Friday, December 28, 2007

Creature Comforts

I just have a few photos to share today and they seem to have taken on an animal theme.

The bird feeder has been attracting a fair number of feathered, and even a couple of furry friends. This squirrel happily stocks up on nuts.

This male cardinal is among those who wait their turns at a freshly-filled feeder one snowy morning.

The female watches and waits for an opportunity to help herself to the seeds.

Even the dogs have been known to munch on the nuts, shell and all. Here's a video of Benny's partner in crime, Raven hopping around the seed-covered table, trying to reach a peanut.

Benny got all tangled up on his walk, while wrestling with a small branch.

Lucy is Frank's African Grey parrot. She seemed a bit wary of the camera, but that didn't stop her from asking me for (and accepting) peanuts and chips.

Every now and then, Benny got a little too close for her liking. Watch that nose, Benny!

On our way back home, Benny let out a few mournful cries from his traveling cage, but soon settled into a sleep.

Skitty waits on a high plateau, ready to pounce on a well-rested, ultra-energetic Jack Russell Terror.

Later, Benny decided to join Skitty and me (under the blanket) to have a rest on the sofa. All was fine for a while as both animals laid together quietly. But Benny couldn't resist poking his nose closer and closer until it was too much for Skittles. A quick whap on the nose sent Benny on his way. Photo taken by Frank.

Monday, December 24, 2007

My Son the Musician

In the summer of 2004, my son Alex was about to turn 14 and he thought that he would like a guitar for his birthday. Having been through piano lessons that fizzled out before long, and middle school music classes which were met with little enthusiasm, we were hesitant to consider the expense of an electric guitar and amplifier. His Dad ended up finding a decent instrument for a good price and he bought a cheap amp to go along with it.

It was one of the best decisions we've ever made.

From that day, Alex has scarcely put the guitar down. He is mostly self-taught having opted to take a few months of lessons after he felt he had figured out all that he could on his own. His fingers and guitar strings seem to empower one another, and I can not imagine my son ever separating himself from his guitar for more than a day.

His strong preference is toward metal, but he has been listening to, loving and learning new sounds and styles daily.

On Friday, his school held a talent show, and Alex, along with his friend Steven performed Summer, from Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Alex has the bored/cool musician look down pat, but he couldn't quite hide his pleased grin at the end.

A proud mom was there to record it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Family Bridges

"In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future."
Alex Haley

When it comes to having great families, I'm one of the lucky ones.

I have two healthy, intelligent and talented sons, both of whom are home for this holiday season. Their Dad and I separated several years ago, but remain good friends, and partners in parenting our boys. There isn't conflict or bitterness between us, so our respective extended families have always remained warm and welcoming to both of us for important events and occasions. Don is always invited along to my family's birthdays, pool parties and Hanukkah. And invitations to Thanksgiving, Christmas and his family birthdays have always been open for me. They're not just polite gestures either. Our families sincerely want the other to join in the festivities and remain a part of the circle.

Initially, we might have decided to stay friends because of the kids. Our boys were still in elementary school at the time, and if we couldn't give them a family that was intact, they were at least entitled to parents who were united in fulfilling what was in their best interest. It didn't take long for us to realize that it wasn't only for our sons' benefit, but also for our own, that we were able to hold onto the friendship and respect which weaves its way through our entire relationship. Whatever the glue, I value the connection we will continue to share when both of our kids are fully grown.

My own remaining family consists of my sister and her crew, two aunts and a collection of cousins and their own offspring and grandchildren. Between the first cousins on my Dad's side, our children range in age from mid-teens to mid-forties. Most of us, who have migrated from Montreal to parts of Ontario, get together a few times a year at one home or another. At our Hanukkah party this year, my cousin Frances marveled at how everyone who was not hindered by geographical distance, made a point of being there. At an age when most kids prefer to be doing almost anything else with their friends, ours all opted to be at a family party. That warms the heart.

Our babies have mostly grown up and have begun the process which tells us that we have been successful as parents. They have become independent. It's bittersweet, but it's right. No doubt they'll make mistakes that we can't prevent, and reach milestones of which we won't always be a part. Hearts will still be broken - our own along with theirs, but they're growing and learning, and doing exactly what they should be doing. Experiencing life.

It's often difficult for us to take that step back and accept that our influence was mostly in the past - that despite how much we want to say "Choose a safer career" or "You deserve better than him" or "Don't move so far from home", we simply have to trust that the lessons and morals we've instilled in them through their early years are enough to carry them through. Aside from wanting to keep them safe, healthy and happy, the best that we can hope for is that they continue to evolve and grow as individuals. And they will.

Family bridges extend themselves in many ways, through near and distant cousins, in-laws, dear friends, neighbours, online friends and those special individuals who have been given the honourary title of Aunt or Uncle.

Yesterday I received an email from Frank's younger son, whom I had just met for the first time a few days prior. He wanted to know what I thought of him and his brother. After expressing the warmth that I felt for the two of them, he replied with his own impressions of me. Among his many kind words he said "ur already family to me." That sentiment had to be among the best honours that has ever been bestowed upon me, and for many reasons, it means the world to me.

At this time of year when families get together, I hope you have a happy and safe holiday season, and I wish you the joy of being with the people you love. The people who call themselves Family.

Here are some photos that I took on my way to and around Bowmanville last week.

The day became snowy by mid-afternoon, but it started off with a fiery sun which painted the sky from behind the clouds. This was the view as seen from my desk chair at home.

On my way to Bowmanville, I took this shot through the window of the train, when we stopped briefly at a station along the way.

We saw many lovely sights when we took Benny for his daily walks among the cedars. The weathered trunk of this old tree attracted us with its expressive face. What does Benny see?

Snow-covered burrs cling to the last light of dusk.

Early the next morning...

Along the water's edge, trees reach out to greet each other from opposite sides of the creek.

This tree reminds me of an elephant, with the left-hand branch as his upraised trunk.

The snow began to fall lightly as we edged our way along the creek.

If you follow this bridge, it will lead you right into a Claude Monet painting...

...or perhaps downtown Bowmanville.

On our way back, I glanced up to find this hawk perched above my head.

An unusual splash of colour caught my eye as we neared the road. A lost helmet perches on a tree stump, waiting to be claimed.

I'll post more photos from my visit in a few days.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Looking Through Diamonds

One day last week, a good-looking man dressed in army fatigues walked right into my house, smiled at me and gave me a great, big bear hug.

It had been far too long since I'd last seen my boy, having not had a leave pass since early August. Jeffrey attends RMC (Royal Military College) in Kingston, Ontario, where he is acquiring both his university education and the military training that will sculpt him into an Officer in the Canadian Armed Forces.

He visited for a few days between exams and will be back again on Friday for three weeks, during which time we'll catch up, and settle into our old roles of Mom and son. I'll cook his favourite meals. He'll eat enough for three. I'll ask him if he's dressed warmly enough. He'll roll his eyes at me and nod. I'll remind him to drive carefully. He'll allow me to believe that he's the only driver on the road. I'll tell him that it's good to have him home. He'll try to avoid talking about how one day, in the not-so-distant future, he will be deployed - quite possibly to Afghanistan.

From the time he was a newborn, twenty years ago, I'd heard warnings from other parents, to enjoy this time while it lasted because it flies by all too quickly. They all spoke the truth. Jeffrey seemed to grow from infancy and training pants, to the infantry and training with weapons in a misty blink of an eye.

Last month I wrote about my younger son, Alex. Prompted by a semi-regular visit inside the pages of his baby book, I posted some of the memorable things that he said though his early years. Of course, I have a similar book for Jeffrey, and this week, between visits, it seemed like a right time to flip through the pages of his childhood. His too, includes the letters that I wrote to him on each of his first several birthdays, covering the previous year's events.

Here are a few excerpts from my letters to Jeffrey.

Third Birthday:

• On a particularly difficult behaviour day, I asked you why you weren't listening to anything I'd said. With a most serious and thoughtful look in your eyes, you explained. "Well, some childrens listen to their Mommy and some childrens don't. Today I'm a children that don't."

• When it came time to announce to the rest of our family that you were going to be a big brother, you got on the phone with Nanny and proudly declared "Mommy has a baby in her uterus!"

• You also wondered about how the baby would be fed once he was born. When I explained about how he would get nourishment and that only Moms can breast feed, you lifted your shirt and took a look at your own chest, shrugged and said "I guess my nipples are only decorations."

• Favourite misused word/phrase: (Singing at the top of your lungs) "Take me out to the hallway..."

Fourth Birthday:

• During my pregnancy, and after Alex was born, you had a lot of questions and you readily absorbed the answers. One day, between mouthfuls of muffin, you casually asked cousin Marcy, "Did you have two eggs inside your body that Howard fertilized and one of them became Leah and the other was Miranda?"

• One time I forgot to buckle up as we were backing out of the driveway. You were quick to remind me, and waved my forgetfulness off with "I guess you didn't recognize that we were actually driving"

• Favourite misused word/phrase: (When a lamp nearly got knocked over) "Oh oh! Is it breakalish?"

Fifth Birthday:

• Dad became angry with you one day and you were sent to your room crying. Later, when the two of you talked it over, you told Dad "It's not so bad to be crying because just before the tears spill out of my eyes, it's like looking through diamonds."

• You had a really bad cold, complete with runny nose and the need to blow it often. I tried to make you feel better by fluffing pillows and re-tucking the blanket, and I asked you "Isn't it nice to know that when you're feeling bad that you have a family that loves you so much, and who wants you to feel better?" You gave me a disgusted look and said "No, it's nice to know I have Kleenix!"

• Today, on your 5th birthday, Grandma and Grandpa were telling you how everyone came to see you on the day you were born. At bedtime, you slipped your hand in Dad's as you headed upstairs for bed, and said "Yep Dad, I guess that I'm the first baby that you ever spermed."

• Favourite misused word/phrase: (After I found the house keys that were hidden in my shoe on April first) "April kidding!"

Sixth Birthday:

• As Alex was learning to speak, your pride for him showed when you announced "He said that good, didn't he?" I agreed that he had, and emphasized that he had said it very well. You absorbed that, and the next time Alex said something to evoke your pride, you piped up with. "Alex said that well, didn't he? And I said 'well' well, didn't I?"

• Favourite misused word/phrase: (After devouring an apple) "I have a good appletite."

Seventh Birthday:

• In grade one, Mrs. Pattendon conducted an experiment. She filled three jars with snow and asked the class to predict which one would melt first - the one in the shade, the one in the sun or the one to which she added salt. Your hand shot up first and when called upon, you insisted "I know exactly which one will melt first, and I know why." Given the floor, you stated "The Urban Peasant (a cooking show chef at that time) always warns never to salt your meat before cooking it because the salt will suck the juice right out of the meat, and since water is the snow's juice, the salted one will melt first."

• Favourite misused word/phrase: (After learning that there had been dinosaurs in Canada - Albertosaurus) "Oh, and what about the Torontosaurus Rex?"

Eighth Birthday:

• You had a particularly nasty cold with a persistent cough, but you still wanted to read a story to Alex. The story went something like: "'Meow, meow, meow' purred the little cat. 'Whinny, whinny, whinny' said the happy horse". Then you had a fit of coughing, after which you immediately followed up with "cried my poor, sick body."

• Favourite misused word/phrase: (Upon learning that one of the teachers at your school was leaving to have her baby. "She's never coming back because she's on eternity leave."

Jeffrey has always been logical and cautious, so I know that he has not embarked on his career choice without considerable thought and certainty. I have no doubt in my mind that he will do well on his life's path. He's proud to wear his uniform and I'm extremely proud to call him my son.

One day a tiny hand will seek his out, and a little voice will be calling him "Dad." And like those long-time parents before me, I'll be telling him the truth when I say "Enjoy it while it lasts, because it flies by all too quickly".

Here are a few photos from around my neighbourhood - a place that Jeffrey will always call "home."

This sparrow has been happy about finding a full feeder in out back yard each day, and happier still about having a full beak.

A cautious blue jay watches to as I snap a photo through the glass.

In the frosty winter air, the sumac still holds its brilliant red, and contrasts against the frozen lake.

On the opposite side of the lake from my home, this little ledge juts out over the water near the dock. Occasionally, I'll see people fishing off of it in warmer seasons.

Same spot with a different camera setting, creating a golden hue.

Branches reach out to embrace one another, creating long, intertwined shadows in the snow.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tink's Toilet Paper and Anonymous Blogrolls on YouTube!

Last week's Caption Challenge produced a three-way tie. Congratulations to...


If you've never happened upon Pickled Beef before, treat yourself to her always-amusing and sometimes-tender musings, often based on the antics of her life with Hoop. She's also a wonderful photographer and hosts the popular Weekly Words Challenge each Tuesday. Tink's blog is a must-read.

Her winning caption is...

"Little did they know, making the toilet paper longer instead of thicker was NOT a great money making scheme."

Congratulations also goes to ...

an Anonymous poster for the following two captions...

"YouTube: The early days."


"All over the blogoshpere, bloggers work hard to update their blogrolls."

An honourable mention goes to...

Francis Baron

His caption was cleverly done to resemble those "Motivation" posters that we often receive in email. He's the #1 Son of his #1 Dad, Frank, who sometimes blogs about him over at Remaindered Random Musings. His caption was..

"Motivation - You think YOUR job sucks?"

All other captions appear below. Check out the blogs and web pages of the clever people who wrote them!

"How did she get her black bit so much bigger than mine?"
~ Reb: She always has a wonderful thought-provoking post over at her blog - Sibu Pegasus Power.

"Nine hundred forty two, nine hundred forty three, God she's so hot... nine hundred forty... Damn it! Not Again! One, two..."
~ Crabby McSlacker: Cranky Fitness is a great blog, and offers pretty much what the title promises. Crabby, along with her new co-blogger Mary post a daily dose of fitness, fun and frivolity, with fun-filled links on Fridays.

"Don't ask me how but I know she's cheating. Nobody can wrap licorice in paper towels that fast."
~ Frank Baron: Yup, Francis' dad. See above for linkage.

"This extra-wide toilet paper will really reduce my wiping time!"
~ John from Grand Haven, MI: I stumbled on John's website Things I Hate/Dig/Don't Get by following his comment link, and thoroughly enjoyed his post about greasy-spoon diners. I'm pretty certain that you will too.

"I wish Bush would stop talking crap. My arm is killing me."
~ madamspud169: Welcome madam, and thanks for participating. You can check out madamspud's very open blogs by following her profile link.

"I'm telling you, it's here somewhere - keep looking!!"
~ The Bag Lady: Blog-pal, fellow Canuck and clever inventor of the CartSmart bag. If you're looking for an original handmade gift, you might just find what you're looking for over at Bag Lady's Blather.

"Hilary helps Howard the Oreo hoarder, hoping he heeds her hideous whining and hands out a heaping hand full of crumbles, helping her effectuate a harmoniously heightened sucrose high."
~ Gary: A generously gifted gamer from a gigantic green grassy getaway.. or my tremendously terrific trivia-pal from Texas.

"This job is really interesting with never a dull moment and lots of room to develop."
~ : There's some excellent photography over at Light and Shadow. Clicking on the "colour archive" link reveals many amazing photos, including several from nearby Ontario settings, such as Rattray Marsh.

"I probably should have measured first, but I'm pretty sure these toilet paper rolls aren't going to fit in the dispensers."
~ liebowitz: You can find her at Apathy Lounge, where she's recently renovated both her virtual and her real life settings.

"Mary kept rolling the super-sized joints for the Weed Party as Tim pondered whether there would be enough to toke -- since two other people did accept the invitation to their party."
~ cardiogirl: Hers is a fun site that appears to focus on fitness but includes a lot of family, fun and everyday observations in her menu.

Thank you to everyone who participated.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Last Few Hours...

The polls are still open and ready for your vote.

I'm hard-pressed to determine a winner at this rate, as only 6 votes have been sent in so far - less than 5% of the visiting population since the captions were posted.

Please choose your favourite caption from the previous post while you're here today.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

YOUR Vote Counts Here

Thanks to all for sending in such great captions for this image. They are all posted below.

Please take the time to vote for your favourite one. I'll continue to keep the comments in moderation mode.

Please vote even if you didn't send in a caption, but please only one vote, and not for your own caption.

When all votes are in, I'll count them and announce the winner(s).

Voting deadline is Sunday at midnight, EST.


Little did they know, making the toilet paper longer instead of thicker was NOT a great money making scheme.

I wish Bush would stop talking crap. My arm is killing me.

This extra-wide toilet paper will really reduce my wiping time!

How did she get her black bit so much bigger than mine?

I'm telling you, it's here somewhere - keep looking!!

Hilary helps Howard the Oreo hoarder, hoping he heeds her hideous whining and hands out a heaping hand full of crumbles, helping her effectuate a harmoniously heightened sucrose high.

Nine hundred forty two, nine hundred forty three, God she's so hot... nine hundred forty... Damn it! Not Again! One, two...

This job is really interesting with never a dull moment and lots of room to develop.

All over the blogoshpere, bloggers are working at updating their blogrolls.

I probably should have measured first, but I'm pretty sure these toilet paper rolls aren't going to fit in the dispensers.

YouTube: The early days.

Don't ask me how but I know she's cheating. Nobody can wrap licorice in paper towels that fast.

Mary kept rolling the super-sized joints for the Weed Party as Tim pondered whether there would be enough to toke -- since two other people did accept the invitation to their party.

... and this fully-captioned creative effort...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Caption This!

It's time for another funny captions post.

Come up with an amusing caption, or several for the photo below.

Please use the "share your thoughts" (comments) section to send in your caption(s) for the above image.

You are encouraged to send in as many as you like - as often as you like.

The deadline is Thursday, December 6 at midnight, EST.

Moderation will be on, so nobody will see any of the answers until they're posted after the deadline.

Once all captions are in, I'll compile them in random order and display them in a new post without authors' names so that you can vote for your favourite caption.

Good luck. Have fun!