April 16, 2012

Les Souris - Eeek!

I couldn't remember the French word for mouse and had to ask my son, who goes to FI.  I love that my son's French vocabulary is now more extensive than my own.  Well, I love it and I hate it.  No one likes a smartass kid!

Here is a picture of my office (with said smartass in the foreground).  Please do not ask me what is in his mouth because I do not know or care.

I know, this is not a very exciting picture; however, if you look to the top right, above the door, you will see a hole.  Here's a close-up:

That hole was made by a RODENT!  On Friday night, the kids and I were watching Freaky Friday (2003.  Jamie Lee Curtis, Mark Harmon and sober Lindsay Lohan; I give it 3.75 stars; it's cute and funny).  I packed the kiddies off to bed, went into the office and SHRIEKED! RB and Nathaniel bolted into the room and I pointed at the hole.

See?  There really was an animal scratching in my walls, and I was NOT exaggerating about the horrendous scratching in my previous post.

While we were examining the hole, the rodent actually had the gall to stick its nose out of the hole and begin scratching again in earnest.  It was awful.  We saw its schnoz and fur and such at the hole and I was FREAKING out! I may as well have been in the fetal position.  I deplore rodents.  I have no problems with snakes, spiders, bees or other insects but I cannot abide rodents (not a fan of the lowly maggot or silverfish either).  There is a scene in the disturbing novel The Painted Bird (Jerzy Kozinsky) and it involves a farmer being eaten alive by a pit of writhing rodents. To this day, I cannot get that image out of my head.  Read The Painted Bird only if you are a masochist and are interested in the violence, and sexual and social deviance that characterizes wartime.  I should not have listened to the individual who recommended this book to me when I was a tree-planter.

Back to the rodent.  On Thursday, when I first heard the terrible clawing, and before I knew that I would have a freaking hole in my ceiling the following evening, I was smacking at the wall with a book (Bicycle Repair Manual for those who are curious), which I thought might scare the creature away. Maybe I should have pounded harder.

I went to my local hardware store and bought some mousetraps from the incompetent but friendly  employee.  He seemed to know a fair bit about mouse-catching and we debated the merits of poison over traps and decided to go with traps.  Because I am a jokester and the employee seemed like a fellow with a sense of humour, I started to call him Mousekiller.  Exempli gratia:  "Hey, Mousekiller, what do you think about rat poison?" He seemed to like the moniker.

In the mousetrap aisle, I asked MK to demonstrate how to set the trap, because I'd never set one before, but MK was clueless. I mean, completely clueless.   Eventually, I figured it out on my own, while he was fiddling with the thing, and MK congratulated me and told me to go on Youtube for backup.  He seemed embarrassed by his ineptitude but I thought it was funny.  I told him that he was not living up to his reputation and that I would have to stop calling him MK.  He thanked me for coming in and told me that I made his day.  Awww....

Anyhow, RB set the traps with gobs of peanut butter and we caught four mice on Friday night.  We haven't caught anything since then (today is Monday) and I am hoping that the evil rodent that ate our wall is one of the deceased.

Here is what greeted me in my office on Saturday morning:

Drywall dust and bits of fur / lint / insulation all over my Henry Napartuk!

And this mess:

The hole also became quite a bit larger. It doesn't look so bad in this picture, but trust me, it's ugly and disconcerting!

I am hoping that the creature that did this either:
a) escaped and had its tiny brains pulverized in the trap or
b) died in the wall.

If it's the latter, it means that there will be a god-awful smell in the office sometime soon.  Something to look forward to.

I meant to write about the pinworms (which we do NOT have) in this post and also a mini-review of another graphic novel, and lastly how I received a senior discount on a receipt (horror!!!!!!) on the weekend, but that will have to wait.


April 13, 2012

Pinworms, Lice and Mice, Oh my! Pinworms, lice and mice...

Okay before some of you who see me on a regular basis (Hi, Mom) start freaking out and thinking that we have lice AGAIN (we've only had it once, dammit), I want to reassure you that we are not infected. I repeat, we are not infected.  More on the pinworms shortly.  :-)

I'm pretty sure that many individuals in the blogosphere have written about pinworms, lice and mice but not all at once, in the same blog.  I couldn't resist it.  The phrase just sounds so catchy!

Pinworms, lice and mice, OH MY!  Pinworms, lice and mice.

And I'm quite certain that this trio has not appeared together in a blog as of yet.  So consider yourself very lucky to be reading the only incidence of these four words together.  I should know; I googled it!

Last week, I was trying to locate a comb / brush, which are in short supply in this house, so I could attempt to "style" the children's hair before leaving the house and shocking the public with our untamed tresses.  RB never combs his hair, ever.  If he does, it becomes a bush that you can hide small animals in (like mice, nyuk, nyuk).  He has let Gwen comb his "glory" several times, but that is just for the humour factor, and we love him for that.  But I prattle on; back to the real story here.  Just to remind you, I was looking for a comb.  Of course, I couldn't find anything and so my Mom rummaged around in her purse and found a brush.  She combed the children's hair, while they shrieked in mock horror, and then she made a comment like:  "You'd better not have lice!"  We laughed. ha ha ha.  Remember when?  ha ha ha.  We were so cavalier.

"Ha, ha",  I said.  "We don't have lice."

I looked her firmly in the eye.  When you are denying something, even if you're not lying (notice how I didn't say "telling the truth" - that was intentional), you MUST make eye contact, especially if you're denying something as disgusting as having lice.

Not a minute later, I was getting something out of Nathaniel's school bag, and I saw a loose sheet of paper.  I read the words "There has been an incidence of lice in your child's classroom..." and I began to laugh uproariously.  Perfect timing!  I handed the sheet to my Mom, who read it wordlessly.  She did not laugh: "I'm disinfecting my brush".

I then proceeded to check behind Nathaniel's ears and at the nape of the neck, which is where the lice like to frolic.  Clean, clean, clean, hallelujah!  Thank you, Jesus.  I am not going to regale you with the sordid details of my entire family's battle with lice over a two-week period during which there was a LOT of swearing, combing, crying, television-viewing (the only way we could get the kids to sit still) and being treated like a social pariah. I am not going to tell you what it was like to arrive in Calgary and greet RB's cousin, whom I had NEVER met, and how I said:  "Pleased to meet you, too.  I feel kind of awkward saying this, but Gwen has lice and uh..."  cringe

AWKWARD Silence, forced laughter.  Who were we? Kin of Randy Quaid, in NL's Christmas Vacation?

Here is a picture of the only item that rid our house and hair of lice:

The LiceMeister!

It was worth every penny of the $26.95 that I paid for it at Shoppers D.  It and a cheap bottle of conditioner were our saviours.

I am taking Mr. Nathaniel for his summer 'do today - a crew cut. Not my favourite look for my boy, but it kind of suits him, mischief-wise.

I am going to end abruptly here, because I am freaking, I repeat FREAKING out right now as there is some sort of animal scratching in the walls / ceiling to my immediate right and I can't take it. I'm not kidding. It's fucking awful.  While in the middle of writing this blog, not five minutes ago, I made a repair man whom I barely know come in to my office to listen to the horrid scratching and he was laughing at me.  Holy shit.  I am done with those "humane" mouse traps and treating the mice like royalty.  I'm going to Tuckey's RIGHT NOW to get a snapper trap. You know those little wooden ones that snap the poor mouse in half. I am getting sick just thinking about it.  Stay tuned for the pinworms and mouse saga.  I meant to write it all in one installment, but I gotta go!  now!

April 08, 2012

Happy Easter!

When I was a kid, my Nana had a Queen Anne china cabinet in her dining room that was jam-packed with off-limit goodies.  I wanted access to all of it.  My filthy, ten-year-old fingers wanted to pry open the tins of sour balls and orange lozenges; work problems on the multiple calculators (Nana, why do you have 26 calculators? Because you never know when you'll need one.  Now get out of there); pens and pencils; decks of cards for Canasta; notepads; jars of coins; and chocolate bars past their prime.  That cabinet was a treasure chest!

Near the back of the top shelf sat a beautiful Ukrainian egg, shiny black with fine lines and crosshatching.  I'm not sure who decorated the egg - I know it wasn't my Nana - but I do know that I wasn't allowed to handle it.  I coveted that egg.  It was exotic, one-of-a-kind, and absolutely captivating.

Every Easter, I decorated eggs with my mother and brother but it was impossible to replicate the egg.  I couldn't draw delicate lines with my stubby, broken crayons and the dyes in my Paas kit were dull and watery.  In fact, they were so weak, you could probably drink them.  I knew that the ancient relative who made that egg must have had access to specialized instruments and chemical dyes, shit that wasn't available to me in Welland, Ontario in 1979.

In 1999, I was living in Ottawa, on a co-op at the National Library.  I read an advertisement in the lobby of the building for a Pysanky workshop at the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral.  I practically sprinted to the church to sign up.

Here's my first attempt at a pysanka:

I am surprised that the egg has lasted.  Maybe it's because I rarely let people handle it.  Invariably, people want to give the egg a shake.  I suppose they're curious about whether the egg's innards have dried up (they have, it's light as a feather).

I store this treasure in a tiny bird's nest that my Mom found on her property.  The egg fits inside the nest perfectly, which makes me think that the nest's original inhabitant must have been quite petite.

Last weekend, I hosted an egg decorating party for some friends and their children.  Some of the people that attended were new to egg decoration.  I love watching people react as they start to remove the wax from their egg. It's like watching a baby being born:

The entire process is illustrated here, and I describe it in more detail below:

Here's my set-up.  I use a paper towel as my base, layer a Kleenex over it, and put my candle and saucer of beeswax to my upper right for easy access:

Step 1
After letting your egg rest in a vinegar rinse for a few minutes (2 tbsp of vinegar to a cup of water), beeswax is applied to a raw white or brown egg using a kistka - a plastic or wood-handled stylus with a copper funnel:

I use the blue one most frequently

The kistka is heated in a candle flame so it can easily scoop up the beeswax.  The wax instantly liquifies and lines, dots and other designs can be applied to the egg.

Step 2
The wax designs that you apply in this step will appear white on the finished egg.

Step 3
The egg rests in yellow dye for 5-10 minutes, depending on the intensity of colour that you desire.

Step 4
Remove the egg from the yellow dye, dab it with a Kleenex to dry it off a bit, and apply more wax (lines will be yellow on the finished egg).

Step 5
Use a Q-tip to apply a small amount of green dye to the sections of your egg that you wish to be green.  Apply beeswax (designs will be green on the finished egg).  Important:  the egg doesn't go directly into the green dye because all that green will muddy the orange dye.

Steps 6 and 7
Put the entire egg into the orange dye to neutralize the green, and once it is saturated in colour, remove the egg, dry it off, and apply beeswax (lines will appear orange on the finished egg).

Steps 8 and 9
Dip the orange egg into the jar of red dye.  Remove it after a few minutes, blot it off, and apply more wax (designs will be red on the finished egg).

Step 10
Put the egg into the black dye - the final colour - and let it sit until it is as dark as you'd like.  Remove it and blot.
This is what the egg looks like once it has been completely covered in wax:

Step 11
The magical moment has arrived!  Remove the beeswax from the egg by holding the egg adjacent to the flame.  Important:  do not hold the egg over the flame because it will turn black from carbon.
When the wax begins to liquify, wipe the egg on a paper towel.  Do not wipe the towel on the egg.  Repeat this process until all of the wax has been removed from the egg.

In the picture below, you can also see many kistky.  The traditional ones are made of wood and copper and newer versions are plastic.  The red kistka produces a heavy line, the blue a medium line, and the white, a fine line. There is also a saucer full of beeswax (black from the heat).

Here is a picture of the finished egg.  All the wax has been removed.   Tada!

Happy Easter, everyone!

April 05, 2012

Poetry and Brouwer Power or RB's Star Turn on Youtube

I know that you're all here for Richard and not for my poems.  I'm good with that.

Canada Writes hosts several writing challenges during the year: fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry.  These contests have a $25 entry fee but the pay-off is huge: six grand for the winner and a two-week stint at a writing retreat in BC.


The runners-up also receive several thousand dollars. I entered the fiction category earlier in the year and am currently writing some poetry which I will submit by the deadline, which is the 1st of May.  I am writing a series of poems about Victoria Stafford, the eight-year-old Woodstock girl who was murdered three years ago.  Her murderer is on trial in London right now and the reports in the paper are so heartbreaking.  I'm not sure why I even read it. I skim the article and then I feel sick and find myself thinking about it constantly during the day. This cannot be good.  Such lack of humanity and sadistic tendencies in her murderers; I think this child needs to be remembered differently.  My poems will not be graphic or disturbing; I am going to try to write about her death and life using different points of view.  I'll admit that the subject is unsettling and I can't actually believe that I am writing about it, but I think it can be done and done well.  Whether I am the poet to do this is another subject of course, but I'll try.  Jack Kerouac's advice is to write "only what kicks you and keeps you overtime awake..." and while he is referring to something that is joyous, I think that the opposite also holds true.

Canada Writes also hosted another writing contest recently - the April Fool's Apology Twitter Challenge.  Yes, this Luddite signed up for Twitter and figured out how to tweet.  Wretched Twitter; I am of the opinion that most people over the age of 35 are clueless.  From what I have gleaned from my interactions with Twitter, one can get realtime updates from celebrities, groups, politicians, authors etc. that one "follows".  All of these updates are less than 140 characters in length and you can get them sent to your mobile device.  I don't really get the Twitter phenomenon; obviously, it's not for me as I can't think of anyone that I need real time updates from except for maybe my family; however, I can apply this same logic to Farcebook and I am still a sucker for that, as embarrassing as it is to admit.

I entered the April Fool's contest and CW actually liked one of my submissions.  This is the one that is included on the long-list:

I'm sorry for yelling "JIM" during our lovemaking. I thought you'd laugh. I shouldn't have worn your Mom's wig either. Sorry. #canadawrites

I read a bunch of my other submissions to the family around the dinner table last night and while RB liked this one the best, the kiddies liked:

How was I supposed to know that you had a maggot phobia? I didn't mean for you to actually eat one! Forgive me? Kisses.

We'll see if I make the shortlist.

My husband is a teacher at Saunders Secondary and every year, the school mounts a Cancer Campaign.  In 2011, the school set a new record by raising almost $63 000.00! That's amazing.  Some of the hardworking students at the school have made a video which they've posted to Youtube:

Richard is featured at 3:15, for those who do not wish to watch the video in its entirety.  I think that these students have done a fabulous job!  I hope that they kick cancer's ass!