My Date With Tim Horton’s Poutine

My teenage daughter and her friends wrote their final, final exam of Grade 10 this morning.

Pick us up and take us to Tim Hortons, she wheedled and pleaded.

As it happened, she went to school without her bus pass – having conned her grandparents into driving her there – so once I received the ping that the exam was done and dusted, off I went, having retrieved her wallet.

I dropped them off at the requested Tim’s location, plugged my phone in to charge in the cigarette lighter, and ordered the unthinkable at the drive-thru window: poutine. Ingredients? Seasoned potato wedges, which are sold as a side for sandwiches, in their native form; Québec cheese curds; and gravy from an unidentified source, so let’s just say an industrial size vat.

I’m going to posit that the most expensive ingredient in this confection is the Québec curds. Years ago, when I was young and also quite skilled at bamboozling my grandparents, Pop and Grandma would buy Québec cheese in insane quantities to bring back to South Jersey and portion out to all of their friends, and it was pricey then. Take that, Trump and your stupid comments about the North American dairy trade. Americans know what they like with their saltines and oyster crackers at 3:00 snack time.

So I ate, and my daughter texted me.

you can come in if you want

i have a charger in my bag

I’m ok. It’s breezy out here, I replied, in between bites of melty curds.

are you sure

Yep. I was.

The next thing I knew, she and one of her friends were back at the car to grab something out of a backpack. Satisfied that I wasn’t carjacked, I suppose, and my daughter shocked that I was eating lukewarm potato wedges covered in curds and gravy; they disappeared and moments later my kid was back with another friend, bearing a box of leftover donut holes.

Here. This is for you. We wanted to make sure you were eating properly.

In a way, the snarky little darlings had a point. You don’t go to a coffee shop to buy poutine, Québec cheese or no Québec cheese. You get a double double in a paper cup and a box of donut holes. Or if you’re a certain age and your doctor has started recommending more fiber in your diet, you order the raisin bran muffin warmed up with a pat of butter on the side.

To the chip truck owners of Western Québec, I see you and I hear you and I will make it up to you soon. I promise.

Stumped, And Stumping For Change

Going into Saturday’s rigamarole of a PCPO Leadership Convention, I had just enough respect mustered for my local MPP because she was a woman in politics, if a bit benign as far as change makers go. And, frankly, her party does not represent me.

It honestly confuses me how a female politician – herself a mother – from the suburbs of Ottawa found common ground with the hash-dealing huckster who is now the PCPO leader, so I have to ask, what did he promise you? Do you really think he’ll deliver? Did he …

GAH.

My adult son asked me once why I never sought political office. Well, I was never chosen as a parent volunteer at any of my kids’ schools, despite dutifully filling out the form at the start of every school year. Except for that one time someone bailed out of her shift at the annual Scholastic Book Fair and I got a call at the last possible minute. That sets a certain tone. And when I get riled enough, I tend towards what the husband calls a scorched earth policy. Look, I can play well with others, but unquestionably on my own terms.

So while I won’t be running for office this spring, or at any other juncture; I think it is time for me to throw my dusty mantel around the shoulders of a candidate who is neither Lib Red nor PC Blue. Help that person get his or her word out. Hammer signs on lawns. Help cuddle babies. Pet dogs on the street while my two floofers tussle on their leashes and try to tug me past.

See, the child in the photo is my granddaughter. She deserves better of her elected officials than what we have on offer. She and her generation are, in this case, totally and unreservedly deserving of their entitlement.

Onward, my fellow soldiers.

At Last

I finally own the dot com of my very first proper blog, Girl Gone Wired.

Actually, I bought it last September. It has taken me this long to sit down and connect it to my even older WordPress account.

The story of how I went from the dot net of GGW to Taking The Mother Road to a separate identity at Just Call Me Kanga is long and fairly unwieldy. Suffice to say that sometime in the last couple of years I was ghosted by my independent web host and lost access to Taking The Mother Road, which picked up where GGW left off. I’m leaving the early GGW posts here for posterity if only to prove to the current owner of GGW dot net that “I was here first, sweetie.”

The original, you might say.

All ego and sundry claims aside, it’s good to be back.

And now, it is time for lunch.

Knowing Me, Knowing You – October 2011

Welcome to my second monthly installment of The Fairy Blogmother‘s “Knowing Me, Knowing You” interview project.

1. Are you watching Revenge? No; I’m at work. Errrr, wait – what is it, exactly? I have heard that it is a dish best served cold. In short, no, I’ve never seen it.

2. Do you decorate for Halloween? Not yet, but I have no excuses not to, seeing as for the past 4 1/2 years I’ve owned a house and a yard and all, and Hallowe’en is *huge* in our extended family. For some of us, it’s possibly bigger than Christmas.

And speaking of Christmas….

3. Do you have any crafty plans for Christmas presents? Crafty as in things I will make that I will give to other people; or, as in “a cunning plan”:

Um. Yeah. I think it will be gift cards for the adults again this year. I hear that Wal-Mart has restored its holiday layaway service, so that will help with shopping for zee kidlets.

4.What’s your dream vacation? I still have a notion to acquire a motorhome and criss-cross the continental United States. I would also love to go to the U.K. and re-connect with family, head across the Channel to France and Italy and Spain and Greece (which should require no explanation, besides, Greece desperately needs our tourist dollars). New Zealand and Australia also sit quite high on my travel bucket-list.

5. Which of your relatives live closest to your house? My parents. Literally a short trip right around the bend.

Sending An SOS To The (Dog) World

I love my dog. He’s 101 pounds of slobbery affection, dumber than a sack of hammers, and always so very eager to please.

Chances are that I love your dog too, unless it has Small Dog Syndrome. However, any dog with that kind of behaviour problem didn’t get there on its own, and sad to say it’s down to you, Pack Leader. I’m taking the time and trouble to train my dog to walk nicely, on his own power (not that I would ever consider carrying him around unless I absolutely have to; a plate and 11 pins that hold my right arm together following an accident in 2004 mean that I can’t lift anything heavier than 40 pounds, in both arms); make sure he’s properly socialized, and to obey basic commands. You, Pack Leader, can do the same.

I notice things like this more, of course, now that I have joined The Dog World.

Something else about The Dog World that triggers my annoyance is the concept of the “puppy mill.” My short neck hairs stood straight up over the weekend when DH pointed out an article in the daily newspaper about the kennel in Shawville, Québec, where more than 500 dogs were removed by animal welfare authorities, said to possibly be “the largest of its kind in Canada.”

Registered breeders of purebred dogs, in general, have always struck me as being a special bunch. At the other end of the spectrum are the backyard breeders, the puppy mill owners, like Charlene Labombard, whose family owned and operated the Shawville facility for the past 16 years. By her own admission, she was actively raising no fewer than 30 breeds of dogs. 30 breeds of dogs. I presume that doesn’t include the cross-breeding and other forms of genetic mischance that were more than likely going on. Back in the spring, I was on the verge of rocking back and forth and humming loudly after I learned that Tucker’s sire had “tied” no fewer than three times with Tucker’s sister Daisy during her first heat cycle, leading to a litter of 11 puppies and she just a puppy herself. I’m told the dogs’ owner tried to keep them separated, the teachable moment here being that the standard baby gate is a poor deterrent to an intact adult male dog. The owner took some of the proceeds from the sale of the puppies ($300 x 11 = $3,000 according to the calculator; no vet checks were done, therefore pure profit) and got Daddy Dog neutered. Better late than never, I guess?

But back to Charlene Labombard: her puppy mill provided her with her daily living, supplementing her old age security benefits. The family originally got into dog-breeding following the collapse of the pork market 20 years ago, which in turn forced them to shut down their pig farm. Really? They couldn’t have, say, gone into “cash crops” instead? Corn and soybeans and hay can be quite profitable, as relatives of DH’s were to learn after they got out of dairy farming, having been casualties of the “mad-cow” crisis back in the 1990s; but it takes time and a helluva lot of work. For the Labombard family, easier money was to be made through indiscriminate dog breeding, clearly.

My wish for the dogs that were seized on the weekend is that they get the care and rehabilitation they desperately need, as soon as possible. Why not help this dog-loving blogger sleep better tonight, and visit one of the many sites around O-town that are accepting donations of cash and non-cash items on behalf of the animals. For more information and a list of locations, you can visit The Ottawa Dog Blog.

The Plain, Unbleached Truth About Hazing

“I found my locker and I found my classes.
Lost my lunch and I broke my glasses.
That guy is huge! That girl is wailin’!
First day of school and I’m already failing.

This is me in grade nine, baby, this is me in grade nine
This is me in grade nine, baby, this is me in grade nine.”

Barenaked Ladies, “Grade 9”

The media here in O-town is ablaze with the story of a young man at Nepean High School in the 12th grade, who was suspended after police investigated a complaint about hazing from a young boy in Grade 9 who is attending the same school. His fellow classmates subsequently staged a very public protest, claiming it was unfair that he was “expelled” from school. I rolled my eyes and audibly uttered a “WTF?” when I read the following quote from one of the students, Fatima Allen:

“We think it’s just completely unfair, because he wasn’t the only one and he’s not going to be the last one to frosh (….) It’s his last year, so this is really ruining his chances with universities and ruining his senior year.”

(Wha? Really? OMG!)

Hazing is a long-standing tradition in high school, even a rite of passage, some might say. I was in Grade 9, once upon a time. Fortunately, for me, being invisible also meant that I escaped any kind of “initiation” treatment. Not so for a friend of mine. His hazing ended with him plowing full-bore through a plate-glass door and requiring hospitalization.

My 13-year-old son started Grade 9 last week. Sad to say, he is no stranger to bullying, or rather, being bullied. Having a dual diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and ADHD puts a target on your back that no amount of laundry soap or shower gel can wash away. (That being said, there have been the rare occasions when it’s only fair to say he brought it upon himself.) I believe he managed to escape being hazed; I’ve asked him about it a couple of times, remembering my friend Dave in all too vivid detail, and his answer has consistently been “No.” But, we’ll see.

Getting back to the story that prompted this post. I’d like to know why seniors in high school are even allowed to mix with the “frosh” in the first place. I know it can’t be avoided, especially after school hours and when it occurs away from school property. Hazing may be tradition, but it is also assault. When someone pelts you with an egg, or flour, or urine (yes; that came up in the Citizen article), regardless of whether or not you “asked for it,” or in the case of hazing, “should expect it,” I think the punishment should involve action on the part of police. If a high school student, especially a senior, is old enough, and bold enough, to do the deed, a criminal record should proceed. A student in high school with any sort of aspirations should be thinking of university or college and/or employment prospects and keeping his/her overall record “clean.” I don’t know of any rational adult out there right now who is applauding “Mykal”‘s actions in the slightest. I work as an HR Administrator as my day job, and I can tell you all right now that no prospective employer would give this cat the time of day, because an incident like this immediately speaks to one’s character, and personal suitability/sense of responsibility.

And, Fatima? In the real world, the one that awaits you and your ken upon graduation, we, the rational adults who are reading the story of your “protest” with equal amounts of derision and horror; don’t throw eggs or bleach or flour or *shudder* human waste at other people. It isn’t an acceptable form of behaviour. Adults who behave like that are sent to jail. Your classmate should be treated no differently. In the choice words of people who are older and far wiser than you, you and “Mykal”‘s other supporters need to “grow the f- up.”

Back To Life, Back To Reality

61 days of summer vacation and $200+ in school supplies later, my kids are back in school and I am back at work (read: my paid day job). In years past, I would take the first day of school off as a vacation day and send them off on the big yellow bus myself, camera and Kleenex in hand. I’d meet up with the twins at their elementary school and wait with them in the yard to introduce myself to their teachers and check out their classrooms. Then I’d go home with a coffee and hunker down with the cat for the rest of the day.
 
This year was a bit different. Ok, a LOT different. As I had done last year, I took a leave of absence from work in July and August to look after the kids when DS13 and DD weren’t going to a day camp of some sort. DS8’s assorted developmental and physical disabilities prevented him from participating in most mainstream day camps that offered a program he might have been even remotely interested in, and it would have cost me the equivalent of my hourly wage to hire a one-on-one worker for him on top of camp fees.
 
This year, however, I went back to work at the end of August, instead of waiting until the second day of school; and under the watch of my parents, the kids made their way to school yesterday without me or my camera or my fistful of Kleenex. I am still divided as to how I feel about that. It somehow feels wrong to me that I wasn’t there, that there are no pictures of the kids wearing their new outfits and backpacks, that I wasn’t there to smile and wave at the bus driver and then make my way over to the school to wait for the familiar sound of the first bell at 9:10 a.m. and help the twins hang up their coats and backpacks in the cloakroom, chat a bit with the teachers, and go on with my day.
 
This year was also a bit different because, like most families, money has become a source of worry for me and DH and I tried to keep my leave of absence as short as I could because 61 days of summer vacation means what’s left of my annual salary is spread out over the remaining 304 days of the year, an approximate difference of $8,000 before taxes. While making the arrangements with my employer this year, I felt like I had Suze Orman glaring over my shoulder, tut-tutting her mantra: “People first, then money, then things.” I couldn’t afford to do it, but I couldn’t afford not to, either. My kids enjoy(ed) having Mom home with them, getting a hot breakfast (almost) every morning, the trips to the playground, the country fairs we went to, the “last hurrah” road trip to Mont Cascades waterpark the day before I went back to work last week. I found out that I could sit through “Phineas and Ferb” and their highly improbable 104 days of vacation in re-runs, and laugh myself silly each time. Some days we were on the move so much I felt like I was channelling the evil Doofenshmirtz himself: “It’s already 4:30, I think I’m going to bed. Curse you Perry the Platypus!”
 
It won’t be much longer before the seasonal segue into fall, and fall turns into … well, never mind. I don’t know about you, but I could definitely have enjoyed an additional 43 days of summer.