Exporail, 2012

Last year, when we went to the Exporail train museum, a train was not yet a train, with an engine, and steam, and miniature versions, and a whole string of whys. Last year, all Owen could say was “Woo woo?” and “Mo’ woo woo?” and “Mo’ woo woo!” … and on and on. Only about a year ago did Owen start speaking in sentences, and now he speaks about as well as I do. He corrected Duncan’s pronunciation of “porkypine” the other day (Duncan was trying to be cute). No, Daddy, it’s a “por-CU-pine.” Right.

Here is what we saw this year (or at least what we photographed, which is never the same thing). I always forget to photograph my favourite moments, so my pictures are usually of things I liked a little – enough to take a picture, but not enough to forget to take a picture, if that makes sense. Also, our flash is broken, so we have to hold it up with a finger. Enough excuses: pictures!

Riding the streetcar


More Lego

Hey, you Maritimers: Irving!

By a big bell, probably significant, but I forget why.

My boys and an engine.

Once in a Blue Moon

The number thirteen is on my mind right now, for a number of reasons. It’s the highest number that Owen can count to. After thirteen, he slurs his numbers “eleventeen, nineteen, sixteen, nineteen, mumbleteen… TWENTY!”

I made some number cards for my parents’ 40th anniversary last weekend (significant numbers from 1-40). Some were easy (at twenty, my father met my mother; at twenty-two, my mother met my father; on June 7, my twin brothers were born, etc). Thirteen stumped me. At first I put “unlucky thirteen: skipped” because thirteen is supposed to be a bad luck number, and you don’t want to invite bad luck to an anniversary party. But then I changed it to reflect a childhood memory: “a baker’s dozen corn at Camerons'” – the Camerons were (are) farmers down the road who sold the most delicious, fresh-picked corn imaginable. And their dozen was always thirteen. This bounty was good, because for a family of six we got two cobs each, with one left to squabble over. I’m not always analyzing life (I promise you) the way I do in this blog, but it seemed to me significant that I had replaced quite an empty thought (unlucky thirteen, something I don’t even believe in) with a full, rounded, harvest memory.

At the anniversary party, my uncle John mentioned one of the most surprising discoveries he made during a recent trip to the Galapagos. This kind of staggered me: in the Galapagos, the moon is directly overhead. You have to arch your neck and look straight up to see it. To the North was the big dipper (smaller than it is here) with the north star out of sight; to the South was the southern cross. I had never thought about the placement of the moon before, but of course everywhere I’ve been (i.e. places in the Northern Hemisphere), it’s in vaguely the same place, half way between the horizon and the point above my head. John explained that the moon had an equatorial orbit, and that the moon circles the earth thirteen times per year. The solar year doesn’t get along with the lunar year, so eventually the lunar calendar gave out to the solar one, thirteen months ceded to twelve.

Women operate according to the lunar cycles, of course. Most of us have thirteen periods every year, one for every moon. And, once in a blue moon, we wait for our period and it doesn’t come. Last week, the last week of August, we had a blue moon, the second full moon in the month. And I (because I like to read my life like some kind of prophecy), thought this would be the month I got pregnant. It seemed fitting: blue moon, one year. But of course it wasn’t, because this is my life and not a novel.

And oddly, though every month I have been a little bit disappointed, I am almost immediately relieved with the predictability of my body’s cycles and the renewal of hope that happens (quite naturally) every single time.


The leaves are changing. After daycare, Owen and I went for a “run” – his idea – past the park and into the woods. When we exited we saw a maple tree, one branch fiery with fall. Owen picked three leaves off the ground, one for each of us. He remembered which one was which the whole way home, and once Duncan arrived, presented his leaf with appropriate fanfare.

School starts next week. I love school. I love teaching. I love the smell of fall, sweaters, cool evenings, leaves turning (on trees and in books). I feel lucky beyond measure to be able to work in an academic environment. I get to read books for a living. It seems too good to be true sometimes. I jumped in with both feet on Tuesday, spent the whole week in my office, and am ready for next week (almost too ready – calm down already!).

It’s a new school year for Owen, too. After the relative trauma of “graduating up” in swimming, I thought it would be a good idea to prepare him for the fact that he would be switching classes. At his daycare, the students move in a counterclockwise direction and classes are mixed up, so that the children mix and form a wide range of friendships. I certainly appreciate the idea behind it, but it was sad to me that Owen would not be in class with the same group of eight he started with. Over the course of the year, I’ve bonded with many of the parents. We feel like a community. And change is always hard.

Instead of being traumatized by the change, Owen seems to have embraced it. About a month ago, he started refusing to go to his classroom, insisting that he had to go to the new classroom. I guess three-year-olds don’t understand the idea of future events? Anyway, since he was never in his classroom anyway, when a new girl started at the centre, she was placed in his spot. For about a week, Owen was “homeless” within the daycare, without a place to hang his sunhat. The week after, he was formally placed in his new room. The past two weeks, then, he’s been in a class with kids a year older. Although he comes home complaining that they called him a “baby” (which he denies with a particular vehemence), he’s at home in the new room and ready for the year ahead.

A friend of mine suggested that his early move was a personality trait – the opposite of procrastination. If you know something in your life is going to change, rush toward it, arms open. Then, by the time it happens, it’s already over.

I think it’s probably a good way to approach change. So I’m approaching the semester with great enthusiasm and anticipation. I can’t wait to get into my classes, and I think Owen will be relieved when his peer group enters his class next week.

Have a great back to school everyone!

Non Sequitur

“Here, Owen, eat some salad.”

“I don’t want salad.”

“The beets will make your pee pink.”

“Really?” He eats seven forkfuls of grated beet, carrot and kale salad.

The next day we wait for the transformation. It never really happens, but we pretend it does. Hooray! You turned the water pink!


I need to go back to work.


Owen sits on the toilet.

I say, “You sure are regular.” (Add this to a list of bad conversation starters. It doesn’t matter if he is my son. What am I thinking?)

He responds, “I sure do love you.”

Conversation redeemed.

Hard to Weed Out

Dear Readers,

I must apologize for my sparse postings this summer. It isn’t that Owen is any less adorable; it is simply that I am spending most of my time (a) weeding (b) painting and (c) playing. Writing just hasn’t been happening. I start back at work next week, though, and the busier I am, the more I get done, so I expect to be a regular internet presence soon.

Speaking of weeding, and in case you care? I’ve been having a battle with goutweed. For those of you who know this tenacious plant, enough said. For those of you ignorant to the weed’s clingy rootedness and incredible tenacity, see here (for a positive spin).

I don’t mean to be a bore. Really, I don’t. But this particular weed, no matter how much you try, comes back. I spent the better part of a week digging it out of one half of a garden (after having dug a trench to keep it from spreading). I’ve now graded and covered the ground in clear plastic in an attempt to “solarize” the soil. I think I may have waited too long, since the ground isn’t really heating up, and I can see sickly goutweed growing beneath the surface. I guess it’s good that it’s sickly. In any case, I am learning. The advice on gardening forums as to how to get rid of the stuff is to move house. On the other hand, it’s edible! Maybe next year.

Another thing I have been having a difficult time weeding out is a particular behaviour in Owen. Now, it hasn’t happened in about 4 days, so we may have triumphed, but rarely in my brief stint at parenting has a behaviour made me feel so powerless.

A couple of weeks ago, we forgot to remind Owen to go potty before he climbed into the bath. One foot in the warm water seemed to act as trigger, and he peed (half on the floor, half in the bath). But it was an accident! So we cleaned it up, told him it was OK, and generally lavished him in praise. Who wants a potty training regression, right?

But then the next night, he peed (through his pants this time) on purpose, after we said it was time for bed. Another night he spat on the floor, and while I was cleaning that up, peed for good measure. A couple of days later, he got off the potty to pee on the floor. And two days after that, the mere mention of bed was enough for him to pee on the floor, while Duncan and I were yelling at him to “STOP!” And he would just laugh. At some point, we said if he did it again he would get no stories before bed. And when he did, that tear-filled evening was no fun for anyone.

I tried so hard to be matter-of fact, but I must confess that the night he spat out his milk onto my lap, I kind of lost it.

All of these events were, I am pretty sure, a byproduct of exhaustion, when we’d lost track of time and had pushed Owen past his bounds of good humour.

Like I said, the threat of no book before bed  (if he spits or pees on the floor) SEEMS to have worked. The other day at daycare he had an actual accident and he asked me if he could still have stories that night.  Yes! Of course, I said. We’re four days and counting with no more peebellions, but I no longer take for granted getting a clean boy into bed.

As for the goutweed, I’m still working on it. I pulled out 8 seedlings just yesterday, who were planning a secret attack of a previously uninfested garden.

Tree House

The blue house “came with” a tree house, except that, after promising Owen that he could play on and eat in and even sleep (unlikely) in his very own tree house, we realized (upon closer inspection) that the tree house was rotten and very dangerous. My dad quickly rose to the challenge and has (mostly) rebuilt it. Here’s Owen “helping” his Grandpa:

He can’t wait till it’s finished!

Belated Birthday

I forgot we took these! After giving Owen some gifts, we brought him to St-Hubert for his birthday supper. We didn’t have a fridge or stove yet but honestly, that place is wonderful for kids. Owen’s meal came in a car, his ice cream was in the shape of a clown, the whole wait staff sang happy birthday, and there was a glassed in playroom with mega blocks so Duncan and I could finish our meal in peace while he built “birthday cakes.”

A spinning top!
A harmonica!
Chicken in a car!
The "Real Life" Shot
The Posed Shot

Roasting (Magic) Mushrooms

Our go-to CD in the car right now is the Beatles’ Revolver.

We started listening to it again because of a recent Mad Men episode, in which Don is looking for a sound (like the Beatles) to accompany an ad, and Megan hands him Revolver and tells him to “start with this one,” referring to “Tomorrow Never Knows.” There’s something about that show that makes songs resonant with meaning in ways they never were before. Don McLean’s “Babylon” stayed in my head for weeks after it graced the credits a couple of years ago (and I heard a paper about it at a conference). Shivers. I’d heard “Tomorrow Never Knows” a million times before, but it was after that episode that I had to listen to it on a loop, hypnotised by a sound that still, 46 years on,  sounds like “tomorrow.” In that episode, of course, Don is so very yesterday. He turns it off before the end, and you sense, at that moment, that his prime is over. That Megan is the future. At least that’s what it meant to me. Megan, by the way, is played by my lovely second cousin Jessica Paré, so I get extra excited whenever she’s on screen in my favourite show.

I digress. So the CD played in our car and Owen latched on to “Yellow Submarine.” It’s come to the point that whenever we get into the car, Owen puts in a request: “I want the song called ‘Yellow Subabarine.'” He knows all the words and sings along. It’s a great song for kids and (as he’s discovered via YouTube), has a great (long, psychadelic) “music video” to accompany it.

Anyway, last weekend, we had our friends Claire and Layla over for dinner. After we ate, we tried out our fire pit for the first time and roasted marshmallows. It’s been years and I must say, they taste extra delicious roasted on cedar branches. Also: this is our back yard!

That was wonderful.

Then a couple mornings later, at breakfast, Owen said that he wanted to write a song like “Yellow Subabarine” when he grew up. And he asked, how could he do that. So Duncan and I suggested that he might need to eat a lot of mushrooms.

“I loooove mushrooms,” cooed Owen.

News to me. I had a hate-hate relationship with mushrooms when I was little. I once had to eat them off the floor as a punishment, and while I do buy them occasionally, they are still not on our regular grocery rotation. Owen’s eaten them twice, maybe.

“You do?” I asked.

“Can we roast mushrooms again when Layla comes over? I want to eat lots and lots of mushrooms and write a song called ‘Yellow Subabarine.'”

I love it how his connections twist us in knots, so that we find no way out but laughter.

Six Feet

It turns out that Owen really thought that turning three meant “growing up.” He tells everyone who will listen that “I’m big now. But I can’t touch the ceiling. But I can touch the ceiling in the car” (or some variant).

Since he wants to get even bigger (to touch the ceiling), we tell him to eat his vegetables. This morning, it was his breakfast.

“Owen, eat your breakfast so you can grow big and strong.”

“But I am big. I grew up. Why I can’t touch the ceiling?” he replied.

“Give it time,” I said. “You’ll be six feet tall by the time you’re fifteen.” (This is a guess. I have no idea how tall he’ll be, but it seems likely).

Owen did a double take.

“But I don’t need six feet. I only need two.”

Duncan and I couldn’t reply. We were laughing too hard.

“I will have to give some of them away. I don’t want six feet. That’s too many.”

Duncan, regaining his composure, explained about feet and measuring height. “You’re already three feet, Owen. And I’m six feet (or almost).”

“You’re six feet?”At this point (my favourite part), Owen slyly looked under the table at Duncan’s (two) feet.

He didn’t contradict Duncan, but he thought we were pulling his leg (I mean two feet).

I don’t like (insert random thing here)

Lately, Owen dislikes more than he likes. He tells us repeatedly of the people he’s mad at and the things that he despises. This morning, he didn’t like any of his friends at daycare and didn’t like any of his teachers. When I named them one by one, he confessed to liking Mimi, Casey, Crystal, Charn, Christine, Coy, Candace, Brenda, Sung Jin, and Léa (and some others, too). But then five minutes later, we heard:

“I don’t like some of my teachers at daycare.” He was hard pressed to name one, though.

The other morning at breakfast, Owen said, “I don’t like Daddy. I only like Mummy.” So we, always ready to call the child’s bluff, said something to the effect of “be careful what you wish for,” noting that his father might leave if Owen didn’t like him.

Owen and I left to do some groceries. When we returned home Owen, who had forgotten all about his dislike for his father, yelled: “Daddy, we’re home!”

No answer.

“Daddy! We’re home from the grocery store!”

No answer.

“Did Daddy leave because I said I don’t like him?” (lower lip wobble, tears welling up).

“Maybe,” said I, cruelly.

Fountains of tears, then: “But I need to tell him that I love him!” But I do love you, Daddy!”

It turned out that Duncan was on the treadmill, headphones on his ears.

We went downstairs, and a very teary three-year-old embraced and clung to a very sweaty Duncan. “I do love you Daddy. I love you all the time.”

Sigh. The child’s dislikes are pretty exhausting, I have to say. I know that this is a child’s way of learning to assert himself, but I am finding it tedious. Though, this morning, the sound Owen chose to use to express his frustration was: “harrumph.” My heart exulted. He is my child after all!

His black moods are almost made up for by comments like (last night): “I’m happy at you, Mummy. I had a lovely nice day.” (Note the construction “happy at you,” where happy replaces the usual “mad”).