Oh great. Now you tell me.

News story: survey says Saint John, NB is the happiest city in the nation.

My morning mantra

Shoveling snow makes me a better human being.

Shoveling snow makes me a better human being.

almanac 5

Snowing again. Thank goodness. We lost all of our beautiful snow at the beginning of the week. My folks flew in on Christmas Day. Instead of being greeted by a beautiful blanket of white, it was the yucky, crusty, black-speckled stuff.

Because they arrived on The Big Day, we told the kids Christmas was actually on the 26th. Tack Santa in there, and Christmas '07 has been one huge lie.

Dinner was fabulous. Erin made a steamed rum and chocolate pudding. Yowza.

Luke and Darth

Santa brought Henry a couple of Star Wars action figures. Henry always gets to be Luke, I'm always Darth Vader. Here's a typical exchange:

Luke: I'm shooting you with my blaster, Darth. pshew! pshew!

Darth: Woa woa woa. I'm your dad. Can we call a truce?

L: What's a truce?

D: It's where we agree to not shoot each other for a while.

L: Ok. Can we shoot aliens?

D: Sure.

L&D: pshew! pshew!

D: pshew! So, uh, Luke, what do you do when you're not shooting your blaster?

L: pshew! I like to sword fight with my light sabre. pshew!

D: That's cool.

L&D: pshew! pshew!

D: I've been experimenting with Japanese cooking.

L: What's that?

D: Oh, you know. Miso soup. Rice. Fish. Simple things, really.

L: Darth! Look! Aliens!

D: Let's get 'em!

L&D: pshew! pshew! crash! pshew!

D: Good one, Luke.

L: Thanks, Darth.

D: (starts making the Darth Vader breathing sounds)

L: What are you doing?

D: Oh this? It's my respirator.

L: What's a respirator?

D: A bionic implant that helps me breath. (makes the sounds) See?

L: I don't like that. Breath normal.

D: Ok. (inhale) Wow, that's much better. Aliens!

L: pshew! pshew!

D: So, do you do anything to unwind at the end of the day?

L: I like dogs.

D: Oh really? Any specific breed?

L: I have a big dog named Doggo.

D: That's great. Do you train him?

L: Yes. To bite aliens.

D: Fantastic. You've got to have a hobby. If your whole life is wrapped up in the intergalactic struggle between Empire and Rebels, you go crazy. You've got to keep your work and home life separate. Know what I mean?

L: I do.

L&D: pshew! pshew!

Christmas story

Erin and the kids are having a much-deserved Yule Nap. Just enough time to tell you one of my favourite Christmas stories.

I was probably 11 or 12. Young enough to play in the snow but old enough to prefer being lazy.

A couple of days after Christmas, my brother and I were in the basement doing nothing. We watched bad TV while outside it was a beautiful winter day. It seemed a good way to spend the rest of the break.

My dad came downstairs. He had obviously just come in from outside because he had on his boots, brown coat and cap.

"Get your coats on, you two."

Usually when dad invited us outside it was to do farm work. Even in the winter, there was always something to be done. We declined.

"Get your coats on," he repeated, sounding serious. We would never have actually not gone, but it was in our contract as pre-teens to be surly about such requests.

We got all of our winter stuff on, but instead of heading out into the boiler room (we lived on a greenhouse farm), Dad started walking across the road toward Henry Janzen's farm.

Dad and Henry had a great farmer relationship. They often shared work and equipment. Coffee too.

We didn't stop at Henry's house. We didn't even head to the barn. Dad kept walking past the goose pond and the few glass greenhouses to the snow-covered field. I got curious.

"What are we-"

"Shht", was all he said. We kept walking.

A couple of minutes later, Dad whispered to us to stay exactly where we were. Still confused, but absolutely riveted, we obeyed.

Dad crept his way through the snow. Stubble and fodder from last year's corn peaked out of the white.

Dad walked about 15 meters further in a semi-circle, then stopped. He turned to face us, but looked at the pile of snow between us.

Suddenly, he pounced. Fresh, powdery snow went flying. I couldn't tell exactly what was happening for a few seconds.

Dad got up with a cotton tail rabbit in his arms. He had one hand wrapped tightly around its ears, the other held its thrashing hind legs still. Dad clutched it tightly against him, as if assuring it there was no escape, but no harm. The rabbit quieted down and looked at us with wide eyes.

It was like everything I'd ever known about my dad was wrong. He was... awesome.

We brought it into the house to show mum.

"Feel like rabbit for supper?"

"I'm not cleaning that thing. Get it out of here." My Toronto-born mum always knew she'd married the rural life, but she drew a line at butchering cute things.

We took it back to the field and let it go. Boy, did that sucker run. Have you ever seen a cotton tail at full speed? It's magic.

My brother, John, and I didn't watch a minute of TV the rest of the Christmas break. We tried over and over again to recreate Dad's trick, but never could. He's awesome.

The Kids are Alright (about the pregnancy, now that they've gotten used to the idea)

When we sat down to tell the kids about the pregnancy, Erin was sure Henry was not going to take it well. I didn't agree. Despite the fact that he isn't terribly fond of his 18-month-old sister (who likes to mess with his stuff), he's always loved little babies.

When we told him, his face held a glaze for a moment. "Mummy, is that the truth?"

"Of course it is, sweety."

"No, Mummy. Tell me the truth."

"There's a new, little baby in my tummy."

"Mummy, don't joke. Tell me the truth."

It wasn't that he didn't understand the concept of baby-in-tummy, it's that he knew this was Big. Once he established truth from fiction, he was not pleased. He screamed and cried and told us to make the baby not be born.

Jane just got a puzzled look on her face, pointed at Erin's belly and said, "Beebee?"

It took about six hours for Henry to warm up to the idea. We kept reminding him about what little babies are like, and how all they do is sleep, eat, poop and not play with toys. Now he's the baby's biggest advocate.

He delights in telling strangers about it. When we called our families to tell them, he loved being the guy to break the news. "It's right in her tummy. It won't come until after my birthday."

Erin is still in a bit of shock, though the queasiness is very real. It began subtly early this week, but is pretty strong right now. Between that and the pre-existing fatigue from 24/7 mummathon, it ain't terribly fun being Erin. If the first two pregnancies are any indication, the morning sickness (what a stupid name) should clear up in about six weeks (please let it clear up in six weeks).

As always, she's a lovely pregnant lady. I don't know how she does it.

A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight

We were lucky in Saint John to have neighbours in the Christmas Tree business. We only ever wanted a 4-foot tree, and they wouldn't hear of taking any money for it. It was a pretty sweet deal.

Nice as our new Sydney neighbours are, none are in the x-mas tree cartel. We decided to buy one from the guys in the Sobey's parking lot. We don't have a car, so Sunday night we trekked over in the snow with our little, red wagon.

The way there was painful. It was cold. It was much slipperier than we thought. The kids were cranky. The wagon was noisy. I'm pretty sure Erin was with me in wondering why it is we always seem to do things the hard way.

Since we were there anyway, Erin popped in the store to pick up some groceries. Henry and I wandered the mall, him in a foul mood. We hadn't eaten supper, and none was waiting for us at home. What started as a quick trip out was turning into a long, grumpy, hungry journey.

I think Erin was the one who suggested we stop at a restaurant. We are not restaurant people. They're always more trouble than they're worth. There was a crappy place at the mall, and we needed to stop.

It was awesome.

Erin had an omlette. Henry had a the kids' fish platter. Jane gnawed on a grilled cheese sandwich. I had chowder. It was all just ok.

We sat by the fish tank. The kids laughed and played. Erin and I actually got to speak with each other over a meal. There were other young families there, and we were all in it together. The hot chocolate was good too.

After, we bundled up our kiddies and headed to the parking lot in search of a tree. The gnarly old guy tending the lot found us a Charlie Brown special for 15 bucks that just barely fit in the wagon.

The trip home was so much better. Our now-fed kids were excited to have a tree. It was frigid, but a soft snow fell around us in the windless night. A few blocks from home, Henry asked if I would carry him the rest of the way. I told him stories and sang a few songs.

We gave into the night, and the night gave it back to us. A lovely compromise for two people who tend to do things the hard way.

almanac 4

Snowed again today. Our third big snow of December.

No time for writing. Too much knitting to finish before Christmas.

It strikes me I may be a Mumma Blogger.

We're boys. We smash things.

After Sunday's big snow we all went outside to do some shoveling and playing. While I cleared the front walk, Erin and Henry built a snowman in the back yard. Both were pretty proud of their work.

Frosty had a carrot nose, stick arms and dried-grass hair.

After Erin relieved me of shovel duty, I got to spend some time playing with Henry. We made snow angels, tried building a fort (it was lousy fort snow), and then moved on to the inevitable snowball fight.

Neither of us are terribly fond of being schmucked by cold, drippy snow. We directed our rage toward Frosty.

By this time we had magically transformed into Luke Snowalker (Henry) and Han Snolo (me). Darth Frosty (or Frosty Vader, as we sometimes called him) didn't know what hit him.

First Luke threw giant snow bombs at him. Then Han whacked him a couple of times with his light sabre (snow shovel). Then we took turns blasting him with the Force (kicking and jumping on him).

There wasn't much left of Darth Frosty when we were finished. Henry suggested we throw his body over the cliff. I reminded him that was actually the fate of the Emperor. We decided to let him lie in a heap.

I think the only one more devastated than Frosty was Erin. She couldn't believe what horrible things we did to that poor snowman. She told me later that she was truly looking forward to admiring him from the kitchen window over the next few days.

She has many times shaken her head about this episode. Part of her knows boys have the innate need to smash things. The rest of her is pretty sure Henry and I are a couple of idiots.

She's always underestimated the seductive power of the dark side of the Force. It concerns me.

update on the crows

That crazy chorus of crows keeps coming back to that spot down by the river near our house. I hear them in the morning around six if I'm out for a walk.

I've also started seeing a bald eagle in the area. It did a slow fly-by of Wentworth Park two mornings ago.

My colleague who lives right down there says she's pretty sure it's built a nest atop of one of the tall trees. I think it's a safe bet to say the crows have been trying to evict their new neighbour.

almanac 3

It really snowed today. Holy Jinkies.

I shovelled after the first batch. I was feeling so good I cleared the neighbours' driveway and walk too. Henry had a shovel in his hand, and so was rewarded by old Roy with a handful of coins.

I took a look. Six bucks! He must be in the union.

After the kids fell asleep tonight, Erin and I relaxed with a couple of mugs of whiskey and hot water. I love real winter.