Monday, August 31, 2009

all good things

Today is a pretty emotional day for my little family.

Tomorrow, my youngest, will start Grade One at a new school. While that's a pretty big deal in and of itself (at least it's the same school his big brother attends), this also marks his last day at the day care housed in his old school.

My family has been involved (except for a few years between kids and when D. was in home care), with the Glebe Parents' Day Care since 1999, when S. was a toddler. It's a great day care but the staff at their First Avenue program are truly exceptional.

When S. was "emergency airlifted" out of First Avenue in Grade One, they re-opened the day care an hour early so that staff could meet him at the bus (his temporary school was further away and the school day ended earlier) for the rest of the term (from February until June).

And, earlier this year, when I needed a space to launch my book, the staff offered their wonderful facility free of charge. They decorated it so beautifully and there was even a message on a chalkboard in the washroom telling me how proud they were of me.

And those are just a couple of examples.

This past week end, D. and I made a poster-sized card with a photo of our family. We all signed it. We also made cookies (I burned the first two batches, my spouse did the baking of the last couple, as I was becoming hysterical). We also gave them a bottle of gourmet chocolate sauce to pour in their coffee.

D. and I made cards for the three teachers who hosted the book launch. I want to make scarves for all three of them but of course, only one was finished. D. had me paste photos of the scarves in the cards for the other two, so that they would know what they are getting (I made a "Lace Ribbon" scarf for J., T. is getting a "Clapotis" and, if I can manage the pattern, I want to make "Juno" for A.)

I had T. and D. deliver it all to the day care, confessing to my spouse that I am "emotional coward." Apparently, the staff and T. have decided that I am not to be let off the hook, though, so S. and I will join T. when he goes to collect D. at the day care this evening.

There might be tears.

These photos were taken first thing this am and are thus not particularly flattering. I just wanted a photographic record.

To distract myself this, I thought I'd do this nifty little book meme that Sassymonkey wrote about at BlogHer:

"Using only books you have read this year (2009), answer these
questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It’s a lot harder than you

Here's the meme with my answers. If you haven't read enough books so far this year to answer all the questions go back as far as you need to get enough books. If you've played it on your blog leave a link so I can go visit."

I was planning to do it even before I noticed that Sassymonkey had used my book to answer one of the questions but that particularly tickled me.

Describe yourself: Dragonslayer (Bone #4, Jeff Smith)

How do you feel: What It Is (Lynda Barry)

Describe where you currently live: Three Day Road (Joseph Boyden)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go? Toronto Noir (Janine Armin and Nathaniel G. Moore, eds.)

Your favorite form of transportation: Walk Through Darkness(David Anthony Durham)

Your best friend is: Tipping The Velvet (Sarah Waters)

You and your friends are: Casting Spells (Barbara Bretton)

What’s the weather like: All the Colours Of Darkness (Peter Robinson)

You fear: The Price Of Darkness (Graham Hurley)

What is the best advice you have to give: Nobody Move (Denis Johnson)

Thought for the day: Don't Look Twice (Andrew Gross)

How I would like to die: A Good Death (Elizabeth Ironside)

My soul’s present condition: Hurry Down Sunshine (Michael Greenberg)

I seem to have read a lot of books with darkness in the title.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

in pictures

These are some illustrations for the post I wrote on August 10, about our trip out east. Thanks to my sister in law, B. for taking the horse photos. There is NO WAY I was letting go of the reigns long enough to point and shoot.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ottawa folk fest 2009

It's a highlight of every summer for my family, and this year's
Ottawa Folk Festival was no exception (although we did miss S. a lot. He's staying with his Grandma and going to comedy camp. He says they spend their days doing improv routines and watching highlights from Saturday Night Live. The kid is in heaven). And this year, despite forecasts to the contrary (and some really nasty looking storm clouds) the weather was perfect.

I think I kept the rain away through sheer force of will.

This is
Vishtèn, a group we really liked from PEI and the Magdalen Islands. Other highlights for me included James Keelaghan, the Good Lovelies and a workshop called Outstanding In Their Field that featured Digging Roots (excellent musicians, great voices, hard rocking native musicians), the Arrogant Worms, Charlotte Cornfield, Tall Trees (the teenage winners of this year's "rising stars" award. I was really charmed by them) and Stewed Roots. I also think I might have fallen in love with Victoria Vox and her ukelele.

My spouse and I both loved James Hill and Anne Davidson.

Every folk festival has moments of magic. T. (whose personal highlights were a lot like mine), D. and I all agree that those moments this year came courtesy of the Common Ground Cross-Cultural Collaboration (couldn't find a link to explain this amazing process of bringing together artists from all over North America and throwing them together to make music):

"When the artists are having fun it is infectious. Our final daytime show ended with the whole group getting off the stage and leading the audience dancing around the room. One of those special festival moments."

On Saturday afternoon, my sister and brother-in-law collected D. so that T. and I could enjoy some child free time and take in some music without being subject to the (sometimes tyrannical) whims of our youngest child. That night, we stayed to the very end (although, I did take in Bruce Cockburn while lying down with my eyes closed. It was nice).

Attending the Folk Festival with a six year old is a different experience. You don't always get to choose what concerts you attend and you can never be sure if you will hear a full set.

But I got to sit in the shade with my son between my legs. I listened to music and watched his face as he read to himself (hooray for reading!).

I balanced him on my knees and we listened to music together.

And we all danced our hearts out.

While it was frustrating to miss out on some workshops I wanted to hear (like Songs From The Road, featuring Bruce Cockburn, Steven Page and Joel Plaskett), I got to do and see some things I might have missed entirely.

We spent more than an hour building a model of a
cob house.

We watched some folks learning to dance the Charleston.

D. painted his name in Japanese characters and made an origami flower.

And we did all this without setting foot in the kids' tent.

Going to the Folk Festival with a six year old is exhausting but I don't resent it for a moment (although I would probably feel differently if we hadn't had the break on Saturday).

And the thing is, I think that these are the memories that will stay with me.

And it wouldn't be the FolkFest if I didn't spend some time knitting in public.

I didn't even mind when, at around 5:00 on Sunday, D. announced that he wanted to leave. It would have been great to stay and hear the evening concert but going to St-Hubert for dinner was special in its own way.

"This is such a great feast!", D. announced. It was a great end to a wonderful week end.

(You can see the full list of FolkFest artists here).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

he's only six years old

Today's scheduled post is being pre-empted by a story I want to share with all of you.

My younger son, D., had an appointment at the dentist's today. I decided to turn the day into a special outing and go out for lunch and then to the movies (G-Force. I still do not like rodents).

When the movie was over, he announced that he had to go to the bathroom. As I wrapped up a phone call with my spouse and went to open the bathroom door, a man stepped towards me and said, "I think he's way too old to go in there with you. He looks like he's at least four years old."

I thought he was kidding. I smiled and said, "He's six."

"Six! You really shouldn't be going in there."

He was serious. And outraged (I'll bust some stereotypes and tell you that he was young - no older than early 30s). As I stepped around him and gently pushed my son through the door, I heard him say, "I'm going to talk to the manager."

I was flabbergasted.

D. was quite upset as he has been really reluctant to go into the women's washroom for the last year or so (although lately he's gone in with me when we are out alone without complaining).
He was mortified.

I am not an overly protective parent nor am I prone to paranoia. I also know all that so many more children are harmed by adults they know than ones they meet in the bathroom at the movie theatre.


He can barely reach the taps in public washrooms, let alone the soap dispenser.

He often can't get the stall door to close.

Sometimes, he can't get it open.

Despite his protestations, he's afraid to be by himself in an unfamiliar place.

He's six years old. And it is still several years before I am going to let him out of my sight in any public place.

When I was six years old, a stranger exposed himself to me.

I let my 11 year old go into the men's room by himself. Once, when D. had a friend with him at the movies, I let both boys go in together and stood outside with my heart in my mouth until they re-appeared (I asked if they had washed their hands. My son said, "Yes!" His friend said, "No, you didn't!").

I think the answer to "When is your child old enough to [fill in the blank]?" depends very much on the individual child and on the parents' comfort level (I often say that it's really good that my boys have two parents, otherwise they would never be allowed to do anything). I am, however, very comfortable asserting that my six year old will be coming into the women's washroom with me for a while yet.

And what's the big deal, anyway? Women's washrooms have stalls. It's not as though D. is peeking under the doors. When I went to university, at least one of the residences had only co-ed bathrooms. Now that was weird - brushing my teeth in the morning and having some guy walk by in a little towel.

How do you handle the bathroom situation when out with your kids? How do you feel when you see a child of the opposite sex in a public washroom?

Monday, August 24, 2009

not done yet reviewed for the cmaj

I have recovered from chemo but a week end at the
Folk Festival and a night of insomnia have left me completely brain dead.

In lieu of any original content on my part, I wanted a share a wonderful review of Not Done Yet, published in this month's Canadian Medical Association Journal.

A physician who treats breast cancer patients might wonder what this blog-cum-book could offer a busy professional whose daily practice likely holds its own heartbreaking quota of Lauries...

However, Kingston’s book provides the detail and emotional shadings that give meaning to these stark, exterior facts. The honest telling of a singular story weaves the experience of cancer into the whole cloth of a life, reworked after a devastating rupture. She vividly integrates events and see-sawing emotions...

Comfortable in her lay-expert role and an inveterate listmaker, she draws from the negative encounters to compile pointers for health care professionals: "Don’t look horrified when I tell you I have metastatic breast cancer; … Don’t ask me questions about my treatment[s] that are irrelevant to the procedure being performed and/or outside your sphere of knowledge [p 190]"

The author of the review, Sharon Batt, is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Bioethics at Dalhousie University. She is also the author of the book, Patient No More: The Politics of Breast Cancer about her own experience.

Many thanks to my friend N. (herself the editor of Women Who Care - an upcoming book about "Canadian Women’s Personal and Professional Experiences of Health Care and Caring") for submitting my book to the CMAJ for review.

You can download the full pdf of the review here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

my bad dog

Yesterday, I had to fish my dog out of the canal. I was jogging along, with one dog tied around my waist and holding on the leash of the other one (the small, bad one). My mind may have been wandering a little bit. Her leash had been slack for some time when Lucy caught sight of a group (gaggle? flock?) of ducks, yanked hard and broke free.

She slipped under the rails at the sides of the canal (I think it may have been this exact spot, although there was no dredger around) and hesitated only a moment before jumping in. Now I had never seen her swim before, and my heart sank, as she did. She re-emerged pretty quickly, and having recovered from her surprise (I think the canal was a lot deeper than she expected), she set off after the ducks.

I yelled her name. I looked around to see how she might get out (and how I might get in, if I really had to). I waited for her to realize she wasn't going to catch the fleeing fowl and return to me. She made it almost to the other side before she got tired, turned around and swam back in my direction (and even then she did one about-face and reconsidered). When she reached me, she of course, could not get out along the concrete sides of the canal. I lay down on my stomach, grabbed hold of her leash, guided her over and then pulled her out by the scruff until she could find enough purchase to clamber out.

At which point, she shook herself and soaked me in filthy canal water.

She trotted home quite happily, none the worse for her adventure. I on the other hand, was mad as a wet hen.

But the day's adventures were not over.

I dropped by my sister's yesterday afternoon. It was her birthday a couple of days ago. I gave her a card inscribed with the following:

On the cover: "My dog ate your present."

Inside: "You can have my dog."

I thought it was pretty funny, but I didn't realize how apt.

I also gave my sister two balls of wool, which are going to become socks. I took the wool away with me so that I can execute that transformation. And when I got home, I plopped both balls on the dining room table. I went upstairs to watch D. in the bath (S. and my spouse are both away right now).

When I came down, I found Lucy at the bottom of the stairs with wool wrapped around her neck and paws. Yarn was also draped around furniture legs. Both balls had had the paper ball bands removed. It took me an hour and a half to untangle the mess.

Perhaps she was trying to make art.

Just the other day, I was bragging to a friend about how good Lucy was on our trip East. I uttered the words, "She has really turned a corner."

My spouse would surely call that 'hubris.'

Lucy is lying on the floor beside me as I type this, looking very peaceful and innocent. She really can be very sweet. It's a good thing because I was tempted to call this post, "Free to a good home."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

something else i've been up to

This blanket is called the "Curve of Pursuit" and was designed by Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer of Woolly Thoughts:

"The design is based on the curves that are formed if four dogs set off to chase each other from the corners of a field. The path created by each dog is an equi-angular spiral."
Mine was made in the colours of one of my favourite dogs and was gifted to her humans.

I am very happy with how this turned out and proud of my persistence. It looked kind of funny in the beginning and I almost gave up. I'm so glad I didn't; even if it did mean I spent much of July with a wool blanket across my lap.

If you're on Ravelry, you can check out the details, here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

dear feminism, we still need you

Ottawa's mayor, Larry O'Brien, was just acquitted of attempting to bribe (in the form of a political appointment) a rival candidate during the election. While the allegations still seem to me to be entirely plausible (my opinion and no, I emphatically did not vote for the man and the whole election process is a bit of a "don't get me started."), I was not surprised by the results. My spouse and I heard the news on the radio as we were in the Maritimes, grunted, sighed and went back to mediating the squabbling in the back seat of the car.

Then, today, I heard about this (via Miss Vicky):

"Lisa MacLeod is a young female politician who commutes to her job at Queen's Park from Ottawa and leaves her husband, Joe, and four-year-old daughter, Victoria, at home. Mr. Justice Douglas Cunningham of Ontario Superior Court said this is a big distraction for the 34-year-old woman and as a result he felt he could not accept her evidence as corroboration of the Crown's key witness in the recent high-profile, influence-peddling trial of Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien.

Judge Cunningham is 69; he was appointed to the bench in 1991.

His comments, delivered last week in his ruling dismissing the charges against Mr. O'Brien, are now drawing criticism from political strategists and activists who are shaking their heads, wondering when women will be treated as equals in politics."

Here is the link to the full article, written by The Globe and Mail's Jane Taber.

Monday, August 10, 2009

holiday random

I am very happy to be home again after a little over a week on the road. I am feeling kind of exhausted but rested at the same time, in that post family vacation way.

Here are some of the things we did, as they pop into my head:

1. We spent our first night in the Hotel Universel in Rivière du Loup, Québec (our options were limited, as we were travelling with two dogs). When I had made the reservation, the guy on the phone had said to me that the only rooms available were "poolside." What this turned out to mean was that our room had sliding glass doors and a small balcony overlooking the world's most chlorinated indoor pool. The room reeked and the noise from the pool, during the hours it was open, was unbelievable. D. LOVED it. He renamed it "The Great Place" (it looks nothing like on the web site. And I love the marketing here. "Classic" means completely unrenovated since my childhood. With the same carpets.) and it may have been the higlight of his vacation (we stayed their again on the way back. This time we had direct access to the parking lot and a row of other families with dogs as neighbours. This was much better from the adults' perspectives).

2. We stayed with my spouse's brother and family in PEI. It was my kids' first visit to the Island. The two families blend very well together and we had gorgeous weather. We had such a good time.

3. We had dinner with an old friend of my spouse's (I had over-lapped with him in our small university town but we somehow had never met) and his lovely spouse and son. We ate in their beautiful yard in dowtown Charlottetown. The meal was as good as any I have ever had in a restaurant. It made me want to move there.

4. My sister-in-law and I went horse-back riding with the older kids. It was a forty-five minute ride over very easy trails but I was more than a little nervous, as I have only ridden a handful of times in my life (and the last time was more than twenty years ago). My horse was named "Lady" and she was nothing of the sort. I was warned by the staff that she liked to stop and eat on the side of the trails and that she was likely to "test me." If I let her get away with anything, it would be "game over." Very reassuring.

I reminded myself that I am a Mom. And I have dogs. I know how to set boundaries. It actually went pretty well. I was pretty proud of myself. She did break once into a trot and I don't think I was very dignified but I managed to hold on. (And then she stopped to pee. And that turned out to be the the day that we were without water overnight. Even after changing, I still had the smell up my nose. My older son made it worse. Every so often, he would come close to me, sniff loudly and say, "Horse." A comedian that one).

5. PEI beaches rank among the most beautiful places in the world. We went to this one (four of us - not me - were brave enough to jump from the dock into the river. I was happy to stay ocean-side) and this one (some of us thought there were too many jelly fish to swim but we went for a beautiful walk along the dunes) and this one (I took the dogs for a long walk along the beach here. I have run out of superlatives. It was purty.)

6. I turned 42 on August 4. I slept in. We went to the beach. We ate oysters and mussels and lobster. There was wine. There was cake. And the little kids spent the day saying, "Shh. It's a secret." One of my favourite birthdays ever.

7. One day, I had fried clams and french fries for lunch and dinner (or dinner and supper, as they say in the Maritimes). And that was pretty representative of our vacation eating habits.

8. I brought back ginger ale for Sassymonkey.

9. We visited with my father's oldest sister (he was one of 10 and my mother was one of 13) in Miramichi, NB. Her beautiful house holds so many memories for me. I am so glad we stopped, if only for a couple of hours.

10. We spent two nights in Dalhousie, New Brunswick, the town where I was born. It's also my mother's home town and it was so much fun to spend time with her family and see some of my relatives. We went for walks on the beach and played by the light house I visited as a child. The best part though, was sitting in my cousin's back yard and laughing until I cried. I had not seen these relatives in many years but I have become convinced that there is a sense of humour that is genetic (my sister and Mom know what I am talking about. And we also seem to share a love of animals. The dogs were a huge hit).

11. We drove and drove and drove.

12. Today, I am going to reacquaint myself with vegetables. Fries are not a veggie serving. Beer is not a grain. And drinking wine is not like eating grapes.