Friday, October 29, 2010

Fiction Friday - The CRONICLES OF VLADIMIR TOD by Heather Brewer

In honour of Halloween weekend for this week's Fiction Friday I am featuring the kind of spooky I can handle. Most people who know me know that I have a bit of a fear of vampires and bats but Heather Brewer and her unlikely half vampire hero have all but cured me of that.

Eighth Grade Bites is the first in a five book series that takes the reader deep into the vampire world, Elysia, and to the equally as terrifying world of a high school student. Vlad may be half vampire but he is all teenager. He deals with bullies, first loves and the ups and downs of friendship all while trying to uncover the mystery of his parents' deaths. He also has a minor problem of dodging the slayers who instictually hunt him and members of the Elysian council who want him dead for their own reasons.

Throughout the series we learn that high school Bites, Slays, Bleeds, Burns and Kills and being the chosen one isn't all that its cracked up to be. Brewer creates memorable, endearing, and loathsome characters that the reader is drawn to but would never want to meet in a dark alley. The story weaves seamlessly through five books, never dropping the suspense or tone for a minute. This series is a true word-treat for any reader.

This Halloween weekend pick up all five books, lock your doors, turn down the lights and scare yourself bloody!

**Note - These books can be found in the Young Adult section of your bookstore and are appropriate for the same crowd who enjoyed the Harry Potter books.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Costume Hunt

Halloween is a big deal in our house.

Its our once a year opportunity to take one of our favourite past times outside the confines of our house. The kids - and on occasion, me - love to dress up. Ever since Dude was a lil' dude costumes, dressing up and imagination has been a big part of how our family rolls.

I try to be organised and plan costumes out in September but inevitably the day before the school parties I am running around looking for bits and pieces to complete the costumes. This is never an easy task as my kids rarely go with the trends and choose a costume that I can pick up in the store. Over the years I have made Viking, Musketeer, Jedi, Pirate (before pirates were cool) costumes as well as hunted online for hours finding TinMan, Dorothy & Max's Wolf Suit.

I don't mind the hunt too much. I love that the kids use their imaginations and choose a costume based on what they like. Looking back at the Halloween pictures I can vividly remember pulling together each costume and the fun we had knowing that it was unique. True to form we had a few unique requests this year.

I was a little afraid of the last minute scramble this year because small towns don't provide you with many shopping options. And this morning I was in near panic mode when, after trying three of the four stores within driving distance, I was still missing key elements of two of the costumes. I pulled into the thrift store parking lot, said a prayer and walked in.

Not only did I find all the pieces I was missing but it was 50% off day. Yay MCC Thrift Store!!! Disaster averted and a very happy Gangster, Hermione & Captain Kirk headed off to their Halloween parties.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dude-isms aka Rules of Life

As parents you spend your life explaining and for every explanation you give there is a never ending stream of 'whys' that float your way. And when you have a kid on the autism spectrum there is really no end to the questions.

All kids are curious about life and the why behind the way things are done but I find that Dude is more than curious. He has a hunger for information that is never satisfied. More than once we have joked that he is 'Number 5' from the movie Short Circuit, he always needs more input. So we explain and explain and explain and sometimes we wonder if anything is really sinking in.

Recently we have had several break-throughs with Dude. Here are some Dude-isms aka Rules of Life...

You shouldn't be late for school because if you are you end up standing in the hall singing O Canada by yourself like an idiot.

You should always close the door when you go to the bathroom because no one wants to hear you peeing while they are eating breakfast.

If you see someone being bullied don't stick your nose into the situation - it might get punched. Find a friendly adult, quick, they are less likely to get punched.

Its better to do your work in class with everyone else rather than taking it home for homework. If you have it for homework that means you are spending twice as much time staring at your work and hating it.

to be continued...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mischief's Thirty Year Plan

As most have you have come to realize, Mischief has his own way of looking at life and he's not shy about sharing his perspective and opinions.

A while ago we were teasing the kids about what life will be like when they grow up and get married. Dude has decided that he is going to become a scientist, get married and have three kids. Crafty wants to be a nurse and take care of animals and garden in her spare time. Mischief has a lot of plans for the future.

He is unsure of what he wants to be when he grows up. Maybe a Hydro worker, a policeman or run a school to teach kids how to be like Spiderman. As undecided he is about his profession he is that definitive about his domestic life.

He is seriously contemplating marrying our friend's daughter who is five years younger than him. He says that before he'll marry her she'll have to learn how to walk and get a job. When asked why she'll have to work he said, "When I get a wife she'll have to work. I'm not going to let her stay home and do nothing like Daddy lets you."


I can't wait to share this little anecdote with his future thirty years ;-)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Message in the Music

When Mr. Awesome and I got together way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth I knew I had found myself a good man. He was kind, compassionate, generous and funny as heck. So it came as no big surprise that when Dude was born Mr. Awesome proved to be an amazing dad.

In those early months of night time feeds, diaper changes and unexplained fussiness he was there with me every step of the way. I can't remember one time when Mr. Awesome didn't get up in the night with me to care for Dude and more often than not he would try to soothe the baby without my input. That's when I noticed one of the quirks about Mr. Awesome and fatherhood.

Having never really been around babies until we had Dude he didn't know any nursery rhymes or lullabies. The first song he ever sang to Dude was Silent March. I tried to teach him a few lullabies but he thought they were weird and decided to stick to his own songs. He continued this with each baby we had.

Crafty's song was 'New Orleans is Sinking' and Mischief fell asleep each night to 'American Pie'. Even now nearly every night Mr. Awesome cuddles up with each of our kids and reads them a story and sings to them. Thankfully he has started reading to them from the basket of books I have provided rather than the MEC catalogue (like he did for Baby-Dude) but his song choices are still entirely his own.

At first I was skeptical about some of the song choices but this weekend when we were out shopping, Mischief (having already spent all his birthday money) asked if he could get one more thing. When we explained that he had already made his choices he said, "Oh yeah. I remember. You can't always get what you want but you get what you need, right Dad?"

Score one for Mr. Awesome and his quirky song choices!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Birth of Mischief

Six years ago today I was laying on my couch, roughly the size of a sumo wrestler, praying for it all to be over.

I was 39 weeks into my pregnancy and well past the point of cherishing the experience. In general I love being pregnant. I love knowing that I have the ability to grow a person, to keep them safe and provide them with everything they need to exist. I love feeling them move and squirm and hiccup. I love that for those nine months in my life it is okay to be roughly the size of a house, wear stretchy pants and waddle.

But this pregnancy had betrayed me and I knew that I was in for it with this kid when he finally came out. We knew we were having a boy and the name we chose for him meant 'Beloved' but at this point in our journey together I was seriously thinking of a name that meant, 'Trouble' or 'Mischief' or 'Pain in the Ass.' I was experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions for the first time ever in the 122 weeks I had been pregnant in my life.

Every time I sat up, stood up, walked or moved I would experience the most useless, frustrating and painful contractions ever. The pain would stretch across my sizable belly and into my back and the only way to stop them way to lay on my side. Laying on the couch, being waited on hand and foot sounds like a sweet deal but when you have a four year old and a two year old and you've been out of commission for six weeks let me tell you, the Cleopatra gig gets old.

So on October 22, 2004 I sat, well...laid, beside the phone all day, obsessively picking it up every ten minutes or so to make sure it was working. I was waiting for the call. It had taken tears, pleading, hours of conversation and reasoning but I had finally convinced my OB to induce me three days before my due date. Today was supposed to be the day but the hours were ticking by and I knew from previous experience that the hospital would not admit non-critical inductions after 4pm on Fridays.

When I called him to ask what was going on he told me that he was very busy and had not called the hospital yet. He hung up and I burst into tears. This was my last chance to get induced before my doctor headed north for a week and I knew what I had to do to get this done. I had to play dirty.

Friday afternoons Mrs. OB Doctor went into the office to help with filing. I was friendly with Mrs. OB Doctor from all the hours I had spent waiting in her husbands office over the years. She was a compassionate efficient woman and I knew she was my best shot. So I picked up the phone and asked for the Mrs. An hour later I was in the hospital and seven hours later I was holding our little piece of Mischief.

Happy 6th Birthday Mischief!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hitting the Community Jackpot

Moving to a new community is like placing all your chips on one number and giving the wheel a spin. You might luck out and win big time or you might strike out and lose everything but more often than not you end up near the winning number and break even.

In our previous neighborhood we had some really good neighbors, a few tolerable neighbors and one or two neighbors that made us crazy. We broke even. When we moved here we spent nearly as much time looking at the neighborhood, the neighbors' houses and yards and repeatedly asking our realtor what he knew about the area as we did looking at the houses for sale. We wanted to get a sense of the people who would be living beside us before we made our decision. But all of our stalker like research didn't garner us very much information so in the end we do what most home buyers do...we pick our number, make our bet and cross our fingers.

This time it looks like we hit the jackpot!

We have been getting to know our neighbors little by little over the past couple of months but yesterday evening we were invited to a bonfire with several of our neighbors. We happily accepted and arrived with our troop at the appointed time. I knew who had been invited and was looking forward to connecting with everyone again but sitting around the fire, with the kids running in and out of yard in the setting sun I had a moment of unexpected bliss.

To look at the dozen or so people sitting around the fire last night you might scratch your head and wonder what this group would have in common. There were grandparents, empty-nesters, stay at home moms, working dads all with very diverse backgrounds and life experiences. When we first arrived I was a little unsure of how things would progress but my apprehension barely had time to form before I was engaged in a fantastic conversation with someone, who on the surface, couldn't be more different than myself. And that was the trend of the evening, it didn't matter who I spoke with, we very quickly and easily found common ground or took a genuine interest in the differences we had. Never once did I experience a moment where the conversation lagged or seemed awkward.

Call it luck, call it small town charm...I don't really care. This is my neighborhood, these are my people and I love it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You Look Good for an 80 Year-old

This has been a bit of a rough week for me. I have been called an old person, been "ma'am"ed several times and on Saturday I was told that I need reading glasses.

In theory getting glasses is not that traumatic. Millions of people wear them. There are thousands of styles ranging from conservative to big deal right? Wrong! Its the 'reading' part of the glasses that trips me up. Reading glasses are for grannies, librarians and crazy scientists not for thirty-something funky moms.

It probably didn't help the experience that when I went to a drugstore to pick up a pair of glasses I couldn't get near them due to all the seniors perusing the rack. I put off the purchase for a few more days but when my head began to throb yesterday I knew I had to bite the bullet and find a pair of glasses.

I decided to go to a vision care center in town, hoping to find something that wouldn't suddenly age me 50 years. The young girl at the store was very helpful and only called me "ma'am" once. She helped me to find a pair that are contemporary and funky. I was just starting to feel like this possibly wasn't as bad as I thought when she asked, "Would you like to look at our selection of chains?"


"Yes, many of our customers who wear reading glasses find these decorative chains useful in helping them to keep track of their glasses."

That's all I need...a granny chain to keep track of my glasses while my memory fades along with my eyesight. Excuse me now, I have to pluck my chin hairs then I'm off to Bingo with the girls from the Legion.

I need a latte!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the PAC

Well, it actually happened at the PAC.

Before I get into that, let me start off by saying I am not a joiner. At least not by nature. I don't generally like meeting new people. Its not them, its me...seriously. Before I have to go to a new place or meet new people I get all sweaty, red-faced, nervous and awkward. I feel like I stutter and then I inevitably start to, what would be in a daintier person, nervously giggle but with me in just comes out as a big dorky guffaw.

But in the interest of settling in and getting to know people in my new town I set aside my 'no joiner' policy and went out to the Parent Advisory Committee meetings at both the elementary school and the middle school.

September meetings went well. I mostly sat back and watched. I asked a few questions but managed to escape both meetings unscathed and uncommitted. October did not go so well.

At the elementary school I ended up getting myself on a two person committee to revamp the playground and create an outdoor classroom. No big deal but I as I walked into the middle school for their PAC meeting last night I told myself, "No talking at the PAC!"

Well, that lasted all of five minutes! Unbeknownst to me it was elections night. As the discussion turned to electing a new executive it became clear that there were not enough parents willing to sign up and that PAC was in danger of being dissolved. I was irritated that parents are eager to stand at a hockey rink for hours every week to watch their kids compete in sports but were not willing to give up one hour a month to be involved in their children's education.

Minutes after that came flying out of my mouth I was named the new co-chair of the PAC.

Huh? Note to self: must remain quiet...with great gabbing comes great responsibility.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Bieber Dilemma

Well, its about that time again. One of the most painful times in a parent's life. A time of whining, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Its time to take the boys for a haircut.

Both Dude and Mischief hate going for haircuts. They enjoy their long floppy 'dos and unkempt locks but we're at the point that its been so long since I've seen their faces that I forget what colour eyes they have. Sure they flick their bangs out of their eyes with a toss of their heads but I worry that they are going to put their neck out or something with all their flicking and twitching!

So I announce its time...they must get their hair cut. Surprisingly Dude was okay with it. He said he'd go as long as I could promise him that his hair would not look like Justin Bieber's hair when the deed was done. I asked him why he was so adamant about the Bieber thing and he said, "Justin Bieber is for girls. The girls like him, not boys." So I promised that I would specify a no-Bieber look when he got into the chair. He seemed okay with that and went back to watching TV.

I then turned to Mischief and asked him what kind of haircut he wanted. He thought about it for a minute then said, "I want Bieber hair." When I asked him why he flicked his hair, winked at me and said, "Girls like Justin Bieber."

Oh boy!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fiction Friday: FALL by Colin McAdam

The more time I spend writing and chatting with other writers the more important I think it is to support up and coming authors and home grown Canadian authors. That's why this week's Fiction Friday pick is by Canada's own Colin McAdam.

FALL was a finalist for the Giller Prize this past year and after soaking in the pages of this dark and twisty book I can see why. McAdam pulls you through his story word by word and before you realise it you are tangled up in the delusions, lies and guilt of his main character. Noel is an intelligent yet socially awkward senior at St. Ebury, an elite boarding school in Ottawa, who sees himself as the perfect sidekick to his popular and charismatic roommate, Julius.

His curiosity about Julius, his friends and his girlfriend, Fall takes a dark turn into obsession. Noel becomes inwardly disgusted and frustrated by Julius' oblivion and crass behavior while outwardly he continues to play the role of the devoted roommate. Noel's angst builds to the boiling point when one night he conceives a plan that is sure to win him Fall and give him the status and respect he deserves.

This book is a handful and not one that the average reader could breeze through but it is definitely worth the time to sit back and savour one of Canada's best and brightest authors. Well done, Mr. McAdam!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Top Ten Signs I am Turning into My Mother

10. I now make my bed everyday...including five decorative pillows and an 'extra' blanket in case I get cold in the night.

9. I dusted and cleaned the windows yesterday but did it again today because I thought they were streaky.

8. I used to think of granola bars as health food now they are a 'treat' in the kids' lunchboxes.

7. Every night before bed I must have a cup of tea, check the weather for the next day and moisturize my hands and face.

6. I don't care how light it is outside and how many neighborhood kids are still outside playing bedtime is bedtime!

5. I hear phrases like, "because I'm the mom" "I'm not your maid" and "I don't care if you don't like it, that's supper" coming out of my mouth on a daily basis.

4. I carry extra Kleenex and hand sanitizer in my purse.

3. As I have gotten older my hair style has gotten bigger.

2. I never go anywhere without wearing earrings and a watch.

1. I seem to be stock piling paper products...paper towels, napkins, toilet paper, loose doesn't matter...I must have copious amounts of it all!

;-) Love you Mom!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stupid Teenagers

Before I start this rant I have to say that normally I like teenagers a lot. Sure, they do and say dumb stuff often but for the most part its not their fault...their brains haven't finished growing yet. I find most teenagers I meet to be bright, witty and interesting. Their view on life is pure and unique and one teen can have more passion and charisma than a room full of adults. Teens are awesome!

But not today.

I had a pretty busy yet productive morning of domestic chores. I cleaned and baked and folded until most of the house was sparkly lemon fresh. Mischief's birthday party is fast approaching so I decided to run to Walmart this afternoon to pick up the things I need for the party.

I didn't want to waste time fixing my hair so I put on a cute knit cap, threw on some funky earrings and headed out the door. I knew I wasn't dressed to impress but I felt all right about this 'running errands' look so I entered Walmart with a bounce in my step and a catchy tune in my head.

I was done my shopping and heading for a check out when a gaggle of teen boys came running into the store and nearly into me. A couple of them apologized and kept walking. When I had past the last teen someone from the middle of the group yelled, "Dude, you almost ran over an old person!"

I turned thinking that they had careened into one of the many seniors shopping in the store. When one kid saw me looking he said, "Dude she heard you!" They were talking about me! Me, in my cute hat and funky earrings. Me, not even halfway through my thirties yet. Me?

Miffed, I shout back, "I'm not old or deaf!"

Stupid teenagers.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Life Lessons from the Soccer Field

At lunch today...

Me: How was your morning?

Mischief: Great! I played soccer at recess!

Me: That sounds like fun! How'd you do?

Mischief: We scored ten times!

Me: Wow! Your team scored ten goals?!

Mischief: Not my team, WE scored the goals.

Me: We who?

Mischief: All of us

Me: Don't you guys play on teams?

Mischief: Nope.

Me: How do you know who to pass to or who you are playing against?

Mischief: We aren't against, we're for everybody. We pass to whoever we want to, especially if its a kid who hasn't kicked the ball in a while.

Me: What if that kid isn't very good at soccer?

Mischief: That doesn't matter. Its more fair if everyone gets a chance. Besides we can help.

Me: Well, what about cheering?

Mischief: We cheer for everybody.

Me: Even if they don't score?

Mischief: Yep, cause at least they tried.

Me: Is this how your teacher wants you to play?

Mischief: (shrugs) I dunno. Its just how we play.

Life Lesson: Be for everyone and against no one. Include as many as possible, help those who are having a rough time and cheer for or lose.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tattle Tale!

Today was the day that Crafty has been waiting for and I have been sort of dreading. Today was my first day as a Parent Volunteer in the new school.

I hate meeting new people, I have dozens of boxes still to unpack and it looks like a bomb went off in my craft area...and don't even get me started on the piles of laundry I've been trying to ignore all week. In short, I had loads (literally) of other things to do today but I promised Crafty that I'd be there so after lunch I hauled myself into the school office, signed in and put on my name tag. I took a deep breath and headed down the hall in search of the Grade Three classroom.

The teacher was nice and the other parent volunteer was funny. Before long I felt comfortable and was happily working away. My job was to help the kids choose a 'just right' book for home reading, record the title of the book in the log and have them put their chosen book in their backpack. Simple.

I was about halfway through the list of kids when I called Crafty to the table. She spent ten minutes pondering her book choices, rejecting my suggestions and moping about not finding 'the right just right' book. Getting impatient I told her to just pick one because we were running out of time. Her response? She just glared at me, turned on her heel and walked away.

The other parent gave a nervous chuckle, shrugged and went back to her assigned work. When I looked back to see where Crafty went I was mortified. She was at her teacher's desk and before I could even form a plan she dramatically pointed at me and announced, "She was rushing me!"

Suddenly 26 sets of tiny eyes were on me, accusing me, condemning me. I hung my head in shame and returned to my volunteer corner. When Crafty brought her book to me five minutes later (it was one I suggested in the first 30 seconds of looking) I wrote down the title of the book, handed it back to her and whispered to her, "Watch your back, kid. Its on!"

She just smirked and walked away.