Baby it’s cold outside

It’s cold as hell out there. For anyone who hasn’t had the excruciating experience of walking out their front door lately, think twice before you do. That is, unless you’re either actively looking to lose a few fingers to frost bite, or your home is on fire.

I’m not sure what kinds of shenanigans Mother Nature is up to lately. Last week, London, Ontario got nearly 100 cm of snow; and now, Sarnia is dealing with 360 cars in the ditch following 3 days of insane snowfall.

We can’t complain about record snowfalls in Ottawa (yet – give it time), but we are experiencing temperatures of near -30 C with windchill. Look, don’t get me wrong, I know we should expect ridiculously low temperatures during Canadian winters. But that’s my point: it isn’t even winter yet. Winter solstice isn’t until December 21st.

It’s technically still fall. As in leaves falling from trees. Our eyelashes shouldn’t be freezing shut for at least another two months. Even my car mocked me as I tried to start it tonight.

I end this post with the hope that Mother Nature behaves soon, and that I eventually regain at least partial feeling in my fingers.


Cup of Joe?

It’s so simple. You walk into a coffee shop, order yourself a cup of joe:
– black
– with cream
– double-double

However you like it. In whatever size you want – small, medium, large.
And it will cost you anywhere from $1 to $2.50.

And then there’s Starbucks. The problem with Starbucks is that it takes all these simple givens, chews them up, and then spits them back out in a way we don’t understand, and charges you double for it.

Starbucks is pretentious. Everything they serve pretends to be something else. They refer to their regular coffee as a “Caffè Americano”. Even their cup sizes are camouflaged and ask, “Who, me?”
Take what you and I would call a small coffee. To obtain its Starbucks equivalent, you need to ask for a Tall Caffè Americano. Tall. It’s like they’re afraid of giving the small cups a complex. Next size up is a Grande, followed by Venti.

I won’t get into the more complicated beverages available at Starbucks. There are Web sites devoted to demystifying this, such as:

1. Broken Secrets
2. eHow
3. wikihow

Besides, you can try for yourself at one of the hundreds of Starbucks available within a 10-km radius.

Then there’s the staff. I’m not sure whether they seek out know-it-all metropolitan Gen Y staff, or whether they have to lobotomize them upon employment, but every Starbucks I’ve been in has them. Same blank expression, different piercings. If you don’t order correctly, they wait calmly and trendily for you to catch on, and then gleefully repeat your order back to you with the correct terminology. Your momma must be proud.

But what gets me is what they charge for coffee. Don’t get me wrong – I make a decent salary, I occasionally splurge on a trip to the spa, enjoy shopping. But out of principle, I refuse to pay 2-3 times what other coffee shops charge. It’s coffee. Adding a dollop of whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel or a squirt of flavouring doesn’t change that.

Last week, after months of avoiding Starbucks, I walked in with a few people for a meeting. I ordered a small tall peppermint mocha coffee. The smart-ass behind the cash asked for $4.15, to which I replied an indignant “For a small?” (see what I did there? I said small) Response: Blink, blink. “Yes, that’s right.”

But a picture is worth a thousand words, and so, free of charge, I offer an updated logo with a frank appeal:

Old Starbucks logo vs. honest depiction

Old Starbucks logo vs. honest depiction

On Sale Now

I hate Giant Tiger.

In all fairness, I only say this in lack of a better, more potent word to use in this context. But otherwise, I would use it here. In fact, it’s safe to say this general feeling of loathing applies to most discount stores.

These stores go to great lengths to offend each of the five senses. I say five because I’m not even going to bother including the sixth sense – the sense of style – when clearly the term itself would implode if it attempted to walk into the store.

The moment you walk in, they assault you with harsh and unflattering lights, likely in an attempt to partially blind you into not realizing how cheap every single piece of merchandise actually is. Once inside, you will, despite your best efforts, see everything but a sales rep, who would also rather be elsewhere, forcing you to spend undue time in the store searching for help, or giving up and exploring the isles yourself for whatever item caused you to enter in the first place. If you happen to be the persistent kind of discount shopper who hunts until they find a sales rep, what you’ll have is a 12-year-old with a blank stare telling you they don’t know where to find whatever you’re looking for. In the case of WalMart, substitute with a bitter old woman with a blank stare telling you they don’t know where to find whatever you’re looking for.

Although at first you’ll find it difficult to hear anything over the sound of the buzzing fluorescent lights, you will eventually hear a merciless selection of musac that should otherwise only be tolerated by humans in short spurts during elevator rides, as well as the chatter of sales reps and cashiers who are busy not helping you.

The entire store smells of plastic, cardboard boxes, cheap, lead paint-covered items, and an overwhelming stench of I-don’t-want-to-be-here.

95% of all clothing found at these stores is either made entirely or mostly of polyester. Walking through the isles and touching the apparel may result in the sudden urge to rub your hands incessantly to eliminate the unnatural feel of the fabric, not to mention an overall repulsiveness.

You ultimately leave the store with a bitter taste of not having found anything you wanted, but rather something you didn’t want at all but had to to settle for.

Sure, you can come out of there paying $2.97 for an item masquerading as a shirt. But I believe you get what you pay for; so although I may pay more for some things, I’ll spend much less on Advil.

The arse on the bus goes on and on…

I was on an overcrowded bus tonight, heading home. The ride’s soundtrack consisted of cell phone ringtones, traffic, and a young girl chatting loudly on her cell phone, in a nasal voice only slightly less annoying than Fran Drescher’s, discussing various TV shows. Noisily. Incessantly.

I’m sure that, like me, many other riders were annoyed at this mind-numbingly obtuse waste of air. But since she was relatively harmless, we ignored her. Except for the man sitting directly to her right.

The man looked at her and said, “Excuse me, would you mind keeping it down and lowering your voice?” His own voice was resonant, I assumed, to be sure she would hear him over the sound of her own chatter. She looked at him, uncertain.

He continued, louder still: “You’re on a bus, you know? I don’t need to hear this – no one needs to hear your STUPID conversation”, the word STUPID materializing into a thunderous grey cloud over his head, just waiting to release its lightning.

However uninterested I was in the girl’s titillating opinion of 30 Rock and The Big Bang Theory, she didn’t deserve being spoken to this way. She calmly and softly replied, “You just had to ask me. You don’t need to speak to me this way.” She gets points for keeping her cool.

One might think that was the end of that. But one would be mistaken.

The man barked, “Here, let me show you what it’s like to have a loud conversation on the bus.” He fished his cell phone out of his pocket and hollered to a nonexistent pal: “HELLO! YES, OK!” before flipping his phone closed. The girl just looked at him, dumbfounded.

Still not done humiliating her, he yelled: “You see what it’s like? No one cares what you have to say about some stupid show [mumble mumble] inconsiderate [blah blah] insensitive.”

Despite efforts to resist, the words “You’re an asshole” were just about to roll off my tongue, when he stood up and got off the bus. Everyone followed him with their eyes and finally remembered to breathe.

Evidently public transit isn’t for everyone. For a man so irritated at hearing a phone conversation, it sure as hell didn’t seem to matter that his rant was heard by people three buses down.

Nina’s Surgery

Today wasn’t a good day. If I met today in an alley, I’d turn and run the other way. Our baby, Angelina, had surgery for a hernia.

We’ve known for a month that she’d need surgery, but we only found out yesterday that a spot opened up for her this morning. Now, I know that the hernia wasn’t serious, that she’d only require day surgery, and that the risks were very low. But there’s just something fundamentally nauseating about the idea of my little girl lying helpless in a hospital, about to be put to sleep, not quite understanding what’s going on, and clinging to you for comfort.

She was so brave. She accepted our oversimplified explanations, and went along with whatever we said. I went into the OR with her, wearing scrubs and a mask. We asked her questions to try to distract her, and her answer to everything was a nervous “I don’t know”. She asked me to hold her, which I did as best I could, considering they were getting her IV ready. I caressed her and told her everything was OK. When they finally pushed the anesthetic through the IV, within seconds her little arms plopped down and her eyelids fell. Mostly.

Her eyes weren’t completely closed, and I asked if she could still hear me. They assured me that she was very much unconscious, and they ushered me out. They don’t even let you watch from the other side of the door, because they were about to insert a tube down her throat to help her breathing. They strongly believe – and I share their belief – that no parent needs to see this.

I returned to where Chris was waiting, with the unpleasant image of my baby lying under harsh lights, and amongst all those strangers and sharp metal instruments.

About half an hour later, the doctor told us that the surgery had gone fine, and that we could see Angelina when she woke up. So we waited. And waited. I stared at the domed mirror on the ceiling, trying to see if someone in scrubs was walking up the hallway to tell us we could see her. And as other parents were being called to see their children, I felt like that person at the restaurant who orders first but then watches everyone else get their food.


Domed mirror


Nina took an hour and a half to wake up. Likely payback for the morning’s experience. She was groggy, but happy to see us. And she was fine. In fact, she was enjoying a Popsicle within 10 minutes.


Nina Sicle


As difficult as this morning was, I have the distinct impression that it will be much harder trying to keep our almost-4-year-old from being the monkey that she indisputably is.

Home Alone

Okay, not exactly alone – I do have the girls with me. But Chris is in Austin, Texas on a business trip until Saturday night. So I am, in fact, alone taking care of the girls and the house.

Although I find, with no offense meant to my loving husband Chris whatsoever, that the household is more organized and I’m more efficient when he’s not around. Since I’m aware that he’s not there for me to nag to do stuff count on, I find myself making the girls’ lunches ahead of time, keeping up with laundry, planning meals, helping Olivia with homework and piano practice, bathing the girls, all with time to spare for bedtime stories and tummy zerberts. And both girls are tucked in by 7:30.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Chris always buys chocolates for the girls when he leaves, and every night when they’re asleep, I sneak one on their night table. The next morning, they both wake up to find a mystery chocolate “from daddy” and try to imagine how he possibly manages to put one there every night. Over time, they’ve provided an entertaining array of hypotheses:

– Our neighbour sneaks into our house when we’re all asleep and leaves the chocolate.

– Magic.

– He hides them inside or under a stuffed animal, and each night one chocolate comes out.

– He throws it up into the wind, and the wind blows the chocolate all the way to our house and into their rooms. (Points awarded for creativity)

As a side note, I should mention that these are all Olivia’s guesses. She’s always trying to figure everything out and asking a hundred questions. Angelina is just happy to get chocolate. Wise in her own way, she’s probably thinking “Shut up, don’t jinx it. Just eat the damn chocolate.” For now.

But this morning, and it was bound to happen, Olivia finally figured it out. I almost denied it, but finally admitted to being Chris’s accomplice. We won’t let Angelina in on our secret just yet – I want to hear all the crazy tales she comes up with when she tries to solve the chocolate mystery…

From the mouths of babes

We’re pretty careful about what and how much TV our girls watch. Despite this, they absorb information like little sponges. It all started before last Christmas, when our daughters began noticing TV commercials. Then the questions emerged: “Mommy, can you ever buy me that toy?” and “Mommy, can we ever go to Marineland?”

But what surprised me most were some of the other things Olivia started noticing. She was watching cartoons while I was making dinner, when she asked me: “Mommy, would you like a Slap Chop? Because if you do, you have to call in the next 20 minutes.”

Vince Offer & Slap Chop

Vince Offer & Slap Chop

In all fairness, that’s a bad example. Back then, every third commercial featured Offer “Vince” Shlomi (hey, you can’t make this stuff up), A.K.A.  the ShamWow guy, exclaiming “You’re gonna love my nuts!” To this day, I don’t know how that line was allowed to air.

BONUS: Vince Offer Soundboard – perfect for crank calls!

I couldn’t believe Olivia had taken notice of such a random piece of information. I was also partly amused, having worked in marketing since 1997 and being attentive to all forms of advertising ever since I can remember.

I find it utterly fascinating to have slogans recited back to me through the mouth of an innocent child, who doesn’t know any better than to believe the promises she hears. A few nights ago, she was fascinated with the Dollars for Gold ad. For those of you unfamiliar with this amazing service, you stuff any unwanted or broken gold jewelry into an envelope, ship it to the folks over at Dollars for Gold, and wait for your cheque to come in the mail. Seriously.

Tonight, Olivia had two specific new requests, each accompanied by a marketing-induced rationale:

1. Scope Outlast mouthwash. I told her we already had mouthwash. Olivia then explained: “But mommy, this one lasts five times longer!” Never mind the fact that she doesn’t use mouthwash. Or that mouthwash isn’t recommended for young kids because they might ingest it.

2. Pantene shampoo and conditioner. “Can you please, please, buy Pantene next time?” When I asked why, she explained: “They make one for curly hair, one for colour, one for shiny hair.” She actually retained, fairly accurately, their product segmentation. Olivia likes to look good from head to toe. Apparently that includes Pantene Pro-V shiny hair. Diva.

Time for a “Don’t believe everything you see on TV” talk…