almanac 2

First day without Murph. Sun still rose and set.

Henry tells me a little bit of Murphy's spirit lives inside of him now. I get some too, according to him.

He says Murphy doesn't live inside Janey or Mummy. "She liked boys better."

"Go get it, Murph!"

This is the story I told Henry this morning as we all said good-bye to our family dog. It made him feel a little better.

I was 19 when I first met Murphy-girl. I had always wanted a dog all to my own, and since I was an "adult", I figured I was ready.

I went to the Humane Society in Windsor. They explained to me all the rules and responsibilities. I signed the papers. Then, they led me to the loudest, barkingest room I'd ever heard.

There were probably 20 dogs in cages. Big dogs, little dogs, black dogs, white dogs. Near the end of the row sat a dog that looked like none I'd ever seen. A big grey beard, odd floppy ears, white neck, black and brown back, and white feet. She looked like someone had chopped up a bunch of dogs, pasted the parts together and said, "uh, here she is."

But, she was quiet. In a sea of barking, she sat pretty and looked at me. "Take me home, Dave. I've been waiting for you."

They let me take her out of the cage and meet her. She was wonderful. I buried my nose in the thick fur of her neck.

There was a 3-day waiting period to make sure I was serious. I was. I went back.

The dog they brought out for me looked like the same dog I'd picked out. But she jumped and thrashed and barked. One of the handlers waved at her and said, "Bye, Psycho!"

She was pretty crazy in the early days. But she always quieted down when it was just her and me. She was my best friend for the quiet and the crazy.

Together we've walked the shores of Lake Erie, along the St. John and Detroit Rivers. We climbed Fort Howe in Saint John hundreds of times. She helped me explore the tundra and sea ice in Iqaluit.

But I think her favourite walk was always at my folks place outside of Leamington. She'd beg for me to let her off the leash and I always did. She'd be to the fence row and back 3 times before I caught up to her. Then, we'd walk along a couple of tree lines to the creek.

When she was young, she didn't even look before she jumped in. She just ran full tilt and leaped into the cold, rushing waters.

In the last few years, she's become a "sleep runner". When she falls asleep, her legs start going. Sometimes, if she was really into it, she would chirp these tiny, happy barks.

"Go get it, Murph!" I would quietly encourage her. And rather than wake up, her dream chase would become more frantic.

I hope she's having that dream now.

Good girl, Murph. I'll love you forever.

almanac 1

Snowed and stuck yesterday (November 24th).

My chorus performed at a church today. We sat up front, right behind the minister.

It's been a long time since I've heard such a sloppy line of metaphors strung together like that.

Saturday sleep-ins, toddies, old friends and chopsticks

The kids didn't wake up this morning until 20 after six. I couldn't believe it. Jane normally gets me up in the 5-5:30 range. This week it was more like 4-4:30.

6:20 is heaven.

To make it even better, a nearly-rested Erin took the kids downstairs while I kept my lazy ass in bed for an extra 20 minutes. Such luxuries are rare in this house.

Today was the Santa Claus Parade in Sydney, which Henry has been looking forward to for weeks. It began at 11, which gave us lots of time to eat a pre-breakfast at home before sauntering into town to try out a greasy spoon.

It was windy and cold. Probably the coldest day yet this season. Erin was worried about how little Jane would fare, and I remembered her amauti (mother's parka we bought in Iqaluit with a special pouch to keep baby in). It worked wonderfully. Jane was toasty in there for nearly 3 hours.

Breakfast was nice. Fish cakes with lotsa onions.

The parade was nice too. Every city's is different. Saint John's is loooong and loud. Iqaluit's is spontaneous and informal. Sydney's is.. nice. Lasted about an hour. Every little burg in the area sent a firetruck. Henry loved it.

I was so chilled by the time we got home that I put the kettle on for tea. Erin, bless her, had the wisdom to make toddies instead. Little spears of warmth shot through me to all the right spots.

Henry had a pal over tonight. K is a year older and lives two doors over. They seem to really like each other, but at 3 and 4, that's mostly manifested in chasing, pushing and occasionally brutally attacking. Henry got a chopstick jabbed in his eye at one point. K got a kick to the head in return.

Mid-visit, we got a call from an old northern friend (GYL). We served that man a big, greasy breakfast every Saturday for a year. He would show up, often hung over, with a tale of woe and lost love from the night before. He's great with our kids, and lives (for better or worse) his life out loud. Right now he's touring the country visiting friends. We're lucky enough to be on the list. Can't wait to see him.

Amazingly, Erin had a dream about him last night. She's been having a series of dreams where she's a guest at a big, elaborate wedding. She runs into old friends, and last night it was GYL's turn. Funny coincidence.

Month of Rodents

In order: mice, rats, beavers.

The mice were caught by our cat.

We've had Joan since the week after we were married. With her multiple tones of grey mixed with peach, I've always thought her more of a looker than a mouser.

That was confirmed by her first encounter with a mouse about four years ago. Not only did she embarrass herself in the failed hunt, she was still looking for the stupid thing two weeks after I caught it.

She finally started earning her keep earlier this month. She caught two little grey mice over three nights. I have to say, I was impressed. We haven't heard a squeak on the mousey front for a few weeks. However...

We have an old, manual typewriter box sitting on the ground by our front window. The kids stand on it to watch what's happening outside. Sunday morning, Henry was perched atop and announced he saw a mouse.

I looked. It was a rat.

A big, brown rat, siting on our front porch in broad daylight. Beady black eyes and a wormy tail. He was feasting on the bird seed (and poo) which had dropped from our feeder. I should have realized it was a silly idea to mount it so close to the house.

I've since checked the house from top to bottom and found no further evidence of rats or mice.

As for the beaver, it's my November enemy.

I really enjoy watching the moon. My interest in astronomy comes and goes, but I always love watching the moon. Following its cycles. Watching it slowly wax and wane.

The moon in any given month has a name (Harvest moon, Wolf moon...). November is the Beaver moon. I hate the Beaver moon.

I wouldn't have ever blamed human behavior on the moon before I had kids. Holy crap, it's hard not to notice how crazy they get in the week before full, which we are now in.

(note: Jane was born on the full moon in July. The hospital was packed with women giving birth. There weren't enough nurses on duty. It was nuts.)

As I walked home from barbershop practice Monday night, I really didn't want to look at the moon. It had an odd halo, which it has kept all week. Erin said the same thing the next morning. She felt like every window she looked out had this taunting, ringed moon.

Having something to blame this grumpy week on makes me feel a little better. Damn Beaver moon.

Sunday Comic

A man with a kindly face.

Longish Hair. White robe.

Outstretched hands. An obvious aura of love. A halo.

A clean, hairless face.

The caption: Jesus Shaves

Youngests aren't born, they're made

Little Janey.

All the stories are about your big brother. He'll always be the first to do everything. He'll always wave the flag for our attention. He is so Henry.

Sweet Jane.

Being a youngest, I can see another being made.

You are so content to take care of yourself.

Clean your bowl. Put your baby to bed. Dance around the kitchen. Give me those eyes.

There won't be another youngest in this family. I'd hate to do that to you. You will never know the trauma of having a new baby take your title.

Not that that trauma can't be a positive thing, in the end. I think it defines your big brother. More than an Oldest Child, he is a Former Only Child.

I like you as a youngest.

Still, you deserve to make a little noise every now and again. To remind us you're here.

You're even patient while I sit here and type this nonsense.

Daddy's said his piece. Let's run around the house screaming until Henry and Mummy come home.

Update: No dramatic irony here. Baby x was conceived about a week later.

Old Man and Nanny

I was up late last night tending to Henry's cold. It dropped into his chest and he had several terrific coughing fits. It's abated today, but it was pretty lousy in the wee hours.

I couldn't get to sleep after the 2am bout, so I invented a new comic book.

It's called Old Man and Nanny (note to Upper Canadians: "Nanny" is the Maritime equivalent of "Grandma".)

Old Man and Nanny are the super heroes. They reside in the Home of Justice (Old Man: "It's a Seniors' Complex!")

Like all good super heroes, they are reluctant in their roles. They'd much prefer to be playing bingo or watching Wheel of Fortune.

But defend the world they must. (I'm not sure what sort of plots they unfurl, but I'm thinking the pigeons are missing from the park and they are not happy about it. Also, can someone close a window or something? Where is that draft coming from?)

Nanny wields a walker with light sabre-like awesomeness.

The bad guys are Man Boy and Mother. They're married, but Man Boy's relationship to his spouse is better defined by her name than their legal status.

They command a small army of Reluctant Teens ("Aw Dad, do I HAVE to pour anthrax into the city's water supply?). They slouch a lot.

Ok. I'm going to hell.

Retirement 2

Jane woke up around 4:30 the other morning, but I managed to get her back to sleep by walking her around the living room. Once she was out, I realized I couldn't put her down. I sat in an arm chair and tried to get a bit of rest.

Couldn't sleep. I didn't have a book within arm's reach, so I let my mind once again visit that happy place: retirement.

This time, Erin and I retire to an 11-acre farm in the Kennebecasis valley. Probably somewhere around Norton.

I love that part of NB. When we left Saint John for good, we drove past it as we sped along the Trans Canada. God, it's gorgeous.

In my daydream we've got this little place just outside of Norton. Nothing too fancy. Erin and I work about 2 acres for a market garden. I also keep a couple of sheep, a coop-full of chickens and a small loft of pigeons. We sell what we can at the Kingston Farmers Market (not the pigeons, they're for fun).

Winter, we keep pretty quiet. Lots of knitting, writing and general creative mischief.

I don't think much about travel. I've lived in enough places to realize one place is as good as another.

Silver Glow

About six weeks ago, Henry spotted a toy airplane in the window of the Bargain Shop uptown.

We figured it was an on-the-spot whim that would pass. We distracted and moved on.

He kept bringing it up. Every day for a week, he mentioned it several times. We decided to turn it into a lesson (we're also fond of moralizing).

If he could save his own money, he could buy it himself.

We set up a system of chores that we figured a 3-year old can handle. Clean up your toys. Help set and clear the table. Help with your sister.

Each chore earned him a dime, which went into a jar in the kitchen.

The airplane cost $9.97. We figured it would take a while.

Henry was so focused on that thing that he worked his butt off. He hit the 5-dollar mark the middle of this week. We were so impressed, we decided to meet him half way. I exchanged his 50 dimes for a 10-dollar bill.

Today was The Big Day. He and I walked to town this morning, went to the shop and bought it. He was very proud to hand his purple bill to the cashier.

While we were there, we bought Janey a My Little Pony. Just to be fair.

He held on to that airplane box the whole way home. He didn't say a word for several blocks. I asked what he was thinking about.

"I'm thinking about all the work I did."

Hot damn, I thought. I'm a kick-ass dad!

We took the box to the kitchen table and opened it up with my jack knife (all kick-ass dads carry them).

I have to say, the much-lusted after toy is pretty cool. It's not just one plane. It has the basic frame for two planes, with parts to mix and match to turn both into helicopters. It even has a fancy little handle that you can fix to either one. Pull a trigger and it turns the propeller.

We built. We zoomed. We created spectacular crash and rescue scenes. It was a good 20-minutes of non-stop aerial action.

Then he discovered Silver Glow, Jane's My Little Pony.

He spent the rest of the day dancing with the blue and purple pony with the come-hither eyes. Then he discovered the small catalogue that came with her. He spent an hour drooling over photos of Silver Glow's pals: Wind Drifter, Royal Bouquet and Tulip Twinkle. He's especially fond of "Wysteria as the Crystal Bride" (Wedding cake "magically" pops up!)

He helped me clear the supper dishes tonight, which earned him another dime. As he dropped it into his jar I asked him what he's saving up for this time around.

"A whole set of My Little Pony!"

I'm a kick-ass dad who hates ponies.


I was a witness.

So was my son.

Both of our kids have had a hard time adjusting to the time change, so we've been getting up a little early. Henry and I were walking the dog the other day just before 6.

It rained the night before. It was still pretty dark and gloomy with a low ceiling of clouds.

As we got closer to the harbour, we heard a terrible racket. It was coming from inside a small grove of tall trees by the water.

We were probably 50-meters away before we could discern individual caws. I have never seen/heard so many crows in one place before.

There must have been thousands. The sound of their screams echoed against the wet pavement. Henry was fascinated, but a little afraid.

The funny thing is, I know crows are solitary birds. They're social animals, to be sure. But other than their mate, they really don't like hanging out with other crows. They tend to get violent with those who crowd their territory.

There are exceptions. Crows' hatred of birds of prey (most often ospreys and owls) trumps their solitary nature. Once one is spotted (especially owls, they hate those guys), a crow can send out a "caw to arms" that will bring in all of his or her neighbours to chase and attack the invader.

It can be pretty spectacular. Crows are as vicious as they are intelligent.

I don't think this was the case here. Unless there was a particularly stubborn owl they had happened upon.

The crowd started breaking up about 20-minutes later. Even after it had dwindled to a couple of dozen, we kept our distance.

I really wish I knew what was going on. Thoughts?


I found out today I can retire in 24 years.

Henry will be 27. Jane will be 25. I'll be 54. Erin will be lovely.

The Stick Whippers

As long as Erin and I have been together we've shared a passion for coming up with new band names.

They come at the funniest times.

A discussion on a news story about an airplane: "Hey, The Nose Cones. That'd be an awesome band name."

Some of my other favourites: The Elderly, The Decoys.

Erin is especially good at it. We often debate the grammar of a truly rockin' name. Like whether the "The" is necessary in any given name. The jury is still out on whether it should be The Nose Cone, or The Nose Cones.

The former seems like a pretentious art-rock band. The latter, just kinda silly.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to discover 3-year old Henry has been taking all of this in.

The other morning before getting up for the day, he and his mum were cuddling in bed. He was giggling about having a "breast pillow."

"The Pillowy Breasts," he announced. "That be a great band name."

I nearly died.

Yesterday evening we took a walk around the park down the street. He was having fun chucking sticks into the lake.

"The Stick Whippers. That'd be a great band name."

The boy is a rock-marketing genius.

one brave little leaf

The much-hyped storm is mostly over now. Noel was supposed to bare down with full strength at just before midnight last night. I remember waking up around 3 thinking he was pretty wussy.

But he was just holding off. The big show didn't start until about 5AM, and that's when the baby and I got up to watch.

Cape Breton escaped the brunt of it, and we managed to keep our power on, but what a show. After pancakes this morning, the four of us curled up in a couple of chairs that we dragged to the front window.

The sustained winds weren't much to write home about, but the gusts were pretty dramatic. All the wires on our street were dancing polkas. The trees did their little shimmy shims too.

In the end, it wasn't so bad. It's over but for a few gusts.

I was pretty sure this was the storm that would strip the maple tree in our backyard of her pretty red leaves. I was mostly right. There's one brave little leaf still flapping away.

storm's a comin'

So seal the submarine and batten the hatches.
-Benn Ross

What's left of Hurricane Noel is just a few hours away from Nova Scotia. After supper, they're saying the wind will be gusting up to 90km/h, and by the time we go to bed, that's supposed to be more like 120.

The only time I've experienced wind like that was a huge blizzard in Iqaluit our first spring there. The strongest gusts topped out at about 118.

I remember seriously worrying about whether our building was going to blow over. The whole place was shaking.

This old place seems pretty sturdy, so I'm more excited than worried. We're stocked with candles and Hallowe'en candy rations in case anything too horrible happens. There's also the fireplace....

See you on the other end.

ode to a commode

O upstairs Toilet!
Your polished oaken seat is never cold;
and it matches the sink surround.
Your brass hardware is more than I could ask for:
functional; stylish;
green with wisdom.
Your lines and comfort are complimented only
by your proximity to the bathroom radiator.
Toasty legs.

O upstairs Toilet!
Please accept this offering of thanks!
Joyfully given.