Saturday, July 14, 2018

Wild Animals are Everywhere!

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that there are wild animals here and they are everywhere. My property backs onto 15 km of wild forest. I don't own it, but the government doesn't charge me for looking at it.

Yesterday, I was sitting on my back deck and a saw part of a little green body between the boards and I thought to myself, “I'm about to see the biggest grasshopper I've ever seen.” I was pretty into it and waited excitedly for the little friend to show himself. To my delight, he was not a grasshopper but a pacific tree frog. I didn't even know we had tree frogs in Canada.

We had rabbits in Edmonton, great big jack rabbits that were honestly big enough that the whole concept of 'rabbit stew' made sense. Here we have little brown bunnies that look like something off a Disney cartoon. They're small and fat with... wait for it... floppy ears.

We went to a rocky beach to hang out and my sons caught a truck load of crabs. Not tiny crabs. big crabs. I didn't take them home and cook them because I had absolutely no idea how to do that or even if you're allowed to just walk to up to the beach and start treating it like a grocery store. But I like crabs and was very entertained by the event.

Whoever planted the flowering bushes around my house had hummingbirds in mind and more than one variety comes to drink out of the different trumpets, but when I try to identify them according to the internet, they aren't on the list of hummingbirds that are supposed to live on Vancouver island.

Owls live in the woods too. Of course you can't see them because it's night and they seem to be quite a distance from the house, but you can figure out woo they are by their hoot. I think we mostly get great horned owls.

There are lots of different birds of prey who circle around the skies during the day. The bald eagles are easy to spot and when they come by the shoreline to catch things, you can get a real sense of how big they are. Ya know, because they're really close.

Another surprising flying thing are the pale swallowtail butterflies. When I first saw one this spring, I ducked because it was super enormous and heading right for me. I didn't get a good look at it, and it looked like a tiny flying cathedral with long dark bars like the iron work of a stained glass window, except that there is no colour, only pale light gleaming through the bars. As the season progressed, you could see one swoop by nearly every time you went outside, and every time I'd stop and gaze in amazement that butterflies could grow that big.

The squirrels here have enormous fluffy tails. They are mostly black or grey. There are racoons that cross the street here. I mean I hit my breaks for one crossing the street. I also hit the breaks for a mama duck and her line of ducklings. One time I drove alongside a buck with beautiful antlers. I didn't do that until it seemed very certain that he had no intention to cross the road. The deer around here seem like they know a lot about crossing the road. There's lots of roadkill here, but I've only ever seen one deer. Mostly, they're dead racoons.

So, there are snakes here, and humongous slugs, and dragonflies, and damselflies, and big black beetles with shiny shells, and quail who run hilariously, and noisy cicadas, and more birds than you can shake a stick at who like to sing at four in the morning, so no one will ever know what they look like.

But then... I think I heard a cougar kill a deer in the forest outside my window recently. People around here talk about cougars like they're around and I roll my eyes and go, “Yes, please don't talk to my kids about them. They'll refuse to walk home from school.” But this was in the dead of night. The cougar hissed and the deer screamed and then the deer let out a cry that was totally guttural, and then there was silence. And I looked out into the black woods and saw nothing.

Monday, July 2, 2018

That's a Paddling

Since I live in a village that surrounds a lake, I decided that I needed to take up some kind of water sport. Years ago, I was flutter-boarding in Hawaii and I saw this woman paddle-boarding to shore. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I wondered exactly what I would need to do to be that cool. I immediately decided that it was completely impossible. I mean, I lived in Alberta, which is landlocked and my last experience with dipping my toes in Albertan water was in Waterton. I don't know if any of you have noticed, but no one should do a water sport in Waterton that involves touching water. It's so cold, its best purpose is to treat BBQ burns.

So I put paddle-boarding out of my mind.

But then I moved here and decided that I was going to buy a paddle board and get busy.

There were a lot of naysayers.

I heard all kinds of things. Things like, “It takes a lot of stamina to paddle board.” Honestly, I have zero stamina and that scared me. “Isn't it hard to balance?” My brain finishes that thought with, “And doesn't every human being start losing their balance after their tenth birthday... or soon after?” “Are you sure you want to buy one when you've never done it before and you're from a province that's land locked?”

There were a lot of doubts.

Okay, so I bought one and I've done this and this is my report.

It does require a lot of stamina. Firstly, mine weighs fifty pounds. I have to drag it out of my garage, heave it onto the roof of my vehicle, strap it to the roof, drive to the lake, find a place to unload it, unstrap it, pull it down, lock up and look cool while carrying a fifty pound board that is heavier on one end to the water. It's not easy, but I have always had T-Rex arms, so maybe a little harder for me than the currently disembodied you.

When it's time to go, I have to heave it out of the water, carry it back to my van, heave it onto the top, strap it down, drive home, open my garage door (which is not automatic my arms have suddenly noticed), unstrap it, get it down, and haul it into the garage. It should also be noted the last time I did this, when I was about to pull my paddle board down from my van, my neighbour yelled over the fence, “You got it up there, so you can get it down again.” I bit my lip on, “Who asked you!?”

So, yes, paddling-boarding takes a lot of stamina. Balance? Yes. It's heavy and sort of wants to crush you. Was it extra hard because I hadn't done it before? I may be from Alberta, but that's where heavy things come from, so no.

With all that said, it's a good thing that once you get your board on the water, it is essentially effortless. And the best way to get a view of my lake is to get in the middle of it. It is really tree lined. What? This is still Canada.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Joke that Keeps on Giving

I did not make up this joke.

A guy walks up to a boloney sandwich truck and says, “I'd like to order a boloney sandwich shaped like it's got a bite taken out of it.”

The vendor says, “Yeah, shaped like it's got a bite taken out of it.” Wink. Wink.

“That's what I said, shaped like it's got a bite taken out of it.”

“Right, shaped like it's got a bite taken out of it.” Wink. Wink.

It goes on like that. I told this joke to my kids a few times and probably even showed them the cartoon somewhere on, and then one day it stopped being stupid for the sake of stupid and started being AWESOME.

Sometimes when you're a mom, things happen at the dinner table... unspeakable things. Things no one wants to know. Things you wouldn't rehearse to another human being simply because reliving the horror would be like letting your tiny army win, or losing those precious seconds of your life that it would take you to explain what really happened when there is simply... no right answer. But today, I'm going to take you into the dragon's den and explain the sort of thing that goes on at the dinner table.

Let's say it's been a tough day and you decide that you're going to make hamburgers for your kids as a bit of a treat. You cook them on the grill and when they are almost finished, you put a slice of cheese on all of them but two. When you present these all done up with lettuce and ketchup on the table, each kid takes one. One of the kids who hates cheese gets one of the burgers that didn't have cheese and the other one was accidentally scooped up by a cheese loving child. Nobody realizes the mix-up until it is too take. There is only one cheeseless hamburger and it has a bite taken out of it. The child who wants that cheeseless burger is on the verge of losing his fricken mind and sadly, you only have one burger for each person at the table.

To solve this, maybe you could scrape the cheese off the burger this kid was given. Maybe they'll take it, or maybe they won't because they think they can still taste the cheese. Maybe you could get all industrious and fry up another patty. Maybe the kid will cry for an hour no matter what you do. Or maybe, just maybe, you could take that imperfect cheeseless hamburger, put it on the kid's plate, smile and say, “It's shaped like it has a bite taken out of it!”

What if, miraculously, that kid smiles, laughs, and eats that hamburger despite the mistake? That, my friends, is what I mean by AWESOME. The kid doesn't cry and I don't get an earache while I remake dinner. That is what dreams are made out of.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Warm Stair

The phenomenon I am referring to is when you walk down (or up) your carpeted stairs and one of steps is warm on the bottom of your foot. It happens because my cat, Storm, likes to stretch out his whole body on one of the stairs and then he gets spooked and moves a few seconds before I start climbing the staircase, thus leaving a warm stair.

Sometimes I feel bad for my little Storm, fearing that he's not really happy. He's obviously a wild creature. He's a medium hair and quite large, even though he isn't yet two years old. He has a ruff and camouflage markings. He would blend into the forest and prowl and pounce, but instead... he lives with me and he must sit on a cushion and watch the forest from the comfort of the cushion. He isn't allowed to go outside. He dreams about birds, but isn't allowed to chase them.

This way, I save on worm medication. Actually, that's one of my life goals. Not to need worm medicine. So far, so good!

But I digress.

Sometimes Storm is still waiting on the stairs as I approach and he has this look on his face like he's surprised to see me there. It sort of reminds me of when you saw a boy loitering outside your house and then he pretends he's surprised to see you when you come out of your own house. “Fancy meeting you here!” Or when you literally bump into a boy you've been trying to bump into around that particular corner. “Eek, he touched me!” Even though from the boy's perspective, it was a hundred percent accidental. I think Storm has those moments of sudden joy when I'm around with his tiny feline heart beating wildly. Cats particularly like their contact to seem accidental.

He's a sweet boy. He likes to chase bugs that somehow get into the house. I'll see an ant (BTW ants are enormous here), Storm is chasing it and batting it back and forth. He seems engaged and I think he's finally going to start earning his keep, when suddenly, he loses interest completely and wanders off to loll about on the stairs. The ant walks away like he's so evolved he can let an attack like that slide.

And I am not egocentric enough to believe that my cat has a more complex relationship with me than that ant. He was probably also thrilled when he saw the ant scuttle across the checked floor. Bat, pat, bat with his paw and then the mood left him and he'd rather sleep or snooze or snore. It's the same for me. I pet him and rub behind his ears, and then boom, he's bored and he goes to the foot of the bed to put some space between us. He'll give me a nice slow blink, like he loves me, but prefers it if I don't touch him.

He also likes to stretch out on the stairs at night in the dark. That's when I'm the ant. He's gonna catch me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Whatever I Want

When I was a kid and I couldn't find something, I always thought my mom was sitting on it. I'd insist that the thing I wanted was under her butt and make her get up. When it wasn't there and she sat down again, I still insisted that she was sitting on it and make her get up again. This wasn't something I did when I was a little tiny baby either. I have memories of looking for things when I was a teenager and wanting to ask her to move because I still thought the remote control/my hair accessory/my book or whatever was under her butt.

I have had this theory for years that anything I want is within reach... like literally. I want a pen, I should be able to reach in some direction and pick one up. This has been true a shocking number of times, especially in my bedroom. I want an elastic for my hair? It's right there. The other day, I was trying to have a nap and the sunlight in my room was unbearable. So, using my theory, I started rooting around on my headboard (that is more like a bookshelf than your average headboard) and I found something. It was part of a robot Halloween costume I had made for one of my kids. It was a hat. It was very long, and went right over my eyes without squashing my nose. Hip hip hooray for home made costumes.

Which reminds me, almost this whole winter, whenever I wanted a hat, the only hat I could find was a toque I had sewn six eyes onto. It was the crowning piece of a spider costume. And every time I needed a hat, that was the one I could find. So, one day I was driving to my hubby's work and if you drive around in Edmonton, you know finding parking is like finding the Lost City of Atlantis. So, I found something close according to Google maps and parked. Then I paid for parking, realized I was in the wrong car park and had to walk about a block over to my hubby's work. It was windy and coldish, and I knew I would get an earache if I didn't put on a hat, so I crawled through my van looking for something and the only thing I could find was that six eyed spider hat. Originally, I was going to sew eight eyes on it when my hubby said that the kid wearing it already had two eyes so I only had to do six. That made me feel so much better when I had to ring a doorbell at his work and explain myself to someone I'd never met before who knew EXACTLY WHO I WAS.

So, now that I'm all grown up and my kids come up to me and they think I'm sitting on the remote control (I am) or that I have snacks in my hoodie pocket (I do) and I'm taking a nap or picking them up from school wearing their part of their Halloween costume. I also think someone is sitting on the thing I want. It's my cat and yes he is sitting on my phone. It's cause it's warm.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Not the Red Room!

The interior of my house has been painted many times. I have seen evidence of recent repainting and for the most part, I'm okay with their colour decisions, but there was one room in my house that was painted red. Red on all four walls. Scratch that. On all six walls. It's a funny shaped room, and I put a kid to sleep in that room. They didn't do well, like Jane Eyre who cried and fainted and feared the dreaded ghost of her dead uncle.

As a disclaimer, I have seen red rooms that are not hideous. I keep telling people that I'm not against red in such a way that I can't acknowledge that it looks nice from time to time. It looks really good in the Pizza Hut I patron sometimes, but that room in my house just bummed everyone out. Being in there made you feel like you were getting your soul sucked out. It's a narrow room with a dark floor.

Painting that room was on the list of things that needed to be done, but it didn't get done until last week. I took the kid in question to the paint store and let them pick whatever colour they wanted that was at least somewhat neutral. I made them stand in front of the colour pallet for five minutes while I rubbed my hands together evilly and thought, “This paint will up my resale value.” Seriously, any colour would. The red was that bad. When I was looking at the pictures of my house when we were still buying it, I didn't get a good look at that room until the home inspector sent me a very detailed package of pictures. You know the kind, where they take a picture of a drain really close up, or a pipe, or a filter, and then a picture of that room. The rest of the house is painted sage green and butter cream yellow, then suddenly in that room there's blood pouring down from the ceiling.

“Funny, the blood usually gets off on the second floor.”

So, the kid picked a light turquoise. I was okay with that. The gal selling me the paint reassured me that Behr Marquee paint would cover my red paint in one coat. It was a good thing I didn't believe her, because if I had I would have been mighty right ripped after I finished the first coat that was in no way adequate. The woman at the store even gave me detailed instructions on how to apply the paint to get the best results. I stared at her and wondered how long I had to listen to her filthy lies. I bit my tongue on telling her that I'd used that paint before and it was good paint, but her description of its super powers was ridiculously overrated.

AND the person who applied that wretched red paint did not tape, so there's little flecks of red paint on the ceiling and on the trim. Foul renovator! 

Oh... and one more thing. There is another room in my house painted red. They couldn't just do one.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Everyone and their Dog has a Dog

I first started noticing dog walkers when I lived about a block away from the river valley in Edmonton. If you sit by the window long enough, you'll start to notice a pattern in Edmonton. Once a year, there's this day at the end of winter and the beginning of spring (this day can occur quite randomly). It's the day where it's warm enough outside to NOT FREEZE YOUR FACE OFF. That's the day people who haven't walked their dogs all winter will get outside and walk their K9 friend. Then they keep on walking them until the corresponding day in fall where if you go outside you will FREEZE YOUR FACE OFF. The people who continue to walk their dog in winter are few, and they usually have a nicotine addiction.

Here on the Island, everyone has a dog. Today I walked past a car with this huge line of white stick figures indicating their family members. They had four dogs. So, if you sit in my living room and open the blinds, you will see a healthy parade of dogs go by. And it never gets SO COLD IT WILL FREEZE YOUR FACE OFF here, so there are plenty of pooches to approve of.

So, the other night, I was taking out compost or something and as I stepped onto my front porch and I saw this enormous coil of poop up the steps, just feet from my front door. And I thought that the dog walkers of this place had gone out of control. Seriously? Poop on my front step? Get a leash! Get a baggie! The deer around here aren't that much bigger than big dogs, so I guessed it might have been a deer, but on my front step? I was not happy. And that crap wasn't staying there.

I went to clean it up and BOOM! I was very apologetic to the dog owners of the area. It wasn't poop. It was the BIGGEST slug I'd ever seen in my life. It was really fat and in the dark, I couldn't tell it wasn't poop until I got too close to it to ever forget what I saw. Ew! I am not afraid of spiders. I actually sort of like them and before this incident the biggest slug I'd ever seen was on the road here. He was dark brown and really long. Actually, I mistook him for a branch. You know, part of a broken branch. But he wasn't on my step.

I went and got my husband. That's boy work if I ever saw it. He grabbed a hoe and was like, “Are you sure you want me to get rid of him? It probably took him forever to get up here.”

Just to be clear, all we were discussing was whether or not to get him off the porch and the answer was yes. Yes, please.

So, to those in Alberta who are at present freezing their faces off, remember that big creepy bugs don't live there.