Alice builds a tower of blocks at the kitchen table. I make coffee. Everyone else is sleeping.

Alice's tower topples.

Alice: Rrrrrrr. I angry at someone.

Me: Who are you angry at?

Alice: Maybe Henry.

A moment

It is middle of the afternoon on this snow day. We have assembled many puzzles. We have made light sabres from paper tubes, paint, and tin foil. We have had dance parties in the kitchen. Now it is time for popcorn.

We all sit around the little round table by the big window in the front room. Except for the munching, we are silent.

We watch the wind blow outside our window. The drifts are magnificent, and grow more so with each puff of wind and snow. We are all lost in our individual thoughts about the day, and about the fun that still lies ahead.

Jane: What does dog puke look like?

Maritime Magazine podcast

As promised, the podcast for my Maritime Magazine story, "The Supernova Hunters, Part Two", is up. 'Tis here, if you are so inclined.

Compromise: when no one gets what they want

Alice and Jane both received dolls for Christmas. They love them. They play with them every day. It's girly heaven.

Until this afternoon, when neither wanted to play with their respective babies. Nor the backup babies. No, they both wanted to play with Stella.

Poor Stella. The ratty, unloved third-tier doll with the unfortunate and un-washable stain above her lip that makes her look like baby Hitler. This afternoon, Stella had her moment in the sun. Everyone wanted her.

Alice screamed. Jane cried. Then Jane screamed and Alice cried. It was a fun half-hour.

Finally, Janey suggested they share Stella. Alice thought this was a wonderful new idea, despite me having already suggested it dozens of times.

Jane: I'll be the mumma. You be the grandma.

Alice: No, I mumma. You grandma.

Jane: I don't want to be the grandma. I'm the mumma!


This went on for another ten minutes. Then...

Jane: What if we're both the grandmas?

A pause. A consideration. A decision.

Alice: OK!

Two-year-olds of the world: Alice has your back

Alice stands on a chair at the kitchen counter. She is helping Erin make icing for cupcakes.

Erin: Use your spoon to mix it up.

Alice: (mashing awkwardly at the butter with her big wooden spoon) It's too hard.

Erin: You'll get it.

Alice pokes, stirs, and grunts. Eventually, the cocoa, butter, sugar, and milk start to mix together in a mass of creamy dark brown.

Alice: It's changing!

Erin: That's what's neat about baking. There are some magical changes.

Alice: Mah-jih-kal changes. Magical changes.

Erin: It's not every two-year-old who can say "magical changes."

Alice turns on her. Her brow furrows. Her stare is intense.

Alice: Yes we can.

My wife

Wednesday evening.

The storm is finally whipping up. All afternoon, they warned of it. Here it is.

Erin has Henry at his weekly basketball class. The roads are getting bad. She probably cannot see this from the gym. I consider calling to tell them to come home before it gets worse.

Nah, she's a big girl.

An hour goes by. They are not home. Surely, they didn't stop somewhere on the way home. Surely.

The door blows open. Snow swirls around outside. Two bundled packages of human stumble onto the landing. One of them holds a shopping bag.

Me: (more of a statement, than a question) You stopped for groceries.

Erin: We can't have a storm day without butter.

Maritime Magazine

I'll be on the CBC Radio program Maritime Magazine this coming Sunday morning to update a story I produced for them back in 2006. The original story was called "The Supernova Hunters." It featured a couple of amateur astronomers who did what many believed was impossible for anyone but a professional -- they discovered a supernova. They've since discovered several more, and now one the fellow's daughters, just ten-years-old, is discovering them, too.

If you like geeky science stories, or just enjoy hearing old Davy yakking on the radio, it'll be a real hoot. It's 8:30 a.m. Atlantic this Sunday morning. It'll be also available early next week as a podcast. I'll update with a link when it's live.

UPDATE: Listen to The Supernova Hunters, Part II here. Part I, from 2006, can be found here.

Putting the "fun" in "funeral home"

Driving. Me at the wheel.

Me: See that funeral home? It's really popular.

Henry: Yeah, people are dying to get in.

I smile. I have trained him well.

Expecting the worst. Receiving the best.

It's a slushy, snowy day. We are driving home to PEI from New Brunswick. Erin is at the wheel.

Erin: What's this guy doing?

Me: Who?

A dark BMW passes us on the left.

Erin: I just passed this guy. And now he's passing me.

Me: (grinning) Beemer Man probably disliked being passed by a woman.

Erin: Whoa!

Beemer Man abruptly cuts in front of our car and turns on his four-way flashers. He is slowing down.

Me: He's trying to force you over.

Erin slows the car. She considers pulling up beside him to ask him what the problem is, but there are cars coming up fast from behind. We park behind him on the shoulder of the highway. The kids in the back seat are being uncharacteristically patient.

Beemer Man throws open his door and jumps out. He is obviously agitated.

Erin: This could be bad. What should I do?

Me: Just be patient. You haven't done anything wrong.

Beemer Man approaches Erin's window. I ready myself to defend, verbally or otherwise.

Beemer Man: Your gas cap is dangling off the side of your car. If you get any weather in the tank, you could have some serious engine problems.

Erin: Oh! Thank-you!

Thanks a lot!

I jump out, replace the cap, and return to my seat. As Beemer Man pulls away, Erin and I both wave like ninnies.

Erin: That was nice.

Me: That was nice.

Erin: We were such jerks.

Me: We were such jerks.

Dentist. Therapist.

As I sat in the chair yesterday having my teeth cleaned, I remembered I intended to write a sequel to this post.

Later, in my first appointment with my new dentist.

Dentist: I noticed a bit of wear on your teeth.

Me: What would that be from?

Dentist: Well, most often stress.

I nod.

Dentist: It doesn't appear to be old damage. I don't mean to pry, but would you have gone through a stressful period in the past two years?

Me: Oh, yes. I would say so.

Dentist: Have you had headaches?

Me: Yeah. And I never had them before.

Dentist: Most often in the morning, I bet. After a night with clenched, grinding teeth.

Me: Wow. You're totally right.

Dentist: I wouldn't even mention any of this if I didn't see evidence of improvement.

Me: You can see that?

Dentist: Looks to me like you haven't been grinding in the past several months, maybe half a year. Which tells me things are maybe better than they were?

I stare at him a moment.

Me: Can we set up a counseling schedule?

Left behind

Two of the selling points on our current house (can a rental place have a selling point?) were the kids who live next door. Jonah, eight-years-old, is Henry's constant companion. Jane calls Jonah's big sister, Jessica, her best friend.

Jess was eleven when we moved in. She was and is the nicest kid you could ever meet. Erin and I have watched her play with Jane many times and have smiled at her creativity, patience, and sense of play. 

But eleven becomes twelve, and twelve becomes thirteen. 

Hide-and-go-seek is a little less frequent than it was. Games of tag almost never happen anymore. Jess has friends over, and she goes to a lot of sleepovers. She and her friends occasionally invite Jane over so they can paint her nails and fawn over her golden curls. Jane relishes these moments. But they are rare.


New Year's Day, Jess comes home from a slumber party. She looks worn. Jane nearly jumps on her in the driveway.

Jane: Jess! Want to come over to play?

Jess: I'd love to, buddy, but I have to clean my room.

Jane does a twirl. They both love to dance.

Jane: Well, you can come over after that.

Jess hefts her bag on her shoulder. She looks around. Bits of remnant makeup from the night before circle her eyes. She looks too old and too young.

Jess: Well. I'm pretty tired. I think I'm going to take a nap.

Jane: (frowning) What about after that?

Jess: I think we're going to visit some friends after that.

Jane: OK.

Jane walks back to the house. Her head is slung low, but not in the dramatic mock pout she has recently refined. 

She growls at Alice, who runs crying to the kitchen. Tears beget tears, and suddenly Jane is crying, too. I give her a hug.

Jane: Why won't Jess play with me?

Me: She wants to, Jane. She's just...

I don't finish my sentence. "She's just growing up without you." 

We hug some more, then play a few rounds of hide-and-go-seek. She has fun, but the remnant red from crying circles her eyes. She looks too old and too young.

The living, the dead, and the fictional


Jane: Is Anne dead?

Erin: Um, Anne who?

Jane: That girl with red hair.

Erin: Anne of Green Gables? She's not real, Sweety.

Jane: Yeah, but is she dead?

Erin: Well... she's not alive. But she was never alive. She is from a book. 

Jane: OK.

A few moments pass.

Jane: So when did Anne of Green Gables die?

Erin: (calmly) Anne of Green Gables is a character in a story. She was made up by a woman more than a hundred years ago. She is in a book. There never was an Anne of Green Gables. She's just a very nice character from a story. 

Jane: So she's not alive.

Erin: Correct.

Jane: But if she was really alive...

Erin: If Anne of Green Gables were alive, she would definitely be dead. Yes.

Jane smiles. She settles back into her car seat and gazes out the window.

Jane: I was just checking.