April 2005

Adventures with Ann

by DaniGirl on April 29, 2005 · 6 comments

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Yesterday, I was lucky enough to meet someone in person whom I feel like I have already been friends with a long time. I met Ann Douglas, famous (and infamous?) Canadian parenting expert, writing mentor and blogging queen, and let me start out by assuring you she is even sweeter in person than she seems in her books and blog. Hard to believe, isn’t it?

My account could never be as exciting or detailed as Marla’s story of her meeting with Ann in Toronto, although I think it would be a good contest to see which one of us could outlast the other for sheer verbosity some day!

Ann was giving her talk about four ways to help improve kids’ health at a local Chapters store. I managed to get there a little bit early, and found Ann already looking poised and relaxed in the lecture area, chatting with some official looking people who I later found out are her “handlers”. Hmmm, I could use some handlers in my life!

Just as I was about to approach her, I got a case of the shys, but Ann’s quick smile and friendly hug put me right at ease. That, and she had a “present” for me – my free autographed Mother of All Parenting Books, plus lovely smelly bath salts and soap, that I won from my entry in her parents in the movies contest. I love presents! We chatted for a few minutes, but I figured I’d best stop completely monopolizing her time when a local TV news crew showed up and started setting up.

I met up with a couple of girlfriends (Hi Robin! Hi Anna! Hi Sharon!) and we settled in to hear Ann’s lecture. She spoke about things you can do to help tip the health roulette wheel in your kids’ favour – good nutrition, including family dinners together; regular exercise; practice good handwashing techniques; and, consider getting the recommended immunizations for your kids. (See Ann, I was paying attention!)

Here she is doing the Q and A portion of her lecture. Doesn’t she look professional? She’s a great speaker by the way, if you don’t mind the fact that she gets distracted by cute babies (don’t we all?)

The aforementioned news crew filmed most of the talk and the Qs and As. My not-so-subtle friend Robin kept poking me during the Qs and As, encouraging me to ask a question so the camera would turn our way and she could lean in and be on TV. Which I did, because I am such a good friend.

When I later related this story to Beloved, he was amazed that I in fact needed to be goaded on this. He said he was surprised I wasn’t standing on my chair waving to get the camera’s attention, thrusting my travel-sized photo album of the boys toward the lens. I am thinking maybe I am getting the reputation of being a little bit of a media whore. I’m going to have to work on that.

Here’s a nice picture of Ann and me together that Robin took.

It was really great having the opportunity to meet Ann in person, and of course to collect my free stuff! I have a small collection of autographed Canadian literature, so Ann will take her rightful space on my shelf along with Douglas Coupland, Mordechai Richler, Margaret Atwood and others.

I was reading the first few pages of The Mother of All Parenting Books as I waited for Beloved earlier this afternoon, and having just chatted with Ann in person I was blown away by how well the books capture her voice exactly. I think that’s what I’ve enjoyed about all the “Mother of All…” books – the friendly voice that makes it seem more tips and thoughts from your sister or best friend than pedagogic lectures from a self-important expert.

Thanks, Ann! I hope you enjoyed your brief visit in the nation’s capital, and I hope you make it back this way soon!


Tristan goes to the dentist

by DaniGirl on April 26, 2005 · 7 comments

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Tristan had his first visit with the dentist this week. He did amazingly well – frankly, I was shocked. Even I don’t usually sit still that long without fidgetting. He sat not only through the examination and scaling (where they scrape the placque off with a metal tool – I hate that part), but through an entire tooth polishing as well. He only balked at the very last minute, leaving one lonely tooth unpolished.

I’d like to think me sitting beside him smiling bravely kept him from being afraid, but frankly, I think it just didn’t occur to him to be scared of the dentist. Personally, it took me 10 years of seeing my current goddess of a dentist to get over the preceding 25 years of dental misadventures.

As a very young woman, I had one dentist who had a horrible stutter and a worse temper, and when I kept insisting that the freezing he was injecting wasn’t taking despite his best efforts, he pitched a tantrum and threw one of his tools across the room. One of my first dentists lost his licence to practice for misprescribing medication, among other mistakes. The only thing that really holds my teeth together anymore is the fillings, veneers, caps and crowns – I think I have more artificial stuff in my mouth than natural enamel. So needless to say, I have issues of my own, and am making a Herculean effort not to pass them on to my boys.

Sadly for Tristan, what I have passed on is crummy, decay-susceptible teeth. He’s three years old, fer crissakes, and has pits in his left and right upper molars that need to be filled. Who knew they even did fillings for baby teeth? My stomach aches at the thought of him having to go through this.

My dentist has recommended he see a pediatric dentist, partly for the specialization and partly so he doesn’t associate the trauma (please excuse me while I sob just a little bit) with his regular dental visits. Apparently they’ll probably give him gas or something to make it easier. But, will they give me some, too?

My dentist wants to talk with the pediatric dentist in person to discuss options before we commit to a treatment plan. But she said if we don’t do something now, even if it is as simple as covering the pits without drilling, the pits will develop into full-fledged cavities requiring fillings within six months.

Oh, and one other bit of trivia – he has too many teeth. On the top, he has what looks like five incisors, an extra one on the top left. Hmph. There’s probably something witty to be said there, but I’m a little too freaked out by the idea of this whole fillings-for-my-three-year-old thing to see it just now.



What’s up, doc?

by DaniGirl on April 25, 2005 · 5 comments

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Sunday morning found us dealing with yet another feverish baby, this time my elder son. That’s one sick kid for each and every weekend since Easter – it’s wearing a little thin by now.

So we cuddled up on the couch together, watching early morning cartoons. Usually, when we’re not watching DVDs or tapes, we watch non-commercial television like TVO (the Ontario equivalent of PBS), but I noticed they were playing Bugs Bunny on one of the regular cable channels, so we bent the rules.

Does everyone of my generation feel that same nostalgia for Bugs Bunny? Of all the animation that’s come since, I don’t think anything holds a candle to those old shorts. I remember Saturday afternoons in the 1970s, watching Bugs Bunny with my folks and their friends, just before my dad went out to barbeque some hamburgers for all of us. (It’s weird to look back and realize I’m older now than they were then.) The first movie my father ever saw was a Bugs Bunny cartoon, on the boat coming over from Holland in the mid-1950s, matter of fact. Man, those things have staying power!

I was pleased when Tristan said, “Hey, that’s Bugs Bunny!” Of course, I live with an animator and we have a pretty decent collection of cartoons on DVD so I shouldn’t have been surprised that Tristan knew of Looney Tunes already. We got to see a couple of golden oldies: the one with Elmer Fudd and the music from the Barber of Seville, and one of the ones where Sylvester battles the baby kangaroo masquarading as a giant mouse. Watching them is like being seven years old again!

What really surprised me, though, was the commercials. Twenty-odd years later, and they’re still hucking the exact same things they used to pitch when I was a kid on Saturday mornings: Frosted Flakes with Tony the Tiger, Froot Loops with Toucan Sam, Strawberry Shortcake dolls (are those really back?) and, my favourite, Star Wars toys! Except when I was a kid, they didn’t have a lightsabre that changed colour so you weren’t always stuck being Obi Wan, nor a mask that changed your voice so you sound like Darth Vader. (We’d best change the subject before I begin to pine for my Han Solo action figure and long-lost full set of Empire Strikes Back cards. FULL SET! Can you imagine what they’d be worth on e-Bay? I could retire!)

So we survived the siren song of an hour of commercial TV, and I didn’t see one plug for Beyblades (I know, they’re probably passé already) nor one commercial done in animé (god, how I despise animé). The ads didn’t really seem to phase Tristan at all. But, um, please excuse me while I go search the Toys R Us Web site to see how I can get a light sabre that changes colour…


Today, I am mother of the year

by DaniGirl on April 22, 2005 · 7 comments

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So you thought U2 was the hottest ticket in town? Check this out, baby. If you have preschoolers in your life, this makes U2 seem like your high-school boyfriend’s garage band.

We just scored tickets that will make us the coolest parents in the universe, in the estimation of three-year old Tristan. We scored tickets to go see A Day Out With Thomas. A life-sized Thomas the Tank Engine that we will actually board for a jaunt around lovely St Thomas, Ontario. Can’t you just imagine Tristan’s little head exploding when he gets a look at that?

I’ve mentioned Tristan’s Thomas obsession before. Thomas and his friends have played a role in the milestones of Tristan’s life, not to mention his coming-of-age as a consumer. We have wooden trains, we have metal trains, we have plastic trains (in four sizes, no less), we have DVDs, we have VHS tapes, we have books, we have stickers. We have burned CDs of downloaded Thomas music, we have several Thomas Web sites bookmarked. For my THREE year old. We even have a Thomas pillow on his bed, for goodness sake.

I guess they have a couple of these Thomas extravaganza road shows travelling around North America each summer, but they rarely venture into Canada. St Thomas, for those of you not familiar with Southern Ontario, is just down the road from London, where I grew up. It’s a six hour drive (or sixteen, if you are driving with two preschoolers) that I used to make once a month before my folks moved up here in 2003. So we’re hauling the kids across the province in July to see a big blue train. And I’m as excited about this as I have been about any vacation since our honeymoon. Wait, this is the first vacation since our honeymoon!

So when we pull into the Elgin County Railway Museum this coming July and set Tristan free in the mecca of all things Thomas, I will be for that shining instant, the coolest mother in the world.
I hope this isn’t the pinacle of motherhood for me. I hope that some future day in my sons’ lives, I will be as cool as I am today. I doubt it, but I am still hoping.


Poop-dogs and other rites of spring

by DaniGirl on April 20, 2005 · 6 comments

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I don’t know what the weather has been like in your neck of the woods, but it sure has been fine around here lately. (Yes, as a Canadian blog, it is once again time to discuss the weather as per the Canadian Blog TOS. Rules is rules.)

I am a summer kind of girl. I love the heat, I even love the humidity. Maybe it’s a Leo thing. I love spring, too – the little flowers peeking through the soil, and the way the trees seem to get that green fuzzy cloud around them just before the leaves burst open.

What I don’t like is picking up the winter supply of dog poop. Yuck! I tried to be proactive this year. There were two good thaws in January and February, and I filled bags of brown snow then. Before the snow melted entirely, I was out there in March chipping away at brown and yellow ice. And yet, there were still mounds upon mounds by the time the last of the snow disappeared. Did I mention yuck? I don’t know why our dog is a poop factory, but surely she has some sort of deficiency that makes her poop three times her body weight every week. That much poop is just not normal.

So I spent a spectacular sunny Saturday afternoon with shovel and garbage bag in hand. Since it was so lovely, I couldn’t justify keeping Tristan in the house; however, I also couldn’t let him run rampant through the biohazard that was the yard. So he stayed on the deck and ‘helped’, inasmuch as driving me to distraction with comments and questions is helping.

‘Mommy, why does Katie poop?’

‘Over there, Mommy! There’s more over there.’

‘Mommy, why doesn’t Katie wear a diaper?’

‘Mommy, what are you doing?’

‘Look, over there, you missed some.’

‘Mommy, where does poop go?’

‘Mommy, why do you have to put the poop-dogs in the bag?’

Questions continue to rain down on me, until…

‘Mommy, you’re doing such a good job. Daddy will be so proud of how you made the yard pretty.’

He’s a good kid. And I think we’ll keep the dog, too. For now.


50 ways to love your liver

by DaniGirl on April 18, 2005 · 10 comments

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Did you know April 18 to 22 is National Organ Donor week in Canada?

In late October of 2001, I was just about five months pregnant with my first son. I had been over at the grocery store buying Halloween candy for us — er, I mean, the neighbourhood kids. When I came in the door, before I could even get my coat off, Beloved approached me with tears in his eyes. “Your mom called,” he said, and the world stopped turning for the briefest instant. Thankfully, it was not what I was expecting. “They got the call. Your dad is getting his liver transplant.”

In 2003, 124 of every million Canadians — or almost 4,000 people — were waiting for new organs. But the rate of donations was a fraction of that, at just 13.5 organs per million in population.

My dad got Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion in the early 1980s. We didn’t find out he was sick until much later. Aside from becoming increasingly weak and frail, one of the most disturbing results of my dad’s cirrhosis was how it affected his cognitive processes. The gist of it is that the liver filters toxins like ammonia out of your blood, and when it isn’t working properly, the toxins can build up, leading to serious cognitive impairment. It really messes with your memory, your moods, and your mental stamina, among other things. In a lot of ways, it is similar to Alzheimer’s disease. It made me so very sad to see him struggling, because my father is one of the smartest people I know, and I aspired as a child to be as funny, as charming and as quick of wit as him.

We have been blessed. After the transplant, it wasn’t long before I had my ‘old’ dad back. There have been some setbacks, and there are ongoing troubles. But every time I see him interact with Tristan and Simon, my heart soars. Simon especially has a thing for his “Papa Lou” and even as I type this, I am grinning as I imagine how his face lights up when my dad catches his eye.

Overall, 250 Canadians — about five each week — died in 2003 while waiting for new organs. Among them were 82 waiting for a kidney, 100 for a liver, 30 needing a heart, 26 a lung and 12 needing other organs or a combination transplant.

I don’t have the words to express how the pain of some family’s loss can be so intimately bound to our family’s joy. I wish I could let them know what a difference their donation has made in our lives.

Within about 18 months of receiving his transplant, my folks moved across the province to live in the same city as us. Some days, when my dad is out and about, he calls me and offers me a ride home from work. They live just a few blocks from us, and when I was home on maternity leave, he would sometimes wander over in midafternoon while taking the dog for an extended walk.

It’s these tiny moments that are the gift we’ve received from an organ donation. How do you say thank you for the joy of a happy life with someone you love? How do you thank someone for the look in a baby’s eyes as his face lights up with excited recognition?

In the US, more than 87,000 people are waiting for the gift of life. Each day, about 74 people receive an organ transplant. However, 17 people die each day waiting for transplants that can’t take place because of the shortage of donated organs.

Discuss organ donation with your loved ones. Complete an organ donor card (American version). If you can’t take it with you, why not make sure it lives on as the best of you?

(statistics are from the Canadian Institute for Health Information and organdonor.gov)



15 April 2005 Uncategorized

You know what I don’t get? Okay, okay, you’re right, the list of things I don’t get is long indeed, including how magnets work, why guys don’t use the instructions when assembling Ikea furniture, and why my mother is still to this day afraid I will be kidnapped and sold into white slavery. But what […]

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What’s in a name?

13 April 2005 Uncategorized

Jen over at MUBAR has written a lovely story about how she chose her as-yet unborn baby son’s name on the spot after being forced to provide a name to an airline reservation clerk. It’s a cute story, you should read it. I love name stories. We knew we would name our son Tristan long […]

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So THIS is why we don’t host dinner parties!

12 April 2005 Uncategorized

We had some friends over on the weekend for dinner. No no, we didn’t have them à la Hannibal Lecter, we had the grilled chicken fajitas you told me I couldn’t have on Friday when I had to have takeout. Did I thank you for that yet? So we had these terrific friends of ours […]

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Ma tante est une poisson ferme

7 April 2005 Uncategorized

As if I weren’t already demanding too much of my seriously overtaxed neural networks, I have signed up for French lessons. Ours is an officially bilingual country, and I’ve reached a point in my government career where I need to achieve at least rudimentary second language skills. Plus, they pay you an extra $800 a […]

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