The American Calgarian

Tales of a Midwesterner transplanted in Western Canada

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

This Parenting Business is Hard Work

Its happening.  My daughter has come out of school the last few days flirting with a boy.  He chases her around the playground, both of them giggling, and every now and again she turns and chases him.  At first, I think, “how cute”, and then, “what the hell?”  Is it possible that my little girl is beginning to be interested in, and be interesting to, boys?  Not ready.  Not ready at all.  I need to start rehearsing those conversations that are not easy, yet necessary.  You know, the ones where she will be mortified and tell her friends how “out of touch” I am with reality and how dreadfully uncool I am?  You are smiling right now because you know the conversations of which I speak.

Adding to my nauseousness, today I received a message from a friend that has teenagers.  (And before any of you try to figure out who this person is, just relax.  I have many friends with teenagers so chances are it’s not you.)  “Ellen” sent me a message that she had been checking her son’s text messages and can confirm that he is having sex.  Please know, Ellen is a great mom, her husband is a great dad and “Mike” is a good kid. Ellen regularly checks his email, visits to internet sites, text messages, the works.  That’s right.  She and her husband adhere to the philosophy that while their kids are living in their house and are under the age of 18 they have very little privacy and/or rights.  (I agree.)  She is up to date on all the stuff that teenagers can be up to and has those uncomfortable conversations with Mike.  Let’s face it, it is just too dangerous not to be open and honest with your kid.

Recently I received a phone call from the pediatrician that my daughter is at the ideal age for the HPV vaccine.  Holy crap. Is this the right thing to do?  Do I wait? Do I explain to her what it is and why it may be important?  How much detail can she handle?  Is she too young for boarding school in Switzerland?  In a convent?  And never mind her – I had to explain the whole thing to my husband.  He turned more and more pale as we discussed the pros and cons of this vaccine and its ultimate purpose, along with the fact that someday our (his) little girl will do it.  What?  You know, IT.  Talking with her may be easier, come to think of it.

Anyway, back to Mike.  The point I am trying to make here is not that we should all run screaming though the streets about this.  He is certainly not alone (breathe easy, Ellen) according the stats recently published in the New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation, (links below).   His conversations will continue with Ellen and her husband, so that he makes informed decisions and understand risks involved with his behavior.  Mike’s parents very well may freak out about this new “development” in his life, but not in front of him.  I am confident they will talk openly and candidly.  As we all should.

I have to take my own advice here and do some additional research on the HPV vaccine.  I was so much better at parenting before I had children.


Process for Christmas Greetings

The Christmas cards (letters) are out!  I am almost done shopping and haven’t been terribly cranky yet.

Getting out the letters was tough this year, as I had a few spreadsheets to put together to be sure I got everyone.  The whole thing is difficult to explain, so please see below (wish I had flowchart software at home)…

Process for Mailing Christmas Cards

  1. Pour Coffee.
  2. Open Spreadsheets:
    • Holiday 2010
    • Charity Fundraising Spring 2011
    • Family Mailing Lists
    • Friends Mailing List
  3. Merge Spreadsheets and Run Check for Duplicates.
  4. Curse.
  5. Refill Coffee.
  6. Why are there missing addresses and emails?
  7. Track down missing emails and addresses through:
    • Facebook
    • LinkedIn
    • Twitter
    • Email Accounts
    • Mom
  8. Evaluate relationships with people whom I cannot locate addresses using the methods listed above.
  9. Refill Coffee.
  10. Update Consolidated Spreadsheet to New Folder “Holidays 2011”.
  11. Curse as I am reminded that I have an updated version of Excel, which will change the formatting when I “Save”.
  12. Walk away from computer.
  13. Refill Coffee.
  14. Return to Computer, fix formatting of spreadsheet.
  15. Send emails of Christmas letters in batches.
  16. Go to Post to snail mail those for whom I do not have a current email address.  Wait in line 20 minutes while man behind me coughs up a lung.
  17. Curse as I pay for industrial strength Vitamin C.
  18. Return home to find that I have forgotten some of husband’s friends.
  19. Upon his arrival home, instruct husband to mail out his own damn Christmas cards.
  20. Pour wine.
  21. Turn Fire Log on Television.

So there you have it.  I apologize in advance that the snail mail cards will be late.  I also apologize if I missed you; the new spreadsheet format through me for a loop.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

World Traveling Grandma Strikes Again

Those of you that read this blog and also know my mother are aware that she is a traveller.  Not a tourist, but a traveller.  She takes everything in, enjoys every moment and finds humor in some really strange circumstances.  She reads about the places she is going so to be aware of customs and respectful of the people guiding her.  She will talk with about anyone about just about anything.

I had no idea she would consider the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die a checklist.  Nor did I think that watching “The Amazing Race” would give her ideas about places that she simply must visit.  She has been on all seven continents at least once and every time she embarks on a new adventure we hear the same story.  “After this, I am done travelling.  I have seen everything that I would like to see.”  Inevitably during her trip she makes a new friend and gets a new idea about somewhere else.  By the time she is on her way home, she is starting to plan her next adventure.

Case in point, she and I traveled to China a couple of years ago.  The plane ride from Chicago to Beijing was brutally long and she talked about how this was the last long plane ride she could do because she was “getting too old”.  We had a great week exploring Beijing and Xian and as we had our last breakfast in China, she informed me that I need to pack my kids and get them to Europe before her and my dad get too old to travel with us.  JB and I joke that whenever she starts a conversation with “I’ve been thinking…” or “Say, I have an idea….” someone is going to be boarding a plane, train or boat in the near future.

She has become quite adept at seeking out a place where she can check email and send me a message of her whereabouts and how things are going.  Even somewhere in Zimbabwe she was able to find an internet cafe and shoot me an email about Victoria Falls.  I love getting these emails, not because they are tales of exploits from faraway countries, but because they are so brief and to the point.  Most recently I received this email..

Good morning, We arrived in Ecuador last pm.  Everything is going well.  Mom

The past emails have been just as concise.

Hope all is well with you and family.  We made it to Ireland without any problems.  Driving a straight stick on the wrong side of the street can drive you CRAZY.  This is great.  The castles are fabulous.    Love Mom

We are headed out on the boat tomorrow to Antarctica.  Very windy, waves up to 30 feet high.  I’m scared.  Love Mom

and my personal favorite from Jamaica..

Had a nice lunch with a Vince Neal person.  He is a singer in a band called “the Crue” or something?  Have you heard of him?  He’s quite nice.  Love Mom

Here’s to my awesome mom.  She continues to teach me about testing my comfort levels, exploring new places and making new friends.

Baking and New Traditions

“You know, they have those in the store already made,” is my usual comment about baked goods.  However, in the spirit of embracing my new role as Homemaker, I have decided to try new things, like baking for example.  Besides, the holiday season is upon us.  As the preparations for Christmas develop, my daughter has asked (a few times) about Christmas cookies.  This time she was armed with a book of recipes for kids and a plan, (it wasn’t a spreadsheet, but I cut her some slack, she’s 11).  Yikes.  Okay, I thought,  I can do this.  We started planning.

Types of cookies we wanted to make – Chocolate Orange Hearts, Lemon Cinnamon Stars, Shortbread, Lebkuchen, Sugar Cookies and Gingerbread.  She had additional recipes picked out but I vetoed those ideas, stating that we (I) may already be in over our (my) heads.  I added that my favorite from previous year is the Fruit and Nut Bark and White Chocolate Bark, so those had to go on the list as well.  Determined to share in the joy that is baking and manual labor, I told the Girl that she would need to go through the recipes we selected and write out the grocery list.  We also agreed that we would go shopping together.  Saturday came and we planned the ingredients and our shopping trip.  I reminded my daughter at least 100 (or thousand, but who’s counting?) that the stores were going to be very busy so we needed to be patient.  I stated this mantra over and over, like my own personal form of terets.  It was not for her benefit.  I was ready to crawl out of my skin.  For you see, along with being in the unfamiliar territory of the “baking supplies” aisle, the stores were packed.  The parking lots jammed, the aisles in the store full of people casually reading labels as if they were on the bestseller list.  “Wow, it sure is busy.  We need to be patient.  Everyone is going to have fun baking and getting ready for the holiday, right?”  I said it to her so many times that she started rolling her eyes as me; she knew I was full of it.

Anyway, we returned home with bags full of supplies.  My husband and sons looked at us quizzically.  What was all this stuff?  Where are the cookies?

Sunday, we suited up.  Football was on TV (our Green Bay Packers are still undefeated, thank you), I was properly caffeinated and we were on our way.

I discovered something about myself this weekend.  I think that I actually like to bake.  Eight types of cookies, with at least 18 of each kind is alot of baking for this neophyte domestic engineer.  It was fun to work with my daughter in the kitchen, trying all of our creations and triumphantly announcing the completion of each batch to my sons and husband .  I hope she had as much fun as I did.  She said she did, but then she knows that Santa is watching so I think that she will say about anything nice to ensure certain presents appear under the tree on Christmas morning.  In any case, I will take it.  Here’s hoping we have started a mom-daughter tradition.

Tents, Money and Property

It came down earlier this week that the Occupy protestors will be removed from Olympic Park on Friday.  The protestors have been there since October and it will be interesting to see how they will leave the park (if they leave) later this week.  A couple of things..  first, it is really cold out there.  Like, way below zero Celcius.  When the sun is out.  Are you crazy? Second, you lost me on this whole thing.  I love a good protest against “the man”, but this one has become about camping in parks and tents and frankly, I don’t get it.  I know there is injustice in the world.  Tens of millions of children will go without clean drinking water today.  They will not have food to eat nor medicine for life threatening illnesses.  Girls are not sent to school because, well, they are girls.  Millions of children are on their own today because they have been orphaned by AIDS.   But, where was I?  Oh yeah, the tents.  Death to Capitalism and all that.

A funny story.  I can’t remember which occupy protest location this came from, (Vancouver? Calgary? Seattle?) but on Public Radio they interviewed a man about progress of the protest, a clash with police, their stance on fiscal policy, etc.  He went on about how capitalism takes advantage of those that do not have much, the growing gap between the “have’s” and the “have not’s” and how we should not be so self-centered and concerned about private property.  So far, I was with him, because let’s be honest, we (meaning our society) have some pretty f*cked up priorities.  I was ready for more, ready to pitch my tent (Okay, I don’t have one, but I was ready to sign on to the cause).  Then he continued to go on about how the police had confiscated his tent and he wanted it back.  Because, after all, it was HIS TENT, bought with HIS MONEY, and HIS PROPERTY.  No one else has the right to just take it!  Interesting.  So, if it were my tent that you needed and I were wealthy, (which I am not, so don’t get any ideas), and you took it, that is Okay, but because it is your tent and they are the police, its’ not?  You lost me. 

From where I am sitting, it seems that Adam Carolla may be right when he says this is all about envy and feeling underappreciated.  (be warned, his youtube rant is really good, but he drops the f bomb alot)  Just because some people have more stuff that you does not mean that you can pout in your tent in a camp somewhere downtown where you cannot afford to live because you are having trouble finding a job in a shitty economy.  The fact that the powers that be on Wall Street may be corrupt is not news, it is a constant filed under “duh”.  You have not uncovered anything new here.  

I have a piece of advice for whomever out there.  If you do not like your current situation, figure out a way to change it.  When you don’t like the way a company is run because they are homophobes or bigots or just plain jackwagons, start your own company with your own idea and create a culture of inclusion, acceptance and niceness.  Oh, yeah, and be sure you have a solid business plan to be profitable.

Fight fire with fire.  If you don’t like a businesses practices, like say, they won’t sell a Tshirt with a girl proclaiming herself a presidential candidate because it goes against your “family values” policy, yet will sell guns and ammo to whomever, don’t shop there.  If you agree that pizza is not a vegetable or that fast food should not be marketed to kids because it is making them fat, spend your money at a local grocery store.  If you think that pornography is degrading to women and should not be printed, don’t buy it.  Like it or not, its capitalism.  If you don’t like something, no one is forcing you to buy it.  The only reason there are so many fast food joints everywhere is because they are profitable.  Big box whatever stores are popping up everywhere because they are profitable.  If you don’t want to participate in their profitability, shop somewhere else, make your own food, go to a local farmer’s market.  You get the idea.

There is always a choice.  It may not be an easy one, but there is always a choice.

That felt good.  Prepare for more rants.  I have to refill my coffee.  Which, by the way, was organically grown in SE Asia on a sustainable farm, using fair wages, imported to an independent coffee roaster and sold by a locally-owned business.  Because that is my choice.

Getting Physical

Hello, my name is Erika and I do aerobics. 

This has come as a surprise to many of my friends, as I am not terribly coordinated and don’t dance well, even for a white girl.  The thing is that I love to run and hope to do a few more races in my time, but last season I had terrible soreness and pain through my right IT Band.  So I have decided to take drastic action.  Better cross training.  Step Circuit Aerobics.

The instructor is a total badass, (I mean that as a compliment), making us do all these weights and steps and friggin’ core work.  I hate it.  I love it.  Most importantly, I need it.  I can feel the difference in my posture and overall conditioning.  The class is always full and fits into my schedule perfectly.  What’s not to like?  A good cardio workout and a gazillion reps with the weights and just when you think its over, additional core work.  By the end I am oddly perky, dripping in sweat and feel great, though sore pretty much all over.

So, this is news to many of my friends that have witnessed my marathon training and know of my lack of grace on the dance floor.  Just today I received a couple of notes exclaiming “What happened to you?” and “are you kidding?” and then…   One of my friends texted me.  “Check your email. Now. I ‘ll wait.” 

Hilarious.  Sad.  I miss those b*tches that had their husband graphic artist do this picture and send it to me.  It won’t stop me, though.  I may even get the whole Olivia Newton-John outfit.  Whew!  Glad I got that off my chest.

It’s good to be a ‘Sconnie..

There is a fresh blanket of snow outside.  The UW Badgers are Rose Bowl bound.  The Green Bay Packers are 12-0.  I just saw the delightful new Muppet Movie.  It is great to be from Wisconsin right now.  OKay, I know the Muppets have nothing to do with Wisconsin, but I love the Muppets, its my blog and I just saw the movie.  Where was I again?  Oh, yeah, its great to be a ‘Sconnie.  Except I am in Canada.  Could someone please cue the Beer Barrel Polka?

This weekend we started with the usual provisions for a Badger football game, Usinger Brats cooked in Old Milwaukee, kraut, baked beans and beer.  Add some neighbors and we had a little party.  Our neighbors are from the UK, so some of the game had to be explained, (why is the clock stopping with a first down?  why can’t you hit the punter? why do you have a stock certificate from the Green Bay Packers?), and we had a great time teaching our British friends the way of the Wisconsin tailgate.  They took to it like old pros, and we shared many stories of football games, both American and British style.  At one point, our friend said, “You Americans DO know how to do college properly.”  This made me laugh, especially because she has such a strong British accent. 

Weekends like this make me appreciate all that is home.  Warm fires, snow, football, kids running wild all over the place (inside and out) and the UW Varsity Band.  I could practically hear our former neighbors (and UW Alums) cheering with every WI score.  I may be a time zone and a country away, but I am in a Wisconsin state of mind. 

U. Rah. Rah. Wisconsin.

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