The Mystery of the Slain Smurf

29 Jan

It’s almost the end of January, and the month has flown by.  I don’t know why this is so, as January usually crawls along bleakly, but a lengthening of daylight hours and a busy schedule seem to have conspired to lessen the dull drag of the month.  Hockey is still in full swing, Beavers and Girl Guides are chuntering along, and Rebecca started gymnastics in Can-Am Gym beside us here a couple of weeks ago.  She leapt out of bed with alacrity on the first day, and it was a challenge to get her to the 1pm class without her spontaneously combusting first.  It’s a gorgeous place, all bright colours and foam pits, and she was thrilled to spend an hour on beams, bars and trampolines.  I attended a Kindergarten meeting at the school last night, and apologised in advance to her teacher for what she may have to endure.  I visited the classroom, and chatted with other prospective parents, and found myself ridiculously close to tears on occasion.  I can’t quite believe that my baby will be starting school; she’s counting down the days already.  Erin, the learning support teacher, and a great source of dry wit and sharp observations, has promised to have a box of tissues and a bottle of brandy on standby in her room on that fateful September morning.  I’m fairly confident that I’ll be making an utter disgrace of myself.

at the gym

at the gym

Nicholas has resumed his Science Saturdays at the University, and arrived home with a complicated looking contraption last week.  There were syringes full of gloopy green liquid, pieces of wood and lengths of twine – the name escapes me, but it involved levers.  Whatever it was, he’s embracing the geeky side of his nature enthusiastically, and loves going to Beavers on Wednesday evenings as well.  Last week was their Beach Party, which involved me scrambling around under beds an hour beforehand, pulling out black sacks of summer clothes and combing through them for shorts and  t-shirt to fit him.  He sauntered in with baseball cap and sunglasses in place, and they had a great night.  Patti and Wanda, the Beavers leaders, are fabulous – full of energy and enthusiasm, and well able to deal with groups of small boys and all their small dramas.  Isabel is going camping next weekend with Guides, to wooden cabins out at Pike Lake, and I’m cold just thinking about it.  She’ll need a suitcase by the time we fit in all her snow gear.  She’s full of the joys of going, and is clearly shaping up to be a hardy Saskatchewanian, unlike her wimpy parents.

The weather has been a bit nutty this month – highs of 3 degrees and lows of minus forty, with massive temperature changes within the one day on occasion.  The Wintershines Festival is running at the moment, and we spent some time there on Saturday evening.  The children spent most of the time hurling themselves down the ice slide, while Michael climbed the ice wall and we all watched the ice bonfire blaze away.

Ice Bonfire

Ice Bonfire

 We had an afternoon at St. George rink with the Saskatoon Blades on one memorable Sunday; the team played a quick game of shinny and then all the children were allowed onto the ice to play with them.  The team mascot, Pokechek, was skating around and posing for photos, and there was hot chocolate, music, and glorious sunshine.  Christopher is the player in the bright blue jacket, battling with one of the Blade for the puck.

Skating with the Blades Isabel and Pokechek Skating with the Blades group photo

My transformation to Less Haggy Mammy is continuing apace, and my railway tracks were consigned to the bin yesterday.  Oh, the joy of being able to eat properly again ….  even if it is mainly lettuce :-).  I was assessed for laser eye surgery, and deemed unsuitable, which was almost a relief.  After the contact lens fiasco, the thought of surgery was a bit daunting, especially when Carmella began explaining how the laser cuts the cornea.  I felt like throwing up on her.  Having laser eye surgery means having to wear reading glasses afterwards, so one of the options is to have one eye corrected for distance, and leave the other for reading.  Mono-vision, it’s called, and Carmella tried it out on me with a pair of adjusted lenses.  I gazed at the board, with lenses correcting my right eye, and my other eye left as normal, and realised that life in mono-vision is not for me.  Such a weird, uncomfortable feeling, and I couldn’t seem to see anything properly, up close or far away.  Apparently it doesn’t suit some people, and I’m one of them – something to do with my depth perception.  So, no laser surgery for me – I’m going to choose a funky pair of frames for progressive lenses instead, with the help of Kim, who has an unerring instinct for what suits and what doesn’t.  The last photo-shoot was at the opticians, and there was lots of posing in sunglasses and feeling very movie-star-ish.  Rebecca and Isabel came along with me, as they were both sick, and Rebecca took my dire warnings very seriously.  They were so well-behaved that I almost forgot they were there.  Here’s Rebecca in Exemplary Behaviour Mode:

SASKATOON, SK--/November/29/2013--(Jeff Lyons/Star Phoenix).

We went to the studio at the Star Phoenix for the full-length photos, and while I was changing, Jeff took some great photos of the girls messing around in front of the camera. Rebecca calls him her big brother, and I feel I’m looking quite well for having a son in his fifties.  She has him tormented taking photos of her, which have to be shown to her the instant the camera clicks.  It was quite alarming to see her progression from smiling four year old to pouting would-me model.

SASKATOON, SK--/November/29/2013--(Jeff Lyons/Star Phoenix).SASKATOON, SK--/November/29/2013--(Jeff Lyons/Star Phoenix). SASKATOON, SK--/November/29/2013--(Jeff Lyons/Star Phoenix).SASKATOON, SK--/November/29/2013--(Jeff Lyons/Star Phoenix).

I was changing back into my Cinderella rags in the women’s locker room, when my chain and cross slid off the arm of the leather sofa, and disappeared down between the cushion and the arm.  I wiggled my fingers down to grab it, and ….nothing.  Huh?  I pried the cushion away from the arm, and peered down into the abyss.  Not a sign of it.  Sure that’s ridiculous, I thought, and started to rummage in earnest.  I couldn’t even find the gap it had disappeared into.  What kind of a bloody couch is this? I swore, and marched back into the studio to rudely interrupt Jeff and my couple of posers.  “What’s up?” he asked, seeing my verging-on-frantic face. “I’m having a crisis!” I hissed, not thinking that he was probably recoiling with horror at the thoughts of what a changing-room crisis might entail.  Please God, not a Spanx problem……  I explained what had happened, which sounded fairly nonsensical, and we all repaired to the locker-room, where we gravely contemplated the blue leather sofa.  We upended it to no avail.  “Get a knife”, I said decisively.  He returned with a nifty blade, and I made some strategic cuts in the fabric base.  I rummaged around for a few minutes, slicing my finger in the process, and still couldn’t come across anything remotely resembling a piece of jewellery.  I was getting more and more flustered, and Jeff was having to repeatedly explain his male presence to a constant procession of women.  “I’ll call Dan”, he decided.  Dan is the maintenance guy, and he arrived a few minutes later.  He’s a man of few words.  He knelt down in front of the couch, while I gabbled my increasingly incredible tale, and peered at my surgical handiwork.  “You’re sure it went into the couch?” he asked, eyeing me with disbelief. “Oh, yes”, I assured him earnestly. “It just disappeared completely“.  He grunted, and resumed his contemplation of the crime scene.  “I think you might be out of luck”, he announced.  I stood there, all made-up and intricately coiffed, and knew that there was about to be a gigantic Mascara Mishap.  Jeff hastily intervened. “Maybe we could take off the arm of the couch?” he suggested hopefully.  Dan grunted, and headed off to get a drill.  Rebecca decided that her nose was bleeding, and insisting on trailing sheets of toilet-paper out of it.  I think she was out in sympathy with my bleeding finger, which was stubbornly refusing to clot.  We waited for Dan to return, while I prayed to St Anthony and St Jude, and made quiet plans involving 3am break-ins to the Star Phoenix building and a lump-hammer.  Dan arrived back, power tool in hand and scepticism firmly in place, and started drilling off the arm of the sofa.  He pried it apart and peered inside.  “Have you got a torch?” I asked helpfully.  Both men turned to look at me with suspicion.  “A torch??” said Jeff.  “What do you need a torch for?”  I looked at them, confused.  “What do you mean, what do I need it for?” I asked, wondering had they all gone a bit soft in the head.  “To look into the couch!”  “With a TORCH?” asked Jeff, amazed.  Isabel dragged her eyes off her DS and calmly intervened.  “Mammy means a flashlight”, she pointed out, and returned to her game.  “Oh, a flashlight!” Cue relief from the men, and cranky confusion from me.  “I thought you meant a torch.  You know, fire? To burn the couch with?” said Jeff.  Dan grunted.  I realised how well I was doing Crazy right now.  A mad Irishwoman, insisting that her cross and chain had disappeared into a non-existent gap in a leather couch, sending a man off to get a drill and then suggesting burning the damn thing.  Dan lifted the couch, and miracle of miracles, there was the tinkle of metal hitting the floor, and there lay the cross.  I felt …..validated.  “See, it is in there!” I said excitedly.  “I’ll get a prybar”, said Dan, and off he trundled, thinking God knows what.  I lunged at the couch before the prybar made its return, and lifted it up for Jeff to look under.  “There it is”, he said, and carefully pulled the chain out from the dark recesses of the mangled sofa.  Dan returned, wielding his prybar, and got to screw the couch back together again instead.  Jeff and the girls vanished back to the studio, while I stood over Dan and gabbled my thanks.  “So, what did you learn today?”, he asked me sternly.  I floundered.  “Em, to always have a man who can do everything nearby?” I offered, weakly.  He grunted.  I fled.

SASKATOON, SK--/November/29/2013--(Jeff Lyons/Star Phoenix).

In other January events, Niamh and John (parents of Luke, Rebecca’s current husband-to-be), had joined us at the Wintershines Festival on Saturday evening.  John loves ice-sculptures and all things related to being creative with ice, and had made some gorgeous colourful ice spheres and a bouquet of ice flowers over the course of the weekend.  His ultimate plan was to build an igloo, and he had set aside Monday for this mission.  He had the plan, the tools, the ice and the enthusiasm.  Sure, what could go wrong?  I caught up with Niamh yesterday, dying to hear how the project had gone.  She felt that it would be wiser to read John’s account of his Man Vs Ice day.  John has kindly allowed me to share the story of his adventure, in the hope that any foolhardy ice-challengers out there might learn from his ordeal.  You have been warned.

Foiled again. My latest attempt to conquer the igloo has ended in failure, and the imagined sneers of the Inuit community are ringing in my ears. Months of research, thousands of pounds worth of tools and equipment, and all for nought.  Conditions were against me in fairness. Temperatures only dropped yesterday, ( to -30•), after staying above zero for most of my week off. The snow is muck. A 3 inch crust of refrozen melt over about 8 inches of what they call “sugar snow” in these here parts. Sugar snow is loose and granular, basically ice crystals, with no moisture of any kind to bind it together. It’s been blowing around the country for half the winter and all of the snow flakes (with their hooks and spikes) have been smashed to bits. This means that they will neither bind, nor compress well. “Screw the snow!” I decided. Technology would overcome, and so, armed with thirty gallons of water, a bunch of food colouring, a shovel, and a big clear plastic box I set off into the desolate wilderness of Diefenbaker Park, a couple of hundred yards from the house. I picked a nice scenic spot, (no crappy neighbourhood would do for my technicolor party Igloo), and set to work. I shovelled off the crust, and filled the box with sugar snow. Then I broke out the dye and poured about two gallons of bright red water over the top. It was supposed to sink through the snow and freeze the whole thing into a crimson cuboid, to be sawn into 3 or 4 perfect building blocks. It did not. Instead it coloured about half of the snow and completely missed the rest. I tipped the box over, hoping the pooled liquid at the bottom would flow back through and pick up the slack, but it had already frozen to the bottom of the box (-30), and the whole thing just crumbled when I lifted the box off. Now the stupidity of starting with red became apparent. The place looked like a crime scene. I had visions of cops with sniffer dogs looking for body parts in the snow. Shit. Can’t stop now. Blue block. 3 gallons. Same result. It was obvious that I’d need a minimum of 150 gallons to get the job done. That’s five trips to a third floor apartment with my six buckets. Bollocks to it. Time to pull the pin. I packed up my stuff, dumped my 25 gallons of water and got the hell out of Dodge before I got arrested for killing a Smurf. This ain’t over, Eskimos.

On a more positive note, here’s John’s ice bouquet 🙂

Ice bouquet

And, to finish, who can tell me what a Pokechek is in hockey? Answers on a postcard please.

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