Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Blog Post About The Dog Lest You Think I Am Playing Favourites.

About a month ago I decided that I would go insane if I had to look at this for one more day:


These are Falafel's dog bowls. Two years ago a friend recommended elevating Falafel's bowls to reduce strain on her aged neck. It was meant to be a temporary fix, until I could find an arrangement that didn't involve the Rubbermaid storage tub Mr Wrath stained while brining a turkey.

I spent -- I kid you not -- 6 hours on-line one day looking at various makes and models of elevated canine feeding stations. Most of the options were just as UGLY as our temporary fix and way more costly than the one we finally settled on:

(Of course, Falafel doesn't know how to read, so the labels on the bowls are meaningless to her)

Awesome side benefit: it is Osiris Spock-proof.


 Now if only I can find a quick and attractive solution to the deck railing that surrounds our stairwell.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Little Girl Has Testicles.

Translation: our 8-week old kitten isn't a girl.

Instead of Isis, we now have an Osiris Spock. The boys refuse to acknowledge his middle name. But since I'm the person who pays the vet bills, I think I'm well within my rights to give this boy-cat a middle name of my choosing.

Alas, my 9 year old disagrees. And he's creating propaganda to get his message across:


Monday, August 29, 2011

Selective Breeding.

I did not create this PostSecret submission, but I wish I had:


• • • •

I am so excited that Beyoncé and Jay-Z are having a baby! Not that I care one whit about either of these people (though as token gesture to my Canadian-ness I call him Jay-ZED), but nothing warms my heart like the prospect of mocking a celebrity for giving their baby a bad, bad name.

Which is not to say that I was disappointed when Tina Fey gave birth a few weeks back. No.  Ms Fey is not only funny AND pretty AND clever, she has excellent taste in baby names. Her older girl is Alice Zenobia, and the new baby is Penelope Athena. The same day this name was announced, news came that Jessica Alba's new daughter is named Haven. Haven isn't great, in my opinion. But it could be worse: Alba could've named the baby Nevaeh.1
• • • •
Are Kiss the band who dress up in the black and white face make-up? I don't know, and I'm too lazy to google the answer. Honestly, the sum total of my knowledge about metal bands begins and ends with Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It."

Despite my ignorance, I enjoyed what Kiss' Paul Stanley said recently about baby names:
I guess we’re not cool enough for names like Peach or Astro Girl. We were a little more traditional and stick with names our children hopefully won’t regret when they grow up. Your kids aren’t objects for amusement, so why would you give them a name that would subject them to possible ridicule at school? Kids can be pretty tough on each other, and who wants to put a child named Spaghetti through school?
Paul Stanley's kids are beautifully named: Evan, Sarah, Colin, and Emily. I think I like this guy.

• • • •

Do you have positive associations with the noun gentry? Maybe it's because I'm Canadian and (in the estimate of the American media) a quasi socialist, but I don't think highly of it. Evidently someone in Michigan disagrees:

 (source: Parents magazine, August 2011, page 174)

• • • •

1 GET IT? Nevaeh! It's HEAVEN, spelled backwards!!!11!!!"

In my experience, people who give their kids awful names frequently 
google those names. Rather than risk some mean mutha from Michigan 
raining vengeance on my head, I'm going to turn off the comments for this post.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Toe The Line.

Warning: this post contains graphic imagery. 
We advise you do not read this post while consuming food 
or beverages or while in the company of wimps.

To distract you from the horror you are about to witness, I will first post photos of dogs dressed in Star Trek costumes:





Awww. So cute.

And now for the post...

Remember back in June when I wrote about doing myself a damage while making a bed at sleepaway camp? Well, after 3(ish) long(ish) months, my toenail fell off. Here is the current state of that toe:

(Please note that I have watermarked the photo, lest someone attempt
to pass off this toe as their own horrible monstrosity and submit it to AwkwardToePhotos.com)

I suspect that my toe is no longer merely a digit. No. Now it is Hallux, the Great Big Bald Toe who wants to lead a global toe-revolt. Hallux will call upon the digits of the world to rise up and over throw the toe oppressors of the world, namely cobblers and nail technicians.

When this happens, be sure to let everyone know that you saw it here, first.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Meow.

Don't you just hate it when you are expecting to have new windows installed and instead you wind up owning a cat? Or is this quandary situationally specific to me and me alone?

On Wednesday, I offered to cat-sit for the men who were NOT installing windows at my house. That morning they'd found a tiny kitten in the parking lot of their hotel. They were planning on keeping him/her in their truck until they could find him/her (though they were reasonably sure it was a lady cat) a new owner.

Mr Wrath and I had been discussing getting a cat. While we were in Newfoundland we'd discovered that Klaxon loves cats. And cats love Klaxon. So a kitten showing up at our doorstep seemed fortuitous. Initially I hadn't intended to adopt this particular kitten, I was just curious to see how Falafel reacted to an interloper. She did well. Really well. By which I mean: she didn't eat the kitten.

(Falafel keeps one crazy eye on the kitten at all times.)

Within an hour of the boys waking up, I called Mr Wrath and asked if we could keep the kitten. To seal the deal, I emailed this photo:


He agreed.

So I put her in the master bathroom, got the boys in the car and drove around town till I found the window guys. They agreed to let me keep the kitten. But really, what else could they say? They were suppose to install my windows on Tuesday, and I'd agree to reschedule for Wednesday. Then on Wednesday morning I'd suggested that rather than rush through my installation, we put it off till Thursday for their convenience. Yea. They OWED me. BIG TIME.

(Hanging out on the scratching post/perch Mr Wrath constructed yesterday)

So began a six-hour discussion of what to name her.

Is it any wonder that when it comes to naming cats, I'm just as fussy as when it comes to naming humans? Yes, I'm very opinionated. Which is why I out rightly forbid the kids to call her anything lame, ie Midnight, Fluffy, Whiskers, or Megatron. We went around and around. Ezri. Crusher. Jean-luc. Nyota. Uhura. Pavel. Spock. Quark. Sisko. Beverly. Mr Mott. I even let the kids make some suggestions. Klaxon liked Professor McGonagall,  Ferdinad, Lois Lane, Westley, and Buttercup. Zarf's suggestions were awful. "What about Ny-low-ee? Akalaya sounds pretty, don't you think? Or maybe Zalakalynn?" How did I give birth to a trendy namer?

(Falling asleep on the arm of my bathrobe while watching Republic of Doyle.)

By dinnertime we'd agreed to Isis. This sates my desire to bequeath a Star Trek name (Isis was a shape shifting cat from the 1968 episode Assignment: Earth) AND appeases Klaxon who loves all things Egyptian (Isis is the Ancient Egyptian goddess of motherhood, magic and fertility.)

(Mr Wrath multitasks: reading AND cuddling.)

We're not sure if Isis is a girl. I would feel chagrined about this, had my aunt not told me the story of taking her cat into be spayed. At the outset the vet said the cat was pregnant and he would have to charge extra because the operation would take longer. But when the vet opened her up, he couldn't find the womb. Which was puzzling. Until he located the testes and the penis.

Isis seems to be mostly healthy. She's going to the vet on the 30th. In the meantime she's getting de-wormed. But she's friendly and social, and a little too keen to jump on the dog's head.

Anyone want to venture a guess at her age? She's 18 cm (7 inches) from nose to butt. At what age does cat's eye colour become permanent. I hope she keeps those baby blues.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The year I was seven, we flew from Alberta to Newfoundland for Christmas. I remember only two things from this trip:

The first was my brother received a go-cart on Christmas Day. He was understandably thrilled. My parents were understandably unthrilled. Instead of shipping the go-cart 4000 km home, it was exchanged for a wood burning kit. The go-cart did not interest me, but I coveted that wood burning kit. It promised both artistic expression and danger.

What could be better?  Answer: everything and anything. Wood burning kits -- my brother and I would learn in short order -- are lame.

The second memory is building a snowman in the backyard of my grandparent's house. When construction was done, my grandfather filled a copper plant mister with water and added drops of food colouring. The first batch was green. The second, yellow.  Within twenty minutes our snowman was the Incredible Hulk.

There are photos from that day. I don't have copies, but I remember them clearly. In the first photo Grandad and I are looking at the camera and smiling. In the second,  Grand-dad is pulling on the pom-pom of my yellow and blue Get Crackin' toque, much to my consternation.  In the third one, he's placed my toque on The Hulk's head. I'm running toward the camera my face red with anger. The photo caught Grand-dad mid-laugh, enjoying the spectacle of my mood swing, my overreaction to a minor prank and my dramatic exit from the scene.

On Friday, Grand-dad died. He was 92.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"I Am An Invisible Minority," The Ballad of the Lonely, Canadian, Secular Homeschooler.

This year will be our fourth year homeschooling. Zarf attended public school for kindergarten, and is now 9 and in Grade 4.  Seven-year old Klaxon has been exclusively homeschooled and will be registered as a Grade 3 student.

I've spent the past few weeks researching and ordering curriculum that jives with the British Columbia Prescribed Learning Outcomes, in accordance with the provincial government's Distributed Learning program. Ordering curriculum is both exciting and demoralizing. It's fun to plot out the year, and find resources that will inspire the boys' imagination and intelligence. But it's frustrating that many programs and texts don't meet our needs. Retailers, publishers and authors neglect Canadian, secular homeschooling parents. We are a small splinter group in a marketplace dominated by American and/or an evangelical-Christians. This makes choosing curriculum difficult, but I am happy with our selections for this year:

I'll break them down by subject.

Fine Arts:

Making crafts! Getting messy! Learning artistic expression!



Health:

I hate health. Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating for germ-filled, sloth and emotional emptiness. But as a homeschooling subject, it's hard to buy or even create a concise health curriculum. Healthy habits and attitudes are a natural extension of living a good life. I use a lot of public health websites for activities and videos.


Social Studies:

(Do other nations teach social studies, or is it a Canadian thing?)

We'll be learning about Canada's geography, culture, national symbols, government and politics. To get a true sense of our nation and quality of life, we'll also read about other countries. Current events will be discussed in a gentle age-appropriate fashion.


Although not mandated, I devote a lot of time to history. But it is an area that's problematic. Many world history texts (ie Story of the World, by Susan Wise Bauer) use American landmarks, milestones and leaders as a reference point and assume that all children (and their parents) will know their significance. Who the hell is Paul Revere, anyway?

This is why I'm grateful to have found Modern History Through Canadian Eyes: A Canadian History Guide for All Ages, by Heather Penner. It provides an excellent framework to use other resources to teach Canadian history within the context of world history. I'm learning a lot.


Language Arts:

I'm not a big fan of the recent trend in language arts (in Canada) that emphasizes creative writing from an early grade. It's counter productive to assign emerging readers the additional task of sitting and writing stories. Every. Single. Day. I suspect this movement has caught on because teachers know that writing is an easily quantified task. But it requires a skill set (manual dexterity, prolonged focus, sedentary position) that very few boys (and many girls) are capable of before the age of 10. This anti-boy bias (the repercussions of which, we are only now beginning to understand) is one of the reasons I'm glad that we've kept our active, boisterous boys out of a traditional school.

I believe that the goals of language arts is:
to make a child literate,
instill in him/her a love of the written word, and
teach him/her to communicate effectively via the written word.

In our house, this means a lot of read aloud books, exposure to complex vocabulary, opportunities to write and edit their work. The boys will also be practicing penmanship, learning the rules of spelling and grammar, and reading everyday.



Math:

This will be our third year using JUMP Math. This program is made in Canada, for Canadians. Everything is taught using metric units, not inches, pounds, or pints. It also uses Celsius measurements for temperature, and Canadian denominations for currency.

The boys are completing Kumon workbooks on the times tables. Concepts will be reinforced with the use of manipulatives.


Science:

This is the toughest subject to plan, but also the one Zarf and Klaxon love the most.

I will not use a "science" book that is really Creationist-propaganda employing scientific phrases and terminology to make that dreck more palatable. Attention people who refuse to believe the world is 4.54 billion years old: acknowledging Genesis is an allegory is NOT going to get you a free pass to hell, but perverting the fundamental principles of science because you lack faith in your faith makes me feel like I AM IN HELL.

We follow the Canadian education system's framework that breaks down scientific study into the units of Life, Physical and Earth/Space. As much as I love REAL Science Odyssey, I can't use their resources because we can't dedicate an entire year to ONLY biology or chemistry. Instead I pull together different experiments and readings from many different sources.


If you take all these books, and a few dozen others from the library, add in several sessions of swim lessons, membership in the ski club and assorted field trips, you've got our school year:



(Wow -- I think that shelf is going to break under the weight of these books. I better go rescue my particle board bookcase pronto.)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fifteen.

Are you on Facebook? I'm on Facebook. On occasion. Between Twitter and this blog, I can't handle another online hobby/distraction, so Facebook falls to the wayside. Over on Facebook, Beck (from the blog Frog and Toad are Still Friends, and twitter) tagged some people to play The 15 Characters Game.

Here are the rules:
Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen fictional characters (television, films, plays, books) who've influenced you and who will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

I'm going to post my list here...

1. JB Fletcher, "Murder She Wrote."

2. Professor Snape. From the books, but more so the movies.


3. Elizabeth Bennett, "Pride and Prejudice."

4. Laura Holt, "Remington Steele." Root of my deep seated love of fedoras. 


5. Harriet Pringle, "Fortunes of War."

6. C.K. Dexter Haven, "Philadelphia Story."

7. Lola, "Charlie and Lola"

8. Wonder Woman.
 
9. Atticus Finch, "To Kill A Mockingbird."

10. Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo, "Princess Diaries."

11. Chandler Bing, "Friends." Root of my deep-seated love of sweater vests. 


12. Ahsoka Tano.

13. Richard Strong, "Made In Canada."

14. Captain Picard, "Star Trek: Next Generation."

15. Captain Kirk, "Star Trek: The Original Series."


Thursday, August 11, 2011

“Don’t Call Me Junior.”

I didn't set out to write an inflammatory post about tattoos on Tuesday. I MEANT to write an inflammatory post about the awful, awful name Ethan Hawke bequeathed to his newest daughter: Indiana. "Indiana Hawke" is ten ways to horrible. Almost as horrible as the tattoos Indiana's mother got during her illustrious career as a stevedore:

 
I think we can all agree: those are very, very, VERY unfortunate. Plus, is coordinating your dress and your purse with your tattoos a thing now? If yes, it's a very, very, VERY bad thing.

But enough about Popeye-esque tattoos. Let's talk about why Indiana is a craptastic name.

Firstly, it's a state. And it's not even one of those states whose names also double as given names (ie Georgia, Virginia). Nope, it was a colonial-era neologism for the term Indian Land. Also, it's a state mostly famous for being the state whose denizens like to be called Hoosiers.

Secondly, Indiana's sisters are Maya and Clementine and her brother is Levon. Seventy-five percent of Mr Hawke's children have lovely legitimate names -- why is this little girl cursed with this lamentable proper noun?

The third reason this name sucks is because it's supposedly a homage to River Phoenix, who portrayed Indiana Jones in "The Last Crusade."  Do you think it's a bad idea to name your child after a person who died young by consuming illegal drugs, even if that person was a very talented actor? I do. Plus, I'm a smidge superstitious and think the whole dying-young-thing is bad omen. And the omen of her-namesake-was-a-drug-user? Also, not stellar.

(The following may or may not be my fourth reason to hate the "name" Indiana OR it might be an extension of point #3. I'll let you decide.)

Furthermore, I'm puzzled as to how Indiana honours River Phoenix? He played Indiana Jones for 15 minutes. Okay. Maybe it was 19 minutes. Whatever. It was a pittance. River Phoenix was NEVER Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones. Plus Indiana Jones' real name was Henry Jones Junior. The nickname Indiana was even disparaged in the third movie, when Sean Connery's character points out, "We named the dog Indiana."

As an aside: the name Indiana Jones was inspired by George Lucas' dog. That dog? Was also the inspiration for the character Chewbacca.



Anyone else hoping the Hawkes have a fifth child and use the name Wookiee? 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tattoos Are The New Mom Jeans.

My sons are in swim lessons. So for the next two weeks, I will be spending a fair bit of time at the public pool. I will also be spending a fair bit of time marvelling at the tattoos on display at the public pool.  Sometimes I think that I'm the only adult (and, I'm using this term loosely) in this town without a tattoo. When I start to get this feeling, I make Mr Wrath come to the pool with me. Then we bob around feeling rather smug that we are ink-less wonders in a sea of questionable body art. Or rather: a pool of questionable body art. 

I'm old enough to remember a time when tattoos were uncommon. When I was growing up, tattoos were the strict provenance of rebels, and criminals. If you saw a character on tv or in a movie with a tattoo, you knew that guy was a villain.  Only one of my friends' parents had tattoos. There was a crudely rendered Betty Boop on one arm, and a Magic 8-Ball on the other. He was the kind of dad who always wanted to hang out and party with us. He was the kind of dad who, if he offered you a ride home at the end of the evening, you would decline even if the only other option was calling your father at 3 AM and asking for him to come pick you up.

When I was in university in the early 90s, I wanted a tattoo.  I wanted to look like a rebel. I wanted to appear edgy and mysterious. I wanted to create the illusion that I had a sordid past.  I wore concert tees or flannel shirts, army surplus boots, ethnic jewellery I bought at craft fairs in the Students' Union Building, and high-waisted, pleat-fronted jeans from The Gap. But really I was a Star Trek-loving, anthropology major who lived with her parents. I was anything but counter-culture. Also I was too cheap to get a tattoo.

Twenty years on, I'm glad I didn't get a tattoo. Tattoos no longer differentiate, they homogenize. In 2011, having a tattoo doesn't make you a rebel. It makes you middle class. And mainstream. And old. And unlike jeans with an eight-inch zipper, you can't take off a tattoo, hide it in the back of the closet, and explain that you only got them because Helen Hunt had a pair just like it on Mad About You. And really, who didn't love Helen Hunt in 1992!? She was SASSY! She wore HATS, for FUCK'S SAKE!

That being said, I'm TOTALLY gonna get this for my 40th birthday:


Yea.

No.

No, I'm not.

• • • •

Before getting a tattoo (or marrying or hiring someone with a tattoo) you should check out this Tattoo Location diagram. It's a very useful tool

Friday, August 5, 2011

One More Vacation Shot.

After a strenuous hike, there's nothing quite as refreshing as a poorly punctuated sign:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation.

1.  We attended the Great Fogo Island Punt Race to There and Back.



2. We ate fish.

3. We ate more fish.

4. We went to Ches's Fish & Chips, ate even more fish and washed it down with Pepsi.

Side note: Newfoundlanders must have the highest rate of Pepsi consumption per capita in the world. My mom attributes this to Coca-Cola not being available on the island for a long time. By the time it arrived, Pepsi had cornered the market. My Orange Crush-loving sons were in seventh heaven since Crush is bottled and distributed by Pepsi.  Since returning home I've imposed an indefinite Orange Crush moratorium because they drank so much of it.

5. We regretted not bringing toques.

As a general follow-up to my earlier post, I will mention that we did pack very well.  But at least twice I wanted a toque. And I could have packed one less pair of pants, but one extra pair of shorts. The weather was wildly variable from day to day.



6. We rented a swanky RV and went glamping (translation: glamourous camping). My husband might as well just sell our 1988 tent trailer RIGHT NOW. There is no going back.


7. We fed ducks in Quidi Vidi Pond. This was -- I kid you not -- the highlight of the trip for my boys.

Other things they loved: going for a ride in my uncle's fully restored, classic Mini Cooper (and they rode in the front seat!), whale watching, playing Wii games at my aunt's house, drinking Orange Crush (but dry heaving when they tasted Pineapple Crush), hunting frogs in roadside bogs, the swanky RV, seeing puffins, and petting cats on the streets of St. John's (cats wandering free initially freaked them out. Up here a cat that is outside usually winds up being eaten by a coyote).


8. While wandering downtown St. John's we met Lynda Boyd. She plays "Rose" on The Republic of Doyle.

(My 9 year old was walking past the computer, saw this photo and said, "I remember that lady. You should post a picture of her dog. Milo was very cute." And when I confessed to not taking Milo's photo, he shook his head in disgust and wandered off.)

10. We went whale watching.


Here is my unpaid, unsolicited corporate endorsement: you should check out Colbert's Puffin & Whale Tours. They're based out of Bauline East (about an hour south of St John's). They're a small outfit, with great rates, and flexible tour schedules. We saw a million birds at the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, and got close to a pair of humpback whales.

11. My sons and husband got to meet my Nanny and Grandad and assorted relations. And vice versa. As my mother noted: Mr Wrath is a very good sport.

12. My husband attended a classic Newfoundland Kitchen Party. In a saltbox house. In an outport!

As an aside, I went to bed.  To the best of my knowledge, no one's ever called me a good sport.

13. We attended a family reunion on the small island where my dad was raised:


14. We hung out with Russell Crowe. Okay, we totally did NOT do this. But Russell was in St. John's at the same time we were (he's filming an episode of Republic of Doyle and his missus is putting on a few shows at the LSPU Hall). Alas we didn't see him -- probably because we spent all our time at Quidi Vidi feeding the bloody ducks.

15. I visited various ancestral homes. This is one on Fogo:


And one in St. John's.
The turquoise building on the left use to belong to my great grandmother. Once upon a time one of the neighbours had a monkey as a pet. I stupidly shared this anecdote with my sons who now steadfastly cling to the idea that pet monkeys are common in St. John's.

16. We looked at jellyfish:



17. We inspected carnivorous plants:


The pitcher plant is the official flower of Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland: home to meat eating plants AND pet monkeys. My kids did not want to come home.

18. We survived the St. John's Haunted Hike. It was great -- well worth the money.

19. We survived the trip home. I was kinda of taking this point for granted until the last leg of our journey on Sunday. We flew Westjet from Vancouver to Prince George and back again! Got off, waited several hours for a new FULLY FUNCTIONAL WESTJET plane to arrive from Calgary and then FINALLY flew to Prince George and (SHOCKINGLY ENOUGH!!) managed to land. Of course this meant my husband and I (already jet lagged) were too exhausted to safely drive the 200+ kilometers home. Spending $120 hotel room made me think that the $10 meal voucher comped by WestJet was kinda stingy.

20. My brain is now programmed to do everything half an hour later. Silly time zones.