Monday, April 29, 2013

Walt Disney was onto something

When I was 17 and in my grade 12 year, I babysat for a single mom up the street from my parents while she worked the night shift as a nurse. At some point during that year, they adopted a cat. That's is the first time I can distinctly remember hating cats. It might have all began there. This particular cat would push a chair - placed in front of kitchen cupboards for the sole purpose of keeping it out - with its head, crawl in, then hiss and sharpen its claws when you tried to pull him out.*

*I realize I keep switching pronouns. It was likely an it, but may have been a he. I never looked.

I would keep the guest room door open at night so I could hear my little charge if he cried, and that cat would run into my room, claw at the carpet loudly enough to wake me, then dash out. At one point, I woke up and found myself staring into its large yellow eyes. The cat was just sitting there, watching me sleep. Undoubtedly plotting my demise. Because that's what they do. That's all they do.

My feelings for the feline race has not changed in the past decade or so. I have to be careful here, because one of my dearest, oldest friends in the world has owned several cats and has loved them. And I love her. I'm sure hers would never attempt a coup. But I'd also still caution her to sleep with holy water on her nightstand.

And then this weekend. Another good friend was visiting family in another city and texted me photos of herself after the family's adopted cat unleashed a holy reign of terror on her.
This did nothing to improve my relations with cats. In my defense, I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Let's consider the following an informal case study of cat bias in the Disney film franchise.

The Siamese Cats, Lady and the Tramp
Evil little pricks these ones were. If you don 't believe me, watch the clip below and tell me if you can't still sing "We are Si-ah-me-eese, if you please" in 10 years. Some years I forget my own anniversary, yet I haven't seen this movie in more than a decade and I can still remember the chorus.

The Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland
Would you ever let something that smiled at you like this curl up at the foot of your bed at night? No, you wouldn't. You would call a priest.

The Aristocats
Kindly old widow leaves her entire fortune to a gang of cats instead of her trusted butler? Please. Let's not pretend they didn't carefully manipulate and execute their master plan from day one.

Lucifer, Cinderella
If I had a cat, I'd give it Satan's Christian name too.

Yesterday Mr. T and I had the following discussion regarding my friend's grievous injuries (grievous because she couldn't wash her hair for three days due to the lesions on her scalp, and she still can't deep condition):

Me: "I promised A. I would aim my car at a random cat on the street to even the score."
Mr T: "That's so mean. What if it belongs to a little girl like Shooter?"
Me: "Then she should have made a better decision and gotten a puppy."

Conclusion: My opinion about cats isn't likely to change anytime soon, and in the meantime. I am going to buy my friend a Betta because at least when they go rogue, they only destroy their own kind or self-harm.

Friday, April 19, 2013

How to make coffee with only one hand and half your sanity

I have a love/hate relationship with thoe beautiful photo tutorials featured on countless blogs I read. I am more than just a little envious and wish I had skills that would lend themselves to such creativity. You won't find any useful posts on how to turn a piece of cardboard into a new headboard here (and if you do, assume extremist crafters have gained control of the site).

However, Little Dude is sick once again and fighting a fever. For the better part of two days, he's slept and/or wanted to be held. I never mind baby cuddles, but it occasionally presents a challenge when I need to complete essential tasks. Like making coffee.

Have no fear fellow parents; I can't show you how to make a four-course meal from the six ingredients you already have in your pantry, but I can reassure you that it's possible to brew a pot of life-giving nectar with just one hand. Behold...

"Don't even think of putting me down woman. You want it bad enough, you'll figure out a way.
What you'll need. Yes, that's a salt shaker. It need not be an awesome Tiki salt shaker like mine, but bonus points if it is.

Your thoughtful spouse made enough coffee for you both, but you slept in and now the coffee maker has shut off and you know better than to re-heat coffee.

Pinch all sides of the old, used coffee filter together so grounds don't fall out.

Grab an empty plate from your stack of dirty dishes since you can't hold a hand underneath to prevent dripping onto your already offensive kitchen floor.
Empty the old coffee. EMPTY IT. This is one of those times you don't have to feel bad for wasting. Do not re-heat, because a) It's gross and b) I will judge you.

Turn on the tap with one hand, then fill tank with cold water. Don't splash your almost-sleeping baby. You'll pay for that.

Fill the reservoir without spilling and creating an extra mess to clean up afterward. The people from Hamilton Beach have thoughtfully designed it so that the water has to be poured just so at a precise angle, so as to make this task as difficult as possible.

Grind your favourite coffee. If the answer is Nabob, discontinue reading. We can no longer be friends.
Fill a clean filter with coffee and try to keep your suddenly alert one-year old from grabbing the scoop and eating the grounds. It's bad enough you already have one kid that gleefully does it.
Sprinkle a bit of salt onto the coffee. My dad does because it supposedly removes bitterness. I don't know if that's true, but he makes awesome coffee so I'm not going to argue.
Once brewed, pour into your favourite cup. Mine conveniently has a fill line.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thoughts for Boston

I haven't run a marathon yet. It's on my bucket list, but Mr. T and I have come to an understanding that we'll wait awhile, until our kids are a bit older and more self-sufficient. Half-marathon training is a challenge enough as it is with two little ones, and we want to make sure we have the time and energy to commit to training for 42 kilometers. Both of us have said we'd love to try to run Boston in the future, preferably in the next 10 years. But even if that doesn't happen and we have to wait until we're in our 80s and the qualifying times are more forgiving, both of us want to wear that medal around our necks at some point.

Mr. T has traveled to the area often. One of his former company's home offices was there, and for a period, there was even talk of possible relocation for our family.

Though the word terrorism feels big and ominous and far away, for a multitude of reasons, today's tragic events hit close to home. We are parents and news that an eight-year old boy was one of the victims, and the realization that he was likely there cheering on a loved one, possibly his mom or dad, is almost unbearable.

We have been there at the finish line of races, as both runners and spectators. We know the anticipation that hangs in the air, the excitement of those final steps, whether you're taking them or watching them. We've hugged our family members and reveled in the feeling of pride and accomplishment. It is a place of joy and of celebration.

Being at the Boston Marathon is no accident or stroke of good luck. These runners have spent months, or very likely years, preparing for this day. Their families have too. They may not log the miles themselves, but they offer support and words of encouragement when the task seems insurmountable.

Someone on Twitter captured the feeling perfectly:

Indeed, it's like reading about a friend, even if you don't know their name or have never spoken a word to each other. Those of us reading about the horror may not have been close enough to feel the explosions, but they rocked us anyway. Because whether we've met face-to-face or not, we wave to each other on our weekend long runs, offer a "Nice work!" to cheer each other up a big hill (or maybe just a thumbs up, depending how much breath we have to spare) and chat nervously, yet excitedly as we await the horn signalling the start of a race. It doesn't matter if we struggle to keep an eight-minute kilometer or cruise easily at a sub-six. We challenge ourselves, push ourselves, test our limits and we discover camaraderie in that. It is a common thread that allows us to relate to one another.

A friend of mine ran the same half-marathon I did last fall. At some point in the final kilometer, her legs gave out on her and she collapsed on the course. Rather than accept help from a medic, she was instead assisted by two other runners who watched her fall and stopped to check on her. Abandoning their own race and possible goals, they hoisted her up, put her arms around their shoulders and helped her to the finish line. This kind of story is not uncommon in the running community.

And so our hearts ache as we watch events unfold that could break even the strongest of spirits. We mourn the loss of innocent lives at an event that shows us the possibilities of strength, endurance and good old-fashioned hard work.

In the coming days and weeks, authorities and officials will look for answers and numerous theories will be posed and debated. But as Newtown and Aurora and New York City showed us, there will not be a satisfactory answer, nor will we ever be able to make sense of it because there is no logic or explanation to madness and depravity. We can only maintain hope that goodness and courage and unity  - all of the things that running and the Boston Marathon embody - will prevail.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Those special times of the year, when Pinterest ruins my life

My birthday is my favourite time of year. More than Christmas and Thanksgiving and spring. Possibly because all those other occasions require work. Shopping and meal or treat prep, or cleaning and reorganizing. Or having really, really big plans to reorganize, but getting sidetracked by spring TV sweeps and the unexpected murders and plot twists that they entail. But I don't have to feel guilty about unfulfilled good intentions on my birthday, do I? Nope. I can stay in bed a little longer, eat an extra cupcake or three and let everyone else worry about disappointing me.

But it's not my birthday. It's almost Little Dude's. I know you can hardly disappoint a one-year old. As long as there are piles of tissue paper and someone sticks their head from around a corner to shout "boo!" periodically, he'll be happier than a piglet in crap. But I can disappoint all 34 of my Pinterest followers by not posting photos of beautiful plans and ideas for his upcoming party. I can disappoint Facebook by not reveling in the joy and beauty of handcrafting decorations myself, and by serving bowls of pre-made and, gasp, store-bought snacks and treats. "Somebody quick, call Child Services, she served brownie bites she bought at Costco!"

Okay fine, my friends couldn't give two licks about that. They will comment and like photos of my baby smiling and laughing and pounding a cupcake with his fist, then smearing frosting across his cheeks like war paint. Let's call a spade a spade: our kids don't care about these details whether they're turning two or 10. As long as there is candy, cake and friends, they're thrilled. We do this for ourselves. We do this to ourselves

I was up all night (I did sleep for 30 minutes before jumping out of bed like I'd been shot when the alarm went off) putting finishing touches on the party we had for Shooter's third birthday last fall because I wanted everything to be perfect. And yet there were still things I was disappointed with that just didn't look as nice as the plans I'd had in my head. She didn't care. In fact, all I wish now, is that on the morning of her party, I had enjoyed watching her laugh and shriek as she bounced on a giant trampoline instead of organizing a table of food that would soon be decimated by a crowd of hungry preschoolers.

I am not even remotely artistic. I am good at swirling yummy frosting onto cupcakes. And if someone needs me to run those cupcakes from point A to point B in roughly a six-minute kilometer, I'm your mom. But it ends there. Fortunately I have help this week from people far more talented than me. So my boy will have some pretty manly little touches that will at least make me feel like I've put in some effort, even if that effort was commissioning food and decor. So one day, when he tells me he hates me for the first time, I can show him the photo album and be like, "See? See how much work I put into pretending to be great mother just for you?"

And if all goes well, I won't be up until 5 a.m. faking it and Child Services won't come knocking on my door. Not that day anyway.