Setting Your Kid On Fire

Just had to mention the first exciting event for our kids of 2009: Birk setting herself on fire. George took the kids outside to light sparklers–which is a real treat as sparklers are not allowed in California.

It was sub zero weather, so we bundled up everyone. Hats, mitts, gloves, snowpants, neckwarmers, you name it, they had it on. No one was starting 2009 with pneumonia, a horrible face rash from the Bath and Body Works kid’s cream yes, but no pneumonia!
I like my warmth, so I stayed inside and watched them through the window. All of a sudden Birk was hopping up and down and I could hear through the double pane from John, “Birk’s on fire!”
Smart girl that she is, she dropped the sparkler and rolled her flaming glove in the snow. The mom that I am, after I declared her free of burns, had to note that Gordini gloves may be pricey, but they sure do make good oven mitts.
Note to self: sparklers and mittens don’t mix.

Why Mommy Doesn’t Sew

My daughter begins her first sewing class this Saturday. The instructions were simple: show up with an easy pajama pattern, fabric and notions. 

Ruth and I headed to our local fabric store and spent a good hour and a half picking out a pattern and cute fabric. We asked many newbie questions, as the last time I sewed from a pattern was over twenty years ago.

Of course, after almost an hour of looking at fabrics, she chose one that both wasn’t on sale and turned out to be some fancy poly special care blend. By that point I was on the tracks driving the train into the station and ready to get off the ride. 

As the salesclerk cheerfully added up her treasures, the total blinked at me. I blinked at the total. $64.49. $64.49???

Now, let’s just say me sewing pajamas is like my husband wiring our house. Neither one of us is qualified and can come way out ahead just starting out with that knowledge. I can easily buy pajamas at Target for $14.99. If I waited for a sale, I could wrangle a much better bargain. It’s safe to even say I could outfit my daughter in pajamas for two years or more on $65.

However, Ruth is happy. She skipped out of the store with a big smile. I suppose learning to sew is VISA priceless, but learning to sew all of our old clothes into new ones during this recession could really come in handy.

Free to Hope

We were lucky today to be able to take our kids to the local one screen theater to watch President Obama’s inauguration. Young and old clapped and cheered. Just like if we were on the plaza: we stood when you were supposed to stand, bowed our heads to pray and sang along with our hands over our hearts.

The audience was clearly democratic. You could decode this by their modest, respectful applause for the past republican president and wild cheers and whoops of delight for the past democratic presidents. Hysterics and tears were saved for Obama. Waves good-bye were silent with a few giggles for Bush when he was walking out.

All three children watched intently. Even 7 year old Birk was as quiet as a mouse with her big eyes fastened to the screen. It is so refreshing to share an experience that marks the change of times that even children find compelling.

A sold out theater, full of all kinds of people full of hope. We are all looking for guidance through what will be very tough times to come. We need a leader, and I think, by George Washington, we’ve got one.

Bad Movie : Good Kid

Today I dragged my 13 yr old son to see “Bride Wars”. We were both in the mood to see a movie but the times were a bit off for the ones we really wanted so we had to choose between a silly chic flick and a stupid adolescent one. Now over the years I have been to countless kid films, some good and some unbearable but today I just didn’t have what promised to be a mediocre slapstick comedy in me.

So, after shopping for clothes for him (which is not exactly his idea of a good time but a necessity as all of his pants are creeping up around the ankles) we didn’t have much of a selection. I’m not sure what hit him, a sudden burst of generosity or a teen senile moment, but he gave in to my whim and ended up the only male in the theatre who wasn’t  paid to be there.

I wish I could say that”Bride Wars”was a good film and worthy of his time but he probably felt as I would have had we in fact gone to “Paul Blart: Mall Cop”. He didn’t complain other than to offer his opinion of the film which I happened to agree with (I ultimately blame direction but admittedly the story was lacking in depth). All I know is that while the film will be quickly forgotten, the agreeability of my teenage son will not and I can’t help but think I must be doing something right. At least with this child.

Big City Sliders–Infomercials Through the Eyes of a Child


I was doing some kind of Saturday afternoon thing.  It could have been laundry or unloading the dishwasher, I can’t remember, I just know that Birk pulled me reluctantly away from my duties and dragged me to the t.v.  That girl is pretty strong for 7, so I let myself be dragged.

There on the screen, she had paused TIVO and rewound it to the beginning of a commercial.  I was expecting a Barbie or pink, putty that gets stuck in your carpet type of product.  Nope.  It was for Big City Sliders.  Please be careful and turn your volume down on your computer if you click this link, it is loud!

A few nights before, my husband George was talking about how infomercials are doing really well right now, because they can buy the ad space really cheap. If infomercials are popping up everywhere in prime time, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that an infomercial showed up on Nickelodeon during little kid’s programming.  Why would they spend advertising dollars during Max and Ruby for a kitchen gadget?

Birk clearly illustrated the functionality of this advertising scheme.  I have never seen a girl (or woman for that matter) get so excited about a kitchen pan.  Her eyes were wide and she was jumping up and down, barely able to contain her excitement.  Each little demo of the product elicited a “See mom?”  She even offered to buy it with her own money.

Advertising is a very powerful and scary thing.  Don’t forget it!  I won’t, I just ordered a Big City Slider.

3rd Child Syndrome: Nothing Comes Between a Seven Year Old and Her Cell Phone


Birk was having one of those days.  You know, the kind of day when you want to lock yourself in the bathroom, lie down on the floor and cry your eyes out.  Except, when you are seven, you really do this.  

It all started when she booked a playdate.  When you are the third child, you rarely get playdates.  The third child spends her life following her siblings to dentist appointments, baseball games, dance rehearsals, trips to the store to buy your brother hiking boots, etc…  Yes, in short, life is not fair, especially when you’re the shortest in the family.

She had booked this epic playdate with her very own bestest friend.  It had been weeks since they had good old fashion girl play time.  She was counting down the days as if it were Christmas or Obama’s inauguration.  The magic day finally arrived and she skipped happily home with her friend after school.

After a decadent ice cream snack, big sister Ruth decided to join in the fun.  She created an elaborate game of wild cats and the little girls were eating it up. Suddenly, Birk realized what was going on–her big SISTER had HI-JACKED the paydate.  This is when she retreated to the bathroom and the waterworks began.  High volume, crocodile tears, and sobs with broken statements like:

  • Ruth is stealing my best friend.
  • This is the worst day of my life!
  • Why do these things always happen to me?
  • I have no friends.
  • Mommy!  My feelings are really hurting!

I tried to comfort her, but there was no comfort to be had.  She had had her first heartbreak right here in our very own home.  I was helpless.  The tears continued and no amount of apologies from her sister or best friend lowered the water pressure or the volume.  She was howling, curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor and wouldn’t budge.

Now, what you may not know about Birk is that she has staying power.   As a baby, one of my main phrases was “Keep the baby happy!”  This was simply because once she crossed into tears or tantrums, that was it.  It didn’t stop.  To this day, I think there is nothing that hits a mother’s core like the screams of her baby, no matter what the issue.  It can drive you insane…and make you drive insane if you are in the car.

Well, best friend went home…the wailing upstairs continued.  I made dinner…the wailing continued.  Finally, about to pull my hair out or put my head in the oven I whispered the magic words, “Stop crying.  If you just stop crying you can have your sister’s old cell phone.”

You know a stupid thing as soon as it exits your mouth.  To my defense, I had that mother piercing two hours of shrieking to shake my inner core of reason.  I sat there, paralyzed by my own lack of intelligent anything in my skull.

Immediately the tears stopped, she exited the bathroom and began doing cartwheels of joy up and down the hallway.  I handed her the pink phone on one condition, that she not tell ANYBODY about it and ESPECIALLY NOT HER FATHER!

“But, mom, you know, we should tell my teachers.”


I am so embarrassed.  I just switched my kids from Verizon to AT&T, and I had this one phone that I hadn’t switched yet.  Ughhhhhhhh!  Don’t tell anyone how stupid I am.  How long until Birk realizes that she can’t phone anyone if she can’t tell anyone that she has a cell phone…except me?

Baileys and Electricity


A storm came through.  It was nestled in between Christmas and New Years.  The winds whistled and whipped through the landscape at racetrack speed.  Trees toppled and power failed.  

Thousands of people suffered the outage in Ontario.  Driving through the powerless countryside, we noticed countless poles with orange flags.  Not only were the power lines down, they were actually non-existant. Miles and miles of poles were flagged.  The power lines just stopped and weren’t connected any more. Helicopters were flying low along the lines to determine where all of the wind damage had occurred.

We were thrilled to have the Hydro One crew in our driveway.  After four days without power, there were tears of joy in my eyes to see these men working late into the cold night.

My husband decided they needed coffee and it would be nice for us to brew them up a pot.  I was surprised to see him plug the coffee maker into the generator.  I didn’t know that was an option!  As he was brewing away, I told him he should add some Bailey’s to the coffee.

“These men are on the job and working with electricity.  You do not give them Baileys.”  He chastised me.

I countered about the cold night.  Next thing I know, I see him pouring a nip of Baileys into the coffee mugs and putting them on a tray.

He came in from the cold with a smile.  The crew was delighted to have a warm drink and the shot of liqueur.  The lights came on.  

Apparently you do give people working with electricity spiked coffees!

The Winter Canadian Chronicles: My Winter Vacation, Wish You Were Here!


  • 8:45 am: the wind is howling across the lake. Roof timbers are shaking–it’s like the wind is moving through the house. Yet the sun shines bright on the snow.
  • 9:00 am: Birk decides that waffles sound like a good idea. I pull out homemade breakfast sausage from the butcher. We mix and pour.
  • 9:10:  the lights flicker and fail.
  • 9:11:  We move the sausages in their fry pan and put them on top of the wood stove.  One waffle is complete in the ELECTRIC waffle maker due to the pre-heating.
  • 9:30:  George and John are chopping through the ice of the lake with a pick axe and hatchet.  Buckets of icy cold lake water arrive in the bathroom.


  • 10:00:  The candle and battery hunt begins.  We amass all of the candles and flashlights on the kitchen table. Matches and lighters are ready to go.
  • 10:01:  John is putting a kettle on the wood stove and stoking the fire. 
  • 10:15:  As it looks like power is out for a while, we begin clearing out the fridge and putting all of the perishables in coolers.  We wrap the soft-sided coolers in garbage bags and bury everything in a snowbank outside on the patio.
  • 11:00:  I make all of the kids clean their rooms and tidy up while we still have daylight and put necessary items in easy to reach places.
  • 11:30:  We decide to head to town for dinner and make sandwiches for lunch.
  • 12:00:  The water on the stove is hot enough to wash dishes…so we do it.
  • 1:00:  Latest news from town is that power will be down for a while.  If we are going to the local restaurant for dinner, we need to be there by 5:00.  
  • 2:00:  We make sure that the outhouse is stocked and ready for a long night.  We have buckets of water for emergency flushing.  The sky is greying and darkness is closing in.
  • 2:30:  Extra fire wood is stacked outside the door and inside.  Weather for the night is expected to be well below freezing.
  • 3:30:  Kids are excited.  It’s just like camping!
  • 4:30:  We load up the car and head to town.  We pass the local Hydro crew on the road.  They say it could be days before things are fixed.
  • 5:00:  Sit down in crowded restaurant.  Get our menus, hear about the specials and order drinks.  BAM!  Darkness.   
  • 5:02:  Power does not return.  Candles are lit.  The chef comes out in her apron with a coal miner’s light on her head and explains that there’s no food.  Maybe a few bowls of soup.
  • 5:15:  We are all treated to bowls of soup and as many saltines as we can eat.
  • 6:00:  We head home and light our candles.  George crawls under the cottage and begins to drain the water by flashlight so that our pipes don’t freeze…again!
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  • 7:00 pm:  George hikes down the road to find the hydro crew…Hydro One assures us that they are on our main road and that our power should be on by now.  He convinces the crew that we actually DON’T have power and that it would be really nice if they came down our lane and checked it out.
  • 9:00 pm:  The truck arrives in our driveway.  The crew works hard and HOORAY! we have power.  We douse the candles and electric heat and light warms us.  The water is switched on and sputters…but we have running water!
  • 10:00 pm:  The hot water tank is kaputt.  That is another story for another day.  Showers are for sissies, right???

The Most Coveted Seat in the House: The Canadian Chronicles, Winter Edition


I knew that I was a big fan of indoor plumbing, but after 2 weeks with spotty access to the stuff, I know now  that it’s one of my favorite forms of creature comforts.  My numero uno kind of indoor plumbing hands down would have to be the toilet.  Take away the running water in the sink and tub, just leave me the throne.

I don’t care if it has a plastic, wooden or vinyl seat.  It can be dual flush or single flush–I am even able to sing the praises of letting it mellow if it’s yellow and flushing it down if it’s brown.  I am happy to put all of the toilet paper in the trash bin provided next to the worshipped throne.  All of this in favor of not freezing my, excuse me, ass off.

A trip to the bathroom shouldn’t involve snow boots, parkas, scarves, hats, mitts and lanterns (electric or candle).  I can tell you when frost crystals have formed on the old outhouse toilet seat and you consider a tea lite a heating device, then you can say you’ve known the true winter Canadian experience.

In the last two weeks our little outhouse has seen more action than a porta potty at a rock concert. Don’t get me wrong, I was darn glad that we had an alternative like an outhouse.  It does beat a bucket or a hole in the ground.  But, darn, it was chilly at 0 degrees fahrenheit in the dark of the night.

So I am just saying a little ‘thank-you’ to the people out there that saw it necessary to invent the indoor toilet.  I’m also sending out a blessing to the people that can’t leave the roughin’ it experience behind and go home to their own indoor, warm throne.

Gingerbread Houses and Pre-teen Architecture

The witch that lives in this Gingerbread House must live in California.