Thursday, September 24, 2009

These are the people in my neighbourhood…

I think I may live on the best street ever. We moved to Clare St. in 2002. It was our 2nd house purchase and there was just something about the place that I loved. We moved in and, with one exception that I will not go into here, were warmly welcomed to the street by all our lovely new neighbours. I was super happy to learn that there was already a boy Jacob’s age on the street and lots of other kids to play with.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that we had really had landed on a gem of a street. That first year we attended a block party, with all the neighbours, held in two back yards joined by gates. Many of the backyards on our street have gates linking them up. It’s a great thing and such a little thing, really. Then, three years ago, we all decided we should do something to celebrate Fall. We already had a Christmas carolling night, a New Year’s Eve street gathering, a late spring block party, and numerous other informal get-togethers including a street mosaic making workshop, a street sign workshop in which we cut out various animal and child shapes, painted them, and stuck them around the street to alert drivers and to get them to slow down, and a street book box where we drop-off books and pick up new ones. A Fall Fair seemed like an ideal addition to our repertoire of community building events. There is no shortage of energy for community-building on our street.

The first Fall Fair was such fun that we did it again last year, and this year we celebrated our 3rd Annual Fall Fair under beautiful sunny skies.

We started with a bike parade



Then played with a huge castle of boxes. DSC04853

There were bubbles:



and a game of street hockey. There was also the annual tug of war with East vs. West (West won thank-you very much) and North vs.. South (South was cheating as per usual and ‘won’ again).



And then the fire truck showed up. With the firemen. And, no, there wasn’t an emergency, we invited them. They are so great with the kids and really friendly with everyone, letting the kids climb all through the truck.


Mr. February in the Clare St. Honorary Fireman’s Calendar. Hey it’s a good idea.

This year, they brought out the hose and let the kids shoot it at the street.

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What can I say? I do love a fireman with his hose…

The firemen told us they like to practise with their hoses regularly. And even though they are just the 1.5” hoses, I would just like to say here that they are welcome to come and practise on our street anytime. No, really. I insist.

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Even the kids had a good time.


After the cupcake walk (mental note to self – need music for next year as a group of parents lamely droning our way through ring- around-the-rosy over and over made the whole thing a bit funereal rather than celebratory but who cares really. Right, Finley?)DSC04943

Then it was time to get ready for the BBQ Dinner and, of course, the Fall Fair Exhibition. There were a number of categories but all you really need to know is that we are all winners here on Clare St. Especially me and my blackberry jam which won best preserve, and Zoe who won for best cookies and something else that escapes me right now.


Various other neighbours were also recognized for their excellence in baking pies and desserts, growing the largest carrot, best cornucopia, best bread, wine, etc etc. If you can find it on our street, then chances are good there was a category and a ‘winner’. Thanks to Phil for organizing the exhibition and for bringing in a ‘New Era in Transparency’ for judging the exhibition. Hilarious.





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Then it was time for dinner:

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at which point the band arrived.


Leon (that's him on the left) lives at the end of our street and teaches most of the men folk on Clare how to play the guitar. We loved his new band Lucky in Love. They played a short but awesome set of standards and original music. There was even dancing. With the crisp light of early evening and the lovely singing, it was a magical moment.

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By then we were ready to eat all the dessert and pie entries.

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The desserts were amazing. I especially enjoyed the Butter Pie with Plums. You just can’t go wrong if you use at least 2 lbs of butter, throw in some flour & sugar, and a few plums, and bake that baby. I think this is is how Gloria made her butter pie, or whatever it was called. Actually, WHO CARES what was in it, or how she made it, it was delicious. When in doubt, throw in more butter.

And did I mention the other pies were outstanding, too. Yum. And also the butter pie.


What kind of street party doesn't have a fire in the middle of the street? It’s become a tradition to haul out one of the neighbour’s chimineas. We all sit around it trying not to catch on fire as sparks and embers jump and swirl around us. It’s quite lovely, and a good source of roasted marshmallows which seem to materialize out of thin air as soon as the fire is lit.


Then it was time for the Walk-In Movie held in the driveway of one of the houses on the street. The garage door was a perfect place for a screen, and the sloping driveway was the perfect  place for the kids to watch Wallace and Gromit. Sleeping bags, pillows, popcorn and hot chocolate competed the scene.


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It was the perfect end to a perfect day. After the movie we hustled all the kids to bed and then enjoyed some kid-free time around the fire-pit.

I am so grateful to all my lovely neighbours for making our street such an amazing place. So much community in such a small place! You are all so lovely and I consider myself blessed to be surrounded by you.

Thanks for reading,



Monday, September 21, 2009

Does Anyone Know, Is it Love??

I was on the internet the other day: I wanted to know what a particular error message meant that I kept receiving. Like many of you, I’m sure, my Internet Explorer is automatically set to offer up a selection of choices for the completion of any sentence/question that I start typing. This could be very useful but typically I just ignore them. I don’t know why I have never really paid attention to the choices that come up before but for some reason, on this day I did. I soon forgot about the error message and instead spent the next 30 minutes entering the beginning few words of random questions.

The lists of questions that have obviously topped Google’s search engines was so revealing, ridiculous, hilarious, and heartbreaking all at once I could hardly believe it.

Take your basic ‘why, what, where, who and when’ questions. I started with ‘What is the’. At the top of the list of suggestions was ‘What is the date today?’ which returned 342 000 000 results. I didn’t really know what to make of this. How could so many people be confused about the date. I mean, come on. I periodically am unsure but if I think about it for a few seconds, I can usually work it out: yesterday was the 3rd so…it must be the…4th. The next question was even more bizarre. This time I started with ‘what’ and ‘what time is it’ popped up. Ummm aren’t you already on your computer cuz you could just take a look in the bottom right corner of your screen... And how is this going to help anyway – asking the computer what time it is. What time is it where?  I know all about the High School Musical number, but I’m not sure that can account for the 658 000 000 results that are available for your perusal.

Next I tried ‘what should’. Up popped ‘what should I do with my life’ & ‘what should I do today’. How about not this! And plain old ‘what should I do’. This was starting to get me down. I envisioned someone desperate for some inspiration and no one to turn to but Google. Hey, Google, what should I do with my life? Granted, Google does have a lot more to say on the matter than pretty much anyone else. 289 000 000 results to be specific. There has to be some sort of meaningful suggestions in there somewhere. Maybe something like: ‘Figure out a way for people to learn the date and time easily’.

I decided to move on to ‘who’. Not surprisingly, ‘who will I marry?’ topped the list. Like Google will help you find out who you will marry. I typed in ‘will I get’ just for fun. Yep - ‘will I get married’ was right at the top but ‘will I get the job’ had the most returns. 513 000 000 to be precise. OK wait a minute. How on God’s Green Earth is Google going to tell you if you got the job or not. Buddy. You may as well ask the fork you ate dinner with. Or perhaps the bathmat. It might know. Hey, bathmat, will I get the job?  Pardon me? I didn’t hear you, you’re a bit muffled...’

I was really starting to wonder about the state of humanity. This was getting downright depressing. We have these burning questions and who do we ask? Google. How did we answer these questions before we had Google? I guess either we didn't ask anyone and let them smoulder in our minds until they caught fire and we had to ask someone, or they just quietly burnt themselves out and we spent the rest of our days in some kind of unrequited state.

Anyway. I did spend a bit more time with the word ‘why’. This was where it started to get funny. I actually laughed out loud at the top ‘why did’ question. ‘Why did Michael Jackson turn white?’ Why indeed? 1.4 billion potential references to this most important of questions awaits your attentions. Next on the list was ‘why did Michael Jackson have plastic surgery’. I don’t know. Maybe because he turned white? He didn’t like his nose? WHO CARES. Didn't it fall off anyway? I love Billie Jean as much as the next person but I can’t think why so many people want to know why Michael Jackson wanted to alter his appearance. It’s just a weird question, people. Don’t ask such weird questions. You’re freaking me out.

I started to wonder what parenting questions might be out there. I typed in ‘Why do…’ but only got that far as I was instantly distracted by ‘Why do men have nipples’. Well. It’s so they can rub them when they are lonely. Isn’t it?  Obviously. God. No, actually it’s because they would look weird without them. PEOPLE. Next you will want to know why we have elbows. I wanted to type ‘why do my children…’ but only made it to ‘why do my chi…’ at which point the diverting question ‘why do my chickens have diarrhoea?’ appeared. I kid you not. Go ahead try it yourself. This is a question to which I have no answer and probably a good example of a time that Google may actually be able to help.

Oh, and perhaps you are wondering ‘Is it normal to shave pubic hair?’ or how about ‘Is it down?’ Is what down? The bridge? The stock market? Your brain?  Who exactly is going to answer this vaguest of questions anyway? And it’s OK, go ahead and ask ‘when will the sun burn out’ because you and 32 000 000 other people would like to know. And I know you are also really wondering ‘which transformer am I'?’ and also ‘which celebrity do I look like?’ Don’t be shy with your questions, now! How about ‘which is one place penguins do not live?’ or ‘when would it be appropriate for a teacher to sit on the floor?’ Probably when they have been asked some of these questions.

Next I started with ‘Is it…’ Interestingly, the top question was ‘is it love’.

Well, is it? Let me know.

Then I got to ‘Is it me?’ and I felt kind of sad. Especially as this question has 5.87 billion results. I pictured someone in the dark, face lit by the glow of a blue screen, typing in the lonely words ‘Is it me?’ What were they expecting as an answer? Imagine if ‘No’ came up. Then what would you do. Ask again? I think you are asking for trouble if you ask that question of a computer. It’s like asking ‘why is eggs?’ or ‘how will boots?’ Just try and answer that, Google.

So here’s my suggestion. Next time you need to know something that could be classified as ‘deep’, ask your mum instead. Or maybe your best friend. Or your kid. Or even the guy at the Laundromat. It may be more fulfilling. Or you could ask me. I’d be happy to ponder the question with you over a cup of tea.

Thanks for reading-



Thursday, September 10, 2009

Top 10 list for First Day Back to School

This is one of my favourite songs (yes I know it’s Jack White again). And so appropriate for the first day of school. Play it while you’re reading this – it helps:)

Here is my top 10 list of first-day-back-to-school favourites:

10. The look of shock on the faces of the teachers as they see Jacob walk toward them. He is almost 5’10” and has grown about 3 inches in the past 3 months. It’s ridiculous. And his voice has changed and he looks like a 13yr old man. Hey, it’s freaking me out, too.

9. Zoe commenting with an exasperated sigh that the ‘parents have eaten all the cookies again’ at the welcome back coffee party.

8. The crispness in the air. 

7. Joy on small faces as they see their friends

6. How organized the classrooms are – all those books and hooks so neatly lined up just waiting for mayhem to hit.

5. All the new shoes everywhere.

4. New kids to the school gripping their parents’ hands for dear life and then being coaxed away by new friends.

3. The fact that there is always a bird’s nest somewhere in the classroom. I’m pleased to see that Zoe’s new teacher, Mr. Hawes, did not disappoint in this regard.

2. Seeing my friends again

1. How lucky my kids are to be able to go to school













6 Bottles of Rubber Cement, Please.

On my first day of grade 1, my mum bundled me off into the car with my dad and my lunch and a too-big backpack, and told me to have a good day, listen to my teacher and, strangely, not to buy too many pencils.  I remember saying ‘Ok’ but thinking the 6 yr old equivalent of what the fuck? Was I going shopping? This was a private school, and so I assume now that my mother was told that school supplies would be, well, supplied. She must have thought there would be a stationary store right on site and that we kids would be given free reign to wander in and get whatever we thought we would need. Like we would know:

6yr old me:  “I’ll take 4 of those sets of markers please. And 12 rulers. And 93 pencils. No, wait, that’s too many. Just 90, please. No I don’t think I’ll need any paper. Maybe throw in a couple of those books that have the lines on the bottom half and no lines on the top half. And do you have any liquid paper? And I’ll take 6 bottles of Rubber Cement”

This was what I imagined all the way to school so imagine my dismay when there was no stationary store. Just a shelf in the classroom with jars of pencils and glue sticks and a pile of exercise books. Disappointing…. When I got home I told my mum right away that there was no store to buy pencils and that the teachers had obviously gone ahead and picked everything out for me already. She looked at me like was I feeling OK and then said something about an early night.

We mothers often fall back on the ‘early night’ thing. It’s a sure-fire cure for most afflictions that could befall any member of the family: your son has fallen off his bike and crushed his ankle? A good night’s sleep will make it feel better. Your daughter is figuring out that the tooth fairy cannot logically exist and wants you to break it down for her? Let’s deal with that in the morning. You have erased 43 hours worth of work on the computer? You’ll feel better in the morning. Your husband has misplaced his sense of humour? Get to bed, we’ll find it in the morning, Honey. Basically what this means is “ I cannot deal with this right now as I need all of you to go away and leave me in peace for a few minutes before I fall comatose into bed”. We then cross our fingers and hope that the problem will disappear of its own accord before we have to wake up and do this all over again. 90% of the time this is true. The other 10% of the time I don’t want to talk about.

I was relying on the ‘get the kids to bed early’ thing this week as we started gearing up to go back to school. I, model mother that I am, was going to ensure that the kids went to bed 30 minutes earlier each night for the 5 nights before school started. We would also wake up 15 minutes earlier each morning. By the time school started, the kids would spring out of bed before their alarms went off, smiles on their faces, clearly refreshed and well-rested and ready for anything. I would smugly congratulate myself. When we got to school I would smile kindly at the other bleary-eyed parents and mention quietly that I had been able to get my kids into bed early and that we hadn’t had any trouble getting up.

So when we didn’t get to bed early the first night, I told myself that it was no big deal really. Four nights was ample time to get the kids accustomed to a new routine. Things went sideways the next night too and I was starting to get edgy. When 9pm rolled around on the Tuesday night, I pried my fingernails out of my palms and told myself to BE FLEXIBLE. At our school, Zoe’s first day was comprised of an hour of school 9:30-10:30am on Wednesday morning. Jacob has two hours in the afternoon. So we didn’t really have to get up that early but even 9:30 was apparently early enough but we managed to get there on time .The afternoon was of course easier. Wednesday night was marginally better but not good enough. But needless to say, Thursday morning did not go according to my ‘plan’. My dream crumbling around me, I yelled up the stairs to the kids to HURRY-UP and 'did they know I was LEAVING SOON. Things almost came to a head as I sat waiting for Jacob to put his socks on.  If I had known how, I could have sequenced the gene code for the woolly mammoth while waiting for him to pull up his left sock. Actually, I could have probably learned how to do it during the left sock and then done it while he worked away on the right sock. We got him to school with seconds to spare. I then realized I had forgotten Zoe’s backpack at home and so we made a quick diversion home where I also discovered I was still wearing slippers, and then we made it to school.

I’m never sure who is more anxious on these first few hours of the new school year: the teachers, the kids or the parents. Kent must have asked me a million times what was wrong on Wednesday morning as I sprinted around the house locating boots, losing keys, and squawking out the time every five minutes. Anxiety was present in the school yard, too. Over there was a teacher mainlining coffee, here was a parent berating their child for not tucking in his shirt. We all milled around trying to remember each other’s names and asking the top 5 questions for first day of school:

  • Whether or not Summer was good (typically it was but you would hardly want to admit it if it wasn’t. Such an answer would throw everyone off)
  • Haven’t they all grown (yep, they have)
  • Weren’t we all thrilled that the KIDS are back (overwhelmingly, yes)
  • Hasn’t the weather been SMASHING this summer (yep)
  • Wasn’t it nice that the kids have so-and-so this year as a teacher.(definitely)

But however we all felt during those moments, the general mood was one of happiness.  And when our kids came tearing out of the classroom, their smiles were almost as big as ours. So in the end it was all good and that’s First Day #9, of the 18 that I will experience as a parent, under my belt.


Yep, that’s me in grade 1. Looks like maybe I had been into the rubber cement already. And I would like to publicly thank my parents for apparently combing my hair with a toothbrush before I went to school that day. And for those of you who know me, see, my hands have always been ridiculously small. or maybe it’s just the extra huge blazer…

Thanks for reading.

Cheers, Jane