How’s the family?

Warmth in the Cold, by Katie M. Berggren, says it all for me and my three kid lets up here in the frozen north (tomorrow morning it'll be -30°C again!). Her paintings are all about motherhood, and all are available as prints—her website is and this piece is here:

Warmth in the Cold, by Katie M. Berggren, says it all for me and my three kidlets up here in the frozen north (tomorrow morning it’ll be -30°C again!). Her paintings are all about motherhood, and all are available as prints—her website is and this piece is here:

How’s the family?

Enough about me. Tessa is carrying four university courses from Queens University while living here at home. She is down to just 13 hours a week at the health-food-vitamin-supplement-organic-produce store Healthy Planet because the school workload is 46 hours per week, and she puts in more than that because of her need to succeed and her drive for perfection (very tough in an arts program). She has been saving every spare dime for the next trip to Russia. The official invitation has arrived, she has purchased her tickets, and she leaves in seven days. She had wanted to be home for my next surgery and recovery, which we all thought was going to be in January, but is now looking like May. I will be very lonely for her company, but true love cannot be denied (it can and has been delayed a lot already!) The miracle of distance education—she’ll be sitting exams for Queens University with a proctor somewhere in Kostroma in mid-May.

Graydon has started his second semester of a jewellery design course, specifically a casting course. He has a real design sense, and has mastered markers and airbrush and canvas and skateboards, so carving, modelling and casting is an excellent way to move into three-dimensional design. The fact he can wear his work is a major plus.

Luka continues in gymnastics, laying the foundation for a career in parkour. His instructor last week was a circus arts dude who makes his living at it, so that is inspiration. On the flip side, Luka survived his first week of exams in high school, and today he got the results and his first term marks. 86, 83 80 and 76, for an average of 81.25!!! This from a guy who for years despaired that he was “the stupidest one in the class.” Makes me wish that I had given in years sooner to medicating his diagnosed ADHD (Inattentive). It would have spared him years of feeling stupid. A case of mother is trying her best, not mother knows best.

How are the pets?

Clover is excellent. Princess and Dixie are excellent. Benny has back off running outside because of snow taller than he is and morning temps of -15 to -27. We all feel better when he stays in the house anyway. Angel, our 16-year-old Birman kitty, has had a visit to the vet and has early stage kidney failure. The vet says she’ll likely be manageable with a low-protein diet for six months or so, then she’ll show symptoms and go downhill. That’s very sad, and makes us all let her sit on us or our computers any time she wants, feed her butter off a spoon, get her fresh water ninety times a day. But she is in no pain and is still limber enough to leap onto the kitchen counter from the floor (in search of butter and fresher water). So we’ll buy her fancy food and pet her tons.

How is the car?

Wouldn’t turn over for 20 minutes after exercise class and an appointment at Princess Margaret. Graydon and his friend looked under the hood and found that my battery was missing all the caps that cover the openings to the fluid inside—battery acid or electrolyte or whatever that stuff is. I took the car to Canadian Tire. Dude came out in the parking lot, looked and said no way would they ever have removed those caps during my last oil change, and he’d never seen anything like that and they couldn’t fix it, but maybe I’d like to go back to the dealer and see if they could help.

Weird coincidence, I received a notice about a factory recall for my model and year of car for an airbag issue, so I got the factory recall and new battery, killing two trips to Mississauga with one drive.

How is the dishwasher?

Unusable. It’s as if someone pulled it out (it’s a built-in) and shoved it back in crooked, because the door wants to close half an inch to the left of where it is supposed to. It will close under great protest, so with the basement flood of January, I am NOT going to run the dishwasher and see what happens. It came with the house when we moved in back in 1992, and has worked for 23 years without even a service call, so it’s earned its retirement. We will now use it to hold the overflow of pasta pots and sauté pans that I’ve been stacking on the back burners of the stove for years.

Washing dishes by hand is not the best (read: is really bad) for my lymphedema, because it puts my hand in a forced down position (gravity pulls the fluid farther down my arm and fingers) and in hot water (it’s recommended to use water no hotter than 90°F or 32°C—that is blasphemy for washing dishes in my house, where the more scalding the water the cleaner the dishes). I’ve told the kids they’ll all be sharing the new joys of handwashing dishes, or they can do the arm and trunk massage on me to get rid of the extra pressure I’ll have if I do all the washing. We’ll see how that goes. Massaging mum’s arm, hand and fingers doesn’t sound so bad, but trunk??? That should flip them right out. I hope.


This has nothing to do with cancer, promise!


My first foray into cutting hair was my boyfriend who, after hiding the punk haircut I gave him under a thick stocking cap for months, still eventually married me. Then I very cautiously cut a stray lock of hair or two off my children’s precious heads. Years later now, I know my limits. I did not cut off my hair after chemo started the job, and I will not cut the family dog’s hair either. After squeaking out an extra month and a half from his regular time for a clipping, I took this dog to BooBoo Pet Grooming:


Clover, four and a half months after his last grooming, rocking that little woolly mammoth look.

Clover, four and a half months after his last grooming, rocking that tres-casual, little woolly mammoth look.

After working for literally HOURS like a dog on crack to get his bejewelled beribboned holiday hair topknot doodad OUT of his hair, this is what we have:



Which is constantly reminding me of this guy:

Sid, the sloth from Ice Age, and a movie we watch on the holidays just because it's cold in the movie, just like it is here.

Sid, the sloth from Ice Age, and a movie we watch on the holidays just because it’s cold in the movie, just like it is here.

But, the hair on his head is still longer than mine. Aw, I did write about cancer after all! Forgive me, please?


Dogs do Halloween too: my sister’s Dave

Secretly he preened, knowing the girls in the neighbourhood would be jealous.

Caffeine is no good for dogs

On the face of it, the statement above makes a lot of sense. Just as you wouldn’t feed a toddler coffee (even with lots of milk and no sugar—you know who are out there), you wouldn’t feed a puppy one. But “wouldn’t feed” is different from “I drank half my coffee and then just fell asleep.” Which is what happened The Night The Puppy Barked All Night.

I fell asleep about 10, after reading three books to Luka and trying to drink my cofee to stay awake. Next thing I know, Clover is standing on my chest staring down into my face, barking like the house was on fire. I groggily got up, looked out the window, breathed deepy (no smoke) and told him to go back to sleep. The barking continued. I put Angel the cat—good enough reason for a puppy to bark, sleeping on the bed with a cat who doesn’t want to play—out in the hall, closed the door and put the pup on the bed. The barking continued. At three, with virtually no sleep and all three kids calling out for Clover to shut up, I got up, took him downstairs and suited up to take him out. He liked going out. He ripped around the tree about 20 times, then around the car 20 times, then started dragging frozen tree branches around. No barking. Yay.

Back in the house, 3:20 a.m., the barking begins again. This time I put him in his kennel in the kitchen, where the barking goes on and on and on until 6 a.m., by which time it is not a bark or even a shriek, but an almost voiceless bark. I took him back outside, he tore around for another 20 minutes, and then threw himself in the snow at my feet. I picked him up and by the time we were in the house, he was asleep in my arms.

Back in my room, I placed him carefully on the bed and went around to the other side of the bed to turn off the alarm. My foot hit ice-cold soggy carpet. My first suspicion was dispelled when I saw the empty coffee cup on the floor. Then the penny slowly dropped…

My puppy had a six-hour caffiene-powered flip-out, and yet another bad habit was on the list of Things to Stop Doing: no more half-finished coffees left out.

QUESTIONS FOR YOU: Clover has eaten chocolate and had a half a coffee (with lots of milk)—we had no pointsettias over Christmas, so he was spared that—what other things have your pets eaten that were bad for them? Have you taken a pet to the vet for that reason? Are there any commercially available treats or toys you’d warn others about?

It’s with a heavy heart that…

These are the first photo Christmas cards I have ever ordered

These are the first photo Christmas cards I have ever ordered

...I have to report the sudden illness (read: death, but tell no one) of Luka’s favourite bunny, Lizzie. Just Sunday night Luka was carrying her around the living room, saying things like “Isn’t she the perfect size?” “Don’t you think she is so beautiful?” “She is the softest thing I ever felt.” “Doesn’t she look comfortable on me?” and yes, she did look beautiful, perfect size, soft fur and all.

And Monday morning she was stretched out at one end of her large hutch, with her sister on the shelf across from her at the opposite end of the space. Tessa came round the corner first, said good morning to both of them and knew in a flash it was lights-out time when Lizzie didn’t pop right up.

She mouthed the words over Luka’s head, right in the hallway beside the living room, “I think Lizzie’s dead.”

And she was. She was so pretty stretched out, with her white belly fur peeking out. But she was gone.

In a carefully choreographed series of moves, we got Luka through breakfast, changed and out the door without visiting the bunnies, a very unusual morning for him since he always stops to say hello to them on his way through to the kitchen. I googled around to find out what to do, Graydon picked her up and put her in a Holt Renfrew shopping bag (personally I would like to go out in a Chanel or Tiffany or Louboutin bag) and Tessa, Graydon, Clover and I drove Lizzie to the pet crematorium. It was very, very sad.

Now, the big question? When to tell Luka? I’ve been feeling oddly lighthearted recently, and decided to, for the first time, order photo cards for Christmas this year. You can see the card, above. And that’s Luka and Lizzie on the front. I also made a little photo desk calendar for relatives, with this same photo on the cover. Do I tell Luka that his special bunny bit it and have him looking at these cards on all the mantels of our friends and relatives over the holidays? Do I make a public announcement that Lizzie is sick, and we’ll see how she is after the holidays, then we find out she’s terminal and dies soon after? Right now we’ve told him Lizzie’s eyes were all puffy and runny and she had to go to the small animal vet, where she’ll be staying for maybe a long time until the vet finds out what’s wrong with her.

I know, you’re asking yourself what’s wrong with me, mom blogger? Pets die, kids find out, life goes on. Luka has had fish die, his much-mourned Crabby died, and countless hamsters have died. He cried after every hamster, and after Crabby. Sucker Fish, Froggie, Sir Poops a Lot, they died and he didn’t cry. But his big, warm, loved-to-be-hugged Lizzie? I can’t bear to tell him now, not just before his birthday and Christmas and with the card all over the place.

I’m opting for telling him after Christmas.

QUESTIONS FOR YOU: what would you do? what’s the harm in waiting two weeks? how have your seven-year-olds taken the death of a well-loved pet? Please weigh-in, I need all the help I can get.

Thanks, and see you tomorrow!

Friday Foto Finish Fiesta 4xF

This is my first time on Candid Carrie’s Friday blog carnival. The theme is simple one—post a favourite photo and say why it’s a fave. That’s her spelling up there in the title, and when you visit her site to see the other photos, you’ll see tons of creative Phriday spelling!

My entry:

This is Luka, my seven-and-less-than-one-month-away-from-eight year old and Lizzie, one of our two bunnies. This a favourite photo of mine because this is exactly how Luka is—gentle and full of love. This isn’t a staged photo; it’s a combination of Tessa’s talent with her camera and her timing, and Luka being himself.

Leave a comment, then click here to zip back one day so you can enter to win a harcover copy of Desmond Morris’s new book from Firefly Books. I can’t say evough good things about it—tons of beautiful photos and wise writing from an expert. And you can use the photos as inspiration as you document your amazing baby, and maybe the pic will end up in a Friday Foto Finish Fiesta 4xF!! (I’m hearing the strains of “The Circle of Life” in my head!)

Then hop (ha, ha, ha! I kill me!) on over to check out Candid Carrie!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU: what are you doing with these dang digital photos? Are you saving them on your computer? On a photo-sharing site? Actually saving them over on CDs or memory sticks? Heaven forbid—are you getting prints and still slipping them all in photo albums? Is scrapbooking happening in Canada the way it has in the States?

Works for Me Wednesday: soothing the new puppy

wfmwbanner1.jpgWelcome to Shannon’s Works for Me Wednesday‘s blog carnival! We have a new member of the family, a Maltese puppy named Clover. We got him 10 days ago, and he is the sweetest animal I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. And having a puppy is such a rush—like when I had babies, I couldn’t wait to get home to see what new thing they were doing. So for a little while, my posts will have lots of doggie stuff in it. Like today!


Today marks one week since we took our new puppy to the vet and got a clean bill of health (except for a baby tooth that came in crooked, and would in a perfect world be extracted by a veterinarian specializing in canine dentistry to the tune of $600 to $800—not going to happen). I told the kids what we did in my house when I was a kid and we got a new puppy—we closed off the kitchen, spread newspapers all over the floor, wrapped a loud alarm clock in a towel and slept on the floor with the puppy. As a kid, I thought that was very cool. My kids were unimpressed. They were not sleeping on any kitchen floor.

The first night he slept on my bed, no accidents. Second night he slept on Tessa’s bed, no accidents. On the third day he woke right up, and after about 20 trips outside, it became clear he was not going to be sleeping with any of us. So, Graydon took on the crating duty and did himself proud. He borrowed Tessa’s old-fashioned loud-ticking alarm clock, filled a bottle with hot water and wrapped both with one of our largest, fluffiest towels. Then he put in a little dish of water, a little dish of puppy food and his chew toys. He barely whimpered when Graydon went upstairs.

Fast forward a week, and puppy Clover was beside himself when Tessa tried to crate him. Not just whimpering and longing eyes, but actual whining, digging and the closest thing to barking we’ve heard. Tessa has a huge heart, and was no match for a puppy. She moved the crate upstairs, and put him in it. He cried and dug and jumped. Tessa whipped out her computer, did a search and came up with relaxation music for dogs, complete with a video component. She laid in bed and watched Clover as Clover watched the laptop, and he was first attentive, then mesmerized, then soothed, then asleep. A laptop tamed the lapdog. It works for me

Please leave a comment, and then click over to Shannon’s blog for a ton of tips on parenting, cooking, organizing, playing, you name it!

P.S.: I think we got the perfect pup. If you’re puppy shopping, check out this excellent list on the CL website!