31
January

Wordless wednesday – Ice on the river

Crack

Behind the ice

Crystals

Long narrow cave

Big

Changing

Look up

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29
January

Blinding them with Science

Willy and I have encouraged the lils interest in science, and they have mostly just played along with us.  We were OK with that because they were playing along, but recently had a breakthrough that can be tied to the combination of vinegar and baking soda.  My lils will watch that fizz again and again and again if we let them.  So keen is Woo, that he has built (from one of his science kits) a model volcano that he can pour red vinegar*into a crater filled with baking soda so that it erupts.  They LOVE this.

DSC03897

Now, much of what they do involves experiments, real or pretend.  I will often find bowls or cups filled with a murky liquid and half of my spice cupboard that I am absolutely not allowed to dump.  They are observing, you see.  If I fail to see that the liquid was an experiment and dump it anyway, they are quick to recreate it so that they can continue the observations.

When Woo and I were spending his Christmas money at Chapters, I saw a book that I knew would be perfect for my budding scientists. It was called “365 Science Experiments”, and is filled with many experiments that need few tools, and just a little bit of time.  When I told him that I wanted to buy it for them he gasped.  I knew I had a winner.  We got it home and started reading though it to pick the first experiment.  We’ve done a bunch, and all have been simple and fun.

Even though it has been brutally cold, the weather over the last week has made for the best experiments yet.  Sure, we were stuck inside miserable and sick, but once we started to get better, this lils needed simple things that go them some fresh air and got them moving.  So they’ve thrown boiling water into the air and watched it turn to snow, then compared that to a cup of cold water, which did nothing exciting.  The next day, I made a bubble solution and we blew some bubbles outside.  They loved to chase them around and catch them to make them shatter, which didn’t work when the solution was warm, but did work when it was cold.  I’d never done either experiment, and loved that I was learning along with the lils.

*food colouring 

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24
January

Wordless wednesday – c-c-cold

Pine needles

Frosty

Frosty

Feathers

Pine needles

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23
January

Hard core. Or maybe just a little bit crazy

If you live in or near Canada right now, there is a good chance that you are cold. Really, really cold. The last few days have brought cold air to all but the coasts, making it the coldest weather that we have felt in a long while, and I can’t say that I am really used to it yet. That being, I was still crazy enough to head out to the rink for hockey tonight.

As I drove down the street, the fuel light came on in the car and I heard Willy’s voice, warning me not to let the car run low on fuel on the really cold days. So I headed to the gas station, even though it was likely to resulting in me both freezing and being late. I took my glove off to pump the gas, and regretted it instantly. Frozen fingers.

As I was pumping, I noted that a guy had walked up to the pump in the next row, jerry can in hand. He seemed to be having trouble getting the pump to work and seemed to be cursing it in French. I turned away and tried to convince myself that he was fine and offering him a ride back to his car would make me late for hockey. I couldn’t leave him, so offered a ride, even though it would mean that his dirty jerry can would have to come in my new car. I was shocked when he turned me down, saying that he didn’t have far to go, indicating that his destination was about one kilometre away. Thinking that you would have to be pretty hard core to walk that far in this cold, I offered again.

The guy thanked me, but again told me that a lift wasn’t necessary, but then said that the fuel wasn’t even for his car… I got in my car and started to drive away, thinking about what he was doing. It turned out that that what I had assumed was a jerry can was actually a clear water bottle that looked red because of the red ad that was directly behind it. I started to wonder just exactly was so urgent that he needed to go out in the cold to get a water bottle full of gas, when there was now snow in the forecast. I drove on to hockey, thinking that maybe it was OK that this guy had turned me down.

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21
January

I lie

We all deal with the calls that we get from telemarketers in our own little ways. I used to just straight up tell the caller that I wasn’t interested in their services, until one local business told me that they would need to hear it from my husband before they would stop calling me. I’d had enough repeat callers at this point that I knew I needed to change tactics, but this pushed me right over the edge. For a little while, I tried telling them that I was on the do not call list, but that seemed to have no effect. Complaining about the businesses was also wasted effort, as you need the full name and number of the business. So now I lie.

In the past week, I have gotten a call about duct cleaning, too bad I just had it done. A call from the snow removal service that will clear our laneway before we know that it has stopped snowing, who was told, “sorry, I have a guy who does that” (his name is Willy). We also had a call from a contractor who was “in the neighbourhood” and wanted to quote on any work we needed done. I told them that there is nothing wrong with our house, perhaps the biggest lie yet. My lies even extend to the people that come door-to-door. Like the guy who is looking sketchy and looking for donations? Sorry, I donated online. Or the people who want to talk to me about my rental hot water tank so that they can save me LOTS of money? They get told that I don’t rent (actually, that one is the truth). It works really, really well. I still get the occasional call, but the numbers are way down, and there are no repeat callers.

This past Saturday afternoon I did get a call about a virus on my computer. I haven’t had one of these in a while, as the conversation in the past has gone something like this:

    Scammer, on a line that is terrible quality, sounding very much like he is reading from a script, “We have received a message from your Windows PC that there is a problem/virus”

    My response, said as convincingly as possible, “I don’t have a Windows PC”

    Scammer… click

Saturday’s call was a little different, as the scammer told me that my computer had sent a message that there was a problem. Since he didn’t specify a Windows computer, I just said that I didn’t have a computer. There was a long pause, and I was about to hang up, when he said, “nothing? Not a laptop? A desktop?” he was clearly alarmed at this thought, and that amused me greatly, so I agreed that we had none of those. He sputtered for a few seconds longer before saying “get a laptop!!!” and hanging up. Somehow I don’t think he will be calling back again soon.

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16
January

Talking to your children about homicide

This post came as the result of several conversations that I have had with friends over the last two days. Our community was stunned to learn on Monday night that a local mother had murdered her two children, and then taken her own life. My heart goes out to the family and friends who are left behind, broken. I am affected in that I live in this community, but there are others who are more closely touched, those who knew the family, whose children played with those children or who go to the same school. I don’t have to answer the difficult questions from my children, but they do. I offered to put this together for my friend Julie (of Coffee with Julie) and we both decided that we wanted to share it on our blogs, as there is very little out there to guide parents who are faced with these difficult conversations. I hope that this helps, even a little bit, it is just something that I put together from various resources that I have used in the past.

It is so hard to try and explain to our children when we cannot comprehend it ourselves. In my opinion, the most important thing is that you talk to your children. They need to hear the information from you, someone that they love and trust. This also lets you know they are getting the facts, and not rumours and guesses.

When someone dies from homicide, it is different from a natural or accidental death in that there is the knowledge that someone directly sought to bring harm to a person. That knowledge, coupled with the trauma of the sudden (and violent) death make it very difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain to adults, let alone children.

It is best if you limit your child’s exposure to media coverage of the tragedy, especially that which sensationalizes the deaths. Still, children, even those as young as four or five, may be hearing things in the media or in the school yard, and this will lead to questions. It is important that you take the time to talk to the children in terms that they understand, and answer the questions as honestly as you can (without revealing more information than they are seeking). Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your own if you are not certain what they know or where their questions are coming from. Homicide Survivors, Inc. has an extensive list of tips for talking to children about homicide:

TALK
-As soon as possible after the death, set aside time to talk with the child.
-Give the child the facts as simply as possible. Do not go into to much detail; the child will ask more questions if they come to mind.
-If you can not answer the child’s questions, it is okay to say, “I don’t know how to answer that, but perhaps we can find someone to help us”.
-Use the correct language, i.e., “dead”, “murdered”, etc. Do not use such phrases as “S/He is sleeping”, “God took him/her to heaven”, “S/He went away”, etc.
-Ask questions. “What are you feeling?”, “What have you heard from your friends?”, “What do you think happened?”, etc.
-Discuss your feelings with the child, especially if you are crying. This gives the child permission to cry too.
-Adults are children’s role models, and it is good for children to see our sadness and to share mutual feelings of sadness.
-Use the deceased’s name.
-Talk about a variety of feelings, e.g., sadness, anger, fear, depression, wishing to die, feeling responsible, etc.
-Talk about the wake/funeral, explain what happens, and ask the child if s/he wants to go. Include him/her, if possible.
-Talk with the child about your family’s spiritual beliefs, including what happens to people after they die.
-Talk about memories of the deceased, both good and bad.

THINGS TO DO
-Read to the child about death. There are many good children’s books available (see list at the end of this post)
-Read a book about children’s grief so you have a better understanding what your child is experiencing.
-Help the child write a letter to the deceased.
-Help the child keep a diary of his/her feelings.
-Invite your child and his/her friends, family members, etc. to plan a memorial for the deceased.
-Discuss rumors, media reports, etc., with the child so that s/he can clarify information regularly.

OBSERVE
-Be alert for reports or observations of “bad dreams”. Talk about them with the child. Dreams are sometimes a way to discharge stress.
-Be alert for behavioral changes in your child. If they concern you, seek professional help.

UNDERSTAND
-Understand your child’s level of comprehension and speak at that level.
-It may take some time for your child to understand the concept, “gone forever”, especially if s/he is very young.
-Your child may think that s/he caused the death because s/he had been thinking bad thoughts or had been angry with the deceased just before the death.
-The sudden and unexpected death of a peer is especially difficult for a child to comprehend; children tend to feel invulnerable.

As the child processes the information that you give them, they may repeat questions again and again, or exhibit other unexpected behaviours. Some common behaviours to watch for include; shock, anger, terror, guilt, emotional outbursts, intense sadness, and irritability. They may also display some physical symptoms such as; fatigue, insomnia, digestive upset, chills, headaches, change in appetite and other symptoms. These reactions are quite normal, and should diminish in time. If you are concerned about your child’s changing behaviour, or if the changes persist or intensify, you should talk to your family doctor.

Each child will deal with this knowledge differently, but there are some common reactions based on their developmental age (from Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime)

Birth to One Year:
Some professionals believe that infants do not respond to death, as their memory capacity for relationships has not yet developed. Others believe that infants may feel anxiety and tension, as the death may interfere with their basic needs, i.e. sleeping and eating schedules.

One to Two Years of Age:
Children at this age cannot yet attribute meaning to death. Environmental change can provoke both positive and negative reactions among young children. They may react to the emotions and grieving of those around them.

Preschool Children: Three to Five Years of Age
Preschool children have a limited understanding of death. They may believe that death is temporary and can be reversed, or perceive a dead person as asleep, gone away or broken. There is no understanding of personal death.

School Age Children: Six to Nine Years of Age
Children in this age group have a clearer understanding of death although they may still believe that it will not happen to them. Children at this age may be interested in the physical and biological aspects of death. Dealing with grief is difficult as school age children alternately confront and deny their grief. They may also be unprepared for the length of the grieving process.

It is common for children in this age group to experience:
- Denial
- Difficulty expressing their strong feelings of loss
- Difficulty eating and sleeping
- Physical ailments such as stomachaches and headaches
- Fearfulness
- Decrease in school performance
- Inability to concentrate
- Anger directed towards teachers or classmates
- Inappropriate classroom behaviour

Pre-adolescent and Adolescent: 10 to 18 Years of Age
Children in this age category have a more mature understanding of death and mortality. They understand that it is irreversible. They also understand personal death, although they may view themselves as immortal. These children may experience guilt, confusion, depression, shock, crying, stomachaches, headaches, insomnia, exhaustion, dramatic reactions such as not sleeping or eating, decrease in school performance, change in peer group, possible drug use and/or sexual promiscuity.

There is no right answer about how to talk to your children about traumatic death, just as there is no typical reaction – by any child or adult – to a tragic loss. Talk to your child’s school, a counsellor, or your family doctor if you are concerned about how your child is responding to the the trauma, or if you want help supporting them at this time.

Suggested readings

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16
January

Silence

In the past, every time my voice got really scratchy or husky from a cold, I would say that I had lost my voice. I truly thought that this was what laryngitis was; it hurt to talk at these times, so I didn’t talk. That seemed to fit the bill, so I rolled with it. This week, I have truly learned what laryngitis is.

I have not had any voice at all since late Wednesday of last week. Every time I try to talk above a whisper, it is not words that come out of my mouth, but an assortment of squeaks and squawks that generally make my children ask that I “just whisper, please”. It’s been completely frustrating for me, my family, and all of those that I have needed to interact with over the course of the week. I’ve also learned a few things along the way.

    - I am the loud one in the house. For the last week, all of our meals have been really silent and civilized. I wish I could say they it is because the family is giving me a chance to be heard, but it isn’t. I haven’t been talking at all, and the conversations that they have are quiet. I thought that I was loud to make myself heard, but in fact, they are making themselves heard, apparently.

    - I am terrible at charades. Minimizing the words that I use and relying on gestures is just not working out for me. Case in point, at dinner tonight, I tried to motion that I was going to the washroom. Willy thought that I needed him to come with me to the washroom. Why, I am still not quite sure, but I did eventually manage to convey that I was ok going pee by myself.

    - If the lils don’t like what I am telling them, they just walk far enough so that they don’t hear me anymore. Goose is most likely to pull this move.

    - People give you really funny looks if all that you do is whisper at them. This is especially true in instances where exchanges are supposed to be brief, like bumping in to someone in the grocery store. I whisper that I am sorry, catch the look and then get caught, torn between trying to explain the lack of voice or walking on, wait too long to explain, more strange looks, explain, more strange looks…

    - I need to brush my teeth all the time. If the best that I can do is a whisper, I am getting really close to people’s ears all the time. Really close to their ears? Their noses.

    - The lils do not have any issues with their hearing at this time. They can hear me whisper for them when they are not in the same room as me, and will answer me the first time that I speak to them, because they know that mama is sick and it hurts to talk. So now I just need to figure out how to make them think that I have laryngitis for the next twenty years.

This is really not something that I want to see continue, so I have been speaking less and less each day, going to bed each night thinking “maybe tomorrow I will talk again”. I admit, it has been fun to get lost in my thoughts, to be taken care of by the family, and to sit in comfortable silence where I am never the one to feel compelled to break it, but I miss our chatter-filled walks to school, getting to ask a million questions about how everyone`s day was, reading stories at bedtime, and just talking to people. I really hope tomorrow is the day.

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11
January

Tried to mail it in

Today was going to be that day for me, the one where I wallowed in my jammies all day, and gave in to the fact that I am sick. It’s been a pretty bad winter for me, having strep last month, and now this evil thing that has invaded my chest and sinuses. I knew that I needed to take it easy if I was going to make it through the last day until Willy gets home, a day where the healthy lils would be home from school with sick mama.

I should have known that something was up when I woke at 2:30 to a small beast joining me in bed. It was Goose, and she just wanted to be with me. How could I say no? She tossed and turned for almost thirty minutes and was drifting off to sleep when Woo climbed in. He’d had a nightmare, and needed cuddles. I slid into the middle and alternated between settling each back into sleep, until finally I had had enough at 4:00 and brought Woo back to his bed. I returned to bed and got about 30 minutes of sleep before the cycle started again, and this time Woo brought his flashlight. His SUPER BRIGHT, noisy crank-style flashlight. I eventually turfed him again as Goose was waking for the day. It was a LONG night, which made the couch day I’d planned even more inviting.

I drove the lils to school, as I could not walk them. The teachers were warned that they may be tired, but I was confident that everything would be fine. There was just a nagging feeling that Woo was a little off. My day at home was going as planned. I was about to slide into a nap when the phone rang, the call I think I knew would be coming, that Woo was now feverish and needed to come home. I grabbed both lils and we spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch, while they watched me play video games for the rest of the afternoon (stellar parenting moment, I know).

We decided to have pizza for dinner, as I was in no shape to cook. The order was placed a little before 5:00, and we were told it was going to be 45 minutes. That seemed long for our pizza joint, but I just kept playing and the hungry beasts were fine… until the delivery was 30 minutes late. When we called to see what was up, they claimed the it was just coming out of the oven, and would be at my door in 20 minutes. We waited, and when it was more like 35 minutes, I kept my anger in check. I did let the driver know that I wished they had called when their kitchen got slammed, but that I knew this wasn’t his fault, so I tipped him and sent him on his way.

It was when I started serving the pizza that I noticed that they had messed up our order. The lils pizza was fine, but my vegetarian was very much non-veg. I was irked at this point, but I tried to keep my cool as I called them back to let them know that they had not only delayed our dinner, but now I was without a meal. I thought I was doing a good job, until the woman that answered the phone handed it to her manager and said “Very angry lady needs to speak to you”. They were only somewhat apologetic, and offered to pick up the pizza and refund my money. They let me keep the pizza after I explained that I’d touched it and that the rest of my family could eat it, but said they would send the driver back to reverse the charge on my card.

This is the first time that anything like this has happened in the six+ years that we have been ordering our pizza through these guys, so I am willing to give them another shot, and I told them as much. We like their pizza and we really like their drivers, who are always courteous and kind, never fail to ask after the lils or play with them for a few minutes. Still, as I waited for the driver to reappear, I decided that it would likely be a while before we order in pizza again. He was apologetic when I greeted him upon his return. I knew that it wasn’t his fault, and told him so. He offered to refund the money in cash, and it was only after he’d driven away that I realized that he’d paid cash as the money was likely coming out of his pocket, which was not what I wanted at all. Now I feel like a heel. That is the last time I try to take a lazy sick day.

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10
January

Wordless Wednesday – Sun’s up

Early Morn

Time to get up!

Ray of Light

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8
January

And repeat

Willy and I ultimately left our loft in the Market because it was not suitable for babies, and I had a bun in the oven when we sold. While that is true, there was one other flaw with the place, and it was a big one. The building was originally a beer store, and had been converted into nine units that all shared a roof. A flat roof.

The roof was poorly installed, and started to leak in the wee hours of a rainy January 1, 2005. We’d been out at a friend’s house, and came home to a couple of puddles that were alarmingly close to our computers. We spent the rest of the night trying to clean up, and wishing that the rain outside would stop. This pattern continued for the rest of that rainy winter, in our unit, and those of our closest neighbours. We tried to triage, tried to repair, but knew that the only permanent solution would be realized in the spring when the snow was gone.

I was somewhat hopeful the following winter. The neighbour’s had gotten together and had the roof repaired, enjoyed a dry summer in the house, and repaired the damage from the previous winter. Sadly, the roof started leaking again early the next winter, but it was much, much worse. We had buckets EVERYWHERE in the house, and at one point, there were 43 separate points where water was coming in to our living space. It was a long and stressful winter, where we watched the weather to see if it was “safe” to go out; where every little sound that we heard could have been, and often was a drip; and where our repaired walls were cut into to find more drips, and the damage was way worse. The following spring we re-roofed the building and sold the house.

Our current house has been a bit of a money pit, but one thing that has been pretty predictable is the roof. We put a new one on the summer after we bought the house, knew that the skylight in the kitchen leaked occasionally, and learned our lesson the one time that we had an ice dam cause some leakage. The snow that we have received this winter has caused us to be cautious, and Willy has made several trips onto the roof to check out the areas that we were concerned with, clearing snow as needed. Still, we let our guard down.

I was sitting on the couch yesterday morning, and noticed that there was a big bubble in the drywall on one of the walls. A water bubble. We drained it and Willy headed up to the roof, while I caught the steady stream of drips that came down the wall. The situation got worse when I went into the basement to check something in the office, and heard that telltale splat of water hitting wet carpet. It seems that the water was travelling down inside the wall too. At that moment, it all came back; those two long winters spent chasing drips and cleaning the mess that they leave behind.

The thing about leaks is that the water rarely shows itself in the house in a direct line from where it is coming into the house, so Willy chased this leak for much of the day. He finally found the entry point mid-afternoon, about an hour before he left for the airport on a business trip for the week. The drip has stopped, and I continued to get rid of the ice that surrounds the problem spot today. With the weather forecast ahead, I know that it is going to be a long week of listening and watching for, but hopefully not catching any more drips.

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