A few of my favourite things

Sometimes you have to work very hard to be grateful for the little things.

It’s been a stressful summer, and let’s face it, I teeter on the edge of bat crap crazy at the best of times. Right now I’m vacillating between moderately unhinged and crying pitifully at ads for the local gym. It’s a roller coaster.

Thank goodness for acai berries covered in dark chocolate. Seriously! both those things are good for you, so it stands to reason that the more I eat the healthier I’ll become. Right now I’m doing everything I can to maximize my intake. For the sake of my health.

As for Terry Pratchett, he has no idea of the role he plays in getting me from one day to the next. He’s created a hilariously magical world based on everything that’s absurd or enchanting in this one. It’s where I escape to whenever I need a good laugh. On those occasions when the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be an oncoming train, I thank him for providing me with that analogy, which never fails to raise my spirits.

Since I’m watching the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as I write, I’m also inclined to feel grateful to the British film industry. It’s managed to avoid becoming the freakshow that is Hollywood, and it turn out gems like Judi Dench. Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and so many others who never fail to be brilliant. There are few films I’m inclined to watch over and over again, and most of the them are British. If you haven’t yet seen Love Actually, what on earth are you waiting for?

Here in Calgary it’s snowing outside right now. Looking back I’m pretty sure we had three full calendar months clear of the white stuff, so I guess that’s another thing to be grateful for.

On that note, I think I’ll head off now and open a new packet of chocolate covered acai berries.

 

 

Be the solution

True to genetics and my heritage, I’m becoming a mad cat lady. Okay, it’s just two cats, and one is only visiting with Roxy while she’s home for the summer, but even the best eccentrics have to start somewhere.

Clearly I have a way to go, as my mother had more than 30 cats in her prime. I should probably explain: they were not technically her cats, they were fostered for a cat rescue society who blackmailed her into taking them…

Oh you’ve got all that land that would be perfect for cat pens“, they said…

We’ll have to put them all down if you won’t take them“, they said…

Do you want the deaths of all those innocent cats on your conscience?“, they said. (I may have made this last bit up, but it was certainly what they were thinking, and definitely what they implied.)

And that is how my parents found themsleves unexpectedly awash with cats – much to the dismay of my poor, patient, indulgent father.

But, to get back to my own cat situation, one of the most distressing parts of the feline presence is the hunting. I know, I know, it’s what cats are supposed to do … but as one of the cats is a tiny princess and the other is the size of a pony I honestly thought the small creatures of the neighbourhood could rest safe.

As it turns out, the local rodents actually are quite safe, because both cats are bringing a steady stream of live mice into the house and depositing them to frolic wherever they fancy. Apparently it’s a win-win; the cats get live-in playmates and the mice get nice cushy digs out of the elements. And we get to lie abed and listen to the joyful mews of cats shrieking “ready or not, here I come” (translated for you from the feline), and then enjoy a front row seat for the chase around our bedroom.

Now I may have this wrong, but I though cats were supposed to help solve a mouse problem, not create one.

My solution has been to lock the cats inside at suppertime. It’s a good system, because they’re not keen enough on their nightly jaunts to forego their dinner; but it does mean we have to endure them pacing like caged lions all evening, and throwing me filthy looks. Worth it in the balance, I think.

I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!

I’m not much of a drinker. No, really! While I’m not above turning to the gin bottle in times of stress, I find that one glass is generally enough. Not because of any high moral ground, but because, even after all these years, my alcohol tolerance hasn’t recovered from 27 months of pregnancy (not consecutive) and about two years of breastfeeding (also not consecutive).

But yesterday, after a hard day’s gardening, I thought it would be nice to sit out on the front steps with a glass of wine. It’s worthy of explanation here that the front steps are made of stone and they meander in long, gentle strides up the three feet or so to the front door, with flower beds dotted along the way.

As I was sitting there nursing my wine, and babysitting the cat (another story), the phone rang. It was Roxy wanting to chat. With my very mild tendency towards both OCD and ADHD, I find it difficult to concentrate on a single task, so while I chatted and drank, I also inspected the flower beds, fiddling about with some light weeding and a little bit of pruning. I also noticed a small gaggle of neighbours congregated a couple of houses up the road.

Being the graceful creature I am, it’s probably inevitable that at some point I would lean too far, or trip on a stray pebble, and unfortunately when it did happen I couldn’t decide whether to save the wine or the phone, and chose instead to catch myself with my face.

So there I am, hurtling face first into a bush with a shriek and all the neighbours watching. It was a spectacle which ended with me sprawled on the ground, covered in wine, and giggling helplessly like a cheerful drunk.

Unfortunately not all those neighbours had the best opinion of me to start with. Well one of them anyway  – after a small contretemp over a parenting issue, which I have incidentally won, now that the child in question has grown up to be a stellar member of society, even though said neighbour might be unaware of that fact (but I digress)  – and I feel as though watching me fall arse over teakettle in a drunken stupour probably didn’t help much.

Now I can’t ever go outside again because I’m too embarrassed to be seen in public.

 

Bracing for Trouble

There can be few things more stressful than being a 15-year old boy. Between rampant hormones, peer pressure and the frustration of being surrounded by stupid old people who know nothing about life or the world, it must be a nightmare.

For the most part Hoss manages to keep it together bravely, but every now and then the effort of it all proves too much. I know, for instance, that he struggles daily to make sense of this darned obsession with sending kids to school – after all, no-one there has anything useful to teach him and it’s really all just a waste of his valuable time. My heart bleeds for him.

The latest drama is braces. Unfortunately it’s his second bout; when his top front tooth came in crooked and threatened to grind down its lower counterpart, he had to have that fixed, even though he still had some baby teeth left. So I do feel bad that he now has to go through the rotten process all over again. That’s more than even a non-hormonal, post-adolescent rational person ought to have to endure.

He keeps asking me to explain again precisely why they’re necessary, and I know this is the point at which any calm-headed, clear-thinking parent would dive in with a convincing and logical explanation. Unfortunately all I can come up with is “well it made sense when the orthodontist explained it”. Was there really a good reason, or was I just made credulous and manipulable by the ambient smidgeon of escaped laughing gas?

Being English I’m still not convinced about this obsession with orthodontics anyway. Crooked, yellowing teeth just give a person character, and frankly a mouthful of huge, perfect white chompers is just a little too Hollywood for my tastes. But, then again, who am I to argue with ten years of orthodontic training?

Ah well … only another 14 months and 24 days of complaining about sore teeth, broken wires and trapped food scraps. I’m sure it’ll fly by.

 

 

My Fearless Protector

I have written before about my rather pathetic, and completely fearful dog, but this week she has excelled herself.

Before going on, I should explain that she has a doggy door which leads out onto a platform in the side yard, from which she then has to jump down about 3 feet to the ground.

I have noticed in the last few days that she has been standing on this platform, barking like a mad thing, which is unusual. Normally she goes out into the back yard and tears up and down barking ferociously at passing dogs, secure in the knowledge that they are safely the other side of a dog-proof fence.

So why is she staying up in the side yard? It turns out a coyote has been frequenting the park just behind our house. Clearly this is not something that can be tolerated and she feels the need to deliver a loud and persistent warning. But, not wanting to get carried away by bravado, she apparently decided to deliver the warning from the safety of her platform. That way, if necessary, she can bid a hasty retreat to the safety of her mummy’s protection.

They say it’s good to get a big dog for protection. How’s that supposed to work, again?

The Slippery Slope

Sometimes I go skiing. That’s not to say that I’m a skier; to me that word conjures images of swishing down hills with carefree abandon and cries of joy. My brand of skiing more involves strangled screams of terror and an entire body clenched in a single-minded determination to make it all the way to the bottom without either crying or dying.

Perhaps surprisingly, then, I am often the driving force behind family ski trips. You see hubby has skied since he was a child, and our children have been hurtling fearlessly down hills since they were knee-high to grasshoppers. They are all under the boggling belief that it’s somehow a fun way to spend your time; and I will reluctantly admit that we’ve created some wonderful moments and beautiful memories out on the slopes.

Unfortunately now that the children are teenagers there are few activities both exciting and expensive enough to persuade them to abandon the company of their friends and endure any length of time with their poor old parents. Skiing is one of them.

The attraction is no doubt enhanced by the entertainment value my terror and agony provide to all those around me. They drag me all over the hill with assurances that this next run will be no problem for me at all, and then stand at the bottom laughing while I struggle inelegantly down. So, at the promise of three days at Whistler, they crowded enthusiastically into the back of our truck and spent hours on end in horrifyingly close proximity with no blood-shed whatsoever.

I’m certain that inside me somewhere there is a fearless and graceful skier waiting for her time to come, but I have always kept her locked closely inside for fear of getting hurt. How did I go from the intrepid world-traveller and would-be sky surfer (I have at various times attempted to learn hang-gliding and parasailing, but have always been thwarted by weather conditions. But that’s another story.)?

I blame the children of course. After years of following them around attempting to protect them against every conceivable mishap, I have become a master of expecting and imagining the worst. And in fairness to myself, all three children have demonstrated a tendency to be suicidally adventurous and we’ve spent more than our fair share of time in the emergency room. So, like everything, my timidity is obviously all their fault.

However – I went to Whistler hoping that now they’re older and more self-sufficient my doom-ometer may have calmed down a little … and it has! I find, having crept cautiously throught the first phase of reluctance, I have now safely navigated the second phase of desperately challenging myself in the hope of discovering a comfort zone. Suddenly, and I’m not sure where this appeared from, I feel quite confident in my ability to get down the hill, and totally okay with the fact that it’s slow and so very far from pretty. There are bits that are too steep, or too mogully, but they no longer fill me with terror because I can pootle down in my own fashion, making switchback turns across the entire hill and ignoring those who choose to fly past me on all sides; it’s actually almost a pleasant experience.

If I say so myself, I even wowed the crowds with a bit of extreme skiing of my own. At the top of the mountain, coming out of a patch fog, I was having some trouble working out where the groomed part of the run ended and turned into wild, untamed back country. I didn’t realize I had strayed until I heard the children at the bottom of the run shrieking things like “Mum, what are you doing?” and “get back on the run!”. It seems I was about to launch down a rocky cliff into the double blacks. With uncharacteristic calmness I swung back onto the run, and arrived at the bottom smiling nonchalantly over my brush with the world off-piste. I’m just so cool!

In another episode hubby and I went down a partially blocked-off run that got rougher and rougher until it ended in a little windy, packed down track leading to a small break in a fence. Once I got on the track I realized to my horror that there was no changing my mind; I just had to keep my skis aiming along the track with no hope of slowing down and no way to avoid the huge jump at the end (it may have been larger in my mind than in reality). With my screams reverberating across the mountain I launched into the air and actually landed my first jump, to the delight of everyone on the chair lift above.

Fabulous! I felt like an olympic champion and I would have been a happy bunny if I could have called it a day right there and been air-lifted off the mountain. Sadly that didn’t appear to be an option.

Maybe I should revisit the whole hang-gliding/parasailing idea!

When Good Kids Go Bad

As a parent you like to think you know your children; their strengths; their weaknesses; what they’re most likely to be arrested for.

Or at least we did. Until last night when I received a text from Roxy saying “I have 2 grams for $40”. Closely followed by another that said “Oh shit! Sorry not for you! Ignore that!”.

No! There must be some mistake. She’s probably selling stage make-up by weight, or maybe italian herbs for a special pasta sauce. Yeah that’ll be it. So there then ensued a back and forth via text during which I invited her to explain, while she, for her part, became increasingly evasive.

I finally phoned, half expecting her not to answer the phone. If she doesn’t, I thought, I’m on the next plane to Vancouver; I’ll drag her home by the ear and get her a nice little job at the library. Why, oh why, did we allow her to go there in the first place, to be surrounded by drug addicts and – perhaps even worse – musical theatre kids? Is that where we went wrong?

The helpless giggles that reverberated down the line (am I showing my age using the term phone line? Do we still have those?), when she answered the phone definitely reassured me somewhat.

So … what the heck?

It turns out she was participating in a twitter prank to see how crazy you can make your parents. Apparently we passed some kind of test by not immediately disowning her, swearing at her or professing not to have wanted her in the first place. Yay for our awesome parenting skills!

Thanks Nathan Fielder. Ha bloody ha!