August 2008

I acknowledge that the first mistake was mine. When we used the ETR toll highway to bypass highway 401 last May and you sent the bill for $20, I paid it through online banking without stopping to think that my account was attached to the old car and not the new van. So when I got a collection notice from you in June, I called right away to resolve the issue. A nice lady at the ETR office could quite clearly see the credit sitting in one account and the debt sitting in the other, so she offered to amalgamate the two accounts and transfer the payment.

All was well, or so I thought.

Imagine my surprise when I received a bill the next month for 24 cents. That’s right, you spent 55 cents to send me a 24 cent bill. Never mind the fact that I paid the bill on time, just to the wrong account. I’ll admit, I wasn’t in too much of a hurry to send you your 24 cents, but neither was I in a hurry to give you another call to resolve the situation. With three little boys at home, my time is worth a lot more than 24 cents.

And imagine my further surprise when I got an automated collection call the very next day at dinner time, during which you impelled me to call your toll-free number to resolve an important collection issue. And I’m sure you can imagine my annoyance when you did not even give me the opportunity to click through to an agent, but simply repeated the telephone number. Since you called me at 5:15 pm, when I was making dinner while feeding the baby and unloading the dishwasher and removing the dirty tupperware from the boys’ day camp backpacks and chatting with my husband about his day, I didn’t exactly have a free hand to write your number down. So I hung up.

And you can imagine my growing consternation when I got the very same phone call the very next day at exactly the same time and you probably won’t be surprised to hear I was busy doing the exact things that prevented me from writing down your number the day before. But you can bet that I dropped everything to do just that, and in fact I immediately called that number, where I waited on hold for seven minutes before being disconnected without actually speaking to a human being.

And by that time I was righteously frothed and it’s a very good thing that the agent to whom I spoke was pleasant and understanding of my annoyance. That agent informed me that HER computer screen showed a balance outstanding of $20.24, even though your now-one-week-old bill showed a balance of $0.24 and even though more than a month ago another agent reassured me that the balance was nil. Lucky for you, turns out she was even more appalled by the snafu that was my account that I was, and she assured me that she would take care of everything.

That was last week. I have no idea what my current account balance is, nor do I really care. You have, it seems, at least one kind and intelligent employee working the phones. Thanks for that. On the whole, though, I think putting up with the traffic on the 401 at rush hour may have been less of an annoyance than paying the 407 ETR toll.

(*) 407 ETR is a toll highway across the top of Toronto, one of the few if only toll highways in the province.


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Lucas at six months (and a bit)

by DaniGirl on August 28, 2008 · 7 comments

in Baby days, Lucas

Did you hear the choirs of angels singing, and did you see the beam of light shoot down from the heavens to glow lovingly over Lucas’s high chair last week? Or maybe that was just me singing the Hallelujah chorus. We’ve made one of those huge developmental leaps that makes Mommy’s day so very much easier. Lucas can cram food into his own gob now.

Aside from sitting up independently, which he is still on the cusp of doing, this is one of the best milestones in babydom, as measured in units of maternal freedom. I’d been slow in integrating new solids into his diet, taking a week or so between each new food, but now that I can give him something to hold and nosh while I eat or empty the dishwasher or put dinner on the table, we’ve progressed quickly through all the old standbys in the course of the last week: Cheeries, toast, Egos, organic cookies, Mum Mums (do y’all have Mum Mums in the States? Best baby cookie ever!) and even pizza crust.

It’s been a while since I’ve given you a Lucas update, no? Lucas at six (almost seven!) months is a dream baby. He’s pleasant, sweet, and friendly. He continues to (*shhhh, don’t tell anyone!*) sleep through the night. He’s only disagreeable when he’s hungry or tired or is not the centre of attention, much like me. When I brought him for his six-month checkup, I was quite sure I’d find out he’d grown out of the baby bucket car seat/carrier. (Maximum is 22 lbs and 29 inches long.) We had only half an inch to spare, but a whopping five pounds of room to grow before we have to give it up – another hallelujah, please! – because he was 28.5 inches long but only 17 lbs. He’s the longest and the lightest of his brothers at six months, on the 50th percentile for weight and the 95th percentile for length.

My only two concerns going in to the appointment were that he still lolls his head a bit, and he still spits up ferociously. The head-lolling is resolving itself quite well, and the ped said he is not at all concerned. While Tristan sat up independently at five months, Lucas is not quite there yet at almost seven months. He does it for a minute or two, sometimes as much as five, but mostly because he’s propped up. He’ll get there, I’m sure.

The spitting up is driving me bananas. He still does it up to ten times a day, or more, sometimes enough to make a “splat” sound as he launches it over my shoulder and onto the floor below. (My apologies to the people at Canadian Tire, where he christened not one, not two, but three aisles in the sporting goods section while I was looking at skates for the boys last week.) We switched his meds from Ranitidine to Zantac caplets, but if anything he seems to be spitting more. Anyone else out there have a champion spitter and if so, when did it resolve? Seems to me that although Tristan and Simon were both like this, both of them dried up a lot when solids were introduced. Lucas just spits up more colourfully now.

One of my favourite things about this age, aside from the tiny increments of independence (tiny is okay, huge is not allowed) is his affection for me. My favourite is the “I love you so much I must grab you by the hair and suck on your face” kiss. It makes me laugh out loud every single time.

And does he ever love his brothers and his daddy. His whole body wriggles with delight when they talk to him or even walk into the room. Tristan can make him laugh just by looking at him. Is there anything better in the world than a baby belly laugh?

Does it get any cuter than this?

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Plan B: Week one update

by DaniGirl on August 26, 2008 · 12 comments

in Me, only better

So it’s been a week since I’ve been following my “Plan B” weight loss plan. The results so far? Drumroll, please!

1.5 lbs lost, one inch off my waist and one inch off my hips. Yay! (Actually, I lost the pound and a half between Tuesday and Saturday, and have been annoyingly stuck since then. I know, I have to be patient.) Well, it’s obviously working, if not a little more slowly than I would have liked, and I’m encouraged enough to keep at it. A few random observations from week one:

  • I’m quite proud of the fact that I’ve had no trouble at all meeting the “no sugar” part of the new diet.
  • On the other hand, the “limit your daily intake to 3 servings of carbs” part nearly killed me the first week.
  • Apparently, I’m a bit of a carb junkie. I’d say I was eating maybe six to twelve servings a day before this week. No wonder I couldn’t lose any weight.
  • I’m now more miserly with my carbs than I am with my money.
  • The first day, I was hungry to the point of being mildly headachy all day. The second day I started to find my rhythm, and I did pretty good the rest of the week. I went over on carbs one day and protein the next, and have not quite been able to keep up with my fruits or my fats. In fact, if it weren’t for nuts, I’d hardly be eating any of my five allotted daily fats.
  • I only fell off the wagon once when we went out to celebrate a friend’s birthday (waves to Jojo) and the hostess put out chips and salsa. I managed to resist the cake but caved on the corn chips, then topped it off with a few delicious salt and vinegar chips. Heaven, and worth every bite. At least I kept it down to about a dozen chips. And the next night my mom brought over a Farm Boy Triple Berry pie for dessert and my knees nearly gave out in berry bliss when I stole a mouthful and the centre of the strawberries were still warm from the oven. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted such a delicious pie. And yet, I ate only that one bite. Yay me!
  • I think the biggest shock to my system has been the two litres (eight cups) of water each day. In three pregnancies, I never had to pee so much or so vehemently. We were out shopping, going from one store to another one half a kilometer down the road. I felt the beginnings of a need to pee, but figured I had lots of time. By the time we made it to the second store three minute later, I was lecturing the boys as I parked the car about how we were going to go DIRECTLY to the bathroom and they were not to dawdle or so much as look around until we got to the bathroom and were we very clear on this because Mommy was NOT JOKING and it was VERY IMPORTANT. It was too close for comfort, I tell you.
  • A couple of days in, the nurse from the clinic called me to ask how I was doing. She had called just as I was unloading the dishwasher while eating spoonsful of yogurt directly out of the measuring cup, and I mentioned this to her in passing as a way to illustrate that I’m having a bit of a hard time balancing the extra time I need to weigh and analyze and consider my food choices while still taking care of the boys. She gave me a bit of a speech about taking time for myself and if that means letting the baby cry for a couple of minutes, so be it. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Yes, I do take time for myself. Yes, I have been known to let the baby work his way up from a fuss to a froth as I took an extra few minutes to get to him. But never so I could finish eating yogurt, for goodness sake. I save my “me” time for more important things, like going to the bathroom. Or, you know, blogging.
  • I don’t really eat meals anymore, I eat off my checklist. I think ahead to what we’ll have as a family for dinner, reserve those food choices and then scan my list to see which food groups still have open slots and eat accordingly. One day I had 3/4 of a cup of dry multigrain cereal, a piece of cheese and a red pepper for breakfast. This is neither a sustainable nor normal way of eating, I’m quite aware, but for the next six months or so it will be okay, and I’m hoping over the long term I can meld new habits into a more moderate regime.
  • I had said that I do not want to get obsessive about eating. I am so completely obsessive about my eating right now that it’s not funny. I suppose this is not really a bad thing, and I’ve always been a tad on the compulsive side anyway. Truth be told, I kind of like the beancounting aspect of monitoring my daily intake by making lists and ticking off boxes.

One and a half down, 18.5 to go!


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Oh my goodness. In just one short week, my baby Tristan will be starting Grade One, and my other baby Simon will be starting junior kindergarten. How did THAT happen?

I’ll save the hand-wringing and angst for another post (or seven) because I have a practical question for y’all. We live more or less right across the street from the school. For the first time, Tristan will be in school all (gasp!) day, and Simon will be attending in the morning.

I’ve always assumed that since I’m home on leave, I’ll just pick up both boys at lunchtime, take them home with me for lunch, and bring Tristan back for the afternoon. And I’ll have to go back and get him again in the afternoon. This means 9:00 drop-off, 11:30 and 11:45 pick-up, 1:00 drop-off and 3:30 pick-up. That’s a lot of time spent shuttling in and out of the school yard with Lucas in tow.

In talking to other parents, most have said that even if they live near the school, they don’t have their kids come home at lunch time. While this would make my day very much easier, it seems to me that having lunch at home might be a bit of a relief for Tristan in dealing with his first all-day school experience. (And, not incidentally, means that I don’t have to worry about packing his lunch each day. Also a post for another day.) Not only that, but whenever I lived within walking distance of school when I was a kid, I went home for lunch and I liked it that way. I have very fond memories of open-faced grilled cheese sandwiches and sweet pickles eaten while watching the Flintstones or Droopy the Dog on TV.

What do you think? Is it better and easier for the kids to stay at school during the lunch hour, or if you were in my situation would you be schlepping back and forth four times a day?


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I’ve always loved drive-in movies, but sadly, the closest one to Ottawa is about a 45 minute drive. When the movie doesn’t start until my, erm, I mean, the kids’ bedtime, that’s a long drive home after the movie in the dark. So when I heard that a local radio station was sponsoring a free (free!) “movies on the beach” night I thought it would make for a fun family outing. And when I heard that the final movie of the summer would be the boys’ favourite, Pixar’s Cars, I knew it would be a great way to end a memorable summer of family adventures. Turned out to be a clear, dry and warm night — absolutely perfect movie-on-the-beach weather.

They set up a big inflatable screen on Westboro beach and the first 200 families got a free beach blanket.
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Unexpectedly and to my delight, we ran into Andrea and her daughters there.

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I wasn’t sure if her girls and my noisy (and slightly younger) boys would find any common ground, but once a frisbee made an appearance, friendships quickly formed.

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(I loved watching them run around together. It was just the kind of evening I remembered as a kid, running around freely and playing tag and hide-and-go seek in the gloaming with kids I didn’t really know but were my best friend for that night. The glee on their faces as they chased each other over the sand and through the crowd was better than any movie could have generated.)

When the movie started, they even had those old-style trailers advertising the snack bar. (I have fond teenage memories of my friends doing a Brad-and-Janet, acting out the weiner and bun dance Rocky Horror Picture Show style in front of the drive-in screen.)

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We didn’t make it through the entire movie. By 10pm, around two hours past the boys’ bedtime, Simon asked to go home and Tristan offered no resistance to the idea. Truth be told, I’d had about enough by then, too. Since we’ve all seen Cars about 300 times, it all worked out for the best.

Props and thanks to Bob FM 93.9 and the Ottawa Citizen for sponsoring a great family outing. We’re already looking forward to next year!


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It seemed like a straightforward question. On the enrollment form I completed on the first day of Tristan’s first day-long day camp: “Can your child swim 25 meters unassisted: yes, no, I don’t know.”

25 meters? How long is 25 meters anyway? That seems kind of far. So I checked “no”.

Then I thought of Tristan bounding off the diving board and dogpaddling happily the length of our friends’ pool, and his success in swimming lessons, and scratched out my “no” and checked the “yes” box.

Then I paused, and reread the question. And I had visions of Tristan foundering in the deep end of some lake-sized pool, alone and far from safety, going under for the third time. And I quickly scratched out my check in the “yes” box and circled the previously scratched out “no” box and drew a little happy face beside it.

Then I paused again. Suddenly, I was picturing Tristan sitting dejectedly on the pool deck in a life preserver as the rest of his camp mates splashed happily in the pool. I pictured him at 35, in his therapist’s office, describing how a childhood spent in a protective bubble ruined his life. So I drew a squiggley line through my circle around the “no” box and scratched it so definitively out that I bled through the paper. And I put a big X on the happy face, too.

I hovered my pen briefly over the “I don’t know” box. I tried to imagine in which universe a skinny, pimply-faced teenager with no investment in the future social and mental well-being of my oldest son was somehow in a better position to make this decision than I seemed to be capable of, and didn’t check that box either.

In the end, I redrew the little box above the “yes” and ticked it off. For good measure, I pointed a few arrows at it and wrote the word “yes!” at the end of the question, and underlined it. I think maybe I was trying to sell the answer to myself.

At the end of the day, I grilled Tristan with the usual questions about his day, and he answered with the usual dreamy inexactitude I have come to expect. He told me about his art class (it was an arts camp) and the monster he was creating in a distracted sort of way. I asked about the pool.

“Oh yeah!” he said, snapping awake into the story, eyes bright with the memory of it. “It was great! I jumped off the highest diving board!”

I paused to digest that. “You mean the one closest to the ground, right? The low board? Not the one that you have to climb up a ladder to get to?” Surely to god my six year old who only learned how to jump off the diving board in the last year was not jumping off the 3m (10 foot) board.

“No, Mommy, the big board! I climbed up the ladder, and the first time I was scared, but then it was a lot of fun so I did it a bunch of times! And it was great! I can’t wait to go back tomorrow and do it again!” At least, I assume that’s what he said. I think I died of fright somewhere around the first exclamation point.


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Plan B

19 August 2008 Me, only better

Well, I worked out three times a week pretty much every week this summer from the middle of June onwards, and in eight weeks I’ve lost a grand total of… two and a half pounds. That’s a hell of a lot of work with rather unspectacular results, so I’ve gone ahead with what I’m calling […]

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Wherein Beloved goes back to work and deserts me with a plethora of boys

18 August 2008 Life, the Universe and Everything

Beloved is a teacher at a CEGEP, and enjoys each summer off from mid-May through mid-August. When I was pregnant, and in the early days after Lucas was born, I’d joke about Beloved and I both being home all summer. “If we survive three months with all five of us trapped in the house, we’ll […]

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Lukey’s boat is painted green

15 August 2008 Baby days

When he’s really frothed, I can rely on three songs to calm Lucas down. “You are my Sunshine” is my lullaby standby, and I have sung it to all three boys. It reminds me of my Granda, my grandfather on my mother’s side, and I cringe when I hear it used to huck orange juice. […]

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In which I inform the world about snack foods

13 August 2008 How I love the Interwebs

There is no end to the things I’ve learned through blog. Like, how to parse PHP and SQL on the fly. And also, why slings are better than baby bjorns and some great places to shop online. And about a thousand other things. In return, I try hard to send quality information out into the […]

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