More sketchy/painty stuff

Just a few more pictures from the past couple of days.

Henry and his ever-present Lego.

Jane. Sweet Jane.

Me and my pal.

Snow day graffiti

Someone walked down our street last night and wrote the word "BOOBS" in the fresh snow on every windshield. We discovered their handiwork this morning. Alice, in particular, enjoyed pointing them out.

Snowy sketches

Fleas and mosquitoes

Early morning. Alice is trying to reach an itchy flea bite on her back. When she realizes she can't reach it with her hands, she starts rubbing her back against the door frame.

Alice: I think I've figured out why fleas bite us.

Me: Why is that?

Alice: I think they're eating our blood.

Me: I think you're right.

Alice: Are fleas related to mosquitoes?

Me: Well, they're both insects. But I don't think they're closely related.

Alice: Oh.

She finds a particularly effective corner of the door frame for scratching against. She looks like a bear rubbing itself against a tree.

She pauses and looks at me.

Alice: Are they at least friends?

What's the one thing you wish you did better as a parent?

Take a listen to my CBC Radio column for November, would ya? It features four-year-old Alice singing "Ina: little teapot."


My pal Ty Stapleton and I went busking the other day over our lunch to raise a bit of money for Movember. We'd had some luck with our Friday MOriginal Luv Songs and thought perhaps it was time to take this show on the road.

We set up on Queen Street in Charlottetown, just south of Grafton.

How'd we do?

Not so great. We made $6.08.

But, oh boy, was it ever fun! No joke.

Our other pal, the ever-talented Neal Gillis, popped by our little street show with his iPhone and made this l'il video. I think it turned out pretty neat.

Dave and Ty busk for Movember from Neal Gillis on Vimeo.

Incidentally, having a bro who happens to be a talented videographer: totally great.

If you'd like to donate to our Movember team, we'd sure appreciate it. Get your credit card and go here.

Remind me of this when she's too big to pick up

Morning. I'm in the kitchen. I hear Alice plodding down the stairs.

Me: Is that Alice I hear?

I hear her feet begin to run.

Alice: It's meeee!

She runs into the kitchen. I pick her up and give her a big hug. She wraps her arms around my neck.

Me: Good morning, you.

Alice: Good morning, Dad.

I put her down. She is still looking up, looking past me to the ceiling.

Alice: Wow. You go almost all the way up.

MOriginal Luv Song 2012: Song Dump #2

Another Friday in November, another edition of MOriginal Luv Songs!

Neally wanted a song called Bitter Dregs. I'll let YouTube Davy explain what that means and sing you the song.

(Original version of that song: right here)

Katrina, my pal in Cape Breton, couldn't decide what she wanted her song about.

See you next Friday, y'all. Meantime, donate your hearts out at

Pop quiz!

Multiple choice!

1. Scenario: You are eight-years-old. You save up your allowance to buy a Lego set.

You buy it. You bring it home. You build it. You love it.

Your dad, using Lego bricks you already own, builds nearly the identical thing.


Is this:

A) Awesome?

B) Not awesome?

Answer: It's both!

Next year's garlic

We stop at our community garden plot. I am amazed to find it still productive. We harvest greens and onions, which I will gleefully put in my belly at suppertime.

We also plant garlic for next year. Every culinary bone in my body screams in protest as I watch the cloves go into the earth.

I think of all the scapes and garlic I get to gleefully put in my belly next year.

I'm okay again.

MOriginal Luv Songs 2012: song dump one

Hey everyone! Day One of MOriginal Luv Songs 2012 went super great!

I started the day by making amends for, um, an incident last year.

And then I got a donation from my pal Melanie. She wanted a song about ice tea.

My Aunt Ruth Anne wanted a song about green tomatoes.

And finally, colleague Rebecca wanted a song about the cardboard cutout of a former colleague we keep in our office. We call him Plastic Felix.

So that's it for this week! If you want to donate to my Movember efforts, please do so at

If you want a song, well, wait for next week!

MOriginal Luv Songs 2012


The management is pleased to announce the return of MOriginal Luv Songs.

I will write and record an original song for you, on the subject of your choice, if you are one of the first three people to donate to my Movember page after 10 o'clock Atlantic time, tomorrow (November 2).

I'll write and record the songs over my lunch hour, and post them on YouTube in the afternoon so you can watch and enjoy them over and over and over again.

This was lots of fun last year. My Movember team, Taskforce Awesome, raised nearly 1500 bucks for prostate cancer research.

We'll do this every Friday throughout Movember. Sound great?


The leaves. Oh, god. The leaves.

Monday afternoon. We are at the little park in the shadow of Province House.

The leaves. Oh, god. The leaves.

They are falling all around us. It is a magical game. We run around with our eyes in the sky, trying to catch the leaves before they land on the ground.

The leaves. Oh, god. The leaves.

There are so many of them. They are perfect and crunchy and brown and yellow and not at all damp or yucky. We love them. We drag them into piles and jump in them. We bury each other in them.

The leaves. Oh, god. The leaves.

We throw them at each other. Great armfuls of leaves. On your head. On my head.

We are laughing. We are euphoric. It is a perfect afternoon.


Tuesday afternoon. Back at the park. The ground is bare but for a few leaves. Workers have come to clean them up. It is decidedly Less Fun.

I imagine the premier looking out the windows of Province House the day before, watching my family frolic and play in the leaves: our display of pure joy in the people's front yard.

His eyes narrow.

An aide enters the room. He places a tray of tea on a small table beside the premier.

Aide: Something vexes thee, my lord?

Premier: The leaves. Take them away!

He waves his arm and knocks the tea to the floor.

Aide: Yes, my liege. Right away.

*note: this is exactly how I imagine premiers spend their time.

Worst Scrabble plinth ever?

Or maybe I should learn to spell in binary?

For the record, Erin beat me 323 to 246.

Y. Because I love her.

We were married eleven years ago tonight in an old train station in southern Ontario. It snowed, if you can believe it possible of an October night near Leamington.

When I think of our first few years together, I think of Scrabble. The countless games we played over cups of coffee on our front porch, on sunny mornings that seemed as if they would never turn into afternoons.

One day, as I picked up a tile to spell a word, it slipped through my fingers. It fell to the ground, sliding between two planks on the porch.

Gone forever. It was a Y.

"In forty years, when we're playing Scrabble," said Erin, not missing a beat, "we'll curse that Y. We'll say, 'Remember the time we lost the Y?'"

Happy anniversary, Erin.

Gulls: chickens of the sea

Tuesday afternoon at Charlottetown's Victoria Park. Jane spies a flock of seagulls resting in an empty field. An urge, drawn from her memories of our days on the farm, stirs from deep inside her.

Seagulls are nearly the same size as chickens....

Jane loved chasing and picking up the chickens at the farm.....

Her eyes narrow with focused intent.

Jane: I'm going to pick up a seagull.

Alice gasps. She clutches her hands to her heart.

Alice: Oh! A seagull would be so soft!

In praise of Jane

There are people who are hard working. There are people who are creative. Precious few are both.

Jane is both.

Naming cruise ships and the accidental double entendre

We made a brief trip yesterday into Charlottetown and were greeted as we drove over the Hillsborough Bridge by three huge cruise ships at dock.

As we drove around downtown for our various stops, we were able to see the names. I forget them exactly, but they were things like Norwegian Dawn, or Ocean Princess, or Emerald Sunset.

We agreed they were pretty lame.

To kill a bit of time on the drive home, we started coming up with new cruise ship names. The rules were pretty simple. Pick one word that is vaguely related to water. Pick another that suggests something mystical or mythical. Put them together.

Here are a few:

Atlantis Sunrise (Henry)

Aqua Princess (Jane)

Fairy of the Sea (Alice)

Henry, especially, loved this game. I glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw his eyes sparkle as he assembled words in his head. I could tell he had just come up with a name he particularly loved.

"Wet Dream," he announced.

He sat back in his seat, very proud of himself. Totally oblivious. Neither of his parents cracked a smile.

"Nice one, Cornbread," I said. "Nice one."

The absolutely fool-proof method to make your little sisters scream

It's easy.

Step one: Loudly yell "Last one there is a rotten egg!"

Step two: Run.

Step three: Don't look back. No matter what.

The results are, predictably, as follows:

"Henry, I'm not racing."

"Henry, I said I'm not racing."

"I'm not racing, Henry."






Reasons not to be a baby penguin

If the sun is up, we cannot see it. Henry, Jane, and I have on our raincoats as we trudge through the rain to the barn for the early morning chores.

The kids have embraced the jobs on the farm. They're enjoying the rhythms of this place so much more this year.

The rain makes a terrific noise on the corrugated metal roof of the chicken barn. It is a comforting sound that seems to have stirred something deep from within Jane.

Jane: Dad, I would hate to be a baby penguin.

Me: Okaaaay. What made you think of that?

Jane: It's just, I would hate to have to eat penguin vomit.

All in the family

Alice has brought the Lego pig to the breakfast table. She is chatting with the small toy pig Jane has on the corner of her own plate.

"'My mummy is dead,'" she explains sadly.

Alice rips a pice of bacon from her plate and passes it to Jane's pig. She brightens up considerably.

"'Want to eat some of her tasty meat?'"

The gospel according to Alice

"Good news!" yells Alice.

She is tearing from one end of this old farmhouse to the other as she seeks her sister.

"Jane! Good news!"

We arrived last night to our friends' farm in Little Sands, PEI. While they take a well-earned vacation, we're caring for their four horses, two sheep, two dozen chickens, two dogs, donkey, and llama for the next ten days.

It is before 9 o'clock, but we've already chased chickens, pet horses, and pretended the hay wagon is a pirate jail. Life is, in a word, perfect.

"Jane!" Alice yells. "Good news!"

She finds her sister turning somersaults in the living room.

"What?" asks Jane.

Alice's feet can't stop stamping. Her news is exploding inside of her.

"Play-dough!" she screams. "Mum brought our play-dough!"

Dad, we need to talk. It's about the couch.

Jane takes a tentative step into the kitchen.

Jane: Daaaad?

Me: Mmm hmm?

Jane: How do you know if you've broken the couch?

I hesitate to answer. My eyes narrow slightly.

Me: Whyyyyy?

She turns and flees at top speed.

Jane: No reason!

Lest Dad's head get too big, let's discuss his gut

6:04 am. I am awake. I am grumpy? Maybe grumpy.

I stand beside Alice in the bathroom. She is washing her hands. I yawn and stretch. The bottom of my shirt raises to expose a bit of my belly.

Alice: Dad! You have a big tummy!

Me: Thanks.

Alice: It's huuuuuuge!

I look down.

Me: You think?

Alice: Oh yeah. It's like a beach ball.

Me: Really?

Alice: A beach ball with a belly button. NO WAIT! Your belly button is the thing you blow the beach ball up with!

She turns off the tap and dries her hands. She is very proud of her dad's-tummy-is-a-beachball analogy. She turns to walk out of the bathroom.

Alice: Anyway. It's a big tummy.

Another moment

As this story unfolded in real life, it struck me as awfully familiar. I was right.


Basmati rice. Red lentil curry. Diced tomatoes. Fresh cut vegetables. Bits of toast with melted cheese.

We munch in silence. We think about our busy morning and the afternoon ahead.

Alice: What does dog puke look like?

You have one new message. To listen to your message, press 1-1.


"Oh, hi guys. It's me, Josh. Listen, I guess I'm just calling to let you know that Soleil just discovered how to dial the phone all by herself, because she just handed it to me and, well, here we are. Anyway, we like you guys a lot. Talk to you later. Bye."



Recess on the playground. I am eight years old.

Mike*: Hey, I learned to whistle this weekend! Listen!

He puckers his lips and blows a breathy but sustained note.

Mike: Cool, huh?

We all agree. It's cool.

Me: Check this out. I can whistle blowing in and out.

I demonstrate a thin whistle, alternating between drawing and blowing.

All: Coooooool.

Tim: This is how I whistle for my dog! Whee-oo-wheet!

The rest of us exchange a look.We are baffled.

John: That's not whistling. That's just saying the words "whee-oo-wheet."

Tim looks hurt.

Tim: Yes it is! My dad says I'm a great whistler! Listen. Whee-oo-wheet! Whee-oo-wheet! Whee-oo...

He repeats the sound over and over, hoping that if he whee-oo-wheets enought times, what he believes to be true will actually become so. The rest of us exchange another look and make a silent pact.

Mike: Oh, right. Good job!

Me: That's really great.

John: Yeah. Let's go play hide and seek.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent

An excruciating photo

I was going to post it here. I don't think I can.

I know it has family historical value. As in, "Hey, remember the time Jane got her hair tangled in the ropes?"

We were all in our pal Posie's backyard, celebrating her fourth birthday. The yard's dominant feature is a giant swing set suspended from two tall trees. The set is so large, it is both beautiful and terrifying.

Jane was sitting on one of the swings, twisting herself up until the rope handles were completely entwined, then letting go and spinning at a million miles an hour. It is not a ride for the faint of stomach.

In the photo, Jane has finished her spinny ride and has just realized her long curly hair has somehow become wrapped around the swing's rope handles. The old ropes had frayed into tiny dots of nylon. The dots grabbed onto her hair and held on like Velcro.

I know Bonnie, the photographer, didn't realize what she was taking a picture of when the shutter clicked. Like the two adults in the frame, the horrible realization was still a second or two away.

Jane was so brave. I was chatting with someone halfway across the yard and didn't realize anything was wrong until she was nearly free. By the time I got there, her mother was speaking soothing words into her ear while the gentle hands of friends released her hair from the ropes.

I can't look at the photo. Not yet.

But you can, if you like.

Sorry about everything (The Wes Anderson edition)

My pal Neally thought my Sorry about everything post from a few days back read a bit like dialogue from a Wes Anderson movie.

Turns out, he was right.

Cornnui /n. boredom or mental weariness from corn


Alice: I'm bored.

Me: How can you be bored? It's breakfast.

Alice: There's nothing to do.

Me: You could finish eating your cereal.

She taps on her cornflakes with the back of her spoon. Tiny droplets of milk splash against the inside rim of her bowl.

Alice: These cornflakes are taking forever.

Sorry about everything

It is just after six a.m.. The bedroom is dimly lit by the glow of the early morning sky. The sound of rain comes in the open window.

Jane and Alice are mostly awake. They lie resting for a few more minutes side-by-side on the big bed.

Alice: I'm so sorry, Jane.

Jane: What do you mean?

Alice: I mean, I'm sorry.

Jane: About what?

Alice lets out a long sigh.

Alice: Everything.

Jane rolls onto her side to face Alice. She rubs her arm.

Jane: It's okay. You didn't do anything.

Alice turns away.

Alice: Then I'm not sorry at all.

An exchange of skills

Jane: Alice taught me how to make baby dragons out of Lego, and I taught her how to roll her eyes!

Clear Erin's calendar for the next day, she would like a cup of tea

Friday evening at our friends' house. The scattered remains of a wonderful supper lay scattered about the table. The laughs and shrieks of our kids playing in the backyard drift through the screen door.

Hostess: Would you like some tea?

Erin: Sure. You don't have jasmine, do you? I haven't been able to find any for a while.

Our hosts exchange a look.

We do, but... we're pretty sure it made us sick.

They bought this new jasmine tea a few days back and brewed it for lunch the next day. Shortly after, they experienced gut-wrenching pain. At the time, they assumed they had come down with the flu. By suppertime that night, both were feeling a bit better, but neither felt up to a full meal. Our hostess made herself a second cup of tea, at which point the wrenching pain returned.

As they tell the story, my inner voices are having a debate.

Inner Voice One: Oh god. We know how this is going to end.

Inner Voice Two: What do you mean?

Inner Voice One: They're going to say Erin can try the tea if she likes. They may even offer her the box. They are very very nice people.

Inner Voice Two: She wouldn't take it, would she?

Inner Voice One: Think for a moment about how much Erin loves jasmine tea.

Erin loves jasmine tea. Its aroma, its colour, its flavour. I remember early in our marriage, Erin ordered by mail these exquisite tiny balls of dried jasmine leaves. Drop one into your cup of steaming water, and it slowly unfurls into a delicate flower.

Inner Voice One: She's going to take it. Just watch.

Our hostess is just finishing her tale.

Hostess: we can't say for sure that it was the tea that made us sick.

She shrugs.

Host: It was delicious, but I'm not taking any chances. You can take the box, if you like.

Inner Voice One: Wait for it... Wait for it...

I'd love to! Thanks!

Inner Voice One: Told you.

The weight of the world

It's just after six in the morning. Henry and I are walking the dog along the Confederation Trail. The sun is just starting climb over the trees.

Me: You took a long time to fall asleep last night.

Henry: Yup.

Me: Everything okay?

He sighs.

Henry: It just takes forever to fall asleep. I just can't stop thinking about things.

Me: And then you start to worry that you're thinking too much about things, and then it's an hour later and you're still awake.

Henry: Yes! It's just like that.

The trail here is intersected by a street. Henry hits the button to activate the pedestrian crossing. We walk across and continue on the trail. Our feet crunch in the gravel.

Me: So what is it you're thinking about that's keeping you awake?

Henry: Mostly Lego.

Why don't you go ahead and tell Alice it's time to go home

We had dinner at our friends' farm a few weekends back to celebrate their birthdays. I had a lovely talk with one of our hostesses about their beehives, which were just a few dozen paces from where we ate supper in the yard. Jane and Henry were enamoured with the chickens pecking and scratching behind the barn.

Alice was more a fan of the hammocks, of which they had three suspended between trees in the shady side yard. Here she is about ten minutes after I told her we would be leaving in five.

My Little Battle Pony

Henry is flapping.

He does this so rarely anymore. You have to catch him in a moment of unguarded bliss. His hands flap like little baby wings. Just like when he was a toddler.

"Dad!" he yells. "Check out my pony!"

He runs to where I sit on the couch sipping my coffee. He is holding a My Little Pony doll. It is a purple unicorn with pink hair.

"It's awesome," he says.


Not very many minutes ago, he was complaining that the girls never want to play anything cool.

"I don't want to play with stupid ponies," he said. "The girls only want to play boring normal stuff."

Boring normal stuff, by Henry's definition, includes things such as playing school or house. Not obviously cool stuff such as ninjas or dragons.

We encouraged him to give the girls a chance. They played his games for most of the morning. Fair is fair.


"My pony can fly," Henry explains. His eyes are wild. "He has super strength. He shoots fire out his horn. And, he's the captain of the Pony Ball team."

"Cool," I say.

He runs back to the game. He is flapping.


Moments later, he's arguing with Alice.

"My pony just shot fire on your pony!" he says.

"No it DIDN'T," she insists.

"Yes, it did. See? Whoooooooosh. Fire. All over you pony."

Alice sighs.

"Fine," she says. "But my pony isn't very happy about it."


I am in the kitchen preparing breakfast. Henry and Alice sit chatting in the living room.

Alice: Are you afraid of snakes?

Henry: No way.

Alice: Are you afraid of monsters?

Henry: Nope.

Alice: Are you afraid of spiders?

Henry: Ha! No. I'm not afraid of anything.

Alice: Yes, you are. You're afraid of the dark.

Long pause.

Henry: Okay. There is that.

Where water comes together with other water

Monday evening. At the beach.

Erin sits on her towel in the sand. The late-day sun shines on her skin. It is a beautiful evening.

Alice runs up from the water's edge.

"Mum," she says. "I have to pee."

Erin looks around. The bathrooms are a ten-minute walk away. Most of the tourists have already left the beach to find a restaurant or a barbecue for supper. The beach is almost entirely ours.

"Why don't you just go in the ocean, sweetie?" she says.

Alice eyes go wide.


Erin smiles.

"Go for it."

Erin watches our youngest tip-toe into the surf. She wades in until the water is about waist-level. She crouches a tiny bit, then lets her eyes go out of focus for about 15 seconds.

In this amount of time, a new family has arrived at the beach. They're heading Erin's way. They're passing by our base camp as Alice emerges from the water.

"Mum! That was great!" Alice shouts, spreading her arms wide. "The ocean is like one HUGE TOILET!"

(Note: the title of this post is stolen from an excellent collection of poetry by Raymond Carver)

The feeling is almost mutual

We have recently lost Henry to a new series of books. They feature monsters, magic, sword fights, and mythological creatures. He has been completely sucked into this world for the last week.

He is reading on the couch. Erin plops on the cushion beside him.

Erin: Good book?

Henry: Mph.

Erin: Maybe I can read to you for a bit?

He turns the page.

Henry: No thanks. I'm happy reading to myself.

She puts her arm around him.

Erin: I just miss my boy.

Henry: (not looking up from his book) I sort of miss you, too.


Jane enters the kitchen and twirls around.

Erin: Wow, Jane!

Me: You look beautiful.

Jane is wearing her new skirt. It is everything she wanted it to be: a long peasant skirt in a lovely brown.

Alice: Oooo! You look like Cinderella! In rags!

The loveliest rash

Alice is in the bathtub. Her shoulders, neck, and tummy are covered in itchy pink spots.

Alice: Are they chicken pox?

Me: We don't think so.  [ed. They're not.]

Alice: They're so itchy!

Me: I know.

Alice: I want to scratch them!

Me: I know.

Alice: I don't like them!

Me: I know.

She pauses to gaze at one on her tummy which looks particularly pink and irritated.

Alice: ...but they are a very pretty colour.


It's the day after Easter. I am sick as a dog.

I am in the kitchen. I am coughing.

Alice would like very much to see the Easter egg on the counter. It is a lovely blue and green egg with sprinkles of glitter.

I pick it up. I hand it to her. Her eyes light up.

Alice: It's so.... sparkly.

I look at my fingers. They are covered in glitter. Through my influenza fog, I think of how hard this stuff will be to wash off. I think about how even after a thorough washing, I will still, hours later, find flecks of glitter on my fingers and likely my face.

Me: I hate sparkles.

Alice is silent. Her smile melts. She walks from the room.

Me: Oh, Alice... that's not what I meant...

She is gone. I am coughing. I must sit down.


Minutes later...

She returns.

Alice: Do boys not like glitter?

Me: Oh, Alice. Boys like glitter. I'm really sorry I said I hate sparkles. I didn't mean it like I said it. I should have said I don't like how they stick to my skin. I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings. I think glitter is very pretty.

We are friends again.


Minutes later...

I sit on the couch next to Jane. I pull a handkerchief from my pocket and blast my nose into it.

Jane is staring at me. She says nothing. She seems... displeased.

Me: You okay?

Her eyes narrow.

Jane: Is it true you hate sparkles?

The shared secret I seem to have forgotten about

I sit on the couch with Alice and Jane. I am reading one of our favourite books: Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel.

I get to the part where Toad is afraid to come out of the water because he doesn't want the other animals to laugh at his bathing suit.

A snake crawled out of the grass.  "If Toad looks funny in his bathing suit," said the snake, "then I, for one, want to see him."

Alice giggles. She leans in close to my ear and whispers, "Dad, can you read the snake like you-know-what?"

Care instructions for a sick Alice

"I want to be holded."

Ask Kate

The girls are fighting. Maybe not fighting-fighting, but there is a debate. I cannot hear the subject. I enter the room.

Jane: Even princesses have to wear pants sometimes, Alice.

Breakfast chat

Henry and I sit munching peanut butter toast in the kitchen. His curly hair sits on his head like a mop. He is gazing out the window.

Henry: Dad, I'm glad I'm me.

Me: What do you mean?

He takes another bite.

Henry: (mouthful of toast) I mean, I wouldn't want to be anyone else. Y'know what I mean?

I smile and sip my tea.

Me: I think so.

He shoves the rest of his toast in his mouth.

Henry: I'm going to go play.

He places his plate in the sink and skips out of the room.

Back scratch

Saturday morning. Jane and I lounge in the big family bed. Everyone else is up for the day.

Jane: If you give me a back scratch, I'll give one to my stuffed baboon.

Me: Sounds fair.


Alice walks into the kitchen.

Alice: I got a nudgie.

Erin is puzzled.

Erin: What's a nudgie?

Alice squirms and pulls at the back of her pants.

Erin: Oh. A wedgie.

The measure of a day

Two pairs of bare feet pad down the stairs. It's Jane and Alice, still clad in their PJs. They're both very excited about the day.

Jane: Alice! I start my swimming lessons today!

Alice: And, you didn't puke in the bed last night!