Thursday, April 29, 2010

Late April

After the last two days of bright sun and freezing wind, today's mild temperatures gave us the perfect chance to visit Martindale Pond. There were some agitated geese, which I'm assuming may have been protecting eggs somewhere in the vicinity. We also saw some white moths (butterflies?), a bumblebee, a swan, and a huge fish that swam up to the surface, then over to the shore where it turned on its side and stopped moving. Oh dear. But the best part for me? Turtles! So many turtles, sunning themselves on logs and taking dips in the water. Very cool. Oh, and Will liked it too.

Eating some raisins.
Stand back, goose!
Among the daffodils


(The day has been marred by much after-dinner woe. There was screaming when she realized I had put bubbles in her bath, which I always do. Then there was screaming when I pulled the plug and told her she couldn't have a bath. I was told that "Girls always have baths with no bubbles!" when she finally calmed down. Then we fought over wearing an overnight pull-up, and since then I've been up and down the stairs five thousand times. Happy Spring!)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Do you know what stresses me out?

There may be nothing more ridiculous than taking the time to meticulously clean the cat litter area before meeting the potential cat nanny. Or stressing about not having enough time to clean the water fountain and clip the cats' claws before tomorrow. Not that I want to impress her, I just don't want her to think I mistreat my feline babies. (I try to clean the litter every other day, but I get distracted by my human child, okay?)

I'm sure cat nannies are always a little, um, eccentric, so I am looking forward to meeting this one. When she asked me how many times I wanted her to visit, I said maybe three times? Every other day that we're away? She said, oh no, she'll come every day, what she meant was how many times per day I wanted her to visit. Sadly, the poor cats will get more attention the week we're gone than they do when we are here.

I'll admit that the cat nanny stress is completely self-imposed, but do you know what stress I really don't need? I do not need my neighbour to ask if I mind if his 4 1/2 or 5 year old son joins Will and I for a walk around the block. Not when my 3 year old is carefully (and slowly) pushing her doll stroller while wearing flip flops (and a sparkly purple dress, white sunglasses and a pink rain hat) and the neighbour's little boy is zooming ahead on his bicycle with training wheels.

The boy was quite considerate. He did wait at every corner for Will and I to begin to catch up, but in the final stretch he pedalled ahead, and I only assume he made it home because I saw his bike on the lawn when we finally made it back. It was only around the block, but I did not like feeling responsible for this other person's child, and I felt terrible when he got so far ahead. And then I was stressed out when I did not go to his house to check on him. So please, I would rather wander the neighbourhood with only my daughter in my care.

And of course, we can't forget the intermittent stressor known as our crazy next door neighbour. We have decided to go ahead and replace our front porch and deck this summer, and we met with a landscape design company last week to discuss their proposal. During this meeting we learned that our neighbour had accosted them quite vigorously when they were in our yard taking some measurements. She told them they could not leave debris on her driveway like the workers who replaced our windows, and warned them against trespassing on her property. (Then she asked them to level out her backyard, so I guess they became friendly?)

Then earlier this week I had to do some damage control after she sent me a semi-hysterical email about us using her driveway as a "right of way" (which we are allowed to do). So when I rounded the corner of our street, trying to catch up with the neighbour's son on his bike, Will trailing behind with her stroller, and I saw my husband in conference with this neighbour on her driveway . . . Is it any wonder that I forgot about the giant black dog across the street and got the bejeezus scared out of me when he jumped against the fence barking like the world was on fire?

Just a bit stressful. That's all I'm saying.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

She found her own way into the water

I took Will to her first independent swimming class yesterday. She looked adorable in her little tankini and ponytail as she first cautiously, and then more confidently walked across the deck to her instructor and the other three-year-olds.
No, I did not even attempt to take a picture of the cuteness, mainly because I was already getting looks for wearing my street shoes on the deck, but the worker who was vaccuuming the pool was wearing hiking shoes, the deck was too gross to consider going barefoot, and I will remember next time.
The kids didn't even get to go into the water anyway, as a child in the previous group had actually vomited into the pool. That's just, ewwww. I mean, poor little kid, but also, how disgusting. Especially after realizing that that's what the lifeguard was actually skimming off the top of the water with her net. (Insert shudder here.)
Of course, because it is a city program, they tried to avoid holding a make-up class by saying there would be "dry lessons" instead. For the three-year-old set, this meant meeting the teacher, who told them not to run on the deck or eat or drink in the pool area, and then drawing a picture with markers for twenty minutes.
They were not directed to draw anything in particular, but Will came up with this:

She told me she drew a picture of herself swimming in the water (see all the water?) wearing her bathing suit. Very clever.

(I've started writing down Will's descriptions of her pictures and saving them in a book. I know I will want to look back on her collection of girls in beautiful polka-dot dresses with octopus legs, and I'm hoping we can turn it into a journal of sorts, where she can think back on her day.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On being a manager, or what to do when a staff member is doing her laundry at work

When I became head of the English department, the largest department in the high school where I taught, I was also put in charge of the smallest: Family Studies. These two women -- one in charge of fashion and parenting, the other in charge of food studies -- made up the most problematic, divisive, ridiculous excuse for a team I have ever encountered.

Taking on a leadership position, I had assumed that my responsibilities would lie in developing curriculum and guiding teachers to work together to make courses more consistent, especially in the way students were evaluated. Primarily in the English department, of course. Family Studies was presented to me as a self-contained unit that would basically require me to manage the budget and order supplies as needed.

Instead, Family Studies became the bane of my existence. One teacher would lie in wait for me, like a spider, watching for me to walk up the hallway and then spring out at me from her office door, accosting me with demands for ingredients and ink cartridges and a new oven. The other would stand in her classroom and wring her hands with anxiety: the broken sewing machines, the students who were safety hazards she wanted out of classes, the fact that her colleague could easily break the other washing machine doing her personal laundry.

Oh, yes. I had to deal with a teacher who would bring her personal laundry to school, who had broken a washing machine in the process, and who was refusing to stop doing her laundry in the one remaining machine.

But even my bizarre, albeit brief experience in management is nothing compared to the stories I hear from my husband and sister in their dealings with personnel. The following are my favourite quotes from disgruntled or confused employees.

1) After being fired: "So what am I supposed to do, just come in on Monday?" (This was followed up by a phone call to her former employer asking why her cheques had stopped coming.)

2) When asked to use the computer only for work: "But I don't have the Internet at home. When I am supposed to check my Facebook?" (This was followed by a repeated request to provide the employee with a laptop, with the explanation that she could then check her Facebook at home.)

3) When confronted with a sudden decrease in the quality of her work: "Well, I haven't had a vacation since Christmas! I need a break!" (This meeting took place in early February.)

4) When asked not to use her cell phone at work: "But this is the number I give out to people. What if someone needs to get a hold of me? Like my mother? Or a doctor's office?" (This employee was working at the front desk in a doctor's office, and her ringtone was that song "Watcha Say.")

5) When questioned about the lack of focus on work-related tasks: "We get the feeling that you want us to come into work at 9 o'clock, just work all day with a half-hour lunch break, and then go home at five." (Um, yeah. Isn't that what's called a job?)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Will is now the perfect age. When I ran out of toilet paper this morning, I asked her to go to the bathroom downstairs, open the top drawer of the brown cabinet and bring me a roll of toilet paper. She did. Invaluable.


The MIA tree man rang my doorbell twice yesterday morning (and I hid both times). The first time didn't bother me, but the second time made me feel just a little like I was being stalked. When the doorbell rang again this morning, I thought it was our cleaners and opened it immediately. He told me he had come by yesterday and "we must have been in the backyard because the door was wide open." It wasn't, because we were pretending not to be home, which means he probably drove by the house at least one additional time. He said he almost went around back (!) and that they couldn't come the other day because the chipper needed some work done . . . something, something the warranty. I told him we hired another company after he didn't show up and he immediately bounded away, calling back, "as long as the work gets done!"


My husband stayed at his parents' house last night and came home with his dad's famous biryani, with boneless, white meat chicken. Yum. His mum also sent some Easter chocolate for Will, who has yet to see that this includes a Lindt bunny. I've already finished the Reese's eggs . . .


The cleaners called us upstairs (we play in the basement while they are here) because there were two wild turkeys in our backyard. And there were. Real, live turkeys with gobblers and everything. Unfortunately, my camera blinked "change batteries" when I tried to get photographic evidence, and the next thing I knew they were flying. They looked much too large to get off the ground, but suddenly a bird caught their attention and they were up and away in a flurry of turkey wings.

Monday, April 5, 2010

And I had great-grandparents, too

I am on the back porch in the sunshine, fighting the glare on the screen in order to write this post outside. Like everyone else who has been cooped up all winter, I have been reveling in the heat and the light. It wasn't even a terrible winter, I know, but it was still grey and wet and yucky, and I am so ready for spring.

We have already discovered that Will can actually ride her tricycle this year (and loves it). Today she and I took one of her babies (Betty) for a walk in her stroller before lunch. We are mastering that scoop game of Hi-Li (my husband has been calling it hi-a-lai, so that took a while to find) left yesterday morning by the Easter bunny.

And I'm going to learn to run. (I think. No, really.)

I went for a run on Saturday morning with my sister. I was terrible, of course, but embarrassment did make me run much longer at a stretch than the minute or two I usually complete. It felt good to stretch my legs in the final (short) sprint my sister insisted we run at the end. Then yesterday I couldn't decide whether my quads or my lower back were going to give out first, and I wasn't sure I would ever try to run again.

But today my body feels much better, and I took a closer look at the Couch to 5k app on my iPhone and it looks . . . doable. (It also looks like there may be an updated app that allows for music while they tell me how long to run. That would be even better.)

The point is that I'm going to try it. I've always wanted to be able to run for twenty minutes without stopping (that's all!) but I've always thought it was just one of those things I couldn't do, like research my family tree.

(When I was a kid and people would talk about geneology, I used to think about how nice that would be to really know one's family history, but sadly, I didn't have any relatives before my grandparents. I know.)

Since that misconception has been put to rest, maybe I will discover that my body really is like everyone else's, and if I commit to a program, I too will be able to learn to run.