Grandma, demoted

Henry's best friend/nemesis is a 4-year old named Kinnon. He lives a couple of doors down from us. I like Kinnon a lot. He's very smart, very aggressive and has very little self control. He's the only person I know who can hug violently.

The other day he woke up before the crack of dawn and called his grandma out in Louisboug. It was very early. Grandma was not quite awake.

Grandma: Erm, hello?

Kinnon: Grandma, you're not the boss of me, you know.

Grandma: Kinnon? Is that you.

Kinnon: Mum and Dad are my bosses. You better stop trying to boss me. (click)

This is why we haven't yet taught Henry to use the phone. I'm convinced he would use it for evil.

Don's great idea

On my walk to work this morning, I started thinking about a comment The Book of Don wrote about this blog post . So, after consulting with my boss, here's the all-staff e-mail I sent out today:

O yea! O yea! I do call the Cape Breton Chapter of the Order of Good Cheer to.. order. You are hereby inducted as a member in good standing.

Whereas, winter sucks; and

Whereas, it is currently winter; and

Whereas, the provincial government doesn't see fit to give us a day off during the greyest, suckiest glut of holiday-less time of the year; and

Whereas, Samuel de Champlain set precedence by raising the morale, spirits and survival rate of his merry band at Porte Royale over the winter of 1606/07 by creating a social/dinner club called the Order of Good Cheer; and

Whereas, Zeppelin Rules!

Be it therefore resolved by the assembled members of the CB Chapter of the Order of Good Cheer that we take an extended lunch on Friday, February the 8th to have a little fun. A little Bar-B-Q, a little potluck, a little drink, followed by a good-old game of street hockey in the parking lot. The spirit of winter will be killed by our festive attitudes, summer-inspired attire and general merriment.

Adopted this 28th Day of January, 2008. Royal Ascent granted by [insert my boss' name here] on the same date.

Details to follow. Interested?

I'll let you know how it turns out.

almanac 9

We had delicious cold for more than a week. Many days in a row I woke up to minus 15 degrees and wind chills well into the minus 20s. One minus 26 day I walked half-an-hour to town from my office just to drop something off at the bank.

"Can I call you a cab?"

"No, thanks. I think I'll walk back."

"May I please call you a cab?"

The guy with the rabbit fur hat with the big stupid grin on his face? That was me.

All that is gone now. It's well above freezing today with heavy rains. I walked home in ankle deep water and slush. On some sidewalks, where the old snow is banked up along the sides, water rushes in deep rivers searching for the holes in my winter boots. Blech.

Investment pays off

I belong to a club of men who tricked quality women into marrying below them. I don't know how I did it. I suspect Brut had something to do with it.

Besides being hilarious, creative, biting and beautiful, Erin is nice. She's damn nice.

Not everyone repays niceness with more nice. Some choose to walk all over it. Others repay it by using your shared driveway as a service centre for a local taxi company. I digress.

Sydney is one of the few places that has repaid Erin's niceness in kind. Yesterday was a great example:

Two doors down from us live a nice young couple with a son around Henry's age. We really like them. The wife's mother lives with them, and she's pretty great herself. Friday night she called Erin with an invitation. Every year, she likes to take her two daughters out for dinner and "retail therapy" (shopping blitz). She and her room-mate daughter were sitting around bemoaning the fact that Daughter Two up and moved this year to Ontario and couldn't make it.

"Well... what about Erin?"

So Erin got invited along for some much-needed girl time. She was gone most of the afternoon and evening. They stuffed themselves silly at dinner, and then dared each other to fill up the spaces with desert. They all did. She was so happy when she got home.

The neighbours who live right next to us are a hilariously sassy older couple. The wife is gluten intolerant, but loves to bake. She wears a mask so she doesn't inhale any gluten when she's baking the wheaty stuff her husband loves. Erin decided a few months back someone needed to bake for her.

The woman turned 80 this past weekend, and Erin surprised her with a cake: a beautiful, savory-sweet bunt cake with apricot glaze and (most importantly) no wheat.

Last night, as I was getting the kids ready for bed, there was a knock at the back door. I opened to find the woman was sending our plate back (with her husband) covered in cookies (the plate, not the husband).

"That cake sure was good. Frances was overwhelmed that Erin went to all of that trouble. Tell your wife she's one nice lady."

I did. She is.

playing Bird Find

Erin had her first pre-natal appointment with her new doctor today (good news, it's not a flipper baby). I stayed home with Henry and Jane for a few hours while she was there.

After a quick game of crokinole with Henry (mostly he piles up the chips and knocks them down), we invented a new game; it's called Bird Find. You sit at the front window (which Henry calls the Nature Channel) and look for birds. The first to spot one (and get it confirmed by a second party) gets a point. First person to 20 wins.

I thought this would keep them busy for a couple of minutes. We ended up playing several rounds and staying there for more than half an hour.

The fun part for Henry is the waiting. The "oh-my-god-I-can't-wait-to-see-another-bird-and-I'm-totally-going-to-see-it-first-because-Jane-is-only-one-and-I'm-totally-going-to-win-because-I'm-three-and-Zepplin-Rules" part. He was shaking with anticipation. Also, you can skyrocket from last place to first by seeing a flock of starlings swarm by (as Jane did once, to her fantastic glee). It was a blast.

Boy, a lot of parenthetical asides today (yes, several).

Sam's great idea

I'm not normally seasonally affected, but this week I'm feeling a bit so. Creatively sleepy. Absent.

People make a lot of how predictably depressing the third week of January is. Mostly they blame the weather, the post-Christmas debt. I think it has a little more to do with anti-climax.

Winter solstice passes and we do a little jig to celebrate that we've beaten the darkest night of the year. "It only gets lighter from here!", we say.

January 22nd, a month later: "It's still frickin' dark. And now it's cold too."

Samuel de Champlain and the boys in the early 17th century had the right idea. The winter of 1605/06 was a rough one for the whole crew at Porte Royale(like, people died and stuff). This New World was nasty. What better way to best it, they thought, than with some Old World hospitality.

They started L’Ordre de Bon Temps - The Order of Good Cheer. A social club to bring a bit of warmth and camaraderie to this harsh environment. Each member of the order took turns as host. And each host saw it his duty to put on a better spread than the night before. Often, he would spend a couple of days in the bush hunting for the perfect game to prepare a lavish spread.

It worked. Fewer died (my measure of success on almost any venture). And by all accounts, it was a good time.

Paul Kennedy at CBC's Ideas proposed The Order of Good Cheer as a mid-winter holiday for Canadians. I like it. I understand it. I need it. Certainly better than Family Day.

my Saturday morning girl

For the last three Saturday's mornings, I've had Jane all to myself. We call a cab and do the week's grocery shopping while Erin and Henry got to the farmers' market.

I realize the Sydney River Stupidstore isn't the most fun place to have a date with your 18-month old daughter, but I like it. She babbles from her little perch in the cart while I push it up and down the same aisle over and over (I'm lousy at navigating that place). She's fantastic at making friends. I get to be the guy with the pretty baby.

"You were supposed to remind me to get frozen berries!" I'd say.

"Bee bo. Ya, Daddy."

She loves when I get the list out and consult her on what we have left to get.

"Ok, we've got bread -"


"But we still need eggs."


Erin called me yesterday at work to propose we do our Stupidstore shopping that night so we could all go to the farmers' market together today. I think I surprised her by saying 'no.' I do love the market, and I enjoy the sense of community there. I've just come to love this weekly date.

almanac 8

-13 on my walk to work this morning. I reveled in the perfect coldness. The air was still. The sky was clear. The smoke from chimneys rose into slow clouds above the houses in my neighbourhood.

My only wish was that it was -30. Now there's a temperature.

I'm trying to ignore the forecast for tonight. "Rising Temperatures" (read: kids and cats won't sleep a wink) and freezing rain. Give me Iqaluit weather any day (except in the Fall).

new knitting: a pair of socks... for me

I keep giving away everything I knit. A pair of mitts I finished last winter right before my brother's birthday (ok, mine too; we're twins) ended up becoming his present. I made a fantastic hat this December that ended up being too perfect for my dad to not give it to him for Christmas.

Another hat went to Erin. A pair of socks went to Henry (who hasn't worn them yet). A scarf knit with yarn spun by my sister went to my mum.

I'm trying again with a pair of socks. They're grey and brown. You can't have them.

Finding Nimoy

A recent conversation with Henry:

Henry: Hey Dad. Let's play Nemo.

Dad: Ok. Who am I?

H: Nemo's dad.

D: Who are you?

H: Nemo.

D: Hi, Nemoo. How are you?

H: Not Ne-MOO, Ne-MO.

D: Ok. Got it. Hi, Memo.


D: Nimoy? Like Leonard Nimoy?

H: Dad! Not Nimoy. NEE-MO.

D: (squints, looks at Henry's mouth) I'm sorry... what are you saying?

H: Nemo.

D: (cocks head to one side) One more time.

H: Nemo!

D: Nee --

H: Yes...

D: --moot.


D: Nonemo.

H: Dad!

D: What?

H: (breathing heavy, trying to calm himself) Ok. Dad. Nemo is my name.

D: Nemois. Ok. Hi, Nemois.

H: No, Dad! Stop it!

D: Stop what?

Erin: (interjects) You are such an ass.

D: I thought I was Nemo's dad.

H: You said 'Nemo'!

D: Shoot. Ok. Hi, Nemo.

H: Hi. Let's swim!

D: Sure. What's Nemo's dad's name again?

H: Marlin.

D: Hi, Nemo. I'm Marvin.


almanac 7


Aahh! I'm melting. Melting.

Who ever thought a good little girl like you could foil my devious plans.

Melting.... melting. Oh ho...

Stupid January thaw.

My oil tank and me

I swear, I never saw a home heating oil tank before I moved to the Maritimes.

Maybe I just wasn't looking because I was living in my naive, Ontario, natural gas world, but I don't remember seeing one.

Erin and I moved to Fredericton on New Years Eve 2001 (we drove straight through from Ontario in a U-haul, unloaded half the truck, dug out the mattress and sheets, crashed and woke up to find it was 2002). I picked up a copy of The Daily Gleaner the next day to try and wrap my head around my new home.

There was a full-page story about the first-ever New Brunswicker to switch from oil to natural gas heat. I remember chuckling through the article, especially the questions (from both the reporter and the guy) about whether it would feel warm.

I like that oil is a delivered utility. It helps me ration the stuff better than if there was a seemingly unending supply. In Iqaluit, even water is delivered to your house. Scary, at times, to think that if that truck doesn't show up, you're screwed. But, there's also that wonderful feeling of relief when you hear the truck arrive, back up, bang the ice from the lines and start pumping.

We keep our house cool: 18 degrees during the day and 16 at night. We pile on the sweaters if (when) that seems too cold. My Ontario mum, who came to visit over Christmas, found it a little chilly. She never said anything, but I kept finding the thermostat touched up a few degrees from where I'd last left it. It was kind of fun.

I play a funny game with my oil tank. I convince myself that as long as I don't look at it, I don't have to worry about it. I generally have an idea of how much oil we have, but I sill take chances. I avoided looking at the tank from about Christmas Day to just a few days ago. I finally pushed denial aside on Sunday, only to find the indicator below the "-E-" line. I called my oil company.

"Mercer's Fuel."

"Uh, hi. Sorry to bug you on a Sunday, but I was wondering if I could order half a tank of oil?"

"Ok. Is it an emergency, or can we bring it tomorrow?"

"Uh..." I paused to think about just how far below the empty line the tank was. "Well......... I guess.. tomorrow.. would be... fiiine."

I didn't sleep very well. I kept waiting for some sign that we'd run out of oil (I don't know why, but I imagined either a loud clunking sound, or maybe sirens). When we woke up, the furnace was still chugging along.

Jane was the first to see the truck arrive that morning.

"Beep Beep! Beep Beep!" She ran around the house, shouting at the top of her lungs. I was pretty happy too.

We'll play the whole game over again in February, I'm sure.

Another band name by Erin

Inspired by the juxtaposition of French and English printing on an extra-large bag of diapers:

Mega Super Mega.

Onion Rings

I hate morning sickness.

Mostly I hate it because there's almost nothing I can do to help Erin through it. The poor thing.

Food disgusts her. Thinking of food makes her sick. The cure for the sick is food. But food disgusts her.

Erin has always been the world's best eater. She could eat a meal of tofu, kale, beets and kamut toast slathered with tahini and still wonder if she should heat up a side dish of peas (because she's light on the green vegetables).

When she's pregnant, she craves junk. She's been avoiding the Sobey's downtown because it's right beside an A&W. I think she's afraid that she might (gasp) buy and eat something.

I believe her body craves this stuff because it's telling her she needs it. Building humans isn't light work. It requires fuel. And if the fuel required just happens to include a sack of onion rings, damn it, that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make with her. Hell, we're in this together.

Do it for the baby, Erin.

Update: we went. It was fabulous.

Tomato Detective

On my way to work, I climb a small hill. The street that runs along the top of that hill is called Mount Kemmel.

I don't know why I've thought so much about that name, but it's nagged at me. The hill ain't exactly a Mount, and a quick search of the phone book found no Kemmels anywhere in Sydney.

The street is only about 40 meters long. It has about six houses on one side, and a Catholic Church and cemetery on the other.

I realized the church and cemetery hold the answer. Say "Mount Carmel" enough times (with a Caper accent) and you'd eventually start to spell it wrong too.

2007 is done?

A brief review:

Knit a pair of mitts, a pair of socks, two hats and a scarf.

Competed for a job and lost it.

Competed for another job and got it.

Said good-bye to my dog (ah, Murph. That spot on the couch will always be yours) .

Knocked up the wife.

Taught Jane to walk.

Taught Henry to ask questions (this, I sometimes regret).

Taught Henry about Star Wars (questions about Luke Skywalker are ok).

Left a city I loved.

Moved to a city I knew nothing about.

Learned to love a new city.

Sold a house.

Bought a house.

Said good-bye to crappy neighbours.

Said hello to the universe's best neighbours (on both sides, mind you).

Continued to be amazed by the grace, talent, patience, creativity and sexiness of my wife.

Cleaned the litter box at least once (I think).

Started a blog.

almanac 6

Another big storm. Shovelled out at 7. By 7:45, all evidence of shovelling was gone.

I trudged through some drifts on my walk to work this morning that came up over my knees. The only other walker was an old Caper in a green flannel coat and ball cap.

"s'Not that bad, really."