Oh great. Now you tell me.

News story: survey says Saint John, NB is the happiest city in the nation.

My morning mantra

Shoveling snow makes me a better human being.

Shoveling snow makes me a better human being.

almanac 5

Snowing again. Thank goodness. We lost all of our beautiful snow at the beginning of the week. My folks flew in on Christmas Day. Instead of being greeted by a beautiful blanket of white, it was the yucky, crusty, black-speckled stuff.

Because they arrived on The Big Day, we told the kids Christmas was actually on the 26th. Tack Santa in there, and Christmas '07 has been one huge lie.

Dinner was fabulous. Erin made a steamed rum and chocolate pudding. Yowza.

Luke and Darth

Santa brought Henry a couple of Star Wars action figures. Henry always gets to be Luke, I'm always Darth Vader. Here's a typical exchange:

Luke: I'm shooting you with my blaster, Darth. pshew! pshew!

Darth: Woa woa woa. I'm your dad. Can we call a truce?

L: What's a truce?

D: It's where we agree to not shoot each other for a while.

L: Ok. Can we shoot aliens?

D: Sure.

L&D: pshew! pshew!

D: pshew! So, uh, Luke, what do you do when you're not shooting your blaster?

L: pshew! I like to sword fight with my light sabre. pshew!

D: That's cool.

L&D: pshew! pshew!

D: I've been experimenting with Japanese cooking.

L: What's that?

D: Oh, you know. Miso soup. Rice. Fish. Simple things, really.

L: Darth! Look! Aliens!

D: Let's get 'em!

L&D: pshew! pshew! crash! pshew!

D: Good one, Luke.

L: Thanks, Darth.

D: (starts making the Darth Vader breathing sounds)

L: What are you doing?

D: Oh this? It's my respirator.

L: What's a respirator?

D: A bionic implant that helps me breath. (makes the sounds) See?

L: I don't like that. Breath normal.

D: Ok. (inhale) Wow, that's much better. Aliens!

L: pshew! pshew!

D: So, do you do anything to unwind at the end of the day?

L: I like dogs.

D: Oh really? Any specific breed?

L: I have a big dog named Doggo.

D: That's great. Do you train him?

L: Yes. To bite aliens.

D: Fantastic. You've got to have a hobby. If your whole life is wrapped up in the intergalactic struggle between Empire and Rebels, you go crazy. You've got to keep your work and home life separate. Know what I mean?

L: I do.

L&D: pshew! pshew!

Christmas story

Erin and the kids are having a much-deserved Yule Nap. Just enough time to tell you one of my favourite Christmas stories.

I was probably 11 or 12. Young enough to play in the snow but old enough to prefer being lazy.

A couple of days after Christmas, my brother and I were in the basement doing nothing. We watched bad TV while outside it was a beautiful winter day. It seemed a good way to spend the rest of the break.

My dad came downstairs. He had obviously just come in from outside because he had on his boots, brown coat and cap.

"Get your coats on, you two."

Usually when dad invited us outside it was to do farm work. Even in the winter, there was always something to be done. We declined.

"Get your coats on," he repeated, sounding serious. We would never have actually not gone, but it was in our contract as pre-teens to be surly about such requests.

We got all of our winter stuff on, but instead of heading out into the boiler room (we lived on a greenhouse farm), Dad started walking across the road toward Henry Janzen's farm.

Dad and Henry had a great farmer relationship. They often shared work and equipment. Coffee too.

We didn't stop at Henry's house. We didn't even head to the barn. Dad kept walking past the goose pond and the few glass greenhouses to the snow-covered field. I got curious.

"What are we-"

"Shht", was all he said. We kept walking.

A couple of minutes later, Dad whispered to us to stay exactly where we were. Still confused, but absolutely riveted, we obeyed.

Dad crept his way through the snow. Stubble and fodder from last year's corn peaked out of the white.

Dad walked about 15 meters further in a semi-circle, then stopped. He turned to face us, but looked at the pile of snow between us.

Suddenly, he pounced. Fresh, powdery snow went flying. I couldn't tell exactly what was happening for a few seconds.

Dad got up with a cotton tail rabbit in his arms. He had one hand wrapped tightly around its ears, the other held its thrashing hind legs still. Dad clutched it tightly against him, as if assuring it there was no escape, but no harm. The rabbit quieted down and looked at us with wide eyes.

It was like everything I'd ever known about my dad was wrong. He was... awesome.

We brought it into the house to show mum.

"Feel like rabbit for supper?"

"I'm not cleaning that thing. Get it out of here." My Toronto-born mum always knew she'd married the rural life, but she drew a line at butchering cute things.

We took it back to the field and let it go. Boy, did that sucker run. Have you ever seen a cotton tail at full speed? It's magic.

My brother, John, and I didn't watch a minute of TV the rest of the Christmas break. We tried over and over again to recreate Dad's trick, but never could. He's awesome.

The Kids are Alright (about the pregnancy, now that they've gotten used to the idea)

When we sat down to tell the kids about the pregnancy, Erin was sure Henry was not going to take it well. I didn't agree. Despite the fact that he isn't terribly fond of his 18-month-old sister (who likes to mess with his stuff), he's always loved little babies.

When we told him, his face held a glaze for a moment. "Mummy, is that the truth?"

"Of course it is, sweety."

"No, Mummy. Tell me the truth."

"There's a new, little baby in my tummy."

"Mummy, don't joke. Tell me the truth."

It wasn't that he didn't understand the concept of baby-in-tummy, it's that he knew this was Big. Once he established truth from fiction, he was not pleased. He screamed and cried and told us to make the baby not be born.

Jane just got a puzzled look on her face, pointed at Erin's belly and said, "Beebee?"

It took about six hours for Henry to warm up to the idea. We kept reminding him about what little babies are like, and how all they do is sleep, eat, poop and not play with toys. Now he's the baby's biggest advocate.

He delights in telling strangers about it. When we called our families to tell them, he loved being the guy to break the news. "It's right in her tummy. It won't come until after my birthday."

Erin is still in a bit of shock, though the queasiness is very real. It began subtly early this week, but is pretty strong right now. Between that and the pre-existing fatigue from 24/7 mummathon, it ain't terribly fun being Erin. If the first two pregnancies are any indication, the morning sickness (what a stupid name) should clear up in about six weeks (please let it clear up in six weeks).

As always, she's a lovely pregnant lady. I don't know how she does it.

A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight

We were lucky in Saint John to have neighbours in the Christmas Tree business. We only ever wanted a 4-foot tree, and they wouldn't hear of taking any money for it. It was a pretty sweet deal.

Nice as our new Sydney neighbours are, none are in the x-mas tree cartel. We decided to buy one from the guys in the Sobey's parking lot. We don't have a car, so Sunday night we trekked over in the snow with our little, red wagon.

The way there was painful. It was cold. It was much slipperier than we thought. The kids were cranky. The wagon was noisy. I'm pretty sure Erin was with me in wondering why it is we always seem to do things the hard way.

Since we were there anyway, Erin popped in the store to pick up some groceries. Henry and I wandered the mall, him in a foul mood. We hadn't eaten supper, and none was waiting for us at home. What started as a quick trip out was turning into a long, grumpy, hungry journey.

I think Erin was the one who suggested we stop at a restaurant. We are not restaurant people. They're always more trouble than they're worth. There was a crappy place at the mall, and we needed to stop.

It was awesome.

Erin had an omlette. Henry had a the kids' fish platter. Jane gnawed on a grilled cheese sandwich. I had chowder. It was all just ok.

We sat by the fish tank. The kids laughed and played. Erin and I actually got to speak with each other over a meal. There were other young families there, and we were all in it together. The hot chocolate was good too.

After, we bundled up our kiddies and headed to the parking lot in search of a tree. The gnarly old guy tending the lot found us a Charlie Brown special for 15 bucks that just barely fit in the wagon.

The trip home was so much better. Our now-fed kids were excited to have a tree. It was frigid, but a soft snow fell around us in the windless night. A few blocks from home, Henry asked if I would carry him the rest of the way. I told him stories and sang a few songs.

We gave into the night, and the night gave it back to us. A lovely compromise for two people who tend to do things the hard way.

almanac 4

Snowed again today. Our third big snow of December.

No time for writing. Too much knitting to finish before Christmas.

It strikes me I may be a Mumma Blogger.

We're boys. We smash things.

After Sunday's big snow we all went outside to do some shoveling and playing. While I cleared the front walk, Erin and Henry built a snowman in the back yard. Both were pretty proud of their work.

Frosty had a carrot nose, stick arms and dried-grass hair.

After Erin relieved me of shovel duty, I got to spend some time playing with Henry. We made snow angels, tried building a fort (it was lousy fort snow), and then moved on to the inevitable snowball fight.

Neither of us are terribly fond of being schmucked by cold, drippy snow. We directed our rage toward Frosty.

By this time we had magically transformed into Luke Snowalker (Henry) and Han Snolo (me). Darth Frosty (or Frosty Vader, as we sometimes called him) didn't know what hit him.

First Luke threw giant snow bombs at him. Then Han whacked him a couple of times with his light sabre (snow shovel). Then we took turns blasting him with the Force (kicking and jumping on him).

There wasn't much left of Darth Frosty when we were finished. Henry suggested we throw his body over the cliff. I reminded him that was actually the fate of the Emperor. We decided to let him lie in a heap.

I think the only one more devastated than Frosty was Erin. She couldn't believe what horrible things we did to that poor snowman. She told me later that she was truly looking forward to admiring him from the kitchen window over the next few days.

She has many times shaken her head about this episode. Part of her knows boys have the innate need to smash things. The rest of her is pretty sure Henry and I are a couple of idiots.

She's always underestimated the seductive power of the dark side of the Force. It concerns me.

update on the crows

That crazy chorus of crows keeps coming back to that spot down by the river near our house. I hear them in the morning around six if I'm out for a walk.

I've also started seeing a bald eagle in the area. It did a slow fly-by of Wentworth Park two mornings ago.

My colleague who lives right down there says she's pretty sure it's built a nest atop of one of the tall trees. I think it's a safe bet to say the crows have been trying to evict their new neighbour.

almanac 3

It really snowed today. Holy Jinkies.

I shovelled after the first batch. I was feeling so good I cleared the neighbours' driveway and walk too. Henry had a shovel in his hand, and so was rewarded by old Roy with a handful of coins.

I took a look. Six bucks! He must be in the union.

After the kids fell asleep tonight, Erin and I relaxed with a couple of mugs of whiskey and hot water. I love real winter.

almanac 2

First day without Murph. Sun still rose and set.

Henry tells me a little bit of Murphy's spirit lives inside of him now. I get some too, according to him.

He says Murphy doesn't live inside Janey or Mummy. "She liked boys better."

"Go get it, Murph!"

This is the story I told Henry this morning as we all said good-bye to our family dog. It made him feel a little better.

I was 19 when I first met Murphy-girl. I had always wanted a dog all to my own, and since I was an "adult", I figured I was ready.

I went to the Humane Society in Windsor. They explained to me all the rules and responsibilities. I signed the papers. Then, they led me to the loudest, barkingest room I'd ever heard.

There were probably 20 dogs in cages. Big dogs, little dogs, black dogs, white dogs. Near the end of the row sat a dog that looked like none I'd ever seen. A big grey beard, odd floppy ears, white neck, black and brown back, and white feet. She looked like someone had chopped up a bunch of dogs, pasted the parts together and said, "uh, here she is."

But, she was quiet. In a sea of barking, she sat pretty and looked at me. "Take me home, Dave. I've been waiting for you."

They let me take her out of the cage and meet her. She was wonderful. I buried my nose in the thick fur of her neck.

There was a 3-day waiting period to make sure I was serious. I was. I went back.

The dog they brought out for me looked like the same dog I'd picked out. But she jumped and thrashed and barked. One of the handlers waved at her and said, "Bye, Psycho!"

She was pretty crazy in the early days. But she always quieted down when it was just her and me. She was my best friend for the quiet and the crazy.

Together we've walked the shores of Lake Erie, along the St. John and Detroit Rivers. We climbed Fort Howe in Saint John hundreds of times. She helped me explore the tundra and sea ice in Iqaluit.

But I think her favourite walk was always at my folks place outside of Leamington. She'd beg for me to let her off the leash and I always did. She'd be to the fence row and back 3 times before I caught up to her. Then, we'd walk along a couple of tree lines to the creek.

When she was young, she didn't even look before she jumped in. She just ran full tilt and leaped into the cold, rushing waters.

In the last few years, she's become a "sleep runner". When she falls asleep, her legs start going. Sometimes, if she was really into it, she would chirp these tiny, happy barks.

"Go get it, Murph!" I would quietly encourage her. And rather than wake up, her dream chase would become more frantic.

I hope she's having that dream now.

Good girl, Murph. I'll love you forever.

almanac 1

Snowed and stuck yesterday (November 24th).

My chorus performed at a church today. We sat up front, right behind the minister.

It's been a long time since I've heard such a sloppy line of metaphors strung together like that.

Saturday sleep-ins, toddies, old friends and chopsticks

The kids didn't wake up this morning until 20 after six. I couldn't believe it. Jane normally gets me up in the 5-5:30 range. This week it was more like 4-4:30.

6:20 is heaven.

To make it even better, a nearly-rested Erin took the kids downstairs while I kept my lazy ass in bed for an extra 20 minutes. Such luxuries are rare in this house.

Today was the Santa Claus Parade in Sydney, which Henry has been looking forward to for weeks. It began at 11, which gave us lots of time to eat a pre-breakfast at home before sauntering into town to try out a greasy spoon.

It was windy and cold. Probably the coldest day yet this season. Erin was worried about how little Jane would fare, and I remembered her amauti (mother's parka we bought in Iqaluit with a special pouch to keep baby in). It worked wonderfully. Jane was toasty in there for nearly 3 hours.

Breakfast was nice. Fish cakes with lotsa onions.

The parade was nice too. Every city's is different. Saint John's is loooong and loud. Iqaluit's is spontaneous and informal. Sydney's is.. nice. Lasted about an hour. Every little burg in the area sent a firetruck. Henry loved it.

I was so chilled by the time we got home that I put the kettle on for tea. Erin, bless her, had the wisdom to make toddies instead. Little spears of warmth shot through me to all the right spots.

Henry had a pal over tonight. K is a year older and lives two doors over. They seem to really like each other, but at 3 and 4, that's mostly manifested in chasing, pushing and occasionally brutally attacking. Henry got a chopstick jabbed in his eye at one point. K got a kick to the head in return.

Mid-visit, we got a call from an old northern friend (GYL). We served that man a big, greasy breakfast every Saturday for a year. He would show up, often hung over, with a tale of woe and lost love from the night before. He's great with our kids, and lives (for better or worse) his life out loud. Right now he's touring the country visiting friends. We're lucky enough to be on the list. Can't wait to see him.

Amazingly, Erin had a dream about him last night. She's been having a series of dreams where she's a guest at a big, elaborate wedding. She runs into old friends, and last night it was GYL's turn. Funny coincidence.

Month of Rodents

In order: mice, rats, beavers.

The mice were caught by our cat.

We've had Joan since the week after we were married. With her multiple tones of grey mixed with peach, I've always thought her more of a looker than a mouser.

That was confirmed by her first encounter with a mouse about four years ago. Not only did she embarrass herself in the failed hunt, she was still looking for the stupid thing two weeks after I caught it.

She finally started earning her keep earlier this month. She caught two little grey mice over three nights. I have to say, I was impressed. We haven't heard a squeak on the mousey front for a few weeks. However...

We have an old, manual typewriter box sitting on the ground by our front window. The kids stand on it to watch what's happening outside. Sunday morning, Henry was perched atop and announced he saw a mouse.

I looked. It was a rat.

A big, brown rat, siting on our front porch in broad daylight. Beady black eyes and a wormy tail. He was feasting on the bird seed (and poo) which had dropped from our feeder. I should have realized it was a silly idea to mount it so close to the house.

I've since checked the house from top to bottom and found no further evidence of rats or mice.

As for the beaver, it's my November enemy.

I really enjoy watching the moon. My interest in astronomy comes and goes, but I always love watching the moon. Following its cycles. Watching it slowly wax and wane.

The moon in any given month has a name (Harvest moon, Wolf moon...). November is the Beaver moon. I hate the Beaver moon.

I wouldn't have ever blamed human behavior on the moon before I had kids. Holy crap, it's hard not to notice how crazy they get in the week before full, which we are now in.

(note: Jane was born on the full moon in July. The hospital was packed with women giving birth. There weren't enough nurses on duty. It was nuts.)

As I walked home from barbershop practice Monday night, I really didn't want to look at the moon. It had an odd halo, which it has kept all week. Erin said the same thing the next morning. She felt like every window she looked out had this taunting, ringed moon.

Having something to blame this grumpy week on makes me feel a little better. Damn Beaver moon.

Sunday Comic

A man with a kindly face.

Longish Hair. White robe.

Outstretched hands. An obvious aura of love. A halo.

A clean, hairless face.

The caption: Jesus Shaves

Youngests aren't born, they're made

Little Janey.

All the stories are about your big brother. He'll always be the first to do everything. He'll always wave the flag for our attention. He is so Henry.

Sweet Jane.

Being a youngest, I can see another being made.

You are so content to take care of yourself.

Clean your bowl. Put your baby to bed. Dance around the kitchen. Give me those eyes.

There won't be another youngest in this family. I'd hate to do that to you. You will never know the trauma of having a new baby take your title.

Not that that trauma can't be a positive thing, in the end. I think it defines your big brother. More than an Oldest Child, he is a Former Only Child.

I like you as a youngest.

Still, you deserve to make a little noise every now and again. To remind us you're here.

You're even patient while I sit here and type this nonsense.

Daddy's said his piece. Let's run around the house screaming until Henry and Mummy come home.

Update: No dramatic irony here. Baby x was conceived about a week later.

Old Man and Nanny

I was up late last night tending to Henry's cold. It dropped into his chest and he had several terrific coughing fits. It's abated today, but it was pretty lousy in the wee hours.

I couldn't get to sleep after the 2am bout, so I invented a new comic book.

It's called Old Man and Nanny (note to Upper Canadians: "Nanny" is the Maritime equivalent of "Grandma".)

Old Man and Nanny are the super heroes. They reside in the Home of Justice (Old Man: "It's a Seniors' Complex!")

Like all good super heroes, they are reluctant in their roles. They'd much prefer to be playing bingo or watching Wheel of Fortune.

But defend the world they must. (I'm not sure what sort of plots they unfurl, but I'm thinking the pigeons are missing from the park and they are not happy about it. Also, can someone close a window or something? Where is that draft coming from?)

Nanny wields a walker with light sabre-like awesomeness.

The bad guys are Man Boy and Mother. They're married, but Man Boy's relationship to his spouse is better defined by her name than their legal status.

They command a small army of Reluctant Teens ("Aw Dad, do I HAVE to pour anthrax into the city's water supply?). They slouch a lot.

Ok. I'm going to hell.

Retirement 2

Jane woke up around 4:30 the other morning, but I managed to get her back to sleep by walking her around the living room. Once she was out, I realized I couldn't put her down. I sat in an arm chair and tried to get a bit of rest.

Couldn't sleep. I didn't have a book within arm's reach, so I let my mind once again visit that happy place: retirement.

This time, Erin and I retire to an 11-acre farm in the Kennebecasis valley. Probably somewhere around Norton.

I love that part of NB. When we left Saint John for good, we drove past it as we sped along the Trans Canada. God, it's gorgeous.

In my daydream we've got this little place just outside of Norton. Nothing too fancy. Erin and I work about 2 acres for a market garden. I also keep a couple of sheep, a coop-full of chickens and a small loft of pigeons. We sell what we can at the Kingston Farmers Market (not the pigeons, they're for fun).

Winter, we keep pretty quiet. Lots of knitting, writing and general creative mischief.

I don't think much about travel. I've lived in enough places to realize one place is as good as another.

Silver Glow

About six weeks ago, Henry spotted a toy airplane in the window of the Bargain Shop uptown.

We figured it was an on-the-spot whim that would pass. We distracted and moved on.

He kept bringing it up. Every day for a week, he mentioned it several times. We decided to turn it into a lesson (we're also fond of moralizing).

If he could save his own money, he could buy it himself.

We set up a system of chores that we figured a 3-year old can handle. Clean up your toys. Help set and clear the table. Help with your sister.

Each chore earned him a dime, which went into a jar in the kitchen.

The airplane cost $9.97. We figured it would take a while.

Henry was so focused on that thing that he worked his butt off. He hit the 5-dollar mark the middle of this week. We were so impressed, we decided to meet him half way. I exchanged his 50 dimes for a 10-dollar bill.

Today was The Big Day. He and I walked to town this morning, went to the shop and bought it. He was very proud to hand his purple bill to the cashier.

While we were there, we bought Janey a My Little Pony. Just to be fair.

He held on to that airplane box the whole way home. He didn't say a word for several blocks. I asked what he was thinking about.

"I'm thinking about all the work I did."

Hot damn, I thought. I'm a kick-ass dad!

We took the box to the kitchen table and opened it up with my jack knife (all kick-ass dads carry them).

I have to say, the much-lusted after toy is pretty cool. It's not just one plane. It has the basic frame for two planes, with parts to mix and match to turn both into helicopters. It even has a fancy little handle that you can fix to either one. Pull a trigger and it turns the propeller.

We built. We zoomed. We created spectacular crash and rescue scenes. It was a good 20-minutes of non-stop aerial action.

Then he discovered Silver Glow, Jane's My Little Pony.

He spent the rest of the day dancing with the blue and purple pony with the come-hither eyes. Then he discovered the small catalogue that came with her. He spent an hour drooling over photos of Silver Glow's pals: Wind Drifter, Royal Bouquet and Tulip Twinkle. He's especially fond of "Wysteria as the Crystal Bride" (Wedding cake "magically" pops up!)

He helped me clear the supper dishes tonight, which earned him another dime. As he dropped it into his jar I asked him what he's saving up for this time around.

"A whole set of My Little Pony!"

I'm a kick-ass dad who hates ponies.


I was a witness.

So was my son.

Both of our kids have had a hard time adjusting to the time change, so we've been getting up a little early. Henry and I were walking the dog the other day just before 6.

It rained the night before. It was still pretty dark and gloomy with a low ceiling of clouds.

As we got closer to the harbour, we heard a terrible racket. It was coming from inside a small grove of tall trees by the water.

We were probably 50-meters away before we could discern individual caws. I have never seen/heard so many crows in one place before.

There must have been thousands. The sound of their screams echoed against the wet pavement. Henry was fascinated, but a little afraid.

The funny thing is, I know crows are solitary birds. They're social animals, to be sure. But other than their mate, they really don't like hanging out with other crows. They tend to get violent with those who crowd their territory.

There are exceptions. Crows' hatred of birds of prey (most often ospreys and owls) trumps their solitary nature. Once one is spotted (especially owls, they hate those guys), a crow can send out a "caw to arms" that will bring in all of his or her neighbours to chase and attack the invader.

It can be pretty spectacular. Crows are as vicious as they are intelligent.

I don't think this was the case here. Unless there was a particularly stubborn owl they had happened upon.

The crowd started breaking up about 20-minutes later. Even after it had dwindled to a couple of dozen, we kept our distance.

I really wish I knew what was going on. Thoughts?


I found out today I can retire in 24 years.

Henry will be 27. Jane will be 25. I'll be 54. Erin will be lovely.

The Stick Whippers

As long as Erin and I have been together we've shared a passion for coming up with new band names.

They come at the funniest times.

A discussion on a news story about an airplane: "Hey, The Nose Cones. That'd be an awesome band name."

Some of my other favourites: The Elderly, The Decoys.

Erin is especially good at it. We often debate the grammar of a truly rockin' name. Like whether the "The" is necessary in any given name. The jury is still out on whether it should be The Nose Cone, or The Nose Cones.

The former seems like a pretentious art-rock band. The latter, just kinda silly.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to discover 3-year old Henry has been taking all of this in.

The other morning before getting up for the day, he and his mum were cuddling in bed. He was giggling about having a "breast pillow."

"The Pillowy Breasts," he announced. "That be a great band name."

I nearly died.

Yesterday evening we took a walk around the park down the street. He was having fun chucking sticks into the lake.

"The Stick Whippers. That'd be a great band name."

The boy is a rock-marketing genius.

one brave little leaf

The much-hyped storm is mostly over now. Noel was supposed to bare down with full strength at just before midnight last night. I remember waking up around 3 thinking he was pretty wussy.

But he was just holding off. The big show didn't start until about 5AM, and that's when the baby and I got up to watch.

Cape Breton escaped the brunt of it, and we managed to keep our power on, but what a show. After pancakes this morning, the four of us curled up in a couple of chairs that we dragged to the front window.

The sustained winds weren't much to write home about, but the gusts were pretty dramatic. All the wires on our street were dancing polkas. The trees did their little shimmy shims too.

In the end, it wasn't so bad. It's over but for a few gusts.

I was pretty sure this was the storm that would strip the maple tree in our backyard of her pretty red leaves. I was mostly right. There's one brave little leaf still flapping away.

storm's a comin'

So seal the submarine and batten the hatches.
-Benn Ross

What's left of Hurricane Noel is just a few hours away from Nova Scotia. After supper, they're saying the wind will be gusting up to 90km/h, and by the time we go to bed, that's supposed to be more like 120.

The only time I've experienced wind like that was a huge blizzard in Iqaluit our first spring there. The strongest gusts topped out at about 118.

I remember seriously worrying about whether our building was going to blow over. The whole place was shaking.

This old place seems pretty sturdy, so I'm more excited than worried. We're stocked with candles and Hallowe'en candy rations in case anything too horrible happens. There's also the fireplace....

See you on the other end.

ode to a commode

O upstairs Toilet!
Your polished oaken seat is never cold;
and it matches the sink surround.
Your brass hardware is more than I could ask for:
functional; stylish;
green with wisdom.
Your lines and comfort are complimented only
by your proximity to the bathroom radiator.
Toasty legs.

O upstairs Toilet!
Please accept this offering of thanks!
Joyfully given.


Say what you will about the candy commercialism of Hallowe'en, but I just met every last person on my street. Each one ooh'd and ah'd over how cute my kids are (and they are) as they dropped fistfuls of yum into their bags. One house was even doling out shots of rum to weary parents.

And, it was (and still is) a beautiful, starry night. Just a bit of chill. The furnace just kicked in and the rads are starting to make that warming up sound.

Cape Bretoners have a thing for fireworks at Hallowe'en. I keep hearing the pops and bangs. I watched a stream of them out my back window a few minutes ago as I finished up the supper dishes.

The girl's asleep, and the boy's nearly with her. I think it's time to cull out the candy that's not good for them.


I was taking a walk on my lunch hour the other day, and happened to stroll under a maple tree. There was a rustling sound in the (few remaining) leaves, and I looked up. At just that moment, a chicken bone fell from the tree to about six inches from my left foot.

The crow that dropped it took off in a cawing flurry to a power line about 100 metres away.

I kept on my walk. When I passed by, he meowed at me.

I never gave crows much thought before I lived in the arctic. There aren't any there, but ravens are plentiful. I was so amazed by this bird which not only survives in the coldest, darkest, rawest environment on the planet, but has enough spare time to mess with the minds of dogs.

I remember watching a raven toying with a dog that was tied up by the sea ice. By the time I got there, the raven had figured out how far the chain would let the dog stray from its pin. The raven would slowly inch its way into that radius, sneaking in, step by step, until the dog couldn't take it anymore and would explode in a barking rage to the end of the chain.

The raven got away every time. Casually. Easily. And every time, the dog felt stupid for choking itself. You could see him vowing never to be fooled again. But he was. I watched the raven lure him back about a dozen times.

When we moved to Saint John, there weren't many ravens to watch. There are lots in rural NB, but we had only crows in our neighbourhood.

I heard a cawing commotion out my back door one day last summer. When I went outside, I found about 20 of them had discovered a powerful updraft created by a steep hill by the pizza place up the street. They would ride that wind about 30 metres straight up, then tilt their wings backward to kick out of the draft. Without a flap, they'd free fall to just above the ground, then glide forward a few metres to catch the updraft again and go shooting back in the air.

It looked like a ferris wheel.

In our new neihgbourhood in Cape Breton, we have both ravens and crows. It's nice to hear the low, mechanical 'quonks' of the ravens again.

Pole Cat

I just walked in the door from my second week with the Cape Breton Chorusmen (the other CBC). It's sounds lame, but the barbershop harmonies give me goosebumps.

Have you ever been singing, and the chords rings so true that it makes your face hurt from smiling? That's what barbershop does. When the four notes hit just right, it creates a fifth note - an overtone - above and beyond the actual notes. It's a wonderful feeling. Like god is making you a quintet.

I love the sense of history with barbershop. They try to rely as little on the sheet music as possible. Partially because some of the guys can't read it, but also because you can learn so much by listening to the guy singing beside you.

I sing tenor (which is waaaay up in the falsetto) with one other guy, named Tom. Tom learned most of the songs we sang tonight 28 years ago from another guy. That other guy learned them when he started 30 years before that. It's a neat feeling... especially when I pointed out Tom's been singing a mistake for 28 years.

He blamed the guy who taught him.

There was this hilarious moment tonight where, during a song with a march tempo, we all got up and marched around the church basement. Two by two, we clomped around the room. It was wonderfully cheesy. I can't wait for next week.

Six Years

Erin and I were married six years ago today.

I remember, I showed up at the old stone train station and most of the guests were already there. Erin looked so calm and beautiful in her cream-coloured, felt dress. She had made this simple bag out of scraps of maroon canvas and old, oversized buttons. What a lady.

Yesterday, I found little Jane playing with that bag. She had put her two favourite toys, Big Baby and Little Baby, inside. She carried it around the house looking proud of her beautiful bag and beautiful babies. So much like her lovely mum.

Happy Anniversary, Erin. Wear the moose hat tonight, ok?

Part IV: A New Hope

An amazing few moments of silence while the kids sleep. It almost seems like I've got the house to myself. Mumma E's accross the street at a costume party with all of our new neighbours. She's dressed up like a moose. Funny, she makes the antlers sexy somehow.

We're attending this party in shifts. She wandered over about half-an hour ago with a beer tucked in her coat pocket and a plate of pate under her arm. Again, sexy.

She'll be back any second. Then I get to sport the moose hat and make an appearance. I know it's useful to make an effort at these things in the early days of a new place, but damn, I hate mingling. Normally, I have a baby in my arms to shield me from small talk. Tonight, I fly solo.

Ah, the anters and beer will help.

I think I've got a few minutes left to myself. Might get a few rounds done on the hat I've been knitting.