"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Hard Cider and Anne Murray do not a Christmas make



(An expanded and edited version of the original story, first published in 2009. In honour of D's birthday gift - see photo - I'm publishing it again.)

Our original two-month say in Blair’s Grove with Carman while Someday was being renovated turned into six months. Oops.

According to the renovation crew, once you start pulling down walls in an old place, there is always more work to be done than you’d originally thought, and they kept finding doozies in every room. Good old Doc Munn was probably having a hearty laugh at our expense. Still, we wanted to get all the renovations done at once, so it made sense to fix each problem as it came up rather than put it aside to be done “someday.”

To Carm’s credit, he never once complained or even showed any indication that he was sick of us, even when Neko slept on his carpet and scratched up the drywall. As for me, I found that living with the brothers Lowry was kind of fun. Boys don’t hold grudges or try to borrow your clothes. While they’re often messy creatures who suffer from an inability to watch one program at a time on TV, I enjoyed living with them. I learned all sorts of interesting new terms, like “chassis,” “Husquvarna” and “Gordie Howe hat trick.” Apart from raunchy hockey equipment and an eternally raised toilet seat, Carm and D were easy to live with. Until our first Christmas together rolled around.

Having grown up with a mother who celebrated every holiday by turning our house into something akin to a department store window display, I was interested to see how the boys would decorate for Christmas. They didn’t.

I’d done all the Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en decorating in Blair’s Grove that year by myself, which had been okay. But this was Christmas! Only Scrooges didn’t enjoy decorating at this time of year. They simply had to get into the spirit of things. So I accosted the boys during a break in Coach’s Corner and declared that Christmas decorating should be a shared responsibility by all occupants of Blair’s Grove. They looked at each other and shrugged, then asked me to move out of the way, which I took as assent.

The next night after chores, Carman begrudgingly dug out some candy cane lights from the basement and hooked them up in the front yard. They were hideous, but at least he was participating. The next night, he drove home with a nine foot Christmas tree strapped to the roof of his jeep. I was thrilled with the soft needles, the perfect height, the delicious smell. Then he informed me I’d be decorating it by myself, because that was “woman’s work.” Just like lawn-mowing.

D and Carman set up the tree in the tree holder while I pawed through three giant boxes of decorations Carm had hauled out from the depths of his closet. At first, I wondered why someone with such an aversion to decorating would have such a massive collection of ornaments. Then I remembered my mother-in-law, the unsung supplier of all necessities at Blair’s Grove. Shirley would have made sure Carman was well provided the first year he moved in, but the ornaments didn’t even look like they’d been used.

The decorations were mostly red and gold, and while I preferred a bit more variety, I wasn’t about to root around in our freezing cold garage at Someday to try to unearth my own supply. It was Carm’s house, after all. I’d make do with his stuff. At least it would make Shirley happy.

No sooner had I poured myself a glass of wine and hung the first ornament than the boys plunked themselves down on the couch, staring at my handiwork. Aw, they’ve come to help after all, I thought. The big softies.

My warm fuzzies disappeared the moment Carman declared, "Something's missing," went to his shelves and carefully selected a CD. A moment later, Anne Murray’s velvety voice blasted through the house at full power.

I hate Anne Murray.

I don't care if she's Canada's most beloved songstress. I don’t care that my aunt in Halifax has met her and says she’s nice or that my cousin taught her kids. I just cannot stand the sound of her voice; it makes my skin crawl. The brothers Lowry, however, love her. Like, really love her. They have a double CD of her Christmas music which they insisted on playing while I decorated. Twice.

Anne was belting out “Christmas in Killarney” when Carman decided to get up and evaluate my ornament hanging skills. D wisely remained on the couch and said nothing.

"That one should go a little further to the left, there, Kimmy."

I moved it to the left.

"I wouldn't just put that there red one so close to the other red one. You gotta mix 'em up a little."

I mixed them up a little.

"Well, how come you're not using these silvery ones? See, they go like this, against the light so it shines through."

That was when I turned my back on him and fantasized tossing my wine in his face, setting fire to the tree and frisbeeing the Anne Murray CD into the snow. I opened my mouth to say something that probably would have made Father Christmas blush when I was arrested by the sight of D. He’d disappeared to the basement during Carm’s critique of my decorating skills, and had now reappeared wearing his younger brother Paul’s childhood hockey helmet and clutching a bottle of homemade hard apple cider.

It’s hard to describe the taste of the boys’ cider; I’d peg it somewhere between rocket fuel and apple cider vinegar. One sip and your stomach feels like it’s on fire. Three sips and it starts to taste pretty good. A whole glass and suddenly you love everyone in the world and are wearing too many clothes. To a girl with plenty of first-hand cider experience under her belt, the helmet made sense.

“What the hell are you doing, buddy?” asked Carm.

"I gotta wear something for protection if I'm gonna help you two decorate this tree," D explained as he mounted a rickety kitchen chair and threw a wad of tinsel at a branch. He held the uncorked bottle of cider in one hand and grabbed another handful of tinsel with the other. “Oh, cooooome all ye faiiiiiiithful,” purred Anne in the background. As I sat on the couch and watched my helmeted husband and his brother decorate the tree, I decided to relish the touching holiday moment and not interfere.

Our tree wasn’t particularly stylish or symmetrical, but I thought it was beautiful in a manly sort of way, and we spent many evenings craning our necks around it to try to see the TV. Carm’s “finishing touch” - an electric train set ceremonially placed around the circumference of the trunk - gave the tree an extra touch of testosterone. The boys turned the train set on randomly throughout the Christmas season, usually when I was trying to read a book. I was not going to complain about anything that drowned out Anne Murray though.

On the night in early January when I dismantled the tree, it occurred to me that next Christmas D and I would be decorating our own tree at Someday while Carm was all alone at Blair’s Grove. The thought made me feel a bit wistful. I decided I’d try to coax my brother-in-law to come up and help us with our tree when the time came. I’d make sure there was a bottle of cider in the fridge and a few helmets for safety. And I’d carefully hide all the Anne Murray CDs.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Be the Hausfrau you want to see in the world...

This time of year, days fly by like panicked geese trying to outdistance a snowstorm. One minute you’re flopped on the couch thinking, “I’ll just watch TV for twenty minutes, Christmas isn’t for another six weeks yet,” the next you’re staring in horror at the calendar, realizing you still haven’t taken the kids’ Christmas photo or done up your cards or mailed your sister’s present or taken down the last of the Hallowe’en decorations and holy crap where did we put all the freaking snow brushes?

As the holiday tasks pile up on top of all my regular domestic chores, I tend to fight feelings of rising panic by using self-talk. You know, helpful cognitive-therapy-type stuff like:

Kim, just do one bloody thing at a time.
or,
Kim, focus. FOCUS! Right now you are doing the dishes. Leave the Christmas cards alone. And Facebook. And - ooh, was that your phone?
or,
Kim, the Baileys is in the liquor cabinet. Go and drink some.

On Mondays I try to do as much domestic goddess stuff as possible so that I can free up my other sans kids days for writing, and my nights for Christmassy things. I’m one of those people who has five lists going on any given day; I’m convinced that without these lists, my head would explode. Grocery lists, Christmas gift lists, Christmas card lists, stuff-I-want-to-do-today lists...they lay scattered about the house, stuffed into pants and coat pockets, jammed into my purse. I even found an old list from last year at the bottom of one of my Christmas decoration bins on the weekend, and it looks so good I might use it again this year. Lists help me empty my busy brain and keep track of what I think I should be doing on a particular day. Plus I get an almost post-coital satisfaction out of ripping them up once I’ve checked everything off.

This week my Monday list grew faster than Pinnochio’s nose. Holy geez, I thought after adding item number 14. How am I going to get all this done before I pick up the kids? I wasn’t feeling great to begin with, and just writing everything out made me want to crawl back into bed. Snap out of it, I thought. Get all this crap done before 3 p.m. and you’ll have time for a nap. There’s your reward. Now get going!

I don’t know why I drill sergeant myself on Mondays. I can’t imagine D ordering himself around like this if he were home; but then again, D likes to be busy. I think many women have this crazed instinct to GET STUFF DONE, especially those of us who work at home and are thereby expected to keep the good ship household afloat all by our capable little selves. There’s a deep vein of domestic guilt running through all my thoughts ever since I left my job: I’m home, so therefore I should be GETTING STUFF DONE. So I do.

D does help - he takes the kids to daycare, he picks them up, he takes out the garbage, etc. There were simply a lot of things that had to be done on Monday that I couldn’t skip, put off, or artfully delegate to someone else. Such as:
- collect Jade’s dance class outfit, shoes, snack and registration form; place by front door so as not to show up to dance class with a wailing child wearing track pants and winter boots
- write cheque for daycare
- pick up Jade, take her to dance class without Dylan seeing us
- return Jade to daycare after dance class without Dylan seeing us
- plan weekly meals
- shop for weekly meals
- unload & unpack groceries for weekly meals (which always culminates in the unpleasant task of cleaning out last week’s expired lunchmeat and squishy fruit from the fridge)
- dry laundry forgotten in washing machine from the night before
- fold laundry
- sort & put away laundry
- engage in battle of wits with crockpot to make baked beans (because for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to soak 2 lbs of white beans the night before)
- buy flowers and chocolate for mother-in-law’s birthday
- make apple tart for mother-in-law’s birthday (which sounds fancy, but is easy peasy and I didn’t have the energy for cupcakes)
- make spaghetti sauce for mother in law’s birthday (because both Kincardine Chinese restaurants are closed on Mondays)
- load car with birthday stuff
- pick up kids from daycare
- drive to mother-in-law’s for birthday supper

Yeah.

I was busy smacking my crockpot with a wooden spoon because the beans did not look like baked beans, but rather like loose stool with white beans flowing in it, when my “time for a nap, deserving hausfrau” alarm went off. Apart from the wretched beans, I’d finished almost everything else on the list. Yay me! But instead of feeling pleased with myself, I felt exhausted and mopey and lonely. I could be a housefrau with a vengeance, and most of the time I was pretty good at it. I just wasn’t sure whether or not I liked it.

I looked at the clock. 3:02 p.m. I looked out the window. Chickadee party at the bird feeder. I looked at my coffee maker. I swear it winked at me.

Suddenly, I knew what I needed. It wasn’t a stupid nap.

I made a pot of Kicking Horse coffee, poured it into my beloved thermos and doused it with Baileys. Got my favourite little mug out of the cupboard - an antiquey looking blue cup I got from a Waterloo neighbour who was cleaning out her basement - loaded up the car with the sauce, presents, galette and flowers, and drove down to the cottage.

Man, I love the cottage. Even when the windows are boarded up and the blinds are all drawn, it welcomes me. I plunked my thermos and mug down on the deck and took a few photos to show my Aunt and cousins, who never get to visit the cottage between October and May.

It was 11 degrees out with hardly any wind, which is very weird for December. The lake had receded so far that the rock my cousins had christened Diving Rock stood completely out of the water, awkward as a stranded whale. The beach was predictably deserted.

I uncorked my thermos and poured some coffee, then sat on the deck and took a deep swallow of caffeinated, Bailey-fied goodness. I knew I only had about half an hour before I needed to pack up and get the kidlets, but half an hour was plenty of time to do what I needed to do: chill out. Stop doing stuff. Take off my imaginary hausfrau helmet of invincibility - I picture it having big golden horns and a lightning bolt sticking out of the top - and suck in a big breath of damp, beachy air.

All that “just be” and “live in the moment” crap can jump the gap between corny and downright annoying pretty quickly. But sometimes a girl just needs to be and not do. For minds that tend to race from one thing to the next, not doing stuff, even for just a few minutes, is a sanctuary. It takes cultivation. It takes a willingness to be kind to yourself. Sometimes, it takes Baileys and coffee and the lake.

And you know what? The darned beans turned out all right in the end.


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Date Night, Someday Style

My friend Ruth and I have our wedding anniversaries on the same day. We both have two young children and know how precious a night out with our hubbies can be. Last year, a few days before my fifth anniversary and her eleventh, we were talking on the phone and comparing battle plans.

“What are you guys doing to celebrate?” I asked her.

“Oh, I think we’re going out for dinner to Bhima's and then to a movie. We’re going to try to get away for a weekend too. What are you and D up to?”

“Well,” I said, “We’re going to the Legion in Lucknow. They’re having a dance.”

It’s not often that I can make Ruth go completely silent. Most of my city pals have never darkened the door of a Legion, much less celebrated a special occasion by dancing there. What can I say? Date night in the country can be a unique experience.

Don't get me wrong; there is a wide variety of stuff to do up here, just as there is in the city. You can still take your sweetheart to a movie, eat out at a posh restaurant, or see a live show. The difference is that the movie theatre is cosy and has fabulous popcorn, you can probably get into the restaurant without making a reservation a month in advance, and you're likely to recognize a relative performing at the theatre. But why bother with these boring old choices when there are so many other opportunities to get your romance on, country style?

Take the dump, for instance. A place often relegated to husbandly duty, the dump was a revelation to me the first time I was invited to come along. Yes, the smell in the summer is fit to gag you and sometimes you see rotting stuff you wish you hadn’t. But there are so many good things about the dump that cancel out the nastier bits. Like the dress code. No high heels, Spanx or hairspray are necessary. I simply pull on my grungiest jeans, D’s oldest sweatshirt, my trusty rubber boots and I’m good to go.

Then there's the truck. Many Bruce County women own trucks, or are used to driving them regularly, but riding in - or better yet, driving - a pickup is still a novelty to me. Especially when D says, “Your turn to back ‘er up, Kimmy,” and I have to navigate the truck backwards to the (gulp) edge of the dump pit, which is a gaping hole in the earth that looks big enough to swallow three tractor-trailers whole. Nothing gets the heart pumping like the thought of demolishing your spouse’s beloved vehicle, and nothing makes a country boy randier than watching a woman back up a large piece of machinery.

To me, the best part of the dump is when I have to clamber over the tailgate to help chuck stuff into the pit. There’s something incredibly freeing about getting rid of all the accumulated crap that’s built up over a season by sending it sailing as far as your skinny arms can throw. I also get wicked satisfaction from tossing armfuls of the twigs and brush I’ve cleared out of the gardens in the spring and fall; it feels good to trim it, but it’s even more gratifying to pitch it into the pit. And don’t underestimate the goofy, childish high you get when you throw in something breakable that makes a glorious smash. When your man raises an eyebrow and remarks, "Good one, hon'," you know your country romance is going strong.

To be honest, I never really thought of going to the dump as a "date" until the second time we went and the friendly clerk said, "So, out on another dump date today, folks?" My husband looked sheepish. "Hey, if you're out together without the kids, consider it a date," she reassured us, handing over two of her trademark lollipops. I decided she had a point. With both of us working full time and two active little ones at home, time alone with D had become a rare commodity. A dump date was fine with me.

Motorbike rides are another outing with D that I never tire of. I wouldn't have dared climb on the back of his elderly Honda in the city, but it's more exciting to bump over fields and scare seagulls than it would be to putt-putt our way through Waterloo traffic. Plus, on a motorbike we can get up close and personal with the mighty windmills, or take a mellow drive under a canopy of trees on the lower shore road. It’s just not the same in the city. We have so many motorbikey memories here, anyway; D knows that for me, the best motorbike date is a trip to the lighthouse, where we reminisce about our engagement (he knelt beside his motorbike at the foot of the lighthouse), and end up at the restaurant in Point Clark for some fries and souvlaki. It’s simple, and perfect.

Beach dates are a given, especially with my aunt’s cottage so close by. Swimming in heavily chlorinated city pools was never a favourite pastime of mine; I much prefer a stealthy skinny dip in the lake to a noisy, crowded pool that makes my hair smell like bleach for a day. I took D to the Goderich pool on a date night, since he loves swimming and it too cold for the beach, but I just can’t find my lovey dovey vibe at a public pool. D isn’t much of a beach person, so I treasure the times when he relents to a long walk on the sand without the kidlets tagging along. There’s just something about the purr of the waves beside us, the stars twinkling out above and the soft sand beneath our feet that brings out the lover in me. Even when D insists on wearing socks and shoes.

One date night I never pictured myself enjoying was spending a Saturday evening in the barn, milking cows. Now that we have two little ones in our lives, I’ve decided that pretty much any time together alone with D is an opportunity for romance, even in a stinky dairy barn. Leaning in for a quick kiss as we pass each other on the walkway, belting out our favourite songs to an audience of cows and cats and the odd squirt-of-milk fight makes our time together in the barn pleasant. There's something to be said about working side by side with the guy you love, even if you're up to your ankles in poop

We still catch the occasional movie or have supper out. But the date nights that stand out in my mind are the ones that could only happen up here in Someday land: learning to drive a tractor while cutting hay at 1 a.m.; throwing brush into the gully on a hazy September afternoon (and clocking D in the noggin with a wayward branch); taking long snowshoe tramps in snow that shone like diamonds all around us. I'll never forget the morning I wandered out onto our bedroom balcony and looked down to find my name growing in the grass; my hubby had drawn it in triple 16 fertilizer early in the spring without telling me. Stuff like that just wouldn't have happened back in Waterloo.

As D and I twirled around the creaky wooden floor of the Lucknow Legion last year on our anniversary, enjoying the familiar sounds of the Glen Boyd Orchestra, I couldn't stop smiling. Ruthie may have been skeptical of our choice of date, but she’s just never experienced romance, Someday-style.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

November Heat

Ah, November. A glum, damp month. Not quite autumn, not quite winter, but definitely the type of month that makes you feel like staying indoors. It makes me long for the giant wood-burning fireplaces of my childhood home.

We had two of them in New Hamburg: an elegant marble one in the living room that glowed and crackled delightfully whenever we had company, and a more rugged looking one in the den that Mom liked to light for our movie nights.

At my place in Waterloo, I contented myself with a rather bland looking electric fireplace, since the house had no working chimney. Now, at Someday, we have a gorgeous stone fireplace with propane heat that keeps my toes warm on these chilly November days. But none of these heating devices can hold a candle to the wood-burning stove at Carman’s place in Blair’s Grove.

The big, black stove takes up half of Carm’s dining room and is positively medieval looking. It’s large enough to roast an entire lamb, or at least a really fat raccoon...but no one uses it. I had been begging the boys to put on a fire for me ever since my first winter visit to Blair’s Grove. They always refused with a handy excuse: the ashes hadn't been cleaned out, the chimney would catch on fire, we didn’t have enough wood, it wasn’t cold enough outside, you didn't bring your bikini, etc.

Then came the fateful November day when D and I were living there and the power went out thanks to 70km/hr winds. Having moved to what seemed like the windiest place in Ontario meant I finally got my wood stove wish.

Fire and wood stoves have been a part of my life as long as I can remember. I’m a sucker for the crackling warmth afforded by my Dad's modern stove at his cabin. It throws off just enough heat to make me feel pleasantly drowsy, and I love the camp-firey smell that stays in my hair and on my clothes afterwards. In New Hamburg, I used to spend hours stretched out on the orange shag rug in front of the aforementioned den fireplace, soaking up its cozy heat. I was not prepared for the raging, creosote scented inferno at Blair’s Grove that lasted eight hours and made me feel as though I was bathing in lava.

I should have suspected what I'd be in for when Carm marched up from the basement carrying two chunks of wood, each as big as my torso.

"You want a fire, eh, Kimmy?" he said, creaking open the blackened doors of the ancient stove and shoving the wood in as far as it would go. "Well, I'll build you a fire."

Fifteen minutes later, I was basking happily in the delicious warmth. I'd plunked myself in the rocking chair that sits in the corner of the dining room. With a book on my lap, the dog at my feet and a cold drink within reach, I was in November heaven.

Carm smirked at me. "So you're gonna sit in here, are you?"
"Well, yeah," I said, with a "duh" look on my face. "That's the whole point of having a fire."
Casting a knowing glance at the indoor thermometer, which read 22 degrees, Carm nodded goodbye and left to do chores. With a sigh of pleasure, I opened my book. Ten minutes later, I was opening a window and discarding my sweater and socks. The thermometer read 28 degrees.

Another ten minutes passed and the thermometer hit 30. I contemplated putting on shorts, but couldn't lift my sweat-soaked body out of the chair to find them. When the temperature hit 32, I called up to the farm. My mother-in-law laughed at me. "Are you warm enough?" she asked. I could hear Carman chuckling in the background.

I’ve never been very good in the heat; I’m more of a fall-winter person than a summer person. If the temperature rises past 25 degrees, I bypass irritable and go straight to beast from hell. So there I was, trapped at Blair’s Grove with the angry stove, trying to get as far away as possible from the fire I'd so desperately longed for. Neko had long since retreated to the bathroom and wisely had her head up against the cool porcelain toilet. Since there wasn’t enough room there for both of us, I crammed myself into the far corner of the living room with the window cranked all the way open, pummeled by storm winds while I gasped for breath.

D arrived home from work after a scary drive through the storm. He took two steps inside the door, threw his arms wide open and said, “Ahhhhh!” The man loves his heat as much as I detest it. It’s probably good we live in Canada, where we can both be happy with the weather for at least half the year.

He threw off his coat and stretched out on the couch, basking in the 34 degree roasting pan that was Blair’s Grove. “Ahhhh,” he said again, smiling his lovely creased smile. “Kimmy, it’s the perfect temperature in here. Shut that window, would you?”

I think it's the only time I've declined to cuddle with him on the couch.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A November Rose


Last week, I was beaten down by a combination of illness (nasty gastrointestinal flu), kids' illnesses (same), holiday overload (a rainy, solo-parent Hallowe'en) and my own middle age (attempted to play hockey for the first time and ended up with a full-on migraine and two pulled neck muscles). Not a stellar seven days.

Consequently, I woke up yesterday feeling like I'd been run over by a truck. Mondays are daycare days, which means that after I help D load 'em up, I'm kid-free until 4:30. I try to save Mondays for householdy-type chores, so after going back to bed for twenty minutes with a heating pad on my neck, I ran some errands, went to the doctor and chiropractor, picked up groceries, ran a few loads of laundry. And then I was seized by a strong urge to get a coffee, go to the cottage and walk on the beach.

Beach walks are not your typical November activity. It was a shivery day, still and somber-skied. We had our first taste of snow last week, and it won't be long before the sand freezes and the lake begins to turn sluggish with chunks of slushy ice. Even now the beach is a rugged, forlorn place. The cottages are all boarded up, snow fences - those spiky, unwelcoming-looking things - have been erected and there's not a soul to be seen. It was a weird place for me to end up, when I could have been slumped in front of the fireplace with an Advil and my heating pad.

But as soon as I trudged down the slope from the cottage to the shore, I knew why I had come. Because Rose was there, and she took my hand and led me off down the beach to pick stones and watch birds.

I've spoken of this phenomenon before, and I don't know if it's real, or just grief mixed with wistfulness after the hangover of a bad week. Honestly, I don't care. I felt my daughter there with me, and who am I to question the validity of a feeling?

Sometimes when I feel her presence, she has tousled brown curls, the same as her father's. Other times, she has perfect blonde hair that looks like silk...nothing like Jade and Dylan's wild, honey-coloured mops that defy brushing and seem to grow an inch a week. But in my mind's eye, Rose shares their flash-quick smiles, and that brand of energy that makes them skip and jump instead of walk.

We never talk, Rose and me; I'm just content to know she is beside me, and imagine the feel of her fingers clinging to mine. A few times, I swore I could feel the weight of her arm in the crook of my elbow, as though she'd become a teenager in the course of three steps. She is good company.

I stooped and picked up the stones that caught my eye, watched a loon dive and resurface, took great gulps of chilly November air, and basked in the presence of my daughter. I thanked God for life, for family, for writing, for birth and death. For once in my chaotic life, I was thankful for just that moment.

I know it's probably weird to write about this here, instead of keeping it safe in my heart. I just...wanted to. Rose has her place in this foolish little diary of mine, along with all my other snippets of daily life, of sickness and health, of milestones reached and howls of laughter, of costumes and candy and rainy nights and fevers. She is with me every day, even when I don't remember she's there. And so she belongs on these pages, with the rest of my life's story.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Marital Battle #1,246


Is it just me, or does anyone else out there wage tiny wars with their spouses, significant others, roommates or whoever else you share your living space with? You know, the kind of battles that involve sheer cussedness and a lot of curses muttered under one's breath where no one really wins?

For the most part, my husband is an easy-going guy. He doesn't get worked up about things like rude grocery clerks or gas prices or characters on Homeland betraying each other. But when it comes to waging household war on me, he becomes this passive-aggressive soldier of admirable skill.

D is a great living companion in that he unhesitatingly cleans toilets, takes out the trash, and changes diapers. He never complains about any of these tasks and pretty much does them without being asked. Which is cool. What is not cool is the way he washes dishes. Because he always leaves one "to soak."

This is his way of punishing me for cooking in what he sees as an inefficient or "too fancy" way. He loves my cooking, and is thankful that I do the bulk of it around here, but when it comes to cleaning muffin pans, or scraping salmon skin off a baking sheet, he suddenly goes all rebellious on me and leaves that one nasty pan "to soak." Which means it sits there in its own greasy filth until the next day, when I attempt to do something in the sink and have to deal with said soaker myself.

Yes, I could put muffin batter in paper muffin cups, but I think they're a waste of paper. Yes, I could cook salmon on tin foil or parchment paper, but I often forget and the oil always leaks through anyway. That is not the point. The point is that my husband, dear man though he is, keeps leaving these soakers and I keep washing them.

So a few days ago, I decided to do a little rebelling of my own. I roasted a chicken the Jamie Oliver way, stuffing the space between the skin and breast meat with butter and sage, and slathering the entire bird with more butter and herbs. This made a rich, sinful butter gravy for the brussels sprouts to cook in, but it also made a helluva mess in my roasting pan, especially when the bottom skin of the chicken stuck to the pan after I lifted it out.

"I'll do all these dishes," announced D after we put the kids to bed and I was exhaustedly moping around the kitchen. "You go sit down."

"God bless you," I muttered and stumbled into the living room to flop down on the couch and read a magazine. Sometimes my husband knew just what to do and say.

The next morning, I found the kitchen in a state of shiny wonder. Except for the roasting pan hiding in the sink, full of disgusting water, chicken grease and two of my best bamboo serving spoons. Sir Soaks-a-lot had struck again.

That's IT, I thought. If buddy thinks he can get away with this, he is so WRONG. So I took the gross pan out of the sink, set it on the counter, and went about my business. I let the pan sit there all day, and after supper that night, I looked casually at my husband to see if he would mention anything. He didn't. So I said nothing as well. I put most of the dishes away in the dishwasher, washed the remaining ones and left the room. Would he take the bait?

Nope.

Next morning, greasy chicken pan stared at me balefully from its place on the counter.

"Dude, SERIOUSLY?" I yelled to no one, since D and the kids were gone. I emptied all the water out of the pan, because the thought of chicken grease mould was even more disgusting to me than chicken grease water. Then I set it back on the counter. That's right, my friends. I put it back. Two could play this game. But only one could win.

Last night, I filled the dishwasher while D put the kids to bed. I looked at greasy chicken pan. It was starting to smell a bit funky. The chicken skin was beginning to curl up around the edges. But was I going to wash it?

No. Freaking. Way.

It's still sitting on my counter as I type this. I swear it's whispering to me in a chicken-ish voice, trying to coax me in there to give it "just a rinse or something." But I have vowed that there is no way in hell I am going to wash that stupid thing. Mr. Soaks-a-lot is going to be taught a lesson even if it kills us both from mould poisoning.

Do I love my husband? Yes. Is this a pointless, childish game we're playing after six years of marriage? Yes. Am I going to win?

You bet your greasy chicken pan booty I am.

ADDENDUM:
This is what I came home to last night after a lovely evening out with the girls:


And this is what I woke up to this morning after cooking some beef simmered with tomatoes and wine:

I think I won the battle. But I might be losing the war.




Monday, 22 October 2012

Potbelly Blues

"Oooh, are you in a family way?" asked the petite Filipino clerk at Bulk Barn as she scooped my giant sack of almonds into a bag. She was looking not at my almonds, but at my pot belly, which was resting up against the counter.

"Um, no," I said, "This is just...fat."

Awkward.

The clerk flushed and stammered an apology. I told her it was okay. But really, it wasn't. I could tell she wanted to disappear into the depths of whatever dimension should swallow people whose feet are firmly lodged in their mouths, so I manufactured a smile and told her I had two small children close together and I just couldn't seem to get rid of my belly and geez, I guess I was going to have to stop eating so many almonds. Then I left the store and went to my car and cried.

If this makes me sound like a vain, phoney person, well, whatever. Social convention and years of being told to "be nice" governed my actions in the above situation. Plus I'm not the type to make a scene in public, and really, it was just a thoughtless comment. The clerk is usually kind to me and my kids when we come in. She didn't say what she said to be hurtful. And my pot-belly apparently sticks out enough to be mistaken for my being in "a family way." Although I'm guessing that she won't be asking any other female customers that same question anytime soon. So at least my potbelly has served a useful purpose. (You're welcome, other pot-bellied female patrons of Bulk Barn.)

Usually, I'm not overly concerned with my physical appearance. I think that's because a) I've been blessed with great genes that have allowed me to be thin for most of my life, and b) I don't often give a crap what other people think of my clothes, my hair or my body. Then again, strangers don't usually make comments about my appearance, so not giving a crap hasn't been all that challenging. Until lately.

I really don't know where the damned thing came from. I spent most of last year looking gaunt and skeletal with a concave stomach thanks to the c-difficile, so this whole jiggly gut syndrome has thrown me for a loop. I swear, I woke up one morning and my pants didn't fit anymore. I could feel my belly wiggle when I went over bumps in the car. Dylan could suddenly poke his entire index finger into my belly-button. Even D squinted at my stomach suspiciously last month and asked me if I had eaten a big lunch that day. What the what?

I have a feeling that indulging in a month of beer and dill-pickle chip therapy after I resigned from my job didn't help. I know that once you hit forty, your body shape changes in ways you never expected, and that after being preggo for four years in a row, with two c-sections, my tummy will never be the smooth, taut little trampoline it once was. I get that. And I'm okay with that. What I'm not okay with is having small children poke my squishy bits and ask if there's a baby in there, or when wine store clerks raise their eyebrows at me and look pointedly at the "Alcohol consumption is dangerous to unborn babies" sign on the wall. Yes, both of those things have happened.

My doctor weighed me when I went to see her about my pot-belly, but made no comment about my weight. And she would not tell me where I was on the BMI index.

"I don't believe in those numbers," she said. "I believe in exercise and eating right and feeling good."

"Oh," I said.

"So," she continued, "how DO you feel?"

"Fat," I said. "My stupid clothes don't fit. People think I look pregnant. It sucks."

My doctor made a "humph" noise, and asked me to get up on the table. She prodded my pot-belly for a few minutes, then told me I could get up.

"So?" I asked.

"Well, Kim, you're at an age where your metabolism is starting to slow down. You had babies late in life, and you had a survived a dangerous infection last year. It's not the number on the scale that concerns me, it's how you're feeling about yourself."

"Oh," I said.

"Start doing things that make you sweat, 30 minutes a day, as many days a week as you can. When you start feeling better about yourself, that's when you know you're on the right track." She paused and looked at my eyes, not my belly. "Think you can you do that?"

I nodded. She was right, and of course I could. I just didn't WANT to. But I had to admit it - I wasn't getting enough exercise. Despite feeling like I'd run a marathon every other day, chasing unruly toddlers didn't count as cardio. And at least my pot-belly wasn't some alien tumour or giant fibroid. It wasn't how much I weighed, it was the message my pot-belly was trying to tell me: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, GIRL!

D hauled his mother's ancient stationary bike out of her basement and dragged it home for me. My friend's husband lent me some pirated copies of Homeland and Californication, which I now watch as I sweat and curse in the basement, 30 minutes two nights a week. I've snipped several frightening workouts out of fitness magazines and attempt to do them another two nights a week without dropping dead on the living room floor. It's all very amusing in an S&M kind of way. But I think it's working. I can now suck in my pot belly a little bit, which means I'm growing some stomach muscles. And I can stand up straighter and hold my yoga poses on Thursday nights without farting or wanting to murder somebody. Progress!

Still, I hate working out. I hate sweating. And I used to love it so much! I used to go to the gym with darling Ruthie three nights a week after work back when I lived in the city. But that was seven years ago, and a lot has changed since then.

So I'm avoiding sugary stuff, saying nyet to chips and beer during the week, and trying to incorporate more protein and fibre into my diet. Which, since I've never been on a diet before in my life, feels very weird to me. I'm not trying to sound obnoxious, honest. I'm just saying. But pot-belly has spoken, and pot-belly must be banished.

Wish me luck.



Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Kimber of the Corn: Part III - The Sellin'

I hoisted up the sweet corn sign (painted on the back of my beloved sunflower sign), resurrected the trusty pink umbrella and filled the cooler with eight dozen cobs of corn. After setting the money jar in its hallowed place, I treated myself to a long shower to remove sweat, grunge and any stray spores. I hosed down Tilly too, and hung her on the clothesline. Looking more like the mistress of Someday and less like an underpaid farm-hand, I poured a tall, cold drink and sat down to pay some bills, hoping to distract myself from spying out the front window. I set a reminder to go out and fill up the cooler (and check the money jar) in a couple of hours.

With sunflowers sales, I didn't meet many customers, but because the corn supply had to be replenished frequently, I came face to face with buyers quite often. On the first day, I realized that selling corn - or anything, for that matter, that you've grown or made yourself - would offer a stern lesson in human nature. The exchange of goods for money means you get to see the good, the bad and the just plain rude up close and personal. And I saw all three within a span of two days.

Like the woman who wrinkled her tanned little nose as she picked through the selection in the cooler and said, "Not very big, are they?" I thought that 23 years of working in customer service centres would have prepared me for scenarios like this. "Don't take it personally," had been the catch-phrase in customer service, which was easy when you were distanced from the products and services you supported. After all, I hadn't personally paid the claim that Joe Customer was screaming about, and I didn't own the phone company that my friends threatened to boycott. I just worked there. 

But complaints about my corn? The corn I'd perspired my way through four weed-and-bug-infested rows to pick? From a woman who looked like she barely knew how to operate a can-opener, let alone shuck a dozen cobs without breaking a nail?

"Well," I said, after a pause during which I considered stabbing her with my pink umbrella, "it was kind of a dry summer."

"Humph," was all she said before she plinked some money into the jar and minced back to her SUV with half-dozen of my "small" cobs in her bag. 

"Never mind her," I whispered to my corny friends as I rearranged them in the cooler. "I think you're just right."

On the second day, I came out to find one of D's uncles filling up a bag. I was tickled to think that one of D’s relatives, flush with agricultural knowledge and experience, would stop to try some of our corn. We chatted about the heat as he filled his bag, but the words stopped coming out of my mouth when D’s uncle casually chucked a cob over his shoulder into the ditch.

“No good,” he said without looking up.

"Oh,“ was all I could manage.

"Some other ones were no good either, so I just chucked ‘em for you.”

"Right," I said, looking at the ditch. “I guess I’m kind of new at this.” 

“That’s okay,” said D’s uncle with a smile as he tossed another reject over his shoulder. “You’ll get the hang of it.” 

I resisted the urge to rescue the cast-offs when he left, and vowed to be more choosy during my next round of picking. 

I'd put a sign out in the morning to indicate "MORE CORN AT 3 p.m." so that customers would know to expect fresh stuff in the afternoon. My hope was to catch all the people coming home from work between 3 and 5 p.m. and entice them with sweet corn for their suppers. 

The sign caught at least one guy’s attention; as I pulled the truck up one afternoon, I saw a car parked at the end of our driveway with a young man leaning against it. It was 2:55 p.m.

As I hopped out of the truck, he called, “Right on time!” and dove into his back seat to retrieve two empty bags.

“You must really like corn,” I said as I filled up the cooler.

“I've actually never done this before,” he said, watching me intently.

I paused. “You’ve never bought sweet corn before?”

He shook his head. “Not from a real farmer.”

I almost swooned with pride. He thought I was a farmer! How cute.

“We live in Thunder Bay,” he continued, hovering behind me, “but we’re visiting my parents at a cottage and my daughter loves corn. I saw your sign this morning, and, well....”

I smiled encouragingly and waved him toward the cooler. “Well, you won’t get it any fresher than this. Help yourself.”

He hesitated, shifting from one foot to the other. “How do you pick a good one?”

Buddy, I thought, you are so asking the wrong person. I winged it.

“Well, uh, the heavier ones are more...mature. So they taste...chewier. The lighter coloured cobs are younger, and sweeter. So it depends on what you prefer, I guess.” Then I sighed and decided to be perfectly honest. “And some of the cobs are a little small, because we had such a dry summer.”

I saw his eyes flick over to the towering, robust rows of my father-in-law’s field corn beside our laneway.

“Um, that’s feed corn. For cows,” I told him. “Not the same thing.”

Thunder Bay guy looked embarrassed. I felt bad. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that I didn’t know the difference between cow corn and sweet corn. To make up for it, I told him to take an extra half dozen for free since he was from out of town. His face lit up. 

And so it went for the next ten days. Some customers were so sunny and pleasant, and so appreciative of being able to buy fresh corn that I wanted to give it to them for free. And some...well, I just wanted to feed them corn smut.

We sold almost everything we picked, but since we planted late and the summer was so hot, our yields weren't good and sales seemed to be over before they'd begun. We almost broke even on what D paid for seed, which I thought was pretty good for our first year. We even had people come to the door asking if we had any left. It was deeply satisfying to say, "Come back next year."

I packed up my sign and umbrella for the season, and shared a giggle with the bank teller when I deposited approximately ten pounds of rolled coins. Kimber of the corn was done for the year, having survived smut, raccoons, heat and the occasional insult. And best of all, I'd passed hubby's "test" without asking for help.

"You did good, Kimmy," D said as we walked back to the field and surveyed the dried-out husks and stalks that remained. "Next year, we'll do even better."

Damn right we will!
































Thursday, 4 October 2012

Kimber of the Corn - Part II: The Smuttin'

It's one thing to stop at a grocery store or roadside stand and rifle through a bin of corn that's already been picked and manhandled. It's an entirely different thing to stand alone and forlorn in a field of the stuff trying to figure out what's good eatin' and what's best left for the racoons.

At first, I'd wrench a cob off the stalk, peel back the husk and see whether the kernels looked uniform and plump, like I'd done for years at farmer's markets and other places of corny repute. But when I got one that was spindly looking or not mature enough, there was was no pile to throw it back into. The only place it could go was hurtling into the alfalfa field, or dropped on the ground right there where I stood. Neither choice seemed right. I didn't want to discard innocent corn cobs just because they were immature or had crooked kernels.

Briefly, I entertained the idea of a "Free to Good Home" bin, where people could adopt the irregulars and put them to use in some corn chowder or relish, but I knew that scheme would never fly with the brothers Lowry. Plus I knew that people who came to check out roadside stands would be there for one thing: FRESH SWEET CORN. They were not there to make relishes or other corn-related delicacies; they would want pretty, bright-kernelled cobs that looked as straight and perfect as Brooke Shields' teeth. They would want to boil them, or BBQ them, or throw them in a campfire and eat them off the cob. No, a bunch of misfit corn was not what customers would be looking for. I would just have to do a better job of picking out the cobs. So I started feeling up the corn. Don't judge me.

My fingers were tentative at first, because I didn't want to hurt the corn or anything. You know, kind of a "Hi there corn, how are you today, can I buy you a drink?" sort of thing. Eventually, I became bolder. If the cob felt light and skinny, I skipped it. If it felt heavy and voluptuous, I gave it a twist, snapped it off and popped it in my sack. I quality checked my work and saw that I was getting it right about two-thirds of the time, which was an improvement over apologizing to every other one before I dropped it in the dirt.

Now that I was in the corn-pickin' zone, I bent, twisted, pulled and snapped my way down the row. It had turned out to be a muggy afternoon. Tilly made my head feel like I had a heated towel wrapped around it. The ragweed was as tall as my nose in some places, which is not handy for a girl with allergies. Plus there was this horrid kind of vine that grabbed me by the ankles every time I went to the truck to empty my sack. I christened it "tripweed" and started to seriously wonder whether all those arguments I'd had with the boys about the evils of Roundup had been a mistake.

I could fit about three dozen cobs into my sack before my shoulder started to scream, and I thought I was making pretty good progress for a new girl. But the trips back and forth to the truck became more and more exhausting. Apart from the heat and the tripweed, there was the small problem of remembering where to find my place in the row. I could hear my mother-in-law's sensible voice in my head: "Just tie a bright scarf around the last stalk you picked from." I didn't have a bright scarf; I had pink underwear on though. Problem solved. And it had only taken me nine dozen cobs to figure it out.

It was somewhere around my twelfth dozen that I encountered quite possibly the most hideous thing I have ever seen in nature. Actually, "encountered" is too mild a word for what happened, which was that I reached down to feel up a particularly plump looking cob and my hand disappeared into a mushy glop of goo. First I screamed. Then I did one of those "Ohmigodgetitoffme" dances, trampling cornstalks in my rush to get away. But wouldn't you have done the same, if you'd allowed your skin to touch THIS?

Apparently corn smut is a pretty normal fungus that wouldn't surprise any seasoned corn farmer. I, however, am not a seasoned corn farmer. I am a neophyte corn picker who does not like plunging her hand into what I can only imagine an eviscerated Jabba the Hutt must feel like. I wanted to drive down the sixth concession and dive into the lake to make sure none of that vile goo was still on me. But there was still corn to pick, and miles to go before I showered.

I only made it to 15 dozen before I "encountered" more corn smut. I said more bad words and had a mental conversation with D. If buddy didn't think 15 dozen was enough, he could damn well go back and pick himself some more when he got home from work. This girl was not touching any more alien corn slime today.

Now it was time to put our crop to the test and see if anyone would buy it. I closed the tailgate (which I had only recently learned not to call the trunk) and got in the truck. Peeling a damp, limp Tilly off my head, I paused to survey my face in the rear-view mirror. I was sweaty, red-faced, dishevelled, and not in a wholesome farm-girl kind of way. Oh well. I'd let my customers see what REAL farmers looked like after a hard day's work. Hopefully they'd be so distracted by the prospect of freshly picked sweet corn that they wouldn't cast a glance at the sweaty chick selling it. And if anyone made a comment, I'd introduce them to my gross friend, Mr. Smut.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Kimber of the Corn - Part I: The Pickin'

August can be such a hazy, lazy month. The last long days of summer should be spent shaking sand out of your bikini, blowing bubbles in the backyard and eating gallons of ice cream. I'd spent a good chunk of August harvesting sunflowers, but now that the pink umbrella had been packed away, I was ready to relax.

Which is precisely when D informed me it was high time we began selling our sweet corn. By which he meant that it was high time I began selling our sweet corn.

Back in July, we had agreed the corn harvest would become my job, since I no longer had an actual job. Now it was August. D was taking the kids to daycare, leaving me ample opportunity to get down and get funky with the corn. As I chased my children around the driveway, it occurred to me that there were a lot of corn picking details I probably should have worked out earlier.

"So what do I do?" I asked.

"Kimmy, it's simple," D said as he squished Dylan into his carseat. "You pick the corn. You put it in the back of the truck. You drive it out by the side of the road and wait for the Bruce Beachers to come and buy it."

I leaned in for one of Jade's enthusiastic goodbye kisses. "But how much should I pick?"

He shrugged and climbed into the car. "I don't know, probably about twenty dozen."

I did the mental math and threw my hands in the air. "Holy crap, you want me to pick two hundred and fifty four cobs of corn in one day?"

"No, Shakespeare," said D, "I want you to pick two hundred and forty." He grinned his creased, charming grin and started the engine. "Better get picking, Kimmy."

And with that helpful advice, my darling man left me alone with a thousand cornstalks and no real clue what to do with them. I figured it was another one of his country boy tests, the old, "Let's leave her alone and see how she does," routine. He'd done it before with both the zero-turn and the plumber, with mixed results. I suspected the lack of instruction was just a scheme to have a good a story to tell Carm during chores. I'd give those two a story, all right.

I decided that I was NOT going to Google "how to harvest sweet corn" or call my mother-in-law for advice. A country girl figured things out for herself. I would tackle this harvest on my own, just like I did with the sunflowers, and I would make this sweet corn operation a screaming success if it killed me. Although by now I knew better than to ask myself those five fatal words: "How hard could it be?" This little project would take some careful planning and a lot of coffee. And maybe some Bailey's.

First, I had to consider my wardrobe. I'd learned from my sunflower experiences that boots, pants and a long-sleeved shirt were a must. Even though the day was going to be hot, if seemingly benevolent sunflowers could give me a rash and subject me to bee attacks, I shuddered to think about what the corn had in store for me. Was there such a thing as corn bugs? I dug out one of D's old thermal shirts and my thickest garden pants.

Next, corn gathering equipment had to be collected. I rummaged through the hall closet for ideas. Grocery bags? Knapsack? Empty beer cases? Then I found it: a purple cloth sack, left behind on one of my sister's recent visits. She'd brought it stuffed full of laundry and hard cider, but it looked strong enough and big enough to hold a few dozen cobs of corn. Plus I could sling it over one shoulder, like a jaunty pioneer. And purple was my favourite colour.

Finally, I needed a hat. Something with a brim that wouldn't get blown off by the strong south breeze, or turn me into a literal redneck. I whittled it down to two choices: my tye-dyed floppy Y2K hat that someone had given me in an office Christmas exchange in 1999, or D's fancy new Tilley hat, still stiff with newness and tags attached. I took the Tilley. Someone was going to stain it with sweat and dirt at some point; might as well be the poor girl stuck picking corn.

I tied Tilly around my neck and clambered into the truck. I was getting used to trucking and little details like how to adjust the bench seat without crushing my ribs against the steering wheel and telling the difference between the gearshift and the windshield wipers no longer fazed me. In fact, I kind of liked the truck. The only part I didn't like was getting in or out of the truck bed. When we were kids, my sister and I took flying leaps from the back of my Dad's truck onto gravel roads and ditches. Now, I take on the pose of a constipated skier, bending over as low as I can go before I tiptoe off the edge into the softest grass available. I would have to arrange the corn in the back so no truck bed experiences would be necessary. With these details mentally arranged, I revved the engine and bumped off into the alfalfa field in search of corn.

A band of fir trees flanked the east end of the cornfield, so I parked there, thinking to leave the truck in a bit of shade. As I killed the engine, I noticed movement in the tall weeds beside the passenger door. I froze. Snake? I thought. The weeds rustled more vigorously. Big freaking snake? Family of big freaking snakes?

Before I could roll up the window, five chubby raccoons burst out of the weeds and tore up the side of a fir tree. I exhaled with relief. They watched me balefully as I cranked up the radio and got out of the truck. I stuck my tongue out at them.

I turned to survey the task at hand.

Somehow, the half acre of corn seemed a lot bigger than the half acre of sunflowers. Was it an optical illusion, or had those wretched boys planted more corn than they'd told me about? Panic attacked me like an angry raccoon. How in heaven's name was I going to pick all this corn? Where would I even start? And how would I know the difference between a good cob and a bad one? WHY HAD D LEFT ME ALL ALONE?!

Breathing giant yoga breaths through my nose, I tried to calm down. I would not give the boys any stories to tell in the barn. I would not resort to Google. I would do this job on my own and I would do it just fine. If I could handle 17 years of office politics, I could tackle a bunch of vegetables. The hardest journey started with a single cob, right?

I hung my purple corn sack off one shoulder, clamped Tilly on my head and into the whispering sea of stalks I went. I'd be Kimber of the corn with a vengeance.









Sunday, 30 September 2012

5 Memorable moments from Dylan's "it's not a party" birthday party

1. The fact that the little man was in fine humour the ENTIRE TIME. It was a birthday miracle. He was absolutely beyond miserable at the Fall Fair yesterday, so I didn't have high hopes for today's festivities. Mr. Dylan hates crowds. He dislikes being the centre of attention, and we recently discovered that "Happy Birthday" makes him cry. He's such a Lowry. But today, he took it all in stride and had a fine old time. In fact, he laughed for most of the day, gobbled up his lunch and cake, and charmed every woman in the room. Sometimes your kids surprise you in a good way.

2. D went to the field and dug up potatoes, put them through his new french fry slicer, and fried them in my dad's deep fryer to make some seriously wicked good french fries. When I asked him repeatedly why he was bothering to go through the whole rigamarole at the last minute, he replied, "Because my boy loves french fries. And it's his birthday." Can't argue with that.

3. In a misguided attempt to dye the cake icing monarch-butterfly-orange, I ended up making this frightening, nuclear orange coloured icing instead. Thankfully I used my mom's old cream cheese recipe (with a giant shot of Grand Marnier) so at least it tasted better than it looked.

4. 3 tractors, 2 fire trucks and 3 combines = excellent birthday loot.

5. No bouncy castle mishaps resulting in emergency room visits. Nothing caught on fire. No meltdowns that could not be contained. No broken wine glasses or china. And I even got to finish my piece of cake, drink a giant glass of wine and have a luxurious nap with D after the guests left. Now that, my friends, is the sign of a successful party.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Sunflower Project - Part IV: The End

I must have dozed off in Nana's chair, because it was after 10 a.m. when I heard the sound of the phone ringing. I dashed to answer it. Maybe it was someone calling to pre-order sunflowers.

It was Carm.

"So how are sales going?" he asked.
"Fine," I said.
"How many have you sold?"
"Um, I don't know. Probably lots," I said.
"How many's lots?"
"Geez Carm, I just got them out there at 8 o'clock. Give people a chance!"

There was a pause on the other end of the phone. I could hear my brother-in-law's morning scruff scraping the receiver. He was probably making a "told-you-so-Kimmy" face.

"They are going to sell, Carman," I told him. "People want sunflowers. Trust me."
"Okay Kimmy," he said, not bothering to sound convinced. "Whatever you say. Bye."

I hung up, and went back to the front porch. I couldn't see the buckets from the window. Maybe fifty cents a sunflower was too much. I'd bunched smaller ones together, 5 for $2, which seemed like a deal compared to the starchy, margarine coloured $8 bouquets at Sobey's, but maybe I'd overcharged. I chewed my lip. Maybe I'd just go out and check.

Before I could throw open the patio door, a gold SUV slowed, then pulled into our lane. I froze. Did the mail man get a new car? Was this just another person using our lane to turn around in? Or was it...a customer?

A woman got out of the SUV and walked purposely toward the sunflower buckets. The rest of the action was hidden from my view by our blue spruce trees and I wished I'd installed a video surveillance camera inside the pink umbrella. I pressed myself up against the glass, trying to see what the woman was doing, how many she might be buying. When she walked back to her SUV, her arms full of sunflowers, I let out a little whoop. Yes! I was right! They were selling! Stupid Carman.

Day 1 profits were excellent. I only had ten wilted sunflowers left by 4 p.m. and my money jar jangled with toonies and loonies. The operation would have been more efficient had I actually kept track of how many sunflowers were in the $2 bucket vs. the 50 cent bucket, but that was a minor detail. Cash was cash. When I fanned out the dough on the kitchen counter that night for D's approval, he looked shocked. His expression alone made the bee attacks worthwhile. Now I just needed to see the same look on Carm's face and I could die happy.

On Day 2, I was up early again, and chopped down another forty sunflowers. This time I kept careful track. I had the kids at home with me, so there was no time to supervise the stand. It was well after 5 p.m. before I remembered to check the jar. I took Jade and Dylan down the lane with me, telling them all about Mummy's new business. They liked the pink umbrella. I smiled and did a little dance of entrepreneurial glee when I saw that only four sunflowers were left. But - horrors! - after counting the money and checking my totals, I discovered that I'd been ripped off $4.00! What the what?

I dialled Carm immediately.

"I got ripped off!" I yelled into the phone. "I'm four dollars short! What the hell is up with that?"

"Well, Kimmy," he said, "sometimes that happens. Did you sell a few?"

"I sold more than a few, but that is not the point," I said. "The point is that some people didn't pay! That is so rude!"

"Maybe you're charging too much," said Carm.

I should have known better than to look for sympathy from Mr. Pessimist Farmer. I growled a goodbye and hung up. I decided to empty the money jar twice a day.

Day 3 sales were a bit slower. I found several extra nickels where there should have been quarters, and hoped this phenomenon was a result of customers with poor eyesight or tourists who couldn't tell a beaver from a caribou, rather than people being cheap. When I went to get the mail, I found a loonie under my stack of letters. I didn't know if it was a peace-offering from Carm, or whether a guilt-ridden soul had driven back to pay what they owed. Either way, it made me feel a little less misanthropic.

On Day 5, I chopped down seven giant sunflower heads that had begun to dry. D had informed me that the seeds were of "confectionary" quality, so I thought perhaps people might enjoy eating them. I plopped the heads into Jade's kiddie pool and dragged the whole thing out to the end of the driveway. "Dry your own sunflowers! Fun for the kids! $5 each" I wrote in orange marker. At the end of the day, none had sold. When I mentioned it to D, he looked at me like I'd told him I was selling used underwear.

"Are you nuts?" he said. "Five dollars? Who's gonna pay five dollars for a dried-up sunflower head? Kimmy, you're crazy."

I stroked out "$5" and wrote "My husband says that's crazy. Now $2 each." I sold three more.

I was getting used to the early mornings, and began to enjoy that first moment out of the truck: just me, Pinky, the sunflowers and a few startled deer or a shower of goldfinches for company. I learned to shake the bees off the flowers first, then snick after. I discovered other cool insects to show to the kids: triangle bugs, yellow ladybugs, iridescent blue-green beetles. My pink umbrella made several bids for freedom; once I found it in the cornfield, once across the road in the ditch. Once, I came out to find all the sunflowers had been sold but there was no money jar in sight. I panicked until I saw that someone had kindly hidden it behind the table. I was getting used to people beeping at me in a friendly way if I was out setting up. A few times I even met customers, all of whom were gracious and yes, smiling at the sunflowers.

The list on the fridge with the tally of sunflowers picked vs. sunflowers sold and the money I'd earned grew longer and longer, until a few weeks had passed and I realized that there weren't any more big sunflowers left to pick. The field of friendly yellow faces had become a field of praying grey nuns, with dark heads bowed towards the sunrise. Sunflower season was over.

I felt sad; I'd just gotten used to having my little business, and apart from being shortchanged a few bucks here and there, I thought I'd worked out the kinks admirably. And most importantly, I'd proved the Lowry boys wrong by making an impressive little chunk of change. For a former city-dweller, nothing tastes sweeter than hearing a country guy tell you they were wrong about something agricultural.

"Well," I told Carm that night as I plopped my earnings back into the sunflower jar, "I guess that's it for this year. Whatever will I do with all my free time?"

"Don't worry, Kimmy," replied my grinning brother-in-law. "Pretty soon you'll have sweetcorn to pick."

You can't get the best of a country boy for long.




Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Anatomy of a Jonah Morning



5:45 a.m.
(THUMP! Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump)

5:46 a.m.
A small missile in the shape of a toddler lands directly on my abdomen.

Me: OOOF!
Dylan: Hiya Mammy, whadaryou dooooing?
Me: I am sleeping. Go away.
Dylan: Wanna go downtairs?
Me: No.
Dylan: Wanna go downtairs?
Me: No. Wanna cuddle?
Dylan: Nooooooo! Downtairs? Downtairs? Downtairs?

We go downstairs.

6:05 a.m.
There is wet cereal all over the floor. It is also in Dylan's hair, ears and between his toes. I blearily attempt to make coffee and check my email while he runs back and forth between the kitchen and the living room, trailing milk and smushed Shreddies and screeching the theme song to My Big Big Friend. Thank God my daughter is sound sleeper.

6:07 a.m.
Dylan: (Enters waving the empty case to his John Deere tractor DVD) Watch twactors? Watch twactors?
Me: We can't honey. I don't know where the DVD is. I think you lost it.
Dylan: WAHAAHHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! Watch twactors?

I find a YouTube video of a John Deere hay baler. Dylan squeals in glee and insists on watching from the comfort of my lap.

6:15 a.m.
Attempt to change my son's diaper. He kicks like a mule on fire. I take him to the corner and forcibly hold him there. When the 10 seconds are up, he tilts his head backwards like the exorcist kid and grins. We return to the change area and resume diaper changing. He shrieks so loudly my vision blurs. Back to the corner. Return, repeat.

6:17 a.m.
Try once again to change Dylan's diaper. He freaks out. I remind myself that I do not believe in spanking. I count to ten in my head. Twice.

6:18 a.m. I get Dylan's diaper off. It is full of avocado poop, because that is all he will eat. Dylan flips around and puts his foot in the poopy diaper, then steps on my bare leg. I grab him. He slaps me in the face. I start to cry and yell for my husband. He arrives, receives similar treatment from his son and marches upstairs with Dylan under one arm. More wailing ensues. I sit on the couch and sniffle. The living room smells like poo. So does my leg.

6:19 a.m.
Jade wakes up.

6:25 a.m.
Jade goes to the toilet, brushes her teeth, dresses herself. She comes downstairs and tells me she loves me. I remind myself that I do not favour one child over the other and get her some breakfast.

6:28 a.m.
Dylan toddles down the stairs and parks himself in front of the TV like nothing has happened. I slump onto the couch and start to doze.

6:29 a.m.
My son climbs up on the couch and starts using it like a bouncy castle. I become the best part of the bouncy castle. He leaps on me and gives me a fat lip.

7:00 a.m.
D and Jade are ready to go. I turn off the TV. Wailing and gnashing of teeth ensues. Drag my son out to the vestibule to get ready. Attempt to get his shoes and jacket on. He goes limp like a wet noodle and slithers out of my arms onto the floor. When I try to grab him, he reanimates and runs back into the living room, where he turns the TV on again. I wrench the plug out of the wall. Dylan collapses on the floor and has a fit. D grimly picks him up and carries him to the car.

7:05 a.m.
Buckle Jade into her car seat without incident. D goes into the house to get his lunch bag. I chase Dylan around the driveway and attempt to put him in his carseat.

Dylan: Wanna go to gramma's? Wanna go to gramma's?
Me: No, today you're going to Nina's.
Dylan: NOOOOO! WAHHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

7:07 a.m.
Stuff my son into his car seat. He throws a major tanty and alternates between rigid two-by-four and aforementioned wet noodle. I finally manage to buckle him up.
Me: "Ha! Gotcha in there!"
Dylan: (slaps me) "HA!" (pause) Go to Gramma's?

I start to cry. Again.

7:08 a.m.
Husband passes me on my way back into the house. He asks what's wrong. I consider telling him I'm a lousy mother and I'm too old to have small children and we never go on vacation and I'm so tired and I just want some coffee and I can't believe I lost my job but I am crying too hard. I slam the screen door to discourage further discussion.

7:10 a.m.
Finish crying.

7:12 a.m.
Pour favourite giant mug full of coffee. Trudge upstairs, crawl back into bed, close my eyes and desperately pretend this morning never happened.

Friday, 21 September 2012

The Sunflower Project, Part III: The Harvest

Standing in a field of sunflowers an hour after sunrise is a sure way to make all the happy cells in your brain do a little dance. You're surrounded by a sea of gold and green. The birds are singing, the nearby alfalfa smells like perfume. A thousand cheerful flower faces nod in your direction and you can't help but grin and wave at them.

And then you start hacking off their heads.

This was me, harvesting my first - what's the collective noun for sunflowers? Crop? Bounty? Bunch? - let's say, DREAM of sunflowers. The kids were still sleeping, and I'd risen before D had even hit snooze once on his hideous WONK-WONK-WONK alarm clock. He'd looked at me with concern, then amusement.

"You're up early, Kimmy," he said, folding his arms behind his head and watching me dress. "Are you feeling all right?"

"Yup," I replied. "I got me some sunflowers to pick." I blew him a kiss and flounced out of the room, proud to be the first adult out of bed for once, and equally proud of the fact that I, Miss Kimberlee Lowry, was officially in the sunflower business.

I drove the truck back to the meadow, windows open, radio up loud. Weeds and grasses whumped and whipped beneath me and I felt very Country, with a capital C: an early morning girl, trucking it across the meadow to harvest her crop. Take that, Taylor Swift!

At the edge of the field, I killed the engine but left the radio on. My favourite kitchen knife, Pinky, lay on the passenger's seat. Pinky had a serrated edge and a candy-coloured handle, perfect for chopping flowers and fending off coyotes. I wore my trusty floral-patterned boots to combat the heavy summer dew and a jaunty Cuban cap. I was ready for action.

A few days earlier, I'd gathered a few sunflowers to take to friends' houses, just for practice. I was delighted with the bright bunches and pictured them decorating window ledges and kitchen tables. D did not share my enthusiasm.

"This feels wrong," he said after lopping off his first flower in the field. He thrust the knife back at me like a guilty accomplice.

"What are you talking about?" I said, artfully arranging a freshly-sliced bouquet on the hood of my car and ignoring the knife.

"I don't like cutting them. It's not...nice. Here, you do it."

I rolled my eyes, muttered something about men being insane and took back my knife. My husband could drag a calf out of a cow's uterus with a chain and winch and not even blink, but when it came to cutting off a flower, he suddenly became squeamish. What a weirdo.

So now, it was just me, Pinky and a big-ass field of sunflowers. As I began snicking off the chosen ones (Ooh, here's a nice one. Wow, you're a big fellah. Aw, look at this little baby one!) and stacking them in groups of five, my mind started to wander. I had two pails ready at the end of the driveway, and my not-so-fancy sign ready to go. Where had I put the peanut butter money jar? Oh right, it was rattling around in the trunk, a few loonies and quarters inside to give people a hint. How many sunflowers should I pick, anyway? Some were giant, some were teeny. Should I charge different prices?

I would have continued in my business-venture ruminations had five bees not interrupted me by dive-bombing my face. I did what I always do when attacked by an insect: I screamed and ran. When I finally outran the bees, my piles of sunflowers were nowhere in sight. A bead of sweat rolled down my nose, and the back of my neck felt sunburned. The tender insides of my arms had burst into an angry-looking rash. The bees found me again.

After six trips back and forth to the truck, stumbling over rocks and ruts and tangles of ragweed, I decided that you don't pick sunflowers so much as slaughter them. Choose a victim, grab it by the neck and SNICK! Off with its head, to be plunked onto the pile of other unfortunates. It was kind of disturbing if you stopped to think about it. Maybe D had a point. All these bright, happy faces that had greeted me so warmly now seemed to wear worried expressions.

Eighty sunflowers, a nasty rash and four bee attacks later, I decided the harvest was complete. I bumped the truck back down the meadow and unloaded everything at the end of the driveway. The pink beach umbrella got anchored, the money jar got thumped in the grass, and eighty sunflowers stood at attention in various buckets. I was sweaty, irritable and pretty much never wanted to see another sunflower ever again.

As I drove back to the house, I wondered how soon was too soon to start checking the money jar. Inside, I poured myself a strong coffee, slumped into Nana's old armchair in the front porch, and settled down to spy on prospective customers, hoping I hadn't slaughtered all these lovely flower friends in vain.

My sunflower dream was now reality, and so far, reality was kinda itchy.



Thursday, 20 September 2012

My daughter is weird


My daughter Jade is three. I'd say she's pretty smart for her age, especially where language is concerned. I have no idea if this is nature or nurture or just dumb luck, but the stuff she comes out with sometimes floors me.

For example, today she informed me that she was "getting her rust contamination suit on." What the what???

I want to blame Octonauts or Mighty Machines for that little gem, but I'm not really sure where she comes up with this stuff. Is it childish imagination and an overactive vocabulary? Precociousness? Or just too much darn TV?

We've written down quite a few of these "Jade-isms" to show her when she gets old enough to care. I've started a book for Dylan too, but he is a man of few words and lots of fart noises right now, so Jade's book seems to be filling up quicker than his.

At any rate, Miss Jady Lady keeps us entertained, which, in my mind, is one of the bonuses of having children.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Sunflower Project: Part II - The Operation

In hindsight, expecting my husband to plant one measly row of sunflowers was like expecting me to eat one dill pickle chip. We just can't help ourselves.

D and Carm got their uncle's corn planter and rigged it up to put in half an acre of sunflower seeds - organic, no less - in my freshly ploughed former meadow. D scoffs at anything remotely organic, but he couldn't find regular sunflower seeds for sale at a price he liked. I suggested that he ask the farmer on the fourth concession, the one whose field I'd driven past. To my shock, D actually went to the guy and told him the story. How his wife wanted sunflowers. To look at. D said that the farmer looked perplexed, then gave D a pail of seed for free.

"See?" I told him. "Sometimes it pays to have a crazy wife."

I visited the field every other day, dragging the kids out to check for progress. I told them how beautiful it was going to be, and how Daddy and Uncle Carm had done it all for me. The half acre of corn, I pointedly ignored.

The kids didn't share my enthusiasm until the first plump sunflower sprouts popped out of the ground in July. Jade and I shouted with triumph; Dylan trampled as many as he could in a gleefully destructive frenzy. The sprouts had come up in uneven clumps, with big bare patches that drove D crazy and made Carm shake his head, but I didn't care. I had my field of dreams.

As I monitored the progress of our sunflower operation - which I began to refer to as "my" sunflower operation - it occurred to me that I'd need to paint a sign or two to attract customers. No one thought I would actually sell many; Carm, D, even my own father expressed their skepticism openly. But I just knew people would buy them. Who doesn't love sunflowers? Who doesn't enjoy slowing down for a roadside stand on a lazy summer day? Well, apart from my in-laws, that is. I kept my chin tilted at a proud angle and let the disbelievers scoff. They'd see soon enough that I was right.

Anyway, I figured the sign had to be special. I'd often rolled my eyes at other roadside vendors whose signs were sloppy or boring. My sign would be beautiful, artistic. No slapdash paint on a strip of plywood for MY sunflower operation.

A lazy drive along our road on the August long weekend produced a windfall. Up here, everyone leaves garage sale leftovers by the side of the road for easy pickings, and long weekends are garage salers' dreams. I found a huge wooden easel and a smaller styrofoam sign with a blank back, just begging to be decorated. The gods that smile on enterprising small-business owners were smiling down on me for sure, although Jade was concerned that I was stealing other people's stuff. "Shhh, honey," I told her. "This is called recycling."

I spent the good part of that evening trem-cladding everything bumblebee yellow before I realized that I didn't have any other paint for the lettering. A quick rummage through Jade's craft box produced a bottle of purple paint and some ratty brushes. I proceeded to write the word "SUNFLOWERS" in swirly, curlicue letters, creating a giant sunflower in the middle using the "L" as the stem. It looked a bit like a purple hedgehog on a stick, but hey, it was "arty." Carm dropped in that night and I found him standing in the vestibule, surveying my handiwork. His silence spoke volumes. I ignored his lack of artistic judgement and took the signs out to set against the garage to finish drying.

Putting up with yellow tremclad under my fingernails and my brother-in-law's scorn would have been easier had the purple paint I'd used for the hedgehog lettering not melted off during that night's rainstorm. Apparently children's paint is not waterproof. I said many bad words, and hid the signs before D could see them. If I drove to Canadian Tire, he'd know for sure about my screw up, and then he'd tell Carm, and then I'd never hear the end of it. I snuck out to the shop and rooted through D's bench of stuff for something, ANYTHING I could use to re-do the lettering before anyone saw the purple sludge. I found a can of black tremclad and got to work. Black and yellow were sunflower colours anyway.

Finally, the signs were ready to go. Now I needed to fix up a display. I found my old pink beach umbrella and shoved it in a pail of water softener salt. I rescued two small tables from the dusty obscurity of the shop, and slapped a waterproof tablecloth that had been my mother's on top. Two big buckets stood ready and waiting to be filled with flowers. I found my peanut butter money jar, and my old bull-terrier plastic piggy bank. I tied a purple bow around his neck and wrote "SUNFLOWERS" on his side with a Sharpie. Everything went into the bed of our newly acquired truck; I was nearly ready. All I had to do was harvest.

But that would be the easy part, right?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Sunflower Project - Part I: The Fantasy


When you're married to a man like D, you learn that there is no such thing as a casual suggestion. As I've mentioned before, D likes to keep busy; he enjoys projects, especially if they involve the operation of farm equipment or other dangerous machinery.

So it was with a complete lack of sense that I mentioned, one languid evening last summer, that I would love to have a row of sunflowers - just one row - along the north meadow fence. My husband stopped sorting the recycling long enough to fix me with a squint-eyed stare.

I was gardening at the time - pruning the butterfly bush, tearing out old chamomile stems, trimming back the sweet peas - simple acts that allowed my mind to wander. For some reason, it wandered to sunflowers. I'd driven past a giant field of them along the 4th concession earlier that day; all those friendly sunflower faces had made me grin. I'd been charmed. And, more importantly, inspired.

"Sunflowers make people happy, you know," I said, tossing a handful of weeds in D's direction. He snorted. D hates recycling, mostly because I can never remember how to sort it to meet Kinloss dump requirements, and partially because he grew up in a household that burned their garbage - no sorting required. Now was probably not the ideal time to share my daydreams, but what the hell.

I peeled off my garden gloves in a slow, strip-teasy manner. "We could do family photos in front of them." My husband pretended to stare morosely at the recycling, but I knew he was peeking at me out of the corner of his eye. "I could even sell some." I tossed aside my clippers and took off my hat, shaking out my hair. "Just one row?" I said, sauntering over to him. He grunted. I threw my grubby arms around his sweaty neck. "Oh come on, I'll do all the work - pleeeeeeease?"

That's how it began. A casual request. I wanted sunflowers, for no other reason than to look at them. Sunflowers make me happy. D likes me happy. And D likes to plough and furrow and do other farmery things with his dad's tractor, so wasn't I a sweet gal, giving him the perfect excuse to operate heavy machinery? I pictured myself walking behind the tractor, planting seed after seed like some thrifty farmwife from the Laura Ingalls Wilder era. I could see the row of shining sunflower faces as they beamed at me in the early morning light. Clearly, I was still daydreaming, since I am never awake to see early morning light, but the dream was definitely tantalizing. And all I'd had to do was ask.

Fast-forward to April, 2012. It's a miserable spring morning. Someday is shrouded in mist. I am huddled in my office under a blanket, trying to type a report with one hand when I hear the hollow clop-clop-clop of horse feet echo up the laneway. I get up and look out the window to see two giant Percherons slow to a stop at eye level with me. They are pulling a wagon loaded with damp Mennonite boys.

I intercept a jovial Mennonite man who informs me he's here to remove all the fences in the back fields for my father-in-law. This is news to me, but I graciously point him to the doomed fences in question and go inside to make them some coffee. So much for my meadow, I think, and so much for my sunflowers. D's dad is obviously going to plough up my lovely little meadow and plant feed corn or soybeans or something equally useful and boring. Humph.

After I've delivered the coffee, I phone D at work.

"Yeah, Kimmy?"

"Did you know your Dad told a bunch of Mennonites to come take out all our fences?"

"Yeah Kimmy. Dad wants to plow up that field and use it. Those fences are no good anyway. Why, are the guys there now?"

I can tell he's bummed to be missing the fence destruction party. "Yeah. But...my meadow..." I whimper.

"It's a field, not a meadow, and it's not ours anyway," he says, and I sigh.

Later that night, we walk out to see the results. My meadow looks naked and forlorn without its rail fence borders. I hate the thought of stupid soybeans and wonder whether I can talk my father-in-law into planting something pretty, like flax.

Now skip ahead to late May. I'm working in my office, windows open. The phone rings. It's Nancy from the Lucknow Co-op with the list of sweet corn seed varieties that D has asked for.

"Sweet corn varieties?" I echo, bewildered.

"Yeah, we've got Golden Bantam, Peaches n' Cream, Honey n' Cream, Big Jim, Bodacious, Miracle...tell your husband the first two mature early, the rest are at 72 days."

"I will tell him," I say more perkily than I feel and hang up.

I dial D at work.

"Yeah Kimmy?"
"Did you order a bunch of sweet corn?!"
"No."
"WHAT?"
"I did not order a bunch of sweet corn," says D in the patient tone he usually reserves for our three-year-old. "I ordered a bunch of sweet corn seed. Kimmy, I gotta go. We'll talk tonight."

I pounce on him the minute he walks through the door and perform a major freak out, which contains the following points:
1) I work full time! We have two small kids! Why the hell do you think we need an acre of sweet corn? (Half-acre, D corrects)
2) Who's gonna pick it? Who's gonna sell it? Have you lost your freaking marbles??? (I bet if you stopped reading that Game of Thrones crap you'd have plenty of time to pick sweet corn, D suggests)

I'm about to storm out of the kitchen and let D deal with supper on his own when he grabs me by the waist and sits me on his lap. I squirm and growl.

"Now Kimmy, just listen," he says. "I used to pick sweet corn - shit, did I ever used to pick sweet corn! More corn than you can even imagine! You can pick, oh probably twenty dozen in an hour. Hell, you could probably pick even more than that. I'll help you, don't worry, it's no big deal."

I groan. "But I don't WANT to sell sweet corn. We're too BUSY. I asked you to wait until NEXT year. You never LISTEN to me!"

D gives me a squeeze. "Oh, but I do. I have your sunflowers out in the garage, and me and Carm are going to plant them tomorrow night."

I stop squirming. "You bought sunflower seed? Really? From that guy on the Fourth?" I envision the bobbing row of bright faces and squeal with joy. I'm so excited I forget to ask where we're going to plant the row. I even forget about the corn.

"See, I listen to you sometimes," D says and he gets a kiss instead of a kick. And I putter around the kitchen, smiling like a sunflower, forgetting that when you marry the son of a dairy farmer, nothing is ever as easy as it sounds.





Monday, 3 September 2012

5 Random Observations Whilst in Stratford




1. Remember when your English teacher would pounce on you and ask you to define irony? How about this: getting a free ticket to see Henry V, then getting a speeding ticket en route to see Henry V, the cost of which is more than if you'd paid for your freaking theatre ticket in the first place. Damn you, Shakespeare.

2. $10 for parking? PARKING??! After a $95 speeding ticket, buddy was NOT getting $10 for parking. No, rather than pay that high price, I decided it would be more fun to humiliate myself by entering the parking lot (there was a line of cars behind me), only to turn around and come out again. PSYCHE! Plus I only had $7.45 in my purse.

3. If only the thought, "Hey, the guy playing Henry really looks like Bruce McCulloch!" hadn't flashed through my mind during Act 1 Scene III, I might have enjoyed the actor's performance, instead of waiting for him to start singing "These are the Daves I Know" or dressing in drag.

4. BEST. $4.00. Intermission. Brownie. EVER.

5. Overheard moments after exiting the theatre:
American #1: I don't know what that flag was supposed to be at the end of the show.
American #2: I think I'd rather not know.
Me: (helpfully): It was a Canadian flag. They just had trouble raising it at the end.
American #1 (rolling eyes): Oh my God, I was hoping it wasn't. I mean, come on fellahs, let's not go there, ya know?
American #2: I know, and then they played that Revolution-y song at the end? Too much.
Me: So you're against the director's sly poke at French/English relationships as they relate to Canadian history? (actually, I didn't say this, but I wanted to...right after I stole their brownies. Mwah ha ha ha!)