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.




A 5,000 Year Fad

So, I’m in Starbucks ordering my tea, when the girl behind the counter informs me that tea is just a passing fad.

There’s only one possible reaction to a statement like that – stunned agogness (if it wasn’t a word before, it jolly well is now).

Her companion behind the counter was a young man who joined me in staring aghast at her for a few dumbfounded seconds before I spluttered “I’m English – don’t try and tell me tea is a passing fad!”

A-M and Rachael Agog


This is what the average face does when you tell it that tea is just a passing fad.

Thanks Roxy and friend for the demonstration.


“Well, it’s really popular right now”, she explained. “I suppose it might last, but I still think it’s just a fad.”

There’s so much wrong with that sentence I don’t even know where to start! Firstly, the very definition of a fad is something that won’t last. And secondly – and perhaps most importantly – tea has been around for 4,700 years now. I think that qualifies as having stood the test of time.

When it comes to fads, I have to say, my own instincts are not infallible. For instance I have only recently given up waiting for the appeal of computers to fade, and as for the internet … well the jury’s still out on that one.

But for now, I think I’ll go and make a pot of tea while you’re still able to find it in the shops.

Park Your Dignity Here

Gotta love technology. Do you remember the good old days when exiting a car park meant submitting to the scowls and growls of a surly parking attendant and waiting with baited breath while he mobilized himself long enough to open the barrier?

Alas, one more bastion of personal service has fallen to automation.

Trying to exit a car park recently I spent some time playing “guess how to insert the ticket” with the machine. Apparently arrow facing up and in was too obvious. So I tried arrow facing down and in. No luck. Arrow facing up and away fared no better, leaving me with one option. With a wish and a prayer I shoved in the ticket with the arrow facing down and towards me (not what I would have picked, but hey it’s not my ticket collecting machine). Well, final option or not, it clearly pissed off some parking god somewhere, because the machine spat it out onto the ground.

So there I was, with my ticket on the ground and the car sitting so close to the machine that the door wouldn’t open. Some people, in this situation, might have thought to back the car up and move it away from the machine, creating some space for the door to open. Well phooey to that! The only solution that presented itself to me was to climb over the passenger seat and walk around the car to retrieve the ticket.

So, spraying the contents of my handbag across the tarmac in the process, I clambered over the passenger seat and scrambled out. Desperately trying to hoick my skirt back down from around my hips, I trotted around the car, feigning nonchalance and attempting to ignore the growing queue of cars behind me. To my horror I found about 50 tickets strewn on the ground around the machine. Probably the leftovers from all those hapless parkers who decided to abandon their cars rather than endure the humiliation of an intellectual standoff with the machine.

Nonetheless, I picked the cleanest ticket and the machine, having had its fun for the day, accepted my payment. Apparently the ticket I picked wasn’t mine, as I ended up paying for a four-day stay, but at that point I was so desperate to escape I would have surrrendered my firstborn.

Next time I’ll find a meter.

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!

The Dance Continues

Unbelieveable! I leave town for five minutes and everything goes all to hell.

On Friday it seemed like a good idea to go to the tree farm for the weekend, but now I’m not so sure I should have turned my back. We left Calgary basking in glorious autumnal sunshine; cool, but cheery as it reflected off the yellows, golds and reds of turning leaves. It really is a beautiful time of year. But overnight on Saturday, winter snuck in and stole about ten degrees from the thermometer, blanketing everything in 2″ of snow.

Larch in SnowIronically I was reading (re-reading, more accurately) Wintersmith at the time. It’s a book by Terry Pratchett (seriously – if you haven’t read any of his books and you like to laugh, read some) which deals, among other things, with the dance between Summer and Winter and the inevitable changing of the seasons. Personally I feel that, given how sluggish she was arriving this year, Summer could have held on a little longer. Just saying.

In another ironic twist, we had spent the weekend planning a family ski trip which I’m hoping might partly make up for the fact that we can’t go to England this Christmas.  Yes, we start talking about skiing, and hey presto, it snows! Very fitting you might think, except that, sadly, the trip’s not likely to happen if we don’t get in another few weeks of landscaping. So the more old man winter taunts us with the prospect of skiing, the less likely it is that we’ll go. Now that’s cold!