Our Family’s Paris Accord – A Year Later

All non-hippies or those who don’t enjoy puffed bulgur and braiding their underarm hair may ignore this post.

A year and a month ago, I showed “Before the Flood” to Tex. That coupled with Trumps defection from the Paris accord caused our family to write our own Paris accord and make some large scale changes to how we live. I wrote about the initial progress a couple months in after we received our cargo trike but since then, haven’t offered any updates. Here is how we have been doing on all our environmental goals. We met every single goal on our accord except for the number of car free days.

 

Eating less beef

We have done that. Despite having cattle ranchers as relatives, we have done that, which is impressive. It helps that cousins have started raising pigs and chickens, meaning that my city slicker self has someone to turn to when we start raising our own non bovine livestock. Ultimately, we didn’t feel this change keenly.

 

Using the car less

I will be honest and say that we failed to meet our lofty goal of driving only 15,000 kilometers a year but met our lower goal of reducing our mileage by 6,000 kilometers. Most people put approximately 20,000 kilometers on a vehicle per year and the majority of families have two vehicles or more, meaning that they drive about 40,000 kilometers a year. We have one car and previous to our agreement, had been putting about 25,000+ kilometers on each year. Because of Tex’s work which required him to frequently visit the city and the distance to said major city, we ended up putting 19,000 kilometers on the car which was over a 20% improvement on the previous year. We hope to decrease that next year.

 

Car free days

Our au pair was not a fan of the bike and chose to use the stroller when it was warm and discreetly take the car keys when it was cold. Between this and the significant amount of time we spent living in the big city without our bike so Tex could receive training for his job, it meant that we had fewer car free days this winter than hoped. Our goal was 115 car free days last year. I think we had around 80. Given that we spent five and half months in a city without our bikes, I think that’s pretty good. I absolutely think we will achieve that goal this year as Tex has completed all of his training this year and will remain at home for eleven months this year.

At home, we do not use the car. Even in the winter Tex would pack up our son and ride off to the grocery store. My personal favourite example of Tex choosing the bike over the car was when he took Mini-Tex to see the Christmas lights around town. They were out for an hour and our son came back with his eyes alight and red little cheeks. Boy was he delighted. In the car, our little boy faces backwards so he rarely has the view we do and will often miss things, but on the bike, he faces the same direction so it’s more fun.

Both Mini-Tex and myself will be acquiring neoprene masks so that we can bike comfortably in the winter. This is Tex’s get up in order to get to work on the coldest of days.

20171028_075342

This gear could also be used in the Antarctic or on the moon. Photo Credit : Tex

I should also mention that although I have NEVER received as much respect as a cyclist as I have in our small town- people will regularly move over to the other side of the road to give me a full lane when passing, Tex did not have the same experience in the winter. The amount of snow we receive is so great that it builds up along the roads and takes up about a lane, narrowing the streets. Around about December, Tex was forced to put a pool noodle on his bike to remind motorists to give him space. Since the spring thaw, he’s removed the tube of green foam, but it is still in our shed for next winter. Tex also bikes home from work at 12 AM on occasion, so he needs extra visibility and space.

Tex’s bike’s odometer just passed 800 while our cargo trike passed 1300. If anything, I see us increasing the mileage on our bikes and decreasing the mileage on the car this year.

 

Air travel

This was a sensitive point of shame for me, as air travel is one of the worst actions one can take in terms of environmental impact. I made two unplanned trips home this past year in addition to making stopovers while en route to a conference for Tex’s work- both there and back.

My Grandma passed away in February. One trip was to see her before she died and the other was to attend her funeral. While I am happy that I chose to spend time with my family during the difficult and sad period, ultimately Tex and I have decided that the cost of the travel was far too great for the environment, a strain on our finances and caused a great deal of personal stress for our family, so we will be remaining at home for quite a while. My goal is to fly only once this year for a wedding.

 

Reducing packaging and waste

We bought in bulk this year. A lot, which was a challenge because the bulk products available in town are limited. Meaning that each time we visited the big city, on our way to Tex’s training, we would stop at a bulk store and fill up every single one of our available containers.

I am proud to say that even when we were in the city, I continued to compost. The biggest challenge was finding local hippies. Luckily there was a large garden with a composter down the street from where we rented an apartment. So I showed up one morning and asked very sweetly if I could empty my giant bag of eggshells and vegetable peels into it. Between my short stature, my high voice and my bright clothing choices, I’m often mistaken for someone much younger. So this man, whose door I knocked on, rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and silently questioned himself why a child was holding a bag or organic waste then said “yes”. Boy was I happy.

 

Increasing our dependence and support of renewable energy

The solar panels were installed at the farm last August and have been chugging along ever since then. We have discussed installing more panels when we move there to support the energy required for an electric car as well as an electric furnace.

 

No internet

This isn’t really an environmental move so much as a lifestyle move, although it does mean fewer electronics are plugged in at our home. We got rid of our internet at the end of December and I finally chucked my smartphone in February. I have not regretted either decision once. Tex has a limited amount of data, meaning that if I want to use the internet, I head to the library.

All libraries offer free wifi. All librarians are helpful. Spending more time at a library has NEVER hurt anyone ever and more than likely will result in more reading and learning.

For me personally, no internet means more space to think. My time is not absorbed by social media or random click bait that I am want to fall prey to. I’ve read more books since getting rid of the internet and my smartphone, I’ve felt like a more engaged and attentive parent. But the most creatively rewarding aspect has been the effect it has had on my writing. While I haven’t been posting here, I have been writing up a storm for other projects, a feat I’m quite proud of. Ultimately this has been an excellent choice for me, although it annoys and confounds the living hell out of my family.

I must say that Mini-Tex misses music. Any grandparents out there are permitted to buy him children’s soundtracks, or his most coveted music- the Frozen soundtrack. Aside from that, a paper map in the car has replaced Google maps, in addition to an increased sense of direction on my part.

A year later, that’s where we are. I can’t wait for the environmental goals we will reach in the coming year.

Advertisements

Seeking Short Term Rental- Frat House Adjacent With Live-In Poltergeist Preferred

I failed being an adult. Again. It’s worse than the time I wiped my son’s butt with one of his socks but better than the time that I didn’t change the oil in my car for six months. Tex is working in the big smoke for a couple of months and wanted Mini-Tex and I to accompany him. Thus I was charged with finding us accommodations. No small feat because the place needed

  • To be available for one and three quarter months starting May 7th
  • To be furnished
  • To be within walking distance of Tex’s work
  • Also to be in our limited price range

In retrospect, Tex should have been the one to search for housing because I choose housing based on

  1. The proximity to frat houses. My ideal living space is a soundproofed duplex with frat boys on the other side, so I can be right on top of the action. Isn’t “Baby’s First Kegger” one of the major milestones? Of course Mini-Tex wouldn’t imbibe; he’d just be the adorable celebrated mascot that the young men would nickname “Little Bro”.

 

Frat boys are the literary equivalent of living on a gold mine. They create it just by virtue of doing everyday actions, for example peeing. Most people choose to do this in the privacy of bathrooms. By contrast frat boys will take any old alleyway. Even the one that my kitchen faces.

  1. Amenities like functional plumbing are less important than say a poltergeist because how else am I going to explain who ate Tex’s lunch in the middle of the night?
  2. A self-described cheapskate, this quality is the key reason why I’ve lived in somewhat unique housing for the majority of my adult life.

As it was, Tex works full time and I am a stay at home Mom, meaning that procuring a short term rental fell to me. After a couple of false starts- no one responded to my frat house with poltergeist ad, we found a place. Tex is a fan of the apartment in spite of the fact that it’s the size of a celebrity’s walk-in closet. I mean yes, there’s a bed in the kitchen and we have to move the kitchen table and chairs one way if we want to sleep and back the other way to open the dishwasher, but first world problems – am I right? I keep telling myself that it’s training for if I ever lose my mind and embark on a train trip across Canada and have to shower over a toilet for two weeks. These are the kinds of life skills I was missing.

Also, my refrigerator Tetris skills have never been sharper, due to the fact that one of the two vegetable crispers can’t be used because the bed prevents the fridge door from opening fully. Should TLC ever pilot a show “Food Storage Wars” which chronicles the struggle of polygamous families with thirteen teenage sons trying to fit the week’s groceries into a small space, I will swoop right in like an organizational Mary Poppins, only I’d have a parachute of kale rather than an umbrella.

As much as I joke, Mini-Tex LOVES the place. He is never more than five feet from either parent. If this doesn’t cement his attachment to us, I don’t know what will. Also the “using the back of the kitchen chairs as a framework to bounce himself on the bed” is the best toddler game ever. Two year olds don’t care if they can touch three out of four walls while standing in the middle of the room, or that it was the only place available, no, the springy nature of the futon coils is what counts.

The funniest part is, I’m beginning to like the Lilliputian life. I’m trying to convince Tex that we should actually become elves and live in a hollowed out tree. We’d have our mortgage paid off in no time.

I’ll Either Gain 3,000 lbs or lose 30

The last couple of months have been, well, rotund. That’s putting it nicely. My skirts have been straining at the seams. The ones that I can struggle my way into at least. My butt is developing its own gravitational pull not unlike Kim Kardashian’s but less shapely. My stomach, which has generally been a flattish (ok not really) friend to me, became a turncoat and developed a mutinous roll to accompany my omnipresent muffin top.

Something needed to be done. For a while now. Other bloggers have lost countless pounds by recording their journey for their readers, to keep them on the straight and pizza-free narrow. But this seemed like the writing equivalent of the sixteen year old girl who calls up her boyfriend every night and lists off everything she put in her mouth that day. Alarming and so many shades of irritating.

20120309185913!Regina-George-regina-george-9999018-922-1400

And then I nibbled on a plain rice cake and afterwards I ate four red jelly beans but left the purple ones because like eww. Someone once told me they’re made of Smurfs which makes NO sense because I always thought Smurfs were green. (Photo Credit meangirls.wikia.com/wiki/Regina_George)

So I was in the process of accepting my slowed thirty something metabolism and my new fatness when Tex decided he would go on his high fat diet again. Earlier this year he shed twenty something pounds while following this regimen. Out of concern for his health, I told him that I would follow the diet as well, for three months. It would mean giving up buttercream icing as a food group and no longer classifying knitting as my physical activity for the day, but I had nothing to lose. Well, except for the gravitational pull around my butt, which was raking in leaves and the odd candy wrapper into its orbit.

The Basic Tenements of this Diet

  1. People are not designed to eat processed carbohydrates

It’s why I’m beginning to resemble the cast of Wall-E or at least that’s Butter Bob’s explanation.

  1. Previously people ate more fat

A lot more. A staggering amount more. Based on what Tex is eating my only conclusion is that early man survived on mammoth blubber. I wasn’t aware mammoths were that flabby.

  1. When the body gets an adequate amount of protein combined with a tremendous amount of fat, it feels sated

Tex has done the research on this, most of his research consists of reading Butter Bob’s thoughts. And as everyone knows, random people on the internet are ALWAYS right. It’s how I know that smearing axle grease on your arms cures angina and gout.

  1. People eat too often and when they’re not hungry, eat only in an 8 hour window

Agreed. Again, the roly-poly people of Wall-E, which I myself am becoming.

 

It’s only been a week or so for me, but my conclusions thus far have been

  • Life has never been more delicious. Tex loads up salads with so much fatty dressing that I feel like my arteries will clog just from the sight of them but I’m not concerned because I’ve got a can of axle grease at the ready.
  • I don’t crave sweets or breads. Strange because I’ve spent my entire life wanting to mow down entire bakeries in one sitting. For serious, Paris for me was like one giant carbohydrate trigger.
  • I’m not hungry. Like physically can’t eat because I’m that not hungry. My entire life has been a denial of hunger. I’m the fat kid in my family with my body’s end goal being that of a large pear shape, something along the lines of James and the Giant Peach. Only I’m the giant pear. So this sense of satiation is novel.
  • The amount of butter and avocados that we are consuming is frightening. But our intake of meat has not changed.

What the Hell Wednesday- Kicks in the Pants and Hillbilly Televisions

After my most recent Storyworth post, Tex commented that he liked what I wrote but he felt that he could ask better questions, so he wrote me some. I have to admit, they’re better questions, so here are a handful.

You have been selected to participate in “The Amazing Race”. What five countries do you NOT wish to visit and who will be your partner?

When I was eleven, life was amazing because my Uncle was traveling all around the world for his job, which meant that all of his stuff including his TV lived at my family’s house. Our TV was three thousand years old and weighed as many pounds. It sat underneath my Uncle’s TV in our living room in a set up that would have been completely hillbilly if one of them was broken. As it was it was, the two TVs gave our house more of a sports bar vibe. I got to live every preteen’s dream of playing Nintendo 64 while watching Boy Meets World at the same time. This lasted for the year that my Uncle spent crisscrossing the globe. This story does have a point, stay with me.

Anyway, in all of his travels, my Uncle said that the only places he wouldn’t go were places that ended in “stan” so basically Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Iranistan, war torn, dangerous countries. I stand by that. Although I’m pretty sure that Iranistan doesn’t exist and Kazakhstan might have been the fictional country that Borat was from, but I’m sticking with that statement.

As for partners, it would have to be Sula. The Amazing Race is the most intense form of punishment I can possibly imagine for myself, after traveling for hours and hours, people are expected to eat spiders then luge down mountains? It sounds like a recipe for my death. If I was to try something like that with Tex, on the very first leg of the tour, I’d say “I’m tired I hate this, now I’m going to gnaw your arm off in a show of my displeasure.” Tex would then soothingly tell me that we should find a nice, quiet restaurant to sit down and a Westin hotel because they have excellent beds and wouldn’t I feel better after a long night’s sleep that wasn’t on an airplane?

Sula, by contrast is equal parts glamour and adventure. Also she takes no prisoners and never surrenders. We’d be about to jump out of a plane and I’d say “I’m petrified and want to go home” Sula would respond by hurling into her barf bag because she gets motion sickness then use her foot to kick my butt out of the aircraft. Next, she’d jump out after me, and yell while she passed me on the way down “I believe in you!”

Yes, I realize that all objects fall at a constant rate so Sula couldn’t pass me but she is so badass that my friend doesn’t have to obey rules like physics. Then she’d hit the ground and scale the giant sequoia with her bare hands to earn us the first place for the stop.

scorpion-venom-milking-machine-1

I could picture Sula mowing one of these down without hesitation. By contrast, I prefer food that doesn’t put up a fight. Photo Credit newsatlas.com

A Dementor is bearing down on you, what terrible form does it take and what animal is your patronus?

The Dementor is without a doubt a manatee, aka “Terrors of the Sea”. I have an irrational fear of swimming with manatees and all of them congregating over me, thus preventing my ascent to the surface for air. It’s the aquatic version of being trampled to death by elephants. Although I’m pretty sure that the creature that inhabits closets and takes the form of your worst nightmare in Harry Potter’s world is a Boggart. Dementors force you relive the most horrible moments of your life. Undoubtedly I’d be sucked back to a date I had with a young man who kept awkwardly swatting my arm and calling me a “bad girl” in a way that I’m sure he thought was sexy but was actually just eight different shades of awkward. My patronus would be a honey badger because the name sounds sweet and you’re all “Look! A badger-how adorable!” and then it gnaws your face off.

Where All the Robot Mole People Come To Hang

Months ago, right after Tex took off for rainy Vancouver and left our au pair Janie and I all alone to care for the house, the basement started beeping. Which was quite concerning, given that basements don’t beep.

Generally my farm raised, cowboy husband takes care of these sorts of issues. He’s a dab hand at that type of house stuff. When I bring him some broken, wrought-iron patio furniture, he says things like “Oh, I’ll just weld that back together” as if it’s the easiest task in the world. Then I feel silly, because if only I had thought to break out the blow torch and stick the leg back on the chair with finesse and panache. Of course being raised in the middle of suburbia where my father hired people to put together IKEA bookshelves, I’m about eight different kinds of handy as one might imagine. Or not.

Anyway, so there Janie and I were, most likely about to be blown sky high because our house was sounding an awful lot like the bus from “Speed”. And worst of all, Keanu Reeves didn’t even bother to show up and help, so we were all by ourselves trying to figure out the reason for the beeping.

While Janie considered my theory that terrorists had driven four hours from Winnipeg, broken into our house and implanted a bomb in our basement to make a statement about how tasteless it is to have a play structure in your living room instead of a couch, ultimately, we decided that it was one of the many electronic machines that live downstairs that was making the racket.

2018-01-27 12.37.22

If by tasteless you actually mean FAB-u-luusssssss. This is best said in a singsong voice. Photo Credit: Unwashed

The difficulty was that the beeping wasn’t incessant; it was only a couple of times an hour, making it hard to locate the exact source of the noise. Within a day, we determined that it wasn’t coming from the laundry room. Janie and I had both been folding clothes when we heard the muffled beep from another room. This was reassuring because when washing machines go rogue, it’s ironically quite messy.

Eventually we determined the source – the random box in the corner that we have no idea what it does but it says in big letters “DO NOT UNPLUG!” so it seems foreboding that something like that would be acting up. After two consecutive weeks of beeping, I was done; giant capital letters or not, that electronic box was getting unplugged. While I will confess to being a harbinger of chaos and destruction, I do attempt to be a good mom most of the time- so I asked Janie to take Mini-Tex upstairs while I cut the beeping monster’s power.

Happily, there were no explosions, and Keanu Reeves once again failed to show up but I’d stopped expecting him about ten days back, so that was fine. I stood there, with the cord in my hands saying nasty words to the formerly noisy box and then because I don’t enjoy that much chaos, and didn’t want the firemen to come back, because we still had no idea what it was, so I plugged it back in. There was silence. I felt smug and slightly all-powerful for defying the capital letters and living to tell the tale. But then, it came again- BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP.

It was then that I had a brainwave- what if the mystery box wasn’t placed by aliens to spy on me and steal my secret to having skin that is prone to freckles and random allergic reactions? What if it was part of the weird alarm system that we never ever use because we’re terrible tenants? After a call to the alarm company, and resetting the entire system, for the first time in weeks there was quiet in the house. But then it came back, like raging case of herpes – BEEEEEEEEEEP.

At that point, I gave up. After all, I learned to live like a mole person in a house that 90% of the windows begin above my sightline, so what’s the harm in adding beeps to my existence? I’ll just pretend that I live in a mole-person, robot dance club that only plays one song.

 

Part Two – For Pete’s Sake This HAS To Be Someone’s Monkey! Please, If This Is Your Monkey Come Get It. It Has Fleas, Bites and Snores Like a Bandsaw During The Night. I’ll Bet You Miss It More Than Anything

 

Yes there’s a part two! EVERYONE knows that isn’t how mole person, robot dance parties end!

The mystery machine in my basement which said in big letters DO NOT UNPLUG, was still beeping a monotone song and I just decided to groove with it. The alarm company hadn’t laid claim to the plastic box. So probably the box was installed by evil geniuses who were conducting a study about how long a box could beep before the inhabitants of the house lost their minds.

The ignoring coping mechanism worked for another month, at which point I got fed up with the chronic beeping, climbed on a chair and more closely inspected our irritating electronic DJ. Huzzah! There was a website written in tiny letters, I visited the site and discovered that the mystery box beeps when the battery is low. And the box supposedly belongs to the phone company. Please note that the website did not explain the purpose of said mystery box or why it is imperative that the mystery box should not be unplugged, which leads me to believe that the government is spying on me and I need to start wearing tinfoil hats and clothing like a character out of the Wizard of Oz. The website detailed how to remove said low battery and where to take it once removed.

The battery removal instruction pictures made it look easy, but based on the images, the company had Hagrid remove the battery – whose hands measure a foot and a half from pinky to thumb? There is no way that my pinky and thumb could stretch like that. As it happened Mini-Tex was playing in the basement while I did this. It was a proud moment for me because he learned the F word in this whole process. Around the second time that Mini-Tex dropped his second F-bomb, I called in the cavalry and had Tex finish taking out the battery.

Finally, after three months of intermittent beeping there was silence in the house. I would have thrown a parade with a marching band and children playing kazoos to celebrate but there remained the problem of a battery the size of Estonia.

world history map of europe New European History Maps With World Map Europe besttabletfor

See it’s a microscopic country but it makes for an enormous power source. (Photo Credit freeworldmap.net)

Anything that large needs to be recycled and responsibly. So I set off to the mall to give back the phone company what was rightfully theirs and demand a new one because at the very least if we weren’t going to use the alarm system, we would make sure that it was functional. We’re mediocre tenants like that.

“Here!” I heaved the battery onto the counter. “I believe this is yours” I said to the woman and then she looked at me like I had three heads. “Please don’t look at me like that” I begged. “I listened to this mystery plastic box beep for three months straight and I finally removed this enormous albatross from its electronic innards and taught my son the F-word in the process and now you have to take it because the website said you would and the internet never lies.”

“It’s not my monkey.” The woman replied. Actually that’s not true; she mostly looked at me with confusion, pity and a bit of annoyance because while I was saying this Mini-Tex was throwing all of the cell phone cases onto the floor. But she told me that she had never seen anything like that in her life and no she would absolutely not take it, nor did she have any idea where I could recycle it and had no clue where I could get another one. She suggested that maybe I should call the alarm company again.

Then I collapsed in a puddle of frustration and anguish. Only not actually, because I’m thirty and have a child so I had to put the 57 cell phone protectors back on the wall. But I thanked the sales associate in a way that let her know that the act of apologizing and leaving the store with the battery was stabbing my soul. And then apologized again for taking her time, because I’m Canadian.

Back to square one. At the very least, the beeping had ceased although there was a part of me questioning that if the mystery box was so clear about NEVER BEING UNPLUGGED, that it was likely bad that the elephant sized battery was sitting on my dresser rather than in its mysterious plastic home.

Once again, I called the alarm company, described the now silent box and the battery then inquired where I might get another battery and where I should dispose of this one. The alarm company was all “Sorry, it’s not our monkey, also we have no clue where to get a new one and that mystery box isn’t ours.” So since the box doesn’t belong to the phone company or the alarm company, the only conclusion is that I’m being spied on by Martians, which is reassuring because I’m fairly certain that I’ve cut the power to their planet by removing the gargantuan battery from the mystery box.

That’s my life this week in a nutshell. If I disappear without a trace, please send NASA to find me. Also, if the aliens come knocking looking for the heart of their civilization- it’s on my kitchen counter.

Man-Eating Fire Trucks, Unpredictable Horses of Satan and Other Forms of Childhood Entertainment

There’s a saying that “It takes a village to raise a child”. I firmly believe in this adage, particularly when visiting places like indoor carnivals, hence how we ended up with a four to one ratio of adults to toddlers last month. In our motley crew was; myself (obviously), Tex, my Dad and best of all Clark’s chosen godparent, my old friend Gordy.

After a visit at my Dad’s, we decided to spend the day at an indoor fair. Is there a better place for children? Rides? Check. Animatronic dinosaurs? Check. The biggest indoor playground one could imagine? Check. An endless line up of quarter and loonie operated machines to climb on? Double check.

This place is truly a child’s dream. Six months ago when I visited my Dad, the three of us had spent an afternoon at the carnival and it was fun. Unfortunately, Mini-Tex, my son is a toddler and a super cautious one to boot. Given that Mini-Tex is becoming more of a riot and more independent with each passing day, I had high hopes for yesterday. That said, my little boy darts, and also requires a fair amount of reassurance, hence the excessive adult entourage. I figured I could comfort from one side, Tex would be the other half of a toddler reassuring sandwich. My Dad could take pictures and enjoy watching and Gordy would be on hand to catch him if Mini-Tex tried to pull a toddler Houdini.

It was a great plan. Truly I was destined for the toddler mothering championships. And then we walked in; the first thing Tex, Mini-Tex and I saw was a giant animatronic elephant. Mini-Tex LOVES elephants. He adores pictures of elephants, he kisses his stuffed elephant, he enjoys acting like an elephant with his little friends at the library once a week. However, the enormous trumpeting elephant at the entrance to the indoor fair solicited a “No thank you, no thank you” when we got close. Same for the animatronic Santa wishing him a Merry Christmas.

No matter, we rushed up the escalators to meet Gordy and my Dad. My father had thoughtfully purchased ten tickets while he awaited our arrival. “Let’s go on the carousel” he suggested, anxious to start enjoying some awesome Grandpa-grandson bonding time while galloping on wooden horses. Mini-Tex likes horses because of where we live, he sees them regularly. My son even does a spot on impression of a horse’s whinny. Essentially, he’s a total horse fan. With eyes as big as saucers, Mini-Tex approached the stopped carousel. The attendant had just closed the gate but we ushered our little guy forward, eager for him to watch the ride and get in line. Then the carousel started to spin, Mini-Tex’s brow furrowed in horror as he realized what we were pushing him towards. “No thank you, no thank you” he cried scrambling to climb up my body and away from the out of control carnival ride that was clearly going to end in his death.

So that was a bust. No matter. His Daddy needed coffee so Tex and Gordy ventured off in search of caffeine while my Dad, Mini-Tex and I looked at the forty foot T-Rex which was flanked by a ten foot baby T-Rex. Ever the optimist, my Dad said “What about the hot air balloons?” During our last visit, Mini-Tex had clung to me like a terrified baby spider monkey on this ride. We got into line. No protests. We entered the ride. Mini-Tex stayed silent. We boarded our balloon and all was well. Up and away we went, spinning around and around with me using dance training skills to spot the purple slide in an effort not to puke. My Dad was delighted and pointed out dinosaurs and sights to my son.

Upon exiting, we spotted Gordy and my husband. I remembered that there was a quarter operated fire truck about ten feet away so we all walked there. I carefully explained that Mini-Tex loved these machines but only if they didn’t move. An important point for my Dad, who competes for “Grandpa of the Year” constantly, and would have loose change at the ready in no time flat.

Mini-Tex was enthused at the idea of riding his own fire truck, having seen an actual fire truck outside of our house a month ago, but unbeknownst to us, a kind stranger had deposited change into the fire truck and left it for the next person to enjoy. With wonder in his eyes, Mini-Tex clambered into the front seat, smiling an actual smile rather than the uncertain, fearful expression he had been wearing since we walked in. And then he pressed the big green flashing button, all at once the truck sprang to life, moving back and forth. Mini-Tex froze and then lunged for my arms. Desperate to help, Gordy stood by the truck touching it “It’s all right Mini-Tex, look I’m having so much fun!” When Mini-Tex was unconvinced by this display, Gordy folded his adult male sized self into the truck and rode the bucking quarter machine, “This is fun, wheeeeeee!” Best godparent in the world, right there. But Mini-Tex was still skeptical and furthermore, my son extrapolated that if THIS machine moved, all the others did too, so from then on he kept a wide berth between himself and all the unpredictable helicopters, jeeps, zebras, tigers and racecars in the event that they too began moving on their own. So that was a win.

Still, we forged on, determined to make a magical afternoon for my toddler. Mini-Tex loved watching the triceratops and brontosaurus as we made a beeline for the train. Unfortunately, the train was closed for maintenance, but just beyond the station, was another dinosaur! Win! Or a win until the dinosaur roared loudly and scared the living daylights out of our meek little boy. Again, ever the supportive godparent, Gordy started petting the dinosaur and cooing to it about how it was such a nice dinosaur. No dice, Mini-Tex was not going to be swayed- this was clearly an evil, boy-eating dinosaur and possibly the others were too.

We decided to give the carousel another try. In the face of rogue fire trucks, and vicious dinosaurs, by contrast, the carousel now seemed tame to Mini-Tex and he willingly walked onto the ride with me. My Dad was ecstatic and immediately whipped out his camera to document the entire experience. I chose, what I felt was the gentlest looking horse, and just as I went to lift Mini-Tex onto it, came the stream of “No thank you, no thank you, no thank you” before giving way to a terrified screech when his pleas didn’t work. My Dad and I sat on the sleigh. Mini-Tex clung to my front, white knuckling it for all three turns while Tex and Gordy looked on from the outside, waving vigorously each time we past, in an attempt to convince Mini-Tex that this was fun.

Last, we tried the enormous playground. Gordy was going for broke with the whole “Best Godparent Ever” idea and waited at the bottom of the slide for twenty minutes so that when Mini-Tex’s little head popped up at the top of it, he could encourage him to slide down. SPOILER ALERT- it wasn’t successful but man did Gordy try. My son actually enjoyed himself though; he met a six year old girl who wanted to be his friend. She kept shoving him aside and lightly trampling him but in the grand scheme of how his day was going- escaping death by fire trucks, dinosaurs and rabid horses, it seemed like the lesser of all the evils so Mini-Tex accepted being squished and pulled like a champ.

At this point, Mini-Tex was fading fast and using his Dad as a pillow, so we called it a day. Although the day could reasonably be called an exercise in terrorizing your child, personally I would classify the day as a success; super fun for me and I was reminded how much my family and friends love me and the lengths they are willing to go to support both me and Mini-Tex. As it happened, the next day, Mini-Tex was telling everyone about the “big, REAL dinosaurs” he saw to anyone who would listen, so it might not have been a total parenting flop.

All of the Good Bits

Some of the last words that my grandmother uttered before she wasn’t able to talk anymore were “I’m not going”. The statement was in response to her family’s attempts to put her in the hospital where she would receive an increased standard of medical care. I love this so much. This anecdote is pure Grandma- a woman who knows her mind, has made up her decision and by God you are going to respect it. That’s the woman I lived with my entire life, the one who inspired me to show that same determination. And the one who strong armed me into celebrating my marriage with Tex.

Our wedding took place on Tex’s family’s farm two provinces away from my family. There were fifteen people there, including Tex and myself. A month later, a party was planned for Tex’s entire family. I’ve been married before. Tex hasn’t. So I wanted his family to be able to celebrate our nuptials, whereas my family had already done that. Admittedly with another man, but a party is a party right? My Grandmother, who wasn’t able to attend the ceremony because it was on top of a steep hill in the middle of nowhere, was having none of this. She hijacked her own 91st birthday party and ordered a three tiered wedding cake. I was not included in any of this. I was merely told after Grandma had picked out the cake and everyone had RVSPed. Classic Grandma.

The same trip to trip Hawaii when Grandma became a boozehound, she also was a mountain climber. Just for a point of reference, my grandmother was 81 at the time and Haleakalā is 3,055 m high or 10,023 ft. for my American readers. “Dad!” my sister, mother and I cried when he brought Grandma back from their hike up the mountain together, “I can’t believe you made Grandma do that!” Looking back, I realize, there was no making Grandma do anything. Ever. Somehow, she funneled all of her octogenarian determination and hiked for hours and hours to summit Haleakalā and take the triumphant, laughing photo of herself and my Dad that’s in our family’s scrapbook. I hope I’ve got half her fitness when I’m that age.

My grandmother has always been a wildcard. Once, she drove across country with four children and her husband, a chemical engineer. My late grandfather drove most of the way and he did so in the same manner that my own chemical engineering husband completes tasks- thoughtfully, at his own pace, so that it will be right the first time. At some point in the trip, my grandfather got tired which was fortunate because my grandmother was tired too- of watching the scenery plod past her. My Grandpa laid down in the backseat and Grandma took the wheel. When my grandfather awoke a couple hours later, he was astounded at how far Grandma had driven. With four children, there are four more sets of eyes to watch for cops and four more people to silently cheer as you set land speed records with an Oldsmobile.

Despite the fact that my grandfather made an excellent wage as an engineer, he gave Grandma very little to run their household, which meant that she frequently got creative. This was how my grandmother ended up being the only woman in a refinishing and reupholstering class. She would dumpster dive to get her materials and then spend her nights sanding the wood down and pulling the fabric taut to cover surfaces. My grandma was full of ingenuity and chutzpah. Many of the pieces she refinished and recovered live in our house. When the movers transferred her furniture from my Grandma’s house to mine, they commented about the nice quality of it, some forty years later.

My sister commented today that something she misses most now is the fact that when my sister asks Grandma how she is, she doesn’t hear the words “Oh, I’m fine” in response. In my whole entire life, I have never once heard my grandmother complain. I’m fairly certain that even after she bumped her head and needed stitches, when she awoke to the firefighters peering over her, she undoubtedly answered “I’m fine” when they inquired how she was feeling. I have this suspicion no matter her state, even if Grandma was dizzy, in a huge amount of pain, with blood from the cut dripping into her eye and she would always answer “I’m fine” with that same cheer and intonation. It wasn’t until I heard Diana say this that I remembered how much I loved this aspect of my grandmother. I’m sure in the coming days, weeks and months I’ll add to the list of everything I will miss about this wonderful woman.

Fileting Open My Brain To Extract Everything That I Can

Sorry, that was a little graphic. But I felt it necessary to warn you of what was coming.

My grandmother is dying. At thirty-two, I’ve never lost a truly dear loved one; someone who loved me and raised me and cheered for me the whole way along, as loud as they could. I’ve never experienced that. And now it’s happening. There’s a part of me that wants to write something for my grandmother to say good bye, to say thank you, to tell her how much she means to me. But according to my husband, people don’t really do that, not through a letter that one of their uncles would have to read because I live a province away. It’s more of a bedside confessional sort of thing.

In thinking about this, I also realized that now is not the time for that sort of material. At the end of life, people tend to be in discomfort, or only partially conscious or unconscious even. The time to tell them you love them happened every single week, month, year and decade before that.

I did that. Not as often as I should have, but I did that. I wrote thank you cards for every birthday and Christmas gift. And once, in September 2016, I wrote a post about and dedicated to my grandmother. I was able to read it to her in person. She listened quietly, then afterwards, she cleared her throat and said “Thank you, Honey.” My grandmother rarely used terms of endearment. She was a woman of actions not words. In that moment, I felt her warmth and approval. I wish that I had written more posts like that, because those couple hundred words didn’t come close of capturing what a force my Grandma was in my life.

If I can’t give what I would deem a “proper” good bye, in lieu of that I’m going to write down every solitary memory or scrap of a story that I have, so I can hold my grandmother close to me again.

Whenever either I or my Dad would visit Grandma, she would always send a rose, from her garden, home for my mom. She did this for all of the aunts. It was like she couldn’t allow us to leave without a show of her love for the family members who hadn’t visited her that day.

After my parents divorced, understandably my mom didn’t feel welcome at my grandmother’s house, so it became protocol that my sister and I would be picked up at a house down the street. I’m fairly sure that Grandma didn’t know about this arrangement otherwise she would have put the kibosh on it earlier. Two years later after my parents separated, my soon to be husband and I were visiting Grandma. When Grandma found out that my mother was coming to pick us up, she insisted that my Mom come in for a visit.

I dutifully texted my Mom Grandma’s instructions, then met my mother in the driveway while Grandma continued to drink tea with Tex in the backyard. “You have to come in” I told my mother. “I can’t” my Mom replied. My parent’s divorce was an acrimonious one and at that time was still going on. “Well you’re going to have to take that up with Grandma, because she sent me to come get you so I can’t return alone” I stated. This was a fact- if Grandma asked you to do something- you did it. There was no questioning my grandmother.

So my mother followed me into Grandma’s house, probably cowering a little in her orthotic sandals because Grandma had a cutting and blunt way with words when she wanted to. My grandmother greeted my mother with kindness and forgiveness. My Mom walked away, once again with a rose from Grandma’s garden. And once again I was struck by the power of my grandmother’s character.

It’s unclear when the obsession with the firemen started, whether it was before or after her fall, I can’t remember, for the sake of a good story, we’ll say after. On one of the trips my Grandma took with my Grandpa, she fell and hit her head. When she came to, she was staring up at a couple of gorgeous firemen. My mother remarked that after every other one of my grandmother’s trips with Grandpa all she talked about was the food, but that trip, every story included the “handsome firemen”. And so became the running gag that my grandmother loved firemen. Each year, for Christmas, my aunts would buy her a firemen calendar. Grandma fell once more, I believe, during a trip, and once again was rewarded with attention from firemen.

More than a decade after this, my grandma was sitting in the car with our family, preparing to take our annual drive to see the Christmas lights in her neighbourhood. I commented that the two simple red and green floodlights that she used to decorate her house were quite old. “Oh yes” my grandma responded- “the wiring was showing on one of them so I taped it up.”

“Ruth!” My mother exclaimed. “You can’t do that- it’s a fire hazard!”

Quick as a whip, Grandma turned around to face my mother who was sitting in the backseat with me and quipped “Did you ever consider that I might want the firemen to come back?”

We all laughed. But the thing with my grandmother was – we had no idea if she was serious or not. Even to this day.

My grandmother was always game for anything. When I was twenty-one, my Dad took everyone to Hawaii: myself, my sister Diana, my mother and my Grandma. One of the nights, we went out to a luau that was all you can drink. My sister, mother and I took that descriptor extremely seriously and ordered every single cocktail on the menu and seconds of the ones we liked. My Grandma didn’t drink ever but unlike my late grandfather, she wasn’t a teetotaler. We’re not sure what happened, whether it was some of the energy of the night or maybe it was the tastiness of the drinks, but something got to Grandma and she started sipping away.

For the record, Grandma wasn’t drunk, she left that level of debauchery to my sister, mother and me, much to my father’s dismay. But oh boy did the pictures we took ever make it seem that way. There’s a section of the scrapbook I made from the Hawaii trip entitled “The Night Grandma Became a Booze Hound”. Grandma good naturedly posed next to Diana and myself, all three of us sipping hurricanes and margaritas and the like. Then my grandmother posed next to my mom and finally, we took of a picture of Diana and me each holding a drink up to her mouth while she drank from both of them. It was like the photographic, elderly version of a keg stand.

She laughed a lot that night. I wish I had a video of her laugh. I have these stories instead. Do me a favor and go tell a loved one a little bit about how much they truly mean to you. Bonus points if you haven’t spoken with them in a while.

 

 

 

**I did not change the name of my grandmother because she’s kind of like my Aunty Betty- she’s so wonderful that the whole world should know who she is.

Random Tiny Strangers’ Sharts And Other Revolting Revelations In My Life

Mini-Tex is approaching the two year mark. Which means potty training. Only not actually because we’re spending the next six months bouncing around the country and the one thing that’s crazier than trying to potty train a small person is trying to do it on the run. At some point, likely during a summer, ideally before he’s twelve, we will attempt to potty train Mini-Tex. At this juncture however, we are going to be content just having a potty.

Or at least we would have been if we had a potty. As it was, this morning we didn’t. This isn’t a problem for most people because they

A) Live in a place where they need more than just their fingers and toes to count their neighours.

B) Live in a place where the only store isn’t the “Super Val e Mart”

C) They’re not insistent on buying all children’s goods second hand.

As it is, I live in a place that makes Dog River from Corner Gas look big. We are F  A   R from everything. We are two hours away from a large pharmacy let alone a children’s store, and we are four hours away from a major centre where second hand children’s stores are found.

As luck would have it, Tex was traveling on an overnight jaunt to the big smoke for work. On his last trip, he secured not one, not two but, three pairs of dinosaur pyjamas. An article of clothing our son had been begging for for the past six months or so. Tragically, I forgot to ask my husband to pick up a potty.

Thus today, when Tex was all set to travel back home and just sent a cursory “So do we need anything from the city?” text to me, expecting to hear crickets in return, I jumped on my phone. “Yes” I hastily replied “A potty”.

Ironically, one of my favourite character traits in Tex is his desire for everything to be spotless. While I am perfectly happy to wallow in my own personal gime, I would prefer that my living quarters are relatively clean. Tex cleans items and places that it would never occur to me to clean- ever. For example, the cup holder in the car. To me, it’s a spot that just becomes progressively stickier over the course of your car’s life. My view of a microwave is that it’s something you use and slop stuff on, until you move houses at which point, you receive a shiny new microwave to splatter with spaghetti sauce. And as for under the couch? Well I’m small, so not only is there no need to move said heavy couch, but it’s also verging on impossible, so the dust bunnies can procreate, colonize and form their own society there as far as I’m concerned.

Tex, on the other hand is a completely different story. When we first met, he was horrified by the shortness of my showers. At one point, he asked whether he could wash me, and it wasn’t in a sexy way (for the record I said “No”- Tex scrubs his skin like he’s Cinderella and removing every iota of dirt is his only shot at attending the ball). My pans, which were thoroughly abused and not well scrubbed in their previous existence with just me, have a new lease on life. And our car receives a twice yearly detailing that would probably cost hundreds if done professionally.

This was the man I sent to choose a second hand potty.

Now I should state, as grimy as  I am, I have limits. And I also keep the well being and personal tastes of other’s in mind. Hence, when I donate an item to Goodwill or what not, I will wash it thoroughly first. And if I don’t feel I’m up to the task of washing it, I’ll kindly ask Tex. Meaning that, if I were to donate a potty, it would be clean. That said, upon buying a used children’s potty, I would immediately scrub it (or let’s be honest ask Tex to scrub it) regardless of the state it was in.

Anyways so away Tex goes to the second hand children’s store. “What kind of potty?” he asks me. “A boy potty” I type back, hoping for something with either cars, fire engines or dinosaurs on it, Mini-Tex’s three interests at the moment. Tex shoots me a photo back “It’s Elmo, all the other ones are for bigger kids to sit on the toilet.” “Awesome” I reply.

I thought that was the end of it. But oh no, Tex arrives home, and cleans the living daylights out of the Elmo potty with bleach until it sparkles even brighter than when it came off the factory conveyor belt. Then Tex, who loves putting batteries into items almost as much as he loves cleaning, demonstrates the piece de resistance. With the juice from two double As, the tiny potty makes flushing sounds.

“You did so great” I said, hugging my husband tight, “I’m sure this was the best one there.” “Well” confesses Tex “there were other boy ones but they had little kid sharts all down the sides.” He didn’t need to say anymore, I tried to suppress a grin picturing my husband eyeballing random tiny stranger sharts on Lightning McQueen potties.

I have a really nice husband. In the grand scheme of gross, awkward shopping trips, I think this one even tops the time that my Dad had to pick up a year’s supply of birth control for my sister. After calling all around the city, he found a store with a large enough supply. Upon entering, the cashier yelled out “Hey it’s the Yasmin guy!” Embarrassing, but not quite as bad as having to pick between plastic seats coated in the sharts of toddlers.

 

This post is dedicated to my mother, who told me not to put up something nice about her even though it’s her sixtieth birthday today. Mom likes to joke that my husband has OCD. Only she doesn’t think that it’s a joke, to which I respond “Our cereal isn’t alphabetized”. That’s totally a criterion from the DSM IV, I am totally up on all things psychology. Also I don’t think people with OCD marry dirt squirrels like me and certainly not dirt squirrels with sweaty runner moms. Happy Birthday Mom, your nice post is forth coming.

 

This Troll Is My Grandfather

20171007_120126Because he’s crotchety and barks at people for no good reason. Not really, my grandfather isn’t like that at all, for starters, he only yells with good reason. The following is an abridged and incomplete list of reasons that my Grandfather has yelled being:

  1. Making noise in the backseat
  2. Not learning how to ride a two wheeler fast enough
  3. Pinching your sister
  4. Pulling your sister’s hair
  5. Calling your sister “weasel elbows”
  6. Doing anything besides sitting silently next to your sister without touching each other at all
  7. Trying to swim in a flooded basement
  8. Yapping at the neighbour’s car (that one was the dog)
  9. Not eating the fat on a piece of meat (that was me, the dog will ALWAYS eat the fat)
  10. Showing inadequate amounts of enthusiasm for Granddad’s current interest that he is explaining to you at length
  11. Being in the wrong gear while cycling uphill
  12. Speaking above a whisper volume when Granddad has a migraine

As you can see from the list, my grandfather is both an extremely reasonable and even tempered fellow, not at all troll-like.

But yet, I’ve kept this troll doll for ages. Clearly because of its wicked hairdo; I wake up every morning with my fingers crossed that my own tresses will have formed such an awesome “just rolled out of the cave and off to bludgeon a mammoth” style of their own volition.

All joking aside, I’m not a sentimental person. Tex actually stopped me from sending my framed degree from my Bachelor of Science to the second hand shop. Yet, I’ve carted this troll doll with me across the country and through multiple moves- why? Because I love my Granddad.

My love for my grandfather runs so deep that this tchotchke and I have been together for almost thirty years. At first I kept it because it was a fun toy, then I kept it because it was terrifying and I had grand plans of playing “hide the awful troll” in the same way that my sister played “hide the beady eyed ostrich”, scaring the bejesus out of me when the ostrich surprised me in unlikely places. But most recently I’ve kept it because it represents my relationship with my grandfather.

While unpacking after our recent move, I realized that I kept the troll out of the fear of not being reminded of the stories that accompany it. This is the point in life where being a writer is almost akin to being a super hero, as I realized that I could record the memories, and find a new home for the troll doll.

My grandparents took our family to Walt Disney World. It was supposed to be just me and Diana but then my mother threw a hissy fit, stating that my Gran and Granddad had never taken her to Disney World. This was how my father, mother and uncle went to Walt Disney World. I’d say “with us” but that isn’t true, looking back at the photo album my mother has and the notes she made about the trip, my sister and I spent about 95% of our time with our grandparents while my parents and uncle shucked their parental and uncle-y duties all devil-may-care, in favor of exploring the theme parks.

The first time I visited the Magic Kingdom was with my grandfather. My sister was ill and stayed back at the hotel with my Gran while my parents went on roller coasters and drank endless shots of tequila. (That last part may be a fabrication, but they did really and truly delight in not having a five and seven year old in tow.) The wonder and joy I felt at walking into the Magic Kingdom is tied with the sense of happiness and security I felt at having my grandfather all to myself in that wonderful place. My Granddad enjoys recounting the story of me running at a wandering character and hugging them with all of my might on that day.

That trip was the first time I realized that my grandfather was a flirt. Actually, flirt is the wrong word, my grandfather is charming, utterly charming and engaging with everyone. He just makes a point of being more so with the female persuasion. Disney Cast Members all wear badges with their names. Upon returning to the hotel, I remarked to my mother that Granddad knew all of the cashiers’ names.

As much as my parents delighted in their independence, my grandparents delighted in my and my sister’s joy. They rode the tea cups with us countless times. Diana’s and my explanation to my parents upon entering the ride with them (while they were sobering up before their next tequila binge) was “You spin the wheel whichever way Diana wants, as fast as you can, until Granddad yells “I’m gonna barf!””

My grandfather loves history, especially family history. Growing up, my sister and I donned crowns with electric candles on them and would wander around family parties at Christmas delivering hors d’oeuvres. Seeing us dressed as St. Lucia and honoring our Swedish and Scandinavian heritage made my grandfather so happy that we continued to dress up even as teens if asked.

Thus the Norwegian pavilion at EPCOT, which in the early 90’s still offered unique Scandinavian products rather than all things Frozen related, was a kind of heaven for my grandfather. For starters, it was staffed with gorgeous Norwegian women who were obligated to smile at my grandfather’s stories which he imparted in detail to his blonde, cheerful listeners. The variety of Viking related goods gave Granddad many talking points to remind Diana and me of our heritage. To this day my grandfather never misses an opportunity to share the tale of our brave ancestor Stoingvald who fought to defend his country even after his enemies cut off his legs at the knees. Our visit to the Norwegian pavilion of course prompted said story, so Granddad acted out the battle with Stoingvald on the roof of his home for all the tourists and smiley Swedes.

Granddad bought me this troll that night. I kept it because I wanted to hold onto the love that I hold for my Granddad and that my grandparents hold for me. I kept the doll because it recalled a time when vacations were as endless as the hugs and attention from my grandparents. I kept it to remind myself of my grandfather’s foibles and the way they make me smile. I kept it so I would remember all those stories each time my eyes lit on the troll while in the rec room.

But love, memories and stories aren’t housed in objects, they make their homes in our hearts. It’s through retelling that the memories live on. I don’t need the troll to remind myself to retell the stories of its youth, I can keep a picture of it and pen the words it holds for me instead.

 

This post is of course dedicated to my Granddad from whom all my stories originate because he is the original storyteller of our family.