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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

My niece was full of wonder at my big ole pregnant belly when we visited on Boxing day a couple of weeks ago.  Honestly, so am I but it’s a lot cuter coming from a three year old.  

“What is that big belly for?” she asked, several times through the day. 

Her mother and I would explain that there was a baby growing in there, just like she grew in her mommy’s belly.  She would look at me funny but seemed to accept the explanation and went on to the next Christmas toy, only to have the same question pop up again an hour or so later. 

.

Fast forward to bedtime, laying on her bed and reading a story. 

“What is that big belly for?”, she asked again.

“Remember?  I told you there’s a baby growing in there!  A new cousin for you that you’ll be able to meet in about two months”. 

“Why?”

“Well, the baby needs to grow in there a little bit more.  You remember how big baby Lucy was [another cousin who recently visited]?  The baby needs to grow almost that big before he comes out and meets you”.

She put my hand on my belly and I said, “Sometimes I can feel the baby move in there”.  

“Why?”

“Well, because someitmes he needs to stretch and he pushes on my belly because there’s not a lot of room in there”, I responded. 

She looked at my belly, the gears in her mind grinding away.  “Poor baby”, she said, realizing how cramped the baby must be in there. 

And back we went to the story book, me thinking that her curiosity was satisfied.  A few moments later she abruptly pulled up my shirt and began looking at my belly again, putting her hand on it.  I thought, “How cute!  She wants to feel him move!”. 

But then she put her arm up in the air and came down on my belly with a big ole slap that smacked out really loudly!  I’m still not sure what was going through her mind to make her do that but her face wasn’t angry or upset so all I can imagine is that it was still curiousity and her way of saying hello.  All I could do was laugh and then she laughed and we went back to the book. 

A few minutes later she said, “How will the baby come out of there?”. 

I said, “Well … ” and I looked at her and back at the book.  Then I looked at her.  And then back at the book. 

All the while I was thinking that really the only two explanations were a) the bellybutton, which is freaky enough to give her alien-like nightmares (even to a 30-year-old) or b) the truth, which seemed a little deeper than I wanted to get with her over Dr. Seuss. 

So I just ignored the question and we went back to the book.  When I went back downstairs, I gave her mother a good warning of the questions she was going to get the next day.  Apparently she didn’t but she DID go around all day sticking her belly out and saying she was me. 

Too frigging cute.

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My mother… God love ‘er. 

She does really well at keeping up with everything current, despite living in our little speck on the map all of her life.  I think having two grown daughters makes her a little more watchful of the trends and goings on. 

But this is rural New Brunswick:  the land of meat and potatoes; farmer’s country; where the dividing social line is whether or not your half-ton is a 4×4; where people hook up satellite tv not to broaden their viewing horizons but to have the option of watching the same CBS shows at 10 different time slots a day. 

Yes, this is still Carleton County and sometimes even my SuperWoman mom can’t hide her roots. 

~~

After having lunch yesterday, we were driving through the town I work in, chatting about something.  Mom glanced over at me, looked past me, and interrupted herself mid-sentence to exclaim, “Well look!  There goes a midget!”. 

I was a bit taken aback by the statement but was also giggling at how “redneck” it is to be shocked at the sight.  

In a scolding tone, I said, “MOM!  They prefer to be called ‘little people’!”. 

And she replied, “Okay, well … there goes a little midget!”

~~

I’m still not sure if she said it to be funny or if she really wasn’t getting my drift but, either way, it made me laugh. 

(Sorry if that offends… that wasn’t my intention)

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My father grew up on a farm, complete with cows, chickens, hay, barn, tractor… yup, it was a farm. 

Every now and then my dad tells me stories from his days growing up and working on the farm, which amuses me for two reasons … I like picturing my dad as a younger version of himself and I like remembering and learning new things about my grampie (who passed away in 1993). 

This particular story should be a bona fide joke that is told in small-town pubs everywhere.  Maybe it should even be one of those e-mail forwards that those people who don’t know better forward to everyone in their address list (please stop it!). 

Instead, it is a small slice of my dad’s life. 

~~~~~~

My grampie always kept a bull on the farm for the purposes of … well, spreading the love to the neighbor cows.  For a price, of course.  I know… pimping out bovine is not a pretty thought but that’s the way it is on farms. 

The bull of this story was young and still rather small in comparison to the cow that had come a-visitin’ on this particular day… small enough that when it came time to do the deed, he wasn’t tall enough to … ahem, climb on.  He tried and tried but she was just too tall for him to get in position and do his thing. 

My grampie looked at my dad and said, “Go get the shovel”. 

So what do you do when the guy is just a little too short to get on the girl?  You dig a hole underneath the cow’s hind legs, of course… a hole just deep enough to bring her down to his level. 

It sounds far too simple but it worked!  The bull finished his business and I’m sure it was a lovely moment for both of them. 

I picture Grampie leaning on the shovel’s handle then, chuckling, and, with laughter in his eyes, delivering the punch line: “Well, that’s the first fuckin’ hole I’ve ever had to dig…”. 

~~~~~~

Frig, I miss him.  And I wish I knew him today.  

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This weekend we gathered up a couple of canoes, a couple of kayaks, a grammie, an aunt, a mom and dad, a sister, a couple of cousins, and a partridge in a pear tree and we all headed to Riley Brook, NB for a day of paddling on the Tobique river. 

The river is a wide, slow river that is just perfect for a lazy float.  It was beautiful as always and just rife with wildlife.  Since I had my new camera in hand (thanks, hubby), I snapped a lot of pictures.  I thought I would share them here for a change of pace… there must be a few animal lovers among us, aren’t there? 

First up, this striking bald eagle for my American friends.  While you usually see eagles at the tops of the highest trees, this one was surprisingly sitting in the grass along the shore and just watching us float by. 

He was just begging for a picture so I paddled back and snuck around the corner to get the shot above… zoomed in, of course.  They are big and a little scary-looking, aren’t they?  I mean, look at those eyes!  Suddenly, he started to stir and I thought, “My god, he thinks I’m a cat and is going to wrap those talons around my fully exposed neck”.  I reached for my paddle but, as it turns out, he went flying in the opposite direction.  In my attempt to defend myself, I probably missed the best flying shot but the one below isn’t bad. 

Check out that wing span! 

During the day, we saw several flocks of ducks… mamas with their little ducklings.  Or maybe it was the fathers.  I don’t know.  I shouldn’t assume.  There are more stay-at-home dads than there used to be and that is just fine by me. 

This one is a flock of Merganser ducks.  All together now… Awwww!  Aren’t they cute?  I love there little tufts of unruly hair in the back. 

Next up is a couple of deer that were drinking along the water as we came around a bend in the river.  They didn’t stick around for long but they also didn’t seem to worry too much about us.  Deer sightings are pretty common for this remote area of NB. 

The wildlife highlight of the day… the hinterland who’s who moment, if you will… was another flock of lings.  My mom, sister, 5-year-old cousin and I were lagging behind the rest of the boats.  We had noticed a flock of ducklings quite a bit behind us on the water.  We joked, we laughed, and kept on floating, and then I heard something behind me… the ducklings caught up with us!  They came right up beside the boat and, believe it or not, stuck right there beside us for a full five minutes. 

I snapped multiple pics… here are a few.  It was a great end to our wildlife-a-rific day. 

My five-year-old cousin Matthew was particularly intrigued and wanting to feed them to keep them around. 

Not sure Twizzlers are the answer there, Matt, but I guess it’s worth a try.

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That is me, circa 1997. 

Behind me is my crazy father. 

Yes, that is a field of snow. 

And yes… that is most definitely a canoe. 

Allow me to explain. 

You see, that particular winter we received a storm that delivered a lot of freezing rain over a couple of days.  The result was a crust of ice several inches thick on top of a few feet of snow.  That crust was hard and it stayed that way for weeks. 

How hard was that crust?  You could walk anywhere and the four wheeler went anywhere… not just on the skidoo trails, but on top of the drifts, straight through the fields, everywhere. 

It was around this time that we also experimented with our downhill skis on the hill behind our house.  How did we get to the top of said hill?  We were towed to the top behind the four wheeler, using a plain old rope. 

Yes, my father is quite the character. 

So one day while on break from university, my father said to me, “You know, I have always wanted to try to go sliding with a canoe”.  He had heard of this being done before.  My dad is the curious sort, you see, and once he gets an idea in his head, it will gurgle and stew in there until he can make it happen. 

The crust that winter made the perfect surface:  instead of trudging along in a few inches of soft snow, we would do it in grand old Carleton County style and that was going to be in a green canoe that was sure to quickly turn into a lightning fast torpedo on top of that hard crust. 

We hauled the canoe to a field not too far away and lugged it to the top of a hill.  The field was open, save for a couple of rock piles in the middle and about halfway down.  I piled in the canoe and Dad gave us a push to get us started.  So far so good.  We were laughing at the sheer hilarity of what we were doing when the canoe steered towards the middle of the field.  In cartoon style, I think the light bulbs went on for both of us at the same time. 

How were we going to steer this thing?  I guess paddles would be the obvious answer but there we were, up the snowbank without a paddle, picking up speed, and heading toward this rock pile.  Dad was trying to steer but he was not being that successful.  As the rock pile loomed closer, in a moment of panic… I bailed. 

Both knees and shins and I think even my elbows went through that thick layer of crust.  I was bruised for three weeks after that. 

Are you wondering what happened to Dad?  You should be.  He actually managed to narrowly miss the rock pile and continued down the field, drastically picking up speed (which I’m sure was happening more quickly because part of the cargo, me, had went overboard). 

What was at the bottom of the field to stop him?  Forest. 

He didn’t get too far into the trees before coming to a stop (without the aid of a tree, I should note).  And when I caught up to him, he was laughing so hard that I couldn’t help but join in. 

That’s my dad.  He’s fun and funny and the life in any room and he can make me laugh like no one else.  We’re never quite sure what he’s going to say and do next and he would try (almost) anything once.  I hope to be just like that:  ready to make my own fun and not waiting for it to find me.  Boy, do I love him. 

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Throughout my childhood, there was always a small television sitting between the kitchen and the dining room.  Although my mom often spoke of having a “nice, quiet meal”, it always played over supper (or “dinner” for the more civilized). 

Supper was always right around 5:30 pm, just after Dad walked through the door.  Some of my favorite shows were on in that time slot.  Looking back, I really don’t think it would have mattered what particular show was on; sitting around the table and laughing with the family are memories that I will have forever. 

Before we begin, keep in mind that I grew up in rural New Brunswick.  We had what people now refer to as “country cable”.  Four channels:  WAGM (local CBS) being beamed in from Maine, ATV (maritime CTV), CBC, and PBS.  I never saw an episode of Punky Brewster or Beverly Hills 90210 which was, at the time, quite a damper on the social life. 

Also keep in mind that 5:30 pm is not prime time and I am only 28 years old so these shows were all re-runs by the time I was seeing them. 

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I’m reaching way back for this one.  I have hazy memories of people dressed in costumes, rifling through their purses for some obscure object that was asked for.  I know the premise of the show and remember liking it (but then, I have always loved game shows) but I was really young.  I wish someone would resurrect it because I think the concept of it is quite entertaining. 

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Who among us does not love The Muppets?  This was an early one too but I do remember some things:  real people performing with The Muppets; laughing hysterically at Statler and Waldorf (although I think I was laughing more at my dad cracking up); not liking Miss Piggy because she just wouldn’t leave Kermit along (despite the fact that she was one of the only female characters); and loving the Swedish Chef.  For me The Muppets represent childhood, pure innocence, unequaled creativity, and just plain old-fashioned good comedy.  Jim Henson was brilliant.  My children might not know the show but they will know The Muppets. 

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Three’s Company.  I remember all combinations of roommates and both landlords (because these were reruns, remember).  I remember my sister and I, years later, impersonating Mr. Furley’s “Smoooooth” after shooting some sort of hard liquor.  There is no doubt that much of the comedy in this show went over my head.  There is also no doubt that that fact was to my parents’ liking.  At my age, the sexual jokes took a back seat to Mr. Furley’s and Jack’s physical comedy. 

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Ahh … The Golden Girls.  Did you know Estelle Getty, who played Sophia (left), was actually the youngest of the four actors?  It’s true!  Rose’s stories about Saint Olaf (sp?), Sophia’s stories about Italy, Dorothy’s what-seemed-like-constant stern face, and Blanche’s stories of trapezes and eye-opening sluttiness.  Oh, and Dorothy’s ex… that dead-beat, Stan!  As a kid, I was a little puzzled at those big, flowing shirts that they always seemed to wear.  Was that the style for adults in the mid-eighties to early nineties? 

If mom and dad were unconcerned about sexual innuendo on Three’s Company, they more than made up for it with The Golden Girls.  My sister and I were not quite teenagers and very impressionable when this came on.  In truth we knew way more than mom and dad wanted to admit.  Mom would gasp at some of the lines and innuendo and then glance sheepishly at us, trying to decide if we understood it or not.  Sometimes she would laugh but try to stifle it, likely so we wouldn’t ask why she was laughing.  I remember more than one night when mom got disgusted at Blanche’s perversion, shut the television off, and claimed that we were never watching tv during supper again. 

Sure, mom. 

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Last but not least was The Fresh Prince of Belair.  If you knew him, you wouldn’t expect my father to like this show but he laughed and laughed.  Even today, dad will put on a rerun or spew out a quote and take us all off guard.  It was only a matter of time before the talent and beauty that is Will Smith was given an opportunity to shine and I think we should all be grateful that it was this show.  But then, all of the actors fit their characters perfectly.  It was clever and fresh.  We couldn’t relate to the characters because we were neither Belair residents or poor kids from the city but the situations were so hilarious, we had to feel for them.  It seemed they would never run out of situations to put Will in. 

It has to be the original Vivian (pictured) though… has to be. 

Much to Brian’s chagrine, I sometimes feel the pull of nostalgia when I come across these shows in the satellite guide.  He really is a good sport about it … but draws the line at The Golden Girls. 

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Christmas Made Simple

I don’t know about your family but mine is now to the point where, most times, we ask each other what we want for Christmas.  There is little surprise involved.  I guess we figure that we would rather buy each other something we really want than hear the “oh, it’s nice” through the fake smile and gritted teeth. 

But alas, this does not necessarily mean that the mark is never missed.  If you want hand towels that actually absorb water or bubble bath that actually produces bubbles (the “s” indicating the plural being the key there), then you better be specific. 

This is also not to say that all of my family members rely on direct questioning for gift ideas.  My sister takes great care in picking out gifts and great pride in finding something just right for the person.  My mom will often ask but will also throw in a couple of surprises. 

My mom still makes me up a stocking and I still get an Archie comic in it.  And I love it. 

While I’m on a Christmas roll, I thought I’d jot down a few things that I would like this Christmas. 

(more…)

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