in the comunity centre that is attached to the library (I am going to make typos because I am rushing and not familiar with keyboard).

I was debating the sanity of ballet class this aft - Mlle J was fast asleep in our bed, with um, me. I didn't want to get up, it's been one of those grey rainy days that makes you feel like crawling under a rock, or at least your duvet. Marc came up (on instructions delivered via the Stu) to get us at 3:00. It took a while to get her going - I wouldn't have even asked her if she wanted to come if she hadn't started asking about BALLET (I love the excitement in her voice) 3 days ago and crying every time I said we were going somewhere else in the car.

But man, it was hard shifting her out of bed and into the car. "Me a little bit scared of ballet" she announced. Huh? As we left the house it started to rain again. Then pour. Then it started to hail. Nice, this is a good sign - not. Miraculously it let up just as we got out of the car (it's all of a 4 minute drive to get here).

When we got in she panicked to see them sitting in a circle - "Wait for me!!" Anyhow, we weren't the only ones a few minutes late (teacher)and she went skipping in to tell Miss Julie the teacher that she was wearing rubber boots (she has some really funky rubber boots, I am starting to envy my daughter's footwear).

So - here I am, with a spare moment to write. What to say.

I guess I should say that we had a great Thanksgiving last week - we drove to Exeter (45 minutes north of London ON) to visit Marc's parents. We got to hang out with Grandma & Grandpa and see Aunt Holly and Uncle Brad and meet cousins Shae (2 1/2) and Jayden (10 weeks old).

The drive was... long. REALLY long. We left at 9:30 in the morning and didn't get there until a few minutes to 7 at night - all with a 15 minute pee/gas/run the kids in a field break and a very quick pee break later. All that for 700 km.

What was the problem you ask? Well, we were making great time. We were scheduled to arrive at 4:30. Just before 3 we were almost through Toronto. And then the inevitable (in my opinion) happened - we sat for 40 minutes on the 401 without moving.

Now, before I go any further : I admit it, I have a problem with Toronto. Or more specifically driving through Toronto, because it can take an hour or it can take 4 (yes, we were stuck once for 4 hours). My phobia has only grown since having kids to try and entertain while driving through the monstrously big city (it goes on forever).

So - I got us a plan. Get off the non-moving 401 (this was when we'd gone 1 km in 40 minutes) and head up to highway 7 near Guelph, since my inlaws live off highway 7 (eventually).

What I hadn't anticipated was Betty. For anyone who hasn't heard me gripe about Marc's girlfriend - she's a Garmin GPS and we don't get along very well. I have a brain and can read a map. I am convinced everytime I am in the car that something short circuits in her and she takes us the wrong way (point in case - driving us through a fountain in a pedestrian zone in Baden-Baden Germany).

I won't go on too long about HOW hellish the GPS made the trip (and Catherine got an email all about it as she sent me one about her recent experience while we were in the middle of the trip - what are blackberries for?).

At first it started off jokingly, Marc accusing me of being anti-Ontarian (I admit I get quite Quebecoise at times like this)and we narrowed it down to me not liking anything past the Thousand Islands (I concede he is probably right, considering that I spend most of any trip in or around Toronto chanting "thank you for not making me live here, thank you for not making me live here").

We had a map. Or rather I had a map and Marc had Betty. I kept finding the route, and he would turn her back on (after I would get frustrated and he would turn her off) and we'd try and follow her directions, turn where she would say and be rewarded with "RECALCULATING"... grrrrr.

She got us lost in Acton (a town of about 500 people but famous for it's - wait for it - HIDE House leather furniture store - I mean really. HIDE house??? ugh.)

She got us lost in Guelph.

I eventually firgured out how to get her out of wanting to take us back to the 401 and we were doing just fine, got to Kitchener-Waterloo where Marc went to university. I think I have it all figured out from the map when he utters the fatal words "I haven't been here in a few years, let's just put Betty on to get through town".

Turns out my plan involved about 500m on a highway, which we were now avoiding (according to Betty) because I didn't want to go on the 401. So she decided to take us right through KW.

Except that the roads she wanted to use were closed - for Octoberfest.

The largest Octoberfest in the world outside of Germany (so I have been told).

I resisted the urge to get out of the car and spend the weekend guzzling beer (I don't even like beer) and instead, in a very mature voice (no, not really) told Marc to get us out of KW and to his parents and that there was nothing I could do for him if he insisted on using the @*%&#^#*&# GPS.

And he managed to (okay, I helped a bit).

So - very late, very tired, very cranky (me especially) we arrived at Grandma and Grandpa's. There were a few other side stops (like when Stu had to pee on the side of a road, he had to go NOW and I couldn't figure out how he had so much in him - only to discover that he had drunk the entire 600ml bottle of iced tea we had bought to "share").

And despite the heat wave (over 30 degrees? in October??) we had a very nice Thnksgiving.It was amazing to see the kids bond with their cousins and because we had both girls on Saturday evening so their parents got to go to a wedding, I got to spend some quality time with my littlest (and sometimes loudest) niece. I love babies - but I think I have hit the stage where I love being able to give them back. Sigh.

The drive home was much nicer - to be honest we left at 9 am and didn't get home until 8 pm, but we stopped in London for about 90 minutes to visit some friends we haven't seen in years (he's like Marc's second dad - and has become like mine too in some ways, he's always there to support us and help, offer advice etc) and then we drove to Markham (on the "right" side of Toronto for me, meaning east ;-) ) and had a lovely lunch with Dave & Jenn & the kids. Stu thought it was really cool to go and see his godparents and LOVED Joe's hockey room (and Joe... all we've heard this week is about 8 year olds and Joe).

And now I can't think of a way to end the post that I didn't know how to start!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

And in news today

For those of you who might know that Julia goes to nursery school in the Alta Vista area...

This afternoon (at 12:55) I was taking Julia to school. There were a lot of cops around at the corner of Heron and Alta Vista. And paramedic trucks rushing past. Because of this:

The nursery school is about 500m from Ridgemont High School. Apparently all is well, but I was relieved that they didn't take the kids our for their play time this afternoon. Better safe than sorry.

I am a little weirded out (not big time, but as I type the concern grows). And thankful that no one was hurt. And wondering what the whole story is and how much we will really find out.

I remember having a friend on campus the night Marc Lepine open fire on women at UQAM in 1989. My mother was just blocks away from the Dawson campus when those shootings took place. It is starting to seem like there are too many of these things - and I think in Luxembourg we were sheltered from the reality of them.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The bread issue

There are two sides to this current issue of mine:

1) I miss bakeries, especially the one on Blvd Pierre Dupong that sells the best Bauernbrot (Farmer's Bread). It's a simple "pain gris" (or "grey" bread) that is dense enough to make you feel like it's worth the carbs, but no so heavy as to feel like a brick in your stomach. A lot of breads pale in comparison (at least in my comparison), either coming off tasting like styrofoam or weighing you down.

I concede that I haven't checked out the few local bakeries yet, and have not given in to all the kinds gracing the racks at Loblaw's (somehow Sundried tomato, black Olive and Rosemary all in one loaf sounds a little over the top to me.) I need to do market research, I admit it.

2) when buying what they refer to as "commercial Bakery" bread here (as in already sliced and in the bag, good for a while) - what on earth to choose!! When I was a kid there was white bread (which we all know now as BAD bread) and brown bread (which no one wanted to eat). My kids are happy eating brown bread - when it's just plain simple brown bread.

Which can be hard to find.

I was trying to buy the brand that was special of the week, 2/$4.00. All I wanted was a simple loaf of brown bread. I had the choice of Flaxseed, 12 grain, 7 grain, stone milled, honey and oats, raisin and cinnamon... and half a dozen others.

Including my favorite of the bunch "Prairie Bran".

Do they really need to specify that it is PRAIRIE bran? Are they worried I will confuse it with suburban bran, or metropolitain bran? Or possibly think it's Ghetto Bran (Marc and I had a lot of fun with that at lunch "Hey ho, here's yo bran" - poor taste I know)

Then I thought I had a found it: "WHOLE WHEAT" the bag proclaimed. Until I took it off the shelf and saw the "and soy". Whole wheat and soy.

Things being what they were (me, in grocery store which still freaks me out, and I used to shop at Cactus) and the fact that my kids love soy milk, soy pudding and I think soy is just good for you, I threw a loaf into the cart.

It passed the Stuart test for desert tonight - then again it was slathered with Nutella. Will have to see how we do tomorrow.